Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Confidence of Authenticity

Newt Gingrich has sent an email to Bill Kristol at The Weekly Standard that is destined for fame, and is going to resonate around the web for some time. In it, Gingrich says he was struck by the comments of people coming up to him in non-political venues expressing their excitement about Sarah Palin.

It comes down to one word: authenticity. Sarah Palin is the real deal; there is no spinning or myth-making to do to present her story to the public, unlike the literally unbelievable "biographies" of Biden and Obama that are so insultingly served up. Sarah Palin, by contrast, has her feet on the ground, so to speak, and has the look of one who is completely comfortable in her skin.

One's apparel, especially a woman's, is all important in the audience's discovery of who this person is. Hillary and Nancy Pelosi use pantsuits to strike the pose they calculate makes the best presentation. Sarah Palin, in a black skirt and jacket, and these fabulous open-toed Dorothy pumps threw down a gauntlet of sorts to those who think they have locked down the definition of what it means for a woman to be a power player.

I think the shoes Sarah picked for her biggest moment so far says it all, and in a way that is at once galling to the feminist sisterhood in their various brands, and thrilling to real women all over the country. Not only has she managed being a mother of five while rocketing upward through the political ranks to the top state post in Alaska, but she's still got it goin' on appearance-wise. The beauty queen in her lives on, and with a sprite-like insouciance, she sent a clear message at her national debut that she has no apologies to give for being a woman--and in fact, she likes being a woman, and always has.

This looks to me to be the real symbol of "girl power"; she has walked into committee rooms and faced powerful, connected, domineering Republican men, probably wearing shoes very much like these, and proceeded to kick butt and take names. And as Camille Paglia likes to remind us, symbols matter. Real women are cheering to see a real woman arrive at the Imperial City. She's going to take it to the Wizard in them shoes, just watch.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Organic Candidate and the Machine Candidate

Antonio Gramsci, the Italian political theorist, spoke of “organic intellectuals”, those who are self-taught and make their own way, as opposed to the intellectuals churned out by universities. Eric Hoffer, the “philosopher/longshoreman”, comes to mind. Perhaps only in America can one also speak of “organic politicians”, citizens whose ambitions or desires to get involved find their expression outside the settled political establishments. Such an organic politician is Sarah Palin. And it is in this characteristic that we find the most telling, and most important, distinction between her and both Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Both of the latter attended top drawer universities and law schools before being fed into the intake machinery of the political apparatus to which they are still beholden. Both are utterly conventional politicians, despite the gauzy promise-making, dream-weaving shtick of which the Obama campaign mostly consists. Sarah Palin went to a western university little heard of, then returned to the little backwoods berg where she was reared, to marry and rear her own family.

Sarah Palin’s almost inadvertent involvement in civic affairs had its genesis in about as local a concern as it gets—she joined the PTA. Being a person of firm convictions, she found it easy to weigh in on issues and help guide decision-making at the micro-scale of American political society. She exhibits the spirit of the early American “genius” Alexis de Tocqueville pinpointed—the proclivity of Americans to form and join organizations to solve problems. Her rise through the levels of political organizations—PTA, School Board, City Council, the Mayoralty, a seat on an important state commission, and finally the Governorship, was accomplished mostly against the wishes of the party bigs. Her campaigns have always been grass-roots in the most authentic possible meaning of that term, drawing support not from established party bosses but from the broad electorate disgusted at the closed room deal-making that all party establishments tend toward. In other words, her success is in spite of, not because of, the existing party organization. Now, political associations are perhaps the main sort of group de Tocqueville was so impressed by, and they surely form one of the main pillars of political liberty in America. But all human efforts tend toward corruption, and when power is involved, the tendency is all the starker. Thus, the real need for critical outsiders to bring reform.

Obama, by contrast, merely used the political machinery ostensibly in place to work as “community organizer”on neighborhood problems to build his resume for the next rung on the career ladder. His accomplishments are thin because at the attainment of each new level, his sights are shifted to the next step up. Why were millions wasted with no results in those South Chicago neighborhoods? Why did he not publish anything from his coveted perch at the Harvard Law Review? Why all the “present” votes in the Illinois State Senate? Why has he not held a single hearing as Chair of the Veterans Affairs sub-committee in the US Senate? He is more a vehicle for the party apparatus, an empty vessel for them to fill, than a public servant working to actually produce results. Think of it: how antiquated and quaint the term “public servant” seems next to the image of cosmopolitan, jet-setting celebrity he quite consciously cultivates, following the excrescences of the Clinton presidency. The hope and change campaign themes obscure the utterly cynical and conventional Chicago-style ward politics that provide the gears for his machine, while Soros' money provides the grease. Being all about being all about himself, there is no there there when actual policy questions are brought to discussion. Hence the celebrity-lite responses when he has no script.

Sarah Palin knows the ground in a way that Obama never will—she has been a foot soldier at the front, earning her stripes, while he, a connected and elite officer at the rear, has been pinning fabulous ribbons and medals on his dashing uniform, in preparation for his coronation.

Candidates of Life and Death

In light of Barack Obama's voting record, John McCain's selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate puts the abortion issue squarely in the public eye in a way that could not be more flattering to the respect for innocent, unborn life, and could not be more unflattering to the support for legalized and freely available abortion.

God is the author of life. Knowing him in Christ is fullness of life. Where his presence is, there is life. Where he withdraws, there is death. Hell is the second death.

When people deny God, they deny life. The Soviet Communists killed tens of millions of their own citizens. The Communist Chinese force mothers to abort their unborn children. In America, our cultural and political authorities have been explicitly turning away from God and embracing atheism for the last 40 years. As a consequence of this, we have tolerated and even encouraged 40 million abortions since 1973. It is the equivalent of a self-inflicted nuclear strike.

Whereas Sarah Palin, an Evangelical Christian, has five children and refused to abort that last one when she learned he had Downs Syndrome (it's a disgrace that we think of that as heroic because it implies the acceptability of killing difficult children), Barack Obama as Illinois state senator voted against a bill to protect babies who are born alive despite an abortion procedure. An almost identical bill passed the U.S. Senate at the same time by a vote of 98-0.

This juxtaposition of candidates is an interesting providence.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Mask Is Slipping

Obama's much-heralded speech last night, seen by most in attendance on the jumbo-tron from between the classical columns--eerily like scenes from the movie Metropolis--did not outshine either of the Clinton speeches, the benchmark I rather brilliantly established in my last post, Stand and Deliver. But all seriousness aside, Obama looked and sounded to me quite small, despite the Hollywood staging and production. Vaguely fascistic (see Metropolis link above) in scale and tone, tending toward his real nature as mean and vindictive, Obama let slip the new politics, above it all neo-savour mask and got back to his bare-knuckle Chicago instincts. This I believe is the real Obama, as the actual history of his shoving aside five rivals for the Illinois State Senate, including one party stalwart much more deserving of the slot shows; nor is that instance just ancient history, as his campaign's recent attempts to intimidate all who would point to the true depth of the association with William Ayers, America's Homegrown Terrorist, shows. (By the way, remember the total freakout by the media over "homegrown terrorists" after the Oklahoma City bombing happened? Oh, that's right...they thought it was right wing terrorism. Violence from the left is always excusable because the intention is always valid. And did you see the Chicago cops roughing up and then arresting--for what? the ABC News producer outside the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver? Hitler's Brown Shirts are looking on with approval: intimidation is the collective tool for the individually weak).

Back to the speech: Jennifer Rubin has a nice compendium of analysis of it here, but none of which makes the following point. Which is why I am going to make it now.

Despite the standard campaign stories of American families toughing out hard times with staunch American values and durable American strength, of hardy parents and grandparents imparting hard-won wisdom to the nascent candidate in the making, despite the cloaking of themselves with the virtues of hard work, tenacity, and traditional American spirit, both Obama and Biden then immediately proceeded to decry the present conditions--greatly exaggerated of course-that might call these virtues up in the people they claim to stand for. Obama explicitly characterized the Republican stance as leaving people to go it alone, to pull themselves up by the bootstraps--as if this is unparalleled cruelty. Why is it inspiring and virtuous in their forebears but not suitable to today's audience? Is it because the Democratic party is a party of whiners? The party of Euro-socialist envy? For every problem, discomfort, phobia, dislike, and jealousy, the Democrats have a government department to create, a lawsuit to bring, and a government spending program to bring to bear. The socialist strains in all this lay right on the surface; the go-it-alone culture of the Republicans is mean, selfish, and all about the rich getting richer on the backs of the poor. Democrats want to do for the working class masses what they have done for the inner city family--push government programs in and push individual virtues and cultural institutions out. As government programs, entitlements, and invention of rights proliferate, personal responsibility and even opportunity are smothered. The clear import is that the collective is prior to and more important than the individuals of which it is composed.

And that is what I saw last night at the Forum. The truthful motto of this campaign and party is "Seeking Power. Denying Liberty." The mindless applause of socialist and fascist ideas that would efface the individuality of every person there makes another discomfiting allusion to mass rallies as a political tactic.

The mask of the post-partisan Messiah, of the One soaring above the quotidian political fray, has slipped, unveiling a street tough schooled in the use of the Saul Alinski-formulated tactics of lying, bullying, name calling, dishonest infiltration and institutional subversion. The hard left must be pleased as their god-like candidate descends from the blessed heights of Mt Olympus to the rhetorical means streets of political radicalism.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Stand and Deliver

After the blow-out, over the top, out of the park speeches both the Clintons delivered, our would-be deliverer is going to have to deliver, and big. As Peggy Noonan noted, Bill Clinton set aside the red-faced, glowering, angry Bill and brought out the political master, still fully in control of every nuance, and fully in control of a room, no matter the size.
Barry is going to have to be seen as a philosopher king, or the Messiah come down to reign, in order merely to follow the Clinton's true mastery of the form (forum?); but in addition, to measure up to the laughable staging of his own event.
Will it be a tragedy or a comedy? Or maybe just a farce? All of America will be watching, to see if our deliverer can deliver.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Politics Is Not Supposed to be This Funny

Since the comedy establishment has been refusing to have fun with Barack Obama (out of reverence? out of fear?), the amateurs have had to step in and fill the void. Their job is made the easier because he is so ridiculous and presents such an easy target: his claims are outlandish, he takes himself far too seriously, and his followers are cultish.

You recall Gerard Baker's "He Ventured Forth to Bring Light to the World."

You have to read "Filling That Experience Gap" from IMAO (In My Arrogant Opinion).

"So now I reveal my awesome pick for running mate," Barack Obama told the assembled crowd. "Joe Biden."

There was silence and some coughing from the audience.

"I will remind you that I am Obama -- the One -- and everything I do is perfect and should not be questioned!"

The crowd cheered enthusiastically for Biden. "You're the best, Obama!" one of the reporters yelled.

"I just want to say that Turok Osama here is very clean and articulate for a black man." Biden patted Obama on the head. "I think he's a great candidate -- not as good as McCain -- but still pretty good."

"Why did you wait until 3 AM to send the announcement text message?" a reporter asked.

"Well, I started working on it at 6 PM," Obama said, "but those text messages are hard. I mean, like each number represents three or four letters... and I forget how you do the punctuation. But, hey eventually I got that message out. And that's the determination I plan to bring to my presidency... to hit buttons until things get done!"

"Isn't Bocka Yo'Mama precious! Just look at those ears!" Biden flicked one of Obama's ears.

"Did you pick Biden to fill your experience gap?" a reported.

"I don't have an experience gap!" Obama answered indignantly.

"Blasphemer!" another member of the press yelled at the reporter.

"But Biden does have more experience at the... uh... stuff with... er... countries that aren't ours..."

"Foreign policy," Biden assisted.

"See, he knows that stuff." ...

Don't stop there. Follow the link, but not at the office because your loud whooping laughter will tip the boss off that you're not working.

Between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, I have been having the time of my life with this campaign. Imagine if the Republicans had nominated Mike Huckabee? No. The body wasn't made to laugh that hard.

Ladies, You Was Robbed!

It was a great speech magnificently delivered. She was at her best. Hillary Clinton's convention speech calling everyone to unify around Barack Obama and win the White House for the Democratic Party reminded everyone in the hall why half of them had supported her to be the first woman to occupy the Oval Office.

Unlike many of the state governors who preceded her on the stage but who seemed lost and threatened there, Hillary was never more at home, never more in command. Hillary Clinton is the most plausible, indeed the only plausible, Democratic candidate for President since...well, we have to go back quite a way...Jimmy Carter in 1976 (who, of course, turned out to be utterly incompetent).

With Obama sliding in the polls and moving out of the rock star Messiah persona of the primaries into that of a professorial, triangulating Chicago pol for the campaign, many of the delegates felt the way Republicans did in 1976 after Ronald Reagan gave his concession speech: "We've nominated the wrong man." The officially and liberally distributed unity placards were a plea, perhaps a nag, but not a convention-wide mutual embrace.

Despite Hillary's smiling, forceful, look-em-in-the eye endorsement of her opponent, the subtext erupted to the surface all over the place: "We was robbed!" In both the video and the speech, she made pointed reference to "the glass ceiling" that still exists for women who seek the highest office, though she reminded her heart-broken supporters that they had made 18 million cracks in that ceiling. In other words, "Sex discrimination is the only reason that Obama is the nominee instead of me, so if you want this woman to be president in 2012, you know what to do ladies!"

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Consistency: The Hobgoblin of Little Minds

Pete Wehner at the contentions site has these questions about Barack Obama:

1. If Obama’s fundamental identity is that he is unconnected with the tired old fights of the past and so in tune with our new era and the problems we confront, why is his record so seemingly out of sync with his core?

2. How is it that a man who promises to transcend old divisions and champion civility found himself attending a church and developing an intimate relationship with a pastor who spews anti-American and anti-white hatred on a regular basis and never once confronted him?

3. How is it that a man who promises the end the “culture wars” could not find it within himself to support a bill against infanticide–and then attempted to mislead the public when his record is revealed?

4. How can a person who promises to be a post-partisan unifier vote against two outstanding and exceptionally well-qualified Supreme Court Justices, John Roberts and Samuel Alito?

5. How is it that a man who promises to elevate our politics asserts, with absolutely no evidence, that John McCain is basing his campaign against Obama on ugly racial appeals?

6. How does a man who promised to be a principled figure who wouldn’t bend with the political breeze jettison his past views at a speed that is vertigo-inducing?

7. How did a man who insists he is anti-ideological and driven by evidence continue to deny the success of the surge when it was clear to every serious observer it was working?

8. And why does Obama still insist, even to this day, that he was right in opposing the surge?

Obama apparently still thinks his soaring rhetoric and field of dreams fantasizing allow him to leave the logical reasoning to the little minds for whom such details matter, and, with old Ralph Waldo Emerson, reify his status as Over Soul and skip any felt obligation to sew up those pesky loose ends.

Wherein he is sadly mistaken.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Associations Speak Louder Than Words

I imagine the twenty-somethings running the Obama campaign are starting to hear the ominous music that we learned from the Jaws franchise movies always accompanies imminent unseen dangers. For the Messiah and his minions it is the William Ayers/Anneneberg Challenge Grant story just about to break into their loaves and fishes tour. Watch this one folks...Clarice Feldman argues ("Can Obama Survive the Annenberg Cover-Up?") this is the revelation of the Anointed One as a false prophet. If you haven't picked up on it yet, her piece is a good place to begin.

Oh..the little punk in the picture? That's the once and future terrorist Billy Ayers, co-founder of the Weather Underground, that romantic little clack of "liberals in a hurry", as some of their indulgent parents thought of them, who considered blowing things up and terrorizing bourgeois society legitimate political speech. Several federal judges agreed, and viola, Bill Ayers and his lovely wife/partner in crime Bernadine Dohrne are now safely ensconced in...where else?... tenured university jobs, where they continue to hold forth on the evils of the United States.
PS...can anything good come out of the south side of Chicago?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Thoughts on Biden

My wife, the lovely and gracious Pamela, asked me in exasperation upon hearing this morning's news of the Lord Obama's chosen sidekick, how we have come to the point that a Senator, caught out as a plagiarist, can not only hold his seat but be drafted onto the national presidential ticket? In response, and this is where the graciousness of my wife comes in, I set off on one of my political/constitutional jags that I am wont to descend into upon hearing yet again of developments displeasing to me.

The pompous and egotistical Biden was famously caught channeling not only the spirit, but the very words, of a still living Neil Kinnock, a well known British Laborite/Socialist. His taste in choosing whom to plagiarize aside, the arrogance/stupidity/condescension in thinking his rube audience would not know that the words he spoke were not his own shows that for Biden, the show is all. He must at all times be the smartest man in the room; I feel certain this is a personal rule with him. If he thus has to crib from the speech of another Titan walking the earth, it will just have to be done. So much for his psychological profile.

There are many such cads, rascals, wastrels, and miscreants holding Senate seats--Ted Stevens, anyone? But how can this be so? James Madison clearly expected as much to be true about the House of Reprehensibles, er, Representatives, but counted on the short duration of appointment to keep the aisles clear. The House members were to be on a short leash, answerable to the concerns of a small district within a small part of the nation, and given control of the federal purse strings. The Senate was to be a more august body--"the most important deliberative body in the world", according to their own press releases--and to take up business further removed from the local interests of the farmers and townspeople of the young nation. Longer periods in office and indirect election were to facilitate deliberation of larger issues of politico-historical import, international relations, trade policy, war and peace, and issues impinging on the federal relation of the sovereign states. So what happened between Madison's careful design and today's free-wheeling saloon run by Dusty Harry Reid?

The simple answer is Progressivism. That wanton rebellion by High Modernity types who thought of the Madisonian constitution as a creaking old machine unsuited to the gleaming, fast moving nation state beginning its ascendancy on the world stage. Men such as Herbert Croly, founder of the still existing New Republic magazine, John Dewey and Oliver Wendall Holmes provided the theoretical juice, while Woodrow Wilson, another too smart for his britches swaggerer, flogged the progressive "reforms" the nation needed to go forward. Hence the "progressive" label. Transgressive is more accurate, but that by the by.

The reform most transformative of the Constitution was the 17th, which made the election of the Senate by the direct election of the people. A most democratic reform. Progressives thought more democracy is always better. The purer the better. Let the people decide. Vox populi, etc. Madison had envisioned a "constitutional space", as Harvey Mansfield has termed it, in certain crucial portions of the design. Madison did not have whole-hearted confidence in the people's ability to judge. He thought a nation of people with disparate interests and stations in life ought to have a constitution that takes that into consideration, balancing the wisdom of the few accomplished men of the world with the consent of the many. The life tenure of the federal judiciary was on the side of elevating and securing wisdom, the election by the people of the president "of all the people" by popular vote an important nod to consent. The House of Representatives by direct, popular, vote; the Senate by indirect means varying by state, but usually by the members of the State legislature. Thus a state's two Senate seats were to have been filled through the judicious and wise deliberations of men whose political experience and knowledge of their own state, as well as of the nation, tilted more toward wisdom, while still being tethered to the consent of the people, albeit indirectly.

The 17th Amendment shattered that part of the finely calibrated design. It's as if a tobacco chewing hick were to get his greasy hands on a BMW out back under the shade tree, proceeding to remove parts that don't seem to do anything, then stepping back and congratulating himself on his fine work. We have the BMW of constitutions ladies and gentlemen, designed by a master craftsman, and a bunch of shade tree mechanics coming after jerking on hoses and belts, throwing away funny looking parts, and trying to modify it to suit their juvenile tastes in political machinery. Loud pipes. Flames on the hood. Weird hubcaps.

And that is how a plagiarist like Joe Biden continues in good standing in the highest deliberative body in the world. Progressive wrench twisting made Senate seats available to people-pleasing demagogues, eager to provide "constituent services", once thought the province of only your district representative. Now there is no substantive difference between the upper and lower houses--even that terminology will get a rebuke from your political betters. Joe Biden, like all his colleagues in the Senate, step and fetch like any run of the mill Congressman, and pay close attention to bringing home their share of Federal bacon to their States. Notice the slick campaign literature from your Senators next time they're up for re-election. Anything about the higher purposes of the office? Only blatant braggadocio about what pork he has served up to you, his faithful supporter. Exactly what Madison intended to avoid. Biden does for Delaware what a new member in his seat could not do so easily or effectively--steer massive amounts of Federal largess to the bank accounts of as many voters as possible.

And thus a dishonorable action like plagiarism is not a career ending moral failure, but a mere embarrassment to be joked away. Caught stealing the thoughts of another and portraying them as your own? Hate it when that happens.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Obama Enigma

I began an earlier post asking, "Who is this Barack Hussein Obama?" ("Obama is All About Obama.") Today, Peggy Noonan, always gracious and judicious, sees Obama losing in November because the American electorate, that broad middle, is asking the same question and coming up with a blank. David Brooks ("Where's The Landslide?") ventured down this road in search of an explanation for why The One We Have Been Waiting For is stalling and rolling backwards.

In "They're Paying Attention Now" (Wall Street Journal, Aug. 22, 2008), Peggy presents the American mind this way:

It's hard for our political class to remember that Mr. Obama has been famous in America only since the winter of '08. America met him barely six months ago!...This is what they see: An attractive, intelligent man, interesting, but—he's hard to categorize. Is he Gen. Obama? No, no military background. Brilliant Businessman Obama? No, he never worked in business. Famous Name Obama? No, it's a new name, an unusual one. Longtime Southern Governor Obama? No. He's a community organizer (what's that?), then a lawyer (boo), then a state legislator (so what, so's my cousin), then U.S. senator (less than four years!). There is no pre-existing category for him. Add to that the wear and tear of Jeremiah Wright, secret Muslim rumors, media darling and, this week, abortion. It took a toll, which led to a readjustment. His uniqueness, once his great power, is now his great problem.

And over there is Mr. McCain, and—well, we know him. He's POW/senator/prickly, irritating John McCain.
Under those conditions, how can someone win election to the American presidency?

Why Obama Will Lose: He's a Flake!

Great post over at American Thinker. (J. R. Dunn, "The Odd Choices in Barack Obama's Career.")

Barack Obama will be defeated. Seriously and convincingly defeated....He will lose for one reason above all, one that has been overlooked in any analysis that I've yet seen. Barack Obama will lose because he is a flake.... A flake is not only a screwup, but someone who truly excels in making bizarre errors and creating incredibly convoluted disasters. A flake is a "fool with energy", as the Russian proverb puts it. ("A fool is a terrible thing to have around, but a fool with energy is a nightmare".)...The chief characteristic of a flake is that he makes choices that are impossible to either understand or explain....The flake has a genius for discovering solutions at perfect right angles to the ordinary world. It's as if he's the product of a totally different evolutionary chain, in a universe where the laws are slightly but distinctly at variance to ours....And although there's plenty of rationalization, there's never a logical reason for any of it. After awhile, people stop asking.

Dunn's post is a catalog of the bizarre.
  • Though he hales from the heavenly land of Hawaii, he relocates to windy, cold and corrupt Chicago.
  • In Chicago, he joins a cult.
  • At Harvard, though editor of the Harvard Law Review, he publishes nothing.
  • In the Illinois state senate, he votes "present" as often as he votes "yes" or "no." Dunn adds that you can't vote "present" in the Oval Office. Ouch!
  • After serving in the U.S. Senate only 143 days, he launches a bid for the White House.
Dunn then examines several bizarre mishandlings that have pummeled the campaign into its present malaise. (Yes, a Jimmy Carter word is appropriate here.)
  • His extended non-response to the Jeremiah Wright affair.
  • His response to the New Yorker cover.
  • His handling of the birth certificate saga.
  • His response to Jerome Corsi's book, The Obama Nation.
  • His self-description in Europe as "citizen of the world."
  • His agreement to devote most of his convention next week to the Clintons.
Dunn foresees evidence of Obama's flakery on national display for the next three months. Read it. It's a gem.

Also, if you missed Harold Kildow's fine blending of political theory and political observation in "Saddleback Aftermath," scroll down a few.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

There's a Bear in the Woods Again

It was a dangerous world when the Democrats and Republicans settled on their choices for presidential nominees. It is now an even more dangerous world.

Russia is threatening Poland with nuclear attack. If Poland deploys the defensive missile shield we have agreed to supply them, Russia will target them with nuclear weapons. In the event of a conflict, Poland would be a priority target.

The bear has come out of hibernation. He's hungry. He's angry. And he's feeling his strength. In a post as tribute to Reagan's ad man, Hal Riney, when he died this year, I gave you a link to his 1984 ad, "A Bear in the Woods." It's worth viewing again.

There is a bear in the woods.
For some people the bear is easy to see.
Others don't see it at all.
Some people say the bear is tame.
Others say it's vicious...and dangerous.
Since no one can be really sure who's right, isn't it smart to be as strong as the bear...if there is a bear.
Closer to home, Iran is developing plans to launch a nuclear armed Scud missile from a trawler off the American coast with a view to detonating the device over the United States, sending an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) across the country frying electronic circuitry everywhere. This is the report from Dr William Graham, former White House science adviser under President Ronald Reagan, to a Claremont Institute conference on missile defense. “An EMP attack on America would send us back to the horse and buggy era — without the horse and buggy,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R, Ariz. Read all the frightening details.

But Barack Obama is more concerned about disarming the country than about doing whatever is necessary to protect it, including space based missile defense that could protect us from this sort of plot. He explains it himself in this video.

This is no game for the unpracticed.

Saddleback Aftermath

Kathleen Parker, reflecting on Rick Warren's much-ballyhoo'd Civil Forum, has decided, at the risk of heresy, that it is not good for America that a minister of a church should shoulder his way onto the national political stage. Though I disagree with her in general, she does draw attention to one of the central conceptual tensions running through the American Founding.

Two major streams of influence feed into the mighty river that America has become, and the currents from these two streams rarely flow in the same direction or at the same velocity, which makes for some of the whirlpools, eddys, and white water rapids that periodically characterize our political culture. The Judeo-Christian patrimony of the Reformation is one stream; the rationalist Enlightenment enthronement of Reason is the other. We can never forget--though many folks are now working to obliterate the memory--that America was a haven for Christians considered religious troublemakers by the Anglican establishment in England. The Pilgrims themselves intended to set up a shining city on a hill, and finally get the balance right between church and state. They didn't get it right; but they, and the waves of English settlers coming after, knew instinctively and experimentally that natural law, whether informed more by St Paul's epistle to the Romans, or by John Locke's rationalist paean to "reason, our only star and compass", is the only sure basis for a free government of morally equal individuals. We don't create ourselves, but we do create our government. The first fact informs and limits the second. Throw out the first, and the second consumes human dignity and liberty. This much I think was understood by earlier generations without having to be stated.

This assumption, that natural right flowing from natural law is the ground of political liberty, is now hotly debated, and the default position among the Illuminati and cognoscenti is that religion, if it must exist at all, is entirely and properly a personal matter. In a secular culture--and how can a modern nation have anything other than a secular culture?--faith must not be allowed into the public square. Too metaphysical. Not scientific. And so eighteenth century. Besides, the political technologists over at the English department of your local university, having applied "deconstruction", the ultimate ideological solvent, have deconstructed everything from human nature, natural law, and even the human person, to race, class, and gender and have found that old Thomas Hobbes had it substantially right--that "the general inclination of all mankind, is [a] perpetual and restless desire for power after power, that ceaseth only in death." Every action, every thought, every intended purpose is but a stratagem for hegemony and domination in the minds of our postmodern guides.

Religion is then just another mask for the Hobbesian desire for power. Faith then, in the political arena, is much to be feared. Any metaphysics or religion is, ipso facto, fraudulent--only a mask for power seeking oppressors

Ms Parker does not, in the piece linked above, plumb the philosophical roots of her unease with religion in American politics. But she does consider the spectacle of a Protestant minister holding a political forum to be a dangerous incursion on the establishment clause of the constitution. And what, she wonders, is the real value of knowing the candidates' personal religious views? From her article:

Both Obama and McCain gave "good" answers, but that's not the point. They shouldn't have been asked. Is the American electorate now better prepared to cast votes knowing that Obama believes that "Jesus Christ died for my sins and I am redeemed through him," or that McCain feels that he is "saved and forgiven"?
What does that mean, anyway? What does it prove? Nothing except that these men are willing to say whatever they must -- and what most Americans personally feel is no one's business -- to win the highest office.

One can appreciate the cynicism--and wisdom through experience--shown in those sentences. But what cultural expression or political stance has not been used cynically by ambitious politicians? And what era exactly would it be where politicians were not seeking power after power, assuming along the way whatever mask necessary? Parker cites Thomas Jefferson, the leading spokesman among the Founding generation for Enlightenment rationalism, on the proper attitude toward religious belief:

"It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

But Jefferson assumed that his Rationalist Deism would not only hold, but develop into an even stronger ground for a free and virtuous society, a position we now know to be untenable. In quoting Jefferson here, Parker subtly points to the charge that religious nuts are bent on establishing a theocracy in America by destroying the sacred separation of church and state, and are therefore the ones who threaten the Founding Father's understanding of America.

Parker is agitated by all this because she knows nothing of Redemption through faith, denies that a politician making a claim of faith can be genuine, or that information concerning a candidate's faith can add anything to the national conversation; denies that religion, in short, has a place at all in our political life. But as the Pilgrims' attempt at achieving the right balance between church and state failed, and as the 18th century Enlightenment project of sweeping away religion failed, so too will resurgent atheism's antipathy toward Christianity fail to remove faith from the political consciousness of the American people.

Besides--Rick Warren would probably never have stepped up to put on this affair if the Fourth Estate had not ceded its august--and constitutionally protected--responsibilities. It was into a giant journalistic and media vacuum that Warren stepped. The political culture is surely better because of it, Kathleen Parker to the contrary notwithstanding.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Obama Outgunned at Saddleback Showdown

What Harold Kildow calls Rick Warren's "Saddleback Showdown" was in effect the kickoff to the 2008 campaign ("The Law Professor vs. the Fighter Pilot"). Kildow reflects on how galling this must be to the journalistic establishment since none of them were involved.

Rich Lowry has a nice account if you missed it.

"McCain sounded like a potential president, Obama more like a potential therapist, seeing all sides and offering them the balm of his thoughtfulness and verbal acuity. He looked very young and slender. It was almost as if Democrats had gone from merely appealing to graduate students to nominating one."

Michael Gerson is also very good. "Mr. Obama is one of those rare political figures who seems to grow smaller the closer we approach him."

In general, it has been a back week or so for Barack Obama. That is to say, as in the Wizard of Oz, the curtain has been pulled back and we have seen a very small, ineffectual man behind the media generated illusion.

Read Dick Morris and Eileen McGann's insightful column on Obama's apparently woeful inadequacy in dealing with tough opponents and judging politically complex situations ("Obama's Backbone Deficit").

"Last week raised important questions about whether Barack Obama is strong enough to be president. On the domestic political front, he showed incredible weakness in dealing with the Clintons, while on foreign and defense questions, he betrayed a lack of strength and resolve in standing up to Russia's invasion of Georgia. This two-dimensional portrait of weakness underscores fears that Obama might, indeed, be a latter-day Jimmy Carter."
"We know so little about Obama. His experience is so thin that it's hard to tell what kind of a president he'd be. While he nominally has been in the Senate for four years, he really only served the first two and consumed the rest of his tenure running for president and disregarding his Senate duties. So we have no choice but to scrutinize his current transactions and statements for some clue as to who he is and what he'd do. In that context, his reaction to the first real-time foreign-policy crisis he faced as a nominee leaves his strength in doubt. So does his palsied response to the Clintons' attempt to make Denver a Clinton convention."
Bambi indeed. Read the whole thing.
Michael Barone in "Echoes of Berlin Olympics" shines in his analysis of th Georgian invasion, Obama's shortcomings, the larger geo-political issues, and the challenges these now present for America.
"Senator McCain has taken a strong stand from the start. His statement, "We are all Georgians," echoes John F. Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner." Senator Obama, after a weak opening statement, has also condemned the Russian actions. But his own speech before the Prussian Victory Column in Berlin showed an incomplete appreciation of history. He hailed the Berlin airlift as an example of American generosity, which it was. But he didn't note that it was an example of American military strength: The "candy bombers" were members of the U.S. Air Force. And when he celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall, he said it was supported by "the world as one." But a lot of people — communists — built the Berlin Wall, supported the Berlin Wall, and shot men who attempted to climb over the Berlin Wall to freedom."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Law Professor vs. the Fighter Pilot

I met the news of the so-called "Saddleback Showdown", a question and answer session with the two presidential candidates hosted by Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lakeforest California last night (Saturday) with a jaundiced eye. But despite Pastor Warren's shaky (from my point of view) theology, and his worrisome (to me) coziness with the Left, his "Civil Forum on the Presidency" was a signal instance of what a truly good-faith attempt to ask straight-up questions from the candidates and let them speak their own words, unhurried and unharried, looks like. It is a modern American political first, and a much needed dose of political hygiene.

I am much amused thinking how the mainstream news outfits looking in must be gnashing their teeth that not only was this extravaganza shown on the hated and boycotted Fox News Channel (remember the righteous posturing on the Left a year ago?), but that an untrained, unqualified, non-member of the elite journo tribe managed to kick off the general election campaign in such a winsome, transparent and clarifying way. Tearing of robes and hair must surely have followed hard on the teeth gnashing as they realized what every other viewer realized: that an actual attempt at "fair and balanced" is not only necessary, but, since it rewards the audience with the assumption of a modicum of intelligence, is more attractive than the embarrassing and ridiculous little game shows they had produced earlier and tried to pass off as "debates".

Warren's position atop his highly successful church/business empire gave him the credibility and the weight to make this a venue attractive to the candidates seeking national office. His relaxed manner, though informed by the "California casual" milieu surrounding him, flows I think more from the confidence that follows from a genuine belief in Redemption--his own and the possibility for everyone else's. It must be galling for the credentialed professionals looking on to have control of the "narrative", as their hip postmodern posturing styles it, loosened from their grip by an evident purveyor of fanciful fictions like a Christian minister. They want their fanciful fictions purveyed!

I expect a good bit of embarrassed silence from the drive-bys regarding this turning point in our political culture. This event was a breath of fresh air, the sunlit uplands compared to the fetid swamp of partisan, hand-on-the-scales fakery the media star hair-do's have been trying to pass off as politically serious discourse for so long. There were no gotcha moments, and no expectations of any; both candidates expected a fair deal, and got it. And Warren displayed none of the pompousness and affected seriousness of the television anchors whose sole aim, aside from unmasking the Republican as the spawn of Satan, is to be sensational themselves.

One reason we have not seen a format anything like this one, where both candidates were separately asked identical questions, straight-up and without trap doors, is the evident disadvantage to the Democrat candidate. No Democrat candidate for the presidency can afford to tell the truth about what the party stands for. Except for the bi-coastal sophisticates, the captured minorities, and the Soros Inc/Huffpo/Daily Kos crowd, Democrats have to fake being moderate or right of center to get elected. They know that the bitter clingers of America do not agree with unrestricted abortion, Euro-style foreign policy and appeasement, anti-capitalist taxation and regulation, or the penchant for socializing huge swaths of the economy. Theirs is a stealth platform, revealed only in moments of exuberance by the likes of Maxine Waters, holding forth from the absolute security of life tenured, gerrymandered offices. And that leads to my second point--the total contrast the honest and transparent format brought to light between Obama and McCain.

Obama's performance was his usual stuttering, punch-pulling, stated advisedly, on the one hand but on the other sort of nuanced sophisticated glibness he is known for. To me it contrasted badly with McCain, who was stiffer and less comfortable to begin with, but who most definitely had the look of a man with the courage of his convictions. McCain's unequivocal answers, offered without hesitation in most instances, ultimately showed a man much more comfortable being on the receiving end of pointed questions because he did not (in this instance anyway) feel the need to not offend fence sitters or those on the other side. Obama's answers, as always, show him looking both ways, calibrating, adjusting, his mind racing ahead in those frequent silences and stutterings, to gauge the sound of what he is about to say so as to preserve his self-presentation as a blank canvas, upon which each hearer can project his own meaning--the essence of postmodern hermeneutics. The utility to a politician in Obama's position of being able to pull this off is apparent; but in an open and fair format like the Saddleback Showdown, the slipperiness of the technique sticks out in broad outline and is seen for what it is. The contrast on the abortion question--when does a baby begin to have human rights? was the starkest. Obama punted, knowing his truthful answer--when the adult female in question says so--would not down well in that venue. In addition, his bloated non-answer to the terrible condition of public education showed the same recognition on his part that the left-leaning union thugs he is in bed with were listening closely to every word. Not one of his left-liberal constituencies could have been happy with what they heard from Obama; their only solace is in knowing that like the Clintons, Obama has a mask for every occasion, and that when speaking publicly, it is always and only a mask.

If Rick Warren's obvious and elegant model for public discussion becomes the default, the Democrats will be the losers. The vacuity of the lofty and fanciful fictions Obama has been peddling does not compare favorably to the solidity of the feet on the ground grittiness offered by McCain. The affectations of the law professor look lightweight and unaffordable when contrasted so directly to the leadership quotient of the fighter pilot.

Who do you want in charge when the barbarians are at the gates?

Friday, August 15, 2008

McCain Our Churchill

John McCain seems suddenly Churchillian. Consider the resemblance. Both men came from a long line of public men, albeit of different sorts. Both distinguished themselves militarily when young, although differently. Both spent years in the legislature and in leadership positions there, Churchill as Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer and McCain as a prominent member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. If McCain is elected president, both will have come very late in life to executive leadership of their respective nations. Churchill was 65 when he became Prime Minister in 1940. John McCain will be 72 at the end of this month.

More substantively, both men were fairly isolated even within their own parties in their prescient opposition to looming tyranny in Europe. At a joint press conference in Slovenia with then Russian President Putin, President George W. Bush said "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country." In disagreement with this, Sen. McCain said "When I look into Vladimir Putin's eyes, I see three letters: a K, a G and a B." He has been advocating the expulsion of Russian from the G8 group of industrialized nations, a suggestion that obviously most have found unnecessarily provocative. Now if McCain had Obama's eloquence, the resemblance would be more convincing.

But Americans are not moved by associations with Winston Churchill. But events have opened the opportunity for McCain to step into the Reagan role. And his penchant for prudent confrontation with the Russians, despite fierce opposition from the Democrats, is Reaganesque. Putin's making explicit his imperial ambitions in Europe may clinch the election for McCain. Anything that reminds America that we are living in a dangerous world is a boost for McCain and daybreak to the Obama dream-sleep.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Two Sons: Proud Pup and Guard Dog

In a recent column, "Mr. Darcy Comes Courting," Maureen Dowd, after comparing her Barry Obambi to Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice (but, as I have argued, inadvertently diminishing her candidate by the comparison), parenthetically casts John McCain as Wickham, "the rival for Elizabeth’s affections, the engaging military scamp who casts false aspersions on Darcy’s character."

You can find a better contrast of characters in Jennifer Rubin's "The Ultimate Contrast" in Commentary. First she quotes from David Ignatius's column on McCain in The Washington Post ("McCain's True Voice").

McCain's triumph, finally, was that he got over Vietnam. He didn't fulminate against antiwar activists. ("I have made far too many mistakes in my own life to forever disparage people.") He accepted the ways America had changed in his absence. He didn't bear grudges. He had finally grown up. McCain wrote in a magazine article soon after his homecoming in March 1973: "Now that I'm back, I find a lot of hand-wringing about this country. I don't buy that. I think America today is a better country than the one I left nearly six years ago."

She then adds:
Given the current back-and-forth on The Ego and the examination of Barack Obama’s enormous self-regard, the contrast between the two candidates is breathtaking. McCain himself has seemed from time to time to hint at the same theme as he looked back at his callow youth and exaggerated self-regard, which in retrospect he saw as entirely undeserved. McCain’s reminiscence sets up implicit contrast with his opponent, whom McCain suggests, suffers from this very arrogance....That huge dichotomy between an accomplished, humble man and an arrogant, unaccomplished one is, I think, what McCain’s team is driving at.
In this election, we have an old candidate and a young one, an experienced and tested one and an inexperienced and untested one, a candidate whose virtues and vices are well known to us and one who is shrouded in mystery. One is curmudgeony and the other slick. Both men are profoundly influenced by their respective pasts and have written books about their respective fathers. There is a literary quality to these unfolding events. An intelligent design, one might even say. But the details are set forth in way to confront the American people with a clear choice between sober, adult government and downy, pop star make-believe.

On this same theme, you can read Rich Lowry's "The Audacity of Haughty," and see John Trever's cartoon (Albuquerque Journal) of a personified America coming to Obama's filling station, but finding only three pumps labeled "air."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mac and the Bear

George Will recently reminded us of this great quip from a less than great British PM: "Asked in 1957 what would determine his government's course, Harold Macmillan, Britain's new prime minister, replied, 'Events, dear boy, events.'"

Many of us who follow political developments have been aware that the dynamics of the American presidential election could be radically changed if al Qaeda or Iran were to shake up world affairs. As with Bill Clinton in 1992, Obama's push for the White House depends on either a prevailing peace or a peace that ought to be. Now the Russian bear has started gnawing into the juicy little Republic of Georgia.

Suddenly Barack Obama's European concert tour looks especially silly, and the Democratic candidate resembles a little boy who has been playing fireman behind the wheel of a hook and ladder when suddenly the alarm sounds, and the man of flame-tested crisis experience lifts him aside and takes command. John McCain looks more the Commander-in-Chief now than he ever did.

Moreover, whereas McCain once seemed like the best we could come up with in this odd primary season, now he seems like the right man for the critical juncture in world history. The Russian invasion of Georgia may well be one of the most significant events of the twenty-first century, comparable to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland in 1936 and Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech in 1946 in response to Soviet activity in Eastern Europe. As the depth of the danger sinks in, Americans will ask themselves who the best man (or woman; that question's not settled yet) for the job is in its new dimensions.

This Russian imperial (what the Wall Street Journal calls "Bonapartist") land grab in Georgia is reminiscent of so many sad histories. In 1918, Imperial Germany lay prostrate after defeat in World war I. Less than 20 years later, Hitler's Third Reich annexed the Sudetenland in neighboring Czechoslovakia. And of course it did not end there. In 1990, the great Soviet Union, the mother of world communism, collapsed and its empire shattered across eastern Europe. Now, not even 20 years later, the bear is beginning to devour poor Europe again. Will the response in the West be any different?

I anticipate that President Bush will issue a declaration similar to that which his father issued after Saddam Hussein swallowed Kuwait. "This aggression will not stand." (He was provoked to this by Margaret Thatcher who, in a PBS interview, said "Aggressors must be stopped. Not only stopped, they must be thrown out!") Of course, expelling Russia is trickier business than expelling Saddam.

Now we see the different foreign policy approaches of the two candidates put to the test in real life crisis. Read John McCain's statement in response to the invasion.

He says, "Russian aggression against Georgia is both a matter of urgent moral and strategic importance to the United States of America."

He made sure to mention his personal familiarity with the situation. "I've met with President Saakashvili many times, including during several trips to Georgia."

Whereas Obama recently traveled through Europe "playing" president and talking about tearing down all sorts of metaphorical "walls," McCain draws our attention to a wall that could reappear in Europe if we mishandle these events. "Russia is using violence against Georgia, in part, to intimidate other neighbors - such as Ukraine - for choosing to associate with the West and adhering to Western political and economic values. As such, the fate of Georgia should be of grave concern to Americans and all people who welcomed the end of a divided of Europe, and the independence of former Soviet republics."

His plan is this:

  • The United States and our allies should continue efforts to bring a resolution before the UN Security Council condemning Russian aggression, noting the withdrawal of Georgian troops from South Ossetia, and calling for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgian territory. We should move ahead with the resolution despite Russian veto threats, and submit Russia to the court of world public opinion.
  • NATO's North Atlantic Council should convene in emergency session to demand a ceasefire and begin discussions on both the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to South Ossetia and the implications for NATO's future relationship with Russia, a Partnership for Peace nation. NATO's decision to withhold a Membership Action Plan for Georgia might have been viewed as a green light by Russia for its attacks on Georgia, and I urge the NATO allies to revisit the decision.
  • The Secretary of State should begin high-level diplomacy, including visiting Europe, to establish a common Euro-Atlantic position aimed at ending the war and supporting the independence of Georgia. With the same aim, the U.S. should coordinate with our partners in Germany, France, and Britain, to seek an emergency meeting of the G-7 foreign ministers to discuss the current crisis. The visit of French President Sarkozy to Moscow this week is a welcome expression of transatlantic activism.
  • Working with allied partners, the U.S. should immediately consult with the Ukrainian government and other concerned countries on steps to secure their continued independence. This is particularly important as a number of Russian Black Sea fleet vessels currently in Georgian territorial waters are stationed at Russia's base in the Ukrainian Crimea.
  • The U.S. should work with Azerbaijan and Turkey, and other interested friends, to develop plans to strengthen the security of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline.
  • The U.S. should send immediate economic and humanitarian assistance to help mitigate the impact the invasion has had on the people of Georgia.
You should also read Barack Obama's statement on Georgia. It is hard to find a plan of action in the speech.
  • We should continue to push for a United Nations Security Council Resolution calling for an immediate end to the violence.
  • There should also be a United Nations mediator to address this crisis, and the United States should fully support this effort.
  • We should also convene other international forums to condemn this aggression, to call for an immediate halt to the violence, and to review multilateral and bilateral arrangements with Russia - including Russia's interest in joining the World Trade Organization. ... (Then he digresses on the irony of this happening during the Olympic celebration of peace and unity.)
  • That means Russian peacekeeping troops should be replaced by a genuine international peacekeeping force, Georgia should refrain from using force in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and a political settlement must be reached that addresses the status of these disputed regions. (This is stated more as a daydream than an actionable item.)
  • Beyond immediate humanitarian assistance, we must provide economic assistance, and help rebuild what has been destroyed. I have consistently called for deepening relations between Georgia and transatlantic institutions, including a Membership Action Plan for NATO, and we must continue to press for that deeper relationship.
Whereas McCain provided a thorough (for a short speech) historical context for understanding the invasion, Obama says only, "The relationship between Russia and the West is long and complicated. There have been many turning points, for good and ill. This is another turning point." He calls repeatedly on Russia to "end the violence," but there is no reference to Russia's regional ambitions and their threat to the wider world.

And there is this puzzling statement. "There is also an urgent need for humanitarian assistance to reach the people of Georgia, and casualties on both sides." How is it our responsibility to give humanitarian assistance for Russian casualties? Surely the oil-rich aggressor state can handle that.

He thinks that flattery or verbal assurance that we are no threat to Russian greatness will make a difference. "We want Russia to play its rightful role as a great nation..."

Obama is good with metaphors. In dealing with steely, wall-building imperialists like Putin, he seems ridiculously unqualified.

Vlad the Invader

The following piece by the editors of National Review explains why the Russian incursion into Georgia must be met with stronger disapproval from the White House and the rest of the Atlantic Alliance than has been forthcoming: resurgent Russian nationalism fronted by a KGB kleptocracy flush with oil wealth is as dire a threat as the old Soviet empire, the rebuilding of which is Putin's fondest dream.
The invasion of Georgia serves to show the importance of true worldliness in a president, a quality that is quite different from the pseudo-cosmopolitanism of Barack Obama and the international left as a whole. Barack Obama, still in short pants geo-politically speaking, pitted against a Putin or any of the other maximally criminal leaders in the world, is truly frightening. John McCain has his head screwed on right in this respect.
The tagging of an Obama presidency as Carter II has its most dangerous implication here. The Russians invaded Afghanistan on Carter's watch; the Iranians invaded our embassy in Tehran and held hostages for 444 days under Carter's watchful eye; and the Chinese took over the Panama Canal under his masterful performance in the world's most powerful office. The totalitarian and authoritarian jackals of the world have Western liberals' number, and they are salivating at the prospect of another weak liberal at the helm of this country.
Chrystia Freeland's piece in the Financial Times speaks to why weakness now in American leadership could be a disastrous historical turning point for the world.
And George Will reminds that it is events, and a true leader's ability to discern the right response to those events, that characterizes a nation under strong leadership, not the gauzy, limp-wristed oratory of a left-leaning demagogue.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Democrats Give Us Comedy and Tragedy

This is fascinating. Someone should make this whole Democratic primary season into a series of Hollywood horror films, with a dead Hillzilla unexpectedly opening her eye at the end of each one. Oh, it is good to be alive at this time.

Denis Keohane at American Thinker reports on ominous stirrings within the Clinton camp and points to very plausible and dramatic scenarios for the Democratic convention at the end of August ("Could Obama Still Lose the Nomination").

Remember that Barack Obama, though the presumptive nominee, does not actually have enough delegates (1766.5 - Michigan and Florida are counting for half; it's something like the 3/5 compromise at the Constitutional Convention) to put him over to top (2118). What "clinched" him the nomination was the committed superdelegates, that anti-democratic feature of the Democratic Party's unique nominating process. (For more on that, see "Democrats, the Party of Aristocracy.")

That fact, combined with SuperObama's inability thus far to take flight in the national polls, opens an opportunity for Hillary Clinton with the superdelegates. Apparently, her team has been fiercely working the phones with the supers asking the Question that David Brooks asked in his column recently but which has been on everyone's mind (no doubt also Barack and Michelle's), "Where's the Landslide?"

As Obama stalls and even falls in the polls (on August 4 and 5, Rasmussen had McCain ahead by a point when "leaners" were counted), people will look to the supers to swing the convention toward the candidate more likely to win the election. That's their job. As more and more creepy crawly stuff comes to light in this man's character, his past and his connections, they will be increasingly motivated to make a move. No doubt Hillary's people are in conversation about precisely these concerns.

But don't expect any movement before the convention itself. Keohane foresees the possibility of a decisive number of supers abstaining on the first ballot, denying Obama a first ballot victory. That would free delegates to vote as they please on the second ballot, and the victory would go to Hillary.

Fascinating, no?

Oh dear, but the drama doesn't end there. Even if Obama then takes the veep nomination, many of his supporters, feeling that they and history and even the human race have been robbed, will (a) raise the roof with rage and then (b) stay home on election day. Furthermore, though Obama has been campaigning for president all summer, Hillary will have only two months to make her case to the electorate. McCain's problem would be minor by comparison, viz. retooling his campaigning for the new opponent. Gosh! What would he say? (These last reflections are mine, not Keohane's.)

My advice to Obama under these circumstances would be this. Withdraw from the whole mess. You're still young. Go back to the U.S. Senate and actually accomplish something. When there's an opening for governor in Illinois, take it! By then you will be unquestionably ready to seek the White House.

If either Hillary grabs the nomination or Obama loses the election, Barack Obama will be remembered as a tragic figure, a man of outstanding ability and uniquely situated to help bury that ugly 220 year conflict over race. But he is too much the "young man in a hurry," too intemperate in his ambition for the highest office. Whether he wins or loses in November, he is trying to pick the fruit before it is ripe. If he wins, the fruit will sour his stomach, and his faltering presidency will sicken and harm the country.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Night of the Living Democrats

In that ur-horror flick, Night of the Living Dead, the dead rise and nothing the terrified townspeople can think to do will stop them. And vampire-like, everyone the un-dead touch becomes like them.

Note the similarities with the Democrat party's nomination process and its upcoming convention. The people of the small town of Obamaville, feasting and celebrating the coming of the Chosen One, find their civil celebration disrupted by the Candidate That Won't Go Away.

Silly Democrats--did they really think the Clintons would just quietly accept their assignation to the political crypt? The Obamians, leading the Index of Political Naivete (IPN--a political science metric of my own design), find themselves facing the prospect of the dead body they thought was safely stuffed in a trunk in the Senate office building rising again and walking onstage at the coronation of the World Citizen. Nothing they try will stop this woman. Denied entry at the front door, she scratches and claws through the rear screen door; pushed back from there, she tries breaking and entering through the windows; thwarted there, the exhausted Obamians hear terrifying noises in the basement.

Whatever the Obama Nation had in mind for their Clinton-free convention --a victory lap. a coronation, a color-coordinated food festival, a world-historical rave-- it is clear it will be more horrifying than they can possibly imagine now. The Clintonistas are the party of the Undead. For a terrifying glimpse of what might be, check out Ala's prescient JibJab production here:

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Obama is All About Obama

Who is this Barack Hussein Obama? The more we learn, the less we seem to know. The more he shows himself, the more shadows we discover in his character. And he is, practically speaking, the Democratic nominee for the office of President of the United States. I think that indicates the state of philosophical confusion and political incompetence in the Democratic Party.

The executive authority in the United States government is an awesome power. Granted, it is limited by law, fundamentally by the Constitution, and limited also to the federal sphere. Under that constitution, it is also balanced by two other branches of government, as well as by political realities. His greatest power is as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The long vetting process for this office has been a happy development. It means that we are less likely to elect a charming but relatively unexplored golden boy in the flush of media excitement. We have time to sober up, ask the right questions, check under the candidate's hood and make sure that he is "safe at any speed."

In his column the other day, David Brooks exposed a few more Obama shadows. Though not a supporter, Brooks has been a sympathetic but analytical student of Obama from the start. In "Where's The Landslide?," he suggests that one reason that, according to the polls, the American electorate in general has not succumbed to Obamamania and has left the Enlightened One virtually tied with the 72 year old war horse John McCain is that "Obama is a sojourner...There is a sense that because of his unique background and temperament, Obama lives apart. He put one foot in the institutions he rose through on his journey but never fully engaged. As a result, voters have trouble placing him in his context, understanding the roots and values in which he is ineluctably embedded...[V]oters seem to be slow to trust a sojourner they cannot place."

Obama has spent his adult life undertaking serious responsibilities, putting himself in a position to serve people, but never following through to genuine accomplishment. He has always had only the appearance of public service. (I thank Bill Dupray at The Patriot Room for this breakdown of Brooks's points. He just saved me the time of doing it myself.)

This has been a consistent pattern throughout his odyssey. His childhood was a peripatetic journey through Kansas, Indonesia, Hawaii and beyond. He absorbed things from those diverse places but was not fully of them.
His college years were spent on both coasts. He was a community organizer for three years but left before he could be truly effective. He became a state legislator, but he was in the Legislature, not of it. He had some accomplishments, but as Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker wrote, he was famously bored by the institution and used it as a stepping stone to higher things.
Law school professor
He was a popular and charismatic professor, but he rarely took part in faculty conversations or discussions about the future of the institution. He had a supple grasp of legal ideas, but he never committed those ideas to paper by publishing a piece of scholarship.
He was in the law school, but not of it.
He was in Trinity United Church of Christ, but not of it, not sharing the liberation theology that energized Jeremiah Wright Jr.
He is in the United States Senate, but not of it. He has not had the time nor the inclination to throw himself into Senate mores, or really get to know more than a handful of his colleagues. His Democratic supporters there speak of him fondly, but vaguely.
This is very strange behavior. Even if I agreed with his policies (Do we even know what his policies are? They keep changing, depending on who he's addressing.), I would be wary of nominating someone (a) with so little experience in government, and (b) who made so little of what opportunities he has had.

All of this seems to point to Obama himself as the focus of Obama's life. Despite all the "we" of his rhetoric, his life points overwhelmingly to "me," more than we have seen in anyone else who has risen this high politically. One would think that taking the community organizer career route was a choice for service over privilege, but he worked only three years at that and left before he accomplished anything of substance. It was an entry on his political resume. He did the time and got the line. It was all about Obama, all about "me." From an early age he set his sights on the White House and followed whatever intermediate steps were necessary. But he skipped lightly through these steps, avoiding controversy and any real commitment to anyone but himself. Hence, no academic publications. Hence, all the "present" votes, though he did also establish a solidly liberal voting record in his one year of Senate service before he undertook campaigning for president so that radicalized Democratic primary voters would take him seriously.

We see this Obamacentric orientation in his wife, Michelle. Why is she finally proud of America? She told us that the only reason is that America is recognizing her husband's greatness and promise. Her lately discovered pride in America has nothing to do with America and everything to do with Obama.

Maureen Dowd, who loves her Barry Obambi, inadvertently and subtly drew attention to Obama's disturbing self-focus in "Mr. Darcy Comes Courting." She compares Obama to "the clever, haughty, reserved and fastidious Mr. Darcy," Jane Austin's character in her novel, Pride and Prejudice. But my wife tells me (I have not read any Jane Austen on account of a defect in my soul) that, unlike Barack Obama, Mr. Darcy often sacrifices his self-interest either for someone whom he loves or simply for the sake of duty or the common good. Honest students of this admirable Austen character will notice this glaring contrast. Maureen, take note.

Further exploration: Shelby Steele's book, A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win. On that subject, you may consult Steele's TIME magazine article, "The Identity Card," and George Will's disagreement with Steele's assessment, "Misreading Obama's Identity."

Monday, August 4, 2008

Trunk Monkeys and Soviet Hip Hop

I've been on a vacation. Now YOU have a good time.

Have you seen the Trunk Monkey videos? tells us this: "Suburban Auto Group released a series of Trunk Monkey Super Bowl commercials for 2003 and 2004. The ad agency that produced these commercials is R/West. Although the Suburban Auto Group popularized the Trunkmonkey with their Trunk Monkey commercials, Sean Sosik-Hamor and the Subaru community were responsible for creating the concept back in 2000. "

If you haven't seen The Roots of Breakdance, you must do that now both for cultural literacy's sake and for laughs. The original is Dance of the Soldiers, featuring the Red Army Dance Ensemble ("the Academic Ensemble of Song and Dance of the Soviet Army" under the direction of Alexander Alexandrov and established in 1928).