Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

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.