What if it’s Romney vs. Obama in 2012?

Mitt Romney has two significant flaws as as Republican candidate:  Romney Care in Massachusetts and the fact that he is a Mormon, which is anathema to many committed Protestants and Catholics.  During the 2008 primaries, some people were saying that he was so flawed they couldn’t possibly vote for him, even if it meant abstaining and handing the election to the Democrat.

It’s possible that there will be a Romney vs. Obama match-up in 2012.  Do you think conservative voters will find themselves as constrained as they were in 2008, or has Obama proven himself to be so awful that any Republican who can make it through the primaries will get the vote?  How far will doctrinal purity go when the alternative is another 4 years of Obama?  (I framed this post around Romney, but ultimately the question goes to any Republican, no matter how flawed, versus Obama in 2012.)

Presidential Education

We have enjoyed spirited discussions on these pages with Book’s question about universities and the values thereof.

A recurring theme that I hear among Liberals is one of educational snobbery. I heard this with regard to G.W. Bush (despite his Harvard MBA) and now we hear it about Sarah Palin and other conservative candidates that may one day run for President.  Educational credentials will be an issue. Should they?

To lay my own opinions right out on the table, I admire Sarah Palin and do hope she runs – to me, she embodies many of the qualities that I always admired about American women when looking at my country from an overseas (expat) perspective. Those qualities include strength, “can do” practicality and a self-assuredness that looks adversity straight in the face. Plus, she can shoot straight. She was one of Alaska’s all-time most effective governors in just 2-1/2 years. Her autobiography on those years describes someone with exceptional tenacity and people management skills.

Her qualities, however, are the product of her life experiences. The fact that she was expected by her parents to go to university and pay 100% of her expenses and did so at various institutions is a major plus, not a negative. For me, her real life practical accomplishments say far more than her limited educational experience. And, for the sake of Book’s daughter, her (not Alaskan but North Central states) accent is no more a barrier to me than Gov. Christie’s New Jersey accent, JFK’s Boston accent or Bush’s Texan accent…I love accents!). To me, it is practical real-world experience that counts, not formal education. If anything, formal education is a barrier.

So, just how important is education for U.S. presidents? I note that some of our greatest presidents had little or no advanced education. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Harry S. Truman never went to university. Ronald Reagan got an undergraduate degree in economics from tiny Eureka College in the middle of the corn and soybean fields of Illinois. By contrast, our worst presidents were some of our best educated: Woodrow Wilson (Ph.D. professor), Jimmy Carter (nuclear engineer), Bill Clinton (Rhodes Scholar) and, now, Barack Obama (Ivy League elitist lawyer).

So, how important is formal education to being a good President? What are the Presidential qualities that a university can or cannot impart? How do we best counter these arguments from the Liberal /Left…not for the sake of the Lefties (whose egos remain immune to reason) but for the sake of all others trying to make up their minds on this issue?

Who would you vote for as the next President?

An email friend of mine advanced the notion of General Petraeus running in 2012.  The man has shown himself to be incredibly competent, but I don’t know much more about him.  He certainly has executive experience.  My friend, who knows (or knows of him) quite well says that he has many of the virtues that would make both a good candidate and a good president.  I have no knowledge of whether he wants to run, but it’s an interesting concept.

Since 2012 is coming upon us quickly (thank goodness), I was interested in your preferences and created a poll. Since I’m new to poll creating, the “none of the above” option is unanchored, and drifts, but I trust you’ll figure it out. Also, if you don’t see a potential candidate you like in my poll, leave a comment with the person’s name.


November 4

I’m going to be working, not blogging, tomorrow morning, November 4, 2008, so feel free to consider this an open thread.  I can’t let this occasion go by without a few words, though.

On the candidates:

If you believe government can solve most of our problems; if you believe Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are better at spending your money than you are; if you believe that the government exists to redistribute wealth from those it defines as rich to those victim groups it classes as deserving; if you believe that we ought to continue to be dependent on energy sources in the hands of our enemies; if you believe that the best defense is to disarm yourself; if you believe that the government should control the press to ensure “freedom”; if you believe that there should be no limits on immigrants coming into the country or on the benefits extended to those immigrants; and if you believe that judges shouldn’t just decide law, but should make it, according to their personal preferences, then you should definitely vote for Obama.

However, if you believe that you, not Barack/Pelosi/Reid, are the master of your own destiny; if you believe that a country must have secure borders and controlled immigration to remain strong; if you believe that government doesn’t make money, people make money; if you believe that the best defense is to appear ready, willing and able to fight to defend yourself; if you believe that your country should be energy independent for both security and economic purposes; if you believe in a free press unhindered by government mandated “fairness”; and if you believe that judges’ job is to apply the law and the legislature’s job is to make it (although make as little of it as possible), then you should definitely vote for McCain.

On the election tomorrow:

The most important thing you should do is ignore the media entirely and VOTE.  The media will err about reporting closing times for voting.  The media will enthusiastically report that Obama is winning in a landslide according to exit polls, but its talking heads will neglect to explain that, traditionally, conservatives don’t respond to exit polls, making the results completely one-sided and meaningless.  The media will declare certain Eastern states for Obama long before actual results are in — with the result that people west of the Mississippi might think it’s pointless to vote.

It’s never pointless to vote.  If you think you might be too late to vote, don’t rely on the media to check poll closing times.  Go check the polling place out yourself.  Take the time to drive up to your polling place and see if you can get in.

Every vote, from every person, in every state counts.  If you are the last person voting on the furthest island of Hawaii tomorrow, YOUR VOTE COUNTS.  Please remember the infinitesimally small margin by which Bush won Florida in 2000.  EVERY VOTE COUNTS.  I cannot guarantee that we will win if all of us vote tomorrow, but I can guarantee that we will lose if we allow the media to bamboozle us into walking away from the polls before the last polling place is locked and the lights turned out.

And one more thing:  if Obama wins tomorrow — and it’s entirely possible that he will — do not throw temper tantrums and announce that you’re moving someplace where conservatives are respected (and good luck finding that place, anyway).  Instead, immediately begin to work, not for 2012, but for 2010.  Because I can almost promise you that, after a mere two years of non-stop, all encompassing Democratic rule, voters will be desperate to throw the Democrats out of the House and Senate.  Then, having accomplished that goal, start working for 2012, when Palin and Cantor and Jindal and Steele, and a whole host of other exciting young conservatives will be chomping at the bit to take over the reins of government.

It’s true that an all-Democratic government led by Obama can do a lot of damage in a short time, but it will do even more damage if we turn away in disgust and cede government entirely to the Democratic agenda.  We still have a voice in this country and we will continue to have a voice even if the first thing the Democrats do is pass a new Fairness Doctrine.  When the old Fairness Doctrine was wiped out, everyone was surprised by the pent-up hunger for conservative thought.  This time, though, we know that hunger exists, and we will find an outlet by which to feed it.

But let’s not worry about that future.  Instead….


Do not fear the polls

DJ Drummond, who blogs at Wizbang, has two spectacular articles explaining in simple terms why we shouldn’t blindly trust the polls this year.  You should read them, here and here.  Bottom line:  no matter what the polls seem to be saying, make sure to vote.

Useful statistics

Before you let the polls spook you, Ann Coulter has some useful history:

Reviewing the polls printed in the New York Times and the Washington Post in the last month of every presidential election since 1976, I found the polls were never wrong in a friendly way to Republicans. When the polls were wrong, which was often, they overestimated support for the Democrat, usually by about 6 to 10 points.

In 1976, Jimmy Carter narrowly beat Gerald Ford 50.1 percent to 48 percent. And yet, on Sept. 1, Carter led Ford by 15 points. Just weeks before the election, on Oct. 16, 1976, Carter led Ford in the Gallup Poll by 6 percentage points – down from his 33-point Gallup Poll lead in August.

Reading newspaper coverage of presidential elections in 1980 and 1984, I found myself paralyzed by the fear that Reagan was going to lose.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan beat Carter by nearly 10 points, 51 percent to 41 percent. In a Gallup Poll released days before the election on Oct. 27, it was Carter who led Reagan 45 percent to 42 percent.

In 1984, Reagan walloped Walter Mondale 58.8 percent to 40 percent, – the largest electoral landslide in U.S. history. But on Oct. 15, the New York Daily News published a poll showing Mondale with only a 4-point deficit to Reagan, 45 percent to 41 percent. A Harris Poll about the same time showed Reagan with only a 9-point lead. The Oct. 19 New York Times/CBS News Poll had Mr. Reagan ahead of Mondale by 13 points. All these polls underestimated Reagan’s actual margin of victory by 6 to 15 points.

In 1988, George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis by a whopping 53.4 percent to 45.6 percent. A New York Times/CBS News Poll on Oct. 5 had Bush leading the Greek homunculus by a statistically insignificant 2 points – 45 percent to 43 percent. (For the kids out there: Before it became a clearinghouse for anti-Bush conspiracy theories, CBS News was considered a credible journalistic entity.)

A week later – or one tank ride later, depending on who’s telling the story – on Oct. 13, Bush was leading Dukakis in the New York Times Poll by a mere 5 points.

Admittedly, a 3- to 6-point error is not as crazily wrong as the 6- to 15-point error in 1984. But it’s striking that even small “margin of error” mistakes never seem to benefit Republicans.

In 1992, Bill Clinton beat the first President Bush 43 percent to 37.7 percent. (Ross Perot got 18.9 percent of Bush’s voters that year.) On Oct. 18, a Newsweek Poll had Clinton winning 46 percent to 31 percent, and a CBS News Poll showed Clinton winning 47 percent to 35 percent.

So in 1992, the polls had Clinton 12 to 15 points ahead, but he won by only 5.3 points.

In 1996, Bill Clinton beat Bob Dole 49 percent to 40 percent. And yet on Oct. 22, 1996, the New York Times/CBS News Poll showed Clinton leading by a massive 22 points, 55 percent to 33 percent.

In 2000, which I seem to recall as being fairly close, the October polls accurately described the election as a virtual tie, with either Bush or Al Gore 1 or 2 points ahead in various polls. But in one of the latest polls to give either candidate a clear advantage, the New York Times/CBS News Poll on Oct. 3, 2000, showed Gore winning by 45 percent to 39 percent.

Other comforting poll posts:

One obvious reason the polls are biased

The Left’s Big Blunder

Polls : Obama or McCain is Winning

Remember, it ain’t over ’til it’s over:

Fine thoughts from other people

I had a lovely time last night at a reception on the Bonhomme Richard, and plan on writing about it later today.  However, other work calls, so I thought I’d fill this space with recommendations for interesting stuff you may want to read.  In no particular order:

William Katz, a witty, erudite man who has absorbed much from traveling through the past few decades, deconstructs the way the Left is using the concept of “guilt by association” to insulate Obama from much-deserved criticism.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Mr. Katz, spend some time with Jesse Jackson.  We’ve always known he’s an antisemite, but with the prospect of a similar thinking White House administration, he’s oozing out of the closet. As you read the article, keep in mind that Jackson is promising that an Obama administration will turn its back on the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, and will ally itself with some of the worst theocratic totalitarian dictatorships, not just in the region, not just in the world, but in the history of the world.

Jonah Goldberg points out the obvious (but does it does charmingly):  Republicans are so frightened by Obama’s skin-color, and the risk of appearing non-PC, that they are allowing him to get away with political murder.  We all know that, when it comes to Obama, there’s only one color that matters, and that is Red.

Thomas Sowell nails the liberal horror of the long-standing American tradition of “going negative” in political elections: “Why then is ‘negative advertising’ such a big deal these days? The dirty little secret is this: Liberal candidates have needed to escape their past and pretend that they are not liberals, because so many voters have had it with liberals.”

Michael Reagan provides a good run-down of Ayers’ relevance to this election, and it has nothing to do with his having bombed buildings when Barack was 8.

IBD neatly summarizes why ACORN matters so much.  And if that analysis doesn’t sway you, check out the Wall Street Journal on precisely the same point.

The antidote to conservative malaise

I’m getting emails from committed conservatives who are unhappy right now, feeling that the air has gone out of the election balloon.  I’m looking at things a different way.

The ACORN registration fraud has inflated the numbers of registered Democrats.  Given that some people registered as Dems 72 times, there is no way that ACORN can get 72 fraudulent voters to the booths.  And that’s just one person.  This means that the huge threat they hold over us — that is, the threat of swollen Dem voter rolls — actually isn’t as big a threat as we thought, and that’s true despite inevitable fraud at the voting booth.

One of the volunteer “get out the voters” in Marin sent out an email with an interesting heading:  “John McCain and Sarah Palin will win California . . . if every McCain/Palin supporter actually votes.”  I wrote to her to ask if that was really true,or just blind optimism.  Here’s what she wrote back (just yesterday):

It’s optimistic today (the numbers have changed again!) — but yesterday it was fact-based. Or google “forbes zogby poll obama”.

I was, I think, a little creative in saying that we will win California if…  BUT I believe that it’s true.  There are so many Obama supporters in Marin and other Democratic strongholds that, by and large, I believe that because they feel less threatened they therefore feel less urgency to vote.  Such a small number of people actually vote, you know.

I am absolutely certain that if every Republican who moans about the possibility of an Obama presidency actually votes AND gets other McCain supporters to cast their votes, we would take this state.  It’s not about who loves you, baby, it’s about who’s actually going to make the time to vote for you.

This gal is right.  If Dems are not going to get out as many voters as they’ve pretended they have, and if we can get out all the voters we really have, we can make a difference.

Also, just as they’re trying to depress our vote with all this “landslide” talk, they may also depress their own.  After all, for busy, scattered, chaotic people (and there are those on both sides of the political aisle), voting can be a pain.  If you’re sure that you’re candidate is going to win by a landslide regardless, isn’t that an invitation for you to stay home.  After all, how much can your vote matter?  We, on the other hand, know our votes matter, and we’re going to get out there and do something.

The fix is in

I don’t think Glenn Reynolds will mind my reprinting this in its entirety, since it deserves to be read as widely as possible.  Send it along to your friends — and, maybe, to your local newsroom:

A READER AT A MAJOR NEWSROOM EMAILS: “Off the record, every suspicion you have about MSM being in the tank for O is true. We have a team of 4 people going thru dumpsters in Alaska and 4 in arizona. Not a single one looking into Acorn, Ayers or Freddiemae. Editor refuses to publish anything that would jeopardize election for O, and betting you dollars to donuts same is true at NYT, others. People cheer when CNN or NBC run another Palin-mocking but raising any reasonable inquiry into obama is derided or flat out ignored. The fix is in, and its working.” I asked permission to reprint without attribution and it was granted.

UPDATE: The Anchoress hears similar things. And reader Eric Schubert: “The Edwards debacle was proof enough of where the heart of the MSM lies, and lack of curiousity of the press about Edwards probably cost Hillary the nomination. And that shameful episode offers a warning to the MSM. What if Obama does have a skeleton in his closet (such as a shady deal or outright bribe) that is revealed after he wins the election? While the chance of this scenario is remote, imagine the backlash against the MSM if it could be shown that a reasonable investigation by the MSM would have easily revealed this secret to the public prior to the election?”

When Americans start paying attention

Yesterday, I urged you to read Thomas Lifson’s January 2006 article looking to the two political seasons that affect most Americans — the long inattention season and the short attention season.  Today, Thomas was good enough to revisit his original premise and analyze how it helps Republicans generally (which is why, every election dumb-founded Democrats claim that Republicans “stole” the election) and how this year, very specifically, it’s helping McCain and Palin:

This radically different and comparatively infrequent mode of mass opinion formulation tends to favor Republicans in general, and John McCain in particular, this election season. His choice of plain-speaking Sarah Palin plays directly into the requirement of reaching people who haven’t already made up their minds, who are bored with politics normally, and who decide that they had better make up their mind who is telling the truth and who is blowing smoke, whose policies make sense, and whose don’t.

Obama’s theatricality has already damaged his credibility with voters, starting with the failure of the expensive overseas tour culminating with the Berlin rally to help him in the polls. The Styrofoam Greek pillars of Invesco Field have now entered the realm of political legend, the butt of a joke at the most remarkable political speech in recent memory, one that sparked the massive turnaround in the fortunes of the two campaigns.

The emergence of an economic crisis only amplifies the quadrennial change in the public’s mode of attention. If McCain/Palin are able to grab the initiative and convince the public that Clinton-era regulatory changes, including “anti-redlining” measures, are at the root of the current economic trouble, it can be turned to their advantage, despite the conventional wisdom  about economic conditions and the incumbent party. The involvement of leading Democrats and Obama advisors in Fannie and Freddie helps McCain enormously, if he takes what has been set on his plate and makes a feast of it.

As with Thomas’ first article on the subject, I urge you to read this article, which (1) I think goes to a core reality of American politics, (2) explains what otherwise look like bizarre election turn-arounds, and (3) could guide the McCain-Palin team as they shape their message in the weeks leading up to the election.

A serious time in American politics

Almost three years ago, Thomas Lifson wrote what I think is one of the most important political analyses I’ve ever read — and one that goes a long way to explaining the way in which American voters are slowly abandoning Obama and coalescing around the McCain ticket.  Thomas believes that their are two political seasons:  the attentive and the inattentive season.

With less than 50 days to the election, the public is paying attention right now, and the MSM is failing them, and failing them badly.  Rather than providing fairly objective reporting about all four people on the Presidential ticket, they are composing hagiographies for one side of the ticket, and firing vicious partisan attacks against the other side.  The media’s conduct is not fulfilling the role the public demands of it right now and, in that vacuum, the public is hewing to the known product — McCain.  Palin is exciting and energizing, but I think it’s McCain who, in a quiet and rather graceful way, is filling the vacuum.

Anyway, read what Thomas has to say and let me know what you think.

How much do brains matter in a President?

Another long, hot day, this one augmented by a nasty little migraine that’s so far rebuffed treatment.  Blogging has therefore been minimal and what blogging I’ve done has been for other sites to which I owe commitments.  Nevertheless, what I blog there, I can reprint here, right?  Here’s the start of a post I did at Bloggers for John McCain. Because we’re trying to build numbers at that new blog, I’ll just print up a little bit here and, if you’re interested, please head over to that blog to read the rest:

It happens pretty much like clockwork: In every presidential election that I can remember, voters are assured that the Republican is a brainless buffoon, and the Democrat a savvy intellectual. I first saw this with the 1976 election, when I was 15 years old and, for the first time, politically aware. Gerald Ford was presented as a big, dumb jock, who couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time. Jimmy Carter was a brilliant, analytical engineer.

In 1980, as you recall, Ronald Reagan was the actor/jock who had simplistic ideas. I remember going around parroting the line that you could wade through Reagan’s deepest thoughts without getting your ankles wet. Carter, of course, despite his abysmal Presidential record was still, as the media repeatedly assured us, so much smarter.

By 1984, Reagan’s intellectualism had fallen even lower in the media’s and pundit’s estimation. The guy was dumb as a rock, and spoke in stupid, infantile terms about evil, and freedom, and simplistic things like that. He had no nuance. Fortunately, the savvy (but pure) Walter Mondale was going to save us from the guy with the obvious 2 digit IQ.

Fast forward a few years to 1988, and you’ve got the inarticulate George H.W. Bush, who was obviously too dumb to communicate in basic English, despite his illustrious career. And on the other side, you’ve got the pedantic Michael Dukakis, who really did sound like a hyper-analytical university professor. He was obviously smart.

I don’t need to remind you of the Clinton years. For me, they pass in a blur of paeans praising his extraordinary intelligence. The press wrote reams of laudatory columns about his ebullient wonkishness, his extraordinary ability to master complex ideas, and his lust for knowledge. The only person smarter than he was, the press assured us, was his wife, a woman who intelligently subordinated her own career to exponentially expand the power of his through their combined brains.

Wait! I forgot, there was one person smarter than Clinton — Al Gore! Al Gore, the great genius who made Dukakis look like a fluent, witty speaker. Al Gore, the all seeing, all knowing internet inventor. It was unthinkable that George W. Bush, the ultimate buffoon, a man with a West Texas accent and a habit of speaking about “nukular” weapons, could beat this Ivy League genius. And yet the unthinkable happened. And it happened again when the even smarter and more intellectual John Kerry also went down before that buffoon. (Never mind that subsequent investigation revealed that the “buffoon” did better at Yale than either of these two shining lights.)

It should be no surprise at this point that the exact same pattern is shaping up here. Obama, as we know, is even smarter than all of his Democratic predecessors put together! He is a luminous speaker (as long as he has a script). He’s a luminous writer (although his off-script speaking skills are beginning to tell me that, as much as anything else, he had a good editor). He’s just plain luminous. Palin, with her non-Ivy League degree, her slightly goofy Alaska accent, her beauty queen credentials is, of course, laughable when compared to Obama, right?

Nervous Democrats

From the San Francisco Chronicle (with the emphasis all theirs):

Worth noting: Democrats had good reason to be nervous going into the Denver convention – and the problem looked to be bigger than just the bruised feelings between the Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton camps.

Recent polls of California voters show that going into Denver, Obama’s support among key independent voters had dropped nine points in a month – cutting his lead over John McCain to less than 10 points in this bluest of blue states.

A poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California showed Obama’s lead over McCain dropping to 48 percent to 39 percent among all likely voters – down six points from July.

Obama is still comfortably ahead of McCain statewide, and institute pollster Mark Baldassare noted that a Republican hasn’t carried California since the first George Bush in 1988- so odds are Obama will still take the state.

Nonetheless, the Democrats might well heed that the race has narrowed to single digits.

Four years ago, before the Democrats held their convention, John Kerry had an 11-point advantage over George W. Bush here in California, according to Baldassare’s polling – about where Obama’s lead was before his convention last week.

And while Kerry eventually won California, we all know who took the big prize.

Because I’m better than the New York Times

The Times may have refused to publish McCain’s Iraq editorial (afraid, no doubt, that publishing it would cast a shadow on Obama’s purported wisdom), but I have no such fear.  Here’s, courtesy of the Drudge Report, is the op-ed McCain wrote — and it’s an op-ed that any reasonable, non-partisan newspaper would have freely printed:

In January 2007, when General David Petraeus took command in Iraq, he called the situation “hard” but not “hopeless.” Today, 18 months later, violence has fallen by up to 80% to the lowest levels in four years, and Sunni and Shiite terrorists are reeling from a string of defeats. The situation now is full of hope, but considerable hard work remains to consolidate our fragile gains.

Progress has been due primarily to an increase in the number of troops and a change in their strategy. I was an early advocate of the surge at a time when it had few supporters in Washington. Senator Barack Obama was an equally vocal opponent. “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there,” he said on January 10, 2007. “In fact, I think it will do the reverse.”

Now Senator Obama has been forced to acknowledge that “our troops have performed brilliantly in lowering the level of violence.” But he still denies that any political progress has resulted.

Perhaps he is unaware that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has recently certified that, as one news article put it, “Iraq has met all but three of 18 original benchmarks set by Congress last year to measure security, political and economic progress.” Even more heartening has been progress that’s not measured by the benchmarks. More than 90,000 Iraqis, many of them Sunnis who once fought against the government, have signed up as Sons of Iraq to fight against the terrorists. Nor do they measure Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s new-found willingness to crack down on Shiite extremists in Basra and Sadr City—actions that have done much to dispel suspicions of sectarianism.

The success of the surge has not changed Senator Obama’s determination to pull out all of our combat troops. All that has changed is his rationale. In a New York Times op-ed and a speech this week, he offered his “plan for Iraq” in advance of his first “fact finding” trip to that country in more than three years. It consisted of the same old proposal to pull all of our troops out within 16 months. In 2007 he wanted to withdraw because he thought the war was lost. If we had taken his advice, it would have been. Now he wants to withdraw because he thinks Iraqis no longer need our assistance.

To make this point, he mangles the evidence. He makes it sound as if Prime Minister Maliki has endorsed the Obama timetable, when all he has said is that he would like a plan for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops at some unspecified point in the future.

Senator Obama is also misleading on the Iraqi military’s readiness. The Iraqi Army will be equipped and trained by the middle of next year, but this does not, as Senator Obama suggests, mean that they will then be ready to secure their country without a good deal of help. The Iraqi Air Force, for one, still lags behind, and no modern army can operate without air cover. The Iraqis are also still learning how to conduct planning, logistics, command and control, communications, and other complicated functions needed to support frontline troops.

No one favors a permanent U.S. presence, as Senator Obama charges. A partial withdrawal has already occurred with the departure of five “surge” brigades, and more withdrawals can take place as the security situation improves. As we draw down in Iraq, we can beef up our presence on other battlefields, such as Afghanistan, without fear of leaving a failed state behind. I have said that I expect to welcome home most of our troops from Iraq by the end of my first term in office, in 2013.

But I have also said that any draw-downs must be based on a realistic assessment of conditions on the ground, not on an artificial timetable crafted for domestic political reasons. This is the crux of my disagreement with Senator Obama.

Senator Obama has said that he would consult our commanders on the ground and Iraqi leaders, but he did no such thing before releasing his “plan for Iraq.” Perhaps that’s because he doesn’t want to hear what they have to say. During the course of eight visits to Iraq, I have heard many times from our troops what Major General Jeffrey Hammond, commander of coalition forces in Baghdad, recently said: that leaving based on a timetable would be “very dangerous.”

The danger is that extremists supported by Al Qaeda and Iran could stage a comeback, as they have in the past when we’ve had too few troops in Iraq. Senator Obama seems to have learned nothing from recent history. I find it ironic that he is emulating the worst mistake of the Bush administration by waving the “Mission Accomplished” banner prematurely.

I am also dismayed that he never talks about winning the war—only of ending it. But if we don’t win the war, our enemies will. A triumph for the terrorists would be a disaster for us. That is something I will not allow to happen as president. Instead I will continue implementing a proven counterinsurgency strategy not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan with the goal of creating stable, secure, self-sustaining democratic allies.

There are a lot of things that are less than perfect about the John McCain candidacy, but his foreign policy vision vis a vis Iraq is not one of his problem areas.  It may not be perfect, but it’s good by any standards, and is far, far better than Obama’s ill-informed, netroot’s driven, poll driven, ideologically flawed approach.

I think Lee Cary has come up with the best statement about the MSM’s approach to the McCain campaign, and it’s a disgusting (but well-deserved) conclusion about the MSM’s abandonment of any pretense of impartiality: “About the only way McCain will be able to match Obama’s media coverage is if he robs a convenience store, gets caught, and does a public perp walk.”

Is this any way to run a presidential campaign? *UPDATED*

See important update below.

I have been trying without success for a couple of weeks now to volunteer my writing and editing services to the local “John McCain for President” chapter.  No one is getting back to me — and I’ve been told by someone with ties to the local “McCain for President” chapter that this is par for the course.  I find this distressing.  Here you have someone who wants to volunteer, and whose services are, quite frankly, much needed (since campaign literature is usually horribly written), and I’m getting the cold shoulder.

I’ve also been given to understand that, even though my skills involve writing and editing, they will only want me for a “get out the vote” effort in my own small town.  Living as I do in my own small town, I can tell you two things:  first, the Republican party has never achieved an even marginally visible get-out-the-vote presence (and that includes the people who sit behind ironing boards at grocery stores trying to register voters); and, second, even if it did, there are only about 200 conservatives here, and they’re going to vote anyway for Obama.

The big need is for large, county-wide promotional campaigns and, to toot my own horn, that’s where my editing skills are beyond useful.  Even if my writing is somewhat pedestrian at times, I can edit the hell out of other people’s work, making their materials tighter and more interesting.  Using me to harass my blue, blue neighbors is just a waste of everyone’s time.

I can’t decide if what I’m seeing is the natural inefficiency of a volunteer organization or the demoralized behavior of a group that’s functioned for so long (and done so badly) in hostile territory that it can no longer respond even to offers of help.  Either way, it’s a damn shame.  After all, this isn’t a local election for a Congress person.  Instead, this is one little piece of a vast state-wide election in what will be a very, very close race at the end of the day.  In other words, state-wide, every vote counts.  To turn ones back on someone who would like to add to the McCain votes strikes me as very foolish.

UPDATE:  DQ pointed out to me that, as this is a local outpost, not the national campaign, it’s unlikely that any writing is going on.  Now, from my point of view, that’s just plain wrong.  I can think of a million things they should be writing — or at least four:  (1) emails to local Republicans; (2) fliers to local Republicans; (3) a blog for local Republicans; and (4) op-eds for the local paper.  Considering how demoralized the base is, just getting the vote out is a big deal, and should be taken seriously at the local level.

Further, even if my writing and editing skills are useless, it still makes no sense to me, with a volunteer hurling her body across their path, that they’ve made no effort to contact me about doing other work.

UPDATE: I owe the group a big apology.  I attended their first formal meeting tonight and was very impressed by the quality of the people and by how far the long-time stalwarts have already come in terms of organization.  It’s a great group and one with which I’ll be very proud to be affiliated.  I was too impatient and I let my ego get in the way.

More on polls and the American voter

As they do every election year about this time, the polls strongly favor the Democrats, which is very disheartening.  Right around now I find it especially worrisome, because I think that Obama, emboldened by media adulation, is being more and more forthright about his political agenda, and it’s one that ordinarily would should have the American people running for the hills:  He’s for higher, way higher taxes; gutting the military; embracing the UN as our political guide; and, most significantly, keeping fuel prices up, up, up.

McCain, for all his weaknesses as a conservative, isn’t for any of those things.  Indeed, as to the last issue, I think he’s regurgitating the green Kool-Aid he drank, which turned him into a raving environmentalist.  Instead, he’s starting to use rising fuel prices as a face-saving way to edge back to common sense.  McCain is infinitely more the centrist American candidate and, traditionally, he’s the candidate who should win.

And yet, over and over, poll after poll, Obama has the edge (although sometimes so insignificant that it’s a statistical dead heat).  What gets interesting is when one drills into the polls.  It turns out that Democrats are consistently oversampled, as are African-Americans.  Then, after all that oversampling, some magical jiggery pokery goes on in a back room, and they reveal the oracular numbers — favoring Obama.  In other words, the polls don’t seem honest.  Rather, to the uninitiated, they seem more along the lines of Twain’s lies, damn lies and statistics.

Given these delicately created polls, Paul Geary makes the interesting argument that, because the polls use a very small sampling and then taint that sampling by selecting disproportionate numbers of respondents likely to choose Obama, an enormous, unscientific AOL poll might actually be more accurate:

For the second consecutive week, Political Machine at AOL is conducting an open straw poll. And for the second consecutive week, John McCain beats Barack Obama about 56-44 with about half a million votes tallied, total. This week Obama leads only in California, Washington, New York, Maryland, and DC.

But this is not a random sample survey, you say?

True. But as Tom Elia has pointed out, recent polls have not been using an accurate cross-section of the American electorate in their surveys. The skew is almost always favorable to Democrats. The proof is in consistent election results that are several points better for the Republicans than polls predicted. (And the requisite delusional whining about vote manipulation.)

Why could a non-scientific poll be more accurate than the “random sample” polls? There are several reasons.

I’m not going to steal Geary’s thunder.  Instead, you can read all the reasons he gives here.

As I’ve repeatedly said, I’m not a numbers person, so I cannot approach Geary’s argument with much analytical fire power.  What I can say is that it is a very clear argument and that, within it’s parameters, it makes a lot of sense and is hearteningly compelling.

Controlling the debate

One of the first things you learn as litigation defense counsel is that you will lose if you let the plaintiff control the case’s message. It’s easy to let this happen, because the plaintiff comes out of the gate like gangbusters, and the defendant finds himself, logically, in a defensive, purely reactive posture. “You did this.” “I did not. And what if I did, anyway?” It’s all about responding to the plaintiff’s narrative.

What the defendant needs to do, and often doesn’t do until the eve of trial, is look at his own facts in a vacuum, without the throbbing background drumbeat of the plaintiff’s complaint. In every case in which I’ve taken the time to do this, and do it well, I’ve discovered that there is a completely different narrative theme available to the defendant — not one that is merely reactive and defensive, but one that stands on its own as coherent, believable (and often winnable) story. If I can get out from under the plaintiff’s tale, either the plaintiff loses entirely, or the plaintiff’s margin of victory shrinks substantially.

I wish the Republican party would figure out that the same rules of behavior should apply in this political race. Right now, in full gangbusters mode, the Democrats are marking out the battlefield. “Bush lied.” “Cheney is evil.” “We’ve lost in Iraq.” “Global warming and polar bears.” “Pathetic, maltreated illegal immigrants.” “Economic despair.” The Republicans are in a pure, panicked reactive mode, either desperately distancing themselves — “I never liked George Bush, either” — or trying to coopt the Democrats — “I’m more green than you are.” John McCain is no exception.

The Republicans need to take a deep breath, convene in a smoke filled back room and come up with their own story, untainted by the Democratic world view. Not surprisingly, because he is, after all, a lawyer, Hugh Hewitt completely understands this. The other day, when I had a rare moment alone in the car — meaning I could listen to grown-up radio — I caught Hewitt expounding on the pure conservative messages that the Republicans should be hammering home without fear. I’ve never figured out how to link to podcasts, so this is how you find it: Go here, and look for Hugh’s May 14 show, hour 2.

What Hugh has to say all comes out in the first ten minutes of that segment, and it’s very much worth listening to. Even if you don’t agree with everything he says, what stands out is that he’s envisioning a message that comes, first and foremost from the Republicans, without first being past through the Democratic filter. That’s how you win.

Right now, Republicans are in a losing posture, not because they have a bad message, but because they have no message at all. They look like cornered rats, trying to confuse the cat into thinking they’re something other than a tasty meal. They need to come out like gangbusters too, loud and proud, with a message that resonates with ordinary Americans. Right now, the Democratic message is resonating, but that’s primarily because there’s nothing else out there to stop those sound waves from vibrating around in the political ether.

Values problems in bed and in politics

Conservatives believe that it is dangerous to tumble into bed with someone instantly. They’re appalled by the raunchy hook-up culture amongst our young people, one that says it’s okay to have sex on the first date, as long as you try to line up reasonable precautions to limit some of the damaging fall-out (such as pregnancy and STDs). They think instead that young people who value themselves and want to have optimal outcomes should take the time to get to know each other before they take the relationship to next step. Liberals, however, think conservatives are anti-abortion fuddy-duddies who are denying natural sexuality and trying to turn America into a retrograde Puritan nation.

The same jump in bed divide appears in politics, too. As John Fund so beautifully said in an excellent article detailing Obama’s myriad flaws:

While Republicans tend to nominate their best-known candidate from previous nomination battles (Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and now John McCain), Democrats often fall in love during a first date. They are then surprised when all the relatives don’t think he’s splendid.

Michael Dukakis had a healthy lead in 1988 against the elder Bush at this time and right through the political conventions. Then came the GOP’s dissection of his Massachusetts record and his tank ride. Bill Clinton was able to win with only 43% of the vote in 1992, thanks in part to Ross Perot’s presence as a spoiler. John Kerry had a six-point lead in the May 2004 Gallup poll over President Bush, then the wind-surfer crashed. All of those candidates had never run for national office before. Democrats paid a price for running a rookie.

Self-inflicted wounds

At Slate, John Dickerson has as good an analysis as any I’ve seen about the way in which the Democrats, riven by identity politics and personal animosity, are working hard to throw away their advantage in this election year.

Comforting news

As you know, I find the thought of an Obama Presidency frightening.  I therefore found heartening a poll that, despite having a methodology that favored Democrats, still showed that McCain would beat both Obama and Clinton if the Presidential election were held today.  Much can change between now and November but this does show that, at least as of February, American voters are not the fools the media would like them to be.

Everything old is new again

Whether we forget or remember the past, sometimes we seem doomed to repeat it. Certainly with all the candidates, the analogies to historic times flow freely. The two big analogies, of course, are World War II and the Vietnam War, depending on whether voters view Islamists or fellow Americans as the enemy.

There are other historic times, though, that are worthy of revisiting. Watch this Betty Boop video and tell me if it doesn’t seem eerily reminiscent of much of the Democratic platform, with Betty promising to cure all ills and flatten out wealth, two sentiments accompanied by meaningless (but, since this is Betty Boop, jazzy) platitudes.

Hat tip: Lulu and her husband

Speaking as a President

I’ve frequently heaped scorn on Obama’s oratorical abilities.  His speeches remind me of the political speeches in old Hollywood movies.  In those days, the movies were careful not to take sides in any obvious way, so they’d have political characters make speeches using orotund phrases that contained high sounding platitudes, but that actually said nothing  at all.  It was very clever double-speak for entertainment purposes.  Very Obama-ish.  I was therefore quite pleased to read the post that William Katz, who blogs at Urgent Agenda, did for Power Line, because it’s a reminder that, given a choice between pretty speeches and actual ability, Americans have historically chosen the latter every time:

Those who’ve read these pieces know that I was a talent coordinator on The Tonight Show. When the staff met with Johnny Carson, in an office overlooking Radio City Music Hall, one thing was constantly drummed into our heads: Substance. Carson, a master of his game, knew that the talent of a guest wasn’t enough. The guest had to have something to say. If the guest ran out of material, or interesting stories, the guest was inducted into our alumni hall of fame. Hollywood is filled with people who thought they could drop in at The Tonight Show, say a couple of witty things, smile for the civilians, and leave. They would in fact leave, never to return.

I thought about that lesson in the days before Super Tuesday, as the huge wave of Obamamania rolled over me. Here, we were told, was a great speaker. As Sinatra might have put it, leave us we should count the ways. He is 1) inspiring, 2) dynamic, 3) articulate, 4) intellectual, and 5) human. He is the Obama, and we will go crazy for him because he is such an orator.

Carson had a line for hype like that: Aren’t we lucky.

Granted, Barack Obama is a terrific speaker. But how important is his oratory, or anyone else’s, in a presidential campaign? Well, the Gallup organization took a poll on this very question in January. This is what they found:

“Even though Americans value having an inspiring president, they give higher priority to a leader who has been tested when asked to choose between two hypothetical candidates as defined by these two dimensions. Fifty-two percent of Americans say they would prefer the 2008 presidential election winner to be ‘a candidate who is a tested leader but who is not that inspiring’ while 43% say it would be better to elect ‘a candidate who is inspiring but who has not been tested as a leader.’”

That’s pretty much in line with the history of the last 75 years.After all, in the 1950s we were madly for Adlai. Like Obama, he was from Illinois, and he too was a great speaker. I remember Adlai Stevenson well. I stood right behind him as he addressed a huge crowd in our high-school gymnasium. Pearls came from his mouth, veritable pearls. But Adlai got buried in two presidential elections by Dwight Eisenhower, whose speaking abilities ranked somewhere between Yogi Berra and a silent movie. Eisenhower, though, was a tested leader.

Then there was Jack Kennedy. Now there was a guy who could command a room. I was in the hall on November 4, 1960, in Chicago, when Kennedy proposed the Peace Corps. There he was, his right hand jutting into space to underline every point. The girls squealed. They jumped at every Jack gesture. But, despite his inspiration quotient, Jack Kennedy lost the women’s vote to Richard Nixon, and barely inched by on election day. If truth be told, he may even have lost on that day before Hollywood accounting was applied to the Chicago vote totals.

Douglas MacArthur? He was one of our finest orators, eloquent and dramatic. He was known almost as much for his style as for his generalship. He could thrill an audience or send a West Point team on to victory. He wanted desperately to be president. He didn’t get to be president. He didn’t even get close.

The point here is this: I looked back as far as the 1930s and concluded that great speaking is vastly overrated as a political weapon. In fact, in presidential politics, the better speaker often loses. Though no spellbinder, Thomas E. Dewey in 1948 was a far better speech maker than Harry Truman. He lost. Hubert Humphrey was actually a distinguished orator, especially on the floor of the United States Senate. In 1968 he lost to the same Dick Nixon whom Kennedy may have beaten. We mentioned poor Adlai, now largely forgotten. Al Gore, again no candidate for Mr. Excitement, was far more articulate than was George W. Bush. He lost in 2000, although the Daily Kos is still holding out.

Treat yourself.  Read the rest here.

On McCain’s apparent front-runner status *UPDATED*

Compared to Romney, I don’t like McCain. Compared to Obama or Hillary, I adore McCain and would happily vote for him — heck, if I were voting in Chicago (home turf for both Obama and Hillary), I’d vote for him twice, and have my ancestors vote for him too. You dance with them whut brung ya’, and it looks as if McCain may be the Republican dance partner in the 2008 Presidential election.

So, if you’re one of those conservatives who who thinks McCain is too liberal (and, compared to your candidate of choice, whoever he is, I’m sure you’re right), or who worries about the Gang of 14 (although reading this may allay some of your concerns), or who hasn’t forgiven him for McCain-Feingold, or who just plain doesn’t like him — get over it! He may not be the perfect Republican candidate, but he’s so much better than either Hillary or Obama that it really doesn’t matter. If you believe in conservative principles and fear the fall-out from Democratic policies, you have what amounts to a moral obligation to get out there in November and vote for him. Do not, I repeat, do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Also, if it makes you feel better about casting your vote, there are some indications that he is truly a winning candidate. That is, you won’t be compromising your principles with a vote that is ultimately wasted. A Rasmussen poll that the Captain discusses has him beating out both Obama and Hillary if an election were held today. Now, that may change when one of the Dems emerges victorious from the primary process, in which case more voters may coalesce around the winner, but it’s still good news for those who feel that it’s as important for a Democrat to lose as for a Republican to win.

And if you think I’m being exceptionally vindictive in devoutly wishing for a Democratic loss, here’s my defense: While I think we as a nation are a robust enough to fix any economic messes the Democrats may cause, I also think that we have a one shot deal to remain ascendant when it comes to the World War that the Islamists are waging against us. If we have a Democrat in the White House, especially Obama who can’t get out of Iraq fast enough, we’ll have wasted that shot.

(I have to admit I’m not pleased with Michelle Malkin for hinting that she’d rather see Hillary win than help out McCain. Hmmm….)

UPDATEBig Lizards has a very compelling post about McCain’s charisma — an important intangible we often overlook.  I have to say that, when I catch McCain’s speeches on the radio, I enjoy listening, which is not something I can say about any other politician’s speeches, including those of my man Romney.

On McCain’s apparent front-runner status *UPDATED*

Compared to Romney, I don’t like McCain. Compared to Obama or Hillary, I adore McCain and would happily vote for him — heck, if I were voting in Chicago (home turf for both Obama and Hillary), I’d vote for him twice, and have my ancestors vote for him too. You dance with them whut brung ya’, and it looks as if McCain may be the Republican dance partner in the 2008 Presidential election.

So, if you’re one of those conservatives who who thinks McCain is too liberal (and, compared to your candidate of choice, whoever he is, I’m sure you’re right), or who worries about the Gang of 14 (although reading this may allay some of your concerns), or who hasn’t forgiven him for McCain-Feingold, or who just plain doesn’t like him — get over it! He may not be the perfect Republican candidate, but he’s so much better than either Hillary or Obama that it really doesn’t matter. If you believe in conservative principles and fear the fall-out from Democratic policies, you have what amounts to a moral obligation to get out there in November and vote for him. Do not, I repeat, do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Also, if it makes you feel better about casting your vote, there are some indications that he is truly a winning candidate. That is, you won’t be compromising your principles with a vote that is ultimately wasted. A Rasmussen poll that the Captain discusses has him beating out both Obama and Hillary if an election were held today. Now, that may change when one of the Dems emerges victorious from the primary process, in which case more voters may coalesce around the winner, but it’s still good news for those who feel that it’s as important for a Democrat to lose as for a Republican to win.

And if you think I’m being exceptionally vindictive in devoutly wishing for a Democratic loss, here’s my defense: While I think we as a nation are a robust enough to fix any economic messes the Democrats may cause, I also think that we have a one shot deal to remain ascendant when it comes to the World War that the Islamists are waging against us. If we have a Democrat in the White House, especially Obama who can’t get out of Iraq fast enough, we’ll have wasted that shot.

(I have to admit I’m not pleased with Michelle Malkin for hinting that she’d rather see Hillary win than help out McCain. Hmmm….)

UPDATEBig Lizards has a very compelling post about McCain’s charisma — an important intangible we often overlook.  I have to say that, when I catch McCain’s speeches on the radio, I enjoy listening, which is not something I can say about any other politician’s speeches, including those of my man Romney.

Is McCain positioning Lieberman as his running mate? *UPDATED*

John McCain and Joe Lieberman have co-authored a short op-ed piece in the WSJ that states, quite simply, that the Surge worked:

After years of mismanagement of the war, many people had grave doubts about whether success in Iraq was possible. In Congress, opposition to the surge from antiwar members was swift and severe. They insisted that Iraq was already “lost,” and that there was nothing left to do but accept our defeat and retreat.

In fact, they could not have been more wrong. And had we heeded their calls for retreat, Iraq today would be a country in chaos: a failed state in the heart of the Middle East, overrun by al Qaeda and Iran.

Instead, conditions in that country have been utterly transformed from those of a year ago, as a consequence of the surge. Whereas, a year ago, al Qaeda in Iraq was entrenched in Anbar province and Baghdad, now the forces of Islamist extremism are facing their single greatest and most humiliating defeat since the loss of Afghanistan in 2001. Thanks to the surge, the Sunni Arabs who once constituted the insurgency’s core of support in Iraq have been empowered to rise up against the suicide bombers and fanatics in their midst — prompting Osama bin Laden to call them “traitors.”

As al Qaeda has been beaten back, violence across the country has dropped dramatically. The number of car bombings, sectarian murders and suicide attacks has been slashed. American casualties have also fallen sharply, decreasing in each of the past four months.

I agree.

The same piece then goes on to applaud Gen’l Petraeus’ stunningly good leadership (Petraeus for President in 2012?) and to ask the logical question: Where do we go from here? Frankly, it’s not a very interesting op-ed piece, since it simply states a whole lot of obvious stuff.

What is interesting is the fact that McCain and Lieberman authored it together, showing that they are pulling in the same harness when it comes to the War. It left me wondering whether this article is a flag that McCain is running up the pole to see if Lieberman would be acceptable as his running mate?

For me, McCain and Lieberman are very much a matched set: They’re both men I admire very much on a personal level. That is, I think they’re good and intelligent human beings. I think both of them have been absolutely and completely right in their unwaveringly strong support for the effort put into the War and for their continued and vocal recognition of the threats we face from the Islamists arrayed against the West. Politically, I don’t have many other points of agreement with them. Lieberman is an old-fashioned liberal who believes in big government, although not in the shrill, aggressive way of the new Progressives. McCain also believes in big government and, more worrisomely, I understand that he believes that the government should get into the job of financing elections, which will see the inevitable destruction of free speech in America. I would prefer Romney to either of them. Heck, I’d even prefer Giuliani to either of them, since Giuliani has given his word to appoint strict constructionists to the Supreme Court, and McCain hasn’t (and Lieberman wouldn’t). However….

However, if it came down to a race between McCain and Lieberman, on the one hand, and any of the Democratic candidates, on the other hand, I would vote for McCain and Lieberman without a second thought. Their understanding of the international risks we face makes them so far superior to the Democratic candidates that any other political liabilities they carry with them will just have to be accepted. I mean, think about it: If the candidates are virtually identical in their domestic policies, with the only real difference — and a very real difference indeed — being whether they are hawks or doves, who are you going to vote for? If you’re going to get one issue right when running for the White House, at least let it be the right issue. Domestic idiocy can usually be straightened out over time, but if we lose the War against Islamists, everything else becomes irrelevant and irremediable.

UPDATENot going to happen says the Captain, citing some very reliable sources.

Elections for the me generation

I am not a touchy-feely person. I managed to grow up in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1960s and 1970s without ever feeling the need to join into the narcissistic self-validation that Cyra McFadden so perfectly captured in her 70s classic The Serial, a novel that followed a number of self-involved, self-actualizers in Marin County. This is not to say I’m not self-centered or self-involved — I am. I just have the decency to be embarrassed about those feelings, instead of boastful. It’s small wonder, then, that I don’t like Oprah. Watching her show makes me feel uncomfortable. With all the emotions slopping out, it’s like peeping through someone’s bedroom window — and that’s despite the fact that she compulsively invites people in.

All of this may explain why I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the 2008 President race, which is probably the realistic end point of Bill Clinton’s 1992 “I feel your pain” campaign. The candidates are walking emotions, and the voters are mewling narcissists. Or, as Jonah Goldberg explains:

What Americans really want when they look into a politician’s eyes is to see their own images reflected back, like in Narcissus’ pool. The presidency in particular has become the highest ground in the culture war. Americans want a candidate who validates them personally. “I’m voting for him because he’s a hunter like me.” “I’m backing her because she’s a woman too.” “I’m for that guy because he’s angry like me.” Such sentiments have colored the presidential contest for so long, they’ve saturated it like stain into wood.

“Authenticity” — on which voters supposedly place such a premium — is really just a label put on self-validation. Bill Clinton infamously promised he felt our pain. Hillary Clinton similarly sold her 2000 bid for the Senate by arguing that she was more concerned about the issues that concern New Yorkers than her competitor. Question: Would you prefer a blase surgeon remove your appendix or a very concerned plumber?

On Monday, Hillary Clinton got all choked up campaigning in New Hampshire. “This is very personal for me,” she said of her bid for the presidency, seemingly holding back tears. “It’s not just political. I see what’s happening (in America). We have to reverse it.” Later, she explained that she wanted people to know that she’s a “real person.”

In a sense, this is populism updated for the age of “Oprah” and “Dr. Phil.” Principles and policy details take a back seat to the need to say “there, there — I understand” to voters. As Willie Stark, the populist protagonist of “All the King’s Men,” bellows to the insatiably needy crowds: “Your will is my strength, and your need is my justice.”

Years ago, I attended a Peter, Paul & Mary concert. Noel Paul did a semi-humorous anecdote that stuck with me. He commented on the titles of fluffy magazines at the supermarket checkout stand. They used to be things like Mademoiselle and Glamour and People. Then came Us. Self quickly followed. What next, he asked? A magazine entitled Me which, when happened opened, contains nothing but a shiny foil in which you can admire your reflection? Paul was prescient but he got the forum wrong. It wasn’t in the world of magazines that this was going to happen. In magazines, instead, we got to read about someone else admire her own wonderfulness: Oprah, Martha, Rosie. Nope, it turns out that where the “me” phenomenon hit was the world of politics, and if that doesn’t make the hairs on the back of your next stand up with horror, you’ve got nerves of steel.

Has Iowa instantly become obsolete?

Well, tidings from New Hampshire, at least on the Democratic side, are surprising. (I don’t think anyone is really surprised by the fact that McCain prevailed, as the polls showed he would.) Everyone thought that Dems and Independents were flocking to the polls to crown Obama, but it looks as if many were flocking to the polls to vote for someone who can at least boast more familiarity with the White House floor plan than Obama can. It turns out that reports of Hillary’s political death were greatly exaggerated. It also shows that, at least in New Hampshire, pragmatism wins over some sort of goofy idealism for an empty shirt who mirrors everyone’s secret desires. In any event, the most important lesson was that, in this race, it truly ain’t over until it’s over — or at least until Super Tuesday is over.

I’d like to think that, misty dreams of the magic Obama notwithstanding, your ordinary liberal voters — not your hardcore moonbats — are still somewhat pragmatic, and fell for Hillary’s “I’ve got experience” sell.  (And the funny thing is that, compared to the other frontrunners, she does have experience.)  I found this outcome rather cheering, because I’m hoping the same pragmatism prevails in November 2008.  Southern states notwithstanding, I think Huckapalooza is over.  The Paulian surge is also over, or will be as the ugliness in his past begins to catch up with him.  This means that whichever Republican becomes the candidate, he will be a man with hard, successful experience in both the political and the real world.  Perhaps, when the real elections roll around and voters are faced with the practical experience on the Right, and the impractical experience on the Left, that same pragmatism will kick in and witness a vote for a Romney, McCain, Thompson or Giuliani, each of whom has proven himself in the real world as well as the political world.

A little perspective on inevitability *UPDATED*

Democrats are euphoric and Republicans are panicking: Obama is inevitable. But not so fast, mes amis, says William Katz, looking back in time. In the rough and tumble world of American politics, nothing is inevitable and voters are never predictable. Since Mr. Katz’s hyperlinks are not working, let me quote for you here his entire post about the myth of political inevitability, a myth that starts with Hillary herself:

In the profound words of that late, great philosopher and student of human affairs, George Gobel, can we just wait a gosh-darned second, just a gosh-darned second? The way the press is reporting it, you’d think Senator Obama was about to be crowned rather than elected, and would then take time away from the White House to compete in all the events at the 2010 Olympics, including ice dancing.

Any candidate, including Mr. Obama, is beatable. It wasn’t more than a month ago that Hillary Clinton had a lock. Some of us recall President Tom Dewey, who was already being called “Mr. President” before the uncooperative voters of 1948 made their choice. Lincoln thought he would sink in 1864. Some around Jack Kennedy thought the same about 1964, especially if stories of Kennedy’s womanizing came to light. Even Ronald Reagan gave us a scare when he faltered during his first debate with Walter Mondale in 1984.

But the greatest caution against assigning god-like qualities to candidates involves 1944. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the war leader, was running for his fourth term. The election was held five months after D-Day. Victory in both Europe and the Pacific was in sight. Many could not conceive of a wartime America without Roosevelt at the helm. Even the Republicans cooperated, pulling their punches during the campaign as they bowed to the need for unity in war. Roosevelt’s opponent was the aforementioned Tom Dewey, making his first run for the presidency. Governor of New York, colorless, he hardly cut the figure of a man born to lead armies. With his mustache, he was often called “the man on the wedding cake.” This guy would tell MacArthur and Eisenhower what to do?

Well, Roosevelt did win, but ponder this: Tom Dewey got 46 percent of the vote. Almost one of two Americans voted against the man who epitomized “commander in chief.” The Battle of the Bulge, with its terrible setbacks and awful American casualties, began a bit more than a month after the election. Had it begun six weeks earlier, who knows how Americans would have reacted? It could have been Dewey announcing the defeat of the Axis the next year.

So, may we have some reason, please? Mr. Obama may win his party’s nomination. The entire electorate will have something to say in November. The word “inevitable” does not exist in politics.

UPDATE:  Mark Stricherz offers a little more historical perspective on inevitability.

I’m consistent in my beliefs

Phibian sent me over to a fun ABC News/USA Today site where it asks you to answer multiple choice questions about your beliefs on some national and international issues, and then ranks your answers against candidate positions to pick your perfect candidate.  I came out precisely as you’d expect me to if you read my blog.  However, since my print screen key is not working (so I can’t capture a screen shot), you’ll have to go over to Phibian’s place, since he ended up with the same candidates as I did, in the same order of precedence, even though he and I did not cast the same votes on the same questions.

Where will you come out?

I’m consistent in my beliefs

Phibian sent me over to a fun ABC News/USA Today site where it asks you to answer multiple choice questions about your beliefs on some national and international issues, and then ranks your answers against candidate positions to pick your perfect candidate.  I came out precisely as you’d expect me to if you read my blog.  However, since my print screen key is not working (so I can’t capture a screen shot), you’ll have to go over to Phibian’s place, since he ended up with the same candidates as I did, in the same order of precedence, even though he and I did not cast the same votes on the same questions.

Where will you come out?

Are we willing to let little Iowa determine the entire Presidential election?

I don’t like Obama, whom I consider an empty shirt, utterly devoid of experience and elevated to his lofty position only because of his skin color, something that I consider that worst kind of racial identity politics. (I just checked and it turns out that, at this particular minute, Silky Pony, the radical rich plaintiffs’ attorney is in the lead in Iowa, a change from yesterday’s news, or even this morning’s. I find him just as distasteful as Obama, especially since I think he’s a huge hypocrite, living a life few of us can imagine, while demanding that we, in the working and middle classes, turn over our money to the government for him to manage. Pfeh!)

I’m no more thrilled about the Republicans’ potential Iowa frontrunner, Mike Huckabee. Indeed, the more I learn about him, the less I like him, despite his manifest charm. He’s a nanny stater; he’s too forgiving of sin, something that’s dangerous in a political leader, whether he’s being lenient to local killers or worldwide terrorists; he’s exceptionally ill-informed about the world about him, something scary in dangerous times; and he’s a religious bigot.

As to this last point, I have no problems with Huckabee being religious, a quality all of you know I admire. I do have big problems, however, with his exceptionally nasty remarks about Mormonism. I’m perfectly willing to concede that Mormonism has some wacky ideas but, viewed objectively, so do all religions. For example, to a non-believer, the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation does not make logical sense; the Jewish belief in some sort of ancient old covenant with God, a covenant that has caused Jews until untold suffering over the centuries, is hard to fathom; and the central Christian doctrine about Jesus’ resurrection reflects a leap of faith that the non-Christian just can’t make.

What should matter in America is not doctrine, but values. You practice your faith, and I’ll practice mine (or not). However, what I will scrutinize closely is, not your faith, but the fruits of your faith as expressed in the way you live your life and, if you’re a politician, in the direction you wish to take this nation. As to this, Mitt Romney has lived an exemplary life, one of hard and successful work, family values, and fiscal and social conservatism (especially, with regard to the latter, in the last few years). Nor has he ever given any indication during his very long public and private careers that he intends to use either his wealth or political power to impose his religious beliefs, doctrines or practices on anyone. In that, he differs substantially from, say, a devoutly religious Muslim, whose faith obligates him to try to impose Sharia law against one and all, including stoning, veils, amputations, etc. Whatever Mormon doctrines are, there’s no indication that those doctrines would affect Mitt’s governance. For Huckabee to run a campaign implying otherwise is just dirty campaigning.

However, much as I may not like these guys (Obama, Edwards and Huckabee), they are still the favored candidates going into the Iowa primaries. So be it. But am I the only one who is noticing that all the punditry seems to be saying that, if they take Iowa, they’re essentially the annointed candidates for their parties in the 2008 elections? With all due respect to the wonderful citizens of Iowa, I don’t think that the outcome of a single state’s primaries — especially a state that, in terms of population, comes in 30th, behind such states as Texas, New York, California, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan — should be determinative of the entire election.

While Obama/Edwards, on the one hand, and Huckabee, on the other hand, will definitely get a boost if they take Iowa, the battle between the primary candidates will — or at least should — continue from one venue to another, and really won’t be resolved until February, when the big states have had their say. I mean, do you seriously expect all the other primary candidates just to drop out, to vanish, because these guys took Iowa? To ask the question is to expose the stupidity behind it.

I also think that, as least as to Huckabee, it’s just as likely that a Huckabee victory in Iowa will so frighten non-religious conservatives in New York, Florida, California, etc., that they’ll turn out in droves to vote for someone else during the primaries. (Of course, with Republican luck, they’ll vote for Ron Paul, won’t they?)

In any event, I refuse to fall into flat despair because of the Iowa predictions, nor will I respect American voters if they simply give up after Iowa and don’t turn out to support their candidate of choice. Iowa is a great place, I’m sure, but it shouldn’t be the alpha and omega of American presidential candidacies.

UPDATE: Noooo! Say it ain’t so, pollsters! Huck is tops nationwide, not just in Iowa? Well, so was Dean once upon a time. Americans can be fickle, and they like shiny new things.

UPDATE II:  Sorry for all the typos (including the one I corrected in the post caption).  I was pretty tired last night when I wrote this, and it shows.

Swift boating the media

Clipart Photo of John Kerry SalutingIt seems like forever, but it was only three and a half years ago that John Kerry was the Democratic front runner, with the MSM lining up for his anticipated coronation. And then something strange happened: the Vietnam vets started speaking up, challenging the mythology Kerry had created — and the press had sustained — around his brief time in Vietnam. And so a new verb was born: “to swiftboat,” which the Left defines as to lie about someone’s past for political advantage, and the Right defines as revealing the truth about someone’s past for the public’s benefit.

Now, the story is no longer about what Kerry did and did not do in Vietnam. Instead, the more interesting story is about how the Veterans pressed to get the truth before the public, and how the MSM pushed back, desperate to deep six a narrative that had the potential to destroy Kerry’s candidacy.

Someone involved in the matter from the beginning (indeed, he worked with John O’Neill in 1971 to challenge the Winter Soldier slanders) was Bruce Kesler, a former Marine who served in Vietnam. At the Democracy Project website, he tells about a book called To Set The Record Straight, How Swift Boat Veterans, POWs and the New Media Defeated John Kerry, whose authors, Scott Swett and Tim Ziegler, explain all about the Swift Boaters’ and the media’s role in Election 2004. It sounds like a great book and I’m betting that, after you read what Bruce has to say, you’ll want to read the book too.

UPDATE: In writing to Bruce about his book recommendation, I said something with which I’ve become enamored, so I’ll repeat it here: As I’ve often said, I don’t have problems with bias. That is a fairly basic part of the human condition. I have a huge problem with a media conglomerate that denies bias, and denies the steps it takes to promote its position. I like anything that exposes the shell game the media plays on the American public.

Render unto Caesar that which is Caesars….

I went to law school in the Bible Belt, so many of my fellow students were devout Christians. Thomas, however, out-Christianed everyone. His parents were missionaries, and he’d been raised with a level of faith no one else at the school could equal. He was one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, a truly Christian person in the best sense of the word, but he was also quite unworldly. It was this latter quality that came to the fore when it was time for us to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (or, as we called it, the MPRE). This exam is a prerequisite for practicing in just about every state in America, or at least that was the case a couple of decades ago.

The MPRE tests students on generic rules (as opposed to state-specific rules) of professional responsibility. These rules cover such scintillating topics as engaging in business transactions with ones clients, billing, dealing with clients who are deadbeats, the proper ways to approach the Court, conflicts of interest, and other wonderfully arcane topics that tend to have a surprisingly large effect on the average lawyer’s work day.

With one exception, everyone in my graduating class paid $200 dollars and trooped off to a one day review session in order to prepare for the MPRE. That one exception, of course, was Thomas. He announced to anyone who asked that he didn’t need to take a class in professional responsibility because the Bible taught him everything he needed to know about ethics.

I’m sure that, by this point, it won’t surprise you to hear that Thomas was the only student in our year (indeed, the only student in law school history) to fail the MPRE exam. The Bible did not prepare him at all for picayune rules about the proper way in which to handle retainers or the balancing of interests that needs to be done in taking on two similarly situated, but not identical, clients. In other words, Thomas’ deep and strong morality had nothing to do with procedural rules for being a lawyer in the modern era.

I’ve been thinking about Thomas a lot in connection with Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. The fact that Huckabee is a devout Christian is turning a lot of equally devout Christian voters his way. With Mitt, we see the reverse. Because he is a devout Mormon, devout Christians are rejecting him. As regards Mitt, I have heard from Christians who believe that any man who makes a profound doctrinal error cannot be trusted with any other task. Conversely, because Huckabee is on the right path doctrinally, they’re convinced that this will lead him automatically towards being a good national executive.

Thinking about these viewpoints, I can’t help but feel that people who are imposing a religious test on these two candidates are making the same mistake Thomas did: they think that reading the Bible the right way is sufficient to getting the task done, forgetting that some tasks have different rules. This is not to say, of course, that one must abandon ones Biblically-based morality and ethics. It is to say, however, that a deep knowledge of the Bible won’t get you through all of the necessary tasks of a specific job — especially the President’s job.

When you separate Mitt’s and Mike’s theology out from their political values and abilities, you get a rather different picture. I’m the first to admit that Mike is a charming, witty, Biblically erudite man. I also freely acknowledge that his values are entirely consistent with the values that social conservatives espouse, especially when it comes to abortion. However, there is no doubt that he is a tax and spend politician who believes that the government should use its power to coerce people into engaging in government approved behaviors — which is fine, perhaps, if Mike is the government and you agree with his ideas. It becomes a fearsome precedent, however, if the subsequent President is say, Obama, Hillary or Edwards, all of whom have freely admitted that they want to use government coercion on citizens, usually in ways that are disagreeable to conservatives. (Here are just the two most recent examples of Edwards, Hillary and Obama in nanny state mode.)

As for Mitt, even if you find his theology loopy, you have to agree that his end point is pretty consistent with the same end point a traditional Biblical Christian reaches, with the added bonus that he is an economically conservative Republican. I’ll offer just two examples of his social conservatism. The first is the wonderful answer he gave during the BoobTube debates to the question about black on black crime. Rather than coming out with just another tired old chestnut about throwing more money into black communities, something that hasn’t made a positive difference in the last 40+ years, he made a values statement: we need to encourage intact families amongst blacks:

YouTube question: Hi, this is me and my son Prentiss. We’re from Atlanta. I want to ask you guys a question (inaudible) every year. But what about the war going on in our country, black on black crime? Two hundred to 400 black men die yearly in one city alone. What are you going to do about that war? It feels like the (inaudible) is right outside.

Cooper: He’s talking about black-on-black crime, crime in the inner cities.

Governor Romney?

Romney: Well, first of all, Printes is pretty fortunate because he’s got a dad standing next to him that apparently loves him by all appearances there, and that’s probably the best thing you can do for a kid is to have a mom and a dad.


And it’s time in this country that we go back to the kind of values that allow kid to have moms and dads. In the African-American community today, 68 percent of kids born are born out of wedlock. And so we’re going to try and once again reinculcate in this country the try of values that have made us so strong: family values.

The second example is his pro-Life stance. I happen to know that many of you are suspicious because he came to it late in the day, but I’m not inclined to hold that against him, because my views have shifted so dramatically on the subject. For me, the moment came when I saw the first ultrasound of my first baby, aged 16 weeks. It was so clearly a baby, with a little spine like a string of pearls. Before that moment, I’d truly never connected the “fetus” with a baby. Growing up in liberal land, with the focus on “me, me, me (the woman),” I’d managed to avoid the obvious connection. If I were to get pregnant now, even though my pregnancies are Hell and I don’t want another child, I’d do something that would never have occurred to me 20 years ago: I’d stay pregnant. People change and Mitt ought to get the benefit of the doubt on this. In any event, the most important thing he can do, since he can’t set abortion policy (that’s not the White House’s job), is appoint conservative justices, who will read the Constitution as written and not snatch rights out of thin air.

Dennis Prager likes to say (and I’m paraphrasing) that we have to look more to what people do, and less to what animates their actions. Whatever path Mitt has taken, he has arrived at a spot where he is a pretty rock solid conservative candidate, both socially and economically. And whatever path Mike has taken, he has arrived at a spot where he is a rock solid conservative socially, but a flat-out liberal in terms of economics and nanny-state government policies. Also, unlike Mitt, Mike is unelectable. As a former liberal, I can assure you that anyone who espouses his religious views and calls himself a Republican (despite his Democrat proclivities) is more unpalatable to the average liberal even than George Bush was. In other words, a vote for Mike is a vote for Hillary, Obama or Edwards. And a vote for any one of those three will see outcomes that will make most conservatives, whether social or economic (or both) very, very unhappy.