Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Outsider Cred

Here’s why I think Palin works (unless she commits a blunder): I subscribe to the simple theory that outsider candidates--the candidates who run against Washington--do better than insiders. This is one exogenous reason why governors (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush) do better than senators, the ultimate insiders.

This election was a bit odd: both candidates, as senators, bear the Scarlet "I" of Washington insiders, but both have a plausible claim to outsider status--McCain because of his maverick and reformist ways, and Obama because of his fresh face and newness in town. But his outsider cred is a bit suspect, and his pick of Biden smacks of the old politics. Palin reinforces McCain’s outsider cred in a way that Kay Bailey What’s Her Name wouldn’t have.

Add this, by the way, from Camille Paglia, as quoted in the London Times: “We may be seeing the first woman president. As a Democrat, I am reeling,” said Camille Paglia, the cultural critic. “That was the best political speech I have ever seen delivered by an American woman politician. Palin is as tough as nails.”


...on Mac’s choice of Sarah. This characteristically authoritative account reveals that, from the beginning, he was attacted to her as a fellow anti-establishment maverick. And, more important, he could tell that her capabilities soared far above her level of experience (sort of the opposite of Biden).
That’s not to say that McCain didn’t flirt with picking Lieberman and maybe others. But this article does dramatically undercut the Hail Mary pass theory, which had initially made some sense to me.

Irony du Jour

From the Times of London article on the selection of Governor Palin as McCain’s running mate:

Will America fall in love with Palin or will she fizzle, like Dan Quayle, the vice-president to George Bush Sr who could not spell “potatoe”?

Isn’t that precisely how Quayle spelled the word? Divided by a common language indeed.

Ross to the Rescue

Writing on the Atlantic blog, Ross Douthat (how’d he get to good at so young an age anyway?) makes the case for Palin amidst the number of conservative voices (Heather MacDonald, Charles Krauthammer, etc) who dislike the pick. Sample:

McCain is running for the Presidency at a time when the Republican brand is in the toilet, with a party that seems unable to excite its hard-core supporters or woo swing voters, and a leadership - McCain included - that gets the heebie-jeebies when called upon to discuss any topic save terrorism, 9/11 and the Surge. Even if by some Jeremiah Wright-aided miracle he edges out Barack Obama, he’ll limp into the White House as a John Major-in-the-making - an aging politician who won an election that belonged by rights to the other party, facing Democratic majorities in both houses, a media that will be primed to treat Senators Obama and Clinton as the default co-Presidents for the next four years, and a conservative base that’s just waiting for an opportunity to turn on him. Does this sound like a recipe for a successful Presidency? And if it isn’t, wouldn’t it be better for McCain, who at present seems like the last candidate of a fading party and a dying generation, to sweep into Washington with a popular, dynamic, female politician as his junior partner, rather than a dull white male like Ridge or a Romney or a Pawlenty? And wouldn’t it be better, frankly, for America as well?

As the saying goes, RTWT.


Jeez--from the way some people are reacting, you’d think McCain had chosen Michael Palin as his running mate.

Oh, wait: looks like this idea has occurred to someone.

More: Michael Palin for attorney general? Because "noooobody expects the Spanish Inquisition."

Palin Around

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Her work is widely credited with forcing BP and ConocoPhillips to start work on another pipeline project, called Denali. The companies spent $40 million this summer on preliminary field work and hope to have a working pipeline built by 2013. Many industry observers believe the two projects will ultimately be combined.

The companies say their interest in building a gas pipeline predates Gov. Palin’s administration.

Les Gara, a Democratic state representative from Anchorage, says credit for the revived company interest in building the pipeline should go to market forces. "More than anyone’s work, it’s the price of gas that is making this pipeline go ahead," he says.

Others believe Ms. Palin is the main reason the pipeline is moving forward. "The gas pipeline was such a muddle when she arrived that I thought to myself that this will never be built," says Steve Cowper, Alaska’s Democratic governor from 1986 to 1990. . . .

Gov. Palin showed an independent streak in the first weeks of her term by appointing Tom Irwin to be the natural resources commissioner. Mr. Irwin was fired in 2005 after he wrote a memo saying Gov. Murkowski was going too easy on oil companies in earlier pipeline negotiations. Six top staff members resigned in protest, an incident called the "Thursday Afternoon Massacre."

"She is not pro- or con-big companies," says Mr. Irwin. "Gov. Palin didn’t submit to the force and control of the large companies. She forced [them] into a fair, open competitive process."

Mr. Irwin says he has been impressed with Gov. Palin’s integrity since 2004. She resigned from her job as chairwoman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in protest against Randy Ruedrich, a fellow commissioner and state Republican Party chairman.

"She was unsettled and unhappy that he was conducting party business on state time," says Joe Balash, Gov. Palin’s special assistant. Mr. Reudrich was later fined $12,000 for violating state ethics laws.

Beware Palin-Drones

William Kristol’s take on Sarah Palin. To the degree that the real source of frustration about our government is that the Megastate liberals created in the 20th century is simply too big to be managed without great inefficiencies and much corruption and that much of our cultural frustration grows from the refusal of our elites to recognize that traditional sex roles can be reconciled with equal rewards for equal talent, Palin represents an alternative theme of hope and change. Governor Palin represents a threat to their worldview, and will be attacked for that reason. So says Kristol:

There she is: a working woman who’s a proud wife and mother; a traditionalist in important matters who’s broken through all kinds of barriers; a reformer who’s a Republican; a challenger of a corrupt good-old-boy establishment who’s a conservative; a successful woman whose life is unapologetically grounded in religious belief; a lady who’s a leader.

So what we will see in the next days and weeks--what we have already seen in the hours after her nomination--is an effort by all the powers of the old liberalism, both in the Democratic party and the mainstream media, to exorcise this spectre. They will ridicule her and patronize her. They will distort her words and caricature her biography. They will appeal, sometimes explicitly, to anti-small town and anti-religious prejudice. All of this will be in the cause of trying to prevent the American people from arriving at their own judgment of Sarah Palin.

Update: more thoughts

in a similar vein about what Palin represents. It’s not just social conservatives. She also excites those who think that the government is too much with us:

Unlike many liberals, I believe that women are capable of surviving and prospering on their own — and Palin is proof of that. And unlike some female politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Palin made it herself without the help of a career politician husband to give her an added advantage. Palin strikes me as someone who is fair to both men and women and who does not give women special rights and privileges just for the sake of being female.

Random Observations--Mainly about Our Sarah

1. Greetings from Boston. There’s a LOT of interest here in the alternative AMERICAN Political Science Association Meeting next year.

2. On our Sarah: She was a very realistic choice. It wasn’t made from desperation, but from a sober calculation about how to win the election. I said here on Thurs. that McCain’s main challenge is to bring back from Republicans who now call themselves Democrats and indpendents. She meets the challenge of bringing back some and energizing the turnout of "faith and family" voters. She gets the job does not by anything she says, but by WHO she is, just as McCain gets (some, at least) of the job done with the more nationalistic or national security voters by simply being WHO he is.

3. Palin didn’t "rock the house" in her introductory comments, but she didn’t shout, made good sense, and wonderfully displayed her character. She sold me that she’s an ordinary hockey mom who got involved in politics for the right reasons. Here’s the thing that unites Mac and her against Obama and Biden: They’re the anti-bobos (bourgeois bohemians). They have admirable lives, and so don’t need "lifestyles."

4. Mac does surrender the experience advantage against Obama, and he may have created some doubts about the authenticity of his judgments. He looked somewhat uncomfortable standing next to her. But my authentic view is that he picked better than he knew, and yesterday may well have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship. And Mac isn’t really about experience, he’s about character.

5. It’s impossible to overemphasize how happy the various kinds of social conservatives are here at the convention about the choice. I won’t name names, but I’m including famous professors at leading institutions. Many of them have never really liked or trusted McCain. Strangely enough, they trust her. And they now trust him more.

6. Biden--whom I’m on record as admiring--must be miserable. He can’t attack her, and he better not be condescending toward her. He better not say something "inappropriate" about Sarah or her family. His record on such matters is not encouraging.

7. I agreed with a distinguished professor of law at the election panel that it’s 80-90% likely that Obama would win the election. Paul Rahe (he won’t mind me using his name in a manly way) objected that McCain had already won the election because of Barack’s missteps. I think most in attendance wanted to be with Paul but actually agreed with me. The Sarah choice suggests that Mac actually would have tended to agree with me. Now I think the Sara choice--which, I admit, is pretty risky Berry--makes it about 70% likely that Obama prevails.

By the way, I met Pete at that panel; he’s as astute and witty in real life as he is in thread.

Gov. Palin Takes the Stage

Sarah Palin certainly had a better debut than Dan Quayle 20 years ago. I remember his speech at an outdoor rally in New Orleans at the start of the GOP convention right after being selected by George H.W. Bush. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and Quayle immediately displayed the eagerness – and gravitas – of a puppy. Gov. Palin, by contrast, struck me today as getting the tone just about right – neither too deferential nor assertive, enthusiastic yet serious and under control. She’s starting the longest 10 weeks of her public life, however, so Republicans need to hope that she’s either an incredibly quick study, or that she’s an exceptional talent who has been performing off-Broadway.

I am not happy to see the McCain campaign unilaterally defuse its best weapon against Obama: the argument about his callowness and lack of preparation. The claim that he is not ready for the Oval Office will resonate much less coming from a campaign that insists she is.

It’s tempting, then, to call the Palin selection an unforced error by the McCain campaign. That judgment, however, requires demonstrating persuasively that there was an alternative vice presidential selection that would have been decidedly better. The Palin nomination suggests that McCain and his closest advisors think that the unfavorable 2008 political terrain guarantees that, despite their successes over the summer, this is going to be a hard presidential election for the Republican to win. McCain is a boxing fan, so he knows about underdogs who have “a puncher’s chance” if they show enough aggression. If the McCain campaign believed that the November election was a 50/50 proposition a “first, do no harm” vice-presidential nominee like Tim Pawlenty would have had more appeal. If the presidential futures trading markets are right, however – they make Obama a 3-to-2 favorite - inoffensiveness is insufficient. In any competition, you reduce risks to protect a lead, and take chances to erase a deficit.

On the other hand, the enthusiasm for Palin on the conservative blogosphere today suggests, above all, huge relief that McCain found a way to make a bold, unexpected VP pick without selecting a pro-choice candidate, such as Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge. That’s fine as far as it goes, but it’s a tactic suggesting McCain wants to win a base-mobilization election against Obama. That approach worked, barely, for the Republicans in 2004, when the circumstances were decidedly more favorable than today’s. Perhaps the calculation is that McCain has enough residual appeal to Independent voters and weak Democrats as “the original maverick” that he can “drill deep” with Republicans while simultaneously doing well – or at least well enough – with non-Republican voters who are up for grabs. That sounds hard and risky, like landing a fighter plane on an aircraft carrier during stormy weather – the sort of thing McCain used to do a lot of.

Palin v Obama

A couple of thoughts on the experience issue, and one or two others.

1. When Democrats and liberals raise the "experience" issue with regard to Governor Palin is it partly a class issue? Had Palin gone to Harvard would the liberal punditocracy feel the same way?

2. Is a similar snobbery at work in the dismissal of Governor Palin as a "small town" Mayer? Alaska is for fishing vacations, no one who is worth talking to actually lives there . . .

3. Is part of the difference between Palin and Obama, at least as perceived in certain circles, the belief that he’s an intellectualy serious person, or at least what often passes for one on the Left? I suppose that’s connected with point 1.

4. Might much of the excitement for Palin a case of conservatives doing what liberals often do, falling in love with a candidate?

5. It will be interesting to get to know Palin as the campaign progresses. I hope she lives up to her potential. At the very least, she has energized the conservative base of the GOP.

6. A coda. Part of the excitement for Palin, I suspect, grows from her being a classic conservative--she supports limited, constitutional government, and understands how that is connected with the inalienable right to life. Why are there so few such people in high office?

Random thoughts on a Friday

Apologies for my lengthy silence, doubtless appreciated by some.

My institution’s PR office asked me for a comment on John McCain’s VP choice. here’s what I offered:

"Sen. John McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate is a bold move, effectively stealing a news cycle from Sen Barack Obama. With this choice, Sen McCain has changed the subject from Sen. Obama’s acceptance speech last night, a performance that would otherwise have occupied everyone’s attention. A safer, more predictable choice--of, say, former Gov. Mitt Romney or Gov. Tim Pawlenty--probably wouldn’t have done so.

"Gov. Palin is the only one on either ticket with executive experience, a point that will frequently be cited on her behalf.

"The fact that she carried a child with Down Syndrome to term is a practical demonstration of her pro-life credentials that will appeal to and galvanize social conservatives.

"While the choice of Gov. Palin for a place on the Republican ticket is not ’historic’ in the sense that Sen Obama’s place at the top of the Democratic ticket is, it nonetheless is a bold attempt to attract the attention of voters who aren’t accustomed to such moves from the GOP.

"Some might argue that Gov. Palin is inexperienced, as, of course, she is, when it comes to national political issues. But it is difficult to make a case against her that cannot also be made against Sen. Obama. Obivously, however, Sen. Obama’s relative inexperience at the top of the ticket will likely be more of a bone of contention than Gov. Palin’s in the vice presidential slot.

"Another important consideration is that Gov. Palin is untested on the national scene. But so was Sen. Obama at the outset of this nomination cycle. In some respects, he’s still untested, never having run against a serious Republican contender.

"Perhaps the most important consideration is that Gov. Palin has not yet been vetted by the national press. If the McCain campaign has not done its homework, Gov. Palin and Sen. McCain could be in for a very rough ride.

"This is a high-risk choice. The upside is potentially very great, but so is the downside."

I watched THE SPEECH last night with the knippkids. My daughter was bored, my son offered snarky adolescent commentary, I kept shushing them.

It was an excellent performance--a well-written, well-delivered speech. The harsh criticism of McCain grated and seemed inappropriate, but obviously not to the folks in the stadium. And by the end of the speech, it was lost in the warm fuzzy, post-partisanship.

For the most part, the ideas Sen. Obama has to offer are new only to people born the day before yesterday. His "substance" is the substance of traditional Democratic liberalism. And I almost wish he were a traditional Democratic liberal of the stamp of FDR and JFK when it comes to foreign policy, but I don’t believe him on that. In his heart of hearts, he’s a soft Euro-liberal

Two throwaway lines irritated me the most. The first had to do with government doing for folks things they couldn’t do for themselves. The example he used was parents educating their children--a gratuitous poke in the eye of homeschoolers. If he’d thought about it, he might not have said it, because he was trying to be as inclusive and inoffensive as possible (for the most part). But the reflex is there: at the core of parental responsibility, he can’t concede the possibility of self-reliance. We’re here to help teachers (as his mother did, by making him do his homework), but the teachers have the primary responsibility.

The second was his attempt to be inclusive on abortion. Can we all agree that we should reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies? Perhaps. But the devil really is in the details there, and I’m not going to give up on promoting a culture of life in order to pass out more condoms in school. I’d have been happier if he had also said something about helping more women carry their children to term. But that kind of talk doesn’t go over well in a party that embraces NARAL and Planned Parenthood.


This election is shaping up in interesting ways. As has often been mentioned, senators fare poorly in presidential elections, with only Harding and JFK elected directly from the Senate over the last 100 years. But this year we are guaranteed our next President will come from the Senate. Not quite a first, but close enough. . .

Governors have done better in presidential contests because as executives they can claim a mantle of action, while senators only give (long) speeches and vote on messy compromises. McCain looks more like a man of action than Obama, and Palin can help a little more than Biden can in the reformist/executive action department.

The real first is obvious: Come January 20, we are either going to have our first black President, or our first woman Vice President. Now, that may be about the only change you can really believe in. . .

The Hot Librarian

...that is a great description of our Sarah. With all the shameless self-congratulation on this blog, let me add that I’ve been talking her up since my fact-finding mission to Alaska in February. I’m sure that was the key factor in Mac’s inspired choice.

More Palin Thoughts

Someone has described Palin as having the "hot librarian look." Works for me. Meanwhile, our compadre Paul Mirengoff over at Powerline says he is disappointed that McCain would pick someone with no foreign policy or national security experience, though I’m not sure that Paul isn’t being ironic here. And besides, isn’t being governor of Alaska, with its servitude to Washington DC, a bit like being a head of state? Alaska, after all, practically needs an Alaskan interests desk at the State Department, and its governors practically have a foreign policy with regard to DC.

As for foreign policy experience, or the lack thereof, two words: Harry. Truman. What foreign policy or executive experience did he have in 1945? And he did all right on foreign policy for the most part.

UPDATE: They’re not kidding about the "hot librarian" meme. Watch from about the 2:00 mark in this video.

Barnes on Palin

This Fred Barnes piece will tell you quite a bit about Gov. Palin, and why she is the right choice. I just had a (liberal) colleague call me to congratulate me for predicting that it would be Palin back in July. He said: "I knew you were well connected, but this is amazing!" Of course, that had nothing to do with it. I told him that this is what I would do if I were McCain, that�s all, ergo that�s what he will do. And he did. He also thinks that her anti-abortion position will be to McCain�s disadvantage. I disagree, of course. She is a conservative, a gun-wielding, pro-life, edgy, tough woman. McCain now has his base back and this will allow him to pick away at some Hillary supoorters, and independents. Great choice.


Here’s a shout-out, high-five, and fist-bump between me and Schramm for calling this one. (About time . . . our track record ain’t so good the last couple years.)


Our MAN has shown he wants to win by picking a tough and capable WORKING MOM!

Palin as VP

This is a guess: I think it will be Governor Palin of Alaska. Just a guess. Tried getting on her website. Couldn’t, overloaded.

Post-convention bounces

Someone asked about post-convention bounces. This AP quickly works through the history of the post-convention bounce (average is 10 points) from 1964 to the present. It is probably true that the bounce will mean less than normal because the two conventions.

By the way, I thought Obama’s speech last night was not his best. I think the combination of becoming more aggressive about McCain, giving his own bio again, and then a a recitation of programs turned a bit humdrum by the end. This surprised me, even though the media had been repeating the mantra all day that the Obama people were calling the speech workmanlike. They were right. Today’s two inch-bold headline in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "IT’S TIME TO CHANGE AMERICA", is not as useful to Obama as the generic word "change" might be, since that is easily associated with mere policy. As the fat guy at the gas station this morning said when he noticed the headline: "Sure hope he tells us what about America needs changing and maybe even tells us why." I bet this guy didn’t have a PhD!

The Artful Codger

As Senator McCain prepares to announce his VP pick, we should keep in mind that pundits across the political spectrum have questioned his political judgment many times in the past several years, and even pronounced his candidacy hopeless. And yet, next week he will become the Republican candidate for President. Perhaps his political judgment is more sound than many of us think.

Gallup Daily, first bounce

Gallup Daily tracking average from Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, shows that Obama leads Republican John McCain among registered voters by a 48% to 42% margin. This is the first bounce from the convention. Because it doesn’t include most of the night that included the Biden speech, the bounce will likely get higher; plus the addition of Obama’s speech tonight.

Statistics du Jour

From George Will’s column today:

Obama thinks government is not getting a "reasonable share" of oil companies’ profits, which in 2007 were, as a percentage of revenues (8.3 percent), below those of US manufacturing generally (8.9 percent). Exxon Mobil pays almost as much in corporate taxes to various governments as the bottom 50 percent of American earners pay in income taxes. Exxon Mobil does make $1,400 a second in profits - hear the sharp intakes of breath from liberals with pursed lips - but pays $4,000 a second in taxes and $15,000 a second in operating costs.

Good-Faith Advice For the Democratic Nominee

John Judis explains that "Change We Can Believe In" is a little more intricate than it appears. First you get people to believe what you need them to believe; then you make the changes you want: "Obama cannot run as a Huey Long-style red meat populist. That’s not who he is, anyway. And in making promises, he has to be careful to avoid endorsing programs that could be interpreted as irresponsible acts of tax-and-spend liberalism. He can propose a detailed plan for national health insurance once he is elected. For the moment, he should avoid anything that appears to require new taxes, or that appears to send a lot of money to inner-cities." There will be lots of time for irresponsible tax-and-spend liberalism after the election.


We gotta tell the truth: The Democratic convention has mostly been "inauthentic" and boring. Even Hillary’s talk was too coldly programmed and sort of shouted. Bill gave an excellent lawyer’s argument and nothing more. But then Beau Biden (who mentioned but didn’t dwell on the fact that other duties will keep him from campaigning this fall) gave an eloquently classy and genuinely affectionate tribute to his dad. And then Joe himself gave a hell of an old-fashioned, unbobo, pretty darn manly, sort of ethnic New Dealy, American Dream speech. He was really good at being personal, in giving the case for Obama the man, and the programmatic case against his good and courageous friend John McCain. (There was the occasional misstep to remind us he’s human.) For me, he put Obama himself (not to mention Kerry, the Clintons, etc.) to shame. It would be an exaggeration to say that the Bidens saved the convention, but only an exaggeration.

More VP Gossip: Safe (Female) Boldness

This source is one among many that suggests that Mac either will or has picked Hutchison of Texas. She certainly has lots of legislative experience. But I’m having trouble recalling anything she’s really done. Other persistent rumors are that Romney is out and Lieberman isn’t quite yet.

Fun for the Day

Beeker does Beethoven.

McCain’s Veep Choice

According to Byron, McCain and his peeps are meeting about veeps this afternoon. Robert Novak says it shouldn’t be Lieberman, but might still be anyway. I think Lieberman is a bad veepchoice, but it would have the virtue of not designating the GOP heir-apparent for the post McCain world, should McCain win and serve one term. More effective, as Novak suggests, is to announce that Joe will be Secretary of State or Defense in a McCain administration. One other possility: what if Lieberman, as a condition of his veep selection, agreed to caucus immediately with Senate Republicans this fall. Wouldn’t this return control of the Senate to the GOP? Confirming a few judges--or forcing a Dem filibuster--would go a long way to alleviating GOP anger toward a Lieberman pick.

I’m hoping for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. I think she’d match up with Biden quite well. He’ll come across as overbearing if he’s in his usual mode, and she could get in some good shots at him. He can’t really say she doesn’t have enough experience, given Obama’s thin resume and even thinner agenda. I think it would scoop up some Hillary voters. And it might hold the prospect of the first woman-against-woman presidential election in 2012. What will the feminists complain about then? (I know, I know, I lack imagination. . .)

The AMERICAN Political Science Association going to have its 2009 meeting in Toronto, Canada. Canada, of coure, is in the thrall of a creepy political correctness that is stifling free speech. So there’s a petition going around among APSA members demanding that the Canadian government guarantee that the political scientists be able to speak their minds on controversial issues without being arrested or otherwised hassled. I signed the petition.

But the REAL problem is that we’re having OUR meeting in THEIR country. I’m all for not telling the Canadians what to do. Maybe we could invade them, but it’s not at all certain that we could give them freedom and democracy. Given that we’re meeting on their political turf, it’s reasonable for our political scientists to ask for the guarantee of good ol’ American free speech, and for the Canadians to be mighty insulted that we’re asking. There is a Canadian Political Science Association, and you don’t see them meeting in one of our cities.

So Dr. Pat Deneen has proposed an alternative political science meeting in our country next year--featuring "unexiled" American political scientists and of course anyone else who wants to come. We’re talking here, after all, about POLITICAL science, and so we should be alive to the features that distinguish various political communities or "states."


I’m not hanging on every word or speech occuring right now in Denver--neither are most other Americans, if ratings are any guide--but I get the sense that this convention is a letdown. Not a disaster, but a letdown. Having built up these enormous expectations, Obama and his supporting cast can’t deliver. I see hints of Obama trying to dampen expectations for his big stadium speech tomorrow. (See Byron York on this subject.) He may regret having eschewed the traditional convention hall speech.

The basic problem of Democrats is that it is committed to the idea that the Era of Big Government is Back, but when all of the constraints—fiscal and cognitive (see: Hayek)--cannot be overcome, and when the general program is not wildly popular with a majority of the public. (I have long thought that it was only a matter of time and gas prices before Americans swung rapidly to a pro-drilling opinion; that time has arrived, and Democrats will get run over if they really decide to stand with the Greens.) Hence the increasing reliance on shallow slogans and the philosophy of victimhood. Not that Republicans are much better in practice (see: Bush’s spending and regulatory record), but at least a presumption in favor of the private sector and individual initiative is a place that most of the public is more comfortable with.

In retrospect Obama’s European victory tour was a mistake. Suddenly the McCain campaign has its act together, and is hitting Obama daily. Obama’s counterpunches have been few and far between. McCain’s stumbles on the houses may actually work to his advantage if it keeps Romney off the ticket (a weak pick in my mind).

Forget Obama’s half-brother. (I know, I know, I brough it up. . .) The Ayers business is starting to look a lot more interesting to me.

Finally, Obama has been compared to Reagan, in that both emerged as national figures on account of a single speech given at a propitious moment. Both had some dubious alliances from their past to unwind (Reagan and the John Birch Society, for instance). Both faced doubts among voters; Reagan overcame his at the last moment to win decisively. But there is an obvious difference. Reagan at least had run a major state as an executive for two terms. He was actually relieved when his half-hearted run in 1968 ended; he told more than one person that he wasn’t ready to be president yet. I have long thought that had Reagan actually won the nomination and the election in 1968 after just two years as governor, he’d have made a poor president and had an unsuccessful administration. I doubt Obama has any such self-awareness or humble doubts about himself.

Finally, if you hook up the Clintons to a polygraph, I am sure it would reveal they hope for a McCain victory. Does anyone really think otherwise? (P.S. A comment on Peter’s thread below says Hillary’s speech was comparable to Reagan’s impromptu speech for Ford in 1976. Actually, Reagan never even mentioned Ford’s name in his brief remarks--a fact barely noted at the time.)

Bill Clinton & Obama

Given that Bill Clinton is speaking tonight, this thoughtful David Maraniss article is worth considering. And, reading a bit between the lines, it gets even better. These two guys, he says, "could be pals" (because of similar backgrounds, I guess) and both are "acute political animals", and yet there is a "complex dynamic" involved, especially on Bill’s part.

The first thing that struck me about it is that it is now becoming increasingly clear that the real problem between them (and therefore Hillary) is that (1) Obama doesn’t like Bill Clinton, and (2) Billy is offended because he wants to be liked, and then (3) I can’t help thinking that this is not over because the Clintons’ ambition is not yet fulfilled. On the third point: The Clintons are in this for the long haul, and because they will stay in politics (as will Obama) they mean to come out on top, eventually. If Obama gets elected, it will be a longer wait, and they plan to wait it out. I think they are betting that Obama will lose; hence the tepid support, and a lack of inclination to hide the mutual dislike from the public. The Clintons know that Obama can’t get elected without their support; Obama has not been persuaded of this until recently. I think Obama’s scrambling, for he may have realized that he lacks a serious base (liberals, academics, blacks, the younger voters, are not enough); you do need the women (white men you could lose, if you get the women, the so-called gender gap). Bill’s speech tonight will just be theater.

A hunch

My quick take on Hillary’s speech: It was a very good speech, perhaps the best she has ever given. Did it do much good for Obama? Will the speech persuade all of her supporters to go with Obama? I don’t think so. But, the speech may be very useful to her four years from now. Do note this Gallup Poll showing "conservative Democrats peeling away from Obama." If Senator Obama cannot hold the Democratic base, he cannot win. Only Hillary being on the ticket may have helped Obama hold the base.

Let me add, (especially for my friend Steve T. who disagrees with my perception of all this, see the threads) that I don’t know any more than you do about this business of politics. I’m a political scientist, so I’m guessing. This stuff isn’t science. And the kind of knowledge that is required has to do with some analysis, etc., but really is nothing more than an evaluation of public opinion; an attempt to sense (see, observe, hear) what folks in taverns think. You learn a lot by listening to people. Ordinary people, inclined to give you their opinion; it’s best if they do this when not asked, but rather, leting it come up quite naturally in conversation.

And if I say, for example, that Democratic operatives are in a panic, I mean--based on what I think I know--I would be in a panic if I were working for Obama because I wouldn’t know how to fix his problem. That is, they should be in a panic, if they aren’t.

Here is an example of a hunch based on three conversations during the last twenty-four hours, all Dems, with people I only know in passing (two in bars, one at Starbucks). All three said that Obama’s reply to the preacher’s question on what a human being is, or when is a human being a human being (abortion) pushed them away from him. They hated the "above my pay grade" (science and theology) response because they thought it was artificial, aloof, unnatural, and revealed something about Obama’s character, not just his views on abortion (one of the folks is pro-abortion.) One woman said: "This guy is like a teacher I had once. He always wanted to impress me with how difficult the subject was." Then she called him a name that clarified what she thought about that guy. My hunch is that that moment was a defining one. Perhaps picking Biden (in an attempt to place a "common" man on the ticket) was another. Both are revealing, neither helps Obama.

The Battle Over Scranton

It’s reasonable to assume the election will be won and lost in places more like "The Electric City" than places like Peoria (not that I really know what kind of place Peoria is). There we find the "anxious" voters--who worry about their country, their family, and their economic security. McCain can offfer them his fierce, honorable love of America (vs. the postmodern, post-American or a-American Obama), a fight against the bureaucratic and judicial experts contemptuous of the real lives of ordinary Americans (with the centerpiece being the fight against the unlimited judicial activism of a wholly and overwhelmingly Democratic government), and a health care plan that detaches insurance from employment, mandates and makes easy universal coverage, and gets coverage affordable, private, and competitive (avoiding a single-payer national bureaucracy). (It was smart, by the way, for Obama to a pick a man from Scranton, not that the election will literally turn on who carries Scranton.)

Marcus Aurelius

Parts of a giant, exquisitely carved marble sculpture depicting the Roman emperor

Marcus Aurelius have been found at an archaeological site in Turkey. Fragments of the statue were unearthed at the ancient city of Sagalassos. The statute was about 15 ft tall, said to be one of the finest depictions of the Roman ruler. Some photos.

Gallup Daily Tracking on Biden

Allow me to bring this to your attention, in case my use of the word "panic" among Democratic operatives may have been considered too strong a few days ago. The Gallup Poll Daily tracking says this (and note the useful graph):

"from Aug. 23-25, the first three-day period falling entirely after Obama’s Saturday morning vice presidential announcement, shows 46% of national registered voters backing John McCain and 44% supporting Obama, not appreciably different from the previous week’s standing for both candidates. This is the first time since Obama clinched the nomination in early June, though, that McCain has held any kind of advantage over Obama in Gallup Poll Daily tracking."

WHO Obama IS

Well, David Brooks thinks he knows, and that all Barack has to do to win is show us. He’s a 21th century man, multicultural and global, no experience (which means he’s not burdened by the past), but all promise and potential. He’ll lead us into a world where force and power and prejudice and partisanship and even competitive markets fade away. He’ll lead us with his beautiful words into the postpolitical fantasy already inhabited by Europe with our singular cyber-techno-iphone twist, a world in which soft power and bourgeois bohemian are no longer oxymorons. McCain, a good man, is also an old man, a 20th century man, a pre-cyber man way out of touch. There’s a real "culture wars" issue here that Mac could exploit, one that David actually may be setting up for him.

Am I My Half-Brother’s Keeper?

Is this the Willie Horton issue of 2008? This little subtext, and how it will be used and interpreted across the partisan spectrum, is disturbing on several levels for both sides. It could blow up in everyone’s face.

UPDATE/ELABORATION: I knew some commentors would want elaboration, but the spectrum of comments I think makes my point, as I fully expected. First, the Willie Horton ad in 1988 was wholly legitimate, but liberals still cry foul/racism. If this present item about Obama’s half-brother gets traction, the same thing will be said forever, though it raises some legitimate issues (as one comment noted, liberals always want to give away someone else’s money, and seldom their own). But the ad also raises in a delicate way Obama’s "exotic" (as it is called) background. While his intellectual and political background is certainly fair game, his family background, though unusual, is a different matter. We’ve always tended to keep family members off limits to some extent. Democrats never really went after Donald Nixon as they might have, or Ronald Reagan’s troubled kids. As usual, it may be the Clinton experience (Roger Clinton, Hugh Rodham, etc) that broke down some of this prior restraint. It may well be an effective tactic to try to arouse our "comfort factor" with this unusual man, but it would be another step removed from campaigning on large issues. At least Willie Horton was connected to a real issue and a question of executive judgment. This case is more ambiguous.

Real Change at the Democratic Convention?

Democrats questioning the Education Blob as Bill Bennett called it:

I went to the Ed Challenge for Change event mainly to schmooze. I almost didn’t stay for the panels, being in no mood for what I expected would, even among these reformers, be an hour of vague EdBlob talk about "change" and "accountability" and "resources" that would tactfully ignore the elephant in the room, namely the teachers’ unions. I was so wrong. One panelist--I think it was Peter Groff, president of the Colorado State Senate, got the ball rolling by complaining that when the children’s agenda meets the adult agenda, the "adult agenda wins too often." Then Cory Booker of Newark attacked teachers unions specifically--and there was applause. In a room of 500 people at the Democratic convention! "The politics are so vicious," Booker complained, remembering how he’d been told his political career would be over if he kept pushing school choice, how early on he’d gotten help from Republicans rather than from Democrats. The party would "have to admit as Democrats we have been wrong on education." Loud applause! Mayor Adrian Fenty of D.C. joined in, describing the AFT’s attempt to block the proposed pathbreaking D.C. teacher contract. Booker denounced "insane work rules," and Groff talked about doing the bidding of "those folks who are giving money [for campaigns], and you know who I’m talking about." Yes, they did!


Race and the Race

Further to my previous post about Jacob Weisberg's Slate article on race as the central factor in Obama's candidacy, see Matt Bai in today's NY Times saying this should not be overdone:

Mr. Obama faces genuine obstacles that are more salient than skin color. By any historical measure, he has remarkably little governing experience and almost none in foreign policy. And he represents not only a racial milestone in American life, but also a stark generational shift. It's hard to extricate these things from Obama's blackness. (If older white voters recoiled at Mr. Obama when he exchanged a fist-bump with his wife, were they reacting to his youth or to his race?) There are legitimate reasons that some older white voters might reserve judgment on Mr. Obama without being closet racists.

UPDATE: Yup, right on schedule. Also from today's NY Times: "Blacks Debate Civil Rights Risk in Obama's Rise. It seems keeping the grievance industry alive is more important than a historic breakthrough:

Last month, the debate bubbled up when The Root, a Web journal of black politics and culture, published a provocative essay titled "President Obama: Monumental Success or Secret Setback?" "If Obama becomes the president, every remaining, powerfully felt black grievance and every still deeply etched injustice will be cast out of the realm of polite discourse," wrote Lawrence Bobo, a black sociologist at Harvard University, who supports Mr. Obama and was outlining in the essay the concerns of some friends and colleagues. "White folks will just stop listening."
Categories > Presidency

More VP Gossip: Kristol Says Lieberman

Bill seems to contradict himself by reporting both that Biden is a pick that reflects weakness and is a strong and experienced leader. He’s right to say that Pawlenty will look puny (without, for example, foreign policy experience) by comparison. Billionaire, perfect hair Romney might be easy prey for the Democrats’ economic populism. And to tell the truth, McCain-Romney would be a really rich guy ticket, with God knows how many houses between them. These are points well taken.

So the "bold" pick (not so bold, in my view, given that the speculation has been there for months) is Lieberman. Pro-lifers shouldn’t worry. What difference would a pro-choice VP make is what Mac has assured us (in a church!) would be a pro-life administration? Pro-lifers, Bill advises, should learn to love this ticket.

I can’t help but think if Bill really wants this result, he shouldn’t have endorsed it. I know lots of people who will view this as "neocon" national security ticket, based on the false premise that national security alone could win the election. There are lots (can’t tell you how many) of Americans who are inclined to vote Republican despite what’s happened in Iraq (such as many Catholics and evangelicals) and others who will be moved primarily by a distinctively conservative take domestic issues--such as energy, health care, taxes, and judicial activism--this fall. Bill might be right that they’re stuck with voting McCain as better than Obama, but they have to be energized actually to vote--as they were in huge numbers in 2004. I really think the choice of Lieberman, as I said before, would compromise the hard-won gains Mac has secured on key domestic issues over the last several weeks, and it would produced a flat convention (at best) with a genuine enthusiasm gap.

Still, John Lewis is right that it would be an authentic choice, one from Mac’s heart.

Please Do My Homework for Me--Part 2

My thinking on the election of 2008: Pete makes an excellent point below. To some extent McCain can campaign against the risks involved in giving the whole government to the Democrats, but there are limits to that approach. People clearly do want change--not gridlock, but some results on various public policy fronts. Maybe the biggest example is health care. So it seems to me that McCain is going to have to become a "can do" man on that issue. In fact he is, at least on his website: He has a clear view of why and how we need to abandon the present employer-based health care system. Mac is going to have to make that view comfortably his own in speech and push it on the stump.

Where the gridlock argument is most attractive: People clearly respond to arguments against activist judges, and Mac needs to become even more clear on who they are and what’s wrong with appointing them. So he needs to become clearer and more aggressive on what’s wrong with ROE, saying more than he believes that babies have human rights from conception. There will be no limits on judicial activism--on ROE-based judicial legislation--if Obama is elected. (Here, I tentatively agree with Ken, the campaign might be directed to some extent against Biden, at least to certain kind of audience.)

So, with your help, I’ve decided to devote my time at the APSA to talk some about judicial activism and a bit more about genuinely conservative health care reform.

How Dare You Even Think of Voting Against Obama?

Steve draws our attention to an article in Slate by Jacob Weisberg, “If Obama Loses: Racism Is the Only Reason McCain Might Beat Him.” Consider yourself warned: if America rejects Sen. Obama in November, Weisberg will be gravely disappointed, deeply ashamed and very, very angry. You can either read Weisberg’s essay for yourself, or watch here as he reads it to you.

Here’s the money graf: “Many have discoursed on what an Obama victory could mean for America. We would finally be able to see our legacy of slavery, segregation, and racism in the rearview mirror. Our kids would grow up thinking of prejudice as a nonfactor in their lives. The rest of the world would embrace a less fearful and more open post-post-9/11 America. But does it not follow that an Obama defeat would signify the opposite? If Obama loses, our children will grow up thinking of equal opportunity as a myth. His defeat would say that when handed a perfect opportunity to put the worst part of our history behind us, we chose not to. In this event, the world’s judgment will be severe and inescapable: The United States had its day but, in the end, couldn’t put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy irrationality over race.”

You don’t have to wrap your white sheets around anything but your mattress, however, to suspect that the situation might be a little more complicated. A “veteran Democratic operative” told New York’s John Heilemann this week, “There are two fundamental issues [Obama] faces: black and green. Is he too black? And is he too green?”

Weisberg doesn’t even allow the second question into the arena, but we should. Four years ago, Barack Obama was completing his eighth year in the Illinois state senate. No one has argued convincingly that the people of Illinois are discernibly better off – or, for that matter, worse off – because of Obama’s efforts there. The same, of course, could be said about the vast majority of the other 7,300 state legislators currently holding office, few of whom are thought, even by their mothers, to be a mere four years away from ably discharging the duties of the presidency. State legislatures are to the Oval Office what the high school junior varsity is to the Super Bowl.

Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate from Illinois in 2004 after: a) the wealthy Republican incumbent, Peter Fitzgerald, decided not to seek re-election rather than face Blair Hull, the presumptive Democratic challenger who was vastly wealthier than Fitzgerald; b) Hull’s campaign disintegrated a few weeks before the Democratic primary after a lurid story about the collapse of his marriage became public, allowing Obama to win a plurality in a crowded field; c) Obama’s Republican opponent, Jack Ryan, dropped out of the race three months after the primary after a lurid story about the collapse of his marriage become public; and d) the Illinois Republican party recruited Alan Keyes to replace Ryan on the ballot, despite the fact that Keyes had never lived in Illinois and is . . . odd. Obama won 70% of the vote that November.

25 months after being sworn in as a U.S. Senator in 2005, Obama announced his candidacy for president. Since one doesn’t run for president on a whim, it’s fair to assume that Obama has spent most of his 3 – plus years “in” the Senate either preparing for his presidential campaign or absorbed by it. Thus, for the first time since Wendell Willkie ran in 1940, one of our two major parties is asking the American people to elect someone to be president principally on the basis of qualities he has displayed campaigning for president.

Jacob Weisberg, who doesn’t even allude to qualifications or preparedness, is satisfied to judge Obama entirely on political criteria: “Obama has built a crack political operation, raised record sums, and inspired millions with his eloquence and vision. McCain has struggled with a fractious campaign team, lacks clarity and discipline, and remains a stranger to charisma.” Other voters, however – including a few who are not bigots filled with hatred – think elections are about governance, rather than about performing impressively and coolly as a candidate as an end in itself, and wonder whether a prospective president with Barack Obama’s slender record in public office is up to the job.

The Bare-Knuckles World of College Debate

Professor/hippie Bill Shanahan was coach of the Fort Hays University debate team, until a fateful competition against the University of Pittsburgh. The debate grew passionate, and there ensued a profanity-laden shouting match between Shanahan and Shanara Reid Brinkley, coach of the Pitt team. The climax came with an interesting maneuver on Shanahan’s part: he turned around, dropped his pants, and mooned Professor Brinkley. For this, Shanahan has been dismissed from his position.

Nobody can deny that Dr. Shanahan is penitent. "I am terribly sorry that my actions reflected poorly on the university," he said in a public statement. "However, they must be judged in the unique context of college debate, marked by its passion and rigorous intellectual engagement."

Flatline Protestantism

I can’t remember if someone around here has linked to Joseph Bottum’s article in the latest First Things on the "Death of Protestant America." Smart article. Here are two interesting tidbits:

The death of the Mainline is the central historical fact of our time: the event that distinguishes the past several decades from every other ­period in American history. Almost every one of our current political and cultural oddities, our contradictions and obscurities, derives from this fact: The Mainline has lost the capacity to set, or even significantly influence, the national vocabulary or the national self-understanding.

The actual organizations at the center—the defining churches in each of the denominations that make up the Mainline—have fallen to insignificance. The Disciples of Christ with 750,000 members, the United Church of Christ with 1.2 million, the American Baptist Churches with 1.5 million, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) with 2.3 million, the Episcopalians with 2.3 million, the Evangelical ­Lutheran Church in America with 5 million, and the United Methodist Church with 8.1 million: That’s around 21 million people, in a nation of more than 300 million. The conservative Southern Baptist Convention alone has 16 million members in the United States. The Catholic Church has 67 million.

More Biden Reax

David Frum has the same reading of the Biden pick that I do.

Obama: A Thin Man with a Thin Record

According to Bill Kristol, he has no real experience, and so he’s provided us no real evidence of either courage or character. This PERSONAL contrast needs to be made loud and often, and it does explain why McCain is polling better than a generic Republican and Obama much worse than a generic Democrat. But the generic gap is wide enough that it won’t be enough to win. ISSUES must be exploited too--particularly judicial activism and health care.

Five More Biden Points

1. The word is that Kaine was finally tossed out because he’s somewhat pro-life. And I imagine one fear there was that the Hillary people are spoiling for a fight at the convention.

2. One reason Biden was picked is that he was perhaps the least offensive non-Hillary choice to Hillary. Another woman (Sebelius) would have angered her, as she is THE woman.

3. It turns out, contrary to what you might read here, almost everyone likes Biden in DC. Jesse Helms, we read, liked him. And so one talent it’s hoped he will display is being aggressive without seeming mean.

4. NLT writers and readers, for understandable reasons, are rather singularly Thomas-centric. The fact that Joe did him wrong (and he did) I doubt will be a major factor in the campaign.

5. The general perception of Biden is that he’s no towering genius, but hardly the lightweight you sometimes read about here. He’s viewed as a fairly dignified man of great experience, if not quite a statesman. Pawlenty, in truth, will seem puny by comparison. So I think it’s somewhat more likely now that McCain will have to go with Romney. He likes Mitt even less than Barack likes Joe (and I’m not at all sure Barack dislikes Joe). So if you have last-minute advice for Mac here, you should give it.

Biden’s Greatest Hits, Installment One

Preview time! The following passages are drawn from Chapter 13 of the next volume of The Age of Reagan:

Indeed, the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Joe Biden, never at a loss for words—even if they were someone else’s—had told a reporter in 1986: “Say the administration sends up Bork, and, after our investigation, he looks a lot like another Scalia. I’d have to vote for him, and if the groups tear me apart, that’s the medicine I’ll have to take. I’m not Ted Kennedy.”

Well, dropping that didn’t take long. I suspect he’s spending today dropping lots of his other sensible views to conform to Obamaworld.

Second excerpt:

Of all people, Sen. Biden was on to this weakness in Bork’s narrow originalism, and took after Bork from the right:

I believe all Americans are born with certain inalienable rights. As a child of God, I believe my rights are not derived from the Constitution. My rights are not derived from any government. My rights are not derived from any majority. My rights are because I exist. They were given to me and each of my fellow citizens by our creator and they represent the essence of human dignity.

The irony is that when Clarence Thomas came before the Judiciary Committee for his Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991 espousing that very basis for his jurisprudence, it became the reason for which Biden opposed him.

O Ba Ma and Blah, Blah, Blah

So, the Democratic vice presidential nominee will be Joseph Biden of Delaware, a man whose satisfaction with the sound of his own voice is limitless and legendary. To stand out from 99 other United States Senators in that regard is, in its way, heroic.

It’s a bad thing in life, and especially in politics, to be known as the guy who always has to prove that he’s the smartest one in the room. Al Gore and Newt Gingrich each had this problem. It’s a worse thing, however, to be that guy when you’re never the smartest one in the room.

In August 1993 The New Republic helpfully printed, on an entire page, the transcription of a single question that Sen. Biden posed to Ruth Bader Ginsburg during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s five times as long as the Gettysburg Address. Read it, if you are stout-hearted, and judge for yourself the quality of Sen. Biden’s mind and his contribution to our experiment in self-government.

SENATOR BIDEN: . . . [If] I had to be on an island with a man for any extended period of time, I might pick Judge [Antonin] Scalia. And the reason I would, sincerely, is I think he’s brilliant, I think he’s dead wrong most of the time, as he thinks I am, and it would be, as another nominee who came before us once said when asked why he wanted to be on the court, he said it would be an intellectual feast.

I now – a slight digression – I had a conversation with Justice Scalia after he had been nominated to tell him that I was about to say in an interview the vote I most regretted casting out of all the ones I ever cast was voting for him because he was so effective. He said, "What are you doing now?" And I thought he was asking me about something – I said, "I’m teaching a course in constitutional law at Widener University." He said, "Oh, my God. I better come and tell them the truth." So I’m sure he would have an opportunity to educate me if we were on an island together.

But having said that, Justice Scalia, on a very serious note, has offered one method – one method of – a methodology to determine whether or not a right of privacy, a personal right that is not enumerated, not mentioned in the Constitution, warrants constitutional protection. And he has written that the only interests protected by the liberty clause of the Fourteenth Amendment are those interests which are defined in the most narrow and specific terms where historical safeguards from government interference [have] existed.

Now, as you know better than I do-again at the expense of offending my brethren in the press, I’m going to be very fundamental about this, to use a phrase from another – in another context – when in the past we have determined whether or not fundamental rights of privacy exist, one of the things they go back and, courts have done, is go back and look at history. They say what have we done in the past as a people? What has our country done? What has our English jurisprudential system recognized, not only here in the states but in England in the common law? And they looked back at that as one of the guideposts – not the only one, not necessarily determinative, but that’s what they do – they have done.

And I think, by inference, Justice Scalia acknowledges that is an appropriate method, at least a starting point, to determine whether or not an unenumerated right should be recognized as protected by the Constitution. And so Justice Scalia says that when you go back to determining whether or not there is a – there’s an interest protected by the liberty clause of the Fourteenth Amendment – you go back and look at those interests defined in their most narrow and specific terms when you look back at history.

So the question for Justice Scalia in deciding whether the Constitution protects a particular liberty, including a particular privacy interest, is whether years and years ago the government recognized that precise, specific interest. Now, that approach of Justice Scalia, which was outlined by him in the Michael H. case, that approach is very different from another, and I would characterize as the traditional approach for determining whether or not these unenumerated rights that we have recognized exist, an approach which – the traditional approach, in my view, looks to whether the Constitution expresses a commitment to a more general interest and then asks how that commitment should be applied in our time [to] a specific situation.

The difference between these two approaches can make all the difference in the world where a justice comes out on the finding of whether such a right exists or doesn’t.

For example, under Justice Scalia’s approach, the right to marry someone of a different race is not protected by the Constitution – at least arguably, based on things he has said, because the right to marry is nowhere specifically mentioned in the Constitution. And when you go back to look at whether or not – which is one of the methods used by all justices to determine whether or not there is an unenumerated right that should be protected – when you go back in history and look, there’s no place you can say that under our English jurisprudential system, our courts or the English courts, have traditionally recognized the specific right of blacks and whites to marry. And since you can’t find that back there, then the right doesn’t exist.

Whereas, in footnote 6, for example, as you well know, although Justices Kennedy and Souter – I mean Kennedy and O’Connor – agreed with the overall finding on that case, which I won’t bother you with the facts, which you know well and are not particularly relevant to my point – they said we dissent from the methodology used by Justice Scalia in arriving at a decision which is the right decision – my words – but for the wrong reason. And they said you go back and you look at the general proposition of whether or not the general interest seeking protection under the Constitution is in fact one we’ve historically protected. So they say when you go back, you should look at have we historically protected the right and recognized the right of individuals to marry who they want to marry? So you go back and, depending on what question you ask, you get a different answer.

And if you go back and say okay, we’ll recognize – and I’m oversimplifying – if we recognize we’re going to recognize – determine whether or not anti-miscegenation laws are constitutional, and the basis on which they’re being challenged is I have a privacy right to marry who I want to marry, so let’s see if that right is protected by the Constitution.

Scalia’s approach, you go back, you look at all the history and you say, hey, there’s no place where blacks and whites were protected – because that’s the issue – are blacks and whites – can they marry? But if you use the O’Connor approach you go back and say have we recognized the right to marry? And they say yeah, we’ve done that; ergo we can say, using that methodology of looking at the general proposition, there may be a rationale to acknowledge--a principled rationale to acknowledge or recognize the right to marry a black man or a white woman or a white woman – or I mean a black white man or black woman. That may fall within the domain of my right of privacy guaranteed by the Constitution.

[At this point, Senator Biden was asked a question by Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. After a ninety-nine word response, the Delaware senator picked up where he left off.]

Now, in contrast, as I said, under the more traditional approach of recognizing unenumerated rights, the courts asked not whether the legal system historically had protected interracial marriages but whether the legal system historically had protected the institution of marriage generally.

Because it had, because our legal system long had understood the importance of family integrity and independence, the court held in Loving v. Virginia that the particular right to marry someone of another race is also protected.

Now, in thinking about how the Constitution protects unenumerated rights, including rights of privacy, will you use – I’m not asking you where you’re going to come out on any issue, but will you use the methodology that looks to – going back to a specific right being sought guaranteed, or will you use the more traditional method of more broadly looking at the right that is attempting – seeking constitutional protection before the court? What methodology will you use? What role will history and tradition play for you in determining whether or not a right exists that is not enumerated?

JUDGE GINSBURG: Mr. Chairman, if I understand your question correctly. . . you are asking whether I would have subscribed to both parts of Loving, that is, both the equal protection and the due process -

SENATOR BIDEN: No. Let me be very clear . . .

Biden Time

Didn’t Biden stick his foot in his mouth a year back by calling Obama "articulate" and "clean"?

I think I disagree with Peter below (and David Brooks); I think Obama is rattled, and just succumbed to a clever rope-a-dope from McCain’s camp.

UPDATE: CNN has the original quote here, plus the fallout:

"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," Biden said. "I mean, that’s a storybook, man."

I mean that’s really clunky, man. Add the "Audacity of Dope" to this campaign.

Here It Comes

Jacob Weisberg, writing in Slate, says that if Obama loses, it is because of racism. Couldn’t be that he’s another northern liberal elitist, like Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry? Nah. It’s because we’re racists. Rinse and repeat.

Biden a strong, astute choice. It’s the choice of a confident man who’s not desperate to carry one more state. It connects Obama to the Democratic establishment and to non-bobo (bourgeois bohemian) currents in his party’s tradition. It’s the choice of a boring, blowhard white guy who couldn’t be more experienced. Obama’s task, to repeat, is to show that he’s not a crazy extemist, that his brand of change is safe. His choice of Biden will suggest that to at least some voters, including some of the working class, white Hillary primary voters. Of course Biden has plenty of warts, but they’re already displayed in neon letters for all to see, and it’s very unlikely that new ones will be discovered. Let’s hope McCain can do as well in connecting himself to his party.

WEEKEND UPDATE: Everyone should read Rob’s smart and challenging post below. I’m using my awesome NLT power to respond to here. Where’s the panic? The boring white guy scenario of Biden or Bayh has been there for months, and I’ve always thought it was the way for him to go. Biden is a bit better because of his foreign policy "leadership" and because he’s the less boring of the two. Hillary or Kaine or some gimmicky guy or gal (such as Wesley Clark or the woman from Kansas) would have been panic choices. Of course Obama couldn’t really like Biden that much. He chose with his head, not with his heart, contrary to the advice (we read) of the lovely Mrs. Obama. But I haven’t seen much real evidence (contrary to what he says) that Obama has much of a heart (and I mean that as Machiavellian praise). He’ll do, as he says, what he has to do to win, and Machiavellians don’t panic (and there is, objectively, not that much reason for him to do so, although he should be concerned that he’s been unable to seal the deal). Biden is boring and silly some of the time, but to be really fair and balanced, he was often pretty good in the pre-primary debates. He is certainly more charming than Bayh. Anyone who remembers and is bothered by (like me) Biden’s performance in the Clarence Thomas hearings is not a likely Obama voter. What Obama himself said about Thomas was more of cheap shot than anything I remember Biden saying, and probably studies have shown Obama that taking shots at Thomas is a good way of energizing his base.

I got a really mean private email criticizing me for saying good things about Obama strategy. But I really think the tendency among conservatives is to underestimate this guy. McCain is going to have to be really savvy to be competitive, and I really do want Mac to win. (And I just read Pete’s comments--which are very similar to and more pithy and eloquent than mine.)

Biofuels and Biafra

Okay, so "Biafra" is a bit dated, but this old Jay Leno video from the 1980s has one of my all time favorite routines of his, about Mr. Potatohead. (See about the 2 minute mark.)

How do you explain to a starving kid in Biafra, Leno asks, that in America we grow food for amusement purposes? He quotes Kimba: "Kimba eat potato." "No, no, Kimba--you put this little hat on it."

Well, he can update this routine now with corn-based ethanol as his example.

Jefferson and Modern Nihilism

While looking for a Jefferson quote, I happened upon this website. Note the name: "" I suppose they are unfamiliar with the Sage of Monticello’s comment: "I consider belief to be the assent of the mind to an intelligible proposition." Jefferson, of course, believed that a "Wall of Separation" was a reasonable way to disestablish religion in America precisely because he believed that the teachings of natural law were intelligible, and therefore could be comprehended by reason. He left speculative opinions outside the wall, for people to entertain in private. Nowadays, we have many Americans who believe in the wall of separation, but no longer believe in natural law. The result is what one would expect.

Obama’s Convention

Andy Busch has some advice for Obama and his team: Don’t use your convention to try to connect McCain with Bush. Rather, use it to define Obama and what he stands for. Andy is right, of course.

Do note that all the polls (see realclearpolitics) are showing that McCain has gained on Obama during the last week. In most polls Obama has been ahead by six or seven points, but now he is down to only three or four. Also note that Reuters/Zogby has McCain up by five points (in July he was down by seven). Despite the Obama hype in some quarters--he appears on the front of Time magazine for the seventh time in a year--he is not gaining any voters. This is a bad love affair: the more folks see of him, the less they are inclined to vote for him. He is not as pretty as they thought on first sight.

This would indicate to any serious Democratic actor that Obama needs to re-define himself, while throwing a lot more substance around than he has thus far (and also he should stop changing his mind on issues). The convention is the best place to start talking about the new, substantive, aggressive, no-more-mind-changing-on-major-issues Obama. This is it. He has to pull in the Hillary supporters because of what he says and does. If he can’t do that, he will never be able to attract any independents. In short, he will lose, and not by a small margin, if he keeps up what he has been doing.

So Andy Busch is right: The question mark around Obama has to be removed, and he is the only one that can remove it. Further, if he thinks that a great speech at the convention will do that, or the so-called perfect VP nominee, he is wrong. In short, he is now at the tail-end of a collapsed longest campaign already, and the convention is his great opportunity to crawl out of the whole he has dug for himself and start a brand new campaign. He is now at a massive disadvantage and his people know this. They are near panic. This is not the position they expected to be in just before their convention.

Guelzo on the Debates

Allen Guelzo in conversation with Bennett the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Excellent. Circa 12 minutes long. You’ll find the link on the right.

More VP Gossip

Here Byron York speculates, based on what he’s learned from his sources, that Mac would definitely pick Lieberman or Ridge if he knew for certain he would win. I have to admit that if I had to choose between the two, I’d go with Joe. I have to add that choosing either would make winning a lot more unlikely.

The other big issue: Does Obama, given his recent multifaceted swoon, now need Hillary? Experts disagree. I think not.

The Vital Center?

Jim Geraghty notes Chicago Mayer, Richard Daley’s effort to suggest Senator Obama’s friendship with William Ayers was no big deal:

Daley comments: "It’s really unfortunate. They’re friends. So what? People do make mistakes in the past. You move on. This is a new century, a new time. He reflects back and he’s been making a strong contribution to our community."

A few mistakes in his past? Andy McCarthy reminds us about who, exactly, Ayers is:

Bombing the Pentagon is one of those “mistakes” that people make? Bombing the U.S. Capitol, too? And a police headquarters? Most of the people I know of who’ve made such “mistakes” now receive their mail at the United States “Supermax” Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado.

And Ayers hasn’t “moved on.” When he “reflects back,” he brazenly says he’s sorry only that he didn’t do more in the way of terrorism.

But from the perspective of much of the mainstream Left, Ayers is an ally. In this context, we should remember comments that the current Publisher of the New York Times made a couple of years ago, addressing college graduates:

’I will start with an apology,’ Sulzberger told the graduates, who wore black gowns and hats with yellow tassels. ’When I graduated in 1974, my fellow students and I ended the Vietnam War and ousted President Nixon. OK. OK. That’s not quite true. Maybe there were larger forces at play.’"

He went on to lament that his generation "had seen the horror and futility of war and smelled the stench of government corruption. Our children, we vowed, would never know that. So, well, I am sorry." ...

"It wasn’t supposed to be this way. You weren’t supposed to be graduating in an America fighting a misbegotten war in a foreign land. You weren’t supposed to be graduating into a world where we are still fighting for fundamental human rights, be it the rights of immigrants to start a new life, the right of gays to marry or the rights of women to choose."

To the people who run the Times, and to those who share their perspective, Ayers is only slightly out of the mainstream.

Union Business as Usual

From today’s L A Times:

The head of California’s largest union local has stepped aside in the wake of Times reports that the organization and a related charity paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to firms owned by his wife and mother-in-law.

And the Democratic party wants to get rid of the secret balott for Union organizing?

Which is Truth and Which is Fiction?

You be the judge.

Allen Guelzo on Bennett’s show

Allen Guelzo will be on Bill Bennett’s "Morning in America" tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. for you non-academics who get up that early. It’s a call-in show, so you can talk to him about his new book, Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America. The academics can pick it up later, as it gets archived.

A Fairly Gentle Criticism of McCain’s Reckless Rhetoric

......from, of course, the fair and balanced WASHINGTON POST. We shouldn’t even seem to make promises to countries like Georgia that we aren’t prepared to keep or rachet up the confrontational rhetoric against countries we aren’t really willing to confront. That’s why I have real reservations about bringing Georgia into NATO, especially in view of Europe’s timid response to the recent invasion. Whatever Mac’s shortcomings, however, Obama is clearly worse. When it comes to real tyrants or even just real imperialists, displays of "soft power" just provoke contempt.

Tilting at Windmills

Michael Bloomberg as Don Quixote. (H/t the Corner).

Please Do My Homework for Me--Part 1.

I ended up on three panels at next week’s American Political Science Association Meeting in Boston. That means I have lots to do over the next week. The easiest and hardest of these three assignments is being on a roundtable on social consservatism and the upcoming election. It’d be easy to shoot the bull for 10 minutes, and all you wise and wordy threaders have given me plenty of amunition there. But to display my brilliance to the best effect, I probably need to make only or two amazingly cogent points. My question to all of you: What would you say under such circumstances and why?

More on the Rick Warren Show

This article seems to be based on the theme that McCain’s simplistic directness may have played better with swing voters than Obama’s thoughtfulness. But it actually shows with some "specificity" how thoughtless, illogical, and inaccurate Barack’s abortion answers were.

AND it’s reported on NRO’s THE CORNER that McCain and/or his people are calling around to conservative leaders to check out how ticked off they would be if he picked a pro-choice running mate. Amazingly enough, I haven’t been called yet, maybe because they don’t have my new cell number. But here’s my advice: Don’t blow this big advantage you now have on this key issue. Listen, Mac, please: You can’t pick a running mate who can’t honestly say that, in his or her opinion, ROE v. WADE was wrongly decided. No Ridge, no Lieberman, and no some maverick nobody has ever heard of.

Jim Ceaser Vindicates the Kansans

...against a famous author who thinks he knows what’s the matter with them. Kansans know that the Republicans have been more right than not when it comes to national security and the economy, although, God knows, they haven’t always been right. So Jim is confident that they won’t vote to turn the whole government over to the Democrats. Don’t let the Democrats have it all has to be one McCain battle cry among many this fall. (Thanks to Ivan the K.)

Gerson on the Rick Warren Show

Michael’s official message is that McCain did well. My own view is that, overall, Obama did too, and he was probably more comfortable with the format. BUT Gerson’s big news concerns what Barack said that was lame, illogical or evasive enough for Republicans to exploit.

Why Michael Phelps Reminds Me of Senate Elections

Since NLT’s sports editor Pat Garrity seems to have gone on strike, I’ll have to pick up the slack. One of the most impressive aspects of Michael Phelps’ terrific tun in the pool in Beijing (aside from his 12,000 calorie-a-day diet--three fried egg sandwiches and a five-egg omelet for breakfast each day; that’s a man after my own heart attack) is how he wins the close ones. I assume everyone has seen the footage of the butterfly where he was clearly trailing in the last five meters but managed to get his hand to the finish line first anyway. That’s what happens when everything is clicking.

Senate races remind of this. We’ve seen four cycles over the last couple generations where most of the key senate races fell to one party or the other, even in cases where the other party should have won: 1980, 1986, 1994, and 2006. I’d predict another Democratic sweep this year except that Obama may have reverse coattails, as several commentators have suggested. It will be a good test of whether some voters consciously favor divided government, in which case three or four embattled GOP senators will hang on. Unless of course Obama collapses (not out of the question in my mind) and McCain breaks it open, in which case we’d have the paradoxical situation of a Democratic sweep in the senate races. All of which makes handicapping politics this year more peculiar than Olympic gymnastics scoring.

So What? A Thought Experiment

Okay, I suspect this could be a hot potato, but what the heck. Our friends over at have debunked yet another Obama is a secret muslim story. Good that someone in the right-blogosphere is policing pure rumor-mongering from our side of the aisle. It seems to me that Obama’s connection with the Rev. Wright is more damaging than being a muslim.

In fact, let’s stipulate for the purposes of a clarifying discussion that Obama was an actual muslim, and not a supposed closet muslim. So what? Beyond the Article VI clause that there is no religious test for office, why would it make a difference if Obama were a muslim? Do we really think he would try to hand the country over to Osama, or to the mullahs and clerics of Tehran or the West Bank? Or try to impose sharia law on America’s women? Liberal Democrats would lead the charge to impeach him faster than Nancy Pelosi runs into a botox clinic. I’m more worried that he’ll merely want to turn the country over to Jimmy Carter.

To be sure, Americans broadly speaking want their presidents to be religious (polls show that Americans would not want an explicit atheist in the White House), so being a devout muslim, while exotic, should not in itself be a nonstarter. The real problem here is that we can’t make up our mind whether Islam is compatible with Anglo-American democracy, and are afraid to talk about this problem openly. As Pope Benedict found out, if you do try to bring up the deepest roots of this uncertainty, you often get a bad reaction.

Smart Reforms?

The always interesting Charles Murray’s next book will be on education reform. He published a piece on the subject in the Wall Street Journal last week, and has another piece on the New York Post today.

Does the Election Turn on Colorado?

That’s what this expert claims, at least if it were held today.

The Rick Warren Show

Well, both candidates did pretty well on the event MCed by that hugely influential nice guy pastor. One big opportunity was presented to McCain, and I hope he sees it and chooses to use it: Obama said both that he was for ROE v. WADE and that he has no idea when a foetus/baby got human rights. (His defense of ROE--that we have to assume that women are morally serious when they make abortion decisions--was exceptionally lame.) Obama also said that, although he was personally against same-sex marriage, the Constitution leaves mrriage to the states. McCain agreed on where the Constitution places decisions concerning marriage, while being tough on opposing activist, judically lelgislating judges. McCain added said he was certain that babies get rights at conception, and we assume that Mac meant that, although his opinion is quite reasonable, he was far from claiming that Courts should simply identify it with what the Constitution says. The reasonableness of his opinion, by itself, would be enough to negate ROE, without producing a kind of pro-life judicial activism.

Now if even a man of Obama’s great intelligence doesn’t know when unborn babies get rights, or even if they have them at all, doesn’t it follow that such decisions should be left to legislatures? Such decisions have to be made, and our Courts should trump our legislatures only when the evidence is clear. And if marriage is also left to the states, then surely the federal Courts should have nothing to say about any rght to same-sex marriage.

Wouldn’t it be great if McCain actually began a populist campaign (see George Will today on McCain’s need to get populist on something) against rights-based judicial activism? The danger, for example, is not that the people acting through the states might choose same-sex marriage, but that it be imposed on them as a matter of individual rights. Because that campaign would be against judicial mandates that seems to force evangelicals to choose between being good Christians and good American citizens, maybe the enthusiasm gap that plagues Mac so far would start to close.

Mansfield on Solzhenitsyn

The manly Mansfield

explains WHO was the greatest MAN of the 20th century.

The End of the End of History Fantasy

Here’s Kagan’s take on the new realism. The 21th century may well morph into one dominated by autocratic empires that achieve economic prosperity and techno-military power without much personal freedom. The state isn’t withering away anywhere but in Europe. Will the Europeans come out of their postpolitical fantasy to meet the challenges of Russia, China, and so forth? These challenges probably dwarf the one posed by radical Islam, unless an Islamic tyrant rises up with the Machiavellian qualities of, say, Putin. So those who prattle on about the universal victory of liberal democracy or spin libertarian dreams about apolitical globalization will be more and more out of touch. (It goes without saying that I’ve state this thesis provocatively for your consideration.)

THE WASHINGTON POST vs. Russian Propaganda

That fair and balanced paper attempts to editorialize the truth about genocide, ethnic cleansing, and "humanitarian" and "peacekeeping" missions in Georgia. From the Russian view, the U.S. and NATO’s use of such terms is as nothing but fighting words with no "truth value," and so they are perfectly justified in responding in kind.

Cynicism You Can Believe In

In the weeks before the Iowa caucuses Barack Obama was attacked by paleoliberals for saying Social Security had serious problems the next president had a duty to address. Progressives were “outraged,” according to Paul Krugman, because “Social Security isn’t a big problem that demands a solution; it’s a small problem, way down the list of major issues facing America, that has nonetheless become an obsession of Beltway insiders.” One of the reasons Krugman stridently preferred Hillary Clinton or John Edwards to Obama was that they both embraced the party line that, for Democrats, the less said and done about Social Security, the better.

Obama did not merely refuse to adopt this line. He treated it as not just a policy difference with his opponents, but a character difference. In an interview with National Journal on November 6, 2007, Obama said, “[The] American people have a right to judge how clear and how consistent have the candidates been in their positions. Because if they’re not clear and consistent, then it’s pretty hard to gauge how much they’re going to fight on these issues. You know, Senator Clinton says that she’s concerned about Social Security but is not willing to say how she would solve the Social Security crisis, then I think voters aren’t going to feel real confident that this is a priority for her. . . . [The] voters should be concerned that she is running the textbook, classic Washington campaign, which is to avoid giving clear answers and getting pinned down, for fear that somehow you’re going to be tagged, either in the primary or the general election. I think that’s an old way of doing business.”

Thank God we dodged that bullet. Instead of the old, corrupt, dodgy way of doing business, we have Obama’s radically, transformationally new way of doing business, which is . . . strikingly déjà vu-ish. Everything Obama has done and said about Social Security in 2008 amounts to avoiding clear answers and not getting pinned down. During the primaries, he made it reasonably clear that whatever it was America needed to do about Social Security, all the changes were going to involve tax increases, not benefit reductions. At first, he indicated he was open to the idea that the 12.4% payroll tax should apply to all wages. “If we kept the payroll tax exactly the same but applied it to all earnings and not just the first $97,500 [the ceiling before it was adjusted upward for inflation in 2008], we could virtually eliminate the entire Social Security shortfall,” Obama wrote last year. (Ramesh Ponnuru argued that such calculations were overly optimistic.)

In June, after he had secured the nomination, Obama advocated weaker medicine. The tax increase he proposed then for Social Security would have a “doughnut” – wages between the current limit of $102,000 a year and $250,000 would be exempt. Earnings above $250,000 would be subject to . . . something. The boldness of the brave truth-teller’s proposal was undercut slightly when his campaign admitted that, apart from the $250,000 threshold, every detail about the Obama “plan” – “what the rate would be, when it would take effect, whether it would apply to employers, employees, or both, or what the tax base would be” – was still up in the air.

This week, in the Wall Street Journal, Obama’s top economic advisors, Jason Furman and Austan Goolsbee, rendered the Obama Social Security plan clearer - and punier. They began by applauding their boss for doing “what few presidential candidates have been willing to do by making a politically risky proposal to strengthen solvency by asking those making over $250,000 to contribute a bit more to Social Security to keep it sound.” (“Asking?” say the libertarians. Contribute? You mean the rich can say No?) Furman and Goolsbee ruled out applying the full 12.4% tax to income over $250,000. Instead, Sen. Obama “is considering plans that would ask those making over $250,000 to pay in the range of 2% to 4% more in total (combined employer and employee).”

The topper is when the advisors mention, in passing, that the Social Security tax increase “would start a decade or more from now . . . ” That is, in 2018 or later, at least two years after a re-elected Pres. Obama leaves office. Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center threw up his hands when he got to that part. “Do the political math,” he writes. “Take the likelihood of any politician keeping any given promise. Discount for the time he says it will take to fulfill that pledge. Then discount it again if the effective date is scheduled for roughly the time of his post-Presidential book tour. The credibility factor is infinitesimally low. . . . Make no mistake, what Obama is really saying is that, at least for the campaign, he is walking away from Social Security and all of its problems. . . . [In] today’s political environment a tax fix with a 10-year fuse is no fix at all.”

This would all be easier to take if not for the preening by Obama and his advisors about the courage and candor of Mount Rushmore’s next visage. Even as they make it clear that Obama, too, will join the long line of politicians terrified of the third rail of American politics, the Obamanauts urge us to join him in celebrating his bold break with the cynical ways of the past. Talk softly and carry a big stick, said Teddy Roosevelt. Pose bravely and carry a big mirror, says Barack Obama.

Get Ready to Pay Up Deneen!

Recalling my friendly wager with Pat Deneen from just two months ago that oil would come back down below $75 a barrel in the fullness of time, here’s a dude who says it’s heading for $65 soon.

I note also that the most recent stats from the Dept. of Energy show U.S. oil consumption is down 800,000 barrels a day in response to current high prices. Who says markets don’t work?

Strobe Talbott on Russia’s New Doctrine

...which he calls ominous. Russia is deliberately echoing the language the U.S. and NATO used in its 1999 campaign against Serbia--genocide and ethnic cleansing--to describe the alleged war crimes of the Georgians. From the Russian view, it’s payback time, although the analogy really turns history upside down.

Most ominous about this new policy is its aim to undermine the statesmanship of Yeltsin, who converted inter-republic boundaries into international ones to check the aggressiveness of Russian communists and nationalists. His choice not to create a Greater Russia fended off what might have been disastrous ethnic conflict.

But now Russia might be heading in that "greater" direction, with its new intention to disregard the permanence of the borders established in the 1990s.

Nunn of the Above: The Gipper’s Take on the "Highly Overrated Senator"

With the speculation that Obama might choose former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn as his running mate to shore up his national defense credentials, it might be worth taking a look back to when Nunn got his undeserved reputation as a "tough" Democrat on foreign policy. Back in the 1980s, he moved noticeably to the left when he pondered a possible run for president in 1988, especially on the issue of the ABM Treaty interpretation, where he wanted us to concede to the Soviets’ (late) narrow interpretation (after years during which the Soviets wanted the broad interpretation when it favored their missile defense research). Then Nunn rigged to the right (sort of) in opposing the INF Treaty in early 1988.

Reagan took note of Nunn several times in his diary. March 23, 1988: "On INF, San Nunn, a highly overrated senator, is kicking a tantrum which could cause trouble getting it ratified."

Sept. 14, 1988: "Sen. Nunn has become a real pain. He’s acting as if he’s the supreme authority on defense matters."

On still another occasion, Reagan wrote of congressional Democrats (without mentioning Nunn by name): "They are actually sitting on the Soviet side of the negotiating table."

Fairbanks on Georgia and Its Invasion

Here’s some realism from a famous scholar who actually spends lots of time in Georgia. The real cause of the invasion was Russia’s incredible resentment toward the West; they thought of themselves as really striking against us. The Georgian government has become, for all practical purposes, just as nasty and authoritarian as the Russian one. We told Georgian leaders repeatedly not to do anything provocative, and they did anyway. And now the people of Georgia really hate us too. Maybe we should nuke them both (Charles doesn’t really say that, nor do I).


Are the Olympics Creepy?

So says the guy who wrote FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. He actually focuses on one particularly disturbing, abusive, and perhaps voyeuristic sport. It's not what you think: He's OK with women's beach volleyball.
Categories > Sports


Here’s a clear statement of the position that that’s what we’re doing when it comes to the Russian incursion into Georgia. I sort of agree that it probably wasn’t some World Historical moment, and that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be lots more difficult and foolhardy. For me, the jury is still out on the audacity of the Russian hopes.

An Interview with McCain

...where he explains the difference between Ridge and Bloomberg as possible running mates. One is merely pro-choice on abortion, the other is pro- a lot of things. We’re also reminded that Mac’s official statement on ROE v. WADE is clear and accurate.

Next Steppes?

How should America and our allies in Europe respond to Russia’s attempt to annex Georgia, or at least to Finlandize it? ( I take that to be the Russian goal). It seems to be a fait accompli. Georgia will, once again, be part of the Russian Empire.

As we learned in the 20th century, and most centuries before that too, it is bad for a nation to let one its allies be wiped off the map. As ambition feeds ambition, taking one nation will only wet the Russian appetite for more, however irrationally. Doing nothing makes us look like a paper tiger.

But if Russia is about to annex one of our allies, and if we are not going to be able to prevent it, what should we do? There are other reactions that might be reasonable. In particular, we need to make Russia, and other nations of the world, know that we, and our allies in Europe, are serious about self-defense.

Others who are more versed in foreign policy should weigh in, but my first thought to that end, is that both we and our allies should increase the size of their armies. Robin Williams once joked that in England the police are unarmed, so they say, “stop, or I’ll say stop again.” That seems to have become the favored model of diplomacy in Europe. War is no longer seen as diplomacy by other means. It is regarded, like monogamy, as a relic of a former, less enlightened age. Russia, however, does not think that way.

Encouraging Europe to stand up to Russia would be good for both Europe and for Russia.

In his book on Reagan, Thatcher, and John Paul II, John O’Sullivan tells us that President Reagan hoped that SDI would render nuclear missiles obsolete. If they had but a slim chance of hitting their targets, then the world might be made free of them. This idea scared the powers that be in Western Europe. Without nuclear missiles, they feared, the Communists could overwhelm them with their superior conventional forces. MAD, it seems, was a cheep way of deterring the Soviet threat in Europe.

O’Sullivan notes the following exchange. Thatcher: "’If I follow that logic to its implied conclusion,’ she said, ’and do get rid of nuclear weapons, you expose a dramatic conventional imbalance, do you not? And would we not have to restore that balance at considerable expense?’"

Reagan: "’Yes,’ replied Reagan, ’that’s exactly what I imagined.’"

Reagan’s comment makes me wonder whether he saw America’s defense of Europe in the Cold War as a from of welfare. European politics grew somewhat infantile because American protection, combined with MAD, deprived it of the full responsibilities of self-government. Liberal elites like welfare, of course, partly because it makes them feel important. Reagan was more of a tough love kind of guy.

A serious response to Russia, by which I mean an acceptance in the EU and in European capitols that soft-power can never be a sufficient form of diplomacy, might not only be a reasonable response to Russian’s aggression in the narrow sense, showing Russia that Europe will not simply roll over in the face of naked aggression and energy blackmail, it might also be good for the European soul.

2008 battleground states

No, I don’t mean Georgia, Republic or state.

According to Karl Rove (remember him?), they are (drum roll, please) Colorado, Virginia, Michigan, and... (gasp!) Ohio.

The challenge for McCain will be galvanizing the social conservatives while keeping down Obama’s margins among college-educated voters in the suburbs. Tough, but not impossible.

Russia or Georgia?

Here’s the Belmont Club’s take on Putin’s claim that we must choose. If Russia really intends to bring the independent nation of Georgia to a real or virtual end, then we have to make it clear it wasn’t because we chose Russia (for help with Iran or any other reason) over our democratic ally. With Rice’s visit and our mini-"Berlin Airlift" we’re trying to tell the Russian leader that he’s the guy who has to choose.

"How Stupid Can You Be?" Is Not Necessarily a Rhetorical Question

The American Prospect’s Paul Waldman, for example, makes a living contributing these reflections to help sustain the American experiment in self-government:

"Though there was no particular evidence that the tire-gauge attack was having an effect, the McCain campaign’s glee was evident. Just days before, they had alleged that Obama’s criticisms of their tactics constituted ’fussiness and hysteria,’ and now here they were brandishing small, phallic objects bearing their opponent’s name.

"Meanwhile, McCain himself was sent out to pose in front of working oil rigs, to testify to his thirst for pulling more black gold from the earth. The message couldn’t be plainer: See that itty-bitty, little tire gauge? If you vote for Obama, that’s how big your penis is. If you vote for McCain, on the other hand, your penis is as big as this rig, thrusting its gigantic shaft in and out of the ground! Real men think keeping your tires inflated is for weenies."

And: "Republicans . . . have been expert at setting up their rigs to drill deep into the male voter’s lizard brain, down to where sexual insecurity resides. This is where they draw the line connecting the voter’s own worries to the Democratic candidate. This is how they turn fear into contempt and hostility, the same psychological move that makes some men react to an advance from another man – or even the sight of an effeminate man – with hatred and violence. See that Democrat over there? He’s a little prissy, isn’t he? Kind of girly. And if you vote for him, what are people going to think about you?"

Coda to L’Affaire Edwards

Commenters to our right and our left below think we’re being frivolous and/or hypocritical to devote so many pixels to the Edwards matter, what with World War V about to break out in the Caucasus. But there are several serious observations to make about this, several of which are suggested in Bill V’s post below.

It is not simply that Edwards is a hypocrite on several levels that makes this more than just a sex scandal: it is emblematic of a larger problem of contemporary liberalism that no one (except the Clintons!) has come to grips with.

As I explain to students, the paradox of the American presidency is that Americans want to look up to their presidents and presidential candidates, but they don’t want to feel that their presidents (or candidates) are looking back down on them. In other words, we want to put our presidents on a pedestal, but we want them to look at us at eye level. Not an easy trick. It is okay to be a patrician (FDR, JFK, Reagan to some extent, the first president Bush), but it is fatal to be seen as an elitist (Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, . . Obama??)

Now where does Edwards fall in these categories (patrician v. elitist)? Fairly easy call it seems to me.

The alternative is the common touch (Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter, Reagan again to some extent, Clinton, and GW Bush). Edwards tried to affect the common touch with his "son of a millworker"/on the side of the poor populism schtick, but it was obviously fraudulent.

And the aspect of MSM hypocrisy hardly needs to be adumbrated further.

Georgia and Iran: Blockade???

The Belmont Club speculates that things may not have gone as badly for Georgia’s armed forces against Russia as we may think.

Meanwhile, Simon at Classical Values passes along news about a prospective imminent joint US-UK-French naval blockade of Iran (yes you read that right, the French), and how it connects to the Russia-Georgia story.

Now back to Edwards-bashing.

UPDATE: Fred Kagan paints a bleak picture, contrary to the Belmont Club.

McCain by a Landslide?

That’s the opinion of Rush. Ivan the K sent me this link as part of a note saying both that this opinion is increasingly common in the world of conservative blogs and that he’s increasingly inclined to share its optimism. I have to admit that I haven’t yet felt the audacity of hope in the McCain campaign. But things aren’t hopeless either. I won’t dare deny that the character is there is Mac’s case, but I waiting to see more competence. At this point, my tentative guess is that polls actually understate Obama’s lead, because they don’t account for the probable increases in African-American and youthful turnout. I have to add that both Rush and his dittoheads aren’t what they used to be.

No More Strategic Encirclement

That’s the goal of the Russians, according to the authoritative George Friedman. To free themselves from their perception that they’re surrounded, they have to prove that U.S. and NATO guarantees mean nothing. Who can deny that they’re well on their way to doing that? Ukraine should be pretty worried, and what will we or the Europeans do if the Russians act on their thought that Ukraine is "not a real state" with real borders?

Three Cheers for the National Enquirer

I can’t top Bill Voegeli’s takedown of the continuing absurdity of L’affaire Edwards, but I can put in a good word for the National Enquirer. These days all the action is supposedly on the blogosphere, but it was an old fashioned celebrity/gossip rag that did the shoe-leather and palm-greasing reporting that got the story.

And that brought back an old memory, and sure enough I was right: National Review columnist D. Keith Mano wrote way back in 1977 how the Enquirer was the second-most important conservative publication in America (after NR, of course). The piece is not available online, but I got it from the archives. A few samples:

I’ll tell you what America is. America is a three-hundred pound woman. This woman has two dogs, two TVs, hypochondria, and no secondary education. Also she’s broke, bored to tears, over forty (her husband was once alcoholic, unfaithful, crippled or laid off), and yet, despite all, she still believes in life after death. Got to be. She’s the only person who would buy National Enquirer. . .

Sounds rather like the constituency Edwards hoped to build upon for his campaign, doesn’t it? Southern Democrats of an earlier age--Mano alludes to George Wallace--would have understood this. More Mano:

Yet NE is the newspaper for lurid optimism, grossest good news. . . NE is penny-anti. Anti-government. . . Psychics apart, this is straight Wallace social conservatism. . . Contemptible? Sure. But let’s be realistic, very significant as well. Given its circulation National Enquirer is probably the second most important conservative publication in America.

The Candidates’ Favorite Tunes

Here’s some troubling news. Can we really trust the judgment of a man who thinks what ABBA does is music, much less his favorite music? Of course, it’s no better (although no worse) to put Hip Hop at the top.

Is NATO What It Once Was?

George Will says that if Georgia were in NATO, Russia would never have attacked. I have to admit I’m not at all sure about that.

Back to Georgia

This piece makes some sense. A snippet:

What can the West do? The first step is for the U.S. and its allies to rush military and medical supplies to Tbilisi. If we want democracy to survive there, Georgians have to believe that we have their backs. At the moment, the tepidness of the Western response has given them serious cause for doubt. In addition, Washington should lead the effort to devise a list of economic and diplomatic sanctions toward Russia that impose real costs for what Moscow has done. Russia should know that the West has a greater capacity to sustain a new Cold War than Russia, with its petroleum-dependent economy, does.

Next, the West should make use of Russia’s claim that its role in South Ossetia and Abkhazia is driven by the need to protect the populations there. If so, Moscow should have no objections to U.N.-sanctioned peacekeepers and observers moving into those two regions to replace the jerry-rigged system of "peacekeepers" that, until the war broke out, consisted of Russian troops, local separatist militaries and Georgian forces. If nothing else, the goal should be to put Mr. Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, the new Russian president, on their back foot diplomatically.

Read the whole thing.

The Rielle Dielle for Greene Central High

In the statement he released last Friday, John Edwards said, “If you want to beat me up - feel free. You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself.” Perhaps not, Senator, but I never back down from a challenge.

One week before his “Nightline” interview, the Center for Promise and Opportunity in Greensboro, North Carolina announced it was suspending operations. Edwards founded and helped fund the Center. Beginning in 2005, its “College for Everyone” program provided scholarships for poor kids graduating from Greene Central High School in the small town of Snow Hill. Over the first two years the program raised over $600,000 to help 190 students afford college.

Class of 2008 graduates from the high school will also receive financial aid from the program, but they will be its final beneficiaries. The program is being terminated, according to the Center’s director, because it was always intended as a three-year pilot project. Apparently, the hypothesis being tested was that if you give poor students college scholarships, then more of them will go to college. This might seem like a theory that could have been vindicated in a matter of weeks rather than 36 months. I’m not an expert in these matters, however, so I have to assume there were compelling methodological reasons to withhold judgment until three years’ results were in. The alternative explanation – that Sen. Edwards pulled the plug on the program when he realized he wouldn’t be boasting about it in his acceptance speech or any other kind of public address at the 2008 Democratic convention – is too absurd and spiteful to be taken seriously.

“Reaction to the [Center’s] announcement was one of disappointment,” according to one news account, strongly suggesting that the intention for the program to self-destruct after three years had not been announced in advance. The students and parents of Snow Hill, NC may now be able to help scientists test another hypothesis: If people have been led on, then they’ll get pissed off. Preliminary data suggests there might be something to this theory, as well. “Many disappointed students enrolled in the program questioned whether Edwards’ promises were anything more than campaign rhetoric,” according to the story.

Sen. Edwards came to national attention as the fierce critic of our country’s division into two Americas, “one that does the work, and one that gets the reward.” Edwards logged many years in each America. As he occasionally let slip during rare moments of autobiographical revelation on the campaign trail, he was a mill worker’s son. Edwards went on to become a millionaire trial lawyer and build a house the size of Portugal, the better to accommodate unexpected guests on Father’s Day.

Having passed a great deal of time in America #2, the part with warm meals and ample leg room at the front of the plane, Edwards has gotten to know quite a few of his fellow first-class passengers. One of them, a Dallas lawyer with the usefully aristocratic name of Fred Baron, served as the chairman of the Edwards-for-president finance committee. He also paid for Rielle Hunter and Andrew Young, Edwards’ campaign staffer and paternity beard, to move to California. Baron says that he did this “on my own, without talking to Edwards or anybody, to try to help [Hunter and Young] move to a community to try to get away from” tabloid reporters.

Baron and Edwards have, so far, kept their story straight. “I had nothing to do with any money being paid, and no knowledge of any money being paid, and if something was paid, it wasn’t being paid on my behalf,” Edwards said in his “Nightline” interview, during which he seemed both bemused and utterly uncurious about benefactions being given by his friend in America #2 to others of his friends in America #1. No one is surprised that the redistribution of income is one of the results of the Edwards presidential campaign, but this pilot program, undertaken by Mr. Baron, sounds unexpectedly haphazard.

The National Enquirer, one of the few participants to emerge from l’affaire Edwards with enhanced credibility, reported that Ms. Hunter has been receiving $15,000 a month from “a wealthy colleague who was closely tied to the Edwards’ campaign,” a man who has also been “shoveling cash” to Andrew Young. Now that he’s a private citizen with a good deal of time on his hands, perhaps Sen. Edwards could identify and reach out to this philanthropist. A call to Fred Baron seems like a good place to start, though Edwards may have lost the phone number, and even forgotten whether he left it in the part of his house in the eastern time zone or the part in the central.

Still, the effort would be worth taking, since it sounds like the stipends being given to Hunter and Young approximate the low-to-mid-six figure annual budget of the College for Everyone program. “Saving the middle class is going to be an epic battle, and that’s a fight I was born for,” Edwards said in a campaign commercial. If Citizen Edwards could use his legendary charm to persuade the contributor to the charity to match that gift with one to revive College for Everyone, the sons and daughters of the mill workers and waitresses of Snow Hill could continue to help Edwards and America wage that fight.

A Quiet Month (for me, anyway)

Well, we’re headed off in the morning for the annual marathon camping trip. This time we’re headed here and here for sure. Probably also here (where it seems Nature just keeps changing) and possibly here. All of which is just a warm up for the ultimate destination of Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Parks. But I’m really hoping we’ll get to go here while my son is hoping to go to this Dinosaur Center.

In any event, we’ll be busy and my access to the Internet (and electricity, running water, television and newspapers) will be less than limited until next month when I’ll have quite a bit of catching up to do in order to be ready for this.

Carter or Reagan?

Some have called Barack Obama the second coming of Jimmy Carter. Others have said that the appropriate historical parallel is Ronald Reagan--the eloquent semi-outsider who turned a close election into an epoch-making landslide. Our own Andy Busch isn’t persuaded by the latter analogy.

Read the whole thing.    

Is Georgia Gone?

It does seem as if Russia can and probably will occupy all of Georgia over the next day or two.

Random Observations

1. Greetings from the Hotel Boulderado in Boulder, Coloradeo, where I’ll be speaking today (to the Miller Fellows etc.) on "How Significant IS the American Character?" Please drop by if your bobo-izing around Boulder. I saw the legendary Dr. Pat Deneen here last night, who expressed his deep admiration for NLT threaders.

2. The greatest WOMAN of the 20th century turns out to be, according to the preponderance of our expert testimony, Mother Teresa (no h). We’re still uncertain on whether she was great as a woman or as a Christian who happens to be a woman. We remember, of course, that Jesus was a man.

3. JWC turned our attention away from this issue: Who was the greatest WOMAN artist, novelist, poet, or philosopher of the 20th century?

When the Headlines Hit Home

I’m sure everyone was stunned by the news that Russian troops have moved into Georgia, and heavy fighting is reported in several cities. For members of the NLT community the story is especially alarming, as we wait for word that our friends, Joe Knippenberg of Atlanta’s Oglethorpe University and Peter Lawler of Berry College in the northwestern corner of the state, are out of harm’s way. I believe I speak for all NLT contributors and readers when I say that our thoughts and prayers are with both of you and your families during this difficult time.

Big Three to Become Little Three?

I recall about 20 years ago economist John Rutledge predicting that General Motors would not longer exist some day. Looks like that day may be drawing near.

Fake Snow or Fake Lawsuit?

Eugene Volokh, kappelmeister of the Volokh Conspiracy, directs our attention to this interesting court ruling where a group of Navajo indians native Americans sued the government to prohibit the use of man-made snow in a ski resort on federal land in Arizona. Seems the recycled water contained a tiny amount of human waste, which offended the spiritual sensibilities of the Navajos. The court, the normally wacky 9th Circuit, disagreed, and sent the plaintiffs packing.

I suspect this was really an environmental lawsuit--the greens don’t like downhill skiing--disguised as a religious freedom lawsuit. And it is confusing: I thought we are supposed to be for recycling?

L’Affaire Edwards

There has been so much said the last few days about the snake John Edwards that there didn’t seem much left to say, but this story by Newsweek’s Jonathan Darman is breathtaking, for what it indicates about what a nutcase this Hunter woman is, how silly a person Edwards must be, and how clueless a reporter Darman must be not to have seen this coming.

Almost makes you long for the good old days of comprehensible sex scandals, like Gary Hart and Bill Clinton.

UPDATE: It gets weirder: Apparently there are psychics and astrologers involved in the story.

Free Frank on the Russian Invasion of Georgia

Warner thinks the Europeans have plenty of reason to worry, given their dangerous dependence of Russian oil.

When Bad Things Happen to Bad People

The morning-after consensus is that John Edwards’ political career is over. Few NLT readers are shattered. As for Elizabeth Edwards, however, her status as “one of the more sympathetic figures on the national stage” may be, if anything, enhanced by the interview her husband gave ABC. It shouldn’t be. Being married to a cheating husband is a bad thing, and having terminal cancer is a really bad thing, but neither precludes the possibility or erases the considerable evidence that she, too, is a hyper-ambitious, lying hypocrite.

David Bonior, the campaign manager for John Edwards’ 2008 presidential run, said yesterday, “Thousands of friends of the senator’s and his supporters have put their faith and confidence in him and he’s let [them] down. They’ve been betrayed by his action.” The biggest reason the respectable press gave for treating the Edwards adultery as a non-story for as long as possible was the need to protect the brave and beleaguered Mrs. Edwards from further indignities.

The reality, however, is that as far as the Rielle Hunter story affected the John Edwards presidential campaign, Elizabeth Edwards was not a victim but an accomplice. In separate statements yesterday, both John and Elizabeth say he confessed his affair to her in 2006. That means they both spent the entirety of 2007, when he was running for president, lying about it. The Edwards-for-president volunteers, donors and staffers who were betrayed by him were betrayed by her, too.

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but the inescapable conclusion is that Elizabeth Edwards behaved far less honorably than Hillary Clinton did in similar circumstances. In the famous “60 Minutes” interview Bill and Hillary gave together in 1992, in the aftermath of the Jennifer Flowers story, they offered a carefully phrased discussion of “problems” in their marriage, making clear that they would be going no further in the direction of nationally televised marital counseling. Then Hillary said, “And you know, if that’s not enough for people, then heck, don’t vote for him.”

By contrast, “both John and Elizabeth Edwards cynically used their marriage as a means to help John Edwards win an election,” according to Lee Stranahan, an embittered Edwards fan. “They made a conscious decision to make their relationship a focus throughout the campaign. . . . Then when the rumors first surfaced, they made the worst decision of all; they decided to lie about it and to keep lying about it for months.”

It’s beyond pathetic that Sen. and Mrs. Edwards were so desperate to join the ultra-exclusive POTUS/FLOTUS club. Elizabeth Edwards now says that that she wanted their private matter to stay private because “as painful as it was I did not want to have to play it out on a public stage as well.” Running for president, however, is an unorthodox way to shun the limelight. Reasonable people can disagree about how much of a presidential candidate’s private life is of legitimate interest to voters and journalists. The reality our age, however, is that a couple cannot spend 16 months telling everyone who’ll listen that they can get an idea of what a good president he would be by reflecting on his exceptional virtues as husband and father, and then insist that the interior of their marriage is nobody’s damn business.

Even now, after the central part of their elaborate and desperate fabrication has been demolished, and their dreams of political glory smashed, Mrs. Edwards believes she can still score integrity points by lashing out at the “voyeurism” and “string of hurtful and absurd lies in a tabloid publication.” As Stranahan notes, however, “both John and Elizabeth Edward are calling the people who caught him the liars.” A supermarket tabloid turned out to have much smaller credibility problems than a presidential candidate and his wife. Exhibitionists forfeit the right to complain about voyeurs.

An Announcement from Steve

. . . on my return to regular blogging (after I catch up on surfing). Here’s why:

Mahoney Has the Answers

...when it comes to Solzhenitsyn

Coming Soon: Amy Winehouse Speaks Out on the Importance of Sobriety

From The Independent, two days ago.

Save the Secret Ballot

George McGovern lashes out at his fellow Democrats for supporting "card check" legislation:

As a congressman, senator and one-time Democratic nominee for the presidency, I’ve participated in my share of vigorous public debates over issues of great consequence. And the public has been free to accept or reject the decisions I made when they walked into a ballot booth, drew the curtain and cast their vote. I didn’t always win, but I always respected the process. . . .

That is why I am concerned about a new development that could deny this freedom to many Americans. As a longtime friend of labor unions, I must raise my voice against pending legislation I see as a disturbing and undemocratic overreach not in the interest of either management or labor. . . .

Instead of a private election with a secret ballot overseen by an impartial federal board, union organizers would simply need to gather signatures from more than 50% of the employees in a workplace or bargaining unit, a system known as "card-check." There are many documented cases where workers have been pressured, harassed, tricked and intimidated into signing cards that have led to mandatory payment of dues. . . .

Some of the most respected Democratic members of Congress -- including Reps. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, George Miller and Pete Stark of California, and Barney Frank of Massachusetts -- have advised that workers in developing countries such as Mexico insist on the secret ballot when voting as to whether or not their workplaces should have a union. We should have no less for employees in our country.

George McGovern the right wing of the Democratic party?

Thirty years ago

As a young graduate student, I attended the panel discussion recorded on the DVD pictured here, and soon to go on sale on Amazon.

Bloom, Gadamer, Voegelin, and others--should be interesting, and will certainly jog my memory.

Hat tip: our friend, John von Heyking, to whose latest book project I’m pleased to have contributed an essay.

Northern Lights for a New McCain Narrative?

Jonah Goldberg is cruising Alaska and argues that the 49th state holds a combination of black gold, Republican whipping boy, and an intriguing (not to mention attractive) young governor that--when combined--could set the McCain narrative on sorely needed new arc . . . or should we say, "ark."

"America is no longer what it could be, what it once was."

. . . "And I say to myself, I don’t want that future for my children." This is what Barack Obama told a 7 year-old in response to the question, "Why do you want to be President."

There are so many things one could say about a remark like that and, yet, I am trying contain my anger. As a mother, my first reaction is to think of the little girl to whom he is speaking. Do you tell a little kid that their country is damaged goods and expect that to inspire the child (or anyone else within earshot)? These are not the words of a statesman--they are the words of a crank.

And notice that he is (as usual) vague about the terms up for discussion. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s winging it. We are not "what [we] could be, what [we] once [were]"? Well . . . that’s certainly true. We no longer have slavery. We no longer have segregated lunch counters. We no longer sit in perpetual fear of an evil empire with a nuclear arsenal pointed in our direction. We no longer watch helplessly as crippling diseases like Polio ravage through our communities. We no longer watch small businesses crumble as they pay the confiscatory tax rates of the late 1970s. So, yes, there are a good number of ways in which we have changed . . . and, I suppose, there’s an equal number of ways in which our country has changed that would not inspire my enthusiastic approval. So what? On balance, what reasonable American can deny that this is still--for all her flaws--the greatest country in the history of the world? If we can be better, Barack Obama is not the man to show us how.

What, exactly, is it that Senator Obama imagines cries out for his divine intervention? In what ways were we better before and in what ways are we worse now according to "Him." And what hubris must he have in order to imagine that the mere election of a "community organizer" and part time politician to the highest office in the land would, somehow, reverse all of America’s ills and create a future that is suitable for the Obama girls?

It is an outrageous statement and it exposes him--not only as a pompous, silly little man deserving of no serious consideration--but as an ungrateful, uninformed and unimaginative political rookie.

Hear Her Roar

Here’s a question from a devoted NLT reader: Who’s the greatest WOMAN of the 20th century?

All Roads Lead to Ohio . . .

. . . and the Obama campaign knows it. The reporter from this piece does not appear to think that this is good news for Mr. Obama--nevermind his dismissive remarks at the end where he speculates that their less than adoring reception of Obama stems from a lack of melanin and college degrees. I hope that the Obama campaign continues to think like this reporter and that it continues to act accordingly. No wonder people are tired of him.

Now, it seems that he is having a particularly rough time in the Southeastern part of the state (Zanesville, especially) where people just aren’t buying whatever it is that Obama seems to be selling. On the other hand, that section of the state is not a Republican stronghold--just ask Deborah Pryce. This is Bob Ney’s old district and Jack Space’s current one. There is room for McCain to make some inroads there among the undecideds.

One thing McCain should remember to do when he does go there is to make sure that as many people who want to attend his event can do so. And he should speak about energy or something that people in that area actually care about. I discovered while visiting a couple weeks ago that Obama’s big speech delivered in Zanesville on his version of the "Faith Based Initiative" was an invitation only event and included all of 25 people. Moreover, people in Zanesville (at least those who were not among the 25) are about as interested in a faith-based initiative as they are in salt on Mars. There’s nothing wrong with doing an invitation only event and, of course, there’s nothing wrong with a sensible response from the government to faith-based charity efforts . . . but Zanesville isn’t Columbus and a visit from a Presidential candidate is no small thing. It was a big deal to them and Obama blew it. After his big speech, there was a sense in Zanesville that they had been used to showcase an issue that isn’t even on their top 20 list. McCain would do well to correct and profit from Obama’s mistake.

Timing is Everything

An otherwise clever ad campaign demonstrates this truism with tragic irony. McCain’s otherwise silly use of Britney and Paris in his campaign ads last week appears, now, to look wise. But that’s only because Obama is doing everything he can to help McCain in this by attacking the ad and giving the appearance (whether founded or not--and I guess that depends on when you ask him) that he agrees with critics who think the ads were racist.

In the meantime, this news cannot be good for Obama. With almost half of America claiming to be sick of hearing about you, the time may not be ripe for a whiz-bang spectacle of a convention in a football stadium.

Speaking of timing . . . with Congress now out of session for their five-week vacation (returning just in time to go out and campaign for a couple weeks) and the energy issue sitting in limbo, now might be a very good time for Republicans to remember that while the President’s approval ratings hover somewhere around 30%, the approval ratings for the DEMOCRATIC controlled Congress are only half as good. Wouldn’t now be a very good time to go for broke, double down, and bring it home? If Obama thinks he’s going to tie John McCain to George W. Bush and make hay with that, why not tie Barack Obama to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid? Why not tie every Democrat running for Congress to them? After all, unless a Democrat plans to vote against Pelosi or Reid in the leadership a vote for that Democrat is tantamount to an endorsement of the record of this failed Congress.


The busy part of the summer is over since the MAHG program has come to an end. I slept most of two days, then started reading, one for pleasure, one for duty, two for both: Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake; Robert H. Ferrell’s Grace Coolidge; John Stauffer’s, Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln; and Mark Stein’s How the States Got Their Shapes.

Random Observations

1. I’m writing from DESTIN, FLORIDA at BAD ASS COFFEE. Destin is very, very overbuilt and might cause someone to become an environmentalist. But the beaches and the water remain pretty pristine, showing both the resilence of nature on the Redneck Riviera and reason for concern about offshore drilling in this beautiful part of the world.

2. Thanks for all the wonderful Solzhenitsyn posts. I got a couple of private emails asking: What are we to make of Solzhenitsyn’s support for Putin?

3. I liked Julie’s post below on postmodern Barack. But in my opinion his intense self-orientation is really hypermodern. Genuine postmodernism would be a return to realism, as I explain in POSTMODERNISM RIGHTLY UNDERSTOOD.

The New Catalog of Sins

Thanks to Ken for passing along this very amusing essay by Stanley Fish in which he catalogs all of the near occasions of sin against the environment he cannot seem to avoid and the reasons, therefore, he is obviously going to go to hell. He should be a Catholic. If he were, it sounds like the time he’s spending doing penance with that wife of his might buy him time out of purgatory.

Of Tire Gauges and Energy Sages

A few weeks ago, before Barack Obama came down from the heavens to enlighten us peasants about the wonders of tire inflation, my husband and I bought a new car. Well . . . let’s just say that it is "new" to us. It’s actually a 2004 model but it has low miles, was an amazing deal, and is a top-of-the-line Eddie Bauer edition Ford Expedition. More important (from my point of view, of course) is that it’s a beautiful shade of RED. I know everyone is probably shocked to learn that I drive a great-big dirty SUV and I feel no particular compulsion to defend myself on moral grounds. But with gas at close to $4 a gallon, I will defend myself on intellectual and economic grounds, by saying that we need the big engine to pull our travel trailer and, beyond that, I very rarely drive more than 10 miles a day.

Now, we were used to the gas-guzzling ways of this particular kind of vehicle (having traded in a 1997 model in order to buy this one) but our ’97 model, though thirsty, had a smaller 4.6 engine and so it was a little less demanding on our wallet. After about a week’s worth of driving, we discovered that the new car was only getting around 10-11 miles to the gallon. So guess what my genius husband did? He added more air to the tires! Imagine that! He didn’t even need a friendly Democrat to give him instructions . . . he came up with that idea all by himself!

But Barack Obama is still angry (or should I say showing himself to be thin-skinned) over the antics of some Republicans who are showing up at his rallies with tire-gauges imprinted with the slogan, "Obama’s Energy Plan." Obama complains that the attack is thick-headed and out-of-touch first, because it is not a comprehensive understanding of his total plan (as so many of the Obama attack slogans have been cerebral and fair in response to McCain) and second, because inflating your tires is actually a good idea.

“It’s like these guys take pride in being ignorant. They think it’s funny that they’re making fun of something that is actually true.”
Talk about thick-headed! Perhaps they don’t teach humor at Harvard or, more likely, they do teach their graduates to engage in a form of "noblesse oblige" and condescension that, after awhile, they can’t even recognize in themselves. Memo to Barack: No one is laughing at the idea of properly inflating your tires . . . we’re laughing at the idea that you think you’ve stumbled upon some hot tip there. Inflate your tires to the proper levels? Are you kidding me?! The fact that you apparently think this is some great revelation tells us more about you (and what you think about us) than almost anything you’ve ever said. Next we’ll all be learning that brushing your teeth prevents tooth decay.

The Wizards of Denver

I link to this from Breitbart for the headline alone. Wizardry is a good word in this context.

Is Barack Obama a Post-Modernist?

Jonah Goldberg thinks Obama’s Messianic impulse might better be explained as a kind of Postmodern impulse. Since it’s probably a toss-up, I’ll leave it to others to call the matter. But this paragraph from Jonah is priceless and bears repeating:

The Obama campaign has a postmodern feel to it because more than anything else, it seems to be about itself. Its relationship to reality is almost theoretical. Sure, the campaign has policy proposals, but they are props to advance the narrative of a grand movement existing in order to be a movement galvanized around the single idea of movement-ness. Obama’s followers are, to borrow from David Hasselhoff--another American hugely popular in Germany--hooked on a feeling. "We are the ones we have been waiting for!" Well, of course you are.
It’s embarrassing to admit, but it reminds me of the time when, as a teenager, I realized I wasn’t really as heartbroken over an unrequited crush as I imagined. I hadn’t really been in love with the boy, I realized, but in love with the idea of being in love. That, and probably I was suffering from a healthy bit of wounded vanity. What will the voters do when they realize that their crush on Obama is similarly unfounded? Here’s hoping that it is more his vanity and less theirs that suffers the blow.


Francis Fukuyama loses a bet.

Letter to Obama

The Nation publishes an open letter to Obama, a warning shot, if you will, from the Left. The letter includes this paragraph:

"Since your historic victory in the primary, there have been troubling signs that you are moving away from the core commitments shared by many who have supported your campaign, toward a more cautious and centrist stance--including, most notably, your vote for the FISA legislation granting telecom companies immunity from prosecution for illegal wiretapping, which angered and dismayed so many of your supporters."

Signers include: Barbara Ehrenreich, Tom Hayden, Eric Foner, Studs Terkel, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Gore Vidal, Howard Zinn, et al.

Harmonizing Europe

This George Will piece, deftly moving from Alexander to Brussels, reminds us--perhaps unintentionally--what an accomplishment the United States of America is, and even why it is worth the keeping. Will’s penultimate sentence--again with a different intent--is worth noting regarding our, essentially, healthy condition. Annuit Coeptis.

Skip Caray, RIP

Terry Eastland appreciates the late Skip Caray, as did I.

But there’s just one thing: how can he not say that Harry Caray broadcast for the Cubs (after the Cardinals)?

There are still two other Carays in the broadcast business--Skip and Josh, the latter a former student of mine ( a couple of classes, at least) now working the Braves’ affiliate in Rome, GA.

Kristol VP Gossip

Here it is. Let’s hope Mac is intrigued by YOUTH, but not by BIPARTISANSHIP.


He was, of course, the greatest MAN of the 20th century.

Impeachment lite

Jeremy Rabkin bemusedly describes his experiences testifying before John Conyers’s House Judiciary Committee. Entertaining, to say the least.

Ehrenhalt on demographic inversion

Alan Ehrenhalt reminds me why he’s one of my two favorite writers on things urban. In this piece, he talks about the migration of wealthy and young folks (largely white) back to central cities and the movement of "traditional" inner city dwellers (African-Americans and immigrants) to the suburbs. He reminds us that this was the 19th century European model, which isn’t an altogether ringing endorsement (think of the Parisian banlieue, with its "vertical Corbusian ghettos").

Obama at Chicago Law

Apologies for my absence--a wasted week punctuated by minor surgery, the aftereffects of which I’m still feeling. So I’m playing catch-up.

This NYT article and this earlier TNR piece paint a picture of Barack Obama’s ethereal existence at the University of Chicago Law School--engaged on a "personal" level with the students, but not really intellectually with his colleagues.

“I don’t think anything that went on in these chambers affected him,” said Richard Epstein, a libertarian colleague who says he longed for Mr. Obama to venture beyond his ideological and topical comfort zones. “His entire life, as best I can tell, is one in which he’s always been a thoughtful listener and questioner, but he’s never stepped up to the plate and taken full swings.”

He was apparently somewhat closer, of course, to Cass Sunstein and Geoffrey Stone, two of the prominent liberals on the Law School faculty.

But his political career always came first, despite the best efforts of the folks there to hire him on the basis of the very thinnest of resumes.

Big Daddy Barack

Duane Patterson points us to a speech from Michelle Obama on July 28 in which she attempts to explain complain that women need an advocate like her in the White House in order to address the eternal female angst of wearing too many hats. Government can step in, she argues, and create policies to ease their pain. Barack can take some of the pressure from all those hats off of their heads. Perhaps it is helpful to have a big head when you start taking away other people’s hats? Of course, there is a big problem with all of what Michelle Obama is saying (mainly that it is blather) but there’s a more obvious problem too.

If Barack Obama is such a master at dissipating female angst, why has Michelle got so much of it? Why can’t she feel assured when she is working that her girls are well? Why can’t she be content when she is with her girls and not feel anxiety about needing to do more work? She claims to have come to grips with the fact that there is no machine to clone her so she can be in more than one place at a time (doing it all, of course). She claims to have accepted that there will never be enough hours in the day for her to satisfy all the demands on her labor. But it sounds to me like she’s still looking. What’s even more amazing (and ladies, you will understand me here), she’s still looking in the same darn place and at the same darn face: Big Daddy Barack. When he is president, apparently, government will be have to be saddled with the job of calming the female heart. Men . . . I guess you will have to keep sucking it up and, no doubt, paying for it.

Obama Bubble?

Michael Barone writes that Obama’s slim lead seems to be dissipating in the wake of his much hyped world tour. There was a slight increase in his numbers at the peak of that tour but, in the days following it, one poll (the Gallup/USA Today poll of so-called "likely voters") McCain even had a slight lead. As Barone explains, this particular poll is considered less a true reflection of where the race stands than an accurate measurement of the direction in which enthusiasm is trending.

If that is all true then Obama’s balloon may not be on the verge of bursting, exactly, but it may be slowly deflating like a forgotten Mylar Birthday balloon left in the corner long after the flowers have lost their bloom. Still, McCain’s strategy probably should not be one of waiting it out. Pins in a deflating Mylar balloon will not cause it to "pop" but they certainly can speed things up. Here’s hoping McCain will use sharper pins than Britney and Paris.

How Progressives Read the Constitution

From the preface to Correa Walsh’s 1915 book, The Political Science of John Adams:

The theory reviewed in this work is obsolete, but it was extensively in vogue at the time of the framing of our American constitutions. In fact, we live under arragements produced by a modified form of it. Our State and Federal systems of two chambers and veto-possessing governors or presidents, are remnants of the old theory of mixed government. Luckily the entire theory was not carried out of having all the elements equal in the mixture; yet, unfortunately, it was applied to the extent of making two of them nearly so. Although the balance was not brought up to its ideal, the opportunity for obstruction was suffered to remain.

It is submitted that a theory which has passed away but which has left its effect, is highly deserving of sudy, and in its most perfect manifestation.

The study may also lead to practical results. The theory which presided at their birth being a thing of the past, the form still lasting of our governments is an anachronism, and the question arises whether it should longer continue.

The burden of Adams’ argument was that putting "all authority in one center, that of the nation" (in the words of the French minister and intellectual, Turgot) was a terrible idea. On the contrary, Adams argued that checks and balances were necessary. Adams believed both in separations of power among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches and in a bicameral legislature coupled with an executive armed with a veto. (The burden of his Defence of the Constitutions was, in part, that the separations of power, in practice, need such a "tri-cameral" legislative branch in order to rest secure.)

In this passage from Walsh, we see that, in the first part of the 20th Century, American intellectuals, flush with the belief in progress, concluded that our constitution, with its system of checks and balances was an anachronism, and they sought to change it. Before he became President, Woodrow Wilson praised the Parliamentary system as superior to the American constitutional system. For most of the 20th century, America’s intellectuals regarded checks and balances as anachronistic. The argument between Progressive intellectuals and the founders’ constititon is still very much with us. What has changed is that, a century after the Progressive movement developed, many American intellectuals regard the Progressive tradition as the authentic American tradition.