Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Straws in the Georgia wind

Peter noted this poll, which has Huckabee outpacing the field in Georgia, and Obama barely ahead of Clinton. I can’t find it on the web, but the print edition noted a huge disparity between black and white support for the two Democratic candidates. As Peter S. noted, racial fault lines in the Democratic coalition are potentially very big. If HRC wins, can she count on enthusiastic African-American support in the fall?

On the other hand, the willingness of both candidates’ supporters to take umbrage at real or perceived slights is, I think, a problem. Presidents need to have a thick skin; sensitivity of this sort is "unpresidential" and will not wear well. If I were Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, I’d very vocally and visibly shrug all of it off.

Religion and politics, two approaches

The Obama campaign is engaging in a little out-of-the-box religious outreach--not just showing up at African-American churches to be anointed (the old-fashioned Democratic way), but also using some of the devices that people complained about when the Bush campaign used them in 2004.

The Huckabee approach, by contrast, seems to be "Christian leaders? who needs ’em?" Well, not quite. But in the absence of support from the evangelical establishment, he’s got Huck’s Army, created, natch, by homeschoolers.

Race, and "an unfortunate set of words"

This from today’s Washington Post, and this from politico give a useful recounting and rendition of the "racial tensions" roiling the Dems as a result of recent "racially tinged" comments by Hillary, Bill, and other supporters. The reaction has been almost totally negative, and I don’t see it going away, just yet. The Clintons, Cuomo, et al, may be able to dance around this, but it will be neither pretty, nor free.

The Financial Condition and Fiscal Future of the United States

. . . According to the Comptroller General of the United States.
suggests some changes that all the change agents in the Presidential campaign should address.

Polls Show

I just gave a quick glance to the latest studies: CNN has McCain up 13 naationwide. Meanwhile, McCain appears to have narrow leads in both Michigan and South Carolina and is up 8 in Florida. Huck, for the record, is up 13 in Georgia, where even a couple of months ago Giuliani and Thompson were both very strong. If McCain wins in Michigan and behaves himself reasonably well thereafter, it’s hard to see how he’s stopped. I think Thompson’s SC and Rudy’s FL strategies are pretty far-fetched; they’re certainly not supported by the polling at this point. But I hasten to add that Huck is competitive in all states mentioned. Romney’s doing better than someone might think in SC, and if he manages to win in Michigan...

Manent on secularization

Our friend John von Heyking sends along this video of Pierre Manent’s talk on secularization, given at Boston College.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for December

Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:

Dale Michaud

James Kole

Richard Lachcik

Richard Samuelson

Scott Coulter

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter January’s drawing.

Madisonian thoughts on religion in America today

James Madison--er, Peter Lawler--offers reflections on religion and politics in America today, with special reference to the case of Mike Huckabee, whose "evangelical identity politics" is, Peter argues, not really factious. Indeed, his generous appeals are actually in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.

There’s lots to think about in this characteristically excellent and provocative piece.    

New Jersey’s Apology for Slavery

I have a piece in
today’s Christian Science Monitorabout the recent resolution by the New Jersey legislature apologizing for slavery.

On the one hand, such an apology is harmless. But on the other, it feeds off of the idea that the United States has been racist from the start, obscuring the fact that it is precisely America’s founding principle that made the abolition of slavery a moral necessity.

New Jersey’s action is ironic in view of the fact that in 1999, this same legislature rejected a proposal to require all school children to recite a portion of the Declaration of Independence every day.

For those interested, there is also a short interview at the site.

Kristol’s Debate Points

Bill’s analysis is more fair-and-balanced and, I think, more astute the instant analyses of NRO. Fred does deserve the most-improved award, but, in the crucial exchange between him and Huck, the Governor held his own, defending his record in a clear and manly way without losing his cool. McCain’s surge eloquence may have helped him in Michigan. Huck’s religion answer may have helped him in South Carolina. I do think Romney was a bit better than Bill does, but I do agree that he probably didn’t distinguish himself enough.

And Dean Barnett and Fred Barnes actually say that Huck won the debate, and Dean’s case is nicely supported, although finally I don’t agree.

Question for discussion: Why are the perceptions of the Weekly Standard and National Review experts so different?

Maxima Culpa

John Harris and Jim VandeHai offer their mea culpas for the media’s blowing the New Hampshire story on both sides.

Pod People

Peter hasn’t done it yet, so I will. Peter and I did a podcast today, with Yours Truly musing about why, contrary to the conventional wisdom, McCain would make a poor general election candidate against Hillary (or almost any Democrat) for that matter, and it’s not because he’s not a down-the-line conservative. (I discovered serendipitously later in the day that a well-known political reporter for a major paper who has been covering elections since 1968 thinks the same thing, but this was off the record, so no names. . .)

Also, for you numerate types, I share my first look at some energy statistics to reveal how Al Gore’s climate change goals would require the U.S. turning back the clock to 1875--or further. Stay tuned--more to come on this one, including a major paper in April.

The Debate

1. The Luntz focus group and NRO agree that Fred was most impressive. He was lively and combative. A prepared opening salvo against Huck--which merely collected the familiar charges--stirred the hearts of anti-Hucksters. And he had a good joke about virgins. I thought, though, he was most inauthentic when he was bragging about "his" record in the senate. He was loose, for the most part, and occasionally effectively sarcastic. He wants to be the anti-Huck man. It was a mistake for Mitt to go negative on Huck, but, of course, not for Fred. His subtext is that McCain is too soft on Huck. My own opinion is that, despite his wild swinging, Fred didn’t lay a glove on Huck.

2. My own opinion is that the most impressive thing was Romney’s genuinely expert answers on Iran and the broader picture in the region. He was also, I think, best or most articulate on immigration. But the audience only liked his prattle about change.

3. McCain was good on Iraq. But he may be overdoing his change agency when it comes to the surge. And he was weak on taxes and immigration. Overall, he left a favorable impression.

4. Huck also didn’t say much memorable, although I think only his enemies would say he was actually bad. He gave a stirring out-of-nowhere defense of Israel (against Ron Paul), and other candidates felt compelled to immediately echo him. He got a rude question about whether his affirmation of a Baptist view of wifely submission would keep him from being electable. His answer managed to alllow him both to complain about being oppressed as a believer and offer a memorable defense of marital devotion. Huck might complain that he never gets any questions about the "socal issues" or really any questions that would allow him to present his core message. He was good on Letterman and great on Colbert. (Fred might do well on Colbert too.) My genuine opinion is that the debate didn’t help or hurt Huck. (Well, it DID help him in this way: His supporters are convinced he was the unfair focus of attacks and were edified by his staying in character; the debate might have done a little to energize Huck’s base.) He needs to find some way to sneak the looser Huck back on the debate stage more often.

5. Giuliani was very competent on foreign policy but sort of one-dimensional in his conservatism otherwise. He tries to make the excellent point that there are both good and bad changes, but this may not be the year for that.

6. Ron Paul gave a fine answer on why we’ve lost our way on fiscal conservatism and the most plausible answer on the cause of the likely recession. He was certainly the most authentic candidate and was pretty much set up for ridicule on his less-than-plausible foreign policy answers. If I were a Paul supporter I’d be really angry now.

7. No questions about health care? About judicial activism? Those, truth to tell, are much more interesting to me than immigration--on which they’re all being less than candid.

Back to JUNO

Just to produce some interesting discussion (I’m sure ALL of you have seen this great movie now), I’m posting a very earnest review of a very funny movie that makes all the appropriate pro-life, pro-responsibility, pro-family points. It’s true enough that JUNO doesn’t endorse contraception as the remedy for teenage pregnancy. Nor does it embrace such pregnancy as an awesome journey to discover what kind of girl you really are. I would add that the movie doesn’t mean to be some kind of reflection on the problem of teenage pregancy at all.

GOP in South Carolina

Last I checked, the South Carolina Knippenbergs couldn’t agree on a candidate. But the latest two polls reveal a McBounce in South Carolina.

I assume that tonight’s debate will be important, especially for Huckabee.

If I take this poll seriously, Huckabee has four challenges in S.C. The first is that he’s splitting the evangelical vote with McCain. His support is a little more solid, but to win, he needs, first of all, to consolidate his base. Second, he’s contesting with Thompson and Romney for the affections of those who regard "true conservatism" as the touchstone of their vote. I have a hard time seeing how he adds to his modest lead here. He might get a little traction by continuing to stress his socially conservative stances, but he has a harder time running as a "true conservative" on the rest of his record. Third, McCain seems to be the second choice of a significant percentage of the Romney supporters. Should Romney do poorly in Michigan (a real possibility, I think), he’ll likely hemorrhage in S.C., with McCain picking up more support than Huckabee. Were he able to run to McCain’s right on something other than social issues and (a little less plausibly) immigration, he might do better.

Finally, the two big statewide Republicans--Lindsay Graham and Jim DeMint--are supporting McCain and Romney, respectively. My impression is that Graham’s support is a mixed blessing, or perhaps even a negative, so Huckabee shouldn’t lose any sleep over it. Demint’s popularity is more solid, but I don’t think even he will be able to resuscitate Romney’s fortunes if he does poorly in Michigan.

Bottom line: if McCain wins Michigan, he’ll be harder to beat in South Carolina. Huckabee can’t afford "silver medals" in MI and SC. I might be tempted, if I were him, to let McCain and Romney slug it out in Michigan, while doing what I can to turn South Carolina into a bastion. Romney gets less in South Carolina out of a Michigan victory than does McCain.

My bad prognostication and advice, for what little it’s worth.

Update: Will this help Huckabee?

Update #2: Geraghty has Thompson the winner, at Huckabee’s expense, as does this local professorial blogger. The Cornerites loved Fred too. But this Fred wasn’t as impressed by that Fred, handing the kudos to Huckabee. At this point, however, all Fred T. can do is help one of the other candidates--most likely McCain in South Carolina. For all else, see Peter’s impressions above.

Come to Berry College!

There’s going to be a conference on politics and public policy today at Berry on March 26-27. Thanks to the Association for the Study of Free Institutions, we’re able to have two particularly distinguished and engaging headliners.

Our headliner on the 26th will be our favorite Democrat, "Dr. Pat" DENEEN from Georgetown--both a famous author and notorious blogster.

Our headliner on the 27th will be the most expert and astute of our Republicans, Yuval Levin of the EEPC and formerly of the White House Staff and President’s Council of Bioethics. Yuval, of course, has written the best stuff on everything from stem cells to health care and even blogs a bit on both Contentions and the Corner.

We’re looking for other experts--faculty, journalists, students, and what-not--to be commentators and presenters in their own right on any issue related to the conference theme.

The details are in the early stage of development, and so now’s the time to sign up.

We’re short on money, but we’ll be able to feed you and probably even house you while you’re here.

Contact me at [email protected]

What if the Truth Here Were a Woman?

Froma Harrop here makes a legitimate a point (made better, by the way, some months ago by Peggy Noonan) about the surging female support for Hillary Clinton. Piling on by the media--particularly when it appears to be coming from a latent anti-female sentiment--will push women (even many not inclined otherwise to support Clinton) to rush to her defense. Harrop claims that the attacks on Clinton after her crying spell--especially the ones that made unfavorable mention of Clinton’s physical attributes--caused her to question whether Obama’s poll numbers in the Granite State were really accurate. She doubted it because the level of mockery in these critiques of Clinton drove her, and many of her friends, to the point of angry distraction. Thus, she argues, "Seeing that it had become socially acceptable to mock mature women, they were determined to prove that it was not politically acceptable. Many of their daughters joined them."

That all sounds very good. And there might be just enough truth in it to explain at least part of what happened on Tuesday. There’s certainly a sense that it is true coming from people like Rush, who spoke roughly with a caller yesterday when he offered (an admittedly lame) insulting one-liner aimed at Hillary. But you do see a kind of backing away from the default (and sensible) position, that Hillary’s tears were ridiculous. (Never mind, calculated.)

But there is a problem with this analysis, particularly if you are Hillary Clinton and you believe that its effects can last. Why? Because whatever else may be said about it, support gotten in this way remains purely emotional. It comes, moreover, from the emotion of anger. Anger happens to be the emotion with which most women are the least comfortable. If female anger were more reliable and longer lasting, there’d be a lot more dead terrorists and a lot less support for the so-called "peace" movement. (It would probably also be true that Hillary Clinton would no longer be a Clinton . . . but that’s a rather cheap shot.) To keep it going she’ll have to continue to display herself wide and far as the Victim of mean men. And then she’s going to have to deal with the flip-side of that move . . . a decline in the support of many man, sensible women, and women who are just tired of being angry. Some may persist in their attempt to portray Hillary Clinton’s crying display as a brilliant political maneuver. I may be proven wrong by events, but at this point, I’m fairly satisfied that it (along with her last minute grasping at Carville and Begala) was just desperate.

Two Campaign Points

1. The most recent studies show a surge for McCain in both Michigan and SC, and they don’t fully reflect, at least, any bounce that may come from NH. That’s bad news for Romney in one case and Fred in the other. John and Huck have a win/win in Michigan if, as Joe predicts, McCain wins but Huckabee finishes a strong second. The SC outcome might be more winner-take-all. They both don’t have the luxury of swooning, because they don’t have war chests are (like General Sherman) are living off the land.

2. Santorum is all over the web for his tough criticism of McCain for not being for Bush’s tax policy and for not even paying lip-service in the Senate to social conservatism. On those two issues, Huck is clearly to John’s right. Although I’m too lazy to research the issue at the moment, I don’t think Rick is saying anything about Huck.

Advice for the Candidates on Illegal Immigration

Is here offered by Victor Davis Hanson. I find it very difficult to argue with any of his eminently reasonable points. I cannot claim to have studied with any kind of rigor the details of each and every point he addresses here, but I defy anyone to suggest that the overall tone of his argument is wrong. It seems to me to be spot-on. The problem that most of the GOP candidates will have in adopting it, it seems to me, is one of trust. The GOP base is going to have to trust that the candidate is operating on the basis of good faith with the American people on this issue and that he means what he says when it comes to it. It’s not entirely the fault of each candidate that their positions on this issue look so fuzzy. I think the question is one that is so convoluted and complicated that any solution--real or imagined--is going to look fuzzy. As Hanson rightly notes, it is a messy, messy business. It’s certainly one that begs for gravitas.

Obama Is Doomed

John Kerry is endorsing him today. I await Al Gore endorsement for the final nail in the coffin. (Wasn’t Gore’s endorsement in late 2003 the high water mark for the Dean campaign??)

GOP in Michigan

Rod Dreher thinks that Huckabee has a shot in Michigan, in large part because "Michigan is a state that’s been harder hit than most by the economic downturn. It’s tailor-made for Huckabee and his economic nationalism in that respect." He suggests that Huckabee make a pilgrimage to the Kirk Center while he’s at it.

He also cites this piece, which mentions Michigan as part of a wider and longer "divide and conquer" Huckabee prospect: the longer the race remains three-way, the better Huckabee’s ultimate prospects are.

What gets mentioned but lost in the shuffle here is that west Michigan is chock-full of socially conservative evangelicals, and the Huckabee people know it.

They cite this survey to buttress their hopes.

I dunno. There is a three-way race in Michigan, with Hillary running essentially unopposed on the Democratic side. Unless independents want to vote for undecided, they’ll vote in the Republican primary, which I suspect will help McCain a little more than Huckabee. I’d bet right now that McCain wins narrowly over Huckabee, with Romney third, Tom Monaghan to the contrary notwithstanding.

Brief Random Observations

1. Today (the 9th) is Richard Nixon’s birthday.

2. Yesterday (as Huck, of course, announced at his sort-of victory speech) was Elvis’s birthday.

3. The most Hispanic-friendly Republican ticket would be McCain-Jeb Bush. And Jeb would add executive competence to the McCain administration.

4. The best characterization of the coming Huck-McCain duel is the warrior vs. the preacher.

5. All the open and closet Giuliani supporters are claiming that Republicans have "no-mo"--no candidate has picked up momentum. But that, of course, is not true. And there’s reason to believe that McCain and Huck both have mo’ mo coming.

It’s for the Geezers . . .

Robert Samuelson reminds us (as if!) that the way to tell when most politicians are lying is to check whether or not their lips are moving. When the candidates cite the old saw, "It’s for the children!" for example, you can bet dollars to donuts that it’s really for the geezers. Samuelson runs down the list of actual problems facing the nation and looks at the striking attempt (on both sides) to appeal to young voters with claims of concern for their futures. But when you discount the rhetoric and look at the actual proposals, no one is taking the real (and necessary) political risk of doing anything that could be characterized as desecrating the sacred cows of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security . . . to say nothing of retirement benefits promised to a huge class of aging government workers.

The insidious nature of this problem is that because the spending increases for the elderly occur gradually, the pressures on taxes and other government programs will also intensify gradually. A crucial moment to clarify the stakes and compel politicians to make choices probably won’t occur until it’s too late.
Samuelson notes that this tendency is most striking in Obama--the candidate who now commands the closest thing to "rock star" status among the candidates with young voters. In a thread below, our friend, Dan, reminds us of the great line from P.J. O’Rourke, "Age and guile defeats youth and inexperience every time." Dan was speaking of Obama himself. But the same thing may be said of his youthful supporters who think they’re voting their interests with this guy.

Though Samuelson thinks the situation can only get worse before it gets better (and this may be a numbers game in his mind--aging boomers outnumbering younger folks by so much and younger folks aging and getting past the point where reform may help them much) I have to believe that there will be a tipping point--perhaps not in this election--where there will be an opportunity to make a serious and a popular appeal to growing anti-boomer sentiment . . . a sensible sentiment that many boomers I know, are only too happy to share. If I were a boomer, I think I would quickly adopt it if I didn’t already share it. Why? Well, numbers be damned. Let’s just say that it will be a very bad thing (i.e., not in the real interests of older people or the country in general) to put "the children" at war with the interests of their elders. It’s a harsh thing to say but it’s also true (and apply this on a larger scale) . . . your children will someday pick your nursing home. And if liberals have their way, your children are also going to have more influence on the question of whether or not to euthanize you!

Clinton’s victory: a tour of the analyses

The WaPo’s Dan Balz summarizes the conventional wisdom. Steve is pithier on the same subject.

Jay Cost says she won by mobilizing the traditional Demcoratic coalition, which, he notes, will be an even larger part of the electorate in other states (with African-American voters the X-factor). He calls it the "Mondale model," with Barack Obama playing the role of Gary Hart (the resemblance is much closer this morning than it was yesterday). But, as he reminds us, the fact that HRC is using Mondale’s primary strategy doesn’t mean she’ll face his fate in the general election.

The NYT’s Adam Nagourney focuses on women and the argument about HRC’s advantage in experience, noting also that many of the upcoming races don’t permit independents to vote in party primaries. He observes that the Clinton campaign has had a hard time going negative on Obama, but a dearth of indpendents in the electorate and a good GOTV strategy may mean she doesn’t have to.

Peter L. says that Obama’s "bobo plus black" coalition can be a winner, if African-Americans don’t join the interests coalition supporting Hillary. Does Obama have to emphasize his racial identity to head this off?

Jonathan Alter explores reasons for why HRC connected so well with women--most of them frothy--but suggests that a victory in November requires men. Will Republican women vote for HRC? Will Democratic men vote for anybody but HRC?

Gary Langer, ABC’s director of polling, says that pollsters are going to have to reexamine their sampling methods and turnout models:

In the end there may be no smoking gun. Those polls may have been accurate, but done in by a superior get-out-the-vote effort, or by very late deciders whose motivations may or may not ever be known. They may have been inaccurate because of bad modeling, compromised sampling, or simply an overabundance of enthusiasm for Obama on the heels of his Iowa victory that led his would-be supporters to overstate their propensity to turn out. (A function, perhaps, of youth.)

But he also calls attention to rhis argument about the placement of Hillary’s name on the ballot, way ahead of Obama’s, and allegedly worth 3% in the voting. In case you forgot, that’s the margin.

Update: Daniel Casse argues that in a long slog through the interests, plans and promises (HRC’s strength) trump hope and change.

Wot Happened, Part II

Three leading theories are making the rounds already. One is that there was a voter backlash against the media coronation of Obama. I’d like that to be true, but it is hard to credit. Second, that a large number of independent voters, hearing Obama was way ahead, decided to vote for McCain, where they could supposedly make more difference. I’d like to see some numbers to back this up. The third theory is the Bradley-Wilder effect (after California’s Tom Bradley and Virginia’s Doug Wilder--black candidates from the 1980s), in which black candidates trail their polls because of. . . well, you know the end of this sentence. I doubt this, too.

I’d be lying . . .

. . . if I said that I agreed with Peter L. and that I was also glad to see Hillary win. I wasn’t. I still think that, in many ways, Hillary will be easier to beat in November. And, failing that, I think she’d be a better president than Obama if the Dems do win. But it has been, in its own adolescent locker-room sort of way, really fun to watch her sweat. It’s been rather like watching the homecoming queen (when she’s a nasty thing) slip on a banana peel as she’s about to get her crown.

But I’m certainly not lying when I say that I am happy to see that the polls were wrong. I think people, their preferences in elections, and their political inclinations should be--and always stubbornly remain--somewhat elusive. It’s beneath the dignity of Americans to be predictable. When pollsters call me, I always lie as a matter of principle.

I also think that the high voter turn-out and the good weather helped Hillary (the grannies weren’t afraid to drive, for instance) and there’s apparently no question but that the female vote went her way, big time. I find that last bit depressing, I guess. But I’m not sure what’s worse in women . . . mindless support for a "sister" or swooning at the vacuous Obama.

Bill Clinton’s very public embrace of Hillary at the celebration (and I think even a kiss was exchanged) isn’t going to hurt her either. We can be thankful, I guess, that it wasn’t as gross as the PDA we got from Al Gore and Tipper in 2000. But it still had the effect of looking like a coronation to me, with Bill standing there to place the crown upon her now very swelled cranium. I can’t help it. I still wish there had been a banana on that stage.

The Comeback Gal

Don’t ever hire me as your doctor. I’ll declare you dead (as Marc Guerrra complained) before you really are. My own excuse on the Hillary front is that nobody thought she was going to win in NH, nobody even in her own camp. All the polls were way wrong, and that’s not because there was a last-minute surge for Ms. Clinton. They were just wrong. I was, in fact, happy to see her win. I refuse to believe she won because crying made her seem more authentic.

Obama’s "Yes we can" or something like that speech had absolutely no content, and it’s possible he’ll be criticized for its ungracious irrelevance. Hillary did speak of leaving Iraq the right way and mentioned our brave veterans. The line about just having found her voice was odd, though. Obama, mind you, is still the favorite. Hillary is clearly the candidate of people who vote their interests--the old, the downscale, union members, both single and married women etc., while Obama is the more symbolic or bourgeois bohemian candidate. Bobo plus black is probably a winning combination, but it may turn out that some African-Americans unconvinced of Obama’s inevitability will end up voting their interests too.

McCain’s victory was decisive enough but not overwhelming. How can Romney have any hope in Michigan with no momemtum at all? How can Fred or Rudy have any real hope for decisive breakthroughs in SC or FL with McCain as the front-runner? In principle, McCain would be vulnerable to the genuinely conservative challenge of Fred, but his momentum amd Thompson’s incredible lack of same probably will keep that challenge in principle alone.

Huck finished a weak but not terrible third. He can hope to do well in Michigan and he could win in FL if he wins in SC. .
Huck could also, for that matter, fizzle in Michigan and lose in SC. (I’m hedging my bets here, given my apparent loss of my powers of prediction.) In your calculations, don’t forget the various ways that Huck is more conservative than John.

McCain’s unpredictable propensity for self-destruction can’t be forgotten.

Wot the Hell Happened Up There in NH?

Well this is sure interesting. Just shows you that you can’t believe everything you read in the newspapers.

McCain and Clinton (?) win New Hampshire

After the Obamamania of the past week, I guess I’m just a little surprised that the Democratic race is, at the moment (10 p.m.) too close to call. Even if Obama pulls ahead, this will be a "moral victory" for the Clinton camp. And if she wins--Michael Barone says that’s a real possibility, and she’s outpacing the exit polls--the argument will be that, when it comes to a real election, she’s a--nay, the--winner.

Here are the numbers I’ve been watching, and here are the Democratic and Republican exit polls.

In the polls, McCain beats Romney pretty much everywhere, except among the elderly (!!), the "very conservative" (where even Huckabee beats him), very frequent church attenders (Huckabee territory), and casual Catholics (also Giuliani’s best group). With the electorate cut up this way, Huckabee’s presence clearly hurt Romney. If you look at economic issues, however, Huckabee might have cost McCain a few votes.

On the Democratic side, Obama’s strength was with younger, better educated voters (and men), while HRC did well with women and less affluent voters. Independents went for Obama, while registered Democrats went for Clinton.

Now (roughly 10:30), NBC and AP are calling N.H. for Clinton, though Fox, ABC, and CNN haven’t yet. I’m betting that call will hold, so the Obama bandwagon won’t be quite as full tomorrow as it was earlier today. The question to be asked now: whither the African-American vote? And perhaps: whither the Edwards vote? (In N.H., the Edwards voters seem to have liked Obama a little better than Clinton.)

Should Have Seen This Coming I Suppose

As I write the voting in New Hampshire is still under way, but all the buzz is for an Obama rout of Hillary, and there is talk that she might even drop out. I doubt it; I am sure she’ll hang in to February 5, but unless they’ve got some real dirt on Obama ready to roll out his momentum will likely be unstoppable.

And so it comes to mind that every conversation I’ve had with a liberal friend or acquaintance (yes--I have liberal friends) over the last two years has been the same: they like Hillary, but don’t think she can win in November. I would always make the case why I thought she could win, but couldn’t persuade them, which I thought odd. I should have given these conversations more weight, and perceived that there was a huge opening for someone else--a fresh face, not Joe Biden or Chris Dodd, for gawdssakes. (Although, I wonder what John Kerry is thinking this week??)

Christian Democracy?

I’ve mentioned this before, as have folks on other sites, but our Pomocon friend poses the question: how can Huckabee be a Christian Democrat?

The explanation for this would be threefold. (1) Christian Democracy is a Catholic doctrine; (2) the intellectual Christian right in America is now predominantly Catholic; (3) Huckabee’s evangelicalism is communitarian and statist but anti-intellectual and nationalist.

Well, I dunno. This Wikipedia article acknowledges the roots of Christian Democracy in Catholic social thought, but goes on to note that "conservative" Protestants across Europe have also embraced the label. Yes, evangelicals are famous for being anti-intellectual, but some have noted the outdatedness of that generalization. While Huckabee’s "natural" supporters are probably more likely to be found in Walmarts than in the evangelical salons in Grand Rapids, Wheaton, or Waco, but I wouldn’t rule out some support even in those places. And I have no doubt but that Huckabee and his people would be very happy to have some (or some more?) heavy-hitting evangelical intellectuals on board. They also wouldn’t turn down support from thoughtful conservative Catholics, which might have been the point of the Chesterton quote.

So I’m first of all not sure I agree with Pomocon’s point and second of all not sure that, in the end, he might not be persuaded to accommodate himself somewhat to the necessities of the Republican coalition, should the nomination be within grasp. The conversation might look something like the one Jonah G. sketched here, though the Huckabee synthesis might look more like the unfulfilled aspiration of Bushism than small government purists would like. The important thing, I think, is to emphasize that the goal of government action is to enable families and communities to stand on their own feet.

Today’s Inspiring Story of Selflessness and Grace Under Pressure

I thought it was hyperbole when New York magazine reported that the Clintons were so determined not to let Barack Obama get in the way of Hillary’s destiny that they’ll “start a [rhymes with ducking] third party before they’ll give up on putting her in the White House.” I thought Matthew Yglesias was raising a rhetorical question when he wondered “if the ex-president and other close associates might be so clouded by bitterness if Hillary Clinton loses that they’ll try to sabotage Obama’s general election campaign.”

We’ve learned, however, never to underestimate the Clintons, and the fury that fuels their sense of entitlement. Thomas Edsall reports today that “some top independent expenditure groups supporting Clinton have been exploring the creation of an anti-Obama ‘527 committee’ that would take unlimited contributions from a few of Clinton’s super-rich backers and from a handful of unions to finance television ads and direct mail designed to tarnish the Illinois Senator’s image.” The groups – Emily’s List, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) – “have explored the possibility of trying to put together a multi-million dollar effort privately dubbed the Anybody-But-Obama 527 Committee.”

The problem is that, with Hillary’s own political future behind her, no other Democrat is rushing to sacrifice his or her own career on the altar of the second Clinton presidency that never happened. Recruiting private donors and personnel for the trash-Obama fund is going nowhere because federal law “requires regular disclosure of both the donors to 527 organizations and the expenditures they make, so it is not possible for such committees to keep secret the identity of supporters and staff.” No one’s thinking at the moment that this would be a good career move. “You might make some good money in the short term, but your chances of getting any Democratic contracts in the future, especially if Obama wins, would be zilch,” one operative told Edsall. “I wouldn’t go there.”

Even though the Clinton’s can’t be honest, the rest of America doesn’t have to put up with euphemisms. It’s not the Anybody-But-Obama fund. It’s the Anybody-Who’s-Not-Hillary 527.

Defending the indefensible

Stanley Fish thinks that efforts to defend the humanities all fall short. They either are unpersuasive (as when someone makes the case for humanities as "career-enhancing") or ought to be, as when Yale’s Anthony Kronman argues that entering the great conversation will help us address the spiritual emptiness we feel (except when we hear Barack Obama speak; O.K., I made up that last part).

Fish has a bit of a point, but seems to miss Kronman’s. To be sure, if you "study" literature as people now do in university departments, you won’t be humanized. But if you approach literature and philosophy as if they had something to teach you about how to live your life, as if books (including, of course, the Book) might contain the truth--instead of inoculating yourself against anything challenging by means of "scholarship"--you might actually learn something. You might actually be "humanized."

But that is to say, with Fish, that this sort of study is an end in itself, because it gives us access to what’s highest in ourselves.

Nonetheless, where I think both Fish and Kronman go wrong--the former more egregiously than the latter--is by giving short shrift to the way in which reading "the Book" tells us about something, or rather someone, outside itself and ourselves, in whose light our lives have meaning. The problem with reading and study nowadays has to do with our massive efforts to avoid confronting that claim. We’d rather suck the life out of reading and study, totally subjectivizing them, than confront the possibility that there’s a transcendent source of meaning in the world.

Conservatives and change

Our friend James W. Ceaser reflects on the word of the moment, suggesting that Republicans should at least try to conserve victory in Iraq (promised by John McCain) against the airy "change" offered by Obama (which amounts to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory).

Now there would be a bold theme for Hillary: I’ll see the surge through and produce a conclusion that maintains (I know she’d have to say "reestablishes") America’s honorable place in the world, while Obama would sacrifice honor for peace.

The Only Boys Who Could Ever Move Me . . .

. . . were preacher men? E.J. Dionne reminds us in this piece why it’s always a good idea to read his stuff. In it, he attempts to characterize Obama as a kind of Democrat preacher and Huck, of course, really is one. This, he argues, explains their combined rise in the face of our times. He’s certainly on to something with his analysis of Obama as the Democrats’ Demothenes and his discussion of why poetry--not prose--is what wins elections. Cicero, he says, upon the completion of his oratory was praised for speaking well. Demosthenes, on the other hand, moved men to march. The irony is that it was Hillary Clinton who said, "You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose." Yes, but if you can’t do the former, it seems you won’t get a chance to do the latter.

Jonah’s big day

You thought that today was all about New Hampshire, but it’s also the day that Jonah Goldberg’s first book, Liberal Fascism, is available in better bookstores everywhere.

Jonah shows, quite exhaustively and persuasively, the leftist provenance of fascism and explains the affinity that many of the icons of American progressivism felt for the European movement before its German branch revealed its murderous side. If the book gains a wide readership, as it should, thoughtful liberals would do well to eschew the terms "progressive" to describe themselves and "fascist" to describe people and positions (usually conservative) they don’t like.

I’ll provide a fuller accounting of my view of hte book once I’ve finished it and gathered my thoughts.

In the mean time, you’ll have to be content with Rich Lowry’s appreciation, this audio interview, this interview transcript, this review from Books & Culture, this piece by Daniel Pipes, another interview here, and aa blogsite devoted to the book. You can also catch a glimpse of Jonah’s argument in his USA Today column.

Expect more in the days to come, some of it less laudatory than most of what has come out so far. I wonder, for example, whether the NYT and the TNR (whose past Jonah regards as not altogether savory) will review it and who will do the honors.

Jonah will be on Michael Medved’s show this afternoon and will speak at the Heritage Foundation tomorrow. And he’ll be speaking at my institution, accompanied by a cast of thousands, on Wednesday, February 6th. The details for that event are almost all firmed up, so I expect some spirited and interesting conversation.

Update: I missed the NYT review, which basically argues that Republicans are fascists (too?).

A Double Smackdown

Today features a rare alignment between the lead editorials of the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal on the subject of the Democratic candidates pathetic or willful ignorance about the progress in Iraq.

Quote the Journal: "So what we take away from the four Democratic Presidential candidates’ stunning display of misinformation and false statements about the surge Saturday evening is that they have simply stopped thinking about Iraq. They seem to have concluded that opposition to the war permits them to literally not know what the U.S. or the Iraqis are doing there."

Quote the Post: "Even more disturbing was the refusal of the Democrats to adjust their policies to the changed situation. . . any U.S. policy ought to be aimed at consolidating the gains of the past year and ensuring that neither al-Qaeda nor sectarian war make a comeback. So far, the Democratic candidates have refused even to consider that challenge."

Today’s Random Observations

1. The new national Gallup poll has Huck at 25% and Romney at 9%. Huck has put a little distance between himself and the field. That will disappear if McCain wins big tonight, but John, remember, stinks as a front-runner. (And Huck has a really big lead in South Carolina and is competitive in Michigan.) Romney is surely toast if NH doesn’t give him "Comeback Kid" momentum. The polls from NH show, if anything, the end of the McCain surge and a slight Mitt comeback. I think John will win, but maybe not that impressively, and only if Obama sucks up all the independents with his hope and love will Mitt’s mere respect be enough for him to win. I still think there’s no way Huck can prevail on February 5, but we may not be thrilled with having to choose between Mike and John.

2. On the Republican side, Obama has pulled even, Mr. Gallup says, with Senator Clinton. And of course he’ll emerge with a big lead after his big victory tonight. So much for national strategies. Remember when people thought the campaign would be Hillary and Rudy trying to drive up each other’s negatives?

3. Speaking of Giuliani, on the TODAY SHOW this morning he showed once again that his "message" is completely inadequate to the task at hand. Low taxes, limited government, and staying on the offensive against terrorism is not nearly enough to put together a winning coalition against an amazingly charismatic candidate who promises to replace fear with hope. (Republicans really, really have to start to LEARN from their "vertical" man from Hope.) Rudy might have beaten Hillary, but he’s irrelevant now.

4. Republicans are gloating with no good reason over poor Hillary’s demise. She would have been easier to beat and a much better president than Obama. She would have, for example, acted responsibly in Iraq and General Petraeus and our military in general could have worked well with her.

5. Thr single most likely outcome in Novemeber is the election of President Obama with significantly enhanced majorities in both houses of Congress. Obama’s audacious transcendence of ideology with hope is, of course, more apparent than real, but it’s pretty darn apparent. And, believe or not, this ain’t Huck’s fault.

Pick your post-partisan poison

David Brooks contrasts the post-partisan styles of Obama and McCain, noting that for Obama post-partisanship seems more a matter of style than of substance. (Yup.)

In Norman, Oklahoma, a group consisting mostly of ex-Senators (as well as Michael Bloomberg and Chuck Hagel), released an anodyne statement calling on candidates to work toward establishing a government of national unity. The description of our challenges is, for the most part compelling, and that’s part of what contributes to our difficulty: in a nation that’s roughly evenly divided, everyone feels a sense of urgency about their solutions and is convinced that the other guy’s are the road to perdition. Telling us that matters are serious doesn’t change that and doesn’t provide a roadmap out of perdition. Bringing the nation together to solve common problems sounds good and makes those who call for it feel good, but we’re still obliged critically to examine the solutions folks offer.

Which brings me back to Brooks on McCain:

McCain’s campaign events are unpredictable. At Obama events, the candidate gives a moving speech while the crowd rises deliriously as one. McCain holds town meetings. People challenge him, sometimes angrily. And if they oppose him, McCain will come back to them two or three times so that there can be an honest exchange of views. Some politicians try to persuade their audience that they agree with them. McCain welcomes disagreement and talks about it.

A post-partisanship that welcomes disagreement and doesn’t conceal an agenda might just be what the doctor ordered.

There’s A Dissertation Waiting To Be Written

Would it be in the philosophy or the psychology department, though? The topic - What are the consequences of the two most solipsistic people in the world being married to each other?

"What did you think about the Obama thing calling Hillary the senator from Punjab? Did you like that? Or what about the Obama handout that was covered up, the press never reported on, implying that I was a crook. Scouring me—scathing criticism over my financial reports. Ken Starr spent $70 million to find out that I wouldn’t take a nickel to see the cow jump over the moon." Bill Clinton, 01/07/08

“It was just so touching when this woman said, ‘Well, what about you?’” Mrs. Clinton said. “I just don’t think about that, I think about what I can do for other people I have spent a lifetime trying to help others; I’m very other-directed. That’s maybe why people don’t get me in the political world.” Hillary Clinton, 01/07/08

Huckabee’s populism?

The Crunchy Con likes this smart liberal Mormon take on Huckabee. Russell Arben Fox would kinda like downmarket evangelicals to strike out in a Christian Democratic direction, but he wouldn’t object to a meliorist Huckabee influence in the Republican coalition. Here’s the meat of his argument:

Now, let’s be clear about something: Huckabee’s populism and anti-elitism is far more a matter of attitude than of policy. When we see Huckabee outside of the populist hothouse and he (and Edwards) created in Iowa—as he moves full force into NH and beyond—we’ll probably see him (as Ross Douthat has predicted and hopes) start talking about how he’s actually a mainstream conservative, and he’ll drop a lot of the ambitious, quasi-populist stuff that used to move blue-collar Catholics and others back in the good old days to vote with a passion. I consider this terribly unfortunate, but almost a surety nonetheless.... I continue to insist...that there can nonetheless be a "small-p" populism, a genuine interest in making life more livable for the non-elites out there, that co-exists with major party platforms and all their compromises. Maybe that makes me just a meliorist at at heart, though I hope not. Huckabee has a lot of crackpot conservative ideas..., but then again, he genuinely tried to make public education workable in an Arkansas under all sorts of financial and legal pressures, all while keeping the door open for home schoolers, school choice, and charter schools; he drew a line against Arkansas being the latest state to make itself addicted to the easy money promised (but rarely in full delivered) by advocates of state gambling, which is of course rarely anything more than a tax on the desperate and gullible; and so forth. A true defender of local authority and economic sovereignty? Er, no. But more populist than the venture capitalist from Massachusetts or the wanna-be Caesar from New York City? Definitely.

Hillary and Her Crocodile Tears

About them, let me just say that if I want to make sure that the words I’m saying do not impress my husband in an argument, the best thing I can do is to let him know how "put upon" I am. Goodness gracious! Is that woman seriously expecting to persuade voters to rally around her with that display? The worst part about it wasn’t even the tears--though everyone is focusing on them because they were so startling. The worst part was her words. It was a great demonstration of what I’ve been saying about "talking AT" rather than talking with people. Even if she is playing the old "sympathy" card--which usually works for her--this is too much. It doesn’t take a genius to feel the contempt she has for the voters in that statement. Bad move. A very, very bad move. Here’s the link to the YouTube video. And do note the hint of resignation in her voice at the end. The Clintons are too savvy not to see what’s happening. And it’s probably not a coincidence that her campaign was fighting rumors this morning that she’s dropping out of the race.

Huckabee and religion in N.H.

As I noted in a previous post, Huckabee hasn’t gone completely off his religious message in New Hampshire (though the ground is much less fertile than in Iowa or South Carolina). Here’s some evidence of interest--and mobilization?--in N.H.

I suspect that one index of how much support Huckabee will get is how big the N.H. homeschool community is. (Does anyone have numbers? I tried a couple of days ago to find numbers for South Carolina, but couldn’t dig them up anywhere.) But I will also note--media coverage and HSLDA PAC endorsement to the contrary notwithstanding--not all homeschoolers support Huckabee. Some haven’t gotten the HSLDA memo. But I wonder whether this or this might resolve some concerns, though, of course, the latter is a campaign video. (This video, from N.H., shows MH discussing homeschooling at a stop there, and indicating that substantial elements of education policy are state matters.)

Another Cultural Sign on Abortion

The Los Angeles Times carried a interesting feature today about men who regret abortion. Slowly but surely abortion is becoming stigmatized to the point that, in another decade or two, people who get abortions are going to be treated like smokers, and pro-abortion feminists are going to be regarded as something like tobacconists.

Frank Rich on Obama and his GOP Doppelgänger

I’m certainly not in the habit of citing Frank Rich with approval, but there is much to consider in this recent piece of his. And his central thesis--that the appeal of both Obama and Huck can be traced to the degree to which both men seem to be an "anti-Bush" when it comes to Iraq--is probably not as off target as I wish it were. On the other hand, if it were really true that dissimilarity between them and Bush accounts for their popularity, it would seem that Ron Paul’s numbers ought to be higher than they are. So I think Rich may be only half (or three quarters) right about that. Much of Obama’s popularity stems from his desire to pull up stakes and come home from Iraq. It is far from clear, however, that this has much to do with Huckabee’s appeal. For one thing, Huck hasn’t indicated support for a policy like that and, indeed, when he talks about Iraq seems to be pretty supportive of the endeavor. Rich hangs too much on Huckabee’s comment about Bush’s "bunker mentality" in Foreign Affairs--though I do agree (now) that it was shrewd of Huck not to back away from it and apologize (even if, as a matter of right, he ought to have done).

I also think this business of explaining Huck and Obama’s appeal as a reaction against the Bush/Clinton era is more than a bit over-stated by almost every commentator who cites it. It’s less that, I think, than a simple generational shift and a desire for youthful energy in politics. It need not come from an actual youth . . . though I think it helps. It is, as I stated in an earlier post, a longing to be included in something great about America. We want to be given a reason to love our country and to feel as though we can work toward making her even more lovable. This is more of a mood than an opinion, I realize. It is also directed less at Bush/Clinton than at the broad-based boredom we’re all developing with baby-boomer self-absorption. This does not mean that we’re likely to reject self-absorption in a general or a noble way . . . our fascination with self-absorbed people is probably just getting a makeover in the personalities and glittering generalities of Huck and Obama. We also like folks like Bono, George Clooney and such. We like Oprah better than Jerry Springer because she’s "doing something important" with her show. If we liked Bill Clinton because he made us feel comfortable with our vices, maybe we like Huck and Obama because they make us feel comfortable with our self-righteousness.

Also see this report out of Iowa and note Obama’s comment, "You’re the wave and I’m riding it" . . . so much could be said about that. It’s even more generous to history, in a way, than Woodrow Wilson’s suggestion of a river-boat pilot. And it’s also more hip . . . Obama as a surfer-dude? But seriously, the appeal stems from his flattery of the people and the suggestion that he will facilitate their doing something important. He’s their ticket to greatness. If he keeps this up, I don’t see how Clinton can recover.

Not a Crazy Christian

Our friend Bill Kristol explains why Huck might be the strongest candidate the Republicans have to offer, espcially against Obama. I don’t agree with every word of this, but Bill is right actually to notice and appreciate the distinctive appeal and the intelligence of Huck’s message. So far, we have every reason to welcome Bill as New York’s newest and most astute columnist.

The end of an era?

Peter Wehner thinks so.

I’m done with Huckabee

I should have known that he’d be a praise service kind of guy.

McClay on religion and secularism in America

Those of you with time on their hands will enjoy this Pew transcript featuring our friend Bill McClay interacting with some very smart journalists. I’ve read a number of these transcripts over the years--the Pew Forum holds biannual events bringing scholars, religious figures, and journalists together--and I think the quality of the questions and the ensuing exchanges has increased quite a bit, thanks in part (I’m sure) to the efforts of the folks at the Pew Forum.

Here’s a site with all the available transcripts. I can vouch for the high quality of the ones I’ve read.

Clinton campaign "listless" in NH

The New York Times can’t help noting that the Clinton campaign is in trouble in New Hampshire. Bill is attracting smaller crowds and they seem tired and sleepy. The atmosphere that is sketched seems cloudy and hopeless. If Hillary loses to Obama by double digits (she lost by 9 points, I think, in Iowa), it will be dramatic and will lead to some very public, and bitter, recriminations among her supporters and between her and the press, which she will then attack openly.

Can Hillary come back?

Jay Cost has a smart essay on how Bill Clinton was able to make a "comeback" in 1992 and why it is unlikely that Hillary will be able to do something similar after her Ne Hampshire loss. Yet, he correctly maintains that Hillary should not be underestimated, and he explains why.  

Religious right and left

In response to a comment on another post, I tried briefly to articulate the difference between the "religious ’Right’" and the "religious Left." Here’s what I wrote, offered in the hope that NLT commenters will help me refine it.

I’d state the difference between "Christian ’Right’" and "Christian Left" this way: the former are conservative in the sense that they wish to restore a family- and church-centered ideal, which they regard as under assault and having been eroded by the assault; the latter wish to create something historically unprecedented, at most inspired by a vision of "Godly" community. For the former, government can protect these "natural" or "God-ordained" institutions, which are the locus of human responsibility and the seats of charity. For the latter, government is the instrument of "inspired" individual responsibility and charity, remaking or transforming institutions to suit the vision, which is itself universalistic.

Because it insists upon the importance of family and church, religious conservatism isn’t really "individualistic." Because it regards all communal arrangements--other than the brotherhood (siblinghood?) of mankind (humankind?)--as matter of choice undertaken by individuals, "liberated" and transformed by government, religious liberalism is, in an attenuated sense, "individualistic."

As an example of how this difference plays out in governance, I’d point to the difference between conservative and liberal "faith-based initiatives." The former regards government as an instrument for expanding the reach of religious organizations, which are, or ought to be, the primary instruments of charity. The latter regards religious organizations as instruments for expanding te reach of government. The former emphasize religious liberty in respecting the missions and hiring standards of the religious organizations. The latter emphasize non-discrimination and social service professionalism, making the religious organizations as much like government agencies as possible.

To the degree that both the religious Right and the religious Left are religious, it’s the latter that is closer to a kind of "theocracy." It has the vision that authorizes the total transformation of society by government.

Buy GOP Futures Now

It was right after the 2004 election thatI wrote that if the Democratic Party were a stock on Wall Street, you should buy it hand over fist because it was undervalued and due for a rebound. I wonder if the same thing is now true of Republicans?

Bill Kristol argues in his first New York Times column that Huckabee can win in November, and while he may be doing this to make Times readers heads explode (those that haven’t already gone beserk at his appointment as a columnist), I am inclined to agree. (By the way, Joe, Mark Falcoff was two doors down from me at AEI for a long time, and while his specialty is Latin America, he has extensive depth on European politics and Barone-like command of American political history, so don’t dismiss his speculations on this score on that account, though I don’t agree with his analysis either.) For one thing, Obama, if he wins the nomination in the next few weeks, faces a long campaign, during which time his essential liberalism cannot be concealed beneath his glittering generalities and appealing personality. And Huckabee does indeed represent what Ross Douthat has called the "Sam’s Club Republicans," without which the GOP can’t win.

Meanwhile, London Times columnist Tim Hames thinks much the same thing, and turns a nice phrase along the way: "If the Democrats were playing pure Hollywood - a kind of Nicole Kidman takes on Will Smith epic - then all that the Republicans were serving up to the nation was The Dukes of Hazzard versus the Osmonds." Wish I’d written that.


It is becoming clearer that the bad guys in Pakistan are about to make a massive effort to destabilize the country, perhaps even send it over the cliff. So there is a lot of soul-searching inside the administration about Pakistan and whether or not the situation there allows us an opportunity to do more work in the tribal areas, not only to prevent this attempt, but to go after the bad guys with more alacrity. Note that now there is a movement of refugees from Pakistan into Afghanistan, which now seems safer than Pakistan. Are the vast majority of Pakistanis moderate, and may they be counted on in this time of crisis? I hope so.

Falcoff on Huckabee

I’ve taken my share of shots at Mike Huckabee, but I think he articulates some concerns that conservatives and Republicans (overlapping but far from identical groups) have to take seriously.

For these reasons, I can’t endorse this analysis from Romneyite Mark Falcoff (whose specialty is, I thought, Latin America). Falcoff argues that Republicans are at a crossroads, going in either a Christian Democrat (or Christian Socialist in the tradition of Bavarian Franz Josef Strauss) or libertarian way, becoming two parties rather than one. To avoid this fate, which would guarantee long-term Democratic rule, evangelicals should accept the victories they gain as part of a coalition, whose other members only pretend to agree with them on matters they (the libertarians) don’t really regard as signficant. This should be the arrangement, Falcoff argues, until evangelicals become post-evangelicals, transcending religion in the way that Obama has transcended race.

To state this argument is, I think, to show its utter ridiculousness. Falcoff’s patronizing assumption is that evangelicals essentially can’t be reasoned with; they have to grow up first. And that Huckabee isn’t a grown-up. But business Republicans and libertarians, who don’t take traditional marriage or abortion all that seriously, are grown-ups, because they care about solid things like economics. (I guess everyone in the history of political philosophy up until about John Locke wasn’t a grown-up by Falcoff’s lights. And even Locke recognized the centrality of the family to a productive economy.)

The way to start the necessary conversation is not to begin by patronizing one of the parties to it. But Falcoff seems capable of nothing else. Is this the Romneyite position?

Update: Our friend the Pomocon reminds us that there are alternatives to these options. I’d add that a genuine religious conservative would favor subsidiarity and hence federalism.

The Fox Forum

...was dominated by Romney, although they were all not bad at all. Mitt went on the offensive against both Huck and McCain on the records when it comes to taxes and forced them both to be defensive and evasive. And he finally has the executive leadership, Washington is broken, fundamental change is needed stuff down pat. (Obama lite with competence added.) The Luntz focus group loved him most when he was saying almost nothing substantive at all. (I mean that to be praise of Mitt.) Huck was pretty good and even eloquent in places otherwise, but he’s stopped being funny. Someone told McCain to stop being nasty, and so he was too cautious and redundant. Thompson and Giuliani seemed relatively disengaged, although Fred was good on Social Security. You never know which Fred is going to show up--even from question to question. Maybe Mitt is going to be this year’s Comeback Kid in NH.

Random Observations on the Campaign

1. I didn’t see the debate last night. I did see Huck getting the tough questions from George S. on ABC about inconsistencies in his record and his rhetoric. My real opinion is that they don’t amount to much. So, although he’s against gambling, Huck had an event in Iowa in a hotel or something that had a casino, for example. Good evanglicals from my area go over to the casino hotels in Miss. just to enjoy the cheap amenities of the gambling hotels, including. of course, pigging out at the buffets. Eating the food without betting is a way of sticking it to the man.

2. The most damning evidence presented lately aginst Huck concerns his ambivalence concerning the surge and all that. Huck clearly hasn’t shown the right toughness or prudence in foreign policy. But his morning, Huck said he supported the surge but was really worried about the unprecedented overdeployment of the reserves and the National Guard. That is a real, real issue in parts of the country where people are in the reserves and the National Guard. It won’t hurt him to express that reservation about the way the surge was made possible. (I’m not taking a stand on the issue here, just saying the way Huck spin here ain’t goin’ to hurt him.)

3. Huck managed, against George, to stay on message, especially his consistent ethic of life and the dignity of everyone etc. message. He sounded smart and didn’t get angry.

4. I’m guessing that the piling on of Romney, which is starting to involve some inauthentic pettiness on McCain’s part, may start to help him. Mitt is actually as not as far behind in NH as I would have guessed he would be by today. I thought Mitt was pretty classy this morning, although obviously he shouldn’t have said his commercials didn’t say that McCain favored immigration amnesty.

5. Fred is now focused on expressing the most consistently Republican message--NLT readers will like the new line he was putting forth this morning: Yes, we need change, we need to change back to acting according to our fundamental principles.
His chances in SC will be better if McCain takes a licking in NH. Otherwise, he and McCain will divide the non-Huck vote--and Huck, today, is ahead in SC polling and really can’t be hurt by his finish in NH.

6. I saw enough clips to conclude that, although there wasn’t much Obama magic last night, Hillary is not providing any reasons why Democrats shouldn’t take an exciting chance on him.

7. Congratulations to Romney on his big victory in Wyoming--the one state where Ron Paul might have scored a breakthrough. (Well, maybe Alaska...)

"You Don’t Have to Do This"

That’s what people always say, according to the hugely murderous psychopathic character in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, when it seems he’s about to kill them. But it almost always turns out that he does have to do it, although this or that killing might make no practical sense at all. The only exceptions: Winners of coin tosses. I’m happy to admit that the movie is exceptionally well made, very philosophic or scientific, and somewhat disconcerting. But not that disconcerting, because it’s hard to tell in what sense it’s realistic. I’m not going to offer some kind of big-time interpretation for a lot of reasons. One is that it’s a film that’s long an action but short on talk, and so you really have to pay attention when someone talks. And that wasn’t always easy for me to do. But at one level the movie is the Coen brothers’ "chance and necessity" response to one of the best and most edifying movies ever made--TENDER MERCIES. (Consider the place of the Tess Harper character in both cases etc.) If you go to the movies to be entertained or to be happier or even to be smarter, I finally can’t recommend this one. See TENDER MERCIES again.