Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Obama’s problem with white working-class voters

It’s their racism, says Alan Abramowitz.

He doesn’t consider the possibility that it’s their social conservatism, which is to say their religion. Or perhaps their anti-elitism.

He does note that John Kerry had a similar problem with white working-class voters (that was what was the matter with Kansas, after all). You can’t explain that by means of race. So why bring it up now?

Churchill’s first day as PM

Winston was asked to form a government on May 10, 1940. He later wrote: "I was conscious of a profound sense of relief. At last I had the authority to give directions over the whole scene. I felt as if I were walking with Destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial."
John Lukacs, who is often thoughtful, has a new book out: Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The Dire Warning: Churchills First Speech as Prime Minister. Winston’s first speech to the House was on May 13 and I salute him for all the he said and did to save civilization. His life should remind us to never flinch, never weary, never despair.

These Are The Golden Days for Clintonphobics

I’m glad it ended this way. It could have ended differently. Hillary could have lost the New Hampshire primary five days after finishing third in the Iowa caucuses. Within one week of actual voters getting their say, her candidacy would have gone from inevitable to untenable.

Instead, she pulled off a surprise victory and lived to fight the next battle. She went on to interrupt her downward trajectory with other victories – Super Tuesday, Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania. After each one I despaired. Perhaps there really was no escape from a second Clinton presidency.

Now that I can exhale, I’m happy her repudiation was protracted rather than swift. Think of everything we would have missed if Hillary’s campaign had ended in January. We couldn’t have watched her go from being entitled to embattled to embittered to unhinged. We never would have learned the breathless details of the daring commando raid carried out by the Lioness of Tuzla. We would have been deprived of the spectacle of this graduate of Wellesley and Yale, whose family raked in $100 million over the past seven years, channeling George Wallace. Nor would we have seen the woman praised by her husband for having a “responsibility gene” boast that not a single economist endorsed her gas tax holiday, or claim that she had a plan to litigate OPEC out of existence.

Her defeat, of course, is their defeat. Finally, conservatives get two for the price of one. We’ve watched the trickle of liberal commentators who sign off on every mean and derogatory thing conservatives said about Bill and Hillary in the 1990s become an avalanche. His reputation is permanently, thoroughly diminished among the academics and journalists who will determine his legacy. And he did it for nothing. She lost.

Now that the Clintonian epoch is behind us, we need no longer be forced to ponder their grotesque and incomprehensible marriage. Emily Yoffe of Slate watched Bill as he stood behind Hillary in Indiana after Tuesday’s debacle, and imagined him thinking, “Hill, you haven’t got it. I’ve got it, and you haven’t, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Hill, guess what, all those years you sacrificed for my career – well, it turns out I wasn’t holding you back. You’re only on this stage because of me, and even so, now that it’s your turn and you had everything in your favor – Hill, you just haven’t got it. And let’s face it, Obama, he’s got it.”

Better still, the Clinton tenacity is a gift that keeps on giving. We’re now in the Wylie Coyote phase of the campaign, where she insists that if she keeps pumping her legs and doesn’t look down, she can run past the edge of the cliff as far as she likes. Coming soon to YouTube, Hillary’s press conference outside Obama’s inaugural ball, demanding to know why he can’t close the deal. It’s an amazing journey – from Eleanor Roosevelt to Harold Stassen in five excruciating, wonderful months.

Bunker Hillary

Mrs. Clinton’s latest comments, suggesting that Mr. Obama is the candidate of blacks, not whites:

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she told USA Today in an interview published yesterday.

She referred to an Associated Press story on Indiana and North Carolina exit polls "that found how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

Have angered and upset many. To me they suggest that Mrs. Clinton is battening down to be in for the long haul. On the other hand, her desperation might be the very thing that leads her to go too far, and forces her from the race. A few more such outbursts and she’ll not only be out of the race, but her reputation will be in tatters as well.

Update: I suppose one could say, don’t fire Mrs. Clinton until you can see the whites of her lies.

Affirmative Action Bureaucracy at Work

Hate and intimidation seem to be tools of the trade. I fear that the story of Keith John Sampson, a student and Janitor at IUPUI, reflects an attitude that is lamentably typical:

May 9, 2008 -- IN November, I was found guilty of "racial harassment" for reading a public-li brary book on a university campus.

The book was Todd Tucker’s "Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan I was reading it on break from my campus job as a janitor. The same book is in the university library.

Tucker recounts events of 1924, when the loathsome Klan was a dominant force in Indiana - until it went to South Bend to taunt the Irish Catholic students at the University of Notre Dame. . . .

But that didn’t stop the Affirmative Action Office of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis from branding me as a detestable Klansman.

They didn’t want to hear the truth. The office ruled that my "repeatedly reading the book . . . constitutes racial harassment in that you demonstrated disdain and insensitivity to your co-workers." . . .

the $106,000-a-year affirmative-action officer who declared me guilty of "racial harassment" never spoke to me or examined the book. My own union - the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees - sent an obtuse shop steward to stifle my freedom to read. He told me, "You could be fired," that reading the book was "like bringing pornography to work."

Ultimately, after being pressured by the ACLU and FIRE, the school backed down.

Combine the self-righteousness of the racial grievance lobby with the cluelessness of a bureaucrat at work, and you have a nasty mix.

Some More Ideas

Larry Sabato, in a shameless attempt to boost his ratings, has hired a couple of distinguished guest columnists to plug VP possibilities for each party. Our friend Kathryn Lopez talks up Romney for McCain. Advantages, in my view: Romney brings class, executive competence, and needed policy wonkiness to the ticket. Disadvantage: Mac and Mitt really can’t stand each other; this wouldn’t be an AUTHENTIC ticket. Possible disadvantage: It would be a ticket with no Christians. This shouldn’t be an issue, and I’ve said time and again that being a Mormon makes Mitt more trustworthy in my eyes. Still, as a social scientist I have to say that this ticket might contribute to an already significant mobilization of the base problem. The problem might even be worse than that if some evangelicals continued to suckered by Obama’s pseudo-Christian preaching. I do agree with Kathryn that Mitt seems a lot more than 10 years younger than John, and I’ll add that he didn’t really get a fair hearing as a possible presidential nominee.

The political scientist Pomper suggests Senator Jim Webb for Obama. Advantages: The bobo Barack needs to be affirmed by a genuine warrior, and Webb might well be effectively savage in attacking the "Bush/McCain" handling of the war in Iraq. Disadvantage: Webb, to put it gently, might be thought not have the emotional stability required to be commander-in-chief. He also just got to the senate and all that. Still, interesting choice. Sam Nunn obviously would be better, though.

McCain’s judiciary revisited

Our friend RC2 has some worthwhile second thoughts on McCain’s speech. She’s right that appointing good judges is only a part of the solution. McCain may or may not be aware of the other part, but I don’t think he should necessarily telegraph his punch there. If he were campaigning to educate rather than to win, perhaps he should have said something, but why pick a fight before the fight can actually be consequential, when all it can do is give you bad press and hand your opponent a stick with which he’ll beat you from now until November?

I’m happy in my role as private citizen to say that the Court doesn’t have the final word on the constitutionality of a law, that Presidents and members of Congress are also entitled to their views about constitutionality, that a court’s declaration that a law is or isn’t constitutional shouldn’t necessarily prevent Congress from legislating or require the President to enforce, and so on. I make such arguments in the classroom all the time. But I’d rather make them in public on behalf of a President who is rightly resisting a wrong-heaed Supreme Court decision or a Congress that’s seeking to act despite a "respectable" (but not conclusive) body of opinion that the measure is, or that the Supreme Court would find that the measure is, unconstitutional.

Patience, patience.

The non-introspective left

Andy Busch explains that the Democratic nomination contest has become a "team sport" (voting blocs), hence the lack of concern about Wright and Ayers and argues that this explains a great deal about the left in America: no enemies on the left! A fine article, and I happen to agree with even the last paragraph that advises Republicans. Do read it.     

Obama on McCain on judges

Here’s Barack Obama’s response to John McCain’s constitutionalism. Now, it’s too much to ask a campaign war room to be thoughtful and nuanced, but notice the revealing emphases--"social and economic justice" and the role of judges to "fend for" "ordinary Americans." I don’t dispute the latter, when constitutional rights are involved, but the Obama campaign--unsurprisingly, of course--is curiously indifferent to that document.

And I can’t but note that the first thing mentioned is "a woman’s right to choose."

MOJ’s Rob Vischer offers a half-hearted defense of Obama, pointing to this account of this speech. I find his choice unfortunate, not because of the passage upon which he seizes (yes, judges are individuals, and some small percentage of cases will call for an equitable, rather than constitutional judgment), but because of these lines:

We know that five men don’t know better than women and their doctors what’s best for a woman’s health. We know that it’s about whether or not women have equal rights under the law. We know that a woman’s right to make a decision about how many children she wants to have and when—without government interference—is one of the most fundamental freedoms we have in this country.

The first line alludes to the absolutism of the health exception, an exception big enough to permit any abortionist to perform any abortion he or she wants. The third line endorses abortion as a form of birth control. No wonder this speech isn’t available on the campaign website; it’s too revealing.

Actually I can’t resist citing more chunks of this speech. Consider this one:

I put Roe at the center of my lesson plan on reproductive freedom when I taught Constitutional Law. Not simply as a case about privacy but as part of the broader struggle for women’s equality. Steve and Pam will tell you that we fought together in the Illinois State Senate against restrictive choice legislation—laws just like the federal abortion laws, the federal abortion bans that are cropping up.

Obama’s constitution is about maximizing freedom and equality, regardless of any qualifications or specifications its words might contain, and regardless of the responsibilities given the particular branches.

He elaborates this view here, in the passage quoted in the article on which Vischer relies:

I think the Constitution can be interpreted in so many ways. And one way is a cramped and narrow way in which the Constitution and the courts essentially become the rubber stamps of the powerful in society. And then there’s another vision of the court [sic] that says that the courts are the refuge of the powerless. Because oftentimes they can lose in the democratic back and forth. They may be locked out and prevented from fully participating in the democratic process. That’s one of the reasons I opposed Alito, you know, as well as Justice Roberts. When Roberts came up and everybody was saying, “You know, he’s very smart and he’s seems a very decent man and he loves his wife. [Laughter] You know, he’s good to his dog. [laughter] He’s so well qualified.”

I said, well look, that’s absolutely true and in most Supreme Court decis--, in the overwhelming number of Supreme Court decisions, that’s enough. Good intellect, you read the statute, you look at the case law and most of the time, the law’s pretty clear. Ninety-five percent of the time. Justice Ginsberg, Justice Thomas, Justice Scalia they’re all gonna agree on the outcome.

But it’s those five percent of the cases that really count. And in those five percent of the cases, what you’ve got to look at is—what is in the justice’s heart. What’s their broader vision of what America should be. Justice Roberts said he saw himself just as an umpire but the issues that come before the Court are not sport, they’re life and death. And we need somebody who’s got the heart—the empathy—to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old—and that’s the criteria by which I’ll be selecting my judges. Alright?

Shouldn’t the "broader vision of what America should be" be argued on the campaign trail and enacted in the legislative process, rather than argued on the campaign trail and imposed by judges?

For what it’s worth, Rick Garnett responds to Vischer’s argument in ways similar to what I just proposed. I’d say great minds think alike, but I’d be only half right.

Limbaugh getting in Obama’s head?

The Obama campaign is basically blaming Rush Limbaugh for their defeat in Indiana. Malicious crossover voters--a term used by former Georgia Congresswoman and light heavyweight boxing champion Cynthia McKinney to explain one of her primary defeats--handed Indiana to Clinton. Henceforth only those pure of heart may vote in Democratic primaries. There will be psychological screening at the door.

Linker on evangelical idolatry and purism

Damon Linker indulges himself in a long book review, in which he joins the author in criticizing conservative evangelicals for their overfond embrace of George W. Bush’s America but parts company with him on the apparently all-too-Augustinian (I’d almost say Hauerwasian) standpoint from which he makes the criticism. There’s a certain sobriety in Linker’s argument, but it’s available to Augustinian evangelicals (and, I hasten to argue, Catholics) as well as to the theological liberals and secularists with whom he now keeps company.

Regulatory Bureaucracy At Work

From yesterday’s Los Angeles Times:


Dave Eck, a Half Moon Bay mechanic, had attracted a media spotlight with his fleet of vehicles fueled by used fryer grease from a local chowder house. So when Sacramento called, he figured officials wanted advice on promoting alternative fuels.

Not at all. The government rang to notify Eck that he was a tax cheat. He was scolded for failing to get a "diesel fuel supplier’s license," reporting quarterly how many gallons of grease he burns, and paying a tax on each gallon.

All of a sudden they nailed me for a road tax," said Eck, who drives a Hummer converted to run on vegetable oil. "I said, ’Not a problem. I’ll do my part. But what do I get? At least let me into the carpool lane.’ "

No such luck. The state offered Eck only a potentially large fine -- and not just for failing to pay taxes. He can also get in trouble for carting kitchen grease away from eateries without a license from the state Meat and Poultry Inspection Branch.

Or for not having at least $1 million in liability insurance, in case he spills some of the stuff. Or for not getting permission from the state Air Resources Board to burn fat in the first place.

The regulations are so burdensome that even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, trying to set an example for Californians by driving a Hummer that burns cooking oil he buys at Costco, had not complied. Schwarzenegger . . . was unaware that he was required to send Sacramento an 18-cent road tax for every gallon of kitchen oil he burned, according to spokesman Aaron McLear. After The Times raised the issue, McLear said the governor would pay the taxes he owed.

Liberal Education in The New Criterion

The May issue of The New Criterion is devoted to liberal education, with articles by Roger Kimball, Victor Davis Hanson, and James Piereson, among others.

The New Democratic Coalition

According to Paul Begala it is "eggheads and African-Americans." Moreover, it is a coalition with which--he asserts--they cannot win. (H/T: Hugh Hewitt) Read the whole transcript from Begala’s exchange with Donna Brazile. Geez . . . talk about bitter!

Huffing and Puffing

John Stossel deconstructs Ariana Huffington’s assertion that she converted to Liberalism because after working with conservatives for so long, she was finally confronted with "the facts." The problem is that Huffington doesn’t really fare so well when she’s confronted with real facts. Her response to them is to confront her interlocutor (Stossel) with a pile of incoherent feelings. In the end, not even Huffington can dance around her inconsistencies, admitting,

"There is no question that the fact that I’m living in a big house, I occasionally travel on private planes -- all those things are contradictions. I’m not setting myself up as some paragon who only goes around on a bicycle."

Yet Huffington has set herself atop a burgeoning Liberal empire as Queen of The Huffington Post. As Stossel points out, in just three years the site has become one of the most discussed and viewed in Liberal circles. And we are surprised because . . .?

You Call it Rationalization, We call it Nature

A friend sent me this story about why conservatives are more happy than liberals.

Individuals with conservative ideologies are happier than liberal-leaners, and new research pinpoints the reason: Conservatives rationalize social and economic inequalities.

Regardless of marital status, income or church attendance, right-wing individuals reported greater life satisfaction and well-being than left-wingers, the new study found. Conservatives also scored highest on measures of rationalization, which gauge a person’s tendency to justify, or explain away, inequalities.

The rationalization measure included statements such as: "It is not really that big a problem if some people have more of a chance in life than others," and "This country would be better off if we worried less about how equal people are."

To justify economic inequalities, a person could support the idea of meritocracy, in which people supposedly move up their economic status in society based on hard work and good performance. In that way, one’s social class attainment, whether upper, middle or lower, would be perceived as totally fair and justified.

A conservative perspective on this phenomenon might be that it is not healthy to hope that the world can be other than it is. The hope for change, understood as change in the strong sense--the desire to purge the world of tragedy--causes unhappiness. Oh the irony!

Evangelical Manifesto revisited and revealed

Here’s the website. Will all heaven break loose?

What happened yesterday

Jay Cost explains. I’d add that parts of northern Indiana are in the Chicago media market, which ought to have helped Obama.

Of course, the bottom line is that Clinton underperformed in the expectations game, and the bottomest line is that even an overperformance on her part probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference in the final outcome.

Class warfare in the friendly skies

Our frequent flying friend Jerry Weinberger muses about class consciousness on airplanes. He strikes me as almost a Marxist, albeit of the Groucho variety.

Walkin’ from New Orleans?

NLT readers who are members of the American Political Science Association may be aware that our professional association is entertaining a couple of proposals regarding the siting of meetings. In a nutshell, there are some--many?--in the profession who say they’re worried that "states with Constitutional restrictions on rights afforded recognized same-sex unions and partnerships may create an unwelcoming environment for our members in cities where we might meet."

If you’re interested in the proposals, you can go to this page, which provides a plethora of information. There’s even a comment box, in which I wrote the following:

Both proposals indicate a certain level of hostility to states in which there is exclusive public support for traditional marriage. I don’t think that the APSA should be in the business of taking sides in a political dispute, using its prestige and business clout to punish states and localities whose citizens don’t share the views held-rather intensely-by some portion of the APSA membership. If the Association goes down this path, I can foresee other efforts to take political stands. Will we refuse to convene in states whose citizens passed referenda prohibiting affirmative action? Will there be a move to stay out of states that use lotteries to prey on the gullibility of lower income citizens? Or should the Supreme Court at some point overrule ROE, will some of my colleagues press the APSA to refuse to convene in states that choose to restrict access to abortion?

At some point we cease being a professional association that welcomes and includes the variety of points of view that members hold and become a mere interest group. Both proposals represent an ill-advised step in that direction.

I fully expect the APSA to adopt one of the two proposals, which would make it difficult (albeit perhaps not impossible) to hold a meeting in the vast majority of states. But, unlike at least some of my colleagues, I won’t thereby be deterred from entering precincts that would constitute an "unwelcoming environment" for someone who holds my views.

For the moment, I’ll just enjoy considering what would happen if regional and state associations followed the lead of the national association. Imagine a Southern or Georgia Political Science Association Annual Meeting held in New York or Boston!

Yuval Likes Bobby for VP (Maybe)

Levin dissents from the chorus of conservatives who say Jindal isn’t ready. He, Yuval observes, is "moderately experienced," and that’s better than Obama. His lack of foreign policy experience is no big deal, given Mac’s expertise. And his impressive HHS experience makes him strong where McCain is weak. The real argument against Bobby seems to be something like this: McCain has very little chance of winning; Jindal’s great talents will be wasted in a futile campaign, and gone will the the opportunity for him to display his magnificient, incorrptible excellence by transforming LA. The Republicans have so little young talent that Bobby should be saved for a more promising appearance on the national stage later. We also can’t be sure he’s really ready for prime time; it’s asking too much to put him on the national ticket so soon. To which somone might respond: This is a very important election! Very ideological Democrats are bound to get an iron grip on both the presidency and Congress! Even if the ticket loses, Bobby will be in a position to be the prez nominee next time. Anyway, who else we got?! Desperate or semi-desperate times require the audacity of hope!

Fred Likes the Long Campaign

Barnes does well in explaining why the slow road to picking the Democratic nominee has taught us much we wouldn’t know otherwise about the two candidates. It has also may have provided the party leaders with a genuine role in selecting the nominee, if they chose to exercise it. This race has similarities to the last couple under the "mixed" nominating system (some delegates selected by primaries, others selected by party leaders in the states)--the Republican contest of 1964 and the Democrat one in 1968. In both of those cases, the June California primary was crucial. CA made the Goldwater nomination inevitable and, in my opinion, would have made Robert Kennedy’s nomination very likely [We’ll never know, of course]. I also remember CA in those days was decisive because it was winner-take-all. Under the Democrats’ current scheme of hyper-proportional representation, the close CA result in the Goldwater and Kennedy cases would have been utterly inconclusive.

2. Having said that, I really believe that the primaries/cacuses have ended up being conclusive this year for the Demos.
My bold prediction: The polls are more or less right. Clinton wins by 5 in IN and Obama by 8 in NC. Race over, for all practical purposes.

Two Cheers for McCain

From what at first glance--but only at first glance--would seem to be an unlikely source.

Here’s one of my favorite passages:

I don’t doubt that Hillary and Obama are patriots. I don’t even doubt that the upscale secularists who have taken over the Democratic Party are patriots; but theirs is a “soft” patriotism, a patriotism twice diluted, once with the waters of cosmopolitanism, and again with the waters of something tasting of pacifism. McCain, by contrast, is a “hard” patriot, not in the least a pacifist. But isn’t there a danger that a patriot of this stripe will prove to be a warmonger? Yes, some danger. But George Washington wasn’t a warmonger, and neither was Dwight Eisenhower, and neither, I think, is McCain. Retired warriors are willing to fight, but rarely do they yearn for another battle (think of Colin Powell).

Read the whole thing.

McCain’s judicial philosophy

John McCain is set to speak about his approach to the Constitution. The journalists will focus on the hot button issues that appeal to what the AP reporter is happy to call the "far right." (Is the expression "far left" in her lexicon, and does it apply to groups like the ACLU and PFAW?) McCain will surely say (more than) a few words about these subjects, but will probably give voice also to this position (with which I’m quite happy when it comes to judging):

"It’s not social issues I care about. It’s the Constitution of the United States I care about."

We’ll see.

Update: Here’s the speech, with red meat for judicial conservatives but little for those who want Sen. McCain to embrace an activist social conservatism. To be sure, there’s criticism of the ethereal language of Griswold v. Connecticut and of the steel wool secularism of Michael Newdow, but amidst all the talk about upholding a limited Constitution, there’s nothing about amending it. I didn’t expect it and I’m not really disappointed, as I share Sen, McCain’s view that most of our debates ought to be conducted in the political arena.

If there’s anything "unusual" about the speech, it’s that the Justice whose views are closest to the spirit of Sen. McCain’s remarks is Antonin Scalia, about whom he is conspicuously silent. That’s probably the price to be paid for trying to continue to appeal to "independents," not because Scalia should be persona non grata to them, but because his quite reasonable views have for too long been caricatured by those who disagree with him.

For more on the speech, read Gerard V. Bradley and this NRO editorial.

An Evangelical Manifesto

Word is out that ome prominent evangelicals will engage in some prophetic witness about the prophetic witness in which some of their brethren have engaged.

Among the prominent signatories are (apparently) Rick Warren, Os Guinness, and Richard Mouw. Prominent non-signatories include a number of the usual suspects, like James C. Dobson, Richard Land, and Tony Perkins.

The manifesto has been embargoed until this Wednesday. I’m sure I’ll have something to say then.

The Wisdom of Franklin

From The Way to Wealth: "He that lives on hope will die fasting."

Two Observations

1. I’m glad to see Bill Kristol and our Julie getting on board with Bobby Jindal for VP. (And for a pithy and precise summary of his virtues for the ticket, see Ivan the K’s comment on Julie’s post.) My only reservation: I do remember that Bill (I flatter myself without any evidence) followed my lead in talking up Huck, but that didn’t work out so well. A member of my department--a moderate Democrat and no reader of NLT--came in this morning all excited about the McCain-Jindal ticket as a genuinely competent alternative to all-talk Barack. Bobby is young and, in a way, relatively inexperienced, but his young life is already full of stunning examples of his mastery of public policy and its implementation. I agree with Bill K. that choosing Bobby would quiet a variety of fears about the McCain administration. Besides (to repeat) the Republicans really have no one else--Pawlenty is solid but boring. It seems to me likely that Obama will generate some excitement and counter his obvious weaknesses by picking the ultra-competent Sam Nunn. McCain is toast if he doesn’t counter with a similar (and really better) move.

2. I suspect--again with no real facts--that tomorrow might be a good day for Obama. The reason: The expectations for Hillary have become too high. I don’t think she’ll win double-digit in IN or that NC will be particularly close. I also agree that she can become a viable candidate again only by winning both primaries.

Some of us don’t care

Here’s evidence that some faculty members don’t care about their students...or is it that they care too much?

The Caution that is Audacity

When is audacity the better part of caution? I think Bill Kristol knows. In his New York Times column today, he argues that McCain needs to demonstrate the kind of caution that requires audacity--not only in his veep choice, but also in the full on operation of his campaign. Kristol’s reflection comes from his talks with McCain staffers and, if his representations are--in fact--representative, it sounds like they know what they’re about. It’s well and good to watch your opponent set himself afire, but you’d better not assume he’s an ordinary bird when he might be a phoenix. The Arizonan McCain, who somewhat miraculously pulled his own feathers out of the fire, must know this. But it’s not just the general rule of thumb that one should never underestimate one’s opponent that should drive McCain’s campaign. As Kristol argues, at at time when there’s a 30% approval rating for a GOP President and when 80% of the voters think the country’s on the wrong track, overconfidence is not going to serve McCain well. And yet, perhaps the only thing more deadly in this situation is excessive caution. So what to do?

VP choices, in and of themselves, rarely mean anything substantive or representative for a campaign. That is unless, of course, it is a bad choice and it causes voters to question the judgment of the man at the top of the ticket. (As we’ve seen in the last few weeks; one has to be careful about the people with whom one associates in politics!) But even putting the Reverand Wright aside, this has been a campaign season in which almost every rule of thumb has been tossed out the window.

Kristol’s article has me thinking that in this year and for this election, perhaps especially in the case of McCain, it’s going to be very important to see who he selects to be his VP running mate. There are a whole host of reasons for this that are obvious: his age, his need to shore up the conservative base, his need to appeal to Reagan Dems, his need to bring energy to the campaign, etc. But more than all of this, it is going to be McCain’s next (and, if it’s not done well, maybe last) really big opportunity to set the tone for his campaign and define himself to voters. He will have a chance to make a case to voters about what kind of a Republican he is and what kind of energy he will bring to the campaign. Is he a clone of Bush, representing ties to an unpopular and troubled administration? Is he an establishment Republican, with an assortment of old stalwarts (or their clones) in his entourage? Is he an associate of overly zealous religious conservatives who (fairly or not) will invariably invite comparisons suggesting equivalence between themselves and Wright . . . or is there really something to his "maverick" reputation?

What does it mean for McCain to be a "maverick," anyway? Are his conservative critics right that he’s only a maverick when he’s going up against conservatives--or could they be missing something? Could it be that McCain sees himself more as a patriot trying to forge new and workable directions--a guy open to new ideas and to making things work in the best sense of the American tradition? We don’t have to agree with McCain’s self-perception to concede that it may, in fact, be his understanding of himself. Perhaps this caused him to butt heads with conservatives in the past . . . and perhaps (dare he say it?) in some of those instances, he turned out to be wrong. But could this be a different time? Could this be a time when a maverick is exactly what we need? Could this be a time when the "maverick" in him, instead of sizing up the next conservative opponent is now drawn to a fresh, young, reforming but conservative maverick in his own right? Could the caution that is audacity move McCain to be a real maverick and choose Bobby Jindal for his running mate? Could this pre-boomer and post-boomer ticket work the generational angle in such a way as to explain away much of the poor perception of the GOP that is the immediate (though I still say, not the lasting) legacy of last 8 years? I don’t know but I think . . . maybe. Anyway, it is the audacity of my hope.

Horse Race Blog

Before the Kentucky Derby, Hillary Clinton urged supporters to "go to the derby on Saturday and place just a little money on the filly for me."

For the record, Eight Belles finished second and was then euthanized.

The winner was Big Brown.

Heightening the Contradictions

What happens when Unions and Governments go Capitalist? We may soon find out. Today’s New York Post has a story about the various Presidential candidates’ plans for, on one hand, a gas tax holiday, and, on the other, a windfall profits tax on those very firms. There are, however, complications:

Democratic proposals to tax oil companies would wind up hurting the very blue-collar voters that Obama and Clinton are courting, Wall Street watchdogs say.

A new tax would drive down share prices - and take a nice chunk out of public-employee pension funds and mutual funds whose portfolios are flush with energy stocks, experts say. . . .

Obama opposes the gas-tax holiday but wants to sock oil companies with a windfall tax, to provide $1,000 tax credits for low-income families.

But those profits often keep the retirement plans of American families afloat.

About 54 percent of outstanding shares in ExxonMobil, the world’s biggest oil company, are held by institutional investors like TIAA-CREF, which provides retirement planning for more than 3 million people.

Other big Exxon investors include pension funds for California’s and New York’s state employees, each of which owns more than 20 million shares, and the New York State Teachers Retirement Fund, which owns 18 million shares.

Institutional investors hold even larger portions of other oil companies, including 84 percent of Conoco Phillips, 88 percent of Hess and 89 percent of Marathon.

Personally, I have long worried that the rise of giant public pension funds would be bad for the free market. It can’t be good for quasi-public entities like CALPERS to own large chunks of private corporations. In this instance, however, perhaps it might have a fringe benefit.