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I never really appreciated the Checkers Speech given by Richard Nixon in 1952 until I read this.

Everyman Nixon.
The day before all Hell broke lose regarding The Speech, Ron Fournier filed a story for the AP in which he claimed, Obama "bordered on arrogance."


"If arrogance is a display of self-importance and superiority, Obama earns the pejorative every time he calls his pre-invasion opposition to the war in Iraq an act of courage.

"While he deserves credit for forecasting the complications of war in 2002, Obama's opposition carried scant political risk because he was a little-known state lawmaker courting liberal voters in Illinois. In 2004, when denouncing the war and war-enabling Democrats would have jeopardized his prized speaking role at the Democratic National Convention, Obama ducked the issue.

"It may be that he has just the right mix of confidence and humility to lead the nation (Obama likes to say, 'I'm reminded every day that I'm not a perfect man'). But if the young senator wins the nomination, even the smallest trace of arrogance will be an issue with voters who still consider him a blank slate."

The Speech swept this trenchant observation piece away on a tidal wave of immediate analysis specific to the unfolding crisis--but Fournier, as always, was spot-on when it comes to character study.

An Aside: Fournier is an equal-opportunity iconoclast, unrelentingly fair and impartial as he is blistering in his critiques. You may remember these earlier pieces critical to the Clintons, which were devastatingly perceptive: here and here.

Now we learn somewhat inadvertently from John Heilemann, writing a "will she or won't she for the good of the party" piece for New York Magazine, that Obama clumsily squandered a logical John Edwards endorsement back in February.

How did he boot the fairly routine play?

According to Heilemann, "Obama came across as glib and aloof" with the vanquished but still very proud couple:

"His response to Edwards’s imprecations that he make poverty a central part of his agenda was shallow, perfunctory, pat. Clinton, by contrast, engaged Edwards in a lengthy policy discussion. Her affect was solicitous and respectful. When Clinton met Edwards face-to-face in North Carolina ten days later, her approach continued to impress; she even made headway with Elizabeth. Whereas in his Edwards sit-down, Obama dug himself in deeper, getting into a fight with Elizabeth about health care, insisting that his plan is universal (a position she considers a crock), high-handedly criticizing Clinton’s plan (and by extension Edwards’s) for its insurance mandate."

One more piece of anecdotal evidence. Several of my female colleagues (not all of them Hillary supporters) have been telling me for months now that Obama is too arrogant and patronizing.

In terms of arrogance, ironically, Obama is reminiscent of George Bush in 2000 in that both men emerged inexperienced and relatively unknown--but likable and supremely confident. Like Senator Obama, Governor Bush marshaled his light resume as an asset: he would set a "new tone" in Washington and be a "uniter not a divider." Of course, a suspicious press corps raised the specter of "gravitas" in 2000, and Mr. Bush faced nagging questions back then regarding his "smirk" and his "swagger." Thus far, for the most part, Candidate Obama has fairly skirted similar pejorative personality assessments.

But perhaps the honeymoon is coming to an end. Perhaps "arrogance" is the next nettlesome hurdle for the junior senator from Illinois.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: Tocqueville
Edmund Burke famously described society as a contract between the living, the dead, and the unborn. But modern society increasingly seems preoccupied with only the living. Most people are so immersed in the demands of the present that they give little or no thought to the past or the future.

Thankfully, Patrick Deneen is not like most people. An Associate Professor of Government at Georgetown University, Deneen is the Founding Director of the Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy. Last week, he gave a powerful speech at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. Here are just a few snippets:

"[E]verywhere we see around us the ruins of once vibrant culture. Most of us know little or nothing of how to produce food. More and more of us cannot build, cannot fix, cannot track, cannot tell time by looking in the sky, cannot locate the constellations, cannot hunt, cannot skin or butcher, cannot cook, cannot can, cannot make wine, cannot play instruments, and if we can, often do not know the songs of our culture by which to entertain a variety of generations, cannot dance, cannot remember long passages of poetry, don’t know the Bible, cannot spin or knit, cannot sew or darn, cannot chop wood or forage for mushrooms, cannot make a rock wall, cannot tell the kinds of trees by leaves or the kinds of birds by shape of wing – and I could continue this list for a good while longer. My grandmother could do most of the things on this list and a whole bunch more. And by many measures, our time would regard her as uneducated. They would regard her as “simple” in spite of the complexity of things she knew how to do. But, if the lights went out tomorrow, she would have been the smartest person we know; she would have seen us through, and not our college professors. She’s gone now, and much that knowledge has been laid to rest with her because, by the time of my generation, we didn’t need to know those things anymore."

"Most people would respond to this list with perhaps a modicum of regret, wishing at least that we could track – how cool is that! – but also recognizing that we don’t HAVE to. After all, we have GPS systems for getting around, and industrial agriculture for food production, cheap clothing from China so that we don’t have to make or repair clothes, cheap labor from Mexico so that we don’t have to build or fix, and the internet for everything else…."

"But this is precisely the point: within roughly two generations we have lost a vast storehouse of cultural memory that was the accumulation of countless generations who saw it as their duty to posterity, and based in gratitude toward ancestors, to ensure safe passage of this knowledge to future generations. Culture has been viewed as disposable based upon the illusion of independence from nature that our modern technologies have bequeathed us. Why spend time diligently learning at the side of your father how to repair a bucket or navigate by the stars or milk a cow when every young person knows that a machine will do this work or cheap products are readily available? Every adult and child knows that if you have a problem with a computer, you go to the youngest person in the family for advice about how to repair it: ancestral knowledge has been replaced by the constantly up to date. So, too, we professors are told that we need to adapt our teaching to the modern technologies utilized by our students, as if these won’t in fact influence the teachings themselves."

"If all technologies ultimately replace themselves with something else, we are living in a time when our technologies are replacing the original and essential human technology of culture. However, if culture is one of the preconditions for technology of all sorts that make us human, then we are employing technology in ways that increasingly dehumanizes ourselves, that prevents us from becoming human beings. By destroying nature and culture, we ultimately destroy ourselves."

What do you think? Is our love affair with technology and progress eradicating something fundamental about our human nature? Should we be concerned?

Read the whole thing here.
The talk of an impending implosion for the Blue Team continues to rage.

In a nutshell: the conventional wisdom of the moment confidently asserts that a rancorous primary equals a big loss in November.

This storyline is mostly driven by partisans for the candidate slightly ahead right now, who see advantage in prematurely calling the contest on account of damp underpants, and a press corps that lacks a sense of history or the ability to take the long view--but loves to push the panic button and breathlessly report on an onrushing cataclysm.

An aside: none of us are very good at predicting the future--but no cohort in America is any less prescient than the jittery chattering class of mainstream media impalas, nervously sniffing the wind, kibitzing with one another as they pass the time between dashing off to the next stampede.

There is a crisis looming for the Democrats--but it is a brand of trouble that they all seem completely blind to at the moment. The Democratic Party is not positioning itself very wisely for a general election.

First, the good news for Democrats.

No matter what happens between now and August, this remains a Democratic year.

The eventual Democratic candidate of 2008 will run buoyed by intense George W. Bush fatigue. The electorate is restless with an unpopular five-year war with no end in sight, and the uncertainty concerning the economy always plays in favor of the out-party.

The eventual Democratic candidate of 2008 will run against a presumptive Republican nominee who is seventy-one-years-old, who is admittedly inexpert on the economic questions, and who stubbornly (albeit bravely) advocates extending the five-year war indefinitely.

Bottom Line. Incontrovertible Fact. This is a good year to run as a Democrat.

However, for the first time in a long time, I am starting to believe that John McCain has a slim chance to prevail in November.

But not for all the conventional hand-wringing reasons we keep hearing presently.

Why might McCain actually have a chance?

The unique and thoroughly unpredictable Obama Phenomenon has pushed the Democratic party well to the left of traditional viability.

Obama is the most unapologetically liberal candidate to seriously contend for the Democratic nomination since George McGovern.

Obama is unabashedly against the war in Iraq. He is no less adamant on this point than Dennis Kucinich.

Anti-war candidates do not get elected president of the United States. Never. Not once.

Mrs. Clinton certainly understood this, which is why she began her campaign for the nomination as a centrist Democrat, strong on defense, tough as nails on terrorism, and committed to success in Iraq.

But then came unforeseen calamities between the Tigris and the Euprhates--and then came Obama. When she voted for the war back in 2002, she bet on a more competent Bush administration and a few more of the intangibles breaking our way--but Iraq surprised everyone. Perhaps Mrs. Clinton is the only person in America who had more to lose from a mishandled Iraq than George Bush.

A festering Iraq opened up the door for O--and he did the rest with his charisma, oratory, message of reconciliation, and implicit offer of racial redemption.

But the Obama Juggernaut comes with a price. Not only is Obama anti-war, he is for higher taxes, national health insurance, more social programs, a radically liberal view of America and its place in the world, and a whole host of things to which most Americans are completely unsympathetic.

These are views that Republicans take great pains to project on a Democratic candidate (oftentimes needing to exaggerate for political purposes). There will be no distortion necessary in the case of Obama. He is the genuine article.

If Obama wins the nomination, Democrats will need to hold their breath for three months, hoping that the "spell" does not wear off before the first Tuesday in November. For, stripped of the magic, Obama's views on public policy and political philosophy are not the stuff of successful general election campaigns.

And, even if Mrs. Clinton "steals" the nomination between now and August, she has tarried too long in the left-wing morass: parroting his anti-Iraq rhetoric, bad-mouthing free trade, and promising billions to every American in need. She had no choice: she had to either move left or get crushed--nevertheless, there she is, spinning her wheels in the soft turf of liberal disconnect.

Mrs. Clinton has enough political acumen to start steering back toward the center line ASAP--but is it too late? Will she be able to gain traction? Has she gone too far? Specifically, would she lose all credibility, if she suddenly started speaking sanely on Iraq again for a general election audience?

Of course, let me repeat, this is such a dismal year for the GOP--none of that may matter. But it gives McCain some hope.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers; it is always an honor--but we especially appreciate the company. In tribute to the Senator from CT, here is the BB "Lieberman file" from 2006.
History Pop Quiz. True or false.

The 2008 nomination contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is unprecedented in its length and ferocity. We have never had a race go this far into March before.

The above statements are positively erroneous. This is what happens when we turn history over to journalists and partisans.

Not so long ago.

A review of some recent political history:

Remember Bobby Kennedy's final public utterance before tragically falling to an assassin's bullet back in 1968?

"It's on to Chicago and let's win there."

Where was he? What was in Chicago? What was the date?

RFK spoke from a ballroom in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, celebrating a crucial victory in the just-concluded California primary, emerging with momentum in the midst of a tight three-way race for his party's nomination. He was alluding to the convention in Chicago (to be held later that year in August).

The Date?

Kennedy addressed his temporarily ecstatic supporters in the wee hours of June 5, 1968.

JUNE 5!!!

When was the last time a nomination campaign raged into June?


Eventual Democratic nominee and eventual general election winner, Jimmy Carter, faced fierce competition from serious (albeit late-entering) candidates Frank Church and Jerry Brown during May and June.

For the Republicans that year, incumbent president Jerry Ford did not secure his nomination until the GOP National Convention in Kansas City in AUGUST.

Were the above examples merely aberrations? Throughout the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth, candidates fought tenaciously to secure their party's nominations, more often than not hammering away at one another during the dog days of August.

This idea that contested races for nomination are without precedent is convincing only as long as your grasp of history does not extend past last week.

A better question: is extended and vicious intra-party squabbling a precursor to disaster in the fall?

Short Answer: oftentimes--but not always. More on that in our next session...
Posted by: an okie gardener
Gateway Pundit has links to sites still showing the movie Fitna by Geert Wilder. However, the movie is having trouble maintaining itself on the internet. So much for the power of the internet to promote truth in the face of violence.

The movie should put to rest any simple acceptance of Islam as the Religion of Peace. As I've said before, the group using a term must define the term. "Peace" in Islam means the peace of submission. If one does not submit, then no peace, only pieces.

UPDATE: Muslims are reinforcing the message of the film by their reaction to it. Full story.

AMSTERDAM -- The controversial anti-Muslim film by Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders has been removed from the Web by its British Internet provider, which said its employees have been seriously threatened.

"Following threats to our staff of a very serious nature and some ill-informed reports from certain corners of the British media that could directly lead to the harm of some of our staff, has been left with no other choice but to remove 'Fitna' from our servers," the company said.
Posted by: an okie gardener
In case you missed it, here is the article in the Telegraph on Mikhail Gorbachev coming out of the closet and admitting he is a Christian. Reagan suspected as much.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
Monica Crowley compares Hillary Rodham Clinton to Glenn Close's character at the end of Fatal Attraction:

"You think she's dead and then she sits bolt-upright in the bathtub!"
Though he is little known in the West, Coptic priest Zakaria Botros — named Islam’s “Public Enemy #1” by the Arabic newspaper, al-Insan al-Jadid — has been making waves in the Islamic world. Along with fellow missionaries — mostly Muslim converts — he appears frequently on the Arabic channel al-Hayat (i.e., “Life TV”). There, he addresses controversial topics of theological significance — free from the censorship imposed by Islamic authorities or self-imposed through fear of the zealous mobs who fulminated against the infamous cartoons of Mohammed. Botros’s excurses on little-known but embarrassing aspects of Islamic law and tradition have become a thorn in the side of Islamic leaders throughout the Middle East.

Botros is an unusual figure onscreen: robed, with a huge cross around his neck, he sits with both the Koran and the Bible in easy reach. Egypt’s Copts — members of one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East — have in many respects come to personify the demeaning Islamic institution of “dhimmitude” (which demands submissiveness from non-Muslims, in accordance with Koran 9:29). But the fiery Botros does not submit, and minces no words. He has famously made of Islam “ten demands,” whose radical nature he uses to highlight Islam’s own radical demands on non-Muslims.

From National Review.

Unnoticed by major media, one of the most important stories of the millenium is happening in the Islamic world. More Muslims are converting to Christianity today than at any time in history. As I've said before, unless the current jihad succeeds, Islam is doomed as a vibrant world religion. It will weaken before the attractions of Western hedonistic materialism, and before the power of Christian missions.

See also here, and here,
D-Day: War's over, man. Wormer dropped the big one.
Bluto: Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it's over! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!
Otter: Germans?
Boon: Forget it, he's on a roll.
Bluto: And it ain't over now. 'Cause when the goin' gets tough...
[thinks hard]
Bluto: the tough get goin'! Who's with me? Let's go!
[runs out, alone; then returns]
Bluto: What the [expletive deleted] happened to the Delta I used to know? Where's the spirit? Where's the guts, huh? "Ooh, we're afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble." Well just kiss my [expletive deleted] from now on! Not me! I'm not gonna take this. Wormer, he's a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer...
Otter: Dead! Bluto's right. Psychotic, but absolutely right. We gotta take these [expletive deleted]. Now we could do it with conventional weapons that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part.
Bluto: We're just the guys to do it.
D-Day: Let's do it.
Bluto: LET'S DO IT!

I continue to be flabbergasted by the parade of effete column-writers and faint-hearted Democratic Party hand-wringers who suggest that Mrs. Clinton should quit.

Did these guys never have a high school football coach?

Quitters never win and winners never quit.

There is time on the clock, and she's got the ball. Granted, she needs to march the length of the field and three points won't win it--but so what. Fourth quarter, man! This is why you come out for two-a-days in the heat of August. Gut-check time.

Seriously, what kind of a message would a Hillary capitulation send to the youth of America?

Quitting is for lightweights like John Edwards. Mrs. Clinton may go down, but she goes down swinging. She doesn't quit; they have to beat her (God help them).

Nancy Pelosi be damned, I still think this thing is going the distance.
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From the Associated Press:

Iraqi Prime Minister Says No Retreat

"BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's prime minister vowed Thursday to fight 'until the end' against Shiite militias in Basra despite protests by tens of thousands of followers of a radical cleric in Baghdad and deadly clashes across the capital and the oil-rich south.

"Mounting anger focused on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is personally overseeing operations against the militias dominated by Muqtada al-Sadr's supporters amid a violent power struggle in Basra, Iraq's southern oil hub.

"The Iraqi leader made his pledge to tribal leaders in the Basra area as military operations continued for a fourth day with stiff resistance.

"'We have made up our minds to enter this battle and we will continue until the end. No retreat,' he said in a speech broadcast on Iraqi state TV."

Defining Moment?

Is this where the Maliki government finally emerges?

Or is this the end of a brief window of relative tranquility during which we all optimistically imagined a happy ending?

Either way, my sense is that we stand on the brink of a major turning point.
An old coarse joke:

A man walks into a supermarket and ponders which toilet paper to purchase. He asks a stock person about the generic option. "Oh this is the new no-name line of products," he says. "They are much cheaper. Give it a try."

A few days later the shopper encounters the stock person in the supermarket once again: "I've come up with a name for your no-name toilet paper."


"Yes," the consumer says, "you can call it John Wayne toilet paper, because it's rough and tough and don't take excrement off nobody."

If I were to tell that joke today, with all due respect to the Duke, I would probably call it "Hillary Clinton" toilet paper.

Politics aside, she is one muy mal hombre.

A brief history of the repeated and exaggerated reports of the political demise of Hillary Clinton:

Dead as a doornail on the eve of NH (which she won). Clinging to life on the morning after NH and dead on the eve of Nevada (which she won). Dead after South Carolina. Presumed dead on the eve of Super Tuesday, after the Kennedy family collectively passed the torch to Barack Obama, mainstreaming the young lion for old guard Democrats and presumably neutralizing Hispanics--do you recall the spate of Bobby and César Chávez stories?

However, Mrs. Clinton spoiled her impending funeral by winning California, Arizona, and New Mexico on the strength of Latino votes, holding off a serious charge in New York and New Jersey, winning handily in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, and, sweetest of all, winning by a wide margin in Kennedy-land: Massachusetts, where both senators and the sitting governor endorsed her opponent.

Then came the Obama winning streak, fourteen in a row (including Virginia and Wisconsin).

Especially dead after Wisconsin. The week prior to Ohio and Texas ("Hillary's Last Stand"), Jonathan Alter exhorted her to show some class, respect party unity, and quit before any more votes could be cast.

An Observation: every Jonathan Alter column must include a random FDR quote, an ostensibly fair-minded weighing of the facts, followed by a conclusion that finds that Hillary is finished and Obama is ascendant.

Mrs. Clinton elected not to follow Alter's advice.

It was March 4th and long, and she stepped back into the pocket, scrambled, somehow evaded the grasp of several 300-pound linemen, and threw a perfect strike thirty yards down the field, which she somehow pinned with one hand against her helmet for one of the greatest big plays in the history of primaries.

She won RI, Texas, and Ohio.

Still alive.

Now after losing two more primaries that do not really matter much, the funeral dirge is once again playing non-stop on every station.

Now she is Tanya Harding. "She can only win by destroying her opponent." Yeah, that's how it pretty much works in American politics.

Jonathan Alter is taking a rest, evidently, but he must have tagged David Brooks to beat on Mrs. Clinton for a few rounds.

Brooks repeats the suggestion that Clinton do the heroic thing for her nation and her party and quit:

"If she [withdraws voluntarily], she would surprise everybody with a display of self-sacrifice. Her campaign would cruise along at a lower register until North Carolina, then use that as an occasion to withdraw."

Are these guys watching the same game I am?

One more time: this nomination will be decided by superdelegates. Both sides have arguments to make for the nod. Obama has the better case on the numbers--but that does not matter. Hillary's claim is compelling enough, especially with a big victory in Pennsylvania and solid wins in Indiana and North Carolina—from which she can emerge as the candidate with momentum.

Moreover, Obama just took his first big hit over the last fortnight. Barack boosters, like David Brooks, would like us to believe that Obama "weathered the Rev. Jeremiah Wright affair without serious damage to his nomination prospects," but I am skeptical.

There is a lag time to public polling. The daily numbers will be behind any real change in public sentiment resulting from this imbroglio. The public has not really had time to digest this affair.

In truth, Obama sustained a serious shot to his image, and we have no idea how debilitating the wound will prove to be.

Hillary Clinton would be foolish not to keep throwing into the end zone. Knowing what we know about her and this campaign thus far, we would be foolish to bet against her.

Endnote: kudos to Howard Kurtz for his tongue-in-cheek treatment of this phenomenon earlier in the week.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
On March 18, 2008, to mark the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, activists staged a variety of protests, marches, and "direct actions" around that malodorous refuse pile known as San Francisco. Once again, the intrepid Zombie was there with his camera to capture the spirit of the psycho, moon-bat, anti-war movement.

So find a comfortable chair, pour a refreshing drink, and browse leisurely through this stunning array of images.
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Just watched a significant portion of the PBS/Frontline documentary, Bush's War.

From the horror of 9/11 to the invasion of Iraq -- inside the epic story of how the war began & how it's been fought on the ground in Iraq and inside the government.

In brief: as always with any Frontline treatment of this president, there is much to say. I cannot promise that I will ever rise to any systematic attempt to offer balance, address the myriad sly omissions, or speak to the numerous invidious undertones. However, I expect that such a project could easily match the documentary itself in length and complicated story lines.

In praise of PBS, the documentary continued the Frontline tradition of artistic excellence; these works of partisan-skewed contemporary history are breathtakingly beautiful to watch.

In short, however, the tenor of Bush's War can be summed up most succinctly with this humble fact: out of four hours and thirty minutes of detailed reporting concerning the war in Iraq and the political skullduggery of the Bush White House, spanning more than six years, the documentary offered thirty seconds to Year Five and the successful "surge," with literally no mention of an Anbar Awakening or David Petraeus.

Enough said.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
One of my favorite pundits, Dean Barnett, wrote today that the big problem with Barack Obama is that he is a man of inaction—all rhetoric and no ability to perform worthy deeds.

If only...

As a conservative in the most classic American sense, I would rejoice in the assurance that Obama plans to do nothing but talk.

Liberal administrations govern best that govern least.

I could rest much easier if I thought an Obama presidency portended merely lofty flights of empty rhetoric. However, an eloquent but harmlessly passive President Obama strikes me as unlikely.

If not his tendency to prefer oratory over action, what is my biggest concern with Barack Obama?

His willingness to abide deranged purveyors of scary black nationalism?

His inexperience?

His ties to shady Chicago power brokers? His slipperiness? His lack of respect for his "average white lady" grandmother?

No. Those are distractions. What is actually most troubling about Obama?

He is too liberal.

He owns the most liberal voting record in the United States Senate. According to the National Journal, he is more liberal than Ted Kennedy, John F. Kerry, Russ Feingold, Dick Durbin, and Barbara Boxer.

Under ordinary circumstances, he is way too liberal to win election as president of the United States. Generally, the “ultra-liberal” label equals certain defeat in a national election. But, unfortunately, these are not ordinary circumstances.

The Democratic candidate in 2008 will run buoyed by intense George W. Bush fatigue, restlessness over an unpopular five-year war with no end in sight, and uncertainty in the face of an economy perceived to be tenuous at best---or, even worse, on the brink of cataclysm.

The Democratic candidate in 2008 will run against a presumptive Republican nominee who is seventy-one-years-old, admittedly inexpert in economic policy, who bravely advocates extending the five-year war indefinitely, if need be.

This is a good year to run as a Democrat.

The base of the Democratic Party understands this moment. And, this time, they will not be easily intimidated into selecting a moderate candidate who will seem more appealing to centrists and independents in the fall. They just don't think they need to play things "safe" this time around. They think they are running down the court for a slam dunk. They can nominate any reasonable candidate and win. Why not pick the guy they really like--the anti-war, post-racial, Kennedyesque liberal orator?

This turn of events devastated Hillary, of course, who spent years preparing to run as a moderate, national security Democrat whom you could trust at 3:00 a.m.

As noted, the dismal unpopularity of Bush, the failing economy, and the troubles that accompany a protracted and unsatisfying military engagement make this particular political season particularly irregular.

However, even with all that, Obama still might have run into trouble, save for the "concept." Americans fell in love with this symbol for an age.

But, if Obama gets by Hillary (which I am not ready to concede), he will arrive virtually unstoppable in the General. And, if elected, I expect him to skillfully translate his electoral triumph into a mandate for liberal action. With a Democratic majority in Congress, and the Fourth Estate abuzz with adoration, we are likely to see the most active and most prolific legislating president since Lyndon Johnson.

Make no mistake, President Barack Obama could be the most transformative American political figure of our lifetimes. My worry is that the transformation is going to prove as disastrous as the last attempt at creating a so-called Great Society.
This afternoon, Robert M. Goldberg, vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (whatever that is), writing for The American Spectator, charged Barack Obama surrogate, Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak, USAF, Ret., with pursuing an anti-Israel agenda.

McPeak recently in the news charging former-President Bill Clinton with McCarthy-like innuendo, serves as an "Obama for President" co-chair.

According to Goldberg, "McPeak has a long history of criticizing Israel" and its insistence on holding on to territory won during wars with Arab neighbors.

Goldberg quotes McPeak In a 2003 interview with the Oregonian, complaining that the Israeli lobby (Jews) intimidated American politicians from pursuing American interest in the Middle East.

I do not know Goldberg. The Spectator is an unabashedly agenda-driven opinion journal. Having said that, if this assessment bears out, taken on the heels of Senator Obama's Jeremiah Wright problem, this revelation poses another serious distraction for the Obama campaign.

Goldberg writes:

"Obama has a Jewish problem and McPeak's bigoted views are emblematic of what they are. Obama can issue all the boilerplate statements supporting Israel's right to defend itself he wants. But until he accepts responsibility for allowing people like McPeak so close to his quest for the presidency, Obama's sincerity and judgment will remain open questions."

Only time will tell, but this looks like something worth watching.
Category: housekeeping
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Happy Monday.

While I make no promises to get to any of these items this week, here is a brief (and undoubtedly incomplete) list of a few topics that demand closer attention:

1. In the midst of the Rev. Wright firestorm, we neglected to notice last week that Hillary Clinton enthusiastically issued a final and irrevocable pledge to abandon the mission in Iraq. Aimed at appeasing the "nutroots" of her party, Mrs. Clinton offered another more definitive olive branch to the radical anti-war Democratic base, as she girded up for the final charge of Campaign 2008.

The bad news: this means that the Democratic Party, no matter the nominee, will be irretrievably invested in defeat in Iraq. The equally dismal corollary: the mainstream media, firmly invested in the Democratic candidate, will possess a keen interest in portraying Iraq as a chaotic failure. Expect the fairly optimistic coverage (or lack of Iraq coverage) to fade--and prepare for a new burst of energy in spreading the word that all hope for success in Iraq has died.

The sober four-thousand-dead milepost is a convenient event on which to inaugurate the new storyline.

2. Rush Limbaugh and his so-called Operation Chaos is an embarrassment. The plan, which calls for "ditto-heads" to register as Democrats and vote for Hillary to throw the Democratic process into chaos, 1) makes a mockery of the democratic process; 2) makes us look like we hate Democrats more than we love America; and 3) cannot possibly achieve any of the ends desired.

In fact, the strategy will eventually be used against Hillary Clinton in the attempt to solidify the nomination for Barack Obama ("do you want to let Rush Limbaugh pick your nominee?"), and it will also give the Democrats a delicious grievance (election sabotage, "dirty tricks") around which to rally in the fall. Even worse, it just feels wrong (and dumb). Why so gleefully give our opponents the moral high ground? Bad karma. Rush should watch more Carson Daly.

3. That well-known racist and purveyor of McCarthyism, Bill Clinton, is at it again. I never thought I would feel sorry for Clinton-42--but this guy just can't buy a break from the Obama-crazed, formerly Bill-protecting, liberal media.

4. In a related matter, in our rush to nail Obama and the preacher, have conservatives missed an historic opportunity to renegotiate the toxic rules of engagement concerning public discourse and race in our political culture?

With great hope, I present this tentative agenda....
With apologies to those of you who have heard me on this before:

The 1986 film, Hoosiers, opens on a dark and lonely road on the verge of dawn. Off in the distance, two headlights drive toward us in the night. Black is giving way to gray and soon the sun rises over a two-lane highway. As rays of sunlight break through the clouds, we watch a series of shots from various angles tracking the mid-century American sedan cruising purposefully by cornfields, barns, silos, country stores, gas pumps and boys playing basketball.

Driving down country roads lined with crossed-top telephone poles and decorated with bright-colored fall leaves, the car stops at a crossroads with a church prominent in the background. After a momentary pause, the driver proceeds. Has he found the right path?


Norman Dale has driven through the night to get to the one-blinking-stop-light town of Hickory, Indiana, where he has anxiously agreed to coach a basketball team at a high school with an enrollment of 64 students. Standing in the tradition of a thousand small-town schools built all over the United States during the first half of the twentieth century, the campus fits perfectly within the period of the film; but to our modern eyes, the old school is an anachronism.

"You're not the new coach?" asks Myra Fleener. She is strikingly pretty in a mature teacherly way--but she is all business. "I was expecting someone younger." Her glance is all-knowing and unapproving.

Later, she observes accusingly: "A man your age comes to a place like this, either he's running away from something or he has nowhere else to go." She is spot-on.

She watches him warily as he moves on up the stairs to find his old friend, Cletus, the principal who has sent for him.

"Norman Dale? I hardly recognized you," Cletus says.

It's been a long time since their days at the teacher's college. "I appreciate the opportunity," Norman says. "You've got a clean slate here," Cletus assures him.

Early on, Norman Dale remains a mystery. Mostly, we know that he is here and eager for "one last chance." Eventually, we discover that Dale had led a college team to a national championship twelve years earlier before the NCAA barred him for life for misconduct.

His rival for the Hickory coaching job wonders: "I don't know why Cletus drug your tired old bones in here."

Why? This is a story about regeneration and forgiveness. The tag line for the film: They needed a second chance to finish first. Dale is merely the first in a series of characters who are in need of redemption.

Dale enlists the help of the town drunk, Wilbur "Shooter" Flatch, who lives in a cabin in the woods and is something of a basketball oracle. Shooter is also the father of one of Dale's players, who sees his dad as a hopeless embarrassment. "When is the last time someone gave him a chance?" Dale asks. Pushed to get clean and sober, Shooter mounts an unsteady journey back to respectability; like most of us in the real world, he remains a work in progress throughout the film.

Dale soon finds that the entire town (less Myra Fleener) believes that the key to the season will be enticing Jimmy Chitwood to play with the team. By most accounts, Chitwood is the best school-boy basketball player any of these rabid fans have ever seen. But in the aftermath of a series of personal tragedies, Jimmy has withdrawn from the community and has lost his love for game.

Dale does not push Jimmy, and he encourages the fans to be patient and appreciate the current team "for who they are--not who they are not."

But basketball is the civic religion in Hickory, and they are hungry to break out of their long history of mediocrity. Ironically, the community seems determined to resist any changes to its basketball orthodoxy. They are devout believers in the zone defense and shooting the basketball at every opportunity. They are skeptical and hostile to Dale, a peculiar and perplexing prophet of a new system.

Even his old friend Cletus has his doubts: "I'm trying hard to believe you know what you're doing."

After the rocky start on the court, and increasing consternation from the townspeople, the citizens call a town meeting to decide the fate of the embattled coach. The situation looks dire for Dale. Cletus has taken ill and can no longer offer him protection. Myra Fleener, now acting principal and starting to warm to Dale, calls for the crowd to give him another chance. But the throng clamors for his dismissal.

We are told that twelve legions of angels stood at the ready to rescue the Savior during his time of misery. In keeping with the divine plan, the suffering Christ never issued a call for celestial assistance. In the case of Norman Dale, Jimmy Chitwood intercedes of his own accord. Jimmy has had a change of heart. Dale has won him over with his style and sincerity. Jimmy will rejoin the team, if the town agrees to keep the coach; they are only too pleased to make Jimmy happy.

From there on, it is nothing but net. Success. Enthusiastic cheering crowds. Even the coach’s former tormentors come around.

Myra Fleener and Norman Dale, at a stage in life where they have reason to believe passion has passed them by, find one another and experience personal regeneration.

The team reaches its potential and makes a brilliant run into the playoffs, culminating with a come-from-behind win in the state championship game against a big-city powerhouse.

Most importantly, Coach Dale connects with his humanity, happily coming to understand that his love for his players is much greater than his prodigious desire to win.

More than anything else, Hoosiers is a story of hope and possibility. In the midst of our failure, there is hope for redemption, growth, love and meaning. No matter where we are in life, we are people with potential. We should take great comfort from the knowledge that we are people perpetually in the process of becoming.

Originally posted for Easter Sunday one year ago.
Writing on, Rich Karlgaard asserts that the Barack Obama address this week was "A Speech For The Ages."

Karlgaard writes:

"As a Republican who will vote for John McCain in November, I watched Barack Obama's Philadelphia speech with awe."

"On Tuesday Obama, whose momentum was evaporating in the heat of his pastor scandal and poor Pennsylvania poll numbers, did what he had to do.

"He did more than that, actually. He stepped to the plate and swung for the fences. Obama gave the best, straightest talk on American race relations ever heard from a national politician."

Karlgaard chastises conservatives for reacting through partisan lenses, seeing only the flaws (and sometimes inventing ones that are not there) in the monumentally forceful oration. He is right to the extent that the Speech seemed to polarize political partisans (along, not surprisingly, partisan lines) into either praising the speech as one for the ages (Gettysburg-like for some) or castigating it as a vapid, disingenuous act of political desperation.

Conservatives should admit that the Speech had elements of uncommon greatness. It occurs to me that those who ignore the sublime elements in the address are likely blinded by their desire for it to be a disaster.

Having said that, Obama boosters should admit that the inherently campaign-centered pronouncement had its limitations.

He showed brilliant eloquence in addressing and framing vexing questions in a breathtakingly honest and insightful way, but what about the answers? If LBJ liberalism was truly the remedy for America's problems, they would have been solved for forty years now.

He needs some new ideas...

In effect, candidate Obama gave two speeches:

One in which he soared to unique rhetorical heights, articulating a nuanced (and ultimately optimistic) comprehension of racial misunderstanding and mistrust in American.

This element was incredibly compelling (and we seem to know now that he had been crafting that speech for some time--which makes sense; components of it certainly seemed well considered).

On Tuesday, I read it before I watched it--and I loved it. Then some of the instantaneous analysis and reaction from the conservative bloggers started rolling in--and I wondered if it was not quite as good as I first thought. Later, after repeatedly re-reading the text and watching a replay on C-SPAN, I decided it was just as powerful as I initially believed--with one caveat:

It does drag when he gets to solutions.

Once again, what is he advocating? While marvelous and exhilarating in part, the Speech proved, in the end, unsatisfying.

Where was the beef?

Let us be honest with ourselves. We were all impressed with his direct talk on race. Why? Because that brand of frank talk is so rare when we discuss race in this nation. On the other hand, it is not actually hard to utter a few obvious truths--it is merely dangerous.

Generally, we are not receptive to honest assessments and complicated thinking in re race and history and culture. Honest men publicly take on race at their own peril. Ask Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell, or Clarence Thomas.

Moreover, if Obama is so brave and honest, why not talk about Jena, Louisiana, with the same honesty and understanding for all parties? Or his own appeal? He seemed to have little reluctance in speaking about his white grandmother. Can we expect the same objective analysis regarding Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton in the days to come?

The Speech was good. But it was a highly charged political affair designed to save a candidacy. There were elements, if delivered in a less vulnerable predicament, which might have initiated a constructive discussion on a vital topic. But, in the context of the moment, the Speech compares better with a Bill Clinton or Richard Nixon desperately fighting to preserve viability in the furious chaos of a media feeding frenzy. The great speeches are never delivered in the midst of a political campaign under fire. Try to name one.

Disappointingly, Obama may have had a great speech on race in him, but he gave it up to save himself.
Category: Courts
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
~~Constitution of the United States,
Bill of Rights, 2nd Amendment

New York Times Supreme Court reporter, Linda Greenhouse, wrote on Wednesday:

"A majority of the Supreme Court appeared ready on Tuesday to embrace, for the first time in the country’s history, an interpretation of the Second Amendment that protects the right to own a gun for personal use."

On at least one level, this is an astonishing turn of events.

The High Court has avoided this issue for the last sixty-nine years.

On the other hand, this new cohort of intellectually fierce and robustly intrepid conservatives could hardly rule otherwise.

Granted, the sentence structure of the Second Amendment is curious; notwithstanding, based on the syntax and the historical evidence, it is extremely difficult to argue that the "right to bear arms" applied only as a collective, militia-bound freedom.

As Chief Justice Roberts suggested in the oral arguments, if the language regarding "keeping and bearing arms" was merely subordinate to the "well-regulated militia," mentioning "the people" seems completely superfluous.

This is problematic. The Constitution itself, and the ten amendments that follow, are spare in style, not indiscriminately garrulous.

Are "the people" and a "well-regulated militia" synonymous? Unlikely.

Are "keep" and "bear" merely rhetorical flourishes that mean the same thing? Couplets added to make the document more poetic? Doubtful.

Justice Antonin Scalia pondered the connection between a "well-regulated militia" and "the security of the state." For what purpose was the militia "necessary" to the security of the people? Primarily, to protect liberty from tyranny. For the framers, an armed citizenry equaled an important safeguard against the accumulation of too much power in the hands of tyrants.

Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito also raised the notion of self defense within the context of original intent and the frontier culture of the eighteenth century.

For a conservative, the plain meaning and intent of the amendment is clear enough: the Second Amendment offers a fundamental protection to citizens who wish to possess and use firearms, preventing Congress (or any other branch of the government of the United States) from infringing on this right.

Slam dunk.

The Catch? The Irony?

In District of Columbia versus Dick Anthony Heller , the actions of the federal government are not at issue; rather, the Question is "whether the Second Amendment forbids the District from banning private possession of handguns...."

Heller asks the federal government to interpose itself between local authority (Washington, DC), derived legitimately through the will of the local electorate, and an American citizen, Dick Heller, who petitions the Court to protect his individual right under the Constitution to own a gun.

So what? Isn't this the way it is supposed to work?

Yes and No.

It is the way things have worked since the early-to-mid twentieth century.

However, the Bill of Rights, initially, only protected citizens and states from the federal government.

Some Examples:

From the beginning, the federal (or national) government could not establish a national religion, but the individual states could--and did (the last state to disestablish, Massachusetts, sanctioned a state-supported church for more than four decades after the ratification of the First Amendment).

The national government could not abridge free speech or freedom of the press--but the states could; there was no absolute or practical right to advocate abolition in the ante bellum South. That is, the feds were not empowered to protect individual speech rights in any given state.

Constitutional protections and protocol involving trials, evidence, and prosecutions applied to federal courts--but state courts were free to enact their own procedures.

These were days of true federalism, dual sovereignty, or shared authority, between the state and federal governments.

What happened?

And the war came. And the Fourteenth Amendment followed, which guaranteed all citizens "equal protection" under the law. That is, the federal government assumed (or, more accurately, eventually came to assume) a new role as ultimate defender of the very same individual rights enumerated originally as strictly proscriptions against federal abuse. This expansion of the federal mission, extending the Bill of Rights to the states, and empowering the national government as the agency of enforcement, is commonly called incorporation.

What happened then?

The rights revolution ensued: think Brown, Miranda, Gideon, etc.

Conservatives, often reluctantly and usually not without complaint, generally, have acceded to incorporation as the new reality, accepting the good with the bad.

The Good (for example): the success of the Civil Rights Movement, unthinkable without an activist judiciary.

The Bad (for example): Roe v. Wade and Griswold, which went so far as to incorporate an unenumerated right found in a "penumbra, formed by an emanation."

While a few ultra conservatives have called for an amendment to restore the Constitution to its pre-incorporation form, this view usually falls outside of the mainstream of judicial conservatism. For example, none of the conservatives on the current Supreme Court (not even the self-styled "originalists") advocate "restoration," and it is extremely doubtful that a nominee of that particular philosophical persuasion could ever be confirmed by the Senate today.

Having said that, incorporation is a bone in the throat of conservatism--as it seems an integral component of the increasingly boundless activist court and the antithesis of judicial modesty.

Significantly, one of the issues in Heller is incorporation. If the Court finds gun ownership to be a fundamental individual right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, what then? The justices will have the authority (under the precedent of incorporation) to defy the will of the majority in Washington, DC, expressed through their elected representatives, and institute a new set of rules by judicial fiat.

Is that a conservative decision?

Was the original intent of the framers to allow a federal court to overrule the clearly expressed will of a local entity?

It is an interesting conundrum. Conceivably, the high court might very well vindicate a basic and obvious right important to modern conservatives, while simultaneously wielding its awesome power in a way completely unbecoming to fundamentally conservative jurisprudence.

Then there is also the practical question.

What the Court might do logically is restore the right to keep and bear arms, but demur from "incorporating" the Second Amendment. Conceivably, the Court could affirm the fundamental freedom but respect the local authority to the DC City Council to make law in accord with the democratic process.

However, at that juncture, someone might well ask how far the federal government may go in regulating individual gun ownership in view of the newly rejuvenated right to keep and bear arms.

In re the federal government, the original intent is clear:

"...the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Of course, this question takes us back to our 1939 point of demarcation for this long legal odyssey. When faced with their contemporary exigencies, the Supreme Court felt obligated to bend its interpretation of history and intent in order to allow the federal government the right to regulate manifestly dangerous and problematic weapons.

The practical questions remain.

This is why Solicitor General Paul Clement showed up on Tuesday to argue simultaneously that the right to keep and bear arms exists--but not without some limits.

Where are the limits?

Weapons for hunting and self defense are allowed--but not assault rifles and machine guns?

On the other hand, taken to the extreme, if the purpose of the Second Amendment is to protect liberty from the accumulation of power, should not the citizenry have the right to keep and bear weapons comparable to the entity that poses the greatest threat to liberty? Which, from an eighteenth-century point of view, is clearly the government?

Tough questions. This cohort of conservatives promise to be stalwart, sincere, and profoundly gifted--but, on this case, they find themselves between a rock and a hard place. I will await this decision with guarded optimism and a heightened sense of anticipation.


The Fourteenth Amendment, as written, applies only to the states. The Heller case involves the District of Columbia, which is most definitely not a state. Thus, this case does not involve incorporation, but (if the 14th Amendment is even implicated) would involve the doctrine of reverse incorporation. See Bolling v. Sharpe, etc. But I'm not sure the 14th Amendment is implicated at all in the D.C. case of Heller.

Also, for all legal and constitutional purposes, the Distict of Columbia IS the federal government. And the fact that, like a state, the laws were enacted by duly elected officials here is no different with the federal government, whose laws are also enacted by duly elected officials.


Thank you, Tocqueville, for articulating this vital element of the case (and a perhaps fatal flaw in my reasoning). The fact that this is a DC petition definitely adds another wrinkle to the complexity of this question--and possibly offers a welcomed "out" to the majority. But is it not the expectation that the Court may well offer a much broader ruling, which would apply to the states as well? Does that not explain General Clement's concern?

If this only concerns DC, why do we care?


My prediction is that the Court will recognize a full-bodied individual right to gun ownership under the 2nd Amendment (This is why we care. The Court will be deciding what the 2nd Amendment means, and the 2nd Amendment means the same thing in and out of D.C.). But I predict that the Court will strike down the D.C. statute as unconstitutional on very narrow grounds. In short, I expect the Court to find that an outright ban on gun ownership is patently unconstitutional. But the Court will leave plenty of room for the regulation and control of gun ownership for health and safety reasons. And this right to regulate may likely be broader for the states than it is for the federal government.
Category: Frivolity
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Today on Sean Hannity's radio show, wild-haired pollster John Zogby floated the idea of Al Gore as a compromise candidate for the Democratic nomination. The Zogby plan: Jimmy Carter and some other party wise men convince Barack Obama to release his delegates to Al Gore in exchange for the VP slot. The powers that be assure Mrs. Clinton that she would ascend to Senate Majority Leader as part of the deal, and everybody leaves happy.

Really? Al Gore? Really?

One of the most unelectable figures in the history of American politics?

Is John Kerry not available?

What about Walter Mondale? Ted Kennedy, maybe? Unfortunately, Ed Muskie passed away, but I think George McGovern is still alive. What about him?

We appreciate you thinking out of the box, Zog--but perhaps you should go back to the drawing board on this one.
I have already said that the Speech was historic and remarkable and marvelous (albeit ultimately unsatisfying).

But what about the politics? The Horse Race?

Remember: Obama is an insurgent candidate locked in a death match with the political equivalent of "Anton Chigurh," the relentless pursuer from No Country for Old Men. To win in the end, he has always needed to run a near-perfect race with no big mistakes. After performing flawlessly for months, coming mere inches away from realizing the impossible and closing out this race on March 4th, was this crisis Obama's fatal error?

Dr. Politics, Steffen Schmidt, commented here today:

"Rest assured that only political geeks like us heard or read the speech. At best voters got some fleeting report on local news that Obama gave a speech. The GOP is compiling short, grainy black and white mini-spots of Wright overlaid with an unflattering picture of Obama that floats in a scary way across the screen.

"The stuff Wright said may be justified for blacks but it is not acceptable to most whites, Jews, Asian Americans, and many Hispanics.

"I think the "O'Mentum" has been stopped dead in its tracks."


Obama has two major problems coming out of Philadelphia:

1. The Speech, while interesting and provocative, placed the comments of Reverend Wright at the center of the campaign. This is not insignificant. We (the conservative world) and ABC News have been talking non-stop about this revelation-slash-crisis since last Thursday, but this morning, in order to analyze the monumental address, NPR was forced to introduce the story to its listeners--as they had virtually ignored it until yesterday. The Newshour with Jim Lehrer was in a similar position--having ignored the story--save for the end-of-the-week political wrap-up with Shields and Brooks--Brooks having pronounced Obama's disastrous dissembling from last week "the perfect statement of dignity" and "a glimmer of hope" in a world otherwise gone terribly wrong. You just can't buy that kind of analysis. Even Tim Russert soft-pedaled the emerging crisis on Meet the Press Sunday, burying the discussion in the midst of other more important issues.

Last night and today, in order to cover the Speech, and demonstrate how transcendent the moment, tenets of basic journalism forced the mainstream media into explaining the context of the modern "Gettysburg Address." The downside of all the superlatives: Jeremiah Wright and the Trinity United Church of Christ are now fair game through November.

Why did Obama do it? Because he had no choice. He understood the wild fire that was raging underneath the radar and gaining ground. He made the best of a bad situation, but, all things considered, he suffered a net loss: his eloquent treatise on race in America does not overcome the "mainstreaming" of Jeremiah Wright. This is one "crazy uncle" that Obama desperately needed to stay in the attic.

2. Worse yet, after so skillfully avoiding the potential pitfall over the course of his long campaign, the crisis forced Obama into making race the central motif of his candidacy. Goodbye subtlety. Goodbye quiet undertone. Goodbye plausible deniability. This development makes his run exponentially more challenging.

Again, why did he do it? Again, he had no choice. He was desperate. Only a wider and more majestic discussion of race could temporarily insulate him from the growing firestorm.

What now? Even as he basks in the glow of nearly unanimous admiration, he is bloodied and staggered. He may well be mortally wounded. And as Obama continues to hemorrhage, Mrs. Clinton gets stronger with each passing day.

Remember the equation: the superdelegates get to pick whomever they deem the most electable candidate come fall--and the rationale for public consumption need not conform to the reality.

What can save Barack Obama?

Perhaps a liberal backlash. Right now Obama's tormentors are the very same folks good liberals love to hate: Hannity, Limbaugh, FOX News, the conservative blogosphere.

The conservative schadenfreude could save him, just as it resurrected Mrs. Clinton in New Hampshire.

But that strikes me as unlikely.

As the Swabian Prince suggested earlier this week, Mrs. Clinton will more likely benefit from the hard feelings against the vast right-wing conspiracy that deprived America of its transcendent Deliverer.

Perhaps the question now is this: will the Clintons attempt to rehabilitate Obama sufficiently for a run as VP--or is he already too radioactive?

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers; it is always an honor.
Category: Race in America.ii
Posted by: Tocqueville
The Editors of National Review argue that Barack Obama deployed his formidable talents to try to minimize and excuse Rev. Wright’s rants. Available here.
In response to my analysis of the Address, my previously quoted learned friend weighs in:

I disagree with Steele. Obama is not merely someone for whom we are settling. It may be true that Obama would not be in the same spot if he were white, but that is tantamount to saying Bill Clinton could not have succeeded if he had not been from Arkansas. I cannot conceive of an un-Southern Clinton any more than I can conceive of an un-Black Obama.

Having said that, lineage is a fundamental part of his makeup. I also think that his ancestry gives him a unique perspective from which to govern. Although whites do not like to hear this, most of us are so far removed from black culture that we sometimes tend to see blacks as two-dimensional characters. Their experiences and cultural assumptions are so different from ours that we have a hard time achieving true empathy with them. We really cannot imagine being in their shoes.

We can hope that Barack, as someone who has lived in both worlds and speaks the language of both cultures, can address the concerns of both groups with empathy. Of course, there I go again with my sincerity and honesty talk.

In my view, Steele is completely wrong in his assertion that Obama has had to trade away his individuality and complexity to play the role of racial peacemaker. In fact, I think Obama's main appeal (even before the speech yesterday) has been his willingness to confront difficult but vital issues head-on—and then discuss them with nuance.

For example: please consider this speech he gave in 2006 concerning the role of religion in American public life. I have never seen a more thoughtful, honest, and nuanced discussion of the topic by anyone in politics.

An Aside: ironically, this consistent ability to examine tough issues with keen insight and uncommon courage often drives his opponents to fits of rhetorical hyperbole.

I agree that Obama did not offer solutions for the problems he identified, but that seems a bit onerous for a single address. Solving over two hundred years of racial problems in a campaign speech may be too much to expect, even for Obama. It is significant and admirable, however, in a political realm where these issues are NEVER confronted honestly, where the other side is routinely dismissed as hateful or un-American, that Barack faced race squarely and with vulnerability—and attempted to start a meaningful conversation.

For the record, I agree with your suggestion that we all need to reject the idea that there are certain things that just may not be discussed. Bumper sticker arguments and racially charged rhetorical landmines are poison to our political culture. We need not agree on all the vital issues of our time, but we should be willing to have civil conversations about everything.

In re his "boilerplate" comments concerning health care, job loss, and getting out of Iraq: these are the issues of the day. Americans have been apathetic about politics because politicians have not been addressing the issues closest to home. If Obama succeeds, it will be because he tackles these issues and forces a conversation about them.
~~A Learned Friend of the Bosque Boys

18/03: The Economy

Category: Frivolity
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From the Wall Street Journal:

"The Federal Reserve continued its two-front attack on the credit crunch with a steep rate cut, and hinted at more to come.

"The cut was less than financial markets wanted. But in a sign the Fed's prior efforts to boost lending through unconventional means may be getting some traction, stocks soared, buoyed by earnings reports from two big investment banks."

As for me, I am going to hold out until the Fed starts paying me to borrow money.
Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.
~~Thomas Jefferson

March 18, 2008 likely will prove to be an historic day.

Barack Obama, the first viable African American candidate for president of the United States, delivered a remarkable speech today in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love and the cradle of American liberty.

Much more obscure, and likely to be lost to the vast throng of posterity, the Wall Street Journal posted a hard-hitting and brutally honest Shelby Steele essay, which purports to explain an important component of the Obama phenomenon: race.

Taken together, they offer a revealing and insightful window into our history, our present reality, and our current dilemma.

Shelby Steele:

Barack Obama is absolutely correct that race has historically proven a disadvantage for African Americans seeking opportunity, prestige, and political power. Notwithstanding, Steele asserts that "race," at least at this particular moment, "is a powerful positive force in the body politic" filling the sails of the unique Obama candidacy. In agreement with Geraldine Ferraro’s now famous remark, Steele affirms: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position."


Obama's success is incumbent on a desperately desired "opportunity for whites to [personally] experience racial innocence."

Moreover, his campaign is an "allegory" for collective racial "redemption, reconciliation, and transcendence."

Perhaps we are all trying to get right with a just God?

Steele labels Obama a "bargainer,” skilled at manipulating an ancient white angst and dread over racial injustice .

Steele: "Bargainers make the subliminal promise to whites not to shame them with America's history of racism."

Bargainers present themselves as vehicles for white absolution. In return, whites, desperately in need of atonement, jump at the opportunity to enter into this mutually beneficial contract and accord full privileges and more to the convenient and pleasing vessel of deliverance.

Is there a downside to this reciprocally satisfying relationship between consenting adults?

According to Steele, the bargainer must surrender his individuality and complexity, opting for "invisibility" as an inoffensive and safe "conduit" for racial harmony.

"Thus, nothing could be more dangerous to Mr. Obama's political aspirations," asserts Steele, "than the revelation...that he sat Sunday after Sunday--for 20 years--in an Afro-centric, black nationalist church in which [whites] could never feel comfortable."

Steele is exactly right. Reverend Wright proved Big Trouble. Was Obama cornered with no way out?

What would he do?

He showed brave, facing the pack, pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

In fact, I think he might have escaped.

I am anxious to hear Steele's analysis of the Obama speech, but it seems to me that the stealthy "bargainer" forever shed his cloak of invisibility and forthrightly confronted the issue of race in America.

Moreover, he abandoned his weasel words in re Wright. He was there. He heard the sermons. He disagrees. He was offended. But then he offered an incredibly nuanced (and to me compelling) explanation of why he continues to love his pastor, his church, and his fellow congregants.

I thought Obama demonstrated an expert feel for American history. For the most part, he got the story right: the details, the ideals, the contradictions, the injustices, and the triumphs.

He also somewhat uncharacteristically placed himself and his candidacy plainly within the context of the long struggle to live up to our nation's founding principles, at the same time returning to a more familiar theme, casting himself as the embodiment of E Pluribus Unum.

It would have been more meaningful if he had said this when his public life was not at risk--but I thought he was on to something when he exhorted us to forego the toxic "gotcha" racial politics.

I find significant discomfort in the parade of conservatives, who, in our pursuit of Obama and his pastor, have adopted the language of the politically correct Left. If we have any hope of returning to sanity on the issue of speech, we will find it necessary to break the cycle of acrimonious sanctimony. Perhaps we should take the initiative and grant clemency when we hold the upper hand in one of these disgusting and frightening public spectacles.

The repeated accusations of racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism are inflicting great injury to our civil society. Accepting the proposition that "hate" and "hate speech" are the ultimate mortal and unpardonable sins is an unwise long-term strategy for conservatives; this invidious protocol is a rigged game invented by liberals that we can never ultimately win.

The downside of the Obama speech:

1. VDH is right: Obama did not address the key questions concerning "damage" done by the Reverend Wrights of the world. What Shelby Steele described as “this usually hidden corner of contemporary black life: a mindless indulgence in a rhetorical anti-Americanism as a way of bonding and of asserting one's blackness.”

2. Also as Steele notes, and Obama confirmed today, the "candidate of change" offers nothing "more than Democratic Party boilerplate" drivel. The Senator got all the questions right--but then failed to deliver on any answers. Where is the beef? After such a promising start, he offered us nothing of substance to consider.

The bottom line: this speech was a wonderfully well-crafted masterpiece of oratory. Did it save him from a complete and total meltdown? I think so. Was he able to deftly change the subject? Most probably. However, he walks away from this skirmish sullied and wounded. We know more about this candidate than we did a week ago—and it is not all good. We are watching him now with a new wariness.

However, in my mind, this relationship with his misguided pastor does not disqualify him to be president.

UPDATE: One last thought: it should not surprise us that the man who seems to be running for Redeemer in Chief begins this speech with America's "original sin."
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
Victor Davis Hanson is not mincing words:

"Barack Obama’s Tuesday sermon was a well-crafted, well-delivered, postmodern review of race that had little to do with the poor judgment revealed in Obama’s relationship with the hateful Rev. Wright, much less the damage that he does both to African Americans and to the country in general."

Hanson goes on to say: "Rather than account for his relationship with a hate-monger, Obama will enlighten you, as your teacher, why you are either confused or too ill-intended to ask him to disassociate himself from Wright."

Read Hanson's blistering breakdown of Obama's speech here.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
National Review has assembled a symposium of critiques and responses to today's speech by Barack Obama. The symposium's participants share the assesment that Obama came up short today. Perhaps the most hard-hitting evaluation comes from Alvin S. Felzenberg:

Today we may have witnessed the beginning of the end of Barack Obama’s once-stunning campaign for the presidency. Not for the first time, the Illinois senator demonstrated, for all to see, that he is not qualified to serve as the nation’s president — at least, to paraphrase Mr. Obama, “not this time.”

See the full assesment here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Barack Obama speaks today, March 18, 2008, "A More Perfect Union."

Uncollected Thoughts:

11:30 a.m. CST. Although I have not seen the speech, the early reviews are strong.

From a learned friend (ftr: I don't think he reads the blog):

"Did you happen to watch the speech Obama just gave to address his relationship with his preacher? It was a hell of a speech. He addressed not only black anger but also white resentment and the historical roots of both. I really like this guy, and I think it’s primarily because I perceive him to be honest about the issues that really matter and to speak sincerely about them. I’m sure his politics are different from you, but do you get that same vibe from him? That he’s honest and sincere, even if he perceives the nation’s problems and their solutions differently than you do?"

That is good news for Obama.

When I read the speech (and watch the video), I will be looking for two things:

1. Did he address the fundamental logistical and legalistic issues of what did he know and when did he know it? Did he present a plausible defense on the main charge?

2. Did he offer a speech and performance captivating enough to encourage his admirers to disregard the specifics and continue to believe in the magic?

Number Two may be the more important question.

I will report back when I know more....
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
This week marks five years of our war in Iraq and counting. Looking back to 2002, those of us who supported American military action against Saddam perhaps expected "an easier triumph, and a result [quite frankly] more fundamental and astounding," but the war persists.

Please read this review of reasons that going into Iraq made sense at the time (re-recycled from previous posts for the sake of consistency). At the conclusion, there is also a question from a year or so ago (pre-surge), which asks, "Now What?" Thirteen months later, in the midst of a tumultuous presidential election year, this interrogatory remains the fundamental decision for our generation. Please read and comment. I would very much like to hear from you all on this.

Why did we have to go?

1. Saddam was bad. He deserved ouster, capture, trial, and execution. Twenty-five million Iraqis deserved an opportunity to take control of their lives free of Saddam's oppressive regime.

2. Saddam was at war with the United States and a threat to regional security. For more than a decade, we flew combat missions over Iraq and drew anti-aircraft fire everyday. Our forces were stationed in Saudi Arabia to neutralize the threat Saddam posed to the region. Our presence in Saudi (part of our essential commitment to preserving the peace) irritated the international Muslim community. In fact, Osama bin Laden cited our presence in Saudi Arabia as the casus belli for war against America in general and 9-11 specifically.

3. Saddam was contained--but only as a result of the costly military commitments cited above. In addition, Saddam was contained as a result of a United Nations sanctions regime. Before the war, several human rights organizations charged that the heartless US-driven sanctions policy had killed upwards of 500,000 Iraqis through malnutrition and lack of adequate medical attention. Later, we learned of massive corruption on the part of the UN in administering the sanctions against Saddam's Iraq. Moreover, by 2002, the flagging resolve of the French and other European powers threatened the entire sanctions program. Containment was a leaky policy taking on more water every day.

4. Saddam unbound meant a return to the status quo ante bellum in which he had threatened his neighbors and worked assiduously to manufacture and deploy weapons of mass destruction.

5. Saddam and 911? It is a long held article of faith in the mainstream media that "911 and Iraq were not connected." This is nonsense. What they mean to say is that Saddam and his regime were not complicit in the terrorist attacks of 911. Those two statements are not the same. Conflation of these two distinct ideas belies a fundamental misunderstanding of the task that confronts us.

» Read More

Distressing Days in America. Warning: Do not read any further, if you are home alone in the dark.

A tale of three connected articles sent to me by three separate and unconnected friends:

The Worst First: from Spengler, the anonymous columnist from the Asian Times Online, who takes his pen name from the German philosopher of history, Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), who famously chronicled and foretold The Decline of the West.

You see where this is going.

From "Obama's women reveal his secret":

"Be afraid - be very afraid. America is at a low point in its fortunes, and feeling sorry for itself. When Barack utters the word hope, they instead hear, handout. A cynic might translate the national motto, E pluribus unum, as something for nothing. Now that the stock market and the housing market have failed to give Americans something for nothing, they want something for nothing from the government. The trouble is that he who gets something for nothing will earn every penny of it, twice over."

Read the full article here (if you must) and also this piece from today, which briefly, expertly, and depressingly examines the philosophy and scholarship at the heart of Jeremiah Wright's sermonic ejaculations.

A Solution?

Charles R. Kesler, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and editor of the Claremont Review of Books, in the March 2008 edition of Imprimis, writes: "limited government is not a lost cause."

While Professor Kesler correctly observes that Barack Obama's sloganeering has offered little in the way of substance (merely "change" as a mystical cure-all), he admits that the Republican "dereliction" to their traditional duty is far more troubling.

Kesler: "Utterly missing in this election season is a serious focus on limited or constitutional government."


Kesler feels obliged to reconcile limited government with the need for efficient government in a modern world in great peril.

Insisting that limited government can also be "energetic" government, Kesler envisions a rededication to circumscribing the federal government to "its proper ends," empowered to protect a few "fixed and unchanging human rights."

But which ones?

Kesler loves the Declaration of Independence (who doesn't), which he calls a "great meditation...on republican government...grounded in human nature and operating by law and consent, [designed to protect] and affirm human liberty."

However, his curative is predicated on the notion that Natural Rights are self evident. The Problem of 2008? Natural Law is not self evident--at least not to all concerned parties. To many, the Natural Law argument is a rhetorical fiction designed to put forward a political point of view. In essence, the skeptics are correct. We all subscribe to philosophies that compel us toward the end we seek, and it is often impossible to see what came first: the self evident truth or the goal to which the self evident truth exhorts us.

That aside, What are Kesler's answers? His plan of action?

"Stand up for the flag / and let's all ring the Liberty Bell" (seriously).

To my way of thinking, you can never quote Merle Haggard too much. But even Kesler admits "restoration of constitutional government will require much more from us." Having said that, even as he acknowledges more is needed, Professor Kesler offers only more bromides and the sadly acute observation that 2008 seems unlikely to yield a leader serious about re-embracing the traditions of the framers.

Where's the Beef ?

Some Optimism.

The single ray of hope--such as it is--comes from Stephen E. Flynn, Jeanne J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. In the March 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs, Flynn writes:

"Resilience has historically been one of the United States' great national strengths. It was the quality that helped tame a raw continent and then allowed the country to cope with the extraordinary challenges that occasionally placed the American experiment in peril."

"Americans have drawn strength from adversity. Each generation bequeathed to the next a sense of confidence and optimism about the future.

"But this reservoir of self-sufficiency is being depleted."

Flynn asserts that we are increasingly "tethered" to modern conveniences, painfully unprepared for emergency, and disastrously dependent on an aging infrastructure.

We (the people) are detached, divided, ignorant, frightened, and impotent--which makes us extremely vulnerable to natural disasters and inviting prey for terrorists.

"These are hazards that can be managed only by an informed, inspired, and mobilized public," says Flynn.

What to do?

Flynn: "Reawaken the spirit of community and volunteerism."

The lesson of 9-11 should not be the horror inflicted on America at the hands of the terrorists who commandeered three planes and drove them into civilian targets of opportunity, inflicting mass carnage and confusion.

The lesson? We should embrace the model of United Flight 93. Citizens accomplished what NORAD could not. Heroism, awareness, and unity of purpose thwarted the terrorists on Flight 93.

Flynn gives a four-step process to restoring American resilience, all of which require awareness, rededication, and national spirit. Like Kesler, he suggests that presidential leadership is essential, and he also calls on the mass media and Hollywood to join the crusade. Good luck. But we will see.

Flynn gets a bit closer to identifying our problem: ignorance, apathy, and disconnect.

What can you do today? Get involved in your community. Fight for truth, justice, and the American way in your neighborhoods, parishes, and precincts--one yard at a time.

Note: thanks to Swabian Prince for Spengler, TF from SoCal for Kesler, and the Martian Mariner for Flynn (fyi: my offline invitation to MM still stands).
In response to my post, "Obama is in Trouble," in which I suggested that the 527s would have a field day with Barack's incendiary Black Nationalist pastor, this word of caution from the

Swabian Prince:

I agree that he's in trouble, though I am not sure that it will be that easy for the issue to be raised in a general election, even by 527s. November is an eternity away--even the convention seems an eternity away--and eventually the subject will be exhausted. Long before then, people will decide they have heard enough about it, and for those who raise it again, there could be a fierce backlash in store. The OJ fiasco made it clear that almost anything can happen in this country when race is involved or can be plausibly invoked. And Chappaquiddick made it clear that even the most ruinous story can be rendered harmless by the passage of time and careful management, if the subject of the story has the correct political orientation and the media are so disposed.

But what I most worry about is the fact that, if THIS is the thing that brings Obama's candidacy down, it will sit very, very poorly with African Americans across the board. It may in the long run lead to some good effects, such as African Americans' moving away from voting as a bloc for Democratic candidates. But it could also lead to an enormous collective rage, which could in turn be a huge setback to racial harmony in this country.

And then the search will be on to supply an appropriately right-of-center target for that rage. I think that McCain, whatever his motives, has been right to leave the subject alone, so that when the backlash comes, he can avoid being a target of it. But the Clintons will try their best to make the Republicans the ones at fault. And crazy as it sounds, it could work, because think of who is carrying the ball on this issue right now--Limbaugh and Hannity and talk radio, etc.

At the moment the Clinton campaign has, in effect, farmed out its surrogacy to its ideological opponents. It will not be hard to turn and disavow them, when the time comes, and let them be the ones to bear the stain (just as Vietnam somehow became "Nixon's war"). Especially since African American voters are already so profoundly disposed to dislike and distrust conservatives and Republicans.

So this could still play out in ways that will hurt Republicans in what is otherwise looking like a pro-Democratic year. I am not predicting that, only suggesting it as a real possibility. In the end, if HRC gets the nomination, there are a lot of people who will have to be brought back on board. Demonizing the Republicans usually works.
~~Swabian Prince

And this: One other note from another astute friend of the Bosque Boys, Steffen Schmidt, aka Dr. Politics, who believes that this imbroglio "gives Mrs. Clinton a second wind," but he also judiciously advises that the breaking "stock market and financial crisis is going to knock Hill and Barack off the front pages" for a while.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
This morning at RealClearPolitics John McIntyre writes a provocative but reasonable piece that suggests that one should (in Wall Street terms) "buy Hillary" (he should have written "go long Hillary and short Obama."). He writes:

The mostly unnoticed switch of Puerto Rico from a caucus on June 7 to a primary on June 1, gives Hillary Clinton a very real opportunity to surpass Barack Obama in the popular vote count. If Senator Clinton can "win" the popular vote, this will provide undecided superdelegates ample rationale to go with the less risky general election option of Senator Clinton.

If that is correct, that is important. Having a slight but indecisive delegate lead becomes a mere argument if the opponent has a lead in the popular vote, which becomes simply another argument -- but, when the issue is clouded, the one with the ostentatiously racist minister has a distinct disadvantage in the argument.
Category: Campaign 2008.10
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The week before last I wrote:

Most importantly, however, [Mrs. Clinton] must create the impression among party insiders (obviously ultra-strategic thinkers) that she is a better bet in the fall. She must continue to create doubts concerning Obama's readiness. She must have a compelling "moral" argument for the nomination--but, much more importantly, she must convince the princes of the Democratic Party that she is the one who can deliver when it counts.

Why now? We are suddenly aware that Obama is not infallible or unstoppable.

The Bottom Line: If the super delegates believe that Hillary equals victory, they will find a suitable rationale for giving her the nod.

Ten days later?
Now more than ever.

Barack Obama is in Trouble.

The Jeremiah Wright question is a killer. Why?

1. Candidate Obama is between a rock and a hard place. Does he abandon the pastor who brought him to Jesus and taught him to believe in the Audacity of Hope? For many of us, this will demonstrate a lack of character. Or does he stick with his friend and spiritual mentor, who just happens to believe that America is a "God-damned nightmare of racism, brutality, exploitation, and oppression? Goodbye mainstream.

When did you stop beating your wife, Senator?

2. Obviously, Obama must renounce and reject Wright (which he has done and, presumably, will continue to do). But this course of action is also highly problematic. Repudiating your pastor of twenty years is no easy assignment. The "I was absent that day" defense is ridiculous, and, more importantly, it is deadly for a candidate whose entire campaign is built on sincerity and extraordinary judgment.

3. Even if Team Hillary and the mainstream media were to award Obama and his Reverend a pass, does anybody think that the GOP will? In the fall, Republican surrogates are going to "527" Jeremiah Wright mercilessly and on a scale previously unimagined.

We are constantly told that Karl Rove and his acolytes mastered "taking away the opponents greatest strength."

Just imagine the ads. You've seen and heard the tapes.

Jeremiah Wright (in full war cry and with the crowd going wild): "U.S. KKK of A....chickens coming home to roost...CIA conspiracy to infect black community with AIDS...God Damn America!!!"

Throw in some Michelle Obama admitting she is proud of her country for the first time, and Americans will be faced with their worst nightmare: a president who may secretly buy into misguided, hate-filled, victimization peddling that promulgates racial division and despair.

So much for hope, reconciliation, and change.

For the first time in a long time: advantage Mrs. Clinton.
"The President is wrong and I think he knows it."

"The Administration demands immunity...[for] companies for activities [in cooperation with intelligence efforts] about which the President wants only a small number of Members of Congress and no member of the Judicial know anything about."

"Why would the Administration oppose a judicial determination of whether the companies already have immunity? There are at least three explanations:

"First, the President knows that it was the Administration's incompetence in failing to follow the procedures in the statute that prevented immunity from being conveyed -- that's one possibility. They simply didn't do it right.

"Second, the Administration's legal argument that the surveillance requests were lawfully authorized was wrong;

"or third, public reports that the surveillance activities undertaken by the companies went far beyond anything about which any Member of Congress was notified, as is required by the law."
~~Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi

This is a rancorous accusation.

The Washington Post notes that the Speaker "all but called the president a liar."

In response, the White House posted this stern retort on its website: FISA Fact Check: Setting the Record Straight on Speaker Pelosi,

and this brief but biting statement regarding the "partisan House bill":

"Today, the House of Representatives took a significant step backward in defending our country against terrorism...[and making] it easier for class-action trial lawyers to sue companies whose only 'offense' is that they are alleged to have assisted in efforts to protect the country after the attacks of September 11."

"The House bill is not a serious...effort to protect our national security. It is a partisan bill designed to give the House Democratic leadership cover for their failure to act responsibly and vote on the bipartisan Senate bill [already passed]."

What is going on here?

I am convinced that the House is not stonewalling merely to curry favor with the Democratic Party's admittedly important trial-lawyer constituency. On the other hand, I am certainly skeptical that the Senate bill is primarily designed to cover the mistakes and perfidy of the White House at the expense of the myriad honest Americans who purportedly gave up their civil liberties in the rush to install Bush's unitary executive regime.

What is really going on here?

1. The House is flexing its Article I muscles, reminding the Executive that we operate under a system in which there are three co-equal branches of government.

2. The House Democrats led by Nancy Pelosi despise this president, and they see an opening to do some damage to him politically.

Is Speaker Pelosi right that the Bushies probably bungled some of this early on? Bet on it. Knowing what we know about this administration (and the nature of humanity), there are likely embarrassing miscues within the process. Thorough investigations and judicial proceedings would undoubtedly produce wonderful opportunities for public recrimination and further humiliations for the Bush White House.

But is that good enough reason to derail this vital national security bill? Political vindication should not trump public policy.

Okay, folks, we understand: you don't like one another. But get this fixed. We have a serious situation on our hands.

Personal Note: my Congressman, Chet Edwards, Democrat from Texas 17, can help. I call on him to play a constructive role in healing this personal (and institutional) rift.
We have been talking about Jeremiah Wright and his church (Barack Obama's home church) for a long time on this blog:

the Okie Gardener's extremely prescient original piece from thirteen months ago,

my analysis of the New York Times feature on Obama, Wright, and Trinity United Church of Christ from last April,

and this comment from a regular reader who asserted:

"A candidate's church shouldn't be an issue unless it is something truly weird or cultish... something that would indicate that the candidate is not of sound mind or character."

We have wondered when or if the bright light of public scrutiny might shine on this facet of candidate Obama's personal history, and we have speculated on the possible political impact of such an examination.

Is this church "weird enough" or sufficiently outlandish to influence the campaign?

How will the Radical Religious Left play in the living rooms of America?

Ross Douthat, a great writer and thinker with a sharp feel for politics and history, thinks the Reverend Wright factor may prove telling in Decision 2008. I tend to agree.

Douthat writes today in the Atlantic :

"So far, Obama has attempted to laugh off Wright's penchant for inflammatory rhetoric, comparing him to 'an old uncle who says things I don't always agree with,' and suggesting that this is 'what happens when you just cherry-pick statements from a guy who had a 40-year career as a pastor.' But as Wright's America-bashing gets more airtime -- and as his Obama-boosting sermons put his church's tax exemption at risk -- Obama may have to go further down the road to explicitly disavowing his pastor. His connection to Wright isn't the equivalent of John McCain's going to Liberty University to make nice with Jerry Falwell. It's the equivalent of John McCain taking his wife and children, most Sundays, to Jerry Falwell's church. And the disconnect between Obama's studied moderation and his congregation's radicalism requires more of an explanation than he's offered so far.

"In an election when many expected that Mitt Romney's fate would be determined by how he talked (or didn't) about his Mormon faith, it may be Obama whose candidacy ends up riding on how he addresses the relationship between his politics and his church."

Bottom Line: the key for Hillary has always been staying power. Could she stick around until the final rounds when her experience, training, and tenacity might prove decisive? As we head into the last phase of this campaign like no other, Mrs. Clinton seems increasingly well-positioned to knock out the kid with a vicious left cross.

UPDATE: Senator Obama responds:

"The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.

"Let me repeat what I've said earlier. All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn. They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country."

Say what? Pretty weak. In twenty years he never actually heard "any of the statements that have been the subject of controversy"?

Two questions spring to mind:

How regular was his attendance?

How compliant does he expect us to be on this porous explanation?

UPDATE2: Obama Meltdown Begins.

From MSNBC: "Obama’s campaign announced that the minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., had left its spiritual advisory committee after videotapes of his sermons again ignited fierce debate in news accounts and political blogs."

This is big...and O seems to sense exactly how devastating...
Category: American Culture
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I have previously proclaimed my preference for Newsweek over TIME (although, ironically, I subscribe to TIME and not Newsweek--long story).

As I reported earlier this week, I had a chance to pore over the 10 March 2008 edition of Newsweek during a three-hour flight back from Washington, D.C.

In a forthcoming post, I intend to comment on Evan Thomas's essay on bias in the mainstream media, "The Myth of Objectivity," in which he offered some provocative analysis--but falls short of capturing the full extent to which complicated forces and personalities lead to politically slanted news coverage.

But before I get to that, a bit of almost unadulterated praise and sincere admiration: I very much appreciated the cover story marking the passing of William F. Buckley, "HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT." The Newsweek treatment proved far superior to TIME in terms of providing breadth, depth, and, most importantly, recognition of the historic impact of Buckley's life. The ten-page, heart-of-the-magazine, multi-author, multi-view coverage featured a bio-piece from top political writer and sometime-editor, Evan Thomas himself. Adding to the excellent primary story, the edition offered two fascinating ancillary opinions from Katrina Vanden Heuvel, liberal maven and editor and publisher of The Nation, and Michael Gerson, former George W. Bush speechwriter, regular contributor, and articulate proponent of "compassionate conservatism."

The death of Buckley, quite frankly, left me at a loss for appropriate words. Admittedly, my silence sprang from my unfamiliarity with him as a person. While I certainly knew the celebrated public persona of the quintessentially urbane conservative intellectual, I knew very little about the man behind the iconic presence.

The Newsweek coverage offered a much-needed window into the soul of the warm and compassionate, "sunny and hopeful" (and funny) Buckley.

Responding to Whittaker Chambers and his assertion that the West was doomed, and, therefore, "attempts to save the West [like the National Journal] were also doomed," Buckley responded:

"Yes, well, even so, America needs a journal to argue why we ought to have survived."

When asked what he would do if he won the 1965 New York mayoral race, Buckley answered: "Demand a recount."

More Serious: his political philosophy in two sentences:

"I believe that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world. I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced on another level."

On the other hand, all who know him agreed that Buckley placed friendship over politics and ideology. He was the “civil conservative.”


I said almost unadulterated praise:

Newsweek (and Vanden Heuvel) offered the two obligatory caveats in a Buckley obituary: he supported McCarthy (the bad one), and he resisted the civil rights revolution. These reminders are appropriate--but, for some context, one might also notice that other prominent and well-meaning Cold War Catholics of the time rallied around Joe McCarthy--think of the Kennedy family, for example. And one might also note, if we truly lived in a society in which we were able to speak freely without fear of reprisal, that the myriad laudable effects of judicially coerced racial equality actually produced a plethora of unintended deleterious consequences within modern society that have nothing to do with equal justice.

One other quibble: Newsweek succumbs to the current media template that asserts that the civil and refined Buckley, if he could, would tell us that Rush Limbaugh and his ill-mannered ilk are destroying the conservative movement, giving back the hard-won gains of the last fifty years.

But, up until last week, Buckley could have told us anything he wanted--and usually did. I think it is fair to assume that Buckley preferred a wholly different style from the right-wing talkers--but that seems beside the point. Buckley left us with no deathbed denunciation of the less-talented and coarser voices of conservatism, and it is disingenuous to attempt to craft such a condemnation posthumously.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
These are the new leads. These are the Glengarry leads. And to you they're gold, but you don't get them. Why? Because to give them to you would be throwing them away. They're for closers.

David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross remains one of the greatest triumphs of the American stage. A theatrical success, the play was later immortalized on the big screen in 1992. The film showcased outstanding performances by some of the greatest actors of their generation: Al Pacino (as Ricky Roma), Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon (as Shelley "The Machine" Levene), Alan Arka, and Jonathan Pryce. But perhaps the most memorable performance was offered by Alec Baldwin, whose character travels "from Downtown" to the regional sales office of Mitch & Murray on a "mission of mercy" to announce a new sales contest:

We're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? [Holds up prize] Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is . . . you're fired.

If you have never seen it, you can watch this unforgettable scene here.

David Mamet, the genius behind these words, spent most of his life immersed in the trendy subculture of "the Arts." By default, he took the liberal view of politics, of life, and of human nature for many decades. But he has recently recanted:

"As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart. These cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices. This is, to me, the synthesis of this worldview with which I now found myself disenchanted: that everything is always wrong."

"But in my life, a brief review revealed, everything was not always wrong, and neither was nor is always wrong in the community in which I live, or in my country. Further, it was not always wrong in previous communities in which I lived, and among the various and mobile classes of which I was at various times a part."

"And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama."

Mamet also has some very sensible things to say about the Constitution, which "rather than suggesting that all behave in a godlike manner, recognizes that, to the contrary, people are swine and will take any opportunity to subvert any agreement in order to pursue what they consider to be their proper interests."

I can't wait to see how his new-found philosophy influences his future work.

Welcome home, David Mamet.

If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.
Geraldine Ferraro

What a vulgar thing to say. The incontestable fact that the thoroughly repugnant statement is manifestly true seems entirely beside the point.

There is mendacity in this house.

UPDATE: a hearty Texas welcome to Instapundit readers. For more on Obama and race: The Fire Next Time and 21st Century Race Man.
Category: Something Personal
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I am back--but what an extraordinary forty-eight hours in the life of a sappy, flag-waving American.

Over the weekend, I visited the nation's capital for the first time.

Scheduled to fly into Reagan National after my last class on Thursday, I made a seemingly inauspicious start, snowed in and stranded at DFW for the evening.

The Upside: I had time to purchase and finally read Jan Crawford Greenburg's marvelous monograph from last year, Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court. The volume came highly recommended by Tocqueville, and he was absolutely right; it is a must read. More on that book in a later post.

I was lucky and fell into the very last stand-by seat on the first DC-bound flight on Friday morning; I finally arrived around noon. A bit inconvenienced but undaunted, I caught up with my wife, and we set out to explore the nation's capital.

Staying in a hotel on 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue (and considering my loyalties, interests, and preferred methodology), you might think our first stop would be the White House. But we decided to visit the branches in constitutional order: Article I first.

The Capital Police informed me that it was no longer possible to walk up the Capitol steps and walk into the front door of the People's House.

May the Terrorists burn in Hell.

Following a helpful suggestion from the officer, we contacted our congressman's office, located in the Rayburn Building (Texas Proud!), where we met his director of constituent services, who led us on a spectacular hour-and-one-half tour of the Capitol (more on that later).

After a night of fine dining at the Capital Grille (you only live once), and an in-room movie (since we were in Washington, Charlie Wilson's War seemed appropriate--and it exceeded my expectations), we set out on Saturday to celebrate Article II.

The White House. It is a commentary on my penchant to conflate pop culture with history, but as we approached the Executive Mansion I could not get Paul Simon out of my head: I'm going to Graceland, Graceland...

Seeing the White House is not an easy task. More high security and no tours without reservations.

May the Terrorists burn in Hell.

Although we walked all the way around the residence, it is only at the front, on the closed-to-automobile-traffic Pennsylvania Avenue side (across from Lafayette Square Park), that one feels even somewhat connected to the historic property.

Not surprisingly, this is where we saw a single CODEPINK anti-war protester. No one paid much attention to him (including the Capital Police officers). Although I cannot say with certainty that some unknown agents of the government did not come eventually to secretly cart him off with the intention of denying him habeas corpus, the pink-clad man seemed fairly content and unmolested in his misery.

After the WH we made our way to the Washington Monument, which is easy to find. Fittingly, the Monument to the indispensable man of American history fills the center of every frame of every picture from nearly every angle of the National Mall.

From the Monument, we walked along the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial. At some point en route to the Temple of Lincoln things got quiet. I fought back the emotion as I ascended the marble steps.

Things Lincoln often reduce me to tears.

I once heard a Lincoln scholar say that Lincoln quite consciously wrote for the ear, and to fully appreciate the majesty of his writing one must read him aloud, so I read quietly and deliberately--but nevertheless audibly--the words of the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural.

As a people, we can never be dedicated enough to the great task remaining for which this man gave his last full measure of devotion.

After Lincoln, we crossed the Potomac River and the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway to visit the honored dead at Arlington National Cemetery. From Robert E. Lee's lost front porch, one has an awesome view of the Federal City. On the way up we passed the eternal flame of JFK as well as the simple and isolated RFK resting place. The experience was well worth the hike.

Back down the hill and across the Potomac: the Korean War Memorial, FDR, and Jefferson--all awesome in their own way.

Later on we ate at the Old Ebbitt Grill and rode the Metro to Union Station.

The next morning: a long ride to Dulles and a flight back to Texas during which I read from the print edition of the Washington Post and Newsweek.

My sappy, flag-waving parting thought:

"While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer. "

God Bless America

An UPDATE: Tocqueville notices that I neglected Article III and offers this virtual tour.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
First Things remains one of my favorite journals of scholarship and opinion. I have been a subscriber for the past 12 years. To my delight, the latest issue highlights the intersection of two points of interest to readers of this Blog: Religious Faith and the Presidency.

Was the Sage of Monticello an avowed agnostic? Was he a full-fledged Deist? Or were his religious views much more nuanced and complex than we have been led to believe? Steven Waldman argues that our 3rd President was on a personal spiritual journey that took him outside the mainstream.

Also, Andrew Ferguson scrutinizes the endless attempts of historians and politicians to claim Lincoln for some spiritual or religious cause. But, as Ferguson insists, "We will never know for sure whether Lincoln held orthodox Christian beliefs, whether he believed in the Trinity, the divinity of Christ or his resurrection, the life everlasting, the forgiveness of sins, the inerrant word of God as revealed in the Old Testament or the New."
Category: Frivolity
Posted by: Tocqueville
A recent report reveals a disturbing trend. Apparently, many U.S. parents are now outsourcing their children's daycare overseas. Watch the full story here.

10/03: Insanity?

Category: Courts
Posted by: Tocqueville
What a perverse and strange world our courts and our lawyers have created--a world in which the best and the brightest in America clamor to offer free legal services and consolation to international terrorists who would murder our families, steal our freedom, and end our great country by violence. Everything Cully Stimson said was true.

The greatest law firms in America and the law faculty at leading law schools are directly aiding and abetting the enemy with the money of their corporate clients and with tax dollars. Folly and more folly.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
One of my favorite blogs, Southern Appeal, is back up and running.
Category: housekeeping
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A Waco Farmer will be away from the Bosque for a few days. I have asked Tocqueville to keep us entertained and stimulated over the weekend. I leave us in good hands.

UPDATE: Tocqueville is having some technical difficulties obtaining access to the Blog, so stay tuned. . . .
Two weeks ago (Feb. 16), before the gloom of talking-head certainty set in, I wrote:

The nomination is coming down to the super delegates. If they voted today, they would vote for Obama because he seems unstoppable. The good news for Clinton: they are not voting today. She has time to punch a hole in his balloon.


It will be very tough, but Clinton must sweep the upcoming final big three states (very difficult but not impossible). For all that has gone sour in her campaign, Hillary has consistently excelled in these upscale high-stakes contests. Then, most importantly, she must somehow break the "spell" of Obama by casting doubt on him in some way between now and the day of decision.

I have always seen Obama as a big gamble: he could prevail in a huge way ("painting the map blue" as he says). Or we could wake up from our trance midway through the coming fall election season and suddenly look at this guy and say: "what in the hell are we doing?"

Between now and this summer, I can certainly envision a moment in which strategically minded Democratic Party bigwigs entertain grave doubts about Obama's electability. In that scenario, three for the price of one (Obama as VP) may emerge as a much safer bet.


Texas and Ohio: mission accomplished.

Now what?

It seems impossible now that a candidate will finish the primary season with enough "pledged delegates" to win the nomination. We can also assume, even under the rosiest Hillary scenario, that Barack Obama will finish with a slim lead in pledged delegates.

Inconceivably, after tens of millions of Democrats have cast their votes, 795 super delegates ultimately will decide this nomination.

Both sides will make persuasive cases before this political "college of cardinals."

Obama will argue that his plurality of delegates entitles him to the nomination.

What will Hillary say to that?

1. Why are we not counting the delegates I won in Michigan and Florida? Are we not the party that believes in enfranchisement and counting all the votes?

2. My wins have been more meaningful. I have won the most important Democratic Party stronghold general election states (CA, NY, MA, OH, etc.). Barack Obama keeps winning Southern states and Mountain states where we know the Republicans will prevail in November.

Important Caveat: She needs to keep winning. This discussion is purely academic, if she does not capitalize on this moment of new life. Specifically, her case is much stronger if she is able to move ahead in the popular vote (again this adds to her democracy-centric line of argument).

Most importantly, however, she must create the impression among party insiders (obviously ultra-strategic thinkers) that she is a better bet in the fall. She must continue to create doubts concerning Obama's readiness. She must have a compelling "moral" argument for the nomination--but, much more importantly, she must convince the princes of the Democratic Party that she is the one who can deliver when it counts.

Why now? We are suddenly aware that Obama is not infallible or unstoppable.

The Bottom Line: If the super delegates believe that Hillary equals victory, they will find a suitable rationale for giving her the nod.

One more important component, Mrs. Clinton must deftly insinuate into this campaign the notion that Obama is a better candidate for VP than the top of the ticket. She began that process today.

Why do I continue to believe we will eventually end up with a unity ticket with Mrs. Clinton on top?

Simple Answer: it is the smartest and most logical use of talent in the Democratic Party field.

"Ready on Day One" plus a "Change We Can Believe In" equals a tremendously explosive combination.

Picking Obama and shutting out the Clintons leaves too much talent on the table. Love them or hate them, the Clintons are hall-of-fame caliber politicos. Why bet your whole bankroll on the rookie? Especially when such gratuitous recklessness is not necessary. A unity ticket allows Democrats to spread the risk. Consolidation offers an opportunity to capture three top performers for the price of one.

An Aside: frankly, nothing less than a Clinton-Obama ticket can unite the party, if Hillary finds a way to slip in and "steal" this nomination with the clock winding down.

As I have said before, a Hillary-Barack ticket with Bill, Chelsea, and Michelle added into the mix is the most powerful combination of charismatic personalities since the Kennedys combined with the Johnsons.

In short, it is only common sense.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
"For everyone here in Ohio and across America who's ever been counted out but refused to be knocked out, and for everyone who has stumbled but stood right back up, and for everyone who works hard and never gives up, this one is for you."
Old "Blood and Guts" Hillary Clinton

Very Briefly: I have been predicting that Hillary would become the next president of the United States for a long time. I came to that conclusion based on her superior organization (which included her access to the best talent), her ability to out-raise and, therefore, out-spend any potential opponent, and her lock on the Democratic Party establishment.

Well, I was wrong about almost everything (maybe everything--only time will tell). But I was certainly wrong about all those insurmountable advantages. As she faces perhaps the most enthralling candidate for president in the last one hundred years, she is losing the money race, she has lost the party bigwigs, and it turns out that her staff were mere mortals. But there she stands, like a stone wall, in the face of withering opposition.

She does it on guts.

She is Hillary Clinton, and she does not give an inch.

Love her or hate her, but admit that she is one tough S.O.B.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
What was George Washington's middle name?

Trick question. The first president of the United States to have a middle name was John Quincy Adams. He was the sixth decider-in-chief. He was elected in the disputed election of 1824 (over two-namer, Andrew Jackson), and he served from 1825-1829.

During the nineteenth century, presidents with middle names were the exceptions rather than the rule:

William Henry Harrison

James Knox Polk

Hiram Ulysses Grant, who, according to legend, changed his name to Ulysses Simpson Grant upon entering West Point because he preferred the sound of U.S. Grant to the initials H.U.G.

Rutherford Birchard Hayes

James Abram Garfield

Chester Alan Arthur

Stephen Grover Cleveland dropped his first name and subsequently went on to fame and political fortune with the trimmer handle.

For the most part, twentieth century presidents were rich with middle names.

Technically, Teddy Roosevelt was the sole exception, although, like Cleveland, Thomas Woodrow Wilson and John Calvin Coolidge dropped their assigned first names when they hit adulthood.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was the president who made it all matter. Then JFK and LBJ.

Jimmy Carter tried to forget his middle name was Earl. Bill Clinton seemed to revel in his middle name: Jefferson. Opponents of George Bush-41 attempted to make hay out of his four-banger, upper-crust-sounding family name: George Herbert Walker Bush. His son, Bush-43, has been called simply "W." by many, as a shorthand distinction between him and his father, as well as a low-grade measure of disrespect.

Is it "the ultimate fear bomb" to call Barack Hussein Obama by his full name?

Presumably, the unfortunate moniker was given to him with the best of intentions by his parents who loved him and wanted the best for him.

Sometimes names turn out to be unforeseen obstacles or annoyances.

A Personal Aside: my parents affixed me with a perfectly sophisticated, cultured, and fairly uncommon given-name back in 1964 (Ashley). During the 1980s, my first name became popular as a feminine given-name. I wish I had a dollar for every early-twenty-something who has asked me over the last fifteen years: "how come you got a girl's name?"

But it's my name. I am who I am.

My advice to BHO: Deal with it.
William F. Buckley died at his desk at his home in Stamford, Connecticut last week; he was 82. I agree with George Nash, who called Buckley "the preeminent voice of American conservatism" during the latter half of the twentieth century.

Please consider this excerpt from Peggy Noonan's fitting tribute to the conservative sage:

"Buckley was a one-man refutation of Hollywood's idea of a conservative. He was rising in the 1950s and early '60s, and Hollywood's idea of a conservative was still Mr. Potter, the nasty old man of "It's a Wonderful Life," who would make a world of grubby Pottersvilles if he could, who cared only about money and the joy of bullying idealists. Bill Buckley's persona, as the first famous conservative of the modern media age, said no to all that. Conservatives are brilliant, capacious, full of delight at the world and full of mischief, too. That's what he was. He upended old clichés.

"This was no small thing, changing this template. Ronald Reagan was the other who changed it, by being a sunny man, a happy one. They were friends, admired each other, had two separate and complementary roles. Reagan was in the game of winning votes, of persuading, of leading a political movement that catapulted him to two terms as governor of California, the nation's biggest state, at a time when conservatives were seemingly on the defensive but in retrospect were rising to new heights. He would speak to normal people and persuade them of the efficacy of conservative solutions to pressing problems. Buckley's job was not reaching on-the-ground voters, or reaching voters at all, and his attitude toward his abilities in that area was reflected in his merry answer when asked what he would do if he won the mayoralty of New York. "Demand a recount," he famously replied. His role was speaking to those thirsting for a coherent worldview, for an intellectual and moral attitude grounded in truth. He provided intellectual ballast. Inspired in part by him, voters went on to support Reagan. Both could have existed without the other, but Buckley's work would have been less satisfying, less realized, without Reagan and his presidency, and Reagan's leadership would have been more difficult, and also somehow less satisfying, without Buckley."

I recommend reading all of Noonan's excellent essay in full here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Tocqueville thinks this guy is on to something. I agree.

From the Insta-punk:

Race as a "three-edged" sword:

"If every gaffe or unpleasantness committed by the Obamas on the campaign trail is going to be shushed up or suppressed to spare their racial sensitivities, resentment is bound to grow like mushrooms in the dark. If that's the strategy, the third edge will cost Obama the election."

The politically correct perils of an Obama presidency:

"If the Clintons can't make a dent in the campaign of a coolly ambitious, non-African-American, Ivy League Chicago machine politician, what will any of of us be able to do if he turns out to be inept, short-sighted, vengeful, corrupt, or actively seditious? If some clumsy American politician accidentally says something to offend his 300K-a-year Princetonian executive wife, for example, will we all have to apologize -- or pay in some other coin? If he violates his vow to uphold the Constitution, will we have the recourse we would have with mere politicians? Or will every voice -- in politics and the press -- fall silent, because raising an objection of any kind is tantamount to a hate crime?

"What stories will not be pursued by the already horrifyingly cowardly PC media? What legitimate policy objections will not be posed by senators and congressmen who are already living in daily fear that their most inadvertent verbal slip will bring down 400 years worth of resentment on their heads?"

Provocative. Post in full here.
When picking a president, do Americans care about experience?

I have asked and answered that question on this blog several times. My answer thirteen months ago? Not especially.

In truth, winning the presidency is a combination of timing, availability, and likability.

Shortly after Obama announced, I asserted:

I make no definite prediction here, but in answer to the question of whether Americans will elect an inexperienced person whom they like and to whom they can attach their optimism and desire for a change? Or, in other words, can Barack Obama be elected? Bet the farm on it.

I stand by that analysis. Experience is something of a threshold question (you need to seem presidential to merit consideration), but experience has not generally played the ultimate deciding role in choosing a president.

Can Obama win? Yes.

But "can he win?" and "can he succeed?" are separate and fundamentally different questions. Some of us seem to be conflating the two.

If elected, can he be a great president? Nothing says he cannot; on the other hand, of course, there is nothing necessarily constructive about his lack of seasoning.

TIME Magazine asks this week: "Does Experience Matter in a President?"

They go on to prove scientifically that "experience" is virtually irrelevant.

It is increasingly trendy for smart people to proclaim that the presidency is a position of authority and responsibility wholly unlike any other; therefore, there is no prior experience for being chief executive of the United States. While that statement is true on its face, it seems intended to lay a predicate for an erroneous implicit conclusion: prior experience is irrelevant to the presidency. This is sophistry.

An aside: I am an historian and not a social scientist for two main reasons:

--I believe history is art--not science.

--And I do not believe I have the capacity to predict the future.

Human events (elections and presidential administrations, for example) are the product of multiple motives, unique political moments, and complicated webs of contingency. They generally do not conform to prescribed models or necessarily follow historical patterns.

For the record, there is a kernel of wisdom in the self-serving TIME coverage, which comes from one of America's great historians, Richard Norton Smith:

"Experience never exists in isolation; it is always a factor that coexists with temperament, training, background, spiritual outlook, and a host of other factors. Character is your magic word, it seems to me — not just what they've done but how they've done it and what they've learned from doing it."

But what of Obama?

I have repeatedly asserted that he is set to be the least-experienced, least-known president ever selected by the American electorate. We know almost nothing about him except that we like him. But, in truth, I don't necessarily hold that against him. The more interesting question, for me, has been why we like him? Why do we like him so much?

But as I have also said repeatedly, I can certainly feel the attraction. I like the guy too. It is okay to vote for this person based on instincts. We don't have to go through this tortured dance, twisting reason and history into logical knots in order to rationalize our emotionally charged desire for him to be president. You have my permission to vote for this man. No more elaborate arguments are necessary.

My nagging major reservation. What bothers me most about Obama?

We disagree on much--but it is Iraq that bothers me most. He has used his opposition to Iraq to get where he is today with the Democratic base. He has crafted a winning image as the authentic candidate of impeccable integrity. He will continue to espouse his out-of-Iraq rhetoric until Election Day, and will very likely win the race by a comfortable margin. And he will be committed to withdraw.

If not for Iraq, I could enjoy this moment without a feeling of impending doom. For another time...
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Quick Hitter from the Martian Mariner:

Something I found especially ironic: the New York Times feigning indignation at a media leak.

"Until Thursday, that is, when the Drudge Report, citing an article in an obscure Australian magazine, gleefully broke the news on its Web site. 'Prince Harry Fights on Front Lines in Afghanistan,' it reported, spoiling the carefully orchestrated deal under which British news organizations had been given details about the prince’s deployment in exchange for not telling anyone.

"The awkwardly timed dissemination of such juicy information had a number of very quick repercussions."

So now it's "gleeful" little Drudge screwing up what even British tabloids were able to keep a lid on. Apparently, the NYT limits its leaks to more important matters having no impact on human life - like the leak of bin Laden's satellite phone in 1998. And it never makes any "awkwardly timed disseminations," such as last week's juicy bit about McCain and his lobbyist girlfriend.

Nope, the NYT wouldn't do that, and not even British tabloids would do that - and that's why established media should have the lock on presenting the news. Because these blogs simply don't know "how it's done" - they'll print what isn't "fit to print."

Give me a break.
~~Martian Mariner:
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Last week I voted (early) for John McCain in the Texas primary. Barring some unforeseen calamity or epiphany, I will vote for John McCain again in the fall. However, I seriously considered requesting a Democratic ballot in order to vote for Hillary Clinton for the nomination of her party.

Why did I waive my right to "cross over," as we refer to it here in the Lone Star State?

--I very much wanted to vote for one specific Republican, "Doc Anderson," down the ballot in the GOP canvass.

--To vote Democratic, the procedure requires a promise to refrain from any Republican Party activity for a calendar year. Although I am not a very active Republican, I would have felt uncomfortable making that declaration. And, as it was designed to do, the promise gave me pause intuitively.

--Most importantly though, I know a number of Republicans have advocated a vote for Hillary Clinton as a method of sabotage; that is, vote for Hillary to extend the internecine Democratic Party fight for a few more weeks or months. Many of these Republicans also see Mrs. Clinton as a more vulnerable opposition candidate in November. For the record, in my view, they are right to worry that the Obama juggernaut is unprecedentedly powerful and unique as a political force.

Notwithstanding, I abhor sabotage. I ultimately demurred from wading into the Democratic primary because I would have invited suspicion among my friends in the other party, who might have wondered whether I really had their best interest in mind. I did not want even the hint of impropriety or the suggestion that I attempted to deprive Democrats of their best candidate. And, in the end, for that reason, I determined that my vote would do Hillary Clinton more harm than good.

Having said that, I have always participated in my own private Democratic primary, mentally supporting a candidate that I wanted to win the nomination--based not on who would be easiest to beat in my opinion, but based on who, if elected, would make the best president. Examples: Joe Lieberman in 2004; Paul Tsongas in 1992 (although I had a soft spot of Clinton that year also); Henry Jackson (and then Jimmy Carter) in 1976.

Here is a less than complete list of reasons (and something of a review) of why I think Hillary Clinton is the best Democratic Party alternative this time around:

1. I believe Hillary is a tough-minded, no-nonsense person. She is a hard-boiled realist, who understands national vital interests as well as political necessities. She will throw rhetorical bones to the left but govern in the center, because she will want to be reelected. She will employ the traditional American foreign-policy making establishment and pursue a moderate-to-firm course in international relations. She will not be exactly what I want, but neither will she bring about a socialist revolution or a unilateral retreat from American interests abroad.

John Edwards was fairly close to reality when he said a "vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for the status quo."

2. This is really a more specific extension of #1: if Hillary remains faithful to her record and rhetoric, her election will commit the Democratic Party en masse to the global war on terror. Just as Harry Truman and the Democrats owned the Cold War until Dwight Eisenhower came along and embraced the policy, the War on Terror at this moment is a unilateral Republican policy. It is vital for American survival that the Democrats have a partisan interest in our success in the larger war on terror.

Note on style for some of my Democratic friends in re "war on terror": I understand that this articulation is problematic for some—but, in order to avoid the less than constructive semantic argument, suffice it to say, we face a worldwide movement to create chaos, which must be addressed in a bipartisan way.