Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Hnery Kissinger conducts an interview with Der Spiegel (don’t panic, it’s in English). It’s typical Kissinger, broad ranging and careful; yet he manages to say that it is too bad that in a post nation-state Europe they can’t ask their people to make sacrifices for the ware against radical Islam. He thinks there is a vacuum between Europe’s past and Europe’s future.


The two main opposition parties in Pakistan are setting aside some differences in order to form a government. Could this change the agreements (secret) that we had reached with Musharraf regarding secret drone strikes against the bad guys? There are many interesting items in this article worth noting, but above all note the amount of U.S. activity on Pakistani soil (and in the air).

Kosovo and Serbia

With his typical verve, Christopher Hitchens gets it mostly right. It’s a messy thing, talking about the "historical reasons."

Loving one’s country

John McCain doesn’t have a problem with it. Peggy Noonan wants to know if the Obamas do.

Are the Obamas, at bottom, snobs? Do they understand America? Are they of it? Did anyone at their Ivy League universities school them in why one should love America? Do they confuse patriotism with nationalism, or nativism? Are they more inspired by abstractions like "international justice" than by old visions of America as the city on a hill, which is how John Winthrop saw it, and Ronald Reagan and JFK spoke of it?

Have they been, throughout their adulthood, so pampered and praised--so raised in the liberal cocoon--that they are essentially unaware of what and how normal Americans think? And are they, in this, like those cosseted yuppies, the Clintons?


And there is a context. So many Americans right now fear they are losing their country, that the old America is slipping away and being replaced by something worse, something formless and hollowed out. They can see we are giving up our sovereignty, that our leaders will not control our borders, that we don’t teach the young the old-fashioned love of America, that the government has taken to itself such power, and made things so complex, and at the end of the day when they count up sales tax, property tax, state tax, federal tax they are paying a lot of money to lose the place they loved.

And if you feel you’re losing America, you really don’t want a couple in the White House whose rope of affection to the country seems lightly held, casual, provisional. America is backing Barack at the moment, so America is good. When it becomes angry with President Barack, will that mean America is bad?

Noonan notes that America did well by Michelle Obama, even if her professors at Princeton and Harvard Law were more interested in telling her of how badly our country has treated its African-American citizens. She also notes that a lot of folks--regardless of race, creed, or color--love their country, even if they don’t have immediate access to the heights she has scaled.

I recognize that pride in one’s country and love of one’s country aren’t the same thing. But how likely is it that Barack and Michelle Obama could utter the words--"My country, right or wrong"? I hope I don’t have to explain to anyone why this statement is unproblematical.

More campaign finance maneuvering

Last week, I noted an effort by Barack Obama, early in his candidacy, to envelop himself in a McCain-Feingold good government aura. With his success in fundraising, Obama hasn’t exactly been eager to join John McCain at the pulpit.

But earlier this week, Obama did give us some more words, revising his pledge in a way that is intended, as the WSJ’s Kimberly Strassel notes, to hamstring McCain.

Here’s Obama:

I propose a meaningful agreement in good faith that results in real spending limits. The candidates will have to commit to discouraging cheating by their supporters; to refusing fundraising help to outside groups; and to limiting their own parties to legal forms of involvement. And the agreement may have to address the amounts that Senator McCain, the presumptive nominee of his party, will spend for the general election while the Democratic primary contest continues.

Here’s Strassel:

Mr. Obama knows Republican 527 groups are scooping up cash and will soon unleash it to Mr. McCain’s advantage. He knows Mr. McCain’s greatest asset is the next few months, when he’ll be able to define himself and his opponents while Democrats slap away at each other. So Mr. Obama is proposing a new ethical challenge to Mr. McCain, one that conveniently hobbles his rival. You can call this savvy, and it might reassure voters who’ve wondered if Mr. Obama has the fists to tangle with the big boys. But you can’t call it high-minded or visionary.

Further, as Strassel notes, public financing of the general election is actually a pretty good deal for both candidates, permitting them to spend over a million a day (that is, roughly what Obama raised in January). So he’s using the threat of his prowess as a fundraiser to try to get McCain to agree to slow down his general election campaigning until the Democratic race has been settled.

I’d add this: Obama would probably love to turn the Democratic 527 volume down in the general election. It’s harder to sound like a post-partisan candidate when and the Soros-funded groups are yelling so loudly. So long as no one touches GOTV activities, he’s happy.

Another thing that’s noteworthy in all this is that McCain has his own FEC problems, centering on a bank loan the McCain campaign took out late last year. He is in the process of being hoist by his own petard.

McCain’s position would be strongest if he could get FEC permission to withdraw from public financing, permission that in principle would be forthcoming, if the FEC had a quorum. But Senate Democrats, led by Barack Obama and Russ Feingold, are holding up three other FEC nominees because of their objections to a fourth. To keep McCain on the hook, they only have to sit on their hands. Or if the Bush Administration tries to help McCain out by withdrawing the objectionable nominee, Senate Democrats only have to move s-l-o-w-l-y, er, deliberately, to restore the ranks of the FEC.

Bush’s people probably ought to sacrifice their nominee, press the Dems to act quickly, and strongly suggest the impropriety of the presumptive Democratic nominee making it hard for the "clean government" FEC to do its job.

And McCain ought to learn his lesson, conveniently drawn for him by Strassel:

As two believers in complex campaign-finance laws, Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama helped create a system that now requires both to engage in games over 527 spending and tax subsidies. If they really believed in better government, they’d call for a system in which donors can give what they want, so long as it is transparent. That’s called having faith in your citizens, and it would be change we could believe in.

Attention Teachers!

To commemorate Washington’s Birthday, play this podcast with Chris Burkett for your students on Friday morning and print out this document--which is short and, I promise, is something they’ll enjoy (especially if you do it in tandem with the podcast). Do this and then, with your students, consider how good it is that we can look back--not only with pride, but also for instruction--to a man who exemplified nobility of character but, at the same time understood, intimately, the necessity of respect for democratic authority if true nobility was to be preserved (and, we might argue, vice versa). Have them read that letter and consider their good fortune in having, as the father of their country, a man of that stature rather than a Napoleon or a Ghengis Khan.

Peter already linked to this below, so I apologize for the repeat. But he didn’t say enough good about it. It’s really just the thing--especially for students or anyone curious enough to begin an exploration of this great and good man.

Obama: Right Symbol for the Wrong Party?

Daniel Henninger makes some thoughtful observations in today’s WSJ about what Obama’s widespread appeal really means. He’s not buying--too much--the argument that white guilt is leading people to pour their hopes into Obama. Too easy to be good--and, as Thomas Sowell has noted--Obama doesn’t appeal to white guilt (at least, not yet). But there is a common thread between Obama and a group of up-and-coming black politicians with a message (or at least a symbol) that may have some interesting cross-cultural appeal. The question, Henninger notes at the end, is whether the Democrats can countenance this message. Sadly, the Republicans haven’t given any indication that they can do it better.

You Knew this was Coming . . .

Duke Lacrosse players sue school and town. Great. I’m sure they probably have a case. Much has been made of the lack of ethics involved in their prosecution. Much has been made of the girl’s lies. And I agreed with all of it. But missing--sorely missing!--from almost all discussion of this case, was any serious condemnation of the boys for engaging in behavior that was so irresponsible as to put them in an awkward and compromising position. There was plenty of unjust condemnation directed at them--about their supposed racism and imagined proclivities for sexual assault--but admitting that these guys acted like a bunch of stupid jerks who didn’t deserve a lot of sympathy would not have implied support for those moronic attacks. Team sponsored (whether "official" or not) drunken parties with strippers? I’m not so naive as to be shocked by the occurrence of these things . . . but I am offended by a call for my sympathy to be attached to the idiots who get caught with their pants down--so to speak. Boys, if you don’t want to end up in this situation here’s an idea . . . don’t go to these kind of things. Don’t hang out with drunk sluts you don’t know and can’t trust. Exercise some judgment if you can’t exercise your virtue. If you don’t, it may go badly for you. And, when it does, perhaps you’ll have a legal case if you don’t end up in jail. But so what? You’re still an idiot. And we all end up having to watch your sad spectacle and foot the bill for this kind of absurd litigation? Thanks so much for that.

Ashbrook Center

Podcast on George Washington

It is Washington's birthday tomorrow so I talked with Christopher Burkett about George Washington in this podcast. Burkett knows the Founding and the Father as well as anyone I know (that's what he teaches at Ashland) and it was a very good conversation.

Washington always both reminds us of our limitations and our virtues, and any conversation about Washington teaches us something about the virtues necessary for self-government. You Americans do well to remind yourselves of this great man, this peak of human excellence, and you have reason to be proud of your country, both for its Constitution and its Father.

Categories > Ashbrook Center

Day Care Blues

How many absurdities can be packed into one article? This one by Sue Shellenbarger today makes an heroic attempt to be the clown car of absurdity. Titled "The Brat Race" the article expresses sympathy for the plight of wait-listed parents at hoity-toity child-care centers across the country. These neurotic yuppies (the tuition in these joints makes it highly unlikely that they’re catering to blue-collar folks or even mid-level execs) fill out applications for enrollment before their little bundles of joy are even conceived. There are so many things to consider, after all, and you have to get into the right place. This can be quite distressing . . . as Shellenbarger says, "The trend poses a challenge for parents, who may not know how far to plan ahead and how to navigate the wait lists."

Well, this much is clear . . . they don’t know how to plan very far ahead!

"Quality" is ever the watch-word . . . as in "quality" care and "quality" time. And what connotes "quality"? Well, this will (of course) depend upon your "values." For example . . . do you want a program that works toward "reading readiness" or do you want your child to begin a rigorous reading program by age 2? Can you imagine coming into this world and being thrust into the warm bosom of such a household? It sounds perfectly charming . . . about as charming as a straight-jacket.

Masters of our own Domains . . .

There’s an interesting article in the style section of today’s New York Times by Stephanie Rosenbloom that discusses the rising trend of young, smart, and female bloggers and on-line content providers out-producing and over-shadowing their young male counterparts. The article is full of the usual speculation about evolving gender roles and wistful longing for a new generation of uber-chicks who can put those nasty boys in their proper place. "Girls Rule" is the mantra of the little darlings (who, I’m sure, are actually very nice and bright young girls) interviewed for the story. Whether that sentiment is coming from someplace deep (!) in their 14 year-old souls or it is something foisted upon them by their less successful (compared to men) and aging mothers . . . I’ll leave that to you to judge.

Despite the breathless reporting and ill-concealed enthusiasm for kicking boys in the shorts, the article ends up making some sensible (because they are timeless) observations. Girls like to talk. They especially like to talk about themselves and to reflect upon themselves and the meaning of their lives. Boys don’t. [One "wise" observer argued that this stems from the "fact" that girls, unlike boys, are more accustomed to thinking of themselves as objects . . . of course it does.] Girls have the patience to learn design techniques and to operate complicated programs if it means they can exhibit their thoughts and feelings--the article actually compares it to a girl’s propensity to "dress up" and the patience that requires. Boys have more patience when they are the ones developing these complicated programs that girls use. Boys like to post more videos of themselves--especially when the video gives evidence of their amazing physical exploits (skateboarding or some such daredevil stunt).

So, I guess you could go read this article. But, if you prefer (as you should), you could just go re-read Tom Sawyer and observe the interaction between Tom and Becky Thatcher. I’ll bet you anything he would have posted a video of himself too. And Becky would have had something to say about it.

Obama in Texas

I’m starting to think Peter Lawler is right about Obama’s prospects in Texas and Ohio. A friend at the University of Houston sends this tidbit along today:

"Obama drew 20,000 two nights ago in our new professional basketball arena. Last night, Bill Clinton showed up more than an hour late to the UH campus and drew 2,000."

Obama’s View of Your Rights

Ken Blackwell nicely unpacks some of the words dripping off Barack Obama’s silver but forked tongue. The specifics discussed in this example are his real views concerning the Second Amendment. He’s claimed to support it and, even on Drudge, he’s been heralded as a defender of individual gun rights. But not so fast. You may have these rights but, apparently, your possession of these rights does not mean local governments can’t have their own rights . . . like the right to take your guns away. Obama supports the DC total ban on gun ownership. Whatever your views on the Second Amendment, consider what’s really at the heart of Obama’s twisted view of rights. You possess individual rights and government possesses separate rights--to be defined (presumably?) by Obama--and these governmental rights can overrule your mere individual rights. Your rights come with strings . . . we already knew Democrats thought that--that’s why they’re always so eager to tie you up in a ball of dependence. But now, apparently, there’s also an escape clause. I mean, after all, you can’t really be trusted with your rights. You’re not as smart as they are.

Little Change and Less Hope

Victor Davis Hanson writes a pithy condemnation of both Obama and Clinton and also the tortured world view that permits them to get just about everything exactly backwards. Just the sort of thing to pass along to an otherwise sensible friend who is toying with the idea of voting Democrat. 

Random Observations

1. The campaigns for the party nominations are more over than ever now. The Wisconsin result was ever more devastating than the Virginia one. Let me said I told you so on Hillary. I will now boldly predict she’ll actually lose the Ohio and Texas primaries. Huck’s usefulness for McCain is over; he should drop out

2. My interviewing of Berry College presidential scholar candidates and my visit to Baylor both reinforced my opinion that there’s are real pockets of evangelical love for Obama and not much evangelical like for McCain at this point.

3. Obama, of course, doesn’t share McCain’s record of reaching out to members of the other party. I’m not sure, though, why he’d have to as president; the Democrats will surely have enhanced majorities in Congress. But part of the Republican argument--one that might draw the libertarians back in--is that divided government is safer and probably cheaper than unified government. Mac, of course, is in some ways well suited to rule with the other party controlling Congress.

Barack Around the Clock

Okay, so this headline isn’t exactly original, but neither is the Obama Phenomena, which continues to present one of the most extraordinary spectacles in American political history. I keep thinking he is going to deflate like a souffle, but perhaps not.

I have commented several times now to reporters that Obama reminds me of Gary Hart in 1984, the charismatic candidate of "new ideas" who had none beyond his own name change (from "Hartpence," remember). I keep waiting for the roof to fall in on Obama from the media and from Billary’s brass knuckles, just as the media and Mondale turned on Hart with ferocity that year. Maybe, this week, we are starting to see the matter turn, but perhaps too late for Clinton.

Margaret Carlson makes the case today in Bloomberg News that "it’s the nature of the press to have severe morning-after regret for having gotten a lump in the throat over a candidate." They sure did in 1984. Here’s a passage about Hart from the chapter on the 1984 election in my forthcoming Reagan book:

On the CBS Evening News in early March, shortly before the next round of big primaries, Dan Rather led a segment thus: “Who is this man, this Gary Hart?” On NBC the following night, Roger Mudd asked: “How old is Gary Hart? And why did he change his name?” NBC wasn’t done. Two nights later, NBC’s John Dancy offered another Hart segment that began: “Who is Gary Hart, anyway, and what does he believe?” Tom Brokaw dismissed Hart as “this season’s hit rock-‘n’-roll single.” Roger Mudd practically taunted Hart in an interview: “Why do you imitate John Kennedy so much?” CBS’s Bruce Morton kept up the theme: “Gary Hart is the hottest political property around, at least this week. But who is he?” ABC was not left out, with Jack Smith delivering a devastating syllabus of Hart’s strangeness: “He’s even fudged the year of his birth.”

Hart compounded the fresh doubts about his character with several miscues in the next round of primaries that happened to be in the big unionized, Mondale-friendly states including Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Mondale’s campaign was suddenly rejuvenated and skillfully exploited Hart’s vulnerabilities. The most devastating hit was the “red phone” TV spot, which never mentioned Hart. Instead, the camera panned in slowly on a blinking red telephone, meant to evoke the mythical “hot line” to Moscow, with the voiceover: “The most awesome, powerful responsibility in the world lies in the hand that picks up this phone. The idea of an unsure, unsteady, untested hand is something to really think about. Vote as if the future of the world is at stake, because it is. Mondale. This President will know what he’s doing, and that’s the difference.”

We’ll see if Obama is about to get this kind of press treatment. My guess is he will. Hillary is already attempting the equivalent of Mondale’s red phone ad. But it’s hard to make that line work in a party that does not believe we are in a serious conflict.

The emperor has clothes

In styles from the rive gauche, says Karl Rove, who also argues that relative specificity means relative vulnerability. A snippet:

Mr. McCain can now question Mr. Obama’s promise to change Washington by working across party lines. Mr. Obama hasn’t worked across party lines since coming to town. Was he a member of the "Gang of 14" that tried to find common ground between the parties on judicial nominations? Was Mr. Obama part of the bipartisan leadership that tackled other thorny issues like energy, immigration or terrorist surveillance legislation? No. Mr. Obama has been one of the most dependably partisan votes in the Senate.

Mrs. Clinton can do much more to draw attention to Mr. Obama’s lack of achievements. She can agree with Mr. Obama’s statement Tuesday night that change is difficult to achieve on health care, energy, poverty, schools and immigration -- and then question his failure to provide any leadership on these or other major issues since his arrival in the Senate. His failure to act, advocate or lead on what he now claims are his priorities may be her last chance to make a winning argument.

Read, as they say, the whole thing.

I don’t think that Senator Clinton will be able to puncture Obama’s balloon, especially since her own balloon seems to be losing altitude, but an aggressive John McCain might. And I’m sure that every time HRC says something negative, folks from the McCain campaign are taking notes, not to imitate her, but to remind voters in the fall that even members of Obama’s own party don’t think he’s ready for prime time. Which he isn’t.

Lowry, torn between Obama and Clinton

This paragraph at The Corner from Rich Lowryon how he is torn between Clinton and Obama is perfect:

"I really don’t know who to root for in the Democratic race. I’m obviously with all those complaining about Obama’s messianism. And I agree with my friend Peter Feld who had this excellent piece in the New York Post yesterday pointing out how candidates elected on soaring, unrealistic promises of change usually have trouble governing once they are in office (e.g. Deval Patrick, Jimmy Carter). There is a grounding and a realism to Hillary that I have found appealing. I still remember what she said in reply to Obama in some debate long ago: the day after the election later this year, everyone is going to still believe everything they did they day before, i.e. everyone isn’t suddenly going to agree with Obama’s liberalism. That’s exactly right. Plus, I sympathize with Hillary’s lunch-bucket constituency (former constituency?) more than Obama’s upscale liberals. Yet the Clintons have been simply repellent on the campaign trail, and Obama has run an honorable campaign and is a genuinely likable and talented guy. So I was delighted as Obama’s lead grew and grew to 17 points last night, at the same time I was cheered back in January by Hillary’s puncturing of the insufferable Obama hype in New Hampshire. At this point, I guess I could welcome anything: an Obama steam-roller through Texas and Ohio that ends the House of Clinton with a bang, or a Hillary comeback that pricks the ridiculous Obama bubble and draws out the race. There’s nothing to do but sit back and enjoy."

Funniest Comment on Castro’s Demise

Courtesy of Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner. Of course, I’m happy to see the tyrant go . . . but I wish he had been taken by something less natural.

McCain’s Speech Last Night

Here’s the text. It is short and semi-sweet. Some of the construction is awkward and unclear--as in the third paragraph where he poses a choice for Americans. You have to read it about six times to understand what he’s recommending.

On the other hand, his focus on the war and on his aims to improve our military and intelligence efforts is admirable. It is both good and wise to force this issue. This bit is not bad:

The most important obligation of the next President is to protect Americans from the threat posed by violent extremists who despise us, our values and modernity itself. They are moral monsters, but they are also a disciplined, dedicated movement driven by an apocalyptic zeal, which celebrates murder, has access to science, technology and mass communications, and is determined to acquire and use against us weapons of mass destruction. The institutions and doctrines we relied on in the Cold War are no longer adequate to protect us in a struggle where suicide bombers might obtain the world’s most terrifying weapons.

I like that he does not hesitate to call our enemies monsters. But he is right not to stop there. He is also very clear about their capacities and their determination and, therefore, the dangers they pose. He does not dismiss them in calling them monsters--as some seem happy to do--implying that there is nothing that can be done with such people. Instead, he attempts to inspire and instruct the dragon slayer hiding in all of us. We can take these guys, he’s saying. Again, not bad.

I am less impressed with his riff on "change"--both in its implied dig at Obama and in his meditation on our "world of change." The attack on Obama’s rhetoric of change as empty would have been more effective if he did not follow it up with that almost equally empty reflection. Empty calls for change vs. confronting real change with experience? I don’t know . . . I suppose it could work, but it didn’t in this speech.

I did like the direction this quote implies McCain can take his campaign:

"We need to marshal all elements of American power: our military, economy, investment, trade and technology and our moral credibility to win the war against Islamic extremists and help the majority of Muslims, who believe in progress and peace, win the struggle for the soul of Islam.
Again, it attempts to inspire us to join the effort and get on board with a team that can and must win. But if this is to hold up as a campaign theme, I think he should get a little more specific about the ways we can join the effort.

I thought the weakest part of the speech was the domestic focus at the end. It was a pudding with no theme. Again, we got the vacuous reference to "change" . . . "The challenges and opportunities of the global economy require us to change some old habits of our government as well. " If McCain never gives another speech with the word "change" in it, it will be too soon. I’m sure it must be possible to give a speech without that word. He should try it. Really.

The biggest problem with this part of the speech is its lazy composition. It began with that empty reference to change, led into a laundry list of as yet unmentioned bullet points, and tried to tie it all up at the end with the too neat and painfully obligatory mention of "the children." It is not hard to do it better.

If he wants to "understand our strengths and rely on the common sense and values of the American people" then he should try articulating the substance of our strengths, our common sense and our values. He hints at it when he points to the "false promises and failed policies of a tired philosophy that trusts in government more than people" but he doesn’t quite nail it because this is a combative explanation. Here he is explaining more of what he is not about than he offers an explanation of what he is. Thus, while he invites us to join him in the dragon slaying abroad, he appears to suggest that we park our carcasses and let his "experience" guide us on the domestic front. We have to trust him because he’s older and wiser. That’s not going to play well, I’m afraid. It doesn’t get people fired up to do battle against Barack Obama if their ammunition is nothing more than their "trust" for and the "experience" of their candidate. Where are our guns? What about our capacities? If McCain wants us to trust him, he’s going to have to show us--better than he has--that he trusts the goodness and the judgment and the capacities of the American people. He has to invite us to join him in the fight (really, both fights) instead of just inviting us to tune in for it.

David Brooks on Obama’s Fade

No, not Obama’s haircut. Read Brooks’slatest op-ed (Feb. 19) to see why the Great Light Hope will inevitably have trouble keeping hope alive. My favorite line:

"If he values independent thinking, why is his the most predictable liberal vote in the Senate? A People for the American Way computer program would cast the same votes for cheaper."

Then again, there’s this one:

"His Hopeness tells rallies that we are the change we have been waiting for, but if we are the change we have been waiting for then why have we been waiting since we’ve been here all along?"

As for a disappointing op-ed (Feb. 18) my man Stanley Crouch is taken by the optimism that is the Obama experience, reading into his Airness Crouch’s own profound blues sensibility (informed, of course, by the novelist Ralph Ellison). Crouch gets off a few good riffs: for exmaple,

When Obama links the 13 Colonies fighting the Revolutionary War to the abolition movement against slavery, and that to Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, and that to women getting the vote and unions being able to represent workers, and that to defeating Hitler and European fascism during World War II, and that fight to the Civil Rights struggle in which black and white people, some young, some not, brought this country much closer to its democratic destiny, Americans feel both purified and closer to each other.

Too bad Obama’s policies give little evidence of being informed by the principles that really could bring about the unum from the pluribus that is our diverse but United States of America. Crouch wants to believe in Obama, and will, if the senator starts reading and preaching from Crouch’s script.

Plan of Attack

John McCain has been offered, free of charge, two very good pieces of advice today. The first comes from Pete Wehner who argues, very astutely, that a simple criticism of Obama as vacuous will be ineffective. Wehner notes that there is something to this charge as surely there is something distasteful in the rock-star persona and circus surrounding the new King of Liberalism. But don’t forget the Liberalism, Wehner notes. Obama is the King of Liberalism in more than the fluffy sense. He really is astoundingly liberal, "in a country that is not." McCain should reject out of hand anyone who argues that attacks on Obama’s liberalism are "so 1980s"--even if they are, that doesn’t make them any less effective or true.

The second bit of advice comes from John Podhoretz in a piece the focus of which is more Michelle Obama than Barack or John McCain. Michelle Obama’s over-the-top rhetoric is probably an insight into the soul of the Obama family’s kitchen table conversation, Podhoretz postulates. It exposes their sincere (though bizarre) belief that they are a new Messiah for America. But why do they imagine that America needs a new Messiah? The Obamas don’t argue that America is fundamentally good, but flawed (as the overwhelming majority of Americans believe to their core) . . . they argue that America is "fundamentally flawed and only occasionally good." McCain needs to expose this and challenge Obama--even directly--to defend it if he can. This is a wide open hole through which McCain should be able to make a successful run in my view.

One aspect to an argument against the Obamas that will appeal to young people, for example, is to point out their monumental hypocrisy. If America is "fundamentally flawed" and only "occasionally good" how is it that a Michelle Obama (with her Princeton and Harvard degrees) and a guy like her husband (similarly outfitted) even came to be? What silver spoons did they have to suck in order for a country as screwed up as this one to take them seriously? You mean . . . there weren’t any silver spoons? They’re not the son or the daughter of privilege? Oh . . . what a rotten country! Well . . . what exactly is it that they need to save? Perhaps we need John McCain to save us from the saviors!

Relative radio silence

I’m in far western Virginia/far eastern Tennessee working for the Man, so I don’t know how much time I’ll have for blogging this week.

I would have had some time this evening, but for the fact that my hometown airline let me down. As it was, I became far too closely acquainted with the charms of my hometown airport, experienced, albeit fleetingly, the charms of an airport I hadn’t intended to see, and enjoyed a two-hour drive through the dark and empty Tennessee countryside, reacquainting myself with the grown-up joys of country music.

Now if only the bag that I so stupidly and trustingly checked some twelve hours ago would materialize!

Obama and the superdelegates

Joe Knippenberg explains why the Democratic Party instituted the superdelegates, what ends they were supposed to serve, and why the Obama campaign is questioning those purposes. There are two possibilities: Either Obama is an ordinary politician, and just wants to get an advantage, or he is an advanced version of a democratic politician who will claim (as a democratic leader) to represent the will of the people, institutions and other safeguards cast aside, and the people’s will is to be simply followed. Joe hopes he is the former. I think the whole superdelate issue (a kind of "republican" inconvenience to simple majority rule) is very much worth watching. What happens will reveal much about the party and the candidates.   

Kipling and us

Bill Kristol, amazingly (and indelicately?) and in the New York Times, brings Kipling (via George Orwell) into our current political discussions. I guess when you get to Bill’s status, you don’t have to worry about the prudence of such a thing. No matter. I like the idea in part because I use Kipling for his language (at least), in which, he is still without peer. Any of the Just So Stories will do, but this one is the best. It’s about men and women, and cats and dogs, the beginning of things, and trust. Read it aloud, please, even if you aren’t reading it to a child.

Morel Podcast on Lincoln

I talked with Lucas Morel last week about Mr. Lincoln. I wanted to put it out on president’s day, just to make a point that both Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays should be holidays and on the right dates, darn it! Anyway, here is my Podcast with the good Professor Morel.   

Ignore the man behind the curtain!

Is it Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick?

Shameless Self-Promotion and Random Observations

1. I will be speaking at BAYLOR (in beautiful Waco) next Tuesday. At NOON on Locke an at 7 on Stoicism and Christianity in America (inspired by Walker Percy, Willian Alexander Percy, and Tocqueville). See the ISI or Baylor websites for further details.

2. The ghost of a chance for Hillary’s comeback depends on her actually winning in Wisconsin on Tuesday. The polls show her just outside the margin of error. This fact is so obvious to me that I wonder why she hasn’t poured everything into that state and flattered its residents even more on the significance of their decision.

3. If we follow the experts in saying that candidates can be judged on character, competence, and ideology, we see that Senators Obama and McCain are strong in the same category--character. Obama’s strength comes from his visionary and, some say, ennobling words, and McCain’s from his noble deeds (which he doesn’t hesitate to call to our attention).

4. They both score low on competence, insofar as neither really has a record of executive accomplishment. Obama is just inexperienced and untested, and a lot of his planet-saving, quasi-messianic talk should remind us that he often seems pretty clueless on what he’d actually be able to do as president. McCain was for the surge, but he’s not really been carrying it out, and everyone knows his practical judgment is questionable.

5. When you listen carefully, Obama is very clear on ideology. He’s not hiding the fact that he’s the most liberal of the senators. And so any Republican would stand to gain by waging an ideological campaign against him--on taxes, judges, immigration, foreign policy, political correctness, a national health care bureaucracy, and so forth. McCain’s perceived ideological moderation might be viewed as a strength, but it’s actually more like incoherence. He’s to the far right, so to speak, when it comes to budget cutting, surges, and maybe even bombing Iran, and on these issues the conservative position (although it might be right) is not particularly popular. And his flip-flopping when it comes to taxes, immigration, and judges might make it hard for him to bring the ideological attack on against Obama. Mac’s main job is to work on this ideological thing, because that’s where Barack is weakest. He needs to turn incoherence into moderation, and genuinely moderately conservative policies might well be good enough to energize "the base" against a liberal extremist. He needs really to believe that the Bush’s best domestic accomplishments were the pro-family tax cuts and two really smart and reliably conservative justices.