Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Cheer Up!

Here’s the ABC/WaPo Poll, which shows McCain gaining considerable ground and lurking around the margin of error. The two things holding him back: the economy and the incredibly unpopular President Bush, who apparently has gotten even more unpopular.

The Senate Races

...look pretty bad. There are two polls out today in Georgia showing the challenger Jim Martin surging and now within the margin of error of Senator Saxby Chambliss. Martin is an attractive candidate, and he’s been runing some focused, witty commercials link Saxby with President Bush. Chambliss is listed on RCP as the 12th most likely Republican to lose, and the blurb says he’s heavily faovred for reelection. (And until very lately nobody much in Georgia thought Martin had a chance.) The RCP most recent poll has Dole down eight in NC, Smith down five in Oregon, and McConnell up only one in Kentucky. There is more than one way the Democrats could get to 60.

More political capital

Our friend Jon Schaff offers his response to my earlier post here. My question: will products of the system change the system? If they can change the system, do we really need to change the system?

Sarah Palin on Hugh Hewitt

I note that Sarah Palin will be appearing on the Hugh Hewitt show in about 15 minutes . . . of course, Hewitt will re-air the interview in the third hour if you miss it.

"Crap Sandwiches As Far As the Eye Can See?"

So concludes Jonah Goldberg in his L A Times column today. There are a number of interesting (and scathing) shots taken at our all of our fine elected officials--including, especially, Republicans. But I cannot write this without noting one particularly interesting quote from Barack Obama discovered in this article.

Apparently, yesterday as the Dow sank 777+ points, Barack Obama proclaimed the following while campaigning in Colorado: "We’ve got the long-term fundamentals that will really make sure this economy grows." So let me get this straight . . . he now agrees with McCain?

As Jonah says, "Perhaps after Al Qaeda seizes Baghdad, a President Obama would finally declare, ’Hey, we can win this thing!’"

Sowell on the Bailout

Tom reminds us that it was the Bush administration that tried and failed to regulate Fannie. More than that, there were prescient warnings from the administration that the prospect of the inevtiable bailout would enable their excessively risky business, which the Democrats hailed. Fannie and Freddie don’t deserve to be bailed out, but rather phased out. But it’s still the case the ordinary guy shouldn’t be forced to bear most of the burden of all this irresponsibility.

And just to show you how quickly my thinking can "evolve," it’s no longer clear to me that voting NO yesterday was all that stupid. Individual representatives didn’t think their vote should cost them their seats, and their calls and letters really were suggesting that they would have to pay the ultimate price. Meanwhile, the Democrats can’t afford to act without the Republicans, given the unpopularity of any kind of bailout. So the Republicans remain in a good bargaining position and can certainly get more concessions.

A genuinely bipartisan deal would create a situation where neither party could campaign for or against the bailout. It seems that Pelosi really did violate the "subtext" of the deal, if deal there was. McCain would obviously benefit from getting the perception of crisis behind us, and by anything tht would improve the economy short-term. But maybe the Democrats don’t obviously benefit from extended national reflection on why the bailout is necessary.

Political capital

This WaPo article points to a political problem that complicates immensely our efforts to deal with our economic problems: people don’t trust our political institutions to deal competently with these issues.

Part of that is simply emblematic of the gap between our political (and business) elites and those folks who live in flyover country. Part of it is also an unwillingness to look in the mirror and recognize how our unrealistic expectations (of the appreciation of our houses, the size of our houses relative to our incomes, the returns we can expect on our investments) left us open to the, er, creativity of various sorts of financiers.

So we face at least a threefold challenge. The first is putting together a package that has enough votes to pass Congress. I’m confident that after Rosh Hoshonnah, our "leaders" will look at the markets and the polls and find the will to do something that restores a modicum of confidence to our financial industry. That’s the easy part. Yes, you read that right.

Second, we have to come to grips with the fact that in our fabled competitive global marketplace, hard work and even harder savings are going to be rewarded with more modest returns than we were accustomed to. Those who want to get rich quick (most of us) will have to learn that that often also means getting poor quick and that the royal road to "commodious self-preservation" doesn’t get us there quickly and effortlessly. We’ll have to learn that cleverness is not a virtue, and that self-restraint and patience are. That’s hard, but there are plenty of places where we can learn it, if only we turn off our televisions and talk to our grandparents or go to churches (with the noteworthy exception of those that preach the gospel of prospertity).

Third, our political and economic elites are going to have to rebuild public trust in our institutions. I don’t have a magic prescription here, but a little less clever talk, a little less pandering, and some genuinely sober action are surely good places to begin. If there is a human nature, courage will be recognized and admired, even by people who don’t see much of it.

Truth and Beauty

In these confusing and almost depressing times, it’s a fine idea to divert yourself from your troubles with a very tasteful website that features a picture of and silly sayings by ME.

It Was Really, Really Dumb

...for so many Republicans to vote against the "bailout" or "rescue." Dean Barnett gives the reasoning of the two factions who voted against it. Neither is impressive. Sometimes you have to have the courage to just do what has to be done, even if it’s unpopular and somewhat contrary to your basic principles. It’s the ordinary guy, obviously, who’ll take the biggest hit if a Depression-type meltdown actually occurs. And that would hardly be the ticket to the Republicans doing at least not terribly in the election. If you scroll down, you’ll see that Bill Kristol recommends that McCain once again suspend his campaign until something is done. I’m not forgetting that lots of Democrats also voted NO for very different and even less credible reasons.

Capitalism to the Rescue

If the danger to our financial system is as serious as many of our most intelligent and most informed people fear, and if, as we have seen in the past few weeks, our political leaders are not up to the task, could the private sector step up, as as J. P. Morgan famously did in 1907?

Presumably, our ten biggest private equity/ hedge funds, plus our biggest pension plans (CALPERS, etc.), plus groups like TIAA-CREF could raise $200 billion, perhaps much more in a hurry. Moreover, their balance sheets would suffer if the market tanks and if we have a severe recession. Hence it would be in their interest to act.

If we want to show Americans that they need not look to government to solve their problems, what beter time than the present?

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

Did community activists, threatening banks with lawsuitscause the housing bubble?

Obama and Iraq

Andy Busch looks at Obama’s opinion of the war in Iraq and and how he conflates the war with the occupation to suit his purposes. McCain should stay after him on this.  

Kristol on How McCain Can Still Win

Bill seems to say that the point has to be hammered home that Obama is way too liberal domestically and not really a friend of the middle class. Obama’s invocation of Wright’s hostility to middleclassness should also be employed. And the assault should begin with Sarah on Thursday. I completely agree that Sara has been mis- or overhandled, and I even predicted that would almost inevitably happen and warned against it. But she’s not really the one to turn things around at this point. I mainly posted this to show that Bill agrees that the McCain situation is fairly desperate and some new strategy (and, of course, tactics) is required to save the day.

More O Mo’

The two polls that include 9/27, Gallup and Rasmussen, have Obama at 50% and definitely beyond any margin of error ahead. The RCP electoral vote tally now has Obama at 301 and Intrading is Obama at about 58%. So it appears that Obama did get a very small but very real bump for the debate. He seemed safe and presidential enough. It would be amazing if the later debates are strikingly more favorable to McCain than this frist one, and the VP debate won’t really make much difference, assuming our Sarah has her groove back and Biden doesn’t say something really, really stupid. McCain’s main hope is that economic fears will get under control over the next couple of weeks and other concerns and issues become more important again.

The Saturday Poll on the Debate

...shows a small but real tilt to Obama, especially among the independents and undecideds. (Despite the fact that almost all the debate experts called it a drawn or small victory for McCain.) The big reason: Obama came off as a plausible president. So did McCain. But people want change, as long as it’s safe. One important difference between this election and 1980, of course, is that McCain isn’t the incumbent. Not only that, he’s the self-proclaimed maverick who, at this point, contends (as Saturday Night Live mocked last night) that he was a relentlessly severe critic and never a reliable ally of the President Bush. My own view, to repeat, is that that maverick stuff plays pretty well in foreign policy, but doesn’t work very well on the economy etc.

Depression Next Week?

Bill Kristol says the experts really fear it’s possible, unless we take measures nobody much is considering right now. I tend to agree we’re very vulnerable to a mega-ripple effect, and I’m not at all sure anyone with power really knows what to do.

Fair and Balanced Once Again

A man from THE WASHINGTON POST appreciatively details why McCain deserves to be declared the winner of the debate.

Ralph’s Manifesto

...Hancock is really cooking with gas, as they say, on the pomocon blog. He’s issued a deeply thoughtful and most timely manifesto, which has produced a lively and
provocative discussion. At no extra charge, he’s added a great and deeply personal reading list. Click and scroll is my advice to you all.

One More Debate Thought

The actual post-debate polls give a narrow but real advantage to Obama, including among independents and undecided. Why? My theory all along: There are real parallels between this election and 1980. People perceive incompetence threatening peace and especially prosperity. They want change, as long as its not dangerous or extremist. That’s the standard to which Obama is being held. He, like Reagan, will win if he looks reasonable enough not to be scary. Some say the fact that he said he agreed with McCain eight times or so was a sign of weakness. But maybe not: The more they agree, the more it’s safe to go ahead with the new guy. Driving around Rome, GA this morning, I saw lots of places out of gas and others with long lines. It reminds anyone old enough of 1979 and Carterism in general. McCain might have done well in enough in distancing himself from the perceived incompetence in Bush’s foreign policy, but I’m afraid (but not sure) he can’t do it in domestic policy. So it’s already pretty clear my modest bump for Mac prediction is probably wrong.

What McCain Might Say . . .

Jack Pitney on the debate:

Early in the debate, Obama asked rhetorically: “The question, I think, that we have to ask ourselves is, how did we get into this situation in the first place?” Instead of talking abstractly about greed, McCain might have said: “Senator Obama wants to know how the trouble started. He might ask his close adviser Jim Johnson, who headed Fannie Mae and got an exorbitant pay package.”

Obama promised that we would deliver a tax cut to 95 percent of Americans. McCain could have said: “Senator Obama has made a lot of promises. In 2005, he promised that he wouldn’t run for president. In 2007, he promised that he would work aggressively to ensure public financing of the presidential campaign. In 2008, he promised to fire any staffer who attacked Governor Palin’s family. He broke all those promises. And now he promises to cut your taxes. Right.”

P.S. For an argument that the liberal push for affirmative action in lending led to the current crisis, see this vdeo.

The Case for the Bailout

Bruce Bartlett explains why the financial sector is unlike any other:

The basic problem is that the financial sector faces systemic risk in a way that no other industry does: By its nature, it is a house of cards that can collapse at a moment’s notice. . . .

First, the vast bulk of the nation’s money supply is in the form of bank deposits, not currency and coin. No bank on earth could pay even a fraction of its depositors if they all demanded all their funds in cash immediately. This is called a run on the bank (and is very familiar to anyone who has ever watched "It’s a Wonderful Life"). . . .

Read the whole thing.

P.S. One question: If Bartlett is correct, does that mean that financial institutions ought to be regulated more heavily than other sectors? (And do we, therefore, seem to have our regulatory regime backward? We need less for regular businesses--far fewer OSHA regulations, ADA regulations, affirmative action requirements, housing restrictions, etc., but perhaps more regulation, or simply wiser regulation, of finance).

More on the Debate

1.It’s amazing how partisan the various analysts are. It’s really hard to be a genuine SOCIAL SCIENTIST and just see what’s there with your own eyes.

2. Among the best analysts is always Mickey Kaus. Mickey reasonably says that McCain achieved limited but significant success in making Obama seem naive and inexperienced. More impressively, he dispelled concerns about his own recklessness with his very prudent remarks on Iran and Pakistan.

3. Obama negated, Mickey adds, his advantages on the economy by not being able to speak compellingly about the pain of the middle class.

4. The "stunt" of going to Washington, maybe not debating etc. turned out to be a net negative for McCain, although not a big one.

5. Maybe McCain’s victory is still "Pyrrhic," as Mickey claims: People want change, McCain’s distancing of himself from Bush wasn’t effective enough, and Obama only has to pass the relatively low credibility test in these debates. Despite his surprisingly weak rhetorical display, he may well have done that.

First Debate

John flew in last night and I picked him up in Cleveland. He is at home for two weeks, and then goes to Okinawa where he will be stationed for the next couple of years. He looks good and is doing well. Because of this I was listening to the debate on the radio, and the second half I only heard on and off because John and I talked about large helicopters and Marine habits and such.

While the comments below are entirely sensible in their details, yet I must say that I couldn’t help noting during the debate that Obama gives the impression that he hesitates and calculates, and McCain does not. McCain--despite some imperfections, misstatements, etc.--was much more effective in being direct and forthright and sounding as if he would be more comfortable executing, would be at home in the White House. Example: McCain used the noble bracelet story to great advantage while Obama’s imitation (I also have a bracelet) was hesitant and spoke to a different purpose (focusing on the mother rather than the soldier). I think McCain won the debate.

Instant Reax

I’m never a very good judge of how the spectrum of fellow citizens judge these debates. In the first Bush-Gore debate in 2000, I completely missed Gore’s impetuous bad behavior (sighing, etc) that so put off a lot of viewers, though I did pick up instantly on his James Lee Witt FEMA howler because of the puzzled react shot of Bush on the split screen. "Ah," I thought, "Gore just made up something." And in fact that did turn into the "exaggerator" theme of the next few days.

But overall in that debate I thought Bush was miserable. So I was surprised last night at how good a debater McCain was; much much better than Bush. I guess he was this good in the primaries; I skipped all of those. But I agree with everyone else that he was very weak on the economy, and so the next debates may not go as well. Why, oh why, are Republican candidates so incapable of fighting back against the liberals’ class warfare tactics? Is there some kind of deep rope-a-dope on this I don’t get?

Obama was good, too, but not as good as McCain at being persistently aggressive. Neither man made any obvious big mistakes, though both made a few small ones. None likely of any consequence. Obama came close to falling into Kerry’s 2004 trap of a "global test" for U.S. action, but he never used a clear phrase than can be hung around his neck.

There was one small point that I suspect most people missed or didn’t fix on--Obama’s mention at the end of his Kenyan father. What was he trying to do with this? I have a hunch that the Obama campaign has some polling or focus group data that suggests this aspect of Obama’s story needs to be handled or used in a certain way, though I’m not sure he accomplished this last night. Was he trying to say in a very very subtle way that "I’m so unlike other black American politicians like Jesse and Rev. Al that I’m barely even from this country?" It has me scratching my head. Maybe it was nothing.

On "Winning" a Debate

My informal poll of several NLT contributors (see below) and other conservative friends produced an expected McCain edged Obama reaction, with a couple outliers who said McCain stank. I disagree with the consensus that Obama’s survival in a foreign policy debate means he really won. Consider the 2000 Republican primaries, when Alan Keyes clearly dominated the debates he participated in. But he didn’t get many votes. Of course here we are down to two choices, but being the best debater doesn’t necessarily mean he is more trusted to be commander-in-chief. Let’s see what the presidential preference, not the who-won-the-debate polls say.

By the way, the Obama-Keyes senatorial debate back in 2004 shook Obama, even causing him to poke Keyes in the chest once, to make a point. See pp. 248-250 in Audacity of Hope, e.g.: "I found him getting under my skin in a way few people ever have." It was Keyes’ uncompromising (and inappropriately utilized, I would say) Christianity that Obama found unbearable, and which he could answer only by responding with a pluralism demanded by a wall of separation between faith and reason (259). Obama would have to reject theological notions of natural law, even as he wants the many of the results of the Declaration of Independence, our founding, natural law document. Obama’s attempt to find himself a home in American political life gives evidence of his alienation from it, a theme I will take up in a later post.

“I can see Russia from my house”

Americans do have different perspectives about the world, based on where they live. Let’s start with a bad example: Midwesterners are isolationist, because they don’t live on an ocean, which would widen their view of the world. Nonsense: they tended to be isolationist because of the high concentration of ethnic Germans, who weren’t eager to shoot Uncle Fritz in either World War.

But that stereotype aside in fact Americans who live in the Southwest view illegal immigration differently from those who live elsewhere. Southerners may have a different view of the Civil War than other fellow citizens. Those in the original thirteen states may have a distinct historical consciousness shaping their view of the country. See How the States Got Their Shapes for the political consequences of States’ boundaries.

In Harvey Mansfield’s edition of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, there is a map (p. xvi) showing the American continent, Amerique Anglaise. Alaska is labeled as Amerique Russe. (Keep in mind the conclusion of vol. I, where America and Russia represent different futures for the world.) Signs of Russian presence—in forts and churches—can be found throughout the State. Japan occupied some of the Aleutian Islands during World War II. And Alaska is home to our only ground-based ballistic missile defense site.

State history shapes the political consciousness of citizens. Does Alaska’s history inform the political awareness of Alaska’s Governor? The campaign will tell. But the statement “I can see Russia from my house” should not be dismissed out of hand, for it may signify great understanding of America’s place in a dangerous world.

McCain Was Better

Both men were good, in fact--much better than either Bush or Kerry or Gore. McCain was more confident, forceful, and (surprisingly) calm. Obama seemed more nervous, sputtering, and annoyed. Neither said anything real about the current economic crisis. Neither was all that eloquent, which meant that Barack didn’t exploit his undeniable advantage. Overall, there was nothing surprising about content and positions. McCain played the experience card effectively, and Obama didn’t deal well with being called naive. I predict a slight bump for Mac, with the additional benefit of diverting the country for a bit from the threatening spectre of economic calamity.

Not wanting to end the evening a positive note, let me call your attention to the comments on NRO by K-Lo on our Sarah. She’s one of several conservative columnists who’s faced up to the fact that the cringe factor was pretty darn severe in Palin’s recent interview with Katie Couric. Kathryn wonders whether there might be less to her than we conservatives hoped. It’s more likely the case that she’s being mishandled or being forced to be a student being filled quite inauthentically with sound bites and factoids that she’s having trouble using at the appropriate moments. Sarah needs to be herself in the debate, and we have reason to hope and pray that’ll be enough. (See Julie’s comment below, which I didn’t see before writing this.)

And here’s a commentator who suspects that overcoaching has taken a toll
on Sarah’s confidence.

And finally, Carl is correct to comment in Steve H’s thread below that McCain won’t get away next time without decent answers on taxes and health care.

The debate--snap judgments

John McCain had a weak first quarter, where the focus was on the economy, but, I think, kept Barack Obama in reaction mode during the remainder of the debate. In so doing, he reinforced his standing as the man of the hour in time of international crisis.

But what’s on everyone’s mind is our economic predicament, and Obama’s answers were more sure-footed and focused, if not necessarily always more persuasive, while McCain stumbled a bit and meandered. He could, for example, have explained more clearly and crisply why cutting business taxes and preserving the Bush Administration’s tax cuts might be necessary, but he wasn’t on his game here. McCain’s finest moment in this part of the debate was his much better response to Jim Lehrer’s question about what he’d have to change as President in order to pay for the bailout. Where Obama wasn’t willing to give anything up (except for spending in Iraq), McCain came out firmly in favor of wide-ranging spending cuts.

My final preliminary verdict: McCain wins on foreign policy, but loses on the economy. That’s not a good result. He has to do better next time.

Update: Two more overnight thoughts. First, Obama’s sputtering lack of self-restraint didn’t come across well. His supporters will cast it as righteous indignation, but it is evidence of his unpreparedness for political life outside the Democratic bubble.

Second, I was disappointed that McCain let Obama get away with blaming our current economic predicament on deregulation. Perhaps in his (Teddy) Rooseveltian heart of hearts, McCain agrees with him. But he might have asked Obama what he would have had regulators do: tell banks not to lend money to all the people in those marginal neighborhoods, the very people Democrats sought to help when they urged Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to loosen lending criteria?

Fight! Fight!

I’m not going to liveblog this thing, but I do think it is interesting that the specified scope of this debate--foreign policy--has obviously been thrown over the side, and it appears to be a general debate on all issues.

Not sure this works for Obama, who rehearsed for foreign policy.


Best video of the campaign season.

Political Economy Teaching By Example

A breif video from Milton Friedman on the causes of the Great Depression.

Should Palin Walk the Plank?

Kathleen Parker has fallen out of love. Once an enthusiastic supporter of the Sarah Palin pick, she now watches Palin speak with her "finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful," and she notes that "My cringe reflex is exhausted." Parker thinks Palin is getting preferential treatment from those on the right because she’s a girl; that her recent performance has not lived up to expectations or to the narrative. Indeed, Parker takes it a step further and calls for Palin to step down for the sake of the country.

Now this is an interesting and surprising opinion. I like Parker’s work and often agree with her positions. But she has come at Sarah Palin in exactly the opposite direction from which I have come. She started out in love with her and has now soured. In contrast to Parker, I was NOT entirely enthusiastic about the Sarah Palin pick . . . at first. That’s because I thought the the McCain campaign was going for a gimmick and thinking that putting a man woman on the chess board would put Hillary voters in play. And I knew that would a.) never work and b.) never be enough if it did work. We might have picked up a few women here and there who will vote for a woman no matter what her politics, but the hard core Hillary voters would never go for Palin because they are ideologically opposed to her. And, if there were any doubters on that score prior to Palin’s nomination, I think they’ve been persuaded by now. Clearly, the feminists supporting Hillary are not Sarah Palin’s natural constituency.

So when I saw Sarah speak at the convention, it suddenly hit me that this was all irrelevant, and I softened. Her appeal is not to women so much as it is to what we now commonly refer to as "fly-over" country, middle America, regular Americans or whatever appellation you want to give those who do not believe that their superior wisdom and cosmopolitanism gives them a natural right to preside over the actions of their fellow Americans but think, instead (and quite rightly), that their own life experience and common sense gives them just as much a right to influence and take part in the self-government of this nation as do the biographies of their supposed "betters." They believe that they are every bit as competent (and sometimes, frankly, more competent) in judgment and capacity as are the sorts normally unleashed in Washington and that someone "like them" is just as likely to do a good job as someone with an Ivy League degree, a pedigreed background, the seal of approval from the New York Times or a donor base with a 90210 zip code. I saw that Palin was nothing so simple as a Right Wing version of a feminist--as I feared. She is, if anything, post-feminist in that the bulk of her appeal had almost nothing to do with her sex. True, her sex--and, yes, her looks--did plenty to focus attention on her timely message. But instead of getting uptight or indignant about it, she embraced it and put it to work for her.

After a week of blistering attack that was of an intensely personal nature, Palin emerged at the convention ready to use all the weapons in her arsenal (including lipstick) to full effect. She did it with humor and delight--something sorely missing in the GOP of recent years. Comparisons between her and Reagan may have been premature in many respects, but in this plucky good cheer she was a dead ringer. She was THE highlight of the convention and no one can ever suggest otherwise. She turned around the depleted enthusiasm of the GOP base. She continues, despite continued assaults, to turn out 60K plus crowds in battleground states. All the while she endured a media newscycle that was--up until the markets started melting--singularly devoted to her personal and political destruction.

And Kathleen Parker thinks Sarah Palin should bail because of a few botched answers in some TV interviews? These are all she needs to hear to conclude that Palin is "Out of Her League"? Are you kidding?

May I gently suggest that Ms. Parker not only stop and reconsider but, also consider this: You should stop cringing. It’s not personal. If Sarah Palin fails (either as a candidate or as Vice President) it won’t be any reflection on Kathleen Parker or on conservative women in general. Neither will it be a discrediting of the notion that small town mayors turned governors may be every bit as competent to hold high office as are the likes of Barack Obama. Parker worries that we’re giving Palin preferential treatment and that a man in her position would have been condemned for his poor performance in these interviews. I’m not sure Dan Quayle (another brutally attacked and terribly underestimated GOP VP pick) would agree. Parker’s premature Palin plank-walking prescription would be the height of ingratitude.

Presidential politics and economic talks

There will be a debate tonight. It kinda looks like John McCain blinked.

Ivan the K Unveiled

Ivan and CULTURE11 are now in charge of the POSTMODERN CONSERVATIVE blog. I have and will say some things there about POSTMODERNISM RIGHTLY UNDERSTOOD.

Conservative Puritanism?

Dr. Pat Deneen suggests that the honorable McCain enourage the American people to take personal responsibility as one of the causes of the present crisis and resolve to live with great self-restraint, frugality, and concern for our ecological future in the broadest and most anthropocentric sense. I actually think a litte of this would be edifying and might work in the broader context of a praise of American productivity.

Republicans Acting Like Republicans

...seem determined to make sure there’s REAL CHANGE in what Congress is going to do to "save the economy." The Democrats can’t pass a bailout without them, because it would be too easy for the Republicans to campaign efffectively against it. Politics hasn’t been suspended! And it’s anyone’s guess whether there will be a debate.

A Note on Polls

Attempts to measure intense participation by blacks and college youth for Obama drive the polls’ disparity. Some issues: Does traditional polling overlook the fact that many younger folk have only cellphones, which are ordinarily not called? Doesn’t the definition of a "likely voter" undercount the youth vote? But what about the fact that younger voter turnout is never as high as predicted? On top of all this is a political correctness before pollsters, which is then itself corrected in the voting booth.

More important, keep in mind some political history, especially when you see a poll showing Obama above 50% nationally: no Democrat has won a majority of the popular vote since LBJ in 1964 and FDR in his triumphs. Before that there is quite a long stretch of history--back to Franklin Pierce. Dems have typically been a sectional party, not a national majority party, neither by popular vote nor by electoral vote. BHO is no LBJ or FDR.

Podhoretz Urges Calm

Calm down, says John Podhoretz. But he’s not urging calm for the economic storm as you might suspect. Instead, he’s launched a salvo against all those pundits (right and left) who think every day in this (oh, so dreadfully long!) campaign brings with it some earth-shattering and election altering news. In other words, we’ve got awhile before the credits roll. Sit back and eat your popcorn, the movie’s not over yet.

Except for what he says about baseball "not mattering all that much" (thus explaining why we don’t suspend campaigns for the World Series anymore) I think he’s dead right.

McCain to Debate

...or it looks that way now. His maverick stand--combined with his decision that it’s safe now to travel to Old Miss--certainly didn’t hurt him and seems to be turning out to be more prudent than it first appeared (to me).

Tied Again!

Ummm. I admit to being tied up this morning and just getting to this late, but did nobody notice that since yesterday (!) when Obama seemed to have a 6-9 point edge in national polls, it’s now back to a tie? If everything seems to be going in Obama’s favor, as seems to be the view in the Lawler threads, why can’t he gain any traction? I agree that on the face of it, he ought to be helped by these events. And yet he’s not.

Meanwhile, another Clinton emerges . . . I guess to help Obama?

Free Frank with Free Campaign Advice to McCain

Why is Mac letting Barney Frank get away with the claim that he was the champion of regulating Freddie and Fannie? It was, in fact, the leading Democrats who protected those two institutions from alleged Republican prejudices against their good work. McCain should debate--and let Barney have it.

Fair and balanced?

This WaPo article examines the possible political fallout of John McCain’s--bold and selfless or desperate and calculating?--move. Partisans on both sides will choose the adjectives in a predictable fashion.

Everything hinges on whether McCain’s attention can plausibly be connected with a result worth applauding. It can’t be calculating to bet your political future on the cooperation of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, among others.

Look Before You Leap . . .

That is the message of Heritage’s latest paper, which shines light on grave constitutional issues arising from the proposed bailout. In explaining the separation of powers defects that run amok in the proposed legislation, messengers Gaziano and Grossman argue that we should not seek to narrowly escape the requirements of the Constitution, which promote the liberty and free market principles necessary to see us through even these troubled times:

Some would treat the Constitution as a legalistic document and employ narrow legalistic arguments to circumvent its strictures and protections. The substance of this debate, however, should not turn on what provisions might or might not pass muster with the courts under a pinched conception of our fundamental law. Rather, it is the principles the Constitution embodies, which have served us well through so many crises, that should be the focus of debate. In short, Americans should take little comfort that legislation might barely pass muster in the courts if the legislation does serious damage to the underlying constitutional principles that were designed to protect our individual rights against governmental usurpations.

Read it all, with a cup of good, free-market coffee.

The Maverick Rides Again?

In an effort to be both fair and balanced, let me call attention to this article in the WASHINGTON TIMES (not actually fair and balanced) that gives a positive and somewhat plausible spin to Mac’s latest maverick move. And on the TODAY show this morning, Bill Clinton declined to judge whether postpoining the debate was a good idea, and he emphasized that Mac ain’t afraid of debating as such--he wanted more of them, after all. Bill’s deep support for Barack is often quite touching. I have to say I hope though that McCain really doesn’t think his "success" on immigration bipartisan compromising can be the model for hammering out a deal for America now. But to echo Machiaveilli once again, it could be (and I hope) that my skepticism about the effectiveness of an effort to try to suspend politics underestimates the basic decency of the American people

We have met the enemy...

And he, says Victor Davis Hanson, is us.

McCain Wants to Push Back VP Debate Too

That, in my view, makes less than no sense. And, of course, that idea unfairly and unfortunately suggests that Sarah ain’t ready. Meanwhile, Obama gets to proclaim his ability to multitask (implying that’s harder for old guys). And, as Peter says in the thread below, it’s not like McCain has said anything real about how to deal with the crisis. (Neither has Obama, but he’s not trying to get out of anything.) Basically, I also agree with Pete that this scheme to suspend politics was bold but not clever.

Interesting Ephemera

Joe Carter’s THIRTY-THREE THINGS is now located at Culture11. There’s enough there each week to keep you amused and arguing for weeks.

McCain Tries to Suspend Politics

...and delay the debate until a decision is made about how to address the crisis. Obama is inclined to let both go forward.

Good move, now follow up

McCain has to stay in DC through Friday. The Debate Commission won’t accept it, but offer Gov. Palin as a substitute. Then, following the resumption of normal politics, offer town hall meetings to replace the canceled debate.

The downside of this clever (and prudent) move is that it reinforces the impression that a presidential campaign is like a European parliamentary-style election campaign. McCain acts like he would accept a Grand Coalition government. But that’s not the Founders’ Constitution.

Hence the misguided attacks on Gov. Palin as unready to be President. Those largely miss the constitutional significance of the inauguration occurring over two months after the election, and almost three weeks after the new Congress. (Before the 20th amendment it was even longer, with the president being inaugurated in March.)

Sooner Rather than Later

Assuming, as we surely must, that a bailout is coming; the question before us is whether it should come quickly, as Republicans insist it must, or later "after deliberation" as Harry Reid and the Democrats argue it should. Thomas Sowell makes a very good case (and one, frankly, that had not occurred to me) for haste. Why? It’s not just that we need a bailout to avoid disaster; there’s an additional incentive to quick action. While the adage "haste makes waste" applies to normal people and normal institutions, we’re talking about Congress . . . and a Democratically controlled Congress at that. In Sowell’s words:

Whenever there is a lot of the taxpayers’ money around, politicians are going to find ways to spend it that will increase their chances of getting re-elected by giving goodies to voters.

The longer it takes Congress to pass the bailout bill, the more of those goodies are going to find their way into the legislation. Speed is important, not just to protect the financial markets but to protect the taxpayers from having more of their hard-earned money squandered by politicians.

He also offers some thoughts on the morality of the bailout; answering both those critics who attack it as wrong because they believe it rewards and, therefore, encourages irresponsibility and those who attack it as rewarding the irresponsible wealthy (Wall Street) but punishing to the weak (people losing their homes because they can’t pay their mortgages):
Financial institutions are not being bailed out as a favor to them or their stockholders. In fact, stockholders have come out worse off after some bailouts.

The real point is to avoid a major contraction of credit that could cause major downturns in output and employment, ruining millions of people, far beyond the financial institutions involved. If it was just a question of the financial institutions themselves, they could be left to sink or swim. But it is not.

We do not need a replay of the Great Depression of the 1930s, when the failure of thousands of banks meant a drastic reduction of credit-- and therefore a drastic reduction of the demand needed to keep production going and millions of people employed.

But bailing out people who made ill-advised mortgages makes no more sense that bailing out people who lost their life savings in Las Vegas casinos. It makes political sense only to people like Senator Dodd, who are among the reasons for the financial mess in the first place.

Read the whole thing.  

Bubba’s Advice for Todd Palin

Can be found here. Why do I have a hard time believing that it offered with the best of intentions? The question is: Does he mean to damage Palin or Obama with it?

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!

Jonah Golberg at The Corner notes this amusing story about a wine from South America called--of all things--"Palin, Syrah." Stranger still, the wine takes its name from a kind of ball peculiar to a Chilean version of . . . yup, you guessed it, hockey! It seems the wine is not selling very well these days in San Francisco but it is flying off the shelves in places like Houston (for obvious reasons) and also New York--where it seems liberals must have a better sense of humor than they do on the left coast.

For my part, I propose that our own Steve Hayward fire up the grill (Ohio weather permitting, of course) and, in our down time from this event, we can all uncork a few bottles of Palin Syrah to see if she lives up to her fine reputation.

When is Good News Bad News?

When it is ephemeral and cynical, like in this new development. Democrats have agreed not to make a fuss over off-shore drilling and, as of Oct. 1, the ban will be lifted. Of course, this will take the energy issue off the table for many voters and Democrats hope that will help to facilitate an Obama win which, if achieved, can be relied upon to occasion a "reconsideration" of the wisdom in lifting the ban. I am sure that Dems can readily stumble upon some new "science," new "evidence," or new "expert testimony" that will make reinstating the ban a priority for an Obama administration.

The only thing that is clear to me from this action is that the Democrats mean to play hardball. It is time for McCain to get tough and come out swinging. He needs to say hard (perhaps even controversial things that seem to attack Obama’s character and the character of Democrats) and thereby call their bluff exactly what it is. The only good news I see in this is that McCain tends to play best and hardest as an underdog. In any case, he’s in for the game of his life.

A Crisis in Civil-Military Relations?

I have a piece in today’s Wall Street Journal. It is an attempt to consider the implications of Bob Woodward’s new book.

As i say at the end of the piece, if Woodward’s account is true, we may be facing "the most serious crisis in civil-military relations since the Civil War. According to Mr. Woodward’s account, the uniformed military not only opposed the surge, insisting that their advice be followed; it then subsequently worked to undermine the president once he decided on another strategy.

"In one respect, the actions taken by military opponents of the surge, e.g. "foot-dragging," "slow-rolling" and selective leaking are, unfortunately, all-too-characteristic of U.S. civil-military relations during the last decade and a half. But the picture Mr. Woodward draws is far more troubling. Even after the policy had been laid down, the bulk of the senior U.S. military leadership -- the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, the rest of the Joint Chiefs, and Gen. Abizaid’s successor, Adm. William Fallon, actively worked against the implementation of the president’s policy.

"If Mr. Woodward’s account is true, it means that not since Gen. McClellan attempted to sabotage Lincoln’s war policy in 1862 has the leadership of the U.S. military so blatantly attempted to undermine a president in the pursuit of his constitutional authority. It should be obvious that such active opposition to a president’s policy poses a threat to the health of the civil-military balance in a republic."

Of course, everything depends on the veracity of Woodward’s account.

More O Mo’

I’m glad Steve was the first to notice the big lead Obama now has in the ABC/CBS poll, and I’m going to add that it is quite rare to have a lead that big this late and lose. Now that poll certainly has its flaws, and we can take some comfort in not seeing the same sort of margin yet in the others. But Steve is right also to notice pro-O changes in the state polls too.

The reason for these changes is the economy and the natural tendency of people to look for paternalistic competence in a very uncertain and threatening environment. Republicans can shout that this ain’t like the Great Depression, and in any case the New Deal policies did nothing but prolong that economic crisis. But more and more people do fear that something like a depression is just around the corner, and their fears seem to be confirmed by the experts who say there’s no time to waste when it comes to the big, big, big bailout and unprecedented empowerment of the executive branch.

So when people see Obama they think FDR. Meanwhile, McCain seems to be doing is best to imitate TR’s angry demands that the evildoers be punshed and the trusts be busted etc. FDR will always be more popular than TR, and I fear people don’t think that they need a warrior to make them safe in a crisis of this kind. The challenge to McCain right now is huge.

Campaign Observations

News out this morning is that the latest ABC/Post poll has Obama up by nine points, well outside the margin of error. Sure, as our friends on The Corner are pointing out, the poll arguably oversampled Democrats. Maybe, but if you look at state-by-state polls by several different pollsters you see Obama moving ahead over the last week on account of the rising salience of economic woes and McCain’s unsteady response last week. This can’t be dismissed as sampling error. The wonder is that Obama hasn’t roared to an even bigger lead.

Meanwhile, our friends at the Corner are also having a back-and-forth about whether Palin should get out more this week. Good arguments on both sides, but I have a hunch there is a rope-a-dope dynamic in play. Once again the MSM is rising in chorus that she’s being hidden, kept from view, etc, even as she racks up record crowds on the stump. Remember what happened last time the MSM went with this theme? The big convention speech that blew everyone away.

There has been some chatter that the McCain people want a short-answer format for the VP debate, and some think this is a mistake as the longer you let Biden talk, the worse he gets. To the contrary, if you look back at Palin’s TV debates in Alaska, she tended to give crisp, concise answers. Crisp, concise answers are not Biden’s specialty. He’ll have problems. I have a hunch she’s going to cause some big problems for Biden (like, "Why have you voted for 25 years against developing missile defense to protect Alaska from North Korean missiles that can reach our cities right now?") I predict a fresh round of Palin-mania as a result of the debate.

Naomi Wolf

In case anyone needs further proof that Naomi Wolf is entirely removed from reality.

Not Capitalism . . . but "Crony Capitalism"

. . . is to blame for our current financial woes according to this first in series of articles promised by Terry Jones at Investor’s Business Daily. Jones examines the intersection of politics and the credit crisis and finds a lot of political faces hanging around there--especially in the early 90s--thumbing for a ride. There are a few names with "Rs" next to them. But there sure are a lot more with "Ds." And, of course, there’s the little matter of $125,000 in campaign contributions from Fannie and Freddie going to a certain Presidential Candidate. A figure that makes him second only to Christopher Dodd in the grab.

But Wait, There’s More!

Did Joe Biden really just say "No coal plants in America"?!?! Looks like it.

That should go over well in western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, etc, etc.

Forget Biden having a "Macaca" moment. He’s just fine with "caca" moments.

UPDATE: Jay Cost asks, Is Biden Trying to Lose Pennsylvania? (Comes with a neat map: Quantitative political science at its best.)

The Gaffer That Keeps on Giving

Now Joe Biden recalls President Roosevelt’s TV address to the nation at the beginning of the Great Depression. When there were no TVs. When FDR wasn’t yet president.

I’m starting to believe those internet rumors that Biden will suddenly discover a "health problem" (hair plugs falling out??) and will withdraw in favor of Hillary.

I am my brother’s keeper

Well, Barack Obama is apparently not this brother’s keeper, though, according to this CNN piece, the brother doesn’t want to be kept.

Dinesh D’Souza has written about this here and here.

I have a couple of additional thoughts, beyond the obvious one that Barack Obama should be at least a little embarrassed by this. First, there is the big issue of whether assistance of this sort should come from government or private individuals. The biblical injunction Barack Obama is so fond of citing suggests that it’s an individual responsibility. Love isn’t a matter of paying taxes (which after all, isn’t voluntary or personal), but of giving willingly to those in need and entering into a relationship with them. George W. Bush got that. I’m not sure that the current Democratic ticket does (see Joe Biden’s comments about tax-paying and his own rather minuscule charitable deductions [sorry, I’m too lazy to link]).

Second, if we take George Obama’s more recent comments at face value, there is the question of the dignity of those in need. How do we manage to be "compassionate" while respecting the self-reliance of those we wish to help? Again, it seems to me that a genuine relationship would help that. A relationship isn’t likely to flow out of a job. It can flow out of contact that begins with a faith-based encounter. And, obviously, it ought to flow out of common paternity. Is there any evidence that Barack Obama has made that effort? Or is all his talk about being his brother’s keeper just that? Talk, I mean.

Community Disorganizing

It turns out that Obama and Ayers were out to change our system by using our schools to turn teachers, parents, and students into radical activists against our country’s pervasive oppression. From one view, this was just a harmless residue of Sixties’ fantasy, and it was a better use of Ayers’ time than actually being violent. From another, Republicans should ask tough questions about one of these guys actually becoming president. (Thanks to Ivan the K.)

It’s the Temperament, Stupid

Forget "experience." George Will makes the case that McCain is temperamentally unsuited to the presidency. I really get the feeling that Will might be planning to cast his vote for Obama, come what may.

Meanwhile, over at The View, Former President Bubba predicts an Obama victory, but then goes on for nearly two minutes with fulsome praise for McCain, leaving more than a little doubt about whom he may vote for behind the curtain.

All of which presents a conundrum for fans of Saint Sarah. Does Palin really want to be John McCain’s Vice President? One sage friend put it to me this last week: "She’d have to be prepared to resign in protest of McCain’s derelictions." But that’s not really practical in the real world of party politics.


Are Americans Undertaxed?

It seems that some Americans are:

If my federal taxes are any indication then the middle class is almost certainly not paying its "Fair Share" of federal taxes. My tax position is utterly ordinary. Married with three kids, gross annual income of approx $68K. I take only the standard deductions (no Schedule A) and received the Child Tax Credit for all three children. My total tax bite for each of the last three years was approximately $900/year, or barely over 1%.

Sam Harris, Platonist

It turns out that dogmatic atheist Sam Harris thinks the times call for a philosopher-king. We can’t be governed now by people who are like us. The world is too complicated to be comprehended by ordinary Americans, especially those who go to church, read the Bible, and think God has a plan for the world.

In my crankiest moments, I agree. Universal adult franchise, pah! Only we political science Ph.D.’s should be permitted to vote.

When I’m in an Aristotelian mood, I’d extend the franchise to all those who are genuinely liberally educated. The tone and tenor of Harris’s writing suggest that he doesn’t fall into that category. He’s more like a Weberian "specialist without spirit."

This Financial Crisis is not the Start of a Depression

Burt Folsom has written a serious piece for the Ashbrook site on the current financial crisis. Folsom explains that while, as Paul Volcker has told us, "the current crisis may be... ’the worst financial turmoil since the Great Depression,’ that doesn’t mean the crisis is following the pattern of the Great Depression. Happily, the two disasters are very different."    

But. . . Signs of Progress

On the other hand, yesterday’s Times story by Sam Roberts on the confirmation that the Rosenbergs were indeed Soviet spies actually describes Howard Zinn as a "left wing history professor." As I live and breathe: the Times finally spots someone they have to call a left winger.

Then there is this bit of comedy writing in the piece:

“Were they guilty of some sort of conspiracy to commit some sort of espionage?” asked [Leonard J. Lehrman, co-director of the half-century-old National Committee to Reopen the Rosenberg Case]. “That’s a purely subjective judgment."

NY Times on the Cutting Edge As Usual

Today’s Times once again displays its ability to emulate a near-sighted detective with a feature story about how conservatives are setting up academic centers on various campuses to teach serious things. Try as they might, they have a hard time coming up with a sinister spin on the story.

Palin on Ahmadinejad

The New York Sun runs the text of a speech Sarah Palin was scheduled to deliver today at a rally against Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s scheduled appearance tomorrow in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. Unfortunately, her invitation to speak was deemed too "partisan" by some of the rally organizers and so it was rescinded. Of course, rally organizers are certainly free to invite and dis-invite whom they will and they are free to do as they think fit in order to advance their cause . . . but it is still a strange and ironic thing that the likes of Ahmadinejad will be permitted to speak on a spot where a Vice Presidential candidate was not.

Yuval on the Bailout

As it now reads, the scheme gives way too much discretion to the Secretary of the Treasury for two whole years. The need to check such unprecedented power points to the continuing need for divided government and to a man honorable enough to say that government can’t possibly buy us out of all our pain.

Father Knows Best

Here is a charming account from Sarah Palin’s father about her stubborn yet determined character and about the many ways in which she has surprised him over the years.

A Republican Panic?

Here’s a thoughtful--if often questionable--article about the situation on the ground. Obama was in panic mode for a while. But the relentless media attacks on our Sarah and the "shameless liar" McCain have now had some effect. And there’s no denying that Obama seemed more steady in responding to the anxiety-producing and somewhat unprecedented economic developments. McCain’s inconsistent and angry message seemed, by contrast, nervous and unsettled.
But we can hope and expect that the two panics (and the events that caused them) have about cancelled each other out. The polls don’t show any momentum either way right now. Sarah, despite it all, still draws the really big and enthusiastic crowds. There are economic facts that McCain can use to his advantage (see Steve H.’s post below on Freddie and Fannie), and right now it seems that the debates will be even more important than usual. What they will be like is pretty much anyone’s guess.

. . . Hits the Fan

Kevin Hassett explains the central role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in causing the current financial meltdown, and especially the way Democrats blocked attempts starting four years ago for stricter regulation of Fannie and Freddie. Why?

About ten years ago I was invited to make a presentation to the board of directors of Fannie Mae, and I was startled to notice that the board was composed almost wholly of Democratic party luminaries such as then chairman Jim Johnston (who struck me as a complete dolt), Franklin Raines, Jamie Gorelick (she of FISA "firewall" fame). This was crony capitalism at its worst--a sinecure for Clintonistas to get rich without much heavy lifting.

It is pathetic to see McCain jump on the general "Wall Street corruption" bandwagon rather than use the opportunity to slam the Democrats for their economic ignorance and complicity in the disaster.

On the bright side, the cost of this bailout likely puts the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress out of business in terms of major new spending programs. You’d almost think it was a bankers’ conspiracy, like the Reagan deficits of the 1980s. Any takers?

UPDATE: I walked down the hall to give an "attaboy" to Kevin (since he’s on my floor here at Neocon World HQ at 1150 17th Street), and he tells me that since Drudge linked to his article his phone and e-mail are going crazy. mostly with rants and death threats from liberals. I watched his screen as e-mails rolled in about three a minute. Looks like he hit a raw nerve.

UPDATE #2: The Village Voice (!!!) argues that the seeds of the mortgage meltdown should be laid at the feet of Andrew Cuomo, HUD Secretary for Bill Clinton. Isn’t Cuomo the person McCain wants to appoint to the SEC to fix this mess? Now I’m really baffled.

Palin in Florida

Palin drew a crowd of 60,000 The Villages yesterday; the largest GOP crowd thus far. I drew 250 when I gave a talk there in February, and was impressed (with myself). Also note this out of California.

Headline Contest

In keeping with my long-running theme that it is hard to tell the difference between satire and "news," herewith a headline:

As Times Turn Tough,
New York’s Wealthy Economize;
Plastic Surgeons, Jewelers, Yacht Builders
Brace for Leaner Times; Saying No to Caviar

So, it is from The Onion or the Wall Street Journal?

Answer here.

Biology and politics

Left-Right orientation could have biological underpinnings?

It is too bad that a study like this makes news. But I guess anything that makes freedom and the soul less visible is news, even good news, for some. Too bad.

Mystery Vessel

Ike uncovers a mystery vessel on Alabama coast. Note the good photo. "When the waves from Hurricane Ike receded, they left behind a mystery — a ragged shipwreck that archeologists say could be a two-masted Civil War schooner that ran aground in 1862 or another ship from some 70 years later. The wreck, about six miles from Fort Morgan, had already been partially uncovered when Hurricane Camille cleared away sand in 1969."

Religious voters and the candidates

This Pew Forum squib provides some nice graphics about trends in religious groups’ candidate preferences. The McCain/Obama 2008 split is looking very much like the Bush/Kerry 2004 split. Indeed, as many have remarked, the 2008 electoral map looks quite similar to the 2004 map, with the same swing states and the same swing constituencies.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you view the electorate through a religious prism: American Catholics are the crucial swing constituency. Obama had trouble with them in the primary season, and he’s having trouble with them now. Joe Biden, Catholic though he is, doesn’t help, for reasons that are obvious to any observant and obedient Catholic.

The McCain campaign has to hope that the Catholic swing toward him (or away from Obama) continues; it will make those battleground states a little more hospitable.

You Said It, Ma’am!

In response to critics who take issue with the propriety of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s "website columnist," Heather Mallick, who wrote that Sarah Palin’s supporters must be "white trash" (among several, other, and more colorful things) the "columnist" has responded: "Sarah Palin cannot out-hick me!" Indeed.

Constitution Day at Ashbrook

Jeffrey Sikkenga gave our 10th annual Robert E. Henderson Constitution Day Lecture on the 17th. It was a very fine, well crafted, thirty minute talk entitled "Constitutional Reverence?" It is followed by circa thirty minutes of conversation with the Ashbrook Scholars. Much thanks to Jeff!    

Hurricane of Independence

Tony Williams is going to discuss his new book, Hurricane of Independence: The Untold Story of the Deadly Storm at the Deciding Moment of the American Revolution on C-Span2, Book TV, Saturday, September 20, at 12:00 PM. The book is a fine read and Tony is a good man--a teacher for ten years, now a full time writer-- a pencil-neck sort of character, who will, no doubt, look good on TV. Darn it!

Gibson’s Comeuppance

This video skewers Charlie Gibson quite effectively, and reminds us of the near complete historical and theological illiteracy of our media elites. (About five minutes long.)


What does a guy have to do to stay a step ahead of Lawler on this blog anyway?

I’ll have to start having a second bowl of Wheaties in the morning.

The United States of Bailouts

Everyone in Washington remembers one remark--and only one remark--from Everett Dirksen: "A billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money." After this week it needs to be amended: "A billion here and a billion there. . . is nothing." We’l do it in trillions from now on.

I figure we’re just getting a head start on Obama’s program to socialize the rest of the economy.

By the way, while I’m on a rant, I’ve been puzzling over Michelle Obama’s advice to students a few months back that they not make their careers in corporate America. (Can’t they all just get $300K a year jobs at non-profit hospitals like Michelle?--Ed What do you think?) Just who is going to be left to pay all those high income taxes that Obama needs to fund his new social programs if our talented young people follow Michelle’s advice?

The Politics of Resentment vs. The Politics of Condescension

That’s what Pat Deneen says we need to get beyond. He points to the late original and incisive social critic Christopher Lasch for guidance. Lasch was all about the populism of personal dignity and earned self-espect. Although Pat associates Lasch with the Democrats, it’s not so clear Lasch would vote for today’s Democrats. Christopher got more socially conservative, religious, and alienated from the American left as he got older and wiser. There are many more genuinely manly young personal dignity populists (including our Sarah) on the Republican team, Pat admits, and so our party’s future might well be brighter. But for now, the chaotically faltering economy, Pat predicts, will give this election narrowly to Obama, who will win mainly just because he’s not a discredited Republican. And because Mac and Sarah don’t really claim to know anything much about the economy. This is a good article to think about, but as usual I don’t agree with key parts of it.

The GOP Brand staging a remarkable comeback, showing that McCain did well not to pick Lieberman and try to run a generic campaign. That important Obama advantage is close to disappearing. The enthusiasm gap (another important Democratic advantage) continues to narrow, although it’s still there. I really am capable of noticing (admittedly with Ivan the K’s help) and posting really good news.

The Dangers of Conservative Populism

...are eloquently reviewed by Matt Sitman. For one thing, all forms of populism easily degenerate into status or identity politics, into resentment easily exploited by demagogues. That’s why we have to be clear that our populism is directed against the liberal idenity politics that reduces human persons to merely members of a race, class or gender and against fashionable theories that deny the realities of moral agency and personal responsibility. It’s also okay with me if conservative populism is directed against the complacent bourgeois bohemianism that dominates WALL STREET, the MSM, and the IVORY TOWERS, against people who think they are and deserve to be exempted from the demanding responsibilities we’ve all been given to live REAL LIVES as dutiful and loving parents, children, citizens, creatures, friends, neighbors, and, let’s not forget, beings born to die. It’s also okay with me, as Matt says, if conservative populism is based on the REAL anxieties of ordinary people in a time when they’re stuck with being more on their own than ever--anxieties that are economic but are also much more than economic, as long as those anxieties aren’t addressed through some denial of their responsibility to live with what they really know.

The Down Side of the Down Side

The woes of Wall Street are having an effect on academia: Professors are delaying retirement. Rats; retiring the burnt out cases from the 1960s is one of the necessary steps to repairing higher education.


That’s what the polls really show this morning. The movement toward toward Obama seems to have stoopped. And (look at the upper right hand corner) a state-by-state analysis also shows a virtual tie, with an astounding 128 electoral votes genuinely within the margin of error right now. There’s also more evidence, which I haven’t linked, that opinions about Sarah have polarized. Republican voters are made more enthusiastic by her, and apparently most Democratic voters more contemptuous. I agree with the WSJ’s Henninger that it would be easy to employ her in a more imaginative way, and she’s suffering from being overhandled. So, to repeat, the campaign is just starting, and it will turn on the economy--which, it still seems to me, will naturally tilt things in a Democratic direction without aggressive and substantive Republican action.

William Buckley Frames the Choice Between a Hockey Mom and a Harvard Law Review Editor

The exchange between Steven Hayward and David Brooks on Sarah Palin, and the broader question about who is ready for high office, got me thinking about William Buckley’s famous line about preferring to be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book to the 2,000 faculty members at Harvard. A little digging at Hillsdale College’s Buckley archive established that the line first appeared in a 1960 essay for Newsday’s weekend magazine. As such, the original alternative to the Harvard faculty was a city on Long Island - the Boston/Harvard dichotomy emerged only when an edited version of the piece appeared in 1963 in a Buckley collection, Rumbles Left and Right.

It’s worth quoting the original essay - not just the line that became famous, but the elaboration of the point, which seems relevant to the argument Gov. Palin’s nomination has triggered:

"I am myself obliged to confess that I would prefer to live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Garden City telephone directory, than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University. Not, heaven knows, because I hold lightly the brainpower or knowledge or even the affability of the Harvard faculty; but because I greatly fear intellectual arrogance, and that is a distinguishing characteristic of the university which refuses to accept any common premise. In the deliberations of two thousand citizens of Garden City I think one would discern a respect for the laws of God and for the wisdom of our ancestors which would not equally characterize the deliberations of Harvard professors – who, to the extent that they believe in God, tend to believe He made some terrible mistakes which they would undertake to rectify; and when they speak of the wisdom of our ancestors, it is with the kind of pride we exhibit in talking about the accomplishments of our children at school."

The "common premise" reference is a little opaque outside the context of the essay. There are two other passages that clarify it, both of which reach back 10 years to Buckley’s first book, God and Man at Yale. The first: "To assume, as academic freedom implicitly does, that every child, every student, should in non-scientific matters begin again fresh, as though Plato and Aristotle and Augustine and St. Thomas had among them reached not one dependable conclusion, is to doubt the very structure of learning; is to doubt that there are any aims at all, aside front purely selfish ones, to education."

And the second:“Schools ought not to be neutral. Schools should not proceed as though the wisdom of our fathers were too tentative to serve as an educational base. The Ten Commandments do not sit about shaking, awaiting their deposition by some young swashbuckling professor of ethics. Certain great truths have been apprehended. In the field of morality, all the basic truths have been apprehended; and we are going to teach these, and teach, and demonstrate, how it is that those who disregard them fall easily into the alien pitfalls of communism, or fascism, or liberalism.

“There is a purpose in life. It is known what that purpose is, in part because it has been revealed, in part because man is endowed with a rational mechanism by which he can apprehend it. Educators should pass on those truths, and endow students with the knowledge of the processes by which they are recognized as such. To do this is the single greatest contribution a teaching institution can make: it is the aim of education, to which all else is subordinate and derivative. If education can endow students with the powers of ethical and rational discrimination by which to discern and give their allegiance to the great certitudes of the West, we shall have a breed of men who will discharge truly the responsibilities that face them as the result of changing conditions.”

McAncient vs. Barackiavelli

You can read my reflections on the political cult of youth here.

The Pen is Mightier than the Running Mate

And by "pen" we mean the "veto pen," of course. This is George Will’s argument in this bit of advice to the McCain campaign: as Palin’s powers begin to wear off, don’t hesitate to take advantage of the very low approval numbers under which the Congress labors. Their numbers, as we have noted before, are considerably lower than the President’s . . . and that’s saying something. Even as the generic congressional ballot begins to tighten and Republicans begin to fare better than hoped, the Dems are likely to maintain majorities in both houses. If voters are unsatisfied with a Congress that is checked by the President, what will they think of a Congress that is unleashed by Barack Obama? Will says McCain should start talking about the merits of divided government (I’m skeptical about those merits but I take his point as far as it goes). He should, at a minimum, begin to address the subject of Congress and their arrogant incompetence. He should begin to describe the kinds of legislation that will be sure to emerge from a Pelosi-Reed led Congress with Obama’s profligate pen at the helm.

McCain is Doomed! Doomed I Say!!

Because he’s lost the support of Elizabeth Drew. How can you possibly win the White House without the blessing of Lizzie Drew, who could give clinics at the Columbia Journalism School on how to write boring election chronicles!

Her complaint? McCain is--gasp--a Republican after all:

McCain’s caving in to this “compromise” [over Guantanamo] did it for me. This was further evidence that the former free-spirited, supposedly principled, maverick was morphing into just another panderer – to Bush and the Republican Party’s conservative base.

Keeping faith with the conservative base--the one unpardonable sin inside the Beltway. At least it is proof that it is possible to "shrink" in office (i.e., move to the right, as opposed to "grow" in office, which is WaPo-speak for "move to the left.")

Time to get serious

Mort Kondracke thinks so, and judges Barack Obama’s early response to our financial crisis to be the more serious of the two candidates’.

Like John McCain, I’m no expert on economics, but I know a thing or two about virtue. Kondracke wants the government to save us from ourselves, which is, one might say, the forte of contemporary liberalism.

But there is, I think, a more fundamental problem. All of these investment banks became "creative" in their undertakings because their customers--us--weren’t satisfied with relatively small returns on their investments. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist--or an economist--to understand that high returns generally come with high risks. If we could have been "satisfied" with more modest rates of return, instead of expecting that we could earn in the double digits on our investments, perhaps the investment bankers wouldn’t have gone so far out on a bunch of very shaky limbs. But sobriety in our financial expectations requires sobriety in our personal lives, at the very least, the classic bourgeois (and not even heroic) virtue of living within our means.

John McCain could talk about that, even though it would be (in some respects) an "un-Republican" thing to do.

Update: Or rather, backdate: I see that Julie has already stated more or less the same view below (too lazy to link).

Obama’s Momentum

The NYT/CBS poll released tonight has Obama up 5%. The main reason: 61% say the economy is getting worse, and 62% of them are for Barack. For now, the more the election focus on anxiety about the competence of domestic policy, the better off the Democrat is. I’m not saying this makes sense, but I’m saying tha McCain can’t get away with not aggressively addressing the issues. The economy really might be getting much worse. The study also seems to show that Sarah’s impact at this point has been contained--perhaps by the MSM barrage of allegations--to energizing the base. No doubt they’ll be plenty of analyses and commentary in the morning. But I thought I’d close the evening by saying I still agree with me. The election is still reasonably close to a DEAD HEAT, and the most powerful advantages lie with the Democrats.

Question for the day

Is it possible to have a functioning market economy without facing serious financial crises every now and then?

Historically speaking, they seem to be inescapable. (Any given crisis may, perhaps, be avoidable, but so long as there is liberty, there will be such crises). The implication: it is not true to say that the goal of modern liberty is not simply to overcome chance and subdue fortune.


The Democratic Party War Room: This is brilliant stuff.

Now, I may be biased (May be biased?--Ed. Okay, I’m biased, Unlike Charlie Gibson, et al. . .), but I got the sense during the Republican convention that our side simply has a better sense of humor than those other guys. There were more jokes and laughs from the GOP convention. To be sure, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are brilliant satirists that hit our side more than theirs, but on the whole it seems we have more fun than they do. Surely there is some metaphysical significance to this.

Absolutely Outrageous!

This is so far beyond the pale that I hardly know what to say. Hacking into Sarah Palin and her husband and children’s private email and phone accounts? A new low, for sure.

Picking Up on Peter L’s Post . . .

re: the economic situation possibly favoring McCain because trying times cause us to look backward (i.e., to what has always worked in the past) and not forward into the unknown and risky. I think I have to say that this is a tricky one to play but it’s probably also the only play that could work. It may help that it actually happens to be good counsel for people willing to listen . . . but perceptions will count for more than truth in an election.

But Lawler is right that McCain has an advantage (if he can play it right) in that it appears that the origin of our economic woes may have something in common with Barack Obama (and I don’t just mean that Dems seem to be very closely tied to the Freddie and Fannie collapse).

Before I begin, my usual disclaimer when the topic is money, math or economics: I am--by no means--anything like an expert on this kind of thing so I’m speaking mainly to public perceptions and what I have been able to glean from my own poor attempts to understand the origins of this mess as an investor and home owner. To put it crudely, the mortgage meltdown appears to have been caused by a "new" idea in the world of finance. This idea of packaging bad loans along with good loans and, thereby, masking their otherwise poor ratings smacks of the same kind of arrogant young punk mentality that has, quite effectively, been pegged on Obama in the last few months. Further, I know that my in-laws and others of their (Depression baby) generation have been shaking their heads in disbelief as they have watched the young people around them (not us) "leverage" themselves right into bankruptcy--buying bigger homes than they need and expensive new cars every few years--believing that they could stay ahead of the curve forever because their home values were climbing so dramatically.

It may be a fair criticism of some of these older folks to say that their caution (and lack of internet savvy, to borrow from Obama’s playbook) is overmuch and that a little more openness to some new ideas might have given them more of a cushion for the coming tough times. But it has to be said that the reason the openness to new modes might have yielded fairer results with them is probably because they are already so well grounded in sounder (and old) ideas about wealth, how to create it and, more important, how to maintain it. There is, for example, certainly something to be said for the kind of prudence and fortitude that causes one to curb his appetites, live within his means, and stick to the tried and true modes of earning and saving for the good things that one wants. This is good advice, of course, because we can’t all have rich (if questionable) friends buy lots and sell them to us at below market value and at favorable rates.

While Republicans certainly do not have anything like a monopoly on this older, more sensible approach to wealth (greed is a universal part of the human condition) it is undeniably true (again, in public perception) that Republicans, generally, have done a better job of cultivating a respect for the past and for the virtues that made our past admirable, while Democrats have a reputation for scorning the past for both its methods and its admirability.

Just as I think there may be a lot of young guns looking to find comfort (and forgiving loans gifts) from an older and possibly wiser generation, it may be the case that we see more voters looking toward the candidate who more closely exemplifies that older ethic. Now is not a good time to gamble on a glittering possibility that may only be a mirage. Everything Obama says he wants is expensive. That will be hard to miss in the debates.

McCain should emphasize his record not only of being tough (his honor) but also of being sensible (his competence). Lawler is right about that. But he also has to be careful about putting us to sleep with arcane detail and engaging Obama in a pissing match of point and counterpoint in the debate. It looks like BS when they do this and BS is Obama’s forte. McCain can take the risk of oversimplifying the thing if he can do it forcefully and make some headway in making it more clear to voters. And, besides, there’s almost always a simpler explanation for why things have gone wrong than the wonks (who depend upon your mystification) would have you believe.

In addition, McCain should play up to his "Country First" theme by inspiring us to live up to the virtues that made our country strong (both martially and fiscally) and insist--emphatically, please--that we can and will achieve even higher levels of strength by adhering to the same virtues that made us strong in the first place. Perhaps we have taken some wrong turns in our haste to improve ourselves . . . but we can, and will set things aright. This is nose to the grindstone time . . . "getting back to basics" is a great way of putting it. Faith in our people’s capacities and in their patient forbearance through a difficult time (which, of course, will require serious cheerleading rather than obnoxious finger-wagging and is why Hillary Clinton is no where to be found) is needed much more than the promises of a dismissive, too-eager to prove himself "smarter-than-everybody-else-in-the-room," and amateur snake-oil salesman. At least, that’s how I might put it if I were McCain (maybe striking that last bit about the snake-oil salesman . . . maybe.)


Organ Markets (Again)

Here, finally, is the second half of my legendary interview with the brilliant Dr. Riley.
Categories > Bioethics


Hockey Moms for Truth.

Hat Tip: and The Corner.

Momentum Has Switched

...I put the email I got below up as fodder for discussion. But I still agree with me. The convention bump is over, Sarah has plateaued or is fading slightly, and the focus on the struggling economy will, on balance, favor Obama. Note, today, that the studies now show Obama with ( a narrow, of course) lead, and Intratrading has shifted back to him. Charlie Cook has some reasonable thoughts on why current trends no longer favor McCain-Palin. I’m sticking with my view that McCain has to engage the Democrats on domestic issues--displaying not only his character but his competence.

In Trying Times

...people will turn to McCain’s judgment, and not Obama’s vision. That’s the opinion of our Julie, and a learned and astute expert emailed me this morning with a more detailed version of that thought:

Driving in this morning and listening to the radio about the AIG bailout plan, etc., it occurred to me that the current economic crisis might actually work in MCCAIN’s favor. Obama’s appeal is as a visionary, promising future greatness. But as the global financial system collapses around us, it seems to me people will want to "hunker down," and they will focus on a stop-loss kind of rationality. This effectively voids Obama’s central appeal: there’s just no money to spend on grand projects, even the grand project of tax relief for the bottom 95%. It also increases McCain’s attractiveness, since despite his total lack of any real economic policy, he exudes the character traits of flinty responsibility, like an old-fashioned banker, which is "just what we need" in a time like this.

What We Really Have to Do About Healthcare

...according to ME. This is, roughly speaking, a defense of the McCain position, but with some attention to the principle of SUBSIDIARITY, which can be understood in a "voluntary" American way. Sarah might add something about supporting the unconditional love moms have for their "special needs" kids.

A Fine Review of Marilynne Robinson’s HOME

Here’s a beautifully crafted review of a beautifully crafted novel--a woman’s view of the importance of what we can and what we cannot know. Robinson does better than any living American writer I know in attempting to show that Christianity--particularly Calvinish Christianity--knows man as much as man can be known to himself. For those whose learning style (like mine) is more prosaic, let me recommend her THE DEATH OF ADAM, with the proviso that you should ignore her sometimes irritating political judgments. She actually succeeds to a remarkable degree in showing that the Puritans and their successors are actually the sources of our best criticisms of the Darwinians and the economists on behalf of human responsibility, human enjoyment, human happiness, equality without condescension, and humane and genuinely liberating education. (Thanks to Ralph Hancock, who gave a very nuanced, moving, and somewhat critical account of what be might called the generational politics [or lack thereof] in her GILEAD at the APSA.)

Thoughts on the Financial Crisis

The invaluable Megan McCardle has some interesting reflections.

McCain vs. Dole

Well, Bob was and Mac is a really old candidate. But, as Rich Lowry explains, there’s a big difference: McCain is playing to win. The MSM hate this new McCain, just as they loved the irrepressible and rather ineffectual old McCain.

Further Evidence of Liberal Condescension

I just came across this New York Times story written two days after the 2004 election. One John Kerry voter, a retired psychiatrist, says, "I’m saddened by what I feel is the obtuseness and shortsightedness of a good part of the country - the heartland. This kind of redneck, shoot-from-the-hip mentality and a very concrete interpretation of religion is prevalent in Bush country - in the heartland. New Yorkers are more sophisticated and at a level of consciousness where we realize we have to think of globalization, of one mankind, that what’s going to injure masses of people is not good for us." He acknowledged that these are the kind of sentiments that cause the heartland to resent New York, but . . . so be it. "People who are more competitive and proficient at what they do tend to gravitate toward cities."

Another New Yorker, an art dealer, explained that Bush got a majority of the votes in the rest of America while getting one-sixth of Manhattan’s by saying, "New Yorkers are savvy. We have street smarts. Whereas people in the Midwest are more influenced by what their friends say. [Midwesterners are] very 1950’s. When I go back there, I feel I’m in a time warp."

A third New Yorker, a film producer, spent election night at Harvey Weinstein’s party at The Palm. As Barack Obama would do four years later in his assessment of the small-town Americans who bitterly cling to guns and religion, "she explained the habits and beliefs of those dwelling in the heartland like an anthropologist." "What’s different about New York City is it tends to bring people together and so we can’t ignore each others’ dreams and values and it creates a much more inclusive consciousness," she said. "When you’re in a more isolated environment, you’re more susceptible to some ideology that’s imposed on you." There’s hope, however. Those who have been saved can do missionary work among the heathen. "If the heartland feels so alienated from us, then it behooves us to wrap our arms around the heartland. We need to bring our way of life, which is honoring diversity and having compassion for people with different lifestyles, on a trip around the country."

If it’s Obama’s to Lose . . . it appears that he’s working on it!

This breakdown of the Electoral map and the trends within it shows that not much has changed since 2004 but that much of Obama’s presumed edge before his convention has diminished in the wake of the GOP’s convention. As this story puts it: red states are getting redder and many blue states are turning purple. I agree with those who say that the "bump" for the Republicans will smooth out/is smoothing out now that we’re a couple weeks past it. But the thing is that McCain’s initial "bump" was bigger than many dared to hope and, more important, it was also a stronger bump (because it was so jarring and fundamental) than the typical post-convention bump. It wasn’t just the afterglow of all the lights and cheering. After the confetti settles, we may see more sticking power to McCain’s bump than Obama would like. This is because the essential things McCain had to do with his bump were to energize his base and to make some reasonable inroads with voters on the fence in key states. He’s done both of these things and, moreover, he’s shown that he’s got a pretty good grasp of the fundamentals in the race. He’s shown that he wants to win and that he’s not going to be satisfied with the honor of the nomination. He’ll need to maintain his gains, of course, but I don’t see him slacking off.

As I said, if it was ever Obama’s to lose (though the static nature of the electoral map defies that thesis) I’d say he’s working on it. The truth is, howver, that I don’t think it was ever Obama’s to lose. Obama came at the election with exactly the same electoral map that faced John Kerry--despite dissatisfaction with Bush and a terrible mid-term Republican showing. Nothing fundamental has changed in the country to make people trust Democrats. Anger with Republicans for acting like Democrats does not translate into a desire to elect real Democrats. This election was always Obama’s to win and he was doing a good job of working on that while he had the momentum. But this was before the close of the primaries with Hillary. I think Obama lost the momentum in late April and that it was sitting in limbo until McCain gave it a reason to come out and switch sides two and a half weeks ago. The momentum is now with McCain/Palin. I am loathe to exude too much confidence because I never underestimate the potential of Republicans to blow it . . . but I think they’re going to have to blow it for things to turn around for Obama.

That said, I do agree that the problems in the markets and with the financial institutions present a golden opportunity for Democrats to exploit Republican weakness--at least in terms of public perception. McCain and Palin need to be on top of their game with this one and they need to develop an argument about it that is clear, concise, and penetrating (in other words, one that voters can easily repeat in arguments with their friends) and make that argument with some regular force to those voters who feel newly energized by their candidacy.

My Reply to Brooks

Two quick rejoinders to Brooks’ column. First, while experience is indeed a leading source for the acquisition of prudence, it is not the only source. The reason people from Churchill to (most recently) Charles Murray (in his new book on education) emphasize the close study of history is that such study allows for "pattern recognition." Certainly Truman had little in the way of "experience" in the sense that Brooks recommends, but his prudence was informed by his own self-study of history. (Truman could discourse off the cuff on the history of the Mediterranean from the Peloponnesian War in service of explaining why we needed to come to the aid of Greece and in promulgating the Truman Doctrine.) Ditto Calvin Coolidge, who had little in the way of "experience" before becoming Vice President in 1920, not to mention Lincoln in 1860. Whether Palin has the aptitude toward prudence from reflection on history and what she has seen in her lifetime is an open question, but it is supercilious to suppose that only establishment-style experience suffices as a source of prudence.

A greater defect in Brooks’ column is his suggestion that the Bush Administration represents the same kind of anti-establishmentarianism that I identify in the Palin phenomenon. As has been mentioned, few incoming administrations have had more in the way of "experience" in the conventional sense--that was the argument for Dick Cheney, wasn’t it? Not to mention Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, etc. Despite Bush’s Texas mannerisms, this product of Yale and Harvard Business School (not to mention his whole family) is certainly part of the certified establishment of which I referred. The difficulties of the Bush administration (and I agree with much of Brooks’ critique of their governance) is not because they were anti-establishment outsiders, but because they went against the dominant half (the liberal half) of that establishment.

CLARIFICATION: I’ve had a couple people puzzle over an ambiguity in the last sentence above, which I see on re-reading it. It can be read to suggest that I think Bush should not have gone against the liberal establishment. Here’s what I sent back to one person: "What I mean is that Brooks is wrong to attribute Bush’s difficulties to being a genuine anti-establishment figure; rather, Bush is unpopular in large part because he set himself against the liberal establishment, which has exploited the unpopularity of the Iraq War and the fumbling of Katrina, etc, to drive down his popularity. I do think the Bush White House has made some large mistakes in the way they have governed, but they have nothing to do with experience or a supposed anti-establishment (broadly speaking) mentality. Bush’s many strengths will be appreciated in the fullness of time (starting with Brooks I predict)."

Slagged by Brooks!

David Brooks, whom I know slightly and generally like, replies to my Weekly Standard article in his NY Times column today. I agree with Brooks that prudence is the core issue of governance, but dissent that "experience" in the sense he uses it is the only or the primary source of prudence.

I’ll borrow Ben Bradlee’s phrase from Watergate days: "I stand by my story."

Random Observations

1. Let me turn your attention to today’s studies--which show the election a genuine DEAD HEAT. I think they even show a tiny rollback toward Obama. The bump is over. The election would be very close if held tomorrow. McCain’s slight advantages in favorability rating and in the Intratrading are still there, but they are very slight indeed. The Obama campaign may be, for all I know, in disarray, but expect it to array itself in short order. Everyone who’s not a Scarecrow is advising Barack to get the focus back on Mac and the economic issues--which he will. And only a Scarecrow would deny that the seemingly baffling collapse of lots of our leading financial institutions--and the reasonable upsurge in economic anxiety--won’t have a tendency to benefit him big-time. I know you partisans don’t want to hear this, but it’s still Obama’s election to lose.

2. I caught a couple minutes of the Fox featuring of First Dude Todd last night. He really is impressive, and he an authentic, articulate folksy (yet obviously very intelligent) talker. That Snow Machine race is 2000 miles to Nome, and it has a really big cash prize--which Todd has won four times. He only finished fourth last year, but (if I heard correctly) that’s because he had a broken arm for the last 500 miles of the race. Sad to say, he hasn’t had time for hunting the last couple of years, presumably because he’s been chief parent at home and trusted advisor to the Governor of Alaska. HE should be sent--maybe with his cool, fast machine--to the towns of PA, OH, and MI. Sarah can take care of the kids for a few days.

3. Near the top of the NYT scattershot of allegations against that Governor is that she has relied too much on her husband’s advice in making key public policy decisions. The objection couldn’t be--in our egalitarian times--to trusting and taking seriously the opinions of one’s spouse. (Certainly Hillary wouldn’t raise such an objection--or Bill.) So the article mentioned up front that he’s a BLUE-COLLAR WORKER. Somebody need to make a big deal of the idea that such workers can’t offer informed advice to our political executives.

4. Having said that, I predict the gift that keeps on giving of the MSM relentless attack on our Sarah is about to come to an end. The consensus of all experts is that it’s been counterproductive. The focus, to repeat, will become the specifics of McCain’s policies.

5. For example, Biden is giving some very clear talks with the (true) allegation that McCain wants to eliminate the tax breaks people now get for their health insurance. Mac better be ready to explain why that would be a good idea--why detaching insurance from employment would actually alleviate the anxiety of the American worker. That will not be an easy sell.


Someone has done one better on my previous post about how Michael Palin should be attorney general in the McCain-Palin administration. Behold:

Michael Palin for President. The video is pretty good.

Ivan the K Saves the Mystery

...of the human soul from the scientism of the neuroscientists. Questions for dicussion: Did the Scarecrow in THE WIZARD OF OZ have a soul prior to having a brain? Or does the talking, yearning Scarecrow already have a brain and body and MORE and not even know it? Is THE WIZARD OF OZ, deep down, a criticism of the abstractness of modern thought--especially in its presentation of WHO we are and WHAT we want?

The youth vote

This article argues that young people will turn out in droves for Obama. They’re not just smitten, but driven.

Our typical response is that history doesn’t favor the Obama hopes, as young people have "never" been great at turning out to vote. The author observes that youth turnout has risen in the last two election cycles. A trend? Perhaps.

I’ve noticed two things on my campus. First, most students favor Obama. (Shocking and surprising, I know.) Second, those who favor McCain are actually beginning to speak up. The tarnishing of Obama’s luster and Palin-genesis have conspired to embolden them.

If Obama starts looking more and more like a loser, he may have a harder time mobilizing the collegiate or millenial vote. His campaign has to hope that people like my students don’t pay too much attention to what’s actually going on in the campaign across the country. They’d like to keep the students living in the past (i.e., March and April, 2008).

News flash: John McCain is OLD

Our friend Jonah Goldberg examines and eviscerates the latest version of the Obama campaign’s attack on John McCain.

Is this Obama Attack 3.0? A service pack for Obama Attack 2.0? Or the New Coke? (You have to be OLD to remember the last one.)

Another way to waste, er, spend, precious time

Our friend the pomocon has enlisted several NLT regulars and irregulars to write for this estimable new webzine. Rumor has it that Peter Lawler, Ivan the K, and yours truly will all have pieces appearing this week.

My Friday piece will have "Barackiavelli" in the title, unless the editors display better judgment than I did. (The allusion is to The Prince, ch. 25.)

Update: Here’s Ivan Kenneally’s critique of the pretentiousness of contemporary neuroscience, especially as applied to political and moral life.

Update #2: A commenter points out that "Barackiavelli" isn’t new, even among our friends. But I have a different passage from The Prince in mind.

Obama Too Fey, If You Ask Me

Okay, so Tina Fey does a killer Sarah Palin imitation (scroll down for the video), and is a dead ringer for the Alaska governor. I’ll bet I can guess who Fey wants to win, if only for her career possibilities. After all, Dana Carvey’s imitation of Bush 1 helped put him on the map. The Secret Service may want to use Fey as a body double. Maybe Fey can make the reality show version of the movie "Dave."

More interesting is Obama’s decision to cancel his scheduled appearance on the show. The campaign said it was out of deference to the victims of Hurricane Ike in Texas, and this certainly has some plausibility now that weather events have been nationalized and are now an excuse for bathos. But I wonder if this was just a convenient excuse to reverse what the campaign thought might be a bad decision to appear in the first place. An SNL appearance would play into the hands of the McCain attack on Obama’s celebrity status. Another sign, perhaps, that Obama’s campaign is rattled.

UPDATE: Check out Chevy Chase making an ass of himself talking about Palin and the cosmic significance of comedy. He should stick to ball bearings (if anyone gets the reference).

Mansfield on Palin’s "Corrective" to American Feminism

In an interesting article, the esteemed professor Harvey C. Mansfield gently suggests that Sarah Palin may be more a corrective to than the embodiment of feminism.   

Palin and the Bush Doctrine

I think Rich Lowry’s take on this entirely correct, by the way.

Dow falls

"The Dow’s fall of 4.42 percent today was the worst single day for the index since July of 2002. The other major indexes also had a miserable day with the NASDAQ falling 3.6 percent and the S&P 500 falling 4.69 percent.

But it could have been much worse. Given the turmoil in the financial world, today could have easily been a repeat of Black Monday, the day in October 1987 when the Dow lost 22.6 percent of its value."

If this Guy is Right . . .

. . . and Ohio really is full of a bunch of redneck, backwoods, racist, rubes it’s rather amusing to note that--at least according to this article and contrary to the received opinion of media elites--so many of them appear to be Democrats rather than Republicans. Walter Shapiro makes the case that, at this moment, Obama is picking up just 82% of Ohio Democrats whereas John McCain and Sarah Palin are commanding 90% of the Ohio Republican vote. He suspects--and not without some (at least superficial) evidence--that it has something to do with race noting Hillary’s trouncing of Obama in the primary with 64% of the white vote as opposed to Obama’s mere 34%. He also notes Governor Ted Strickland’s recent chiding of Democrat supporters about "the elephant in the room" that is not a Republican.

Yet, when he seeks to explain the phenomenon by interviewing real, live, Ohio voters, he doesn’t talk to any of these racist Democrats. Instead, he focuses on the voters who may actually call the election in Ohio: Independents. Among them he finds a former Ron Paul supporter who is now smitten with Sarah Palin, another guy who never pays attention to politics until the last minute but is not impressed with Obama, and a waitress who is not even registered to vote and is not likely to register. The waitress, by the way, was inclined to support Obama--though she also thought Palin hailed from Canada . . . Not a good sample for Mr. Obama.

All of these people and the decided nature of the contest between Republicans and Democrat voters may help to explain the possible increasing importance of undecided and independent voters in Ohio and the way that the election is shaping up between McCain and Obama with them. But these illustrations don’t do much to shed light on the problem first diagnosed by the article: i.e., the problem Democrats seem to be having maintaining solid support from their base in Ohio. It’s not impossible that there is a large chunk of Democrat voters in Ohio who simply will not vote for a black man . . . though, if this really is the case, then some serious self examination is long overdue for that party. Ken Blackwell’s failed bid for the governorship doesn’t help to explain much either: he was a Republican running in an election where Republicans were viewed as stupid sell-outs on the national level and corrupt sell-outs on the state level. That Blackwell did not win was certainly tied to the Ohio GOP’s own need for self-examination--though less for racism than for stupidity and corruption.

Racism in Ohio is becoming a familiar charge, but I begin to wonder if it’s not becoming too familiar, too reflexive, too unthinking. Might it not also be true that Barack Obama’s brand of effete, "Democratic" and "elitist" politics just doesn’t sell with the same intensity on America’s first Western frontier as it seems to do on the two coasts and among those in less independent states who look government first for an answer to their hardships? Al Gore’s sure didn’t and John Kerry’s didn’t either. Organization and lectures from self-righteous and indignant Ohio politicians notwithstanding, perhaps Ohioans just don’t like politicians who are taken with the idea that they are better suited than the people to decide what the people ought to do.

So if this guy is right, then the media is missing a big story about Democrats and their racism. But if he’s wrong, the media is missing a much bigger one: the real reason why Ohio won’t go Democrat this November.

Welcome to the Natural Aristocracy, Sarah

Our Steve writes a very fine article about our Sarah and what’s really eating those who are miffed by her stunning debut on the national stage. Sarah is a natural rather than a titled aristocrat or, perhaps (as those with imagined "titles" might say), she wasn’t "properly vetted" by obsequiously seeking their good opinion before daring to rear her lovely head. Moreover, she wasn’t impressed by their negative opinion and she hasn’t moved in the direction of trying to change it. She possesses that quality of firm decision that so routinely frightens the anointed (possibly because they know that if they ever had the "moxie" to exercise such decisiveness, they’d lose friends and invitations to the "right" social outings). Journalists who are used to lapping up received opinion about the proper way to think (at least from college on) must wonder why someone like Sarah--who didn’t even get an Ivy League education, after all--gets to be so free in her opinions and her actions while their fancy educations and years of kissing the right political and intellectual rings only gets them a gig in the echo chamber of today’s media establishment. They can’t understand what it is that makes so many Americans love Sarah.

Steve points to the famous dialogue between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson on the question of a natural aristocracy for clues and, I believe, he finds them.

England’s Official Sharia Courts

From the London Sunday Times:

"ISLAMIC law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases.

The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence...." Read on.

Cass Sunstein on ROE reversal

The learned legal scholar repeats the Court’s argument in PLANNED PARENTHOOD (without acknowledging that’s what he’s doing) by saying that ROE was illegitimate judicial activism at the time, but now it would be even more activist to reverse that watershed decision. Activism, from this view, means promoting chaos but refusing to adhere to settled precedent. But judicial restraint, it seems to me, means deferring to legislative majorities unless there’s a clear constitional command not to do so, and so reversing ROE (especially incrementally) remains anti-activist. The Court would become a lot less active and so a lot less politicized as a result (as Justice Scalia repeatedly explains).

I have some sympathy for Sunstein’s complaint that many allegedly conservative critics of ROE aren’t consistently anti-activist themselves. They would be thrilled by an activist decision that nullifies all laws that have even a hint of affirmative action, and some also think that the Court should declare seemingly reasonable environmental regulations unconstitutional.

That’s why, as I explain in HOMELESS AND AT HOME IN AMERICA, that we conservatives should adhere to a pretty consistent ethic of judicial restraint. That doesn’t mean no judicial review at all: But given their, at best, very mixed record, we can safely tell our courts that a lot less might be more (in terms of really securing our constitutional system of self-government). We should look to the courts less, and ourselves more, in protecting our liberty.

Economics 101

George Will at his best, explaining how it is that no one can make a pencil.  

Is Glasnost Over in Russia?

In the name of proper national pride, the Russian government, under Putin’s direction, is changing the way Russian history is taught. The goal is no longer truth about what happened, but to convince citizens’ that their country’s 20th century history is not so bad when compared to that of other countries. So Stalin has become a tough, expeditious modernizer, and his unfortunate murderous abuses focused in a few (and seemingly uncharacteristic) bad years. What’s coming back, as Leon Aron explains, is history Soviet style, and what’s in danger of disappearing is the historical knowledge Russians need to engage in what Solzhenitsyn called the appropriate repentence and self-limitation. This chilling article is dedicated to Solzhenitsyn, whose great achievement Putin is certainly betraying. Who could have guessed that a liberating national renaissance with the truth in mind could so quickly be in the process of being brought to an end? There’s a new struggle for Russia’s soul, and free men and women everywhere need to speak up.

Sarah’s Abundant Moxie recognized in a fairly positive way even by the NATION, and actually this author usually prefers attributing to Sarah private parts she doesn’t actually have to saying "moxie." Even you disagree with her politics and question her readiness, it’s impossible not to root for her to pull this thing off. She has, this very liberal author sees, the kind of ambitious self-confidence that we ought to cultivate in our daughters. I would add that cultivation can take us only so far. As Sara herself says, you also have to be "wired" to embrace a great challenge without debilitating "issues."

You’re Sick: Drop Dead!

From The American Thinker:

In May 2008, 64-year-old retired school bus driver Barbara Wagner received bad news from her doctor. She found out that her cancer, which had been in remission for two years, had returned. Then, she got some good news. Her doctor gave her a prescription that would likely slow the cancer’s growth and extend her life. She was relieved by the news and also by the fact that she had health care coverage through the Oregon Health Plan.

It didn’t take long for her hopes to be dashed.

Barbara Wagner was notified by letter that the Oregon Health Plan wouldn’t cover her prescription. But the letter didn’t leave it at that. It also notified her that, although it wouldn’t cover her prescription, it would cover assisted suicide.

After Wagner’s story appeared in the Eugene Register-Guard, the Oregon Health Plan acknowledged that it routinely sends similar letters to patients who have little chance of surviving more than five years, informing them that the health plan will pay for assisted suicide (euphemistically categorized as "comfort care"), but not for treatment that could help them live for months or years.

Read the whole thing.

Who Knew?

LeBron James loses to a California warehouse worker in a game of H-O-R-S-E.

A parable for our time

Riding in the car this afternoon, my son was futzing with a McCain sign he and I had picked up at a rally in the morning. (More about that in a moment.) He was, so to speak, "distressing" the sign.

My daughter says: "The sign looks old and worn now."

My son’s response: "No, it’s experienced."

As for the rally, for the Republican slate in Georgia, the best responses were reserved for radio talker Herman Cain, John McCain (who spoke by telephone), and Sarah Palin (of course), not necessarily in that order.

We also saw a new Saxby Chambliss ad, featuring his nonagenarian mother. What is it about Republicans and their nonagenarian moms, all of whom seem to be pistols?

Update: It’s as if the AJC headline writer knew I was there.

TV Land

This terrific site contains the major TV spots of the presidential campaigns going back to 1952. I’ve linked to 1968, because I recalled a commercial the Democrats aired against VP nominee Spiro Agnew. Agnew only had two years in the governor’s chair in Maryland at the time of his nomination of memory serves correctly, but whose strength in the face of racial provocations in Baltimore impressed Nixon. Before that he’d been a county executive in Maryland. Kinda sounds familiar, no? Anyway, the ad featured only the sound of someone laughing out loud at a screen shot of "Agnew for Vice President." I’m betting the Democrats are sorely tempted to try this again.

By the way, check out the 1968 Nixon ad called "Convention."

Our Sarah vs. Sterile Individualism

...a pretty good article in the NYT tries to explain the powerful sense of identification so many women have with Sarah. It goes without saying this author can’t identify with Sarah herself, but she admits, citing a fine study, that the pro-Sarah conservative women aren’t dumber than the anti-Sarah liberal women. She shows us that, by adding Sarah to Mac, the Republicans now have a comprehensive campaign against "sterile individualism." And "sterile," of course, is a word pregnant with many dimensions of meaning. Notice the way the phrase "our Sarah" is employed in the article, and you can see why it’s neither condescending nor messianic. And contrary to David Brooks’ complaint in his last column, the Republicans really are showing more signs than even the Democrats of transcending the limitations of the individualism of Goldwater.

The French Know I’m No Defeatist

Here’s what they really think:

Marc Fumaroli in in Le Point, 27 mars, 2008, p. 108:

"The Restless Mind" (1993) de Peter A. Lawler, un best-seller de gare, a fait de Tocqueville le saint Thomas de l’orthodoxie neoconservatrice, preparant a l’invasion de l’Iran et au bombardement de la Serbie"...

(Thanks to Aurelian Craiutu)

A Daily Dish – Of Gall and Amphetamines

“To sound more enraged with each passing day is a constant struggle.”

For several years, now, the only way to read Andrew Sullivan’s blog has been . . . clinically. “So, this is what hysteria sounds like.” The posts, with their “tone of self-regarding, bullying certitude,” are an assault. Sullivan changes his mind over the years about what he is for and against, but these changes never lead him to doubt that the people who agree with him at any given moment, about any given question, are wise and just, while those who disagree with him are odious and contemptible. The long-term experience is a little like working through the archives of Pravda. The good guys are always heroic and the bad guys are always vile, even when guys who used to be good are now deemed bad, and vice versa.

The early indications are that Sullivan favors Sen. Obama over Sen. McCain in this year’s presidential campaign. Consider this sampling from the work Mr. Shades of Gray put in at his keyboard yesterday, and see if you can figure out which bandwagon he’s riding:

“It’s [Obama’s political success] only astonishing if you cannot recognize Obama’s skills, judgment and integrity. And does Charles [Krauthammer] really believe that Obama survived four years and a brutalizing campaign against him by the second most cynical machine in politics, the Clintons, purely because of hype and nothing? What contempt Charles must have for those millions who actually see that Obama has a first rate mind, a first rate temperament!”

“Obama tries to hit McCain for being out of touch. I really think he doesn’t need to go there. The McCain campaign is imploding.”

“The first thing that comes to mind is that the only people who have trained themselves not to blink when talking to anyone are self-trained pathological liars. We know she [Sarah Palin] has lied multiple times in the past two weeks. In fact, the lies keep on coming. But what else has she lied about, I wonder?”

“This Palin farce has really revealed who among conservatives is still sane.”

“This interview [on ABC’s “The View”] just destroyed McCain’s candidacy.”

“She [Palin] is a long-time member of the Assemblies Of God. That’s all you need to know.”

“Jay Nordlinger’s posts at the Corner the last two weeks are worthy of a mindless, hollow, fanatical hack.”

“McCain is one of the most shameless liars in modern American politics.”

“The McCain camp is in a death spiral.”

“I know nothing about a Republican strategist called Brad Blakeman. Except that he is a liar. And John McCain is a dishonest, dishonorable liar.”

“I’m in two minds whether John McCain has lost his mind or never had a soul. . . . John McCain is now for ever a despicable and dishonest and dishonorable man. He has destroyed his reputation.”

Random Observations

1. I’m back from my fact-finding mission to KY and IN and DC. I will say more about that later.

2. On Sarah: Charles Krauthammer, the man who invented the phrase the "Bush Doctrine," is right to say today that both Sarah and Charley aren’t up on it. That doctrine is a fluid and evolving thing, and Charley is way behind the times. My objection to the Bush Doctrine in all its forms is that it turns prudent generalizations into doctrine. So I’m perfectly sympathetic to Sarah’s reaction that it would make more sense to speak of the president’s "worldview."

3. That’s not to say that Sarah was anywhere near perfect on foreign policy. It was jarring for her to say clearly what is implied by Georgia’s membership in NAT0. She reminded me why I’m so against it. But she can be defended by the observation that she was merely echoing the stongly held view of our party’s presidential candidate.

4. The liberal spin on Sarah’s conversation with Charley is that she displayed a dangerous mixture of arrogance and ignorance. Sarah was, in fact, very self-confident in expressing her willingness to serve as her country’s vice president. But she also did well, as Charley was too dumb to notice, in tempering the aggressiveness of her self-confidence with Christian humility. (See the evidence presented by Julie below.) In my opinion, Sarah’s self-confidence is potentially a prudent corrective to too much emphasis on honor and patriotism.

5. The danger at this point is not that our Sarah will be outed or discredited in some terrible way. It may well be the excessive giddiness or overconfidence among conservatives that’s come with the obvious benefits (beginning with the bump) of her choice. The studies actually show this morning that the election is a DEAD HEAT, and that that the bump has done bumped. So the campaign is just beginning, and the most powerful advantages are still with the Democrats.

Palin and Self-Government

My extended reflections on what the controversy over Palin tells us about self-government, first aired here on NLT two weeks ago, are up in the new issue of The Weekly Standard: "Give ’Em Hell, Sarah."

Weekend Fun

Airplane! reunion.

Mark Penn

CBS News interviews Mark Penn, the strategist for both Clintons. Worth a read and note the comment on why the press has lost credibility and therefore will not able to influence this election. 

Meditation for a Friday Afternoon

From the 1940 Anglican Hymnal, "Sing Praise to God Who Spoke Through Men":

For Socrates who phrase by phrase

Talked men to truth unshrinking,

And left for Plato’s mighty grace

To mold our ways of thinking.

Biden as Obama’s Hot Potatoe?

Even the New York Times cannot help but be bemused by the amazing mouth of Joe Biden. I cannot resist adding that it seems that old Joe imagines some of Obama’s supernatural powers may have rubbed off onto him by virtue of his proximity to Obama’s sacred robes. Obama has the power to command the waters of the sea and Biden (note his urging that a paraplegic state senator stand to be recognized) apparently now believes that he has the power to command the lame to walk!

At least Biden comes off more as an awkward oaf than as a presumptuous and arrogant elitist with a messiah complex. Maybe the Democrats can work that lovable dork image to their advantage. But if it were me, I wouldn’t much like having to play that hand.

Podcast with Andy Busch

I did a podcast with Andy Busch today regarding the election. We discuss many aspects of the election including the effect a McCain victory could have on Congressional races and whether or not McCain’s gains in national polls are translating into Electoral College success. Thanks to Andy for taking the time to chat with me.

He also notes in this op-ed that there are a few issue that will prove to be in McCain’s interest, once fully raised.

Charlie Gibson: Do You Know What "Exact" Means?

Oooops. It looks like Charlie Gibson wasn’t very exacting when he did his interview prep. Note this excerpt from the Palin interview:

GIBSON: You said recently, in your old church, “Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God.” Are we fighting a holy war?

PALIN: You know, I don’t know if that was my exact quote.

GIBSON: Exact words.

PALIN: But the reference there is a repeat of Abraham Lincoln’s words when he said — first, he suggested never presume to know what God’s will is, and I would never presume to know God’s will or to speak God’s words. But what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that’s a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God’s side. That’s what that comment was all about, Charlie. And I do believe, though, that this war against extreme Islamic terrorists is the right thing. It’s an unfortunate thing, because war is hell and I hate war, and, Charlie, today is the day that I send my first born, my son, my teenage son overseas with his Stryker brigade, 4,000 other wonderful American men and women, to fight for our country, for democracy, for our freedoms. Charlie, those are freedoms that too many of us just take for granted. I hate war and I want to see war ended. We end war when we see victory, and we do see victory in sight in Iraq.

GIBSON: I take your point about Lincoln’s words, but you went on and said, “There is a plan and it is God’s plan.”

PALIN: I believe that there is a plan for this world and that plan for this world is for good. I believe that there is great hope and great potential for every country to be able to live and be protected with inalienable rights that I believe are God-given, Charlie, and I believe that those are the rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That, in my world view, is a grand — the grand plan.

GIBSON: But then are you sending your son on a task that is from God?

PALIN: I don’t know if the task is from God, Charlie. What I know is that my son has made a decision. I am so proud of his independent and strong decision he has made, what he decided to do and serving for the right reasons and serving something greater than himself and not choosing a real easy path where he could be more comfortable and certainly safer.

Notice Gibson’s smug assertion that he was giving Palin an "exact" quotation from her own words even though she, rightly, suspected that he changed them.

Here, for the record, is the EXACT quote from Palin in the (impromptu) speech she gave before her church’s congregation:

Pray for our military. He’s [her son] going to be deployed in September to Iraq. Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right also for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God; that is what we have to make sure that we are praying for.
No fair-minded person could read that as an assertion that our task abroad is certainly "from God." It is, rather, a prayer that the task will be a task from God, i.e., a prayer that we would do as God approves. It is, as she said, an invocation of Abraham Lincoln’s prayer that we might have the wisdom and the fortitude to do as God would have us do and not any kind of claim to special or privileged knowledge of the will of God.

Here is a link to an actual transcript and the video of the entirety of Palin’s speech. Do note that the site where it is posted is not--by any stretch of the imagination--in the tank for Palin or McCain.

What does it say, however, for the limited imaginations of Charlie Gibson and so many of Sarah Palin’s critics, however, that they cannot recognize (as Peggy Noonan put it) Christian humility when they see it?

Thanks to Chris Burkett and Steve Thomas for pointing me toward these two links today.

What IS the Bush Doctrine?

Scores of hungry commentators eager for a chance to score a sly lay-up against Sarah Palin, have pointed to her response about the Bush Doctrine last night as evidence that she is not ready to be anywhere close to the Presidency. But William Dyer posting at Hugh Hewitt’s page argues that many of these commentators are exposing their own ignorance and doing exactly what they accused Sarah Palin of doing by coming out with a "top-of-the-head" and pat response to the question without thinking. In fact, argues Dyer, Palin’s response to Gibson’s question about whether she agreed with the Bush Doctrine in the form of a question ("In what respect, Charlie?") may have demonstrated a more comprehensive knowledge of the so-called "Bush Doctrine" than Gibson or, certainly, many of Palin’s too eager critics have shown.

Although the aspect of the Bush Doctrine that is most often invoked in questions about its legitimacy among the media elites is the claim for a right to "anticipatory self-defense," it is not fair to say that this is the sum total of a 31 page policy paper and the experience of the last six years worth of efforts to enforce it. The Bush Doctrine, in the popular imagination, is much more than the sum total of its parts--and certainly much more than an evaluation of one of its parts. Palin was right to press Gibson to clarify--not just for her own sake in giving an accurate and fair answer--but for the sake of the viewers who, whatever James Carville says to the contrary, probably have a broader understanding of the term than he seems to possess.

And, for the record, the real problem, I’d guess, is that they did not like it when Palin said, "Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligent and legitimate evidence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country." Never mind them. The American people will like it just fine.

Fresh start?

The Obama campaign is going to get tough, adjustments are being made, sharper ads drawn up, etc. I’m not yet impressed. Also note that Gallup shows this regarding Congressional elections: "the Democrats now leading the Republicans by just 3 percentage points, 48% to 45%, in voters’ ’generic ballot’ preferences for Congress. This is down from consistent double-digit Democratic leads seen on this measure over the past year." Also, Congressional Democrats are beginning to publicly worry, and are thinkings of ways to distance themselves from the Obama campaign. Note the reference to a "growing sense of doom."

We are the gatekeepers . . .

Several people have linked to this story by Washington Post media critic, Howard Kurtz:

The media are getting mad.

Whether it’s the latest back-and-forth over attack ads, the silly lipstick flap or the continuing debate over Sarah and sexism, you can just feel the tension level rising several notches. . . .

News outlets are increasingly challenging false or questionable claims by the McCain campaign, whether it’s the ad accusing Obama of supporting sex-ed for kindergartners (the Illinois legislation clearly describes "age-appropriate" programs) or Palin’s repeated boast that she stopped the Bridge to Nowhere (after she had supported it, and after Congress had effectively killed the specific earmark).


John Hinderaker notes the truth ain’t so simple as Kurtz suggests (and the media are seldom so exacting with Democrats). See also Mark Steyn’s amusing, if polemical, commentary.

Glen Reynolds suggests a source for the anger: "I think it’s because they don’t matter as much as they once did."

He’s probably onto something, but there’s more to it. In my experience, the leader of the U.S. media is the New York Times. Other newspapers and TV news organizations read the Times and follow suit. Indeed, TV reporters sometimes learn their agenda for the day by reading the Times. That model worked for quite some time, but it is breaking down. It is now becoming obvious that the "Mainstream media" (MSM) is no such thing. Moreover, thanks to the internet (and talk radio before that, but the internet, by providing more access to independent reporting has helped talk radio make news, rather than simply comment on it), it is getting harder and harder for a reporter to know what’s going on by following only the major newspapers and magazines.

In short, the gate-keeper role of the Times (and in politics The Washington Post) in particular, and of the old media establishment, is dying. Note Kurtz’s comment, "The lipstick imbroglio is evidence that the Drudge/Fox/New York Post axis can drive just about any story into mainstream land." (Mickey Kaus had a very intelligent discussion of this change about a week ago).

But there is one more, and, as far as I can tell, little discussed, element to the story: and that is the human dynamic. Put yourself in the shoes of a reporter for the New York Times or The Washington Post. He or she has worked hard for many years to reach the top of a particular hill. And just when he gets there, he finds that the hill is a much less important one than it was before.

Moreover, he suddenly finds that rogues and upstarts of whom he has never heard, and who have not put the years in, in the blogosphere, are getting more attention, and are more important than he. Combine that with the sad state of the news business, and there’s a real prolem. Each week, he hears of old friends and colleagues losing their jobs because the newspapers and perhaps networks too, can’t afford to pay them. If you’re 45 or so, and have just made it, and perhaps have a couple of kids who want to go to college, it’s going to cause grey hairs and ulcers.

Perhaps that’s partly behind Kurtz’s anger. His own status, as the most important media critic in the U.S., is much less than it was when he got to the top of the heap a the Post.

P.S. This might also explain some of the big media reaction to Governor Palin. She represents all that. She did not work hard in high school to get to a top, Ive league school. She did not go to Washington and work her way up. Instead, she worked in a place they had barely heard of, and yet is jumping past people they know in the climb for status. (The references to Palin’s job as a sportscaster when she was younger fit in here. She was not from the "serious" side of the business.) It’s just not fair.

Update: Byron York notes this comment by the Washington Post’s Marc Fisher:

“In this time of ‘American Idol,’ bedroom bloggers and the belief that experience, knowledge and education don’t necessarily mean a whole lot, Palin is a symbol, a statement that anyone can make it if he or she really tries.

“In this hyperdemocratized society,” Fisher continued, “the national conviction that anyone can succeed is morphing into a belief that experience and knowledge may almost be disqualifying credentials.”

Note the implied contrast between "bedroom bloggers" and real credentialed (ie: "vetted"?) newsmen.

Palin Interview

The first snippets of the Charlie Gibson/Sarah Palin interview are now surfacing on the Internet. Palin says that she "did not hesitate" and "did not blink" when she was asked to be John McCain’s running mate because she is ready and you can’t hesitate when you are committed to a mission like this. Good answer. Better yet, she didn’t blink when Charlie Gibson tried to pin her down as a religious wacko. She very calmly (and sensibly) appealed to Abraham Lincoln’s understanding of our duty to be on God’s side in a just cause rather than praying and hoping that He will be on ours. We have a duty to do right, that is all. Normal people get that and know that it is not some Bible thumping call to holy war--much as the other side might wish that it were.

I will have to watch the whole interview (parts will be aired tonight and I think the whole thing will be shown tomorrow) before I can pronounce it an unqualified success, but I have to say that it looks promising--mainly because she just looks so normal, so real. The more her opponents try to paint a picture of her that departs from that obvious reality, the more refreshing her normalcy is going to feel and the better we will all like her. We will know that what they’re really painting is a picture of how they see us and we will know that it is unfair, unscrupulous and--what’s more--it is silly. We are not in a situation where we can afford to listen to the silly people. When November rolls around, we’re going to listen to the conversation at the grown up table.

In passing, I cannot resist mentioning that the two central references she makes in the outtakes I’ve seen were to Lincoln and the Declaration of Independence. She just looks better all the time.


President Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government. And the BBC reports that Pakistani security officials say they have killed up to 100 militants on the Afghan border. Also, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said there was "no question of any agreement or understanding with the coalition forces whereby they are allowed to conduct operations on our side of the border." It also seems that fighting has been suspended in the Bajaur tribal district on the Afghan border in honor of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Over five hundred people have died in the fighting here, and about 300,000 have fled the area.
2008 is already the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.


The photo is good and some of the bumper sticker mottos are good. From the London Telegraph.

September 11th Is a Good Day to Remember Our Priorities

Jeffrey Goldberg made the case earlier this week: “The next president must do one thing, and one thing only, if he is to be judged a success: He must prevent Al Qaeda, or a Qaeda imitator, from gaining control of a nuclear device and detonating it in America. Everything else — Fannie Mae, health care reform, energy independence, the budget shortfall in Wasilla, Alaska — is commentary. The nuclear destruction of Lower Manhattan, or downtown Washington, would cause the deaths of thousands, or hundreds of thousands; a catastrophic depression; the reversal of globalization; a permanent climate of fear in the West; and the comprehensive repudiation of America’s culture of civil liberties.”

Martin Amis, speaking of biological weapons, made the same point last month: The paths of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction “are visibly inclined, like the sides of a tapering spire. Their convergence is guaranteed by the simplest of market forces. Marginal costs will fall; and demand will climb.” Terrorism could, at any moment, “could go from nothing to everything. After an untraceable mass-destructive strike on one of its cities, what political system would ever know itself again? And all other states would be unrecognizable too, as would relations between them.”

And Benjamin Wittes makes it today: “Eventually, we will face another major attack, because killing large numbers of people is just so much easier than stopping all efforts to kill large numbers of people. . . . [As] hard as it is to remember the reality of the enemy after seven years, it will grow only harder still until the day it all comes rushing back, and we chastise ourselves anew for complacency and failing to heed the warnings that today seem so far-fetched.”

After the Irish Republican Army bombed the Brighton hotel in 1984, killing five people but not their intended target, Prime Minister Thatcher, it issued a statement that summarized the remorseless terrorist’s tactical advantage: “Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always.”

How Liberals Think

In the past few days, Jim Geraghty has noted a couple of interesting items.

The first is this survey:

"While 82% of voters who support McCain believe the justices should rule on what is in the Constitution, just 29% of Barack Obama’s supporters agree." Their preferred metric? "the judge’s sense of fairness."

Then there’s his post on the McCain ad about a bill that would teach sex ed in kindergarden. The Obama camp calls the ad grossly unfair. Yet, as Geraghty points out (a follow-up can be found here):

On the sex ed bill, it’s possible that Obama had the best of intentions, but the bill text did include, "Each class or course in comprehensive sex education offered in any of grades K through 12 shall include instruction on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including the prevention, transmission and spread of HIV." Do kids really need to know about STDs starting at age 5? Isn’t it a strong argument that the "good touch-bad touch" stuff could start that early, but the nitty-gritty about exchanging bodily fluids could wait until the kids are at least a little closer to double digits?

All would agree that it is absurd to teach five-year-olds comprehensive sex education. To liberals, that’s the key question. No reasonable bill could require that. Hence, they reason, even if the language seems to imply such a thing, it ought not to be so construed. Conservatives, tend to believe that laws should be interpreted as written, even when the law is bad. (There’s a separation of powers argument here too. Since the 1920s, our legislators have grown comfortable with giving vague plenary grants of power, rather than strict legislation, to the bureaucracy to interpret. When the interpretation causes public outcry, Congressmen hold a hearing and berate the bureaucrats for their interpretations.)

This dynamic reflects a larger idea that has been part of liberalism since the rise of Pragmatism in the early 20th century: no statement ought to be interpreted strictly to the full extent of its logic. Sometimes I wonder if the pragmatic epistemology is behind this idea. On one hand, it holds that the human brain is incapable of grasping certain truth about nature or about right and wrong. On the other hand, it still keeps going as if we really do know what we’re doing and saying.

Update. I meant to ask whether the same idea applies to Senator Obama’s comments about going to the UN to censure Russia after it invaded Georgia: the UN was created to handle precisely such situations in an above-board, legal, and regular way. It would be absure to allow a country to be able to subvert that process by excercising its veto . . . (Might this be a living Charter argument? Over time, the necessary compromises from 1945 are overturned by the underlying purpose of the thing?)

A Telling Reflection from a Young Feminist . . .

. . . on Sarah Palin. How interesting it is to note the way that negative female stereotypes ooze from her pen--to say nothing of her striving to live up to them. I have always been of the firm opinion that the true contempt for things female and for femininity comes most often from self-hating "feminists" and, only rarely (and always much more ineffectively) from male Cretans. Note especially the young woman’s twisted yearning for a kind of Hillary as Xena Warrior Princess descending from the sky to save her from the feminine and strong (but I repeat myself) Sarah. And also note the role she assigns to Bill:

It’s true that the last time I had this kind of visceral yearning for a politician to save the day was on the evening of Sept. 11, when the only person whose face I wanted to see on my television was Bill Clinton’s. Perhaps when the Clintons took office in my 18th year, they became imprinted on my brain as my presidential parent-figures, my ur-protectors. But it’s hard not to notice that if that’s the case, it’s Bill I want to nurture and soothe me, and Hillary I want to show up, guns blazing Ripley-style, to surprise the mother alien just as she is about to feast on independent voters, protectively shouting, "Get away from them, you bitch!"
On the 7th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on our country, is it not a bit of interesting commentary that this young woman of the left chooses to reveal a one time desire to have Bill Clinton soothe her and a current desire to Hillary Clinton go to war with the likes of Sarah Palin. I guess that when you live in the kind of rarefied atmosphere that must represent this gal’s life experience, you have plenty of time to worry about imagined evil-doers like Sarah Palin. I suppose in that world, an attack on your country may inspire a desire to be cuddled by a Cretan like Bill Clinton instead of a desire to see the real men and women of the American military come out "guns blazing Ripley-style to surprise" the Alien terrorists just as they are about to feast on some more innocent Americans and scream, "Get away from them, you bitch."

One is tempted to note that the longing for Bill Clinton on the part of so many feminists--the slavish kind of gratitude they have so often expressed (not only forgiving him Monica but offering to imitate her)--may be indicative of a kind of repressed and unfulfilled personal (and feminine) need. But I refrain from saying more out of a desire not to be cruel. And I suppose it’s not fair to express disgust at the visceral reactions some people have in the face of great evil and horror. But I won’t hesitate to note that I had a very different reaction to the events of seven years ago. I can’t speak for her, but I bet Sarah did too.

Thanks to Rattlegator for pointing me to this article.

Obama is getting louder

The L.A. Times points out that Sen. Obama is getting louder at campaign events. Apparently this is his attempt to appeal to the "gut" that Tom Friedman talked about in yesterday’s NY Times. Some think this is the new "fighting" Obama. Of course, this is silly and will not work. They have to come up something much better than this, and they can’t wait until the first debate.

"Democrats Need to Shake the ’Elitist’ Tag"

I wholeheartedly agree with this article, but note the author: Lynn Forester de Rothschild.

Lynn Forester de Rothschild? Is this a parody? What next? Bertie Wooster writing about auto repair and cooking?

Nuanced Campaign Evaluations, Reflecting the Cool, Analytical Detachment of Our Friends on the Left

It’s been a trying 10 days for Barack Obama’s fans. With characteristic understatement and civility, they are exerting themselves to make clear that the political differences dividing Americans are ones about which decent and reasonable people can disagree:

“We’re coming off the worst eight years in our country’s history.”

Adam McKay, “We’re Gonna Frickin’ Lose this Thing,” September 8, The Huffington Post

[Adam, just to be clear: You’re saying that the past eight years are worse than the eight that included the Depression, or World War II, when 400,000 Americans died, or the Civil War, when 600,000 did? If you really want the gold medal in freestyle hysteria, you can’t hold back like that. Why not double down and say the past eight years have been the worst in any country’s history? What the Germans and Russians endured in the 1930s, the Poles in the 1940s, the Chinese in the 1960s, or the Cambodians in the 1970s is a day at the spa compared to what Americans have gone through since 2000. That’s an approach that will impress undecided voters and Independents.]

“John McCain is running a campaign almost entirely based on straight up lies. . . . [He] is running the sleaziest, most dishonest and race-baiting campaign of our lifetimes.”

Josh Marshall, “Unfit for High Office,” September 10, Talking Point Memo

“If Americans choose McCain, they will be turning their back on the rest of the world, choosing to show us four more years of the Bush-Cheney finger. . . . Suddenly Europeans and others will conclude that their dispute is with not only one ruling clique, but Americans themselves. . . . For America to make a decision as grave as this one - while the planet boils and with the US fighting two wars - on the trivial basis that a hockey mom is likable and seems down to earth, would be to convey a lack of seriousness, a fleeing from reality . . . ”

Jonathan Freedland, “The World’s Verdict Will Be Harsh if the U.S. Rejects the Man it Yearns For,” September 10, The Guardian

Paglia on Palin

An honest Democrat takes an honest look at the honest Sarah Palin and finds that not only is she not afraid of Palin as she would be of some right-wing ideologue but, indeed, she kinda likes her. I know the feeling. That’s how I always feel when I read Camille Paglia as opposed to reading some left-wing feminist ideologue. She is a worthy opponent because she always attempts to understand her opposition as they understand themselves.   

HuffPo Melting Down

A fun post to read over at the Huffington Post. If you are particularly offended by sailor-like language, don’t click on the link. But if you can handle rough talk, I thought an inside view of the coming meltdown may warm your heart.

On the Other Hand. . .

Jim Geraghty posts a history of Obama’s subtle and less-than-subtle sexist remarks aimed at Hillary in the primaries (plus the "sweetie" incident I had forgotten) that cumulatively suggest that maybe the guy really is a . . . pig.

Of Pigs and Pitbulls in Lipstick

Picking up on Steve’s "Gaffeology" below, I don’t like saying that I think some of the reaction to Obama’s lipstick comment has been unfair. But I think it has. I don’t think he meant to imply that Sarah is a pig because I don’t think he is accustomed to that kind of speech (at least not in public--though he’s got some even more interesting language in his serial autobiography). But it is revelatory, as you say Steve, because he’s also not accustomed to the kind of speech of which the (commonly used--remember Fred Thompson’s use of it) pig in lipstick quote is representative. That is, he’s not used to speaking in the language of the people. He is used to a kind of kingly or professorial speech. So he makes a botch of these lines when he tries to use them. Steve’s right--it shows that he is rattled and it was a "flub" rather than a "gaffe." But I suspect that he is trying to use these lines because of his biggest gaffe of all--and one Steve neglected to mention.

Don’t forget the gaffe that, in the end when the pundits have processed this whole election through the meat-grinder of their would-be analysis, will not squeeze through the machine. His remarks in San Franscisco about middle America "clinging" to their God and their guns will not be processed into the sausage Obama wants to sell. That was the mother of all gaffes for Obama and because of it, he can never be free of the sneaking suspicion (for some) or dead certainty (for most) that he is nothing but another liberal, Ivy League elitist who "doesn’t get it" or, frankly, get them. That, combined with the refreshing normalcy of Sarah Palin will do him in--indeed, it is doing him in. And this is causing him to lose his cool and to try, desperately, to look normal. We don’t have to do much but watch these flubs, note the flubs and call them fairly. You’re right. Making too much out of them is sophomoric and, worse, it may be counter-productive. It looks like piling on and we should show a little magnanimity with approaching victory. We should refrain from allowing ourselves to look like salivating wolves if we want his mistakes to have their full and devastating impact.

Campaign crisis

The Thomas Friedman thinks that Obama is no longer connecting on a gut level, is losing his base (never mind losing independents), and he must do something to regain and the L.A. Times news desk thinks it is important to say, on the front page, that the Democratic "campaign has lost its stride," it’s now official: Obama strategists are full of anxiety and concern and say they are in need of energy. Cool must become something else. Change is needed in the campaign.

I think they have only days to come up with a surge of their own; their old strategy has met with their opponents strategy and they are surprised and are flailing around. One Democrat says that hey actually expected Palin to have exactly the opposite effect she has had. You don’t have to call this panic, if you don’t want to, but I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes about three weeks before voting actually starts in some states. It will be interesting to see what shade of lipstick they come up with to make the Obama/Biden campaign relevant, intelligent, rhetorically effective and in general appealing. But, you know what they say about putting lipstick on a pig.


So what are we to make of "lipstick-pig-gate"?

Some "gaffes" tell us something important about a candidate’s character or views. When Jesse Jackson called New York "Hymietown" in 1984 it aroused suspicion of anti-Semitic attitudes, which were confirmed when at the convention Jackson and his forces opposed a proposed plank in the Democratic platform that criticized anti-Semitism. Jackson said such a plank was "unnecessary." Strange, coming from the "Rainbow" coalition guy normally so "inclusive" of any perceived grievance. (Mondale caved on the plank, by the way.)

In 1980, Carter’s increasingly desperate personal attacks on Reagan backfired badly, leading to the media meme that he was "mean." It revealed a self-righteous, nasty streak to Carter’s character that was evident to people who followed him in Georgia. It finally caught up to him in 1980.

Obama’s lipstick-streak yesterday doesn’t really rise to this level. It was clumsy in the extreme, and it suggests he is rattled. But if so I suspect he’ll make more such mistakes, and the cumulative effect will then become more significant. But maybe he will settle down and get his groove back. This one seems pretty small potatoes to me. Michael Kinsley famously remarked that a "gaffe" is when someone unaccountably tells the truth. Not in this case; classify this a "flub" rather than a "gaffe." A "gaffe" in Obama’s case was his statement more than a year ago that he’d meet Admadinewhackjob without preconditions (since modified, of course).

Yesterday Richard Cohen had a good column about how weakly Obama responded on the ABC This Week show on Sunday; he is starting to remind me at time of Dukakis in 1988.

The Liberal Echo Chamber

Megan McArdle notes that social science suggests that liberal bias pervades the press. Why? Everyone I knew voted for McGovern . . .

Out with the Old, in with the Nuance . . .

Reading over some of Governor Palin’s commments, I find that her thinking is rather more subtle and nuanced than the establishment media suppose. One suspects, in fact, that secular people sometimes don’t understand that "religious" does not mean the same thing as "simple-minded." (H/t Byron York)

Consider Palin’s comments on Roe v Wade,

QUESTION: If Roe v. Wade were overturned and states could once again prohibit abortion, in your view, to what extent should abortion be prohibited in Alaska?

PALIN: Under this hypothetical scenario, it would not be up to the governor to unilaterally ban anything. It would be up to the people of Alaska to discuss and decide how we would like our society to reflect our values.

And her comments on sex ed in school.

In a recent survey you said that you would support abstinence-until-marriage education but that you would not support explicit sex-ed programs. What are explicit sex-ed programs, and does that include talking about condoms in school?

Palin’s answer:

No, I don’t think that it includes something that is relatively benign. Explicit means explicit. No, I am pro-contraception, and I think kids who may not hear about it at home should hear about it in other avenues. So I’m not anti-contraception. But yeah, abstinence is another alternative that should be discussed with kids. I don’t have a problem with that. That doesn’t scare me, so it’s something that I would support also.

Spengler on Why Obama Will Lose

...He let the lovely Michelle’s anger keep him from choosing victory with Hillary. That tragic error, Spengler predicts, will haunt Barack for the rest of his life. Meanwhle, who would have guessed that the manly McCain would have been realistic enough not to say that I would rather lose an election than pick a woman? (Rasmussen reported last night that Obama has lost most of his double-digit lead among women since Sarah was chosen. One reason often given: The media apply a double standard when judging her.) There’s a lot more great--along with some very questionable--stuff in Spengler’s bold and brilliant article.

Offering Examples of Liberal Condescension

Clive Crook writes in the Financial Times, “If only the Democrats could contain their sense of entitlement to govern in a rational world, and their consequent distaste for wide swathes of the US electorate, they might gain the unshakeable grip on power they feel they deserve. . . . But the fathomless cultural complacency of the metropolitan liberal rules this out.” Crook’s blogging colleague at, Ta-Nehisi Coates, replies that “whenever I hear these charges of liberal condescension they’re almost always accompanied by what I would very generously call a sprinkling of examples.”

Mr. Coates, here is some raw material to consider:

1. Arthur Schlesinger, a Harvard man, had limitless praise for liberal Democratic presidents who were also Harvard men, such as FDR and JFK. He barely bothered to hide his contempt for the Democrat who served for nearly 8 of the 15 years between them, Harry Truman, the only 20th century president who did not graduate from college. Schlesinger called Truman “a man of mediocre and limited capacity” who “has managed to surround himself with his intellectual equals.” According to the historian Fred Siegel, “the political and cultural snobbery” that Schlesinger did so little to conceal, “has proved the undoing of American liberalism.” Schlesinger’s attitudes, Siegel writes, “live on in the aristocratic snobbery of professional liberals, in both senses of the term, who expect, given their putative expertise, to be obeyed.”

2. After the 1980 Republican convention The Nation published an article by the novelist E.L. Doctorow, which derided Ronald Reagan’s upbringing in such small downstate Illinois towns as “Galesburg, Monmouth and Dixon – just the sorts of places responsible for one of the raging themes of American literature, the soul-murdering complacency of our provinces . . . . The best and brightest fled all our Galesburgs and Dixons, if they could, but the candidate was not among them.” For good measure, Doctorow described Reagan’s education at Eureka College as the journey of “a third-rate student at a fifth-rate college.”

3. A 1997 cover story in Time magazine, about educated professionals moving to small towns for a better quality of life, described the tensions when some of those same professionals decide that Mayberry would be greatly improved if it were made more like the Upper West Side. It recounts the story of Marcy Hawley who moved to Wilmington, Ohio. She and other newcomers created the school system’s “Multicultural Advisory Board,” where they advocated “racial-sensitivity training and a minority-hiring program.” The locals ignored the committee’s recommendations and eventually disbanded it. “After a rancorous school-board meeting,” one board member “took Hawley aside. ‘You folks are getting a reputation,’ he said. ‘You’re always trying to enlighten us.’" Ms. Hawley’s congenial reply was, "‘Then I guess we’re not succeeding.’”

4. The Inside Higher Ed blogger, UD, reacting to Sarah Palin’s nomination, wrote, “A lot of Americans don’t seem to like highly educated people, and they don’t want them running the country.” That being the case, “We need to encourage everyone to be in college for as many years as they possibly can, in the hope that somewhere along the line they might get some exposure to the world outside their town, and to moral ideas not exclusively derived from their parents’ religion. If they don’t get this in college, they’re not going to get it anywhere else.”

5. Finally, The New Republic’s John Judis came upon a delegate to the 2008 GOP convention, who turned out to be the Arizona Superintendent of Schools, killing a little time by playing Bach, Rachmaninoff and Gershwin on a hotel piano. “I asked him how a person who played the piano so well . . . could be a Republican.”

The prosecution rests.

Wal-Mart Moms Unite

Bill Kristol thinks they will if the GOP can leave well enough alone and let Sarah be Sarah. What I think is that the GOP won’t be able to stop her and John McCain is smart enough not to try. And this Wal-Mart mom, for one, is delighted to see it.

I also read over the weekend that the creator of the song "Barracuda" (performed by Heart and played at the convention to introduce Gov. Palin) is, like Heart, less than enamored of our Sarah. He doesn’t support the "cease and desist" letter that Heart sent out because he wants to get the royalties and donate them to Barack Obama. I’d really like to see Sarah Palin issue a statement in which she vows to keep using the song and smiles sweetly when she says that she thinks it’s only fair. Barack’s going to need all the help he can get.

You Go, Joe

On a flight to Kalispell, Mont., Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., was asked by a reporter, "Do you still believe in a tripartite solution to Iraq?" His answer lasted 13 minutes, 20 seconds.

If you have the stomach to read the whole thing, click here.

Bush, Undervalued

Taking up my old theme of politicians as stock market picks, Bush looks like a undervalued "buy" at the moment in the opinion of Oliver Kamm. Kamm writes about John Lewis Gaddis’s view of Bush in a recent article in The American Interest, including this intriguing comment from Gaddis (which I’ve also heard from our own Peter Schramm):

So what might shift contemporary impressions of President Bush? I can only speak for myself here, but something I did not expect was the discovery that he reads more history and talks with more historians than any of his predecessors since at least John F. Kennedy. The President has surprised me more than once with comments on my own books soon after they’ve appeared, and I’m hardly the only historian who has had this experience. I’ve found myself improvising excuses to him, in Oval Office seminars, as to why I hadn’t read the latest book on Lincoln, or on—as Bush refers to him—the “first George W.” I’ve even assigned books to Yale students on his recommendation, with excellent results.

“Well, so Bush reads history”, one might reasonably observe at this point. “Isn’t it more important to find out how he uses it?” It is indeed, and I doubt that anybody will be in a position to answer that question definitively until the oral histories get recorded, the memoirs get written, and the archives open. But I can say this on the basis of direct observation: President Bush is interested—as no other occupant of the White House has been for quite a long time—in how the past can provide guidance for the future.

What Does the Bump Mean?

Peter Lawler’s post below positing a less than ideological source for the McCain Palin bounce is a fair bit of observation. I think I agree with him though I have a slightly different take on what it all means. I know anecdotal evidence proves nothing but sometimes it is illustrative and, in this case, it may help to explain my thinking.

My mother-in-law has a cousin (they are both in their mid 70s) who is the textbook case of an "independent" voter. Her politics are all over the map when it comes to elections but she has a few issues about which she can get fairly passionate. An example: the only extended political discussion I’ve ever had with her came as a result of her telling my husband and I that good parents should never allow a gun to be present in the home. (I note in passing that the relative who took our side in that argument was another of the cousins who is a committed and very ideological Democrat . . .) Nevertheless, this woman is a very decent and hard-working sort and she managed to raise three successful boys in spite of the associated anguish of three failed marriages. So I had no idea how she would view the McCain-Palin ticket or whether she would have any strong opinion about it at all.

It turns out that she is delighted with Palin and cannot wait to go vote for McCain now even though she was pretty indifferent about him before this pick. For her, Sarah made all the difference. My mother-in-law, for her part, feels exactly the same way. Although there was never any question of who my father-in-law would support (he’s a veteran, after all), she was pretty impressed with Obama and only hesitated about him because she did not like Michelle. I should also mention that had Hillary Clinton won the nomination, all bets might be off. Both women flirted with the idea of supporting her although neither of them is anything like a committed Democrat. But it is also fair to say that their "support" for Clinton was always pretty soft and never as animated as it is now for Palin.

Why? Clearly, it’s not ideology. And, if we’re being honest, my own support for her isn’t all about that either. I knew about and liked her politics long before I had any enthusiasm for her as a candidate. It was only during her speech (which . . . thank you, attack dogs in the media, so many people watched) that I began to I feel, as these women now feel, cheerful and confident about our country and our prospects again. We remembered that, like Sarah Palin, we are a strong and independent people and that we need not fret over the challenges that confront us on either the domestic or the international scene. Her speech seemed to say that those challenges are real . . . but we are Americans, gosh-darn-it. What can’t we do when we mean business?

I will also say that I had much the same experience in all the conversations I had with people over the weekend. Everyone was talking about and wanted to talk about Sarah Palin--at the school picnic, at the baseball game, at church and in the stores. And these were not people who know me as anything other than a mom--I’m pretty sure I’ve never discussed politics with any of these people. I can’t remember what it was like in the early days for Reagan, but I’ve never seen anything like this level of enthusiasm among regular people for a candidate.

It’s true that Barack Obama excited enthusiasm in the early days of his campaign. But I think the difference between the enthusiasm for Sarah Palin and the enthusiasm for Barack Obama is going to boil down to this in the end: the enthusiasm for him was ideological. While Sarah ties up the loose ends of the committed conservative base, she has the added benefit of securing the non-ideological voters who see in her a person they believe will work hard, put her country first and not betray their trust.

Barring some great reversal of fortunes, this is now Sarah Palin’s race to lose and I don’t think she’s in the habit of losing.

Gov. Palin, Meet Albert Camus . . .

Sarah Palin: "Al I ever really needed to know I learned on the basketball court."

Albert Camus: “All that I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football.”

Going after the French Intellectual vote, I suppose.

Palin’s religion again

See first of all some of the comments in the post below, especially the one linking to Naomi Schaefer Riley’s article.

But also consider this: folks have been making a great deal about how Barack Obama’s background is an asset when it comes to understanding other countries and cultures. Well, Sarah Palin’s experience with Pentecostalism (not my theological cup of tea, to be sure) puts her in touch with one of the most vital and vibrant elements of global Christianity. And theologically and morally conservative Christians in general (vide Rick Warren) have more in common with their counterparts in the developing world than do either the liberal mainline or their Afro-centric cousins.

Palin in Debate

Over on the Corner Byron York observes Palin in her debate in the 2006 Republican primary against incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski, noting that she was very good. I saw on C-SPAN her general election debate against Democrat Tony Knowles and thought the same thing: she really knows the details of Alaska’s energy business and spoke fluidly and concisely about the details, many of which I found arcane and hard to follow. I’m sure Biden is watching these videos and realizing that he’s got his hands full. (Someone else noted that she often answered questions so concisely that she used only half her allotted time. Since Biden’s worst enemy is his own mouth, she might well win the debate by allowing Biden to ramble on.)

But this raises a larger point: The left and the media are trying to force Palin into a rigid social-con box, but if you watch her on the stump, in debates, and her record in offce, one thing become clear: she’s much more about bread and butter issues and good government that a frothy social-con agenda. Sure, she has social-con views, but what people don’t recognize is that she exudes Alaska’s very libertarian, live-and-let-live attitude, such that her expressed policy views are much more moderate. The point is, she’s not from Arkansas.

Today’s Polls and the Dems’ problems

I mentioned the Gallup Daily tracking yesterday (see also the good comments by Clint and Dan; also Steve below) and there is more good news for McCain this morning: USA Today/Gallup Poll says that McCain is ahead 50%-46% among registered voters, but then note this: "McCain leads Obama by 54%-44% among those seen as most likely to vote." Zogby has McCain-Palin up by 4%. And, finally, Survay USA shows McCain leads Obama, 49% to 44%, among respondents who were asked "if you were placing a bet today" who do you think will be elected president?

On the hand, McCain supporters should not make the world out of this, on the other, it is a serious fact that has been noted by the Obama folks (see Hayward’s comments below). Look for a change in their strategy effective within days, in my opinion. Obama himself will become more aggressive--they have been on the defense for almost four weeks--while the campaign will re-emphasize bringing to the polls new voters on election day (think about all those young and other disadvantaged groups who should be voting in larger numbers, etc.).

I would also add that it is a great disadvantage to a campaign to give the impression that it is in trouble (pulling adds in states they claimed they could win six weeks ago is a sign of trouble that can’t be hidden even from MSM supporters). The Dems have some major decisions to make in the next week or so. This problem will be exacerbated when they soon discover that Sarah Palin is a perfectly intelligent person when interviewed, since for now they are still relying (hoping) that Palin turns out to be an idiot.

Random Observation

Greetings from Kentucky Lake. Clearly and surprisingly the Republican convention provided the bigger of the two bumps. The cause is Sarah Palin-both the fact of her and McCain’s boldness in choosing her. Don’t forget how fragile she is as a candidate. Despite what the studies show, I’ve found a lot of undecided voters here in KY. People like both Obama and Mac, but doubt that either is the remedy we need. They really like Sarah but suspect she is kind of a mirage. Thinking is remarkably unideological-a couple of young women told me that they’d really want Obama-Palin. The real issues are the economy and gas prices. People are most impressed by competence and confidence. The present president is universally viewed as having neither. But it also seems that hostility to the Iraq war has diminished

A Crook-ed Look At Things

Clive Crook of the Atlantic (whom I know slightly), writes today in the Financial Times (may require registration) about the cultural contradiction of Democrats:

Democrats speak up for the less prosperous; they have well-intentioned policies to help them; they are disturbed by inequality, and want to do something about it. Their concern is real and admirable. The trouble is, they lack respect for the objects of their solicitude. Their sympathy comes mixed with disdain, and even contempt.

Don’t think voters can’t figure this out.

Gallup-ing Away

I was going to comment on that same Gallup poll, but Peter beat me to it. Thoughts: The person with the momentum coming out of Labor Day usually (not always) wins. I also think Obama will struggle if he has to come from behind. Part of his magic has been his front-runner status. I look for them to start making mistakes. I head Obama manager Axelrod on Fox News this morning. Not impressive. Seemed to be straining too hard. Talking points pretty tired out by now.

Letterman had a good gag about Palin: "So, a Vice President who likes guns and hunting. What could go wrong here?"

UPDATE: NLT reader "Watchman" offered a comment that deserves to be moved here: "Cheney hunted birds; Palin hunts moose. When she shoots a lawyer, he’ll stay down! "

My own (lame) contribution: I typically describe myself as having a receded (not receding) hairline. Joe Biden? He has a re-seeded hairline too.

Gallup Daily tracking

shows that John McCain has moved ahead by three points, 48%-45. "These results are based on Sept. 4-6 interviewing, and include two full days of polling after the conclusion of the Republican National Convention last Thursday night. McCain has outpolled Obama on both Friday and Saturday, and is receiving a convention bounce just as Obama did last week."

Also note that this front-page New York Times article should be read very carefully--read what is there and what is alluded to and think about what is not there. Hint: "...even as the Democrats pull back ads in Georgia, a reliably Republican state he had sought to put in play by investing heavily in registering new Democratic voters." And there are more signs in the article of Democratic apprehension.

Allen’s George Washington

I’ve read a few chapters of William B. Allen’s just published George Washington: America’s First Progressive and it is excellent.

Sarah Palin’s religion

I had a conversation with some friends about it yesterday evening, which led me to some snooping around the web.

Perhaps there’s more to it than this, this ,or this but I haven’t found anything yet that puts her outside the evangelical mainstream.

The Chicago Tribune article may seem to do so, but, by my lights, the reporter misinterprets her prayer--regarding her son’s deployment to Iraq--“that our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God, that’s what we have to make sure we are praying for, that there is a plan, and that plan is God’s plan.” This isn’t an affirmation that the deployment is God’s will, but rather that it be in accordance with God’s will. She’s looking for guidance, not presuming to know the mind and will of God. In other words, the prayer is humble.

I expect to see more attempts to paint her religion as unusual and wacky, but, from what I’ve seen thus far, it is much more ordinary than what Barack Obama was sitting through for twenty years.

Update: This WSJ piece doesn’t win awards for balance, quoting only a liberal Baptist on Palin.

Roe, Abortion, and the Culture War

A couple of days ago, Gerald Seib made what has become the conventional argument about abortion in establishment circles. If only we could stop arguing about Roe v. Wade we could do something constructive:

The volume on the abortion debate, relatively low throughout this campaign year, is about to go up. Indeed, a leading abortion-rights group already is using the Palin nomination to raise money from its supporters.

And all that, in turn, means frustration for those activists on both sides of the partisan divide who would like to lower the heat in the long-running national argument on the legality of abortion. These people would like to turn instead to a calmer discussion about something on which both sides might agree: practical steps to make abortion less common.

But doesn’t that miss the degree to which Roe itself has caused the problem. By taking the right to regulate abortion away from the people, the Supreme Court has put us in a situation where we can only shout at each other, and shout about absolutes. Were we allowed to pass laws, in our states, towns, etc., then we could actually make all kinds of laws that reflected various opinions about abortion. To be sure, there would still be serious arguments. On the other hand, our political system was designed to contain precisely such arguments. By taking from the people the right to make diverse laws on a subject that is properly above the pay grade of both courts and Presidents, the Supreme Court caused, or at least exacerbated the culture war.

Thirty five years after Roe, returning power to the people would probably not undo all the damage, but it probably would ease some of the tension.

Noonan v. Brooks

In the piece to which Peter links below, David Brooks writes:

And what was most impressive was her speech’s freshness. Her words flowed directly from her life experience, her poise and mannerisms from her town and its conversations. She left behind most of the standard tropes of Republican rhetoric (compare her text to the others) and skated over abortion and the social issues. There wasn’t even any tired, old Reagan nostalgia.

And here’s Peggy Noonan in today’s Wall Street Journal:

Which gets me to the most important element of the speech, and that is the startlingness of the content. It was not modern conservatism, or split the difference Conservative-ish-ism. It was not a conservatism that assumes the America of 2008 is very different from the America of 1980.

It was the old-time conservatism. Government is too big, Obama will "grow it", Congress spends too much and he’ll spend "more." It was for low taxes, for small business, for the private sector, for less regulation, for governing with "a servant’s heart"; it was pro-small town values, and implicitly but strongly pro-life.

This was so old it seemed new, and startling. The speech was, in its way, a call so tender it made grown-ups weep on the floor. The things she spoke of were the beating heart of the old America.

David Brooks Has Glimpsed the Future

And it includes Sarah’s completely unnostalgic, spirited (but not angry or vengeful), and somewhat ironic self-confidence. There’s also a place for John McCain, who will always have the heart of an insurgent. There’s no return to Reagan here (and who can deny there’s a sort of repudiation of Bushes?), but something fresh and new--the real party of change.

The New Issue of PERSPECTIVES ON POLITICAL SCIENCE talked up by Pat Deneen. That’s because it includes an article by him about ME. Pat, Yuval Levin, Marc Guerra, and Ivan the K all contributed generous and brilliant reflections on my work, especially HOMELESS AND HOME IN AMERICA. Thanks to Ivan for organizing this symposium issue--for graciously supplementing my own shameless self-promotion.

Let me invite you again to scroll down and read Deneen’s thoughts about our Sarah, which may point to a realignment in American politics. It’s not just former Republicans she may be bringing home (eventually at least).

Here’s some really bad news: I will be traveling from Kentucky to Indiana to DC over the next week and my messages of hope and love will be few and far between.

Polls on Palin

These polls from Rasmussen are offered for what they are worth. It’s no surprise to me that Palin is viewed more favorably than either McCain or Obama at this point. But that’s not even the significant part of the polling. What’s more interesting is the jump in McCain’s favorable numbers with Republicans AND independents as a result of adding Palin to the ticket:

The Palin pick has also improved perceptions of John McCain. A week ago, just before he introduced his running mate, just 42% of Republicans had a Very Favorable opinion of their party’s nominee. That figure jumped to 54% by this Friday morning. Among unaffiliated voters, favorable opinions of McCain have increased by eleven percentage points in a week from 54% before the Palin announcement to 65% today.
The Obama camp can’t like the looks of that.

A final and also noteworthy development is this little tidbit:

Fifty-one percent (51%) of Americans believe that most reporters are trying to hurt Palin’s campaign, a fact that may enhance her own ratings.

A Disgruntled Reader Gets Gruntled

And he (or she) admits that I was right on our Sarah. Not only that, this reader explains with great astuteness how she broadens what it means to put country first:

The other night Governor Palin allowed this disgruntled reader to check his own reality check. By any account, she performed splendidly. Amidst two presidential campaigns that often seem to emphasize a choice between alternative human types-the transpolitical, magnetic One vis-à-vis the patriotic, all-too-human Guardian, she did what neither candidate had managed to do to date, namely, appear to be a compellingly real person who is also a compellingly real American. Giving credit where credit is due, your early call about her being something of a prodigy was right. Granted she delivered a prepared speech, albeit on a less than perfect teleprompter. But she did so in a way that allowed the audience to see that she is something of a force of nature. She appeared approachable yet tough, confident yet humble, and serious yet charmingly even-keeled. For these reasons, the convention was (and is) hers. That was clear Wednesday night; it was only reinforced last night by McCain’s serviceable speech. The question now is whether the election can be hers? It is remarkable that prior to her pick as VP McCain had remained so close in the polls; he clearly has not been terribly helped by the country’s weariness of the Bush administration and by the media’s portrayal of an Obama made-even more-young and beautiful. That says something about the overall weakness of both Obama and McCain. It seems the McCain team picked "better than they knew." But it also seems that they now know this. McCain’s speech last night continued his theme of County First. Yet even in the laconic, and for that reason stirring, retelling of his imprisonment and the love of county it kindled, he broadened the conception of what it means to put Country First. Moving beyond his earlier definition, it is now said to include an appreciation and defense of the way of life many Americans like his small town VP live. I am not sure if this broadening can mask the latent bifocalism I see in his campaign and thus bring him to the White House. However, I am more open than before to thinking that it may signal a real change in the party down the road-a road that most likely will have to run through Alaska

Under his skin?

Jim Lindgren points out that Senator Obama’s speech last week was more biting and angrier than was Governor Palin’s speech this week. Obama knows that his appeal to the center is based upon him being a different kind of politician--moderate, decent, and genial. Why, then, the anger?

My suspicion is that Senator McCain is getting to Senator Obama. Barack Obama takes Barack Obama very seriously, particularly as an intellectual and as a man with the potential to change things in very important way. Mocking his ideals as mere liberal cum by yah sticks in his craw. Might that also explain his reaction to Governor Palin’s line about community organizers? The kind of work Obama did when he was right out of college is another cliche. In response to the line, Senator Obama’s people pointed to Benjamin Franklin’s work in Philadelphia, creating a volunteer fire department, for example. Hardly the same thing.

A final, unrelated point. Of late, I have been reading John Adams’ Defence of the Constitutions, particularly his commentary on Machiavelli’s Florentine history. Adams notes that when people get fed up with factional fighting, they instincively go looking for a single, great man to save them. Is that why the liberal establishment loves Obama so much?

Lowry on McCain’s talk

I like what Rich Lowry said on The Corner early this morning:

"Don’t focus on the oratory. If Mark Salter wanted to, he could have written prose for the ages, but it wouldn’t have seemed true to McCain. Don’t focus on the delivery. The election isn’t going to be decided on speech-making ability. Focus on the theme—a populist fighter for you. This is exactly where McCain needs to be. Just as Obama needed to ground his politics of hope last week, McCain needed to ground his politics of honor tonight. And he did. At least thematically. What’s still lacking is the substance. He needs three simple, stark policy proposals to protect and ease the way of life of average Americans, and I think he already has two (on energy and health care) and can get another (a middle-class tax cut). Then, he needs to master them and talk about them wherever he goes. I’m not sure whether McCain will win this election, but I’m very confident his campaign will do the things necessary to win it. Over the last two months, it has been fearless and shrewd. The celeb ad, the Palin pick, and now this speech were steps in the right direction. So I wasn’t bowled over by it, but I’m still encouraged."

The speeches

I watched the speeches by Gov. Palin and Sen. McCain. Both were good, impressive in their own ways, but Palin’s was the better of the two. I think she has the ability to connect with "ordinary people" in ways that McCain (with his extraordinary biography) can’t.

Neither matches Obama’s soaring eloquence, but I don’t think they have to. Both McCain and Palin have a kind of authenticity about them. She comes across as a recognizeable and impressive middle class suburban type--I know them as swim team moms, and I like them.

McCain may not wear his religion on his sleeve, but he does his patriotism, in a powerful way. While it’s hard to think of him as humble, he can express himself in ways that makes it plausible. It’s a different kind of "communitarian" talk than Obama offers, and it may not resonate quite as well with bobos and their offspring, but you can’t hear the speech and not be moved by McCain’s presentation of his country as larger than himself.

I had the opportunity to chat with two groups of students about Gov. Palin’s speech. They are, for the most part, sold on Obama, and they’re not going to let go of their purchase. (I haven’t yet found a single argument against McCain that some of them aren’t prepared at least to make, if not necessarily to believe. The age issue looms large for them, and I don’t know if the evident vitality of Sen. McCain’s 96 year old mother will put it to rest. Of course, as far they they’re concerned, I’m old and pretty near death.) But back to Palin: the most interesting response came from some young women, who volunteered immediately and unconditionally that they liked her. Were she not "encumbered" by McCain and were they not sold on Obama, who knows? Others very much liked the extraordinary ordinariness of her family life. Again, not enough to push them off Obama....

I’ll be interested to see whether opinions change as the campaign progresses. I’m dubious, to say the least. Sen. Obama would have to betray them in an obvious and unmistakeable way--go bald? get wrinkles and love handles?--before they would throw him over.

The Gipperette?

I’m not yet ready to anoint Hurricane Sarah as the next Reagan, though Michael Reagan is, but I am reminded of another obvious parallel: liberals initially, and probably henceforth, underestimated her. Liberals never got this about Reagan until it was way too late. Recall Hamilton Jordan, Jimmy Carter’s chief of staff, saying in 1980 that the election "wouldn’t even be close." He was right, of course.

I also have in my first Reagan book a comment someone in Sacramento made to Newsweek about Reagan in 1970: “People who come up against him think he’s a dumb movie actor, and they wind up in pieces.” I suspect we’ll see why she got the nickname "Sarah Baraccuda."

Old John McCain and A Young Republican Party

Steve Thomas, in the comment section below my earlier post on Rove’s advice for McCain, nailed it:

I just listened to McCain’s speech. McCain’s own telling of his story was different from the telling by his surrogates. It was a story of his passion, so to speak: he told us not about his heroism but about his shame. "They broke me." He was ashamed, he told us, and recovered his, well, self through the help and love of his buddies. The crowd seemed to think he was contrasting himself with Obama. He was rather contrasting himself with the vain, arrogant, self-centered [expletive deleted] named McCain who took off earlier that day from the aircraft carrier. I, an Obama supporter, would have to be morally dead or a partisan goon not to be moved.
I got on the blog late tonight, after getting the kids off to bed and checking homework, with the intention of composing a post about exactly that part of McCain’s speech. I meant to do it because, in watching him tonight, I really tried to find some clue about how John McCain really understands himself and what it is he is trying to do--in other words, I wanted to know why he wants to be president apart from the obvious ambition that all politicians possess. The answer he gave us--even if you still don’t like him for it--is an interesting one and one that is, whatever else you may say about it, a much better answer than the one Barack Obama gave that seven year-old some weeks ago.

If you look at his words carefully in that passage where he talks about his youthful arrogance and the eventual "shame" it brought him and you take those words as this whole convention’s central and organizing theme (as I think he clearly meant them to be) you may learn something about John McCain that you might have missed up until now. I think, perhaps, I did. Is it possible that there are a good number of things that many of us have "misunderestimated" when it comes to John McCain? Do we really understand him as he understands himself or do we understand a cartoon that we have painted in our minds because he has "poked us in the eye" one too many times? Forget policy differences (if you can) for just a minute. God willing, we’ll have eight years to "yell at each other" over those. I freely admit that I didn’t like everything about the speech . . . and I could start ticking off a list of things I positively disliked if I wanted to miss the larger point.

Richard Adams had this insight on McCain’s speech and I think there’s also something to it:

After Governor Palin’s speech last night, perhaps McCain thought his task was to play elder statesman. Perhaps the inartful delivery helps a bit with that. The goal was to portray him as someone who might be a bit bored by the bells and whistles of politics, but who is mature, seasoned, experienced, and sober. Will it work? McCain seems to have better political judgment than many think.

To repeat myself from earlier today, I think this may speak to why John McCain chose the much younger and much more interesting and fresh Mrs. Palin to be his running mate and it also answers Peter Lawler’s concern about McCain "looking old." Don’t fret, Peter. McCain did look old, but he looked old in a good and refreshingly unashamed way--not in that craggy, old, grumpy fuddy-duddy way. He looked grandfatherly, patient (yes, there’s some strain in that I think) and wise. Moreover, he looked blessedly loving--not only of America but also of Americans. Perhaps too much so, in places, yes. But, again, I don’t want to miss the larger point. In admitting his own youthful arrogance and explaining the lessons he learned from being taken down more than a few pegs, perhaps he’s sending an indirect (or maybe not so indirect) invitation to us to question our own sometimes too youthful impatience with American politics and, really, all of life in general. McCain could not get through his time in that cell or that hell without the help of his fellow Americans committed to his and their mutual interests and happiness. I’m sure they didn’t always agree about what those interests were or about what might help in their pursuit of happiness. Still, he had to learn to work with them and, in that, he came to learn that he should want to work for them every bit as much as he was pleased to work for himself. There is necessity and there is duty in this life. A generation of American politics worked very hard to confuse the two, separate them, and turn them in against each other so that nothing might be considered higher than the demands of one’s own heart. That generation is not represented on this ticket . . . and, interestingly, it’s not represented on the Democrat’s ticket either. But the ideas of that generation still have a pretty strident advocate in Barack Obama.

When you think about it, it looks like the Democrats still think the old have something more to learn from the young than the young have to learn from the old. Reason tells us that both old and young have something to learn from each other and this is why the dynamic of mentor and student is so compelling to both. But common sense tells us that the young can and should learn more in such relationships because they lack experience and, in with that, enough patience to inform their judgment.

McCain told us how he came to love America and Americans at least as much as he once loved himself and, arguably, deeper and more intelligently than he ever loved himself. There is something more than glory and honor worth fighting for--and possibly dying for--in America. He tried, in his way, to teach us that important lesson. His way may have been imperfect . . . but it was still a damn sight better than anything I’ve seen the last four GOP candidates offer . . . ever, on that score.

So, if you want to make the case that McCain’s wasn’t a "Republican" speech . . . I think there’s something to that on a couple levels. It was, of course, much more than a Republican speech because it was meant to be an American speech--at least as John McCain understands it. It meant to appeal to all Americans (and Steve’s words are a testament that perhaps it did) and, in this election year, a smart Republican will see this less as a "poke in the eye" than a boon to his cause. (There were more than a few serendipitous blessings in disguise at this convention, I must say!) But it also was dissimilar from every Republican speech I have heard since I’ve been politically sentient (so, roughly, 1988 on) in that it make a conscious appeal to young people. And, irony of ironies (or, perhaps, not), it came from an old man accompanied, supported and very well understood by a tough (and, not insignificantly, attractive) young woman. And I, for one, loved the way he ended the speech with a cheer encouraging us to "fight with me" (even though that can--and probably will--be taken two ways). It wasn’t over the top, as some who seem to lack any eros to accompany their thumos, have speculated. Somehow, it fit. Republicans have long been in need of good cheer and a good cheerleader. Who knew that it would take John McCain to provide both?

For Governor Palin’s Next Speech?

I’m from Alaska, or as Senator Obama calls it the 57th State.

McCain’s Speech

I guess in the most important respect it was successful as a moving display of WHO he is. It was intensely delivered, if neither smooth nor elegant. Is is permissible to say too much patriotism and biography at the expense of actual policy? It’s hard to know the actual kind of CHANGE he wants, except to put country above self etc. I liked the call to service--to, for example, joining the military. I fear Mac allowed us to love and respect him while also judging he’s not really right for the presidency. He might not have inspired enough confidence that he’s the "can do" guy when it comes to the problems facing ordinary Americans today. I hoped for a little more populism rightly understood, although I know it’s tough for an honorable man to play that card. To tell the truth, he seemed pretty old, although vigorously evangelical for his American way--for the idea of America. I’m not one who needed to be sold, so I’m not sure how he played to those really undecided. It was basically not a Republican speech, which may have added to or detracted from its effectiveness (or both).

Rove on McCain’s Emphasis

Politico and Yahoo News sponsored a breakfast panel in conjunction with the St. Paul Pioneer Press at the GOP convention this morning where Karl Rove addressed the question of the things McCain needs to emphasize tonight in the wake of Palin’s excellent performance. "Kitchen table" issues, he says and I think he nails it (even if I tire of that too often repeated descriptive). In addition to Karl, he should listen to the women around him. Cindy’s tone in defending the success of her parents (who scraped together 10K in order to build their fortune) and Sarah’s understanding of what it takes to build a business in America (i.e., not much burdensome interference from government know-it-alls, thank you very much) are exactly the sort of thing he needs to reflect in order to show that he "gets it."

The mantra from the Democrats now (just to show how cutting edge and "fresh" they really are) seems to be that Palin and the entire GOP convention ignored the question of the middle class; that we "don’t get" the middle class. Given the actual substance of Palin’s speech, and the elitist tone of most of Obama’s campaign, I find that charge almost as desperate as the attacks his supporters have leveled at her of a personal nature.

But McCain needn’t answer this with a defense of Palin or with an attack of his own. He may stand for the kind of honor that now does not permit him to salute the flag he fought for and loves so much. But he should remember there is another kind of honor to be saluted and that it is equal in its love for that flag and its great American character: the hard-working and innovative kind that permitted and supplied warriors like McCain so they might exhibit their noble courage. If he can do that he might get close to filling Sarah’s pumps. And really, that’s all he has to do.

Deneen on Sarah

Dr. Pat Deneen has done well in standing up for Palin. But he wonders if she’s the savior we need. To be fair, she doesn’t claim (unlike a candidate we know) to be a savior, and she was pretty funny in mocking contemporary political messianism. It seems that he was a bit grossed out by "Drill, baby, drill," missing her comment that she’s knows perfectly well that drilling isn’t enough. It’s true that Palin didn’t campaign against our happy and wasteful surburban lifestyle (as Dr. Pat would if he ever ran for office), and we have to admit that living in Alaska is, for obvious reasons, not particularly energy efficient. Still, no candidate is waging the type of campaign Deneen wants--certainly not Obama. And the only one of the candidates who might break out in support of patriotic conservationist self-restraint is McCain; he certainly, more than once, has said we’re not asking enough of ourselves in terms of sacrifice. And Palin was certainly tough in asserting our need for energy independence; she knows that international community is an oxymoron.

Mr. Crunchy Con all for Palin, because, in part, of the enemies she’s made. And she is exactly the type of person that real conservatives should encourage to ascend to leadership in the Republican party. But he’s still a little shaky about voting for the ticket, because he views McCsin as reckless and bellicose. Rod’s thoughts are characteristic of a relatively small but significant faction: Those who want to vote Republican in spite of Bush’s and McCain’s war in Iraq and aggressive foreign policy in general. Sarah is clearly helping to bring all sorts of disaffected Republicans home.


Even before Hurricane Sarah made landfall the sense had been growing in my mind that the Republicans were slowly getting their mojo back. The surge worked; the feddle guvmint was ready for the next Gulf hurricane; the energy issue--the public’s mind being concentrated by $4 gas--did a 180 against the Democrats, who are now terrified to bring up greenhouse gas legislation; Obama started to look a little worn, and McCain’s campaign was proving deft, winning almost every news cycle.

In 1964, after Reagan gave "The Speech" that launched his career, David Broder wrote that it was “the most successful political debut since William Jennings Bryan.” I think we have just seen its equal. 37 million viewers tuned in last night--only 1 million less than watched Obama a week ago. Methinks the liberal hissy fit may have backfired. I heard Chris Matthews on C-SPAN radio a few minutes ago positively gushing about Palin, and slapping back hard when someone in the audience snickered. I think he has a thrill going up the other leg now.

One one of the blogs-I think it was Ann Althouse--a commenter said that next time a liberal says, "But what if McCain dies on Day One in the White House?", his answer will be, "Dude, don’t tease me."

I don’t envy McCain, a terrible stage speaker, having to follow Palin tonight. The clever move would to be simply acknowledge that fact at the beginning; it will relax everyone.

It Sure Looks to Me . . .

. . . like Sarah Palin or someone close to her read this fabulous piece from Joseph Tartakovsky in the WSJ this past July on the virtues of a good political insult and how one carry it off without descending into incivility. If I’m wrong, then she needn’t read it because she’s a master of it. For the rest of us mere mortals, however, go have a look and disagree if you dare.

Sarah as Rocky

...McCain as "the raspy-voiced corner man" and Obama as Apollo Creed. Well, I know this is silly, but play the theme music anyway.

You Know that Feeling . . .

. . . when you go to the movies (and these days, one only does that when one really wants to see something) and just when you settle in with your popcorn you begin to wish that the movie you were about to see was not the one you came to watch but one of the ones being previewed in the trailers . . .

Sarah’s speech was a fantastic trailer.

A Word About Age and McCain-Palin

There has been some concern expressed by commentators that the choice of the young Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate would put a spotlight on McCain’s more "advanced" age and that this would not be to his benefit. And I was anxious to see how it would work when the two of them appeared on stage together and what their inevitable "embrace" would look like. It had a lot of potential to look awkward and strange--especially given all the attention focused on Palin’s family life (and the bit that has been directed to McCain’s). Before the speech, people commented in a snarky way that Palin could be his daughter. When they said that, I actually hoped that people would get that impression. And, indeed, there was something of the devoted daughter quality to her comments about John McCain. This may be what Peter Lawler was getting at when he said that it sometimes takes a great woman to explain the greatness of a man. If she cannot be his Abigail (and indeed, she cannot!), then it’s probably very good that she looks to be such an effective Nabby. (And Cindy holding Palin’s baby was pitch perfect stage management, btw--though it’s probably just as likely to have been spontaneous as--I do not doubt--Piper’s spit shine was.)

And yes, Palin should say some such thing as Lawler suggested about learning from McCain the importance of the surge and what it means to be truly brave in the face of great danger. Though, after last night, who seriously doubts her courage?

Biden on the Today Show

Someone more savvy than me with digging these things up can probably provide a link, but did you all see Joe Biden on the Today Show this morning? I admit to watching less of the whole program than Lawler did, but I watched all of Biden’s interview with Matt Lauer. Three points:

1. JOE BIDEN (of all people) could not talk. He muttered some prepared lines and tried to extrapolate from them a point. He could not do it. He had no answer (and even admitted--twice--that he was still working on it!) to the question of his lack of executive experience in comparison to Sarah’s. He looked bad, very bad. He stumbled, cleared his throat, did not look directly at the camera and looked worried.

2. MATT LAUER (of all people) felt compelled to defend Sarah when Biden launched a half-hearted attack. This is going to be a interesting dynamic for awhile. We’ll see if it continues. Female journalists of that persuasion, of course, will continue to be merciless.

3. My husband missed the speech last night partly because he was busy but mostly because he has been entirely dismissive of Palin and, therefore, McCain’s chances from the beginning. I don’t know what Lawler hoped to see on the Today Show this morning but the few clips that they did play (and a bit of my added commentary) did enough to persuade him that he might be wrong. Trust me. That’s impressive . . . (and, I freely admit, it says more about Sarah’s persuasive abilities than it does about mine!)

Random Thoughts on Our Sarah

1. The fair-minded liberal media have switched. For example, Mr. Dickerson of SLATE (a very insightful writer) has gone from the Sarah pick being a revelation about McCain’s poor judgment to his judgment being totally vindicated. Dickerson is now into deep thoughts about the strategic significance of her emergence. I don’t have time to be linking right now, but he said something like her speech was "a succession of happy little kicks to [Obama’s] groin." He also noticed that she was in command and having lots of fun.

2. THE TODAY SHOW, by contrast, decided to just about ignore her today. (I only watched for about 45 minutes, it’s true.) No clips--only a passing reference to her giving the case for McCain. She had been all over the show, of course, earlier in the week. There was a segment with Luntz and others on the swing voters. The interviewer told Luntz pointedly that the (vaguely pro-Democratic/pro-change) polling data came in before last night. But the pollster boldly said anyway that, in his opinion, Palin had said what the swing voters wanted to hear and the way they wanted to hear it. No follow-up question. Rapid change of subject.

3. Her discussion of the issue of energy was a model mixture of policy wonkiness and populism. "Drill, baby, drill" was a cool chant in response. She needs to move on to school choice, health care, and the economic situation of the ordinary guy. She should, of course, hire YUVAL LEVIN to get her up to speed on the details. (She already knows lots of stuff; governors have to deal with education and health care etc.) But, Yuval, try to curb your anger about the evildoers (in the media etc.); Sarah has made it clear that they don’t bother her

4. Sarah should say, straight out, that she was skeptical about the surge--as were most of our military leaders etc. She should add that she’s glad she was wrong and John McCain was right, and she has lots to learn from him about courage and strategy. But she’ll quickly get up to speed, because she’s has the intelligence, character, real experience, and unwavering desire for American victory.

5. Julie--Thanks for your gracious comments and especially for "populism rightly understood."

Peggy Noonan on Republican Narrative

Does she really want to say that we "don’t do narrative" now? Of course, it’s only fair to say--and she should remember--that one of the primary reasons we can do it so well (now) is that we’ve learned so much about how to do it from none other than Ms. Noonan herself.

Peter Lawler’s right. This is populism of the best sort or, might we say, populism rightly understood?

THAT Was Good

I’m not much on convention speeches; I don’t care for the cheers and applause with nearly every line that prevent the development of a real argument and stifle genuine eloquence and rhetoric, and they lose a lot on TV. Usually I can’t stand to watch any of them, even by the people I like. I went to San Francisco to watch the Democratic convention in 1984, and it is very different to be in the hall live than watch on TV; Mario Cuomo’s famous keynote was a marvel to behold in person. In print in the paper the next day, not so much. Hasn’t been the same for me since trying to watch these things on TV.

That said, Palin was utterly compelling. She conveyed one thing above all through her facial bearing: you can see by her set jaw and occasional flashes of gritted teeth (but within a dominant smile throughout--remember Churchill saying that he likes people who grin when they fight) that she is one determined lady, not about to be put in her place by the braying hounds of the media. I think this may have come across better through the closeup TV shots than in person. (Reagan enjoyed this advantage, too; he was often better on TV than in person, in my opinion.)

I flipped around to see the crazies on MSNBC and the drones on CNN, and it was obvious that the usual gang of pecksniffs had to work hard to find a plausible way to ding the speech, and pretty much didn’t even try. Of course she will still have to prove herself in the day to day rough and tumble of the campaign trail, and she might even have to endure Meet the Press, but I got the sense that she is more than ready for it and that her attitude is--Bring it on!

Byron York famously said several months ago after watching Obama in person that, to borrow Chief Brodie’s famous line from Jaws, the Republicans "are going to need a bigger boat." I think they found one.

Sarah Makes Us Smile

There’s a lot to say about the speech in terms of content. But for now: The MSM has a whole new view of her. Nobody thinks she’s incompetent or even trashy any more. Our Sarah is a force to be reckoned with. She has the confidence and the timing and the intelligence. Nobody dare claim now that this woman can’t lead. She’s all that, and her opponents know it. It’s real, classy populism, change we can believe in--not that fake stuff from Rush etc. And energy is now a winning issue--great line on how we already knew that drilling isn’t enough, but it is something. Solid shots at Obama boboism without culture war vengfulness--which was always an intellectual thing. Excellent decision to focus on ordinary courage and the small-town guy’s appreciation of Mac’s courage and barely to mention religion. Perfect on highlighting her family and its inevitable problems. And her self-deprecation is a sign that she and America won’t be traumatized or misled by her inevitable screw ups down the road. Everyone nows sees what she offers that is just beyond Mac. She’s rallying the base, but far from only the evangelical base. It takes a woman to rally the natural base for an honorable man.

You Go Girl

Excerpts from Palin’s speech are (wisely) being released ahead of time. Palin was a great basketball player in her youth (as was Obama). Here she dunks on Obama:

Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown. And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities."

I’ll bet she’ll sunk some three point shots too.

Sarah Stuff

On THE WEEKLY STANDARD blog, there is, as usual, lots to learn. Two examples:

1. Sarah’s stand on energy is less "pristine," better informed, and altogether more reasonable than McCain’s. She warns us that we’re in for "a world of hurt" if her advice isn’t followed. Obviously, the tide in turned in the Republican direction (at least a little) on this issue. It could turn a lot.

2. Somebody has written what seems to be a very informative book on our Sarah. That author would be getting rich (Amazon #17) had her publisher been prescient enough to have enough copies available (it’s out of print, although a few used copies are available). We learn that Palin has never campaigned on being an evangelical or a mom, but always on ETHICS.

3. So, all in all, she does have important experience, while sharing the crucial dimension of Mac’s character. She may actually add some prudence to the ticket.

A good election site

VotingAmerica allows you to see on maps (down to county level) how Americans have voted since 1840. There is much to this site that I haven’t mastered, but it seems very good and useful, and fun. Take a look. Note: Some of it seems to load slower than what has become normal. I recommend that when you start looking at the maps ("This application is processor- and memory-intensive.") you not try to do anything else on the web. I think it’s worth the wait.

Newsweek Loves Palin

At least they did before last week.

A Prediction

If the old establishment media (they are no longer the only mainstream media, hence MSM is not a good term for them) succeed in Borking Governor Palin, and if that helps Obama win, the GOP base will be as fired up in 2009 and 2010 as they were in 1993-4.

A Thorough Pasting

Over on The Corner, Yuval Levin let’s fly with both barrels at the irresponsible and biased media. RTWT.

Clarity in One Sentence

Okay, so I went on for three paragraphs below about the fault lines over Hurricane Sarah, but a very savvy and experienced friend here in DC just put the matter to me simply in one sentence:

"The left has to destroy her, just like Clarence Thomas, because of the threat she represents to them."

Another Disgruntled Reader

I’m really not feeling the love (or even respect) today. Here’s another devoted reader questioning my judgment (and with considerable eloquence):

Wondering if I am missing something, I am looking for a quick reality check. Are you really as enthused and enthusiastic about "our Sarah" as you seem to be? Clearly, much of the scrutiny and attacks thus far (including the shameless US Weekly cover) have been unfair. But the choice of Palin for VP still seems to be too clever by half. Setting aside the demographic and polling groups she scores high with, I cannot see how she substantially strengthens the Republican ticket. Most immediately, she implicitly calls attention to McCain’s age and his recent bout with cancer. VP picks do not really matter in presidential races; I cannot remember a time in my lifetime when a VP pick swayed and election—Mondale, Bush, Gore? The VP only really matters if something happens to the president. Viewed in that light, how can one look at Palin and honestly say that they have confidence in her ability to govern America and look after its interests at home and abroad? At best, we have an interesting (albeit limited and spotty) personal biography to base that judgment upon. And as many of Palin’s new defenders once told us, that is not a reason to elect Obama to the presidency. That point seemed to be hammered home last night. Both FT and JL, in consultation with the McCain team, framed their speeches in opposition to Obama. Each emphasized that experience, character, and the solidity of a known quantity should be what voters think about when they pull the lever in the booth. To the extent that the McCain team is successful in sending that message they risk drawing attention to the uncertainty surrounding Palin.

Removing All Doubt About McCain’s Pick

Modest doubt might be called the beacon of the wise, but I’m not modest. This nails it.

On Thompson, Lieberman and the Missing Spectacle

Peter Lawler wonders below, whether the GOP convention achieved anything in having Lieberman and Thompson speak last night. He thinks they were somewhat ineffective and his friendly critic and NLT reader, as well as our own Steve Hayward and Peter Schramm have good counter-arguments about the way things are going. I would argue that there is room for both Lawler and his friendly critics to be correct in their assessments--at least right now. Lieberman and Thompson both gave excellent speeches that did exactly what they were designed to do. The problem is that they may not have the impact they were meant to have because almost no one (who wasn’t working to do it) heard them.

The good news (and I choose to be optimistic here) is that there is no way Palin’s speech tonight will not get widespread coverage. It is almost a kind of twisted serendipity that she has inspired so much prurient interest. Because of this, the coverage will certainly be filled with distracting and pointless (and some fair) speculation and biting commentary about her daughter, her choice to pursue a high powered career, etc. But I think she will do well. Further, the coverage will also have to take into account some of the great lines from Thompson’s speech (McCain can’t salute the flag he has defended, etc.) and Lieberman’s great line about Obama being "an eloquent young man" and that is all to the good.

Of course, the mere fact of Lieberman’s presence at the RNC (no matter what he said--though what he said was fine) is a powerful reminder to people that the last two VP candidates from the Dems were NOT at THEIR convention. Doesn’t that say volumes in and of itself? (Admittedly, this joke is tasteless, but it’s still telling: What would have been the best way for Palin to keep her daughter’s pregnacy out of the headlines? Insinuate that Edwards was the father . . .)

But all of this leads me to another point: I am not terribly concerned about the apparent lack of enthusiasm you see at the GOP convention because I think it’s less an absence of enthusiasm than an absence of spectacle. The GOP Convention is smaller, more subdued and not as much of a spectacle as the Dem Convention, true. But I think the voters we need to convince are not the sort who are inclined to be swayed by spectacle. Spectacle campaigning is (oddly because it’s being employed so forcefully by Obama who purports to be something new under the sun and the candidate of Youth) a very old-fashioned way to go. Today in advertising and marketing, it’s not considered very "authentic" as Peter Lawler likes to say. As a brand, McCain and Palin are looking very real and very authentic to me. I think that if they can break through with their message across the Maginot line that is the MSM reporting machine, there are a good number (and, quite possibly, a sufficient number) of voters in the key electoral states who will cleave to them because of that authenticity and because of their exhaustion with the frenzied BS from the other side.

Jonah Goldberg noted on the Corner the contrast between people who, during the Olympics chanted "U-S-A" and people who, during the DNC chanted "O-ba-ma!" Only an idiot with a hyper imagination inclined to fret about "Nationalism" is irritated by the former. And only a dyed-in-the-wool ideologue is happy to participate in the latter or inspired by it when they see it. Most real people find such ravings more than a little over-the-top and, frankly, even a bit frightening and mind-numbing. If there’s such a thing as "too sober," I don’t think this GOP convention has found it yet.

On the other hand, I might say a bit against the whole over-reaction to the hurricane . . . even as I think it (like Palin) serendipitously assisted McCain and I get the necessity for the--still annoying--earnestness it brought with it.


I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that Palin gives a smash-up speech tonight, and that some of the MSM, embarrassed by their one-sided, completely over the top witch hunt, will suddenly start to report more positively about her. The hypocrisy of the media (how come Michelle Obama gets no second-guessing about how she holds down a $300K job while raising two small children??) is so obvious that even liberal editors have to be wondering if they haven’t gone too far. The entire episode reveals the full ugliness of liberal prudery and snobbery.

Beneath the media frenzy is the implied credentialism behind it. The liberal establishment is making a bid to suggest that self-government by citizens really is obsolete, that "ordinary" citizens with heterodox views are "not qualified" for high office. Reminds me of what they said about Ronald Reagan: Eureka College, for gawd’s sake, and a Hollywood career! Hardly preparation to be president! I recall well how Reagan’s critics in 1980 always seemed to focus on these aspects of his life, conveniently skipping over having been governor of California, just as everyone now seems to be fixing on Palin as a small town mayor (read: yokel) and skipping over the governor of Alaska bit (as Obama did in an interview yesterday).

That sound you hear is liberal panic that Obama, who is looking a bit less fresh from overexposure, is no longer the fresh face on the scene; there is palpable horror that not only might the election slip away, but they’ll have to spend four years listening to Palin finally appearing on Meet The Press, where she will ignore or repudiate the stylings of the Post and NYT Style sections. Agnew and Quayle were hard enough to take; this really will make liberals’ heads explode or go into their long-promised exile to France and Canada. Mush!, as they say to dog teams in Alaska.

A Comment on the Convention and the Media

Peter’s two posts immediately below leads me to three thoughts:

1. I think that the Lieberman and Thompson speeches were terrific, and I haven’t heard anyone I have spoken with say otherwise. I loved Lieberman’s line on Obama: "a gifted and eloquent young man." Thompson’s praise of McCain character and identity was perfect. So I think the GOP convention was pretty good, some of it deeply moving (I watched most of it on C-Span).

2. The time I did spend watching CNN and other channels was revealing. The MSM reporters were so over-the-top critical of Palin and her family (and the GOP in general) that even I was surprised. At first I thought maybe it was just me and my ordinary partisan reactions, but when I started talking to people about this they revealed they thought the same.

I think this is worth noting and it will have consequences. Ordinary folks aren’t stupid.

There isn’t much question now that Palin’s talk tonight will be worth watching. Great drama. If she is what she seems--a smart and articulate and courageous conservative--all the unjust criticism will be turned to the GOP ticket’s advantage. I am told that her daughter’s fiance, Levi Bristol, will be there, with Bristol. Good move. I bet they will be warmly received.

It’s Possible I Was Wrong

Here’s a note I got from a disgruntled (but still loyal and devoted) NLT reader:

Also, I completely disagree with you about the convention. I thought Thompson and Lieberman were incredibly good last night. They focused on character--McCain’s character and story are quite compelling, and if that is what voters focus on, Obama is screwed. Second, they connected this theme to the one where Obama thinks he can win--change. Fred and Joe both said if you want a real reformer, McCain/Palin ticket has an actual, tangible record on this. Obama’s got nothin. They are trying to win on Obama’s own ground! Brilliantly audacious! You need to have demonstrated character if it is change you really want. Third, their attack on Obama was focused. Joe’s comment about Obama was devastating. He’s young and eloquent--that’s IT, no match for an actual record of reform and judgment. Fred said this in a slightly different way: Two questions you’ll never have to ask about McCain: Who is he and can he be trusted as President?

Random Observations

1. The Republican convention was pretty amateurish (by comparison) last night. The hall wasn’t filled and too many delegates and such looked distracted and bored. No bump will come from what’s happened so far, and the general impression is that Republicans are message challenged. The biggest cheers were for Sarah.

2. It turns out that Sarah has little in common with her fan Pat Buchanan. She was for Steve Forbes in 1996 and 2000, and the evidence is growing that she is the more pro-growth and deregulatory member of the ticket. That, of course, in no way diminishes her "family values." Pat has just explained that his views on Israel, Iran and such are about the same as Obama’s.

3. There are a couple of articles--one in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL--about grumblings in Juneau that Todd "First Dude" Palin has functioned as a "shadow governor" and has too much influence on his wife. Who does that remind you of? There’s more and more evidence that Todd is both brains and brawn (not to mention a caring and caregiving dad), and there’s is a rather singular version of a modern, egalitarian marriage. She’s the one in politics, as Todd explained, because she’s just "hardwired different" from other people. She’s got the political gene.

Time Magazine Explains the Founding

Jay Carney of Time magazine puts Gov. Palin in her place for knowing less about the Pledge of Allegiance than he thinks he does. As a gubernatorial candidate, Mrs. Palin was presented with a questionnaire asking, “Are you offended by the phrase ‘Under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance? Why or why not?” She answered, “Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, its good enough for me and I’ll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance.”

Carney condescends to Palin over this. She “seems not to be a keen student of American history,” he says. He chides her for being unaware that the Pledge and, in particular, its “under God” phrase “both were written long after the founders (and the framers, for that matter) were dead and buried.” He then offers an additionally condescending explanation for her failure to match his understanding of American political history: “My guess is she was conflating one conservative conviction, adherence to ‘original intent’ when interpreting the Constitution, with another, the belief that the separation of church and state has gone too far. If so, her confusion is not limited to the history of the Pledge.”

The problem is that Palin’s exuberant response to the questionnaire reflects a more informed understanding of the Pledge and the founding fathers than Carney’s snarky one. As James Piereson argued, the addition of the phrase “under God” to the Pledge in 1954 reached back to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “[We] here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Piereson connects Lincoln’s use of the phrase “under God” to Jefferson and Washington. In “Notes on the State of Virginia,” Jefferson wrote, forebodingly, “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.” As for Washington, in the general orders he circulated to his troops on July 2, 1776, he wrote, “The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.”

Carney’s assumption that the original intent of the Founders was a republic uncomfortable with the non-sectarian invocation of God’s providence and support cannot be reconciled with even a cursory examination of the historical record. The Declaration of Independence, famously, speaks of “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” and holds the truth to be self-evident that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Less famously but as eloquently, George Washington closed his letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island of August 1790 by saying, “May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.”

Depending on the outcome of the election, we can look forward to either two months or four years of people who know less about America than Sarah Palin arrogantly imagining that they know more.

A Liberal Who Hearts Sarah

Our friend (Free) Frank Warner is gushing that she would be a kind of Mrs. Smith goes to Washington. (Scroll down...)

McCain’s Other Woman and Her Lessons from the Tax Man

With so much attention now focused on Sarah Palin and (if one is to judge by the volume of the howls coming from the Dems and the MSM) her very good prospects for helping John McCain, there may be a temptation to forget that there is another woman in the McCain camp who can speak effectively on the issues and on behalf of the candidate. That woman is Cindy McCain.

I watched her this weekend in an interview with George Stephanopolous and I was quite taken with her spirited defense--not only of John McCain and Sarah Palin--but also of her own parents and the country that afforded them the opportunity to turn their efforts and industry into wealth. She was positively ferocious on that last point and I don’t blame her. Although John McCain certainly cannot be commended for forgetting the number of homes he and Cindy own, it’s a fair point to note that there’s nothing criminal or blameworthy in their owning them. Indeed, it’s refreshing to see Cindy throw down the Dems on this one. Further, it’s not really fair to say that he’s "out of touch" just because he’s not particularly focused on the extent of his material possessions. He’s married to a rich woman who inherited her wealth from a father and mother who worked hard to earn it. It’s probable that he considers these things more her affair than his own and that her parents wanted it that way. It would almost be more creepy if he could give you a detailed list of all her holdings and interests off the top of his head, wouldn’t it? Here’s a link to the YouTube video of the interview.

On a related note, this article in Forbes shows that John McCain probably learned a thing or two about how a government can help or hinder prosperity by having a successful businessman in the family.


The Education of a President

Might there be an alternative to the view that President Bush is inflexible? Might he say to the Republican Convention:
"Our initial strategy in Iraq failed, but we changed tactics, added a few troops, and turned the operation around. The same was true of hurricane Katrina. I was surprised by the scope of the damage and did not react quickly enough. But I have seen to it that we won't make that mistake again . . ."
Categories > Presidency

Libertarians for Palin

For the libertarian, the big issue isn’t experience, but judgment. And within reasonable limits, Sarah has pretty consistently chosen the side of liberty--and her constitutional duties. She should certainly become the point person on health care and school choice. She also doesn’t hide having inhaled.


More - Much, Much More - On Conservatives and Civil Rights

Some NLT readers might recall the essay on "Civil Rights and the Conservative Movement" I wrote for the Claremont Review of Books. The essay was noted by the proprietors of a blog called, "This Week in Race." They said both good things and bad things about the article. I contacted them to offer the opinion that the good things they had to say were highly perceptive, while the bad things were all based on regrettable misunderstandings. A sequel to their original post includes my reply, their reply, and my re-reply.
Categories > Race

For the Start of School

How a friend of mine started Politics 101: Chuck Jones’s classic The Dot and the Line. An amusing take on license v ordered liberty. (Also good for geometry classes).

Sarah and Israel

...she wears the Israeli flag, and Israeli journalists are already reporting that they know a good friend when they see one. Once again, there’s no question where her heart is. Contrary to instant-analysis allegations, she didn’t even support Buchanan. She was just being polite (that’s ok?) when Pat came to town. (Thanks to Ivan the K.)

Meanwhile in Iraq

Would you believe a victory parade?

A Symposium on Sarah the fascinating new web-zine CULTURE11. It features a contribution by a NEW REPUBLIC editor, a prominent paleocon, and ME. As usual, I’m the one with the audacity of hope.

The Word from Wasilla reported in an admirably sympathetic way by an excellent TIME journalist. We learn that our Sarah is more defined by the values of her small town than any other national candidate in anyone’s memory. We also learn that Bristol’s pregnancy is nobody’s damn business (although everyone in town knows about it) and no calamity. Everyone’s still sure she’ll turn out fine.
I’m not sure how the Crunchy Cons are going to respond to Wasillian localism. There girls know how to handle a whole dead moose--not to mention how to get one dead. No need to buy totally organic meat from local butchers who got it from local farmers who raised it in a humane and environmentally friendly way if you know how to go out to the environment and just shoot it yourself.

Obama’s faith again

Terry Eastland works through the allusions in THE SPEECH and ends up agreeing with me.

A Tale of Two Philosophies

In light of the news that Governor Palin will soon be a grandmother, many people are comparing her daughter’s decision to bring her baby to term and to marry the father with Senator Obama’s comment
about not wanting his daughters to be "punished with a baby," should they get pregnant at a young age.

The contrast is interesting, as it seems to point to two different philosophies. Senator Obama wishes to diminish the consequenes of mistakes that young people (and adults for that matter) inevitably make. Not an unreasonable wish. On the other hand, Governor Palin’s philosophy is that the best way to help someone grow up is to force them to live with the consequences of their actions, however difficult that might make life. It’s more of a tough love philosophy.

In his speech last week, Senator Obama spoke of responsibility: "That’s the promise of America - the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper."

But how can one teach people to be responsible unless on lets them fall flat sometimes and suffer the consequences?

P.S. A slightly different point. Obama seems to think of America as a community of 300,000,000 people. Is that possible? Or is that why the founders turned away from the old idea that republics had to be small. In small, city-state sized republics, we truly can be each others’ keepers. In a large republic, there’s probably too much diversity among people and among communities for that to work. For the most part, being our brother’s keeper is done one-on-one, and locally. In that sense, the effort to make us all one big family might, in fact, hinder our ability to help our friends, neighbors, and families in times of need.

A Rifle-Toting, Hot Librarian Grandmother for Vice President

Show me those folks who think American politics is dull.