Turns out Patrick Deneen has his own reasons for agreeing with Jonah G. about Obama. In his critique, he invokes the shade of Augustine against the shades of Dewey and Croly, two figures who loom large in J.G.’s "devil’s dictionary."
But Patrick reminds us that there’s a realist tradition that doesn’t come out of the Enlightenment and that doesn’t regard religion in either an instrumental or inimical way.
If you want more, Jon Schaff has it.
Say it ain’t so, Prof. Kmiec, last seen advising Mitt Romney. Well, Kmiec himself might not go over to the other side, but he suspects more than a few Catholics, even conservative Catholics, will. A snippet:
Beyond life issues, an audaciously hope-filled Democrat like Obama is a Catholic natural. Anyone seeking "liberty and justice for all" really can’t be satisfied with racially segregated public schools that don’t teach. And there’s something deeply hypocritical about being a nation of immigrants that won’t welcome any more of them. And that creation that God saw as good in Genesis? Well, even without seeing Al Gore melt those glaciers over and over again, Catholics chose Al to better steward a world beset with unnatural disasters. Climate change is driven by mindless consumption that devotes more ingenuity to securing golden parachutes than energy independence.
Of course, marriage and family are indispensable as well, and until now, Catholics saw the Republicans as having a lock on the family issue. But if either Clinton or Obama would acknowledge the myriad problems associated with a declining population in the developed world and affirm the importance of both having and raising children (and not just punting these duties over to Hillary’s "village"), Catholics could well contemplate a Democratic adoption.
Rick Garnett offers a brief for the other side, seizing on the BIG "beyond life issues" caveat, McCain’s support for--and Obama’s opposition to--school choice, and immigration policy, where McCain’s position is closer to that of many in the Catholic hierarchy.
Nonetheless, this is a point to remember that the non-Catholic Michael Gerson insists upon the importance of Catholic social teaching as a strain in conservatism, something too many conservatives are willing to forget in their headlong flight from anything that smacks of compassionate conservatism. It’s also worth noting that Catholic social teaching is attractive also to some thoughtful evangelicals.
I don’t think that McCain--the God and country (hold the God) candidate--is the man to articulate these themes for conservatives and/or Republicans in the upcoming campaign. But he needs a running mate who can.
Update: Our friend RC2 has much more. Consider this, for example:
Is Kmiec unfamiliar with No Child Left Behind, "comprehensive" immigration, and all the Bush Administration support for "green" policy? Conservatives are furious about those things, but Catholic voters of the sort Kmiec is describing should be happy with Bush and not eager to shed their Republican identities if he’s correct -- if we bracket the Iraq war, which I’ll come to in a minute. Does Kmiec not know that McCain supports school vouchers (there’s that 3rd non-negotiable) while Obama opposes them? Or that McCain’s in trouble with Conservatives precisely because he supported Bush’s immigration program and is aggressively in favor of attention to climate change? If Kmiec is right about what Catholics care about, he’s listed reasons in favor of McCain. I’m surprised he didn’t bring up Catholic opposition to torture --another topic on which McCain deviates from Conservative orthodoxy in the Catholic direction.
The real issue, she says, is probably the war, and though the Roman Catholic Church’s position on this is nuanced, that nuance will likely escape many voters.
Over at The Corner, there’s been some back and forth, with
Ramesh Ponnuru starting it off, Kmiec responding, Ponnuru coming back, Shannen Coffin jumping in, Kmiec responding to Coffin, and Ponnuru getting testy. Here’s the portion of Kmiec’s argument I found most revealing and problematical:
John McCain has all the appearance of business as usual – Bush II or is it III? That being so, we need to face the reality that we are about to lose the Presidency and the Congress, thanks to the incumbent, and by backing a lackluster, "it’s my turn" Republican who is not perceived as advancing the interests that Catholics care deeply about be it the right to life or the broader social teaching of the Church. Oh yes, we are well aware of Senator Obama’s morally unacceptable position on abortion. No Catholic can or will endorse the taking of innocent life. Indeed, conscience could not just dissuade, but directly preclude, casting a vote in his column. However, Catholic moral teaching enjoins us to work to transform the culture in every vineyard, not just those that are friendly. And Senator Obama has courageously and intriguingly opened a window of opportunity for important conversation across faith traditions, by reminding us that "we should not use faith as a wedge to divide, but instead use faith to resolve cultural tensions and mediate conflicts rather than engage in a politics that exploits them and drives us further from a solution."
I certainly don’t see McCain as the second (or third) coming of Bush. There are surely some continuities, but also some signal discontinuities, as there are with so-called mainstream Republicanism. But if Kmiec means to say that the combination of support for the war in Iraq (at least as it’s currently executed) and an (unimaginative, "uncompassionate"?) focus on the interests of business marks McCain’s continuity with some elements of the Bush record, he’s surely onto something. Whatever may have been the case with Michael Gerson and GWB himself (along with a few others), there were certainly plenty of people in the White House between 2001 and the present who didn’t care a whit about Catholic social teaching. And I don’t think McCain does either, for reasons that Peter Lawler has sketched.
I think that Kmiec is quite wrong about any sort of opening Obama is offering. He offers respect as a way of inviting people to the table, but the conversation is one-sided: you can be persuaded to agree with him, but he will never move toward you. If some folks on the right use cultural issues as wedges, Obama’s approach is to regard them as something like fishing lures. They’re intended to attact people to his political agenda, whose substance, such as it is, is almost entirely statist.
Michelle Obama is an interesting character. In speaking about her husband and his capacities, she informs us that he is capable not only of changing souls (which, in her view, is what we all need in America) but also of changing the WORLD. Hugh Hewitt has been playing bits from this speech this afternoon. Go have a listen and then, when you hear it, ask yourself if John McCain really looks so bad. Hugh Hewitt is not given to wild expressions of over-statement. But even Hewitt remarked that it reminded him of the fascist stump speeches from the 30s. He’s been reading Jonah’s book, so perhaps that’s why it came to his mind. I haven’t read Jonah’s book yet but Mrs. Obama’s speech did remind me of somebody else.
Fred Barnes remarked that the Obama campaign had better reign her in before she becomes the next Teresa Heinz-Kerry. Whatever happens, this is going to be interesting to watch.
Shameless self-promotion. Yours truly gave a lecture on Lincoln’s birthday entitled "The Problem of Black History: Race, Memory, and the American Creed." If interested in the webcast, click away. Here’s the blurb for the event:
Frederick Douglass argued that “The sum of the black man’s misfortunes and calamities are just here: He is everywhere treated as an exception to all the general rules which should operate in the relations of other men.” In light of this, what should we think about Black History Month? What was its original purpose, and has it outlived this purpose? And does it now serve to divide rather than unite America, highlighting racial differences and fostering “identity politics”--where individuals are treated differently depending on their race and not their merit?
Michael Medved just noted this James Taranto piece from yesterday on his show. Apparently Obama has hit upon a spate of faint females at recent rallies. Medved wondered whether this wasn’t an indication of some calculation on the part of Obama because there seems to be a distinct pattern in the incidents: woman faints, he pauses, asks the crowd to give her some room, occasionally offers water, and then returns to his speech among enthusiastic cheers for his heroic efforts. Medved thought it sounded reminiscent of Giuliani’s fake phone calls from his wife during campaign speeches. Hmmmmm. Maybe. He went further to suggest that if this story broke larger than it has, Obama’s call to "give her some room" may end up giving the other HER some room in the race against him. Again . . . maybe.
But I think that Taranto’s take on the matter is, in a way, even more interesting. Let’s suppose that none of this is contrived. Let’s suppose these women actually ARE fainting during Obama rallies as they swoon in his irresistible presence. What is that about? Isn’t that, in its way, even more disturbing than the possibility that he’s staging this?
Just over ten years ago, on January 27, 1998, Hillary Clinton informed America that a “vast right-wing conspiracy . . . has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.” One of the accomplishments of her own presidential campaign has been to bring into existence a vast left-wing conspiracy. Every day, one more leftist commentator looks on the Clinton campaign tactics and unleashes a volley of dismay and scorn.
Jonathan Chait, Michael Tomasky and Robert Reich have been prominent critics. Ezra Klein now weighs in with the kind of fury that would play well on FoxNews: It’s “getting a bit annoying to watch [the Clintons] discover brand new principles as soon as they become politically useful. I never, not once, heard anyone in the Hillary Camp say the real test for the candidate was how they did in huge, heavily-Democratic states like California and New York. Rather, before she lost a bunch of small states, I kept hearing that her experience in upstate New York would assure her the Missouris of the world, which Democrats needed. I never, not once, heard anyone in the Clinton campaign denigrate the representative nature of caucuses when it [looked] like they might win Iowa. Never, not once, did they respond to a poll showing Hillary in the lead by saying, ‘hey, it’s just a caucus, and basically undemocratic.’ Now, of course, they want caucuses not to count. Fine, that’s politics. Similarly, when the DNC decided to strip Michigan and Florida of their delegations, I never, not once, heard the Clinton campaign stand up [to] stop the whole thing from happening. They stayed silent, and even assented to the DNC’s decision. Clinton’s campaign manager released a statement saying, ‘We believe Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina play a unique and special role in the nominating process, and we believe the DNC’s rules and its calendar provide the necessary structure to respect and honor that role.’
He concludes, “If it’s cynical, risky politics that brings a lighted match and a can of gas near the Democratic coalition, it should be named as such, and its consequences understood, and it should become part of the complex calculus we’re all building to help us understand these campaigns.”
Today, the New York Times is reporting that superdelegate Lewis is disinclined to defy his constituents, who voted overwhelmingly for Obama. That is, he’s inclined to accept the Obama argument that superdelegates shouldn’t exercise an independent judgment in the nomination race. (Incidentally, this tells you something you already knew about Obama’s approach to "original intent.")
Now, there is a little confusion here: my hometown paper is reporting that Rep. Lewis’s office is calling the NYT story "inaccurate." Is this a response to Clinton campaign pressure? Is it simply an insistence on the difference between endorsement (active support) and acquiescence in "the will of the people"?
I’m not a big fan of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform." But way back when, Barack Obama sought lay the foundations for a public funding truce for the general election, and John McCain took him up on it.
In a sense, McCain has the larger problem, first of all, because he lacks Obama’s fund-raising prowess and, second, because he’s one of the principal authors of a system that doesn’t really work. But when he was a fresh face, Obama seemed to want to play by McCain’s rules, at least for the rhetorical advantage, image-polishing, and attention it would give him.
McCain should relentlessly challenge Obama to live up to this "deal," but if that tack fails, he should be man enough to admit that the public financing system with which he’s identified is irretrievably broken. He and Obama both have something to lose if the "gentleman’s agreement" doesn’t hold. But McCain’s "change" can be explained (call it "spun," if you must) as a manly recognition that the ways of the political world can’t be regulated as rigidly as he’d like. He can adapt, coming up with something new (now there’s a word that’s in fashion!).
Obama, I think, has a harder time coming up with a plausible rationale for his unwillingness to keep his "pledge." Does he say that effecting change in Washington is more important than keeping his word? Does he say he never really meant it, that it was just an option his campaign was exploring in its early stages? To those who pay attention, he’ll look a little more like an ordinary politician.
The question is, how many will be paying attention?
The Associated Press reports that the IRS is going to investigate a pastor, also an official in Sounthern Baptist Convention, who wrote parishoners on church letterhead endorsing Mike Huckabee for President. The endorsement letter said in part “I ask all of my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters to consider getting behind Mike and helping him all you can. . . . I believe God has chosen Mike for such an hour, and I believe of all those running, Mike Huckabee will listen to God.” The pastor is defending himself by arguing that the letter was only a personal endorsement of Huckabee. The Associated Press also reports that “Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed a complaint with the IRS. Drake [the pastor who wrote the letter endorsing Huckabee] later lashed out at them in an Aug. 14 press release and urged his supporters to direct "imprecatory prayer" toward two of the group’s officials, Joe Conn and Jeremy Leaming. He gave as examples of imprecatory prayer: "Persecute them. ... Let them be put to shame and perish." "Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow." "Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg."”
Ben Boychuk at RedBlueAmerica.com informs us that Valentine’s Day is old hat for some progressive Manhattan and university types. For those folks, there’s another thing beginning with the letter "V" that they’d rather celebrate every 14th of February and, yes, "Monologues" are part (but I’m sure, only a part) of the story. The "holiday’s" creator Eve Ensign (also the creator of the infamous "play") was asked what she thought of "V-Day" hitting the 10 year mark (who knew?!) and she had a few more "V" words to throw in . . . something about this being a great "victory" for women as they finally find their "voices" and blah . . . blah . . . blah . . . you get the idea. (If you don’t, follow the link to Ben’s post and you’ll get an earful.)
I’ve never been a great fan of Valentine’s Day . . . it always seemed so contrived and it seemed to create so many unrealistic expectations and unnecessary heartache (of course, these were opinions I had before I had responsibilities and spontaneity was easily and smugly extolled). But Valentine’s Day--corny as it has become--is looking pretty good to me by way of comparison with this . . . what do you call it? . . . "holiday?"
Here, first of all, is the written version of the Dean Barnett’s argument, to which I alluded in a previous post. Barnett makes three points; I agree with two-and-a-half of them. First, Obama is much less impressive without his teleprompter. Yup. Second, his style is to "respect" those with whom he disagrees without moving an inch in their direction. Yup; for Obama, working across the aisle means luring his opponents to his side, not compromising. Third, when he adlibs, Obama reveals the angry, backward-looking partisan beneath the cool, conciliatory exterior. Well, sort of. Barnett is right that his adlibs are more partisan; it was a partisan crowd, after all, not a "big tent" Obama rally. I’d want to see him really pushed and tested in a debate (by McCain) before I came to Barnett’s conclusion.
Daniel Henninger tries to penetrate Obama’s rhetoric and finds John Edwards:
Listen closely to that Tuesday night Wisconsin speech. Unhinge yourself from the mesmerizing voice. What one hears is a message that is largely negative, illustrated with anecdotes of unremitting bleakness. Heavy with class warfare, it is a speech that could have been delivered by a Democrat in 1968, or even 1928.
I am not saying all of this is false. But it is a depressing message to ride all the way to the White House.
Unease about the economy is real, but Sen. Obama is selling more than that. He is selling deep grievance over the structure of American society. That’s the same message as John Edwards, or Dennis Kucinich for that matter.
Henninger draws a contrast with McCain’s classically conservative (in the American sense) belief in the efficacy of initiative. So we have angry hopefulness against hopeful anger. Let’s see how this plays out.
I don’t think Obama can get much better. In the general election campaign, he’ll have to pay attention to his opponent and start managing the policy and vision debates. It would be a mistake not to try very hard to pin him down, or not to show how evasive he is when you try to pin him down. Can McCain do it? I hope so.
Commenter extraordinaire Steve Thomas called our attention to this dark and foreboding piece by Leon Wieseltier. A snippet:
The turbulence that I have described is not caused by misunderstandings. It is caused by the interests of powers and the beliefs of peoples. Beijing, Moscow, Tehran, Pyongyang, Islamabad, Gaza City, Khartoum, Caracas-does Obama really believe that he has something to propose to these ruthless regimes that they have not already considered? Does he plan to move them, to organize them, to show them change they can believe in? With what trick of empathy, what euphoria, does he hope to join the Shia, the Sunni, and the Kurds in Iraq?
My problem is not with "day one": nobody is perfectly prepared for the White House, though the memory of Bill Clinton’s "learning curve" is still vivid, which in Bosnia and Rwanda cost more than a million lives. My problem is that Obama’s declarations in matters of foreign policy and national security have a certain homeopathic quality. He seems averse to the hurtful, expensive, traditional, unedifying stuff.
Read the whole thing.
Nice essay by the author of Land of Lincoln (and Weekly Standard editor) in First Things magazine. Excerpts:
Ferguson on Lincoln’s view of the Civil War: "This is no ordinary war, because this is no ordinary country."
"At Gettysburg, Lincoln explained why the country—the Union—was worth preserving. It was not any Union that was being preserved, it was a particular kind of Union: a Union dedicated to a timeless proposition that existed before the Union was even conceived."
"The war would determine whether such a proposition could be safely entrusted to human institutions."
The country, Lincoln believed, is the carrier of a precious cargo, a proposition that is the timeless human truth, and the survival of this principle will always be of providential importance. We assent to Lincoln’s creed, wide open as it is, when we think of ourselves as Americans."
As we watch the unraveling of Hillary Clinton’s carefully crafted campaign and the ascendancy of Barack Obama, it is impossible not to notice that Ms. Clinton and the Democrats of her mold are finally hitching their wagons to the real star that is the longing of every modern Democrat heart: victimhood. Unfortunately for them, they are the victims of a monster born out of their own experiments: Barack Obama. That child of the Boomer era has grown up and he’s learned his lessons well. He’s out-boomered them all. He even captured the endorsement of the last remaining vestige of the Boomer generation’s childish sentimentality: Ted Kennedy--a link to the sainted John of their youthful memories and imaginations.
Some months ago, we had a discussion here about a piece by Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal wherein he pointed to the fact that Obama’s appeal stemmed from the way in which he appeared to transcend the politics of the 60s generation. I pointed out that it was true, but that it was only appearance. Moreover, sooner or later, the 60s generation would catch on and try to "kill" the Frankenstein they created. South Carolina and events following on the heels of it, proved this an accurate speculation.
As these events have played themselves out, Florida blogger, Rattlegator has some very thoughtful and worthy ruminations about the implications of it all. They’re worth a few mugs.
But when you finish there, you MUST, simply MUST go check out the further and compelling observations of his fellow blogger, Michael David Cobb Bowen, who argues that these developments mark the beginning of the end of multiculturalism as we understand it.
Is here. It’s an impressive effort that draws characteristically conservative contrasts with his opponents (the Democrats, I mean). For instance,
[The American people] don’t send us to Washington to take more of their money, and waste it on things that add not an ounce to America’s strength and prosperity; that don’t help a single family realize the dreams we all dream for our children; that don’t help a single displaced worker find a new job, and the security and dignity it assures them; that won’t keep the promise we make to young workers that the retirement they have begun to invest in, will be there for them when they need it. They don’t send us to Washington to do their job, but to do ours; to do it better and with less of their money.
But the speech needs to be better, I think, in articulating the relationship between "principle" and "interest." The first line of the paragraph whose conclusion I quoted reads:
The American people don’t send us to Washington to serve our self-interest, but to serve theirs.
This is too sober and pedestrian, not just for a man whose bread-and-butter is the self-sacrificial nature of his biography, but for a leader who thinks we face a civilizational challenge and a candidate who will likely face a stirring, albeit largely vacuous,
"idealist." This is more like it:
[W}e face no enemy, no matter how cruel; and no challenge, no matter how daunting, greater than the courage, patriotism and determination of Americans. We are the makers of history, not its victims.
But people don’t "make history" and face down daunting challenges in the name of self-interest. (I take that [partially] back: obviously someone with a thoroughly materialist view of history--a Marxist, say--would argue that self-interest makes history. But McCain is surely not one of "them.")
The closest McCain comes to addressing the question I’ve raised is here:
My hope for our country resides in my faith in the American character, the character which proudly defends the right to think and do for ourselves, but perceives self-interest in accord with a kinship of ideals, which, when called upon, Americans will defend with their very lives.
But I’m not sure what it means to "perceive self-interest in accord with a kinship of ideals." Does this mean that we conceive our interests in terms of our ideals? Does it mean that we’re united by our ideals? Perhaps this helps:
When I was a young man, I thought glory was the highest ambition, and that all glory was self-glory. My parents tried to teach me otherwise, as did the Naval Academy. But I didn’t understand the lesson until later in life, when I confronted challenges I never expected to face.
In that confrontation I discovered that I was dependent on others to a greater extent than I had ever realized, but that neither they nor the cause we served made any claims on my identity. On the contrary, I discovered that nothing is more liberating in life than to fight for a cause that encompasses you, but is not defined by your existence alone.
I do not seek the presidency on the presumption that I am blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save my country in its hour of need. I seek the presidency with the humility of a man who cannot forget that my country saved me. I am running to serve America, and to champion the ideas I believe will help us do what every American generation has managed to do: to make in our time, and from our challenges, a stronger country and a better world.
How the principles or ideals are different from "America" remains hard to tell. I’m left wishing for a reference, at least, to the Declaration of Independence or the Gettysburg Address, that latter of which certainly would give McCain language in which to discuss the sense of sacrifice he feels in his bones.
His peroration doesn’t help matters:
I intend to do that by fighting for the principles and policies I believe best serve the interests of the American people: for a government that takes and spends less of your money and competently discharges its responsibilities; that shows a proper respect for our rights and values; that provides a strong and capable defense; that encourages the enterprise and ingenuity of individuals, businesses and families, who know best how to advance America’s economy, and secure the dreams that have made us the greatest nation in history.
Our "rights and values," our "dreams," are expressions of our interests. The most you can say for this is that McCain is the apostle of self-interest properly understood. This isn’t bad, but it isn’t enough, as Tocqueville recognized. The great Frenchman recognized the reductionism, and hence the inadequacy, of this self-understanding. Let’s hope that McCain, and his speechwriters, can do the same.
Byron York argues that Huckabee runs the risk of diminishing the political capital he has accumulated if he stays in too long. The McCain campaign has to be weary of embarrassing results among constituencies he is supposed to consolidate into his coalition.
Of course, at the moment Huckabee is the vehicle for anyone displeased with McCain as the GOP nominee, which doesn’t mean that all those who vote for him actually like him, only that they dislike the Arizona Senator more.
I’m inclined to say that, for conservatives, McCain’s discomfiture is a good thing, assuming that he makes some (more) gestures in their direction. But it’s worth recalling that the necessarily public nature of this discomfiture and the presumably ensuing attempt at conciliation offers folks in the press opportunities to write stories that might harm McCain’s subsequent efforts to build a winning coalition in the general election. It would have been better for the outreach to have been conducted under the radar, so to speak. If McCain is in fact an honorable man, even quiet promises ought to have been sufficient.
The other possibility, of course, is that the publicity drives McCain in the other direction, so that he won’t do what he needs to do to consolidate his base until after Huckabee is out. The more time passes, the harder conciliation might become and the more newsworthy it is when the attempt does come. This complicates further McCain’s efforts in the fall.
For me, the bottom line is this. McCain must by now have received any message he’s going to receive through the primary process. He knows that there are constituencies in the GOP that are unhappy. He knows he needs their votes, their work, and their money to win the general election. But he also needs the votes of independents and moderates. A quiet rapprochement with conservatives serves everyone’s interests better than a loud, public one. Assuming, as I said, that McCain is an honorable man, the only thing that publicity accomplishes is embarrassing him and making his path to election more complicated. Even if Mike Huckabee doesn’t get out, it’s time for conservatives to register their discontent in other ways than in the polling booth.
Just in case you don’t quite see that Alaska is the last frontier, I should mention that a couple miles into the city (of 300,000, half the population of the state), in other words twenty minutes after I landed, I saw a moose nibbling on a tree in someone’s back yard as we drove by. Then, this morning a front page article appeared in the Anchorage paper: "Falling moose nearly takes out trooper: Animal plunges to its death of Seward Highway cliff." Now, although there is more to the frontier cover of the state than this, these two moose stories will be great to hang it on later.
1. No miracle for Huck: The polls were right that showed him surging but falling short in Virginia. The bad news for Mac: The self-described conservatives and evangelicals are more against him than ever. If there’s any campaign that’s been blessed or at least lucky it’s McCain’s.
2. To repeat what many experts have been saying: The people who still give Hillary a chance are the same ones who actually thought Giuliani’s fallback strategy could work. The demographics of Obama’s big win in Virginia show how hopeless her effort is to slow down the Change-and-Hope train.
3. Obama’s speech in Wisconsin tonight was very, very impressive. It was much more specific than usual. He praised McCain as a national hero, but added that he’s too wedded to Bush/Cheney. Evidence:
McCain was right to call Bush’s tax cut for the rich in the time of war unpatriotic, but now he’s flip-flopped. And Obama made it clear that he (unlike Hilltary) can’t be criticized for ever having supported the Iraq war, which he claims everyone now knows was a mistake. He also talked a lot about heath care. I can’t help but wonder how well Mac’s going to do in articulating and defending his (newly?) Republican views of tax cuts and health care. Defending the war is easy enough in Republican primaries, but studies show it’s going to be tough in November. It won’t be enough to defend the surge; McCain will have to make a convincing case for having gone to war in Iraq in the first place.
These stories describe the results of this poll, which found that a little less than a third of the white evangelical voters in Missouri and Tennessee on Super Tuesday partcipated in the Democratic contests (overwhelmingly favoring Clinton, by the way). The poll also found that evangelicals on both sides were less focused on "traditional" culture war issues, though I wouldn’t necessarily leap from there to the conclusion that an extremely pro-choice party or candidate can command the allegiance of such voters over the long haul.
This poll echoes somewhat the result of this survey, described here. I would note, however, that Barna’s "born-again" voters sound to me like self-identified Christians and that his evangelical subset still overwhelming favors Republicans (albeit with a very significant proportion of undecideds).
Republicans would do well to remember that Bush’s narrow victories came with an unprecedentedly high level of support from evangelicals, support that John McCain will be hard-pressed to duplicate this fall. They should also remember that Catholics tilted into the Republican camp in ’00 and ’04, but not in ’06. Finally, they should note that simply mouthing support for the pro-life position and for traditional marriage likely won’t be enough to galvanize their erstwhile supporters among traditionalist evangelicals and Catholics. A meaningful commitment on these issues is essential, but so is recognition of a broader agenda. You can favor smaller government, but you have to explain how smaller government creates conditions that will help people lift themselves out of poverty. As Jim Wallis has said, the budget is a moral document, and one shouldn’t speak about it simply in terms of letting me keep what is mine. One ought to offer a vision of the common good that is served by a less intrusive government, one that leaves the initiative to and assists the institutions of civil society.
I’m in Anchorage, having just heard (at 7 a.m.!) the president of the University of Alaska talk some academic politics. Seems like a smart enough fellow and I was pleased to hear him note that, never minds that president’s day stuff, today is Mr. Lincoln’s birthday. And I will be speaking tonight on "Lincoln’s Majestic Interpretation of the Universe." (Which speech, if it works, I’ll put out later.) But this speech on Abe is the best oration ever, and worth re-reading. Andrew Ferguson has a very nice essay on Lincoln’s cabin and its logs. If you ever wondered about the details and rumors surrounding it, it’s all here, explained in a clear and charming way. Besides, as the last paragraph explains, its the undeniable truth about Lincoln and the American miracle that counts more than the logs.
I was in New Delhi some twenty years ago, with a brief four-hour break from my labors. So my Indian driver asked if he could take me to the soul of India. I said, sure, if it isn’t too far. He took me to Ghandi’s tomb and explained to me that he was their "great souled" man, great as in "ma" and soul as in "hatma." We talked about that for a while, and then we talked about the Greek word for soul and how that is related to Hindi (Sanscrit) and he asked who our great souled man was. He was testing me. He already knew the answer, but I got it right. We noted two things: that the word soul means breath (and the word sounds like breath in most languages, perhaps even in non Indo-European ones, at least the one’s we knew between us two), and that the great of soul of a man differs from India to America. It is related to justice, and excellence, and a kind of love, but in our version it was vitally important for Lincoln to speak, and to speak clearly, and always to be understood by his audience. In his soul he knew this. He wanted to lift them to his thoughts, and then, of course, persuade them if he could. But he wanted them to come to their own conclusion, to prove to themselves that they could. They should feel at ease and at home in the presence of their reason and their language and the great truths about the human soul, and know that they could get it on their own. Lincoln’s great gift to his friends and citizens was to show them how they may come to know the great truths about their purpose and freedom as human beings, and then to act like men in the world and become worthy of those truths. My driver saw the difference.
Pardon me for focusing on this, as at the moment I think it’s more immediately interesting than what remains of the contest on the Republican side.
In the NYT, Ron Klain argues that, as the difference between Clinton and Obama is, in effect, "stylistic," it’s not the ground of a lasting, and electorally consequential, schism in the party:
Democrats are engaged in a primary battle over the means of leadership, not the ends. While means are important, they are an unlikely ground for a lasting schism, especially when a choice emerges between a Democratic and a Republican nominee in the fall.
I agree that the grown-ups in the party--somewhat immune to Obama’s mesmerism--will nonetheless turn out in large numbers in the fall. What about the kids? And what about African-Americans, if the Clintons have to use legal legerdemain to secure the nomination? It may be that "cooler heads" who are interested in winning would accede to the enthusiasm, using their heads to follow others’ hearts.
But I also am unwilling to underestimate the ambition in Mrs. Clinton’s heart, facing her last chance to return to the White House as anything other than a dinner guest.
If in fact a Democrat wins the presidency, along with an augmented Congressional majority, the (party) unity that brought victory will give way to divisions over governing. The big tests will be Iraq and government spending. Brooks thinks (hopes???) that centrists will prevail in the showdowns.
Lori Gottlieb is a 40-year-old single mother who, tired of waiting to find the right husband and start a family, conceived a baby with the sperm bank three years ago. She doesn’t sound thrilled about her overextended life since making that choice, advising younger women, in the current Atlantic Monthly, to “Marry him!” “Don’t worry about passion or intense connection,” Gottlieb says, because, “Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business.”
The women who heed Gottlieb’s advice to “settle for Mr. Good Enough,” however, may have to settle down – way down. According to Kay Hymowitz in City Journal, “Today’s single young men hang out in a hormonal limbo between adolescence and adulthood.” This limbo is filled with drinking, hooking up and video games, she says, pointing out that 31% of 25-year-old white men were single in 1970 but 67% were in 2000. (For 30-year-olds the figures were 15% and 42%.) The “child-man” who is Maxim’s target demographic – and has made the magazine massively profitable – is a “social retard” who would “like to forget that he ever went to school.”
Hymowitz discusses “Knocked Up” as a film that both celebrates and criticizes semi-permanent male adolescence. The New Yorker’s David Denby made the same argument, calling “Knocked Up” the culmination of a recent trend in popular film: the “slacker-striver romance,” whose stories are fueled by “the struggle between male infantilism and female ambition.” Hollywood has offered romantic comedies since the silent films of Buster Keaton, but the male leads always “wanted something,” Denby remarks, while the modern slacker-striver romance features men who are “absolutely free of the desire to make an impression on the world [yet] still [get] the girl.”
Gottlieb says that it’s not just in movies that losers end up with impossibly superior women. Friends of hers have, “in varying degrees of desperation,” recently married “a recovering alcoholic who doesn’t always go to his meetings; a trying-to-make-it-in-his-40s actor; a widower who has three nightmarish kids and who’s still actively grieving for his dead wife; and a socially awkward engineer (so socially awkward that he declined to attend his wife’s book party).” Her advice to younger women is that the sooner you settle the less settling you’ll have to do. For older women, “settling involves selling your very soul in exchange for damaged goods,” while younger ones can make the smaller concession of building a life with “a perfectly acceptable man who may not trip your romantic trigger.”
If Hymowitz is right, however, women in their 20’s and 30’s will have to abandon more than romantic dreams when assessing the sea of perfectly unacceptable doofuses before them. Is she right? Her evidence is vivid but doesn’t quite hang together. If the Single Young Males are underachievers for whom adulthood is “receding,” it’s hard to understand how Maxim’s readers can have a median income of $60,000 at a median age of 26. They might prefer to spend all their time drinking and playing video games, but are at least grown-up enough to curtail that agenda in order to get and hold decent jobs.
Is it also true that the SYM’s devote many leisure hours to “bars and parties, where [they] meet, and often bed, girls of widely varied hues and sizes”? If so, are these enablers the same SYF’s who complain in “Internet chat rooms, in advice columns, at female water-cooler confabs, and in the pages of chick lit, [that] the words ‘immature’ and ‘men’ seem united in perpetuity”? Or are they scabs who ruin the bargaining position of the women outside on the picket line?
Adolescence “appears to be the young man’s default state,” concludes Hymowitz, because “it is marriage and children that turn boys into men.” It’s a point Rousseau would have understood: “Men will always be what it pleases women for them to be; therefore, if you want men to be great and virtuous, teach women the meaning of greatness of soul and virtue.”
Tonight, Dean Barnett observed that Obama without a teleprompter is much less impressive than when he’s on top of his game. Judge for yourselves. Here’s his teleprompterless Jefferson-Jackson dinner speech in Richmond this weekend. Here’s the speech as written.
Clearly not his most impressive effort.
Jon Schaff has posted the gist of his remarks from last week’s conference. Read them.
There exists a recording of Jonah Goldberg’s keynote speech, but I don’t have my grubby hands on it yet. As soon as I do, I’ll post a link.
William J. Stuntz offers both sides a cold shower. For conservatives: the poltiical phase of the culture war over abortion has been lost; and the immigrants are here to stay. For liberals: we’re winning in Iraq, so it would be exceedingly foolish to choose to lose; and there’s no money for big new government programs.
I could quibble with Stuntz’s analysis of the conservative/Republican issues. For example, he seems to assume that political and cultural developments operate on entirely separate tracks, as if pronouncements of political principle don’t affect "the culture." Says who?
On immigration, Stuntz is probably right that the political and governmental price of attempting to deport all the illegal immigrants is too high. But can’t we gain control of the border, reestabish the rule of (immigration) law, and make an effort to "assimilate" the people who are here? This is a political program that’s also a cultural program.
But my main purpose in calling this article to your attention is to prompt a discussion. Here’s Stuntz’s conclusion:
Because these are Democratic-leaning times, Republicans have the most to gain from embracing this year’s inconvenient truths--and may have a nearly ideal candidate to do the embracing. John McCain may be better positioned than anyone in either party to secure the southern border without alienating America’s Latino population. He has a strong pro-life voting record, but has never been in the thick of the culture wars. On Iraq, McCain is prominently identified with Petraeus and the surge. Politically, he stands in much the same position today as Dwight Eisenhower in 1952: tough-minded and hard-nosed without being reckless--and, like Eisenhower with Korea, he bears none of the blame for the war’s mishandling. On spending, McCain may be the country’s leading proponent of fiscal discipline: Ross Perot without the lunacy. A McCain-led Republican party could become the party of deficit hawks--just when deficits are about to become the political liability they were in the 1990s.
The two Democrats seem less impressive on this score. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama talk about border control the way children talk about eating their vegetables. As kids leave the table before the beans and carrots are gone, one suspects a Democratic administration might quit on border security before the borders are secured. Neither sounds much like a deficit hawk. And on the war--the real one--both have made statements that could make wise governance impossible if either reaches power. Political talk matters: It shapes voters’ expectations and defines the political context in which decisions are made. Standing tough in Iraq may be impossible after voters have heard, again and again, that their new president is firmly committed to bailing out, as quickly as possible.
Read and discuss.
From north of the border, this blogger offers an interesting intervention into our conversations about Obama’s appeal to the young. In a sense, Obama is promising the impossible--a unity that overcomes division. As our pseudnymous Canadian friend (if I may be so presumptuous) observes, any "new" unity simply opens us up to a new set of divisions:
[I]t’s not that unity is never possible; it’s not that we can’t all agree to change; it’s just that if we are all to agree on change it has to be over a real promise that is truly open-ended, open to a further exchange of differences, open to new, if yet undeveloped, divisions. And if Obama presumes to represent such a promise, he needs to make clear how he can set up a new political dynamic, a new form of exchange, by bringing new ideas and realities into play in a way that widely raises excitement that a new game, a new challenge, is about to be unboxed and no one yet can know who will learn to master this game, since all players have reason to hope. That’s a consensus: the start of an exciting game.
So one question is whether Obama is capable of developing this sort of transformative vision. I’m, to say the least, dubious. Once you get beyond the soaring words, the ideas are quite conventional. And while the words are important, sooner or later they’ll have to be translated into policies, which will be ground up and chewed out by Congress. There will be perfectly mundane debates, and a President Obama won’t be able to rise above them. He’ll have to (try to) gore some oxen.
Our Canadian friend also notes that youthful insurgencies are nothing new (just ask the good doctor of Italy, Nicholas Machiavell) and quotes approvingly Julie Ponzi’s advice to McCain about how to speak to the young. I’d state the matter more theoretically and abstractly, as kind of a test: can the young admire anyone who is not essentially a vessel or reflection of their own self-image? I think they can. Narcissism is an omnipresent possibility, but so is admiration of the genuinely noble and good. I’m not sure a cranky old warrior is the best possible presenter of the human virtues, but at least this version of the old warrior lacks the darkness and cynicism of his losing predecessor from 1996.
...or just bad studies? Anyway, Survey USA has Huckabee making up 21% on McCain in two days in Virginia, which means he’s only down 11. And nationwide, two of three studies still have McCain well below 50% and Huck gaining.
And thanks to the good word of Dr. Pat Deneen, Mr. Crunchy Con (Rod) has a long, appreciative comment on my "The Warrior and the Preacher," which includes his own observations on Huck’s strengths and weaknesses. It turns out he’s weak on reading and reflecting, which makes it clear how he should spend the next couple of years if he’s to be a real force (and he has the raw talent) in 2012. I should link these sites, of course.
And despite the astute comments of dennis, John, and others in the thread below, I still say Hillary’s position is as untenable as Battista’s at the New Year’s Eve party in GODFATHER, part 2. I would gladly bet the plantation if the odds are right.
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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 February’s drawing.
Whatever Mike Huckabee’s views of his calling are, it seems to me that there’s a good bit of quasi- or pseudo-religious sentiment in a different venue on the campaign trail. Consider, for example, this post, by our friend RC2 (who, it’s safe to say, isn’t likely to vote for Obama in tomorrow’s Potomac primary) and this post, by MOJ’s Rob Vischer, who seems largely immune to the enthusiasm (and I would call attention to the literal meaning of the word) for Obama, despite his unfulfilled intention to vote for him in last week’s Minnesota caucuses.
Although I was taken to task by some commenters for viewing the Obamenon through lenses offered by Jonah Goldberg, I can’t help but call attention to this passage from an email one of Rob’s readers sent to him about Obama:
isn’t it true that at the very heart of progressivism lays the desire to subject all (or most) or human life to politics? That seems to lie at the base of Historicism which is the philosophical expression of progressivism: as the State becomes more and more "rational," experts are more and more able to govern the minutiae of human life in the name of the common good. There is less room for "little platoons" of civil society as their functions are swallowed up in the all-encompassing State. This in turn leads to greater "democracy" because the whole people are able to govern the whole of everyone else’s lives through the State.
This is not to say that all modern-day progressives wish this to occur, but at the very least it needs to be addressed and explained by those who seek to take up the mantle of progressivism today.
I think that there are some countervailing tendencies in Obama’s own understanding of things. But he doesn’t seem to be doing much to discourage the messianism of his supporters (I almost typed "followers"). Locked in a dogfight with the Clintons, that would probably be bad politics. Perhaps I should just take solace in the facts that Obama acknowledges that he’s a sinner in need of a savior (which gives some "hope" for his humility) and that he uses the first person plural a lot (at least that’s better than "I...I...I").
Still, I worry....
This interview with religion and politics maven John C. Green goes over a lot of familiar ground, but contains an interesting nugget at the end: Obama has had some trouble with both Catholic and Jewish voters. Since Catholics have been the proverbial swing voters in the past few elections (as in 2006, where their swing in the Democrats’ direction, mostly because of Iraq, sealed the Republicans’ doom), this is a potentially important datum.
1. I’m not sure why people aren’t saying the Democratic race is as over as the Republican one. Obama will win three more primaries on Tuesday and Hillary is hoping (quite unreasonably) that her leads in state polls (Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania) will hold up after ten defeats in a row. Hillary’s last big win (California) depended on votes cast early. Time is and has been on Obama’s side, and he’s now clearly both the establishment and the change candidate. I can’t understand why some Republicans are happy about this. The more responsible Democratic brains have been with Hillary; she’d be a better president, and she’d be easier (especially for McCain) to beat. The odds are, to repeat, that Obama is our next president, with a very solidly Democratic Congress.
2. I think Huck’s reliance on revelation and miracles for a comeback probably won’t work. And he’s become tedious. He’d become interesting and even important if he’d actually take McCain on on the domestic front. Still, I don’t think he should withdraw until he actually has a bad day. That’ll probably be tomorrow, but you don’t have to believe in miracles not to be entirely certain about that.
3. I really hope Mac starts to think hard about the fact supported by a thousand studies that his character and the surge alone won’t get him anywhere near victory in November, especially against the most charismatic candidate in a long time.
Robert Novak writes this morning of "the Bradley Effect", i.e., the phenomenon whereby black candidates underperform their polls on election day. This is purported to explain why Obama is losing to Hillary in most primary states but winning the caucus states.
The Bradley Effect refers to Tom Bradley, the Los Angeles mayor who lost the 1982 governor’s race in California after leading in the polls by a large margin. This is supposed to indicate America’s latent racism, of course. But not so fast. That conclusion is not so easily reached if you take a closer look at that election. First, Bradley was a boring, cautious candidate (not that George Deukmejian, who beat him, was Mister Excitement--but he was the attorney general, not a slouch statewide job). I recall talking to someone in the Duke’s camp the Saturday before the election, and he told me their tracking polls showed them pulling ahead, and he predicted they would win narrowly, which they did. So the general polls, always several days old, were out of date on election day. (This did not stop Mervin Field, the head of the Field poll, from saying on TV as late as 10 pm election night that Bradley was going to pull it out.)
Second, Bradley actually did win among the votes cast on election day; the Duke’s margin of victory came from absentee ballots, which Republicans actively procured ahead of time that year, in of the most advanced absentee drills to date at that time. Third, the Duke had huge turnout from the state’s not insubstantial Armenian community, which was probably undersampled in the general polls. Finally, there was a stupid, lefty gun control initiative on the ballot that year that juiced turnout from gun owners. Many Democrats at the time attributed their loss to the tactical error of having such a red meat initiative on the ballot. Finally, don’t forget that the 1982 election was coming after eight years of Jerry Brown in Sacramento, and the desire to switch parties was probably a small factor with some voters.
This does not mean that there is no Bradley Effect at all; people point to Doug Wilder in Virginia, who underperformed his polls back in the 1980s. But that might be more understandable in Virginia, an old Confederate states. It seems less plausible in California. After all, remember that Bradley was first elected mayor of LA at a time when the black vote in LA was tiny.
After the voting Tuesday, I heard Huckabee on the radio. He opened his remarks by referring to two biblical passages, one of which implicitly compared him to David. He has since been talking about miracles, apparently including one that allowed a Huckabee for president campaign sign to survive a tornado. So, God has chosen him and is supporting him. The problem with this kind of talk is that it injects into our politics principles and justifications that are not open to every citizen as a citizen. Huckabee is the beneficiary of a special revelation. How does one argue or discuss this? How would one argue or discuss with President Huckabee some decision he made based on what God whispered in his ear? This kind of talk alone should disqualify Huckabee from holding any public office.
There were some primaries and caucuses yesterday, with Obama narrowing Clinton’s lead and Huckabee winning in states that resemble Iowa and Arkansas. You can read more about the Republican contests here.
The Republican result in Washington state is muddy, as you can read here and here. Aside from the fact that Huckabee seems to be disputing the results, there’s also the fact that roughly half the delegates will be assigned in accordance with the results of a February 19th primary. If this story is correct, the Huckabee campaign seems to be willing to go to the mat over an issue that can’t really help their man and can only give aid and comfort to the Democrats. If he were a few delegates behind McCain, this might make some sense. But shouldn’t he display some magnanimity here?
Perhaps the three Obama victories of yesterday do not surprise us. They didn’t surprise me (I bet a cup of coffee that he would). But the quickly surfaced crisis in the Clinton camp is a bit of a surprise. They are in the throes of chaos. Patty Solis Doyle, Hillary’s campaign manager, has resigned. Since they already started talking about lowering expectations for the next many primaries, you could feel the problem; the Clinton campaign was putting the squeeze on everyone, including MSNBC; they were grasping, ignobly grasping. But the problem is worse, and has come upon them much more quickly, than I thought it would. Her electoral support is dissolving, or has dissolved. They now know this. The only hope she may end up having is: 1) twist the arms of the Superdelegates and 2) get the Michigan and Florida "non votes" back by some legalistic sophistry. Both would represent an "anti-democratic" Machievellian move, given that Obama is in the lead through the regular (and legal) primary process. If there is a Democratic Party that is separable from the Clintons this cannot be allowed to happen because the Dems would lose the general election for certain. But if the DNC is able to prevent Hillary from backroom and anti-democratic dealing, the DNC will gave a Democrat a chance to become president, but it will certainly not be Hillary for she will not be the nominee. It’s over.
1. I’m back in town after speaking at a great conference hosted by Michael Poore and his Humanitas biotech think-tank in Monteagle (next to Sewanee on the mountain), TN. The other speaker was Bill McClay (who was in excellent form), and there was a geuinely diverse, smart, and engaged sell-out crowd. I couldn’t invite you to this event because seating was limited, but Michael is having more. (Go to his website etc.) My title: "Our Great and Miserable (and Erotic and Virtuous) Human Future"
2. Thanks also to Joe for a very classy and high-level conference at Oglethorpe. There I learned that McCain might really be the strongest candidate the Republicans could have had, and there was a lot of good-natured discussion about the strengths and limits of Jonah’s "liberal fascist" thesis. Susan McWilliams (with whom I was always in half-agreement) also confirmed my suspicion that the replacement of beer by bottled water as the beverage of choice among young people is tearing our social fabric part.
3. McCain may be the presumptive nominee, but his performance in the three contests yesterday was sure weak. The highlight for him was a "victory" in Washington with 26% of the vote, or just 2% more than Huck and 5% more than Ron Paul. Huck, meanwhile, scored a huge victory in Kansas (famous for not being a Confederate state) and a narrow one in Louisiana. And even with Huck as the only opponent worth mentioning left, Mac is having trouble breaking 50% in the national polls. Gotta get credible on those domestic issues... (And Huck’s not giving up. He says he didn’t major in math but in miracles!)
4. Obama, meanwhile, beat the heck out of Hillary three times, more or less evening up the national delegate count. She may still be very, very slightly ahead in the national polls, but her people ain’t showing up when it counts.
5. Thanks to Peter S. for posting my Oglethorpe talk, although only two cups seems harsh. Actually, Peter has been very tolerant of my deviation from the dominant Ashbrook view of what’s going on today, as were the panelists and audience at Oglethorpe.
An important Pakistani Army General was killed in a helicopter crash in the "restive South Waziristan region," near the Afghan border. Two other generals died in the same crash. The copter "crashed because of a technical fault."
"According to the BBC’s Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad, the death of Maj Gen Sultan will dent morale among Pakistani troops who have already suffered heavy casualties in the region. He is the most senior Pakistani officer to be killed in military operations in the area. Hours before the crash was reported, Taleban militants based in Pakistan said they were scaling back operations against the military."
In the meantime, Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, said in Munich that the European public needs convincing that Nato’s mission in Afghanistan is part of a wider fight against global terror.
Gates: "On a conceptual level, I believe it falls squarely within the traditional bounds of the alliance’s core purpose: to defend the security interests and values of the trans-Atlantic community. We must not - we cannot - become a two-tiered alliance of those who are willing to fight and those who are not. Such a development, with all its implications for collective security, would effectively destroy the alliance."