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Monthly Archives: August 2008

Conventional Nights

August 27th, 2008 - 9:37 pm

The Triumph of the Therapeutic

Let us hope that the Republicans avoid the teary-eyed, drippy stories that almost all these Democratic speakers insist on inflicting on us: in this Oprah world, one would think that there is mass starvation, depression, and general mayhem. In every introduction, we hear that the speaker to come was poor, deprived, and a multifaceted victim. Not since reading the Attic Orators has one heard how horrible life has been to such heroic figures, who nonetheless somehow ended up in such a cruel country with big salaries, enormous homes, and influential jobs.

On Satellite Radio’s Potus station, they are playing clips of conventions long past, and one simply does not hear a Truman, Stevenson, or Eisenhower indulging us with tales of their own brushes with cruelty, illness, death, poverty, etc. and how only their own character allowed them to survive their absolutely singular experiences.

Eloquent Distortions

Did Clinton in his speech tonight really think that Reagan ending the Cold War was part of a 25-year long foreign-policy catastrophe, while his own record of doing nothing much about the World Trade Center bombing, Khobar Towers, the attacks on East African embassies, and the USS Cole in bin Laden’s serial path to September 11 was inspired leadership?

I don’t recall Clinton signing a Kyoto Treaty, or giving $15 billion for AIDs relief in Africa, or passing universal health care, or going to the UN or Congress to bomb Serbia, so why attack Bush on such similar topics?

Biden’s speech drew praise, but in candor he was almost on the verge of constant tears and right on the crest of an hysterical wave. And when he talked about McCain’s integrity, I almost choked—given Biden’s past complete fabrications about his nonexistent coal-mining family, serial plagiarism, and crudity when interrogating Supreme Court Justice nominees. Remember this was a politician who once boasted he would like to run for Vice President with McCain and is now accusing McCain of poor judgment, again from someone who voted against Gulf War I, and then flipped several times on the second Iraq war, and then pontificated about his  bankrupt plan of trisecting Iraq.

Why evoke Georgia and Obama—when Obama had a three-strike-out response: 1) initially both sides were equally at fault; 2) then go to the UN and find resolution; 3) then suggest our taking out a genocidal dictator was equivalent to Russia attacking a democracy.

And why would Biden evoke timelines as proof of Obama’s wisdom on Iraq? It only reminds us that Obama wanted all troops out by March 2008 that would have ensured defeat. The only reason why there is a discussion of timelines at all is due to General Petraeus’s success in stopping the violence. The present plan is Petraeus’s; the notion that an Illinois Senator had any input, influence, or effect on it is ludicrous.

Hubris to Nemesis: Obama and his Temple

Why and how did McCain catch up? Let us count the ways: the disastrous European victory lap of Obama’s; the uninspired professorial pontificating to Rick Warren; the deer-in-the-headlights serial responses to the Georgia crisis; and the McCain ads that were as cleverly effective as they were derided as childish by outraged liberals.

But perhaps the greatest consideration is Obama’s Hellenic hubris, which is different than simple arrogance. Hubris is a sort of fit, a haughtiness steeped in delusions of grandeur and divinity that takes over a weak individual, and soon encourages recklessness and overreaching (atê), all culminating in ruin and divine retribution (nemesis).

Go figure: Obama/Oedipus goes to Berlin. There he speaks in front of a grandiose Victory Column commemorating Prussian arrogance (after begging in vain to have a JFK/Reagan presidential moment at the grander Brandenburg Gate). He reviews American sins, revises the history of the Berlin Airlift, and claims (falsely) he’s the first black high official Germany has dealt with before. Then to hysterical applause from 200,000 Berliners, eager for subsequent free music and beer, he prances home, convinced that this was a success rather than an Apollonian trap.

Meanwhile an Ethel in Tulare turns on the TV and sees thousands of Europeans (who habitually make fun of her country) applaud Obama—and makes the logical assumption that they apparently think he is one of them, rather than one of us.

Next, drunk with pride, Obama thinks that such a losing paradigm (again, really a warning from the gods) apparently was not only successful, but will work again in Denver. So he transfers his speech to an outdoor forum, where tens of thousands of raving fans can watch him apotheosize in front of a faux Doric temple and accept nomination.

Isn’t there one sane person on his staff who can stop this divine madness, a single henchman who can whisper in his ear as puts on his golden crown not Vero possumus (“Yes! We can!”), but as was true of returning heroes during  Roman Triumphs—”Respica te, hominem te memento” (“Watch behind you; remember you’re just a man!”)?

The Democratic Ball and Chain

Many readers have written asking why I have given up on the presently constituted Democratic party, at least at the national level (I vote consistently for my local Democratic Congressman Jim Costa). I think a lot of us might call it the ball and chain effect.

There was a time when Republicans were weighed down with a lunatic fringe. I remember as a boy those pink letter-ads that would arrive in the mail, listing prominent Americans from Earl Warren to George Marshall as “reds” and “commies.” The poor Republicans had to deal with John Birchers who were convinced fluoride was a communist plot to sterilize, a la Dr. Strangelove, virile American males. And while the Democratic South was the bastion of Jim Crow, there was a live and let live attitude on the part of too many Republicans about matters of racial separatism that hurt the Party of Lincoln.

But now it is the Democratic Party that drags around a clanky, rusty ball and chain. Ayers and Rev. Wright are typical, not exceptional, furniture in the left-wing study of the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton hugs the race-hustler Al Sharpton who was deeply involved in lies, riot, and racism. The vicious Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore, just a few years ago, were courted by Democratic politicians as useful idiots to bash George Bush. And so on.

Why wouldn’t Obama have problems?

We are surprised that Obama, in an ideal Democratic year, is running neck and neck? But why so?

The man has only three years of experience in the Senate; yet in that brief window he has managed to be acclaimed its most liberal member. Every northern liberal—Humphrey, McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, Kerry—since the centrist JFK simply has not won general elections. Now Obama, who only shed Ayers and Wright when forced to by popular outrage, has picked whom?

Yes, another northern liberal with the third-most liberal ranking in the Senate. Neither can appeal to red-staters on the basis of centrist positions, or past military service (I think this is the first election that a Democratic ticket did not have either a President or Vice President that had been in the armed services, at least since the 1940 ticket of Roosevelt and Wallace ; compare the heroic service of a George McGovern or Lloyd Bentsen), or executive experience in the business world or as a governor. Given all that, it is surprising not that Obama has not capitalized on a Democratic year, but rather has not already blown it altogether. Bottom line: what got Obama here was fluff; apparently what must finish the race is not more fluff; ergo…?

Obama’s Dilemma

Obama now has hinted that he won’t hope and change his acceptance speech (a sort of damning admission ipso facto that his prior fluffy orations were, well, fluffy). But the problem is that ‘hope and change’, the teleprompter, and the Rev. Wright cadence, mixed up with white guilt, African-American pride, and weariness with the Clintons got him here. If he is wonkish, then he is not different from better informed wonks in his party; if he is an attack dog, then he is not the transcendent healer; the Clintons are gone (but not forgotten). In other words, to win Obama must do something unaccustomed to what got him here. He may, but I suspect he won’t and will instead sound like a saner John Edwards.

I was watching Sen. Obama speak on the stump the other day. After the hope and change mantra, he walked around the stage, unsure, and with Dan Quayle’s cartoonist spiraling eyes. The audience was baffled, a sort of collective quiet ensued: “You mean this is what all that uproar was about?”

Stanley Kurtz

I was surprised to see the Obama people call Stanley Kurtz “a slimy character assassin,” “smear merchant,” etc. for trying to figure out exactly what former terrorist Bill Ayers and Barack Obama were doing in their tandem distribution of foundation monies to various community action groups. Chicago’s Milt Rosenberg evening radio program is hardly a forum for extremism, but a reflective evening of cultural discussion. The very notion that a Presidential candidate’s staff would urge his supporters to call a radio show and disrupt and complain about a guest is Orwellian.

I know and respect Stanley Kurtz. He has a Harvard PhD in anthropology and is a meticulous scholar and a soft-spoken, circumspect journalist. He is engaged in legitimate inquiry and trying to find textual support for a nebulous relationship involving the possible next President. Obama should welcome the scrutiny, urge full release of the archives, and then in a professional manner seek to refute Stanley’s conclusions. Their present reaction is not merely shameful, but will prove counter-productive.

Biden is back—Smile, Laugh or Cry?

August 23rd, 2008 - 10:43 pm

Biden—Pros and Cons

Plus Side

He’s been around in the Senate about ten times longer than Barack Obama, and offers age and experience to Obama’s thin (“above my paygrade”) resume and blank slate. Biden understands Washington after more than three decades (Obama made a ludicrous claim when he announced today that “Joe Biden… for decades…has brought change to Washington.”).

He has endured personal disasters and crises with courage and resolve, both the tragic death of his wife and daughter, and his own brain aneurisms. He can be blunt, and is used to the Beltway braggadocio, and as the old stag can advise Bambi about the ways of the forest. He’s run two campaigns, so Biden’s negatives are already out there, and there will be few new surprises. He can start in mediis rebus, unlike a Quayle in 1988 or Edwards in 2004. He’s friends with Hil, and might have a good chance to woo her voters back. While a liberal, he’s not in the Barbara Boxer/Harry Reid Pluto orbit.


Some “hope and change!”

I don’t see how anyone can attribute singular foreign policy expertise to Biden. He is all over the map on Iraq—take Saddam out; my perfect war is now your fouled-up peace; hurrah for the elections; it’s now George Bush’s war; the surge worked; etc. Each new position was always predicated on the perceived pulse of the battlefield, and the assurance that no one amid the pontifications would check to see that his latest sermon was usually at odds with his of last month. Biden voted against Iraq #1 in 1990-91, and for Iraq #2, so let Obama figure that out.

I’ve written too many dissections of Biden’s idiotic idea of trisecting Iraq. Every one of Obama’s criticisms of Hillary on the war could be trumped in the case of Biden, perhaps quieting him about hammering McCain for wanting to take out Saddam. Biden’s inquisition of Justice Alito is now the locus classicus of Senatorial arrogance and self-absorption—but not surprising given his prior unprofessional hit on Justice Thomas.

The problem is not just his past record of plagiarism or silly gaffes, but the continuing hubris that fuels such corner-cutting and logorrhea. Biden is affable and smiles, but listen closely to what comes out of his mouth; it often is  wierd, whether silly or savage, rather than “scrappy”. If Obama thought he was getting an old pro, scripted explicator likely to contrast with his own gaffes or unteleprompted disastrous declarations, think again: Biden will match Obama, slip for slip, gaffe for gaffe.

Pundits keep evoking his more embarrassing evaluations about Obama as comparable to Vice Presidential Pick George H.W. Bush’s early dismissal of Reagan tax cuts as voodoo economics in the 1980 primaries. But Bush never said, in the manner of Biden, that Reagan simply was not qualified to be President, or boasted that he would be honored to run with Jimmy Carter. So there is a lot of material for McCain ads (cf.#1: Biden praises McCain, and trashes Obama).

More concretely, we now have two lawyer-Senators, neither with executive experience, or any knowledge of the private sector. Both are liberal–no southern or Midwestern governor here, or even Hillary’s latest blue collar reincarnation.

Both simply left law school and abruptly ended up in politics and the rest is history. Their shared frame of reference is the collection and spending of someone else’s money. Delaware won’t offer too many electoral votes, and I question punditry that suggests “working-man” Biden will really ensure nearby Pennsylvania.

Bottom line: other than the fact that VP won’t matter that much by November—unless Biden does something analogous to what ended his two earlier Presidential runs—Hillary would have better united the party, more likely picked up the independent voter, and her advantages and savvy far outweighed the problems of leashing Bill. After all, she got more primary Democratic votes in one state than did Biden in his entire campaign, and would have offered the ticket another historical first.

Look to McCain to pick up 20% of her votes–and watch her facial expressions as poor Hil professes her hope for an Obama win.

Olympian Afterthought

To the extent the Chinese put on a splendid Olympics, it was due to their uncanny emulation of Western organization, protocols, and economics. To the extent they did not, it was due to their rejection of Western notions of freedom and human rights.

The Europeans, for all the hype, were boorish, time after time—whether the Brit middle-distance runner taunting his opponent, or the Spanish racist eye antics. Often they seemed just creepy, like the Swiss male beach volleyball team.

After watching the Olympics, one is always reminded that the US is a veritable UN, but one that works. Our coaches and athletes are from all over the world, to the extent that it is almost impossible to ascertain what an American looks like—not true of almost all other countries.

And in sports like swimming, basketball, and track, again and again winning non-American athletes, well, turn out to be sort of Americans, given their frequent training and residence at American universities and colleges.  No decline of America evident here.

A Few Embarrassments:

The robotic and exploited underage Chinese gymnasts;

The crass track and field post-event interviewer Bob Neumeyer, who insisted on jabbing his mike in the faces of the recently defeated with questions that were as stupid as they were cruel;

Why the hours of diving? Finally left the television on, conked and used it as Sominex…

The Tragedy Continues

McCain is already in mid-August matching and sometimes besting Obama in the polls. It should not have been so.

Gas prices, the economy, Iraq, Bush Derangement Syndrome, lack of energy production, Republican scandals in Congress, out-of-control spending, the Bush dunce appointments like Scott McClellan and the Texas crowd, all this and more created a sort of perfect storm for conservatives. Meanwhile, a disenchanted electorate was mesmerized by a new Pied Piper from Chicago-town who pranced in promising deliverance, while poor, pant-suited ‘ole Hil was crying out to the hypnotized, lockstep villagers in a scratchy voice, “Wait,wait! He’s dangerous!”

So the Democrats went with the Pied Piper who is leading them over the precipice. They wanted a post-racial, landmark candidate, a sort of Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice topflight national figure, but with a hard liberal edge.

Instead they got “typical white person” and “clingers” rants, the nut Rev. Wright (whose long-awaited literary masterpiece should soon be out) and the nuttier Father Pfleger, one too many preemptive-victimization “they will play the race card on me” whines from Obama, Michelle’s “raise-the-bar”, “downright mean” and “no pride” resentments, the Clinton-Obama 19th-century Race Wars, the lop-sided ‘it’s OK for some to vote 95% along racial lines, but not for others along 60%’ sophistry, the peripheral lunatic “black house” rants by Ludacris (of Obama’s I-pod fame) or Bob Herbert (of Leaning Tower of Pisa architectural expertise), and more still. And remember, as Obama slips in the polls, given his lack of content, expect that the current tough-guy, bash’em strategy to easily descend into race once more. Apparently Obama each morning gets up and thinks, “How can I give Sean Hannety more talking points for his evening barrage?” and “Have I done enough for Rush today?”

The Democrats wanted a cigar-chomping populist who could portray the Republicans as elitists who stomped on the Joe little-guy. Once again they got a flashier version of a John Edwards-John Kerry-Al Gore preachy liberal, who whines about the price of arugula and thinks stepping off a jet in shades and polo shirts is an Esquire photo-op. The backdrop to Obama’s European rock tour, after all, was Edwards ‘two-nations’ scandal and Al Gore’s jetting between motor-running, on-the-tarmac SUV and lake yacht.

The Democrats wanted a can-do, help-the-middle class doer (sorta like Hillarysoft 4.0 in Pennsylvania), who some day might drill more cleanly than the polluting Russians and Arabs, keep the money at home, and restore US yes-we-can pride. Instead, once again they got the worldview of the Santa Barbara estate-holder/Greenwich Village Bohemian: Drilling would spoil our ocean views or is messy and icky; my gas-guzzling Volvo SUV is not as crass as those awful Hummers; my Gulfstream V sermonizing is vital, your NASCAR and jet skies are Neanderthal. The Democrats hoped “Sí, Se Puede! meant no more fears about drilling, more nuclear plants, turbines, and everything else under the sun to produce power, not Nancy Pelosi on a failed, “I’m saving the planet” book tour as Congress vacations.

The die-hard savvy Democrats (some still exist) wanted a brawler and wade-into-crowd fiery Truman. They got instead a prissy (and masterful) Teleprompted day-time soap actor, whose impromptu brand is now a string of “ahs, ums, huh? You know’s”. What they failed to note was that a Truman or Eisenhower couldn’t speak on the podium a hoot, but they were great in off-the-cuff repartee. And in the long run that is better than blow-dry platitudes. McCain can’t lecture a lick, but in the melee and tussle, he’s actually quite good. Ask Rick Warren.

If you go the Chicago route (always unwise), then at least go the Mayor Daley way, the guy who exudes the city-that-works ends justify the dead-voter means. But an Obama would choke on Daley’s cigar or even a Mayor Washington’s Big Mac. So what Democrats got instead was all the Chicago downside—the Tony Rezko shenanigans, the Trinity race-hatred, the loony left Ayers/Pfleger ranting, the shady house/yard deals—without the boilermaker, sweaty competence.

Democrats wanted a bison and got Obambi, whose new ‘take no prisoners’ rhetoric in front of the VFW sounds like the Italian army in North Africa not the Desert Rats. Just imagine had Obama written “Dreams From My Grandmother” about a working-class white woman who moved to Hawaii sacrificing her all, stressing integration, conciliation, character, and hard work (all true), rather than future career-in-mind idealization and myth-making about a polygamist, alcoholic and absentee Marxist father? Had he done the former, he would have gotten a small advance, few sales—and now bankable proof of his character, rather than money, sales—and an embarrassing revelation of his PC credentials. Harvard Law Review is as essential to wowing a tiny irrelevant Eastern elite as it is meaningless to proving to mid-America that you can easily size up a thug like Putin, see through Euro-trash nonsense, or get some energy leverage back from the mullahs and House of Saud.

The Democrats expected an in-the-tank liberal press to publish charts and graphs of how the “progressive” FDR Obama was better for the blue-collar-worker than the Tom Dewey Republican. Instead they got the last gasp of the 1960s spoiled-brat loudmouths, ranting and frothing how an Obama could at last reify their own narcissistic, guilt-ridden pretensions. The amen-stable at Newsweek, for example, would not have been hired there as copy-editors in the 1960s. If Chris Matthews thinks his tingle up the leg giddiness helps Obama, or Sen. Obama’s race speech is the new Gettysburg Address, he doesn’t know Bakersfield or Dayton. A Keith Olbermann rant is a veritable McCain campaign ad.

I like Barack Obama. He’s a good father, husband, hard-working and refreshingly pleasant sort, enormously bright and a gifted speaker. He doesn’t need the faux-Trinity Church cadences and falsetto black-preacher style to come across as sincere and well-meaning. I think he really does believe that he simply jump-started a Chicago political career using the race card on the way to becoming a liberal Illinois Senator, on the way, in turn, some day to a centrist Humphrey-like national candidacy—and that such contortions were just politics as usual and not disingenuousness or worse.

But something has gone terribly wrong with the Democratic hopes and dreams. Obama, ten points behind Hillary last autumn, ran to get experience, so that in eight years after the Clintoni’s third and fourth terms, a three-term Senator, with campaign savvy, and a long, not-too-liberal voting record, in his late fifties, would have a landmark Presidency. I don’t think that he imagined that anyone would ever really believe the teleprompted hope and change vacuity, and ‘Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain’ gears and levers. Now he is the ultimate “Being There” phantasm.

Bottom Line? Watch the Convention. Obama will, of course, still be nominated, but Hillary will play Medea, Lady Macbeth, and Joan of Arc all in one—and to the hilt.

The tortoise crawls on…

A Not Very Driven Interview

August 16th, 2008 - 9:33 pm

Citizens of the World at the Olympics

Obama, like Socrates, announced in Berlin that he was a citizen of the world. We see many such citizens at the Olympics, but I am not sure I would wish to be counted among them.

There were the Chinese hosts, staging a Triumph of Will-like opening ceremony with Red Army soldiers, and computer-enhanced, Cecil B. DeMille backdrops. Tiny girls, some apparently with their baby teeth, were passed off as 15-year olds in the gymnastic competitions. A Newsweek or Time was not about to do an expose such a gargantuan Olympian fraud—not when journalists were muzzled or deported.

The utopian Europeans were, well, Europeans, eager to point out the pimple on the American nose, blind to the wart on their own. So the Spanish posed in group portraits with fingers pulling at their eyes, mimicking the Asian look of their Chinese hosts—just the sort of racism that they usually allege boorish Americans engage in.

Fast forward to beach volleyball. The Swiss duo, defeated by the Americans, were classic poor sports—Jan Schnider alternately whining, pouting, and bragging in the worst sort of showmanship. The French swimmers boasted, in empty fashion, of the defeat to come of the Phelps and the Americans. And so on. If we sometimes imagine that collective European utopianism and sermonizing are psychological recompense for rather self-indulgent, self-absorbed private lives, no better window exists on that than at the Olympics.

A Purpose Driven Obama on Justice Thomas

In tonight’s Rick Warren interview, I don’t know why Obama chooses to insult a Supreme Court Justice at a religious forum, but his comments that Justice Thomas was not qualified to be on the Court were revealing. Why would Obama think, given his own credentials, that he was better qualified for President than Clarence Thomas was for the Supreme Court?

As far as working at University of Chicago Law School, the real question is how is it that Obama, without any major publications, would be qualified to teach law at Chicago? There were literally thousands of law professors who would not be hired at Chicago, even as adjuncts, who had far more impressive records of scholarship than did Barack Obama. His other comments on the Court were incoherent: Roberts gave away too much power to the executive branch—but no examples follow  as evidence (especially not the FISA laws!). Scalia is bright (after all, he taught at Obama’s Chicago, we are told), but he too shouldn’t have been appointed.

More on the Warren Interview—St. Nuance

One is struck by Obama’s postmodern worldview. There are no absolutes, just nuances and contexts that preclude certainty.  Evil for Obama: “A lot of evil’s been perpetuated based on the claim that we were fighting evil.” Could he be specific where we have perpetrated “a lot of evil?”

Again, the gut instinct for Obama—whether talking about our “tragic history”, or the need for more “oppression studies” or evoking our sins in front of the Germans—is always to start out with the premise of a flawed America, rather than appreciation of the vast difference between us and the alternative. Never a word here about evil abroad, or bin Laden or Dr. Zawahiri. No, instead, we need humility about that “lot of evil” perpetrated by you know whom.

Somehow he is pro-choice, but anti-abortion, for man/woman marriage, but not in the legal sense, not for merit pay, but for rewarding good teachers—all this is in the manner he was against the Russians and for them while for and against the Georgians. His mushy responses were emblematic of the therapeutic style—empathy with everyone, judgment on no-one. We may soon be back to Jimmy Carter, paralyzed how to divvy up the White House Tennis Courts among feuding subordinates. He can’t say much pro or con on abortion, other than there is an ethical and moral element to the issue. And any of you who deny that, well are just darn wrong.   He is against late-term abortion— but only if the mother’s life is in danger. And so on.

After watching some of this, I don’t think Obama will be having many town hall debates with McCain.  However undeniable his calm and presence, he is simply incapable of extemporizing. A written transcript of this interview would be embarrassing, since it would be largely streams of meandering—and, but that, ah, you know, that, and, with uh, uh, I don’t think, ah, ah, that, that, I think, that, that, on, on, an issue…”

The Obama Effect

When Obama is asked a question he has not prepped for, he sort of goes into the spinning-eyes mode that one used to associate with the young Dan Quayle in his first weeks on the campaign trail. He knows he should not mouth his postmodern banalities, pauses, and then says something he knows simply won’t work. The wisest three people he knows? The first, of course, is his “raise the bar”, “downright mean” America, and “no pride in America” spouse Michelle. The second? His grandmother, whom he once told American was a “typical white person,” as he exposed her supposed racism. I’ll stop there.

America’s greatest moral failure for Obama? Poverty, racism, sexism—the same old race/class/gender mantra. As someone who just minutes ago walked out of the jammed-packed Selma Wal-Mart, in the poorest sector of a rather poor Fresno County, I would say a more likely moral failure is a sort of unthinking consumerism, where people buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have. I didn’t see poverty in the store there today, but a real poverty of the spirit, if the contents of the stuffed shopping carts are any indication.

Obama’s most gut-wrenching decision? Apparently as a state-legislator in a far left-wing district in Illinois, he opposed the war in Iraq! In fact, his “decision” had zero influence on anything other than his political livelihood in a ward of Chicago, where being anti-war was  easy for a liberal politician in the Democratic Party.

Human Nature Being What It Is

August 13th, 2008 - 10:00 pm

Back to the 19th-century

We saw a glimpse of the back to the future world with the neo-czarist invasion of Vladimir Putin. Russia knows the great truth about the West: it will pour a half-million people into the street to protest the United States removing a homicidal dictator to foster democracy, but not a half-dozen to object to Russia attempting to remove a democratic government to foster dictatorship. Absolute standards of morality are passé; for the Left grandstanding about Abu Ghraib brings some sort of psychological recompense for being a blessed Westerner; objecting to Russian or Chinese behavior either is futile or gives no kick to a sense of self-loathing.

The Russians understand the Thucydidean truth that ‘the strong do as they please, and the weak do as they must.’ Putin et al. , as in the case of the Russian leveling of Grozny, have sized up the world—the sanctimonious EU, the blow-hard UN, the self-important World Court—and in response have rephrased Stalin’s quip “How many divisions do they have?” And they are right, of course. Old Gorby has been writing his usual post-Marxist nonsense with barely disguised glee over the resurgence of Russian pride and power. Most Western talking heads on television blather about “Bush and the neo-cons,” “We gave the Georgians the green light,” or “We went into Iraq”, in-between a sort of poorly-disguised respect for raw Russian power.

The only upside to this disaster is that Georgia was not in NATO and thus spared the alliance the humiliation of yawning while a member evoked Article V and learned its allies are out to their accustomed latte.

Child Abuse?

All week I also watched fourteen-something children in China competing in gymnastics, with the assurance that no Olympic committee would ever dare inform the communist party there that it is a making a mockery of international rules. Meanwhile if we are not to hear anything about Tibet, then spare us the cute stories about the Pandas.

All About Race—in Orwellian Fashion

Going through letters and email of the last two weeks, and getting very tired of the supposedly outraged who write in to cry “racist” anytime one worries about the neo-socialist agenda of Barack Obama or his utter lack of experience. We are witnessing a sort of national liberal outrage that, in a year when everything favored the Democrats, Obama is still running near even with McCain—something that therefore must be explained as attributable not to his inexperience, gaffes, inability to speak extemporaneously, and messianic self-image, but instead to American racism.

Consider: Obama on several occasions evokes his race in a fashion other national black figures such as Colin Powell have not, whether addressing Berliners or the campaign faithful (“They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?”)

He talks of Pennsylvanian working classes as near Neanderthals who cling to their guns, race, and religion. “Typical white person” sums up his grandmother. His minister Wright is an abject racist; associates like Father Pfleger are even worse. He puts the racist rap singer Ludacris in his I-pod, who, returning the attention, weighs in on the campaign in sick fashion. He and his wife evoke the nebulous “they” who raise the bar and allegedly practice racial bias. He lectured on the need for deeds when it comes to government reparations for minorities, and called for more”oppression studies” in our schools. All this and more drove Bill Clinton to near insanity as he complained the “race card” was used constantly against him.

And the reaction? Pundits strain to interpret recent polls, showing that over 90% of the white electorate has no problem voting for an African-American, as somehow racist—at a time when the black voter is polling 90% for Obama. Obama compares his celebrity to Ms. Spears; McCain’s ad that does the same thing is racist, and supposedly, according to Bob Herbert, flashes phallic images of the Washington Monument and the Leaning Tower of Pisa as black/white sexual innuendo—although both towers are not even in the film.

Columnist after columnist talks of the “race” issue, and the white worker who won’t vote for Obama on racial grounds. Let me get this straight: a particular demographic group that rejected Walter Mondale, Mike Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry is leery of a candidate to the left of all four, no doubt because of the usual reasons (try legitimate concerns about (rather than “clinging” to) defense, taxes, abortion, religion, social issues, guns, welfare, etc.) and yet now is written off as racially motivated?

The purpose of all this? Threefold: To solidify the hard left and African-American base. Two, to play on white guilt, and suggest that a vote against Obama is racially motivated, while a vote for him is likewise, well, racially motivated, but in the positive redemptive sense of alleviating deserved guilt. Three, to preempt the McCain campaign and suggest all sorts of attacks to come will be race-based and therefore taboo.

I worry about all this because it is reaching a saturation point at which the electorate will go into backlash mode, infuriated by the smug elite that constantly questions their character. Another chilling prediction: when this is all said and done, Barack Obama will prove the most racially–manipulative national figure we’ve seen in our lifetime. It didn’t have to be this way: we are currently watching Secretary Rice center-stage deal with the Russians and the last thing on anyone’s mind is her race; ditto Justice Thomas; and the same was true of Colin Powell.

In a strange way, the fact that Obama was not African-American, but only of half -African ancestry and largely brought up by white relatives perhaps explains his racial self-referencing and overcompensation, as he invented a politically-useful hyper-identity, from grafting the Rev. Wright-like cadences to the faux-African-American Chicago credibility. One does not easily throw under the bus what worked in the past, so the problem for Obama is that now the stage is 300 million people, not the politics of race in Chicago: what got him here, from Rev. Wright to all the talk about “they”, must now be shed.

Summer of Reflection

August 8th, 2008 - 1:53 pm

America the resurgent

Beneath all the doom and gloom, what strikes one this late summer is the sheer resurgence of the United States. I am up in the high Sierra this week and decided to drive to a couple of lakes, visit campgrounds, and talk to vacationers, with laptop and ears open. This is not America’s elite at Tahoe or Carmel, but the working classes who drove up from Fresno County to the nearby Sierra National Forest.

One from Mars would be hard-pressed to see poverty. Shaver Lake (50 minutes above Fresno) is a traffic jam of jet-skies, power-boats, water-skiers, and houseboaters churning up $6 a gallon boat gas. The campgrounds have none of the simple tents and cook-out gear of my youth. Instead mammoth SUVS, Winnebagoes, and trailers cram in, with satelitte dishes, plug-in microwaves, and all sorts of kayaks, canoes, and others lakecraft. Every race imaginable was here, every class, every age.

Next I walked around Huntington Lake: the camps—boy scout, religious, and private— were stuffed with boats at the docks, camping gear, and all sorts of conveniences. The parking lots are full of massive 4x4s, double-cabbed trucks, and all-terrain vehicles. This is not the 1930s, crede mihi.

I drive a 2004 Honda Accord with a 105K on it, and feel lucky to have it. The vehicles ahead of me were all in the $40-50K range, half of them towing something more expensive than my car.

I talked to one fellow who was backing his 26-foot sailboat down the lake ramp, via his Honda Ridgeway truck, complaining to me about gas prices and the “Depression”. He said he came up for two days of sailing, a rented condo, and partying. The snacks in his boat would have fed the Joads ten times over. Why the appeal to poverty? He couldn’t afford driving to Yellowstone this summer, he said.

Some summer of our discontent

The War in Iraq is no longer a war as we would usually define it, and the unthinkable is occurring—a consensual society rising in the middle of a nightmarish region. The US military has been superb—despite its top general derided as a traitor, movies, one after another, depicting our soldiers as animals and terrorists, and our politicians declaring that our military was either incompetent or amoral. And yet, here we are with the unimaginable: a working Iraq, and our greatest enemies either dead or in hiding.

The economy should have tanked long ago, we are told. But despite the mortgage collapse, fuel spikes, and spiraling deficits, millions get up every morning and create billions of dollars in goods and services beyond the comprehension of most economists. The truth is that Americans work more efficiently in a climate of legality, meritocracy, and nonviolence than any others in the world.

While the world salivates over our misdemeanors, the Russians threaten Georgia, the Orwellian Chinese lock up whom they please, the Europeans finger point and snooze—and the US just plods along without the slightest of praise. I pass on the other continents where corruption and killing make no news.


Despite the political acrimony, we can begin to see a WWII-like push to more energy production on the horizon, as we will build nuclear plants, more refineries, drill, conserve, and press ahead with alternatives. Oh, the Obamaniacs will, as in the case of the surge and Iraq, damn these multifarious efforts— and then quietly sign on to them as they gain steam, postfacto sermonizing that their principled opposition in fact explains their sudden success.

The truth is we have been in a collective slumber and are slowly wakening to the reality that the U.S. is blessed with coal, natural gas, and oil. Nuclear power and hydro were once American trademarks. Wind and solar are likewise American specialties. I watch during the week in Palo Alto the so-called nerds of Silicon Valley in cafes as they type and jot; I don’t think there are any smarter, more competent engineers in the world, and their blood is up to find something better than gas.

Tar sands and shale are ubiquitous in North America. All we need is a push, and then the momentum would be unstoppable and the national enthusiasm likewise cascading. We forget that offshore, ANWR, the shelf, coal, nuclear, are not merely mechanisms to greater self-sufficiency, but unappreciated national assets worth trillions in today’s market.

“Tragic history”

I didn’t care much about Obama’s decision not to wear a flag lapel. And I expected the usual cant from him about reparations, the need for more oppression studies, and the feigned charges of racism. But finally when one collates it all up (and here I am thinking about his latest, Michelle-like sermons; try “I personally would want to see our tragic history, or the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged” or “America is — is no longer what it could be, what it once was”), I get tired of it all.

In other words, there starts to emerge a portrait of someone who always thinks first of what is wrong with America and only later what is right. Given his meteoric rise in the United States, one would expect some acknowledgment of what a wonderful country this, without the weepy qualifiers especially given his rudimentary knowledge of how life works in Indonesia, or second-hand, in Kenya.

Yet each time Obama recites American history or mentions his country in the abstract, one of two things follow: either a brief narrative about its protest movements, or some such “not perfect” or “tragic” adjective. I know his handlers, who muzzled Michelle, Trostkyized Ayers, Wright, Pfleger et al, and teleprompted his speeches, can do better, but in their defense they are working against a quarter-century of saturation in which Columbia, Harvard, Trinity and Chicago politics have drummed into him that starting with what is wrong with your country ends up with you doing pretty good by it—a hard habit to break, that siren-song of grievance.

A different election

Some liberal posters note that the world won’t fall apart should Obama win. I agree. But I still believe that we have not seen as liberal a candidate on the national scene since the Henry Wallace Vice Presidency. With two houses of Congress in his camp, Obama’s agenda, to the extent we can ascertain it due to his many metamorphoses, seems the final reification of the European socialist dream: Our top tax rates would reach 62-5%. Inheritance, payroll, and capital gains taxes would spiral. The ensuing cash—to the extent that it materializes given the suppression of aggregate economic growth—would not pay down the debt, but rather fund ever more entitlements, that would in turn increase the Bush deficits, further erode personal responsibility, and add to the national crybaby malaise in which every particular group claims victimization to garner more cash.

We would defer to the UN and EU in foreign policy, back peddle out of Iraq, talk tough on Afghanistan but do less than we do now. And as in energy policy, America would lecture the rest of the world, while doing little ourselves. Nothing has hurt the Democrats more than this image of an America that cries, borrows, threatens to sue, begs for more oil abroad, and then with nose up in the air refuses to put an oil rig in ANWR or another off Santa Barbara. These elites evoke images of fallen aristocrats, strolling on the croquet lawns, flat broke but humiliated by the thought of working.

Under Obama, high gas prices would be seen as good, the higher the less the carbon footprint, the more government-controlled mass transit, and the more the restless American lifestyle is turned down.

Of course, as was the case of Jimmy Carter when his utopianism met the Soviets in Afghanistan, the communists in central America, the mullahs in Teheran, double-digit interest rates, and the genocide in southeast Asia, this latest liberal perfectionism would not last too long, though just long enough to do a great deal of damage.

Europe, as is always the case with the contemporary Left, is the model. And that is scary. On each occasion I visit, I come away struck by the secularism, the scarcity of children, the ubiquity of government, the unassimilated minorities, the weird religion of anti-Americanism that has devolved into jeans on the legs, I-pods in the ears, and venom out of the mouth, the sensualism and gratification of the appetites.

Leftists here seem almost obtuse to European intrusion into the private sphere: do they visit Europe and see the omnipresence of video cameras on corners, on highways? Or government cards and regulations everywhere? Or the degree to which the judicial system simply is not guided by law?

A Final Note

I had a wonderful grandfather, born, raised, and died in the same house, where I still live, who, born in 1890, was absolutely mystified by modernism and especially the 1960s (he still called my bike “the wheel”). Before dying in 1976, although a strong Harry Truman Democrat, he once asked me, “Victor, what will happen when all these crazy people have to take over from us?” I think if one were to collate Al Gore’s lifestyle with his ’10-years all wind or solar–or else’ rhetoric, John Edward’s personal and professed morality, the radical failure to use our own energy resources, the vapidity cum coarseness of Hollywood, or the antics of a Moveon.org or Media Matters, one could understand his worry and how the twenty-somethings of the 1960s are aging badly. Before they are gone, they will have given us a lot more than Botox and bankrupt Social Security.

A final note. I get hundreds of emails a week on the Tribune column, NRO postings,and here at Pajamas, many of them outraged and worse. I’ve noticed a rule of thumb. Those on the right who are angry, lecture me, and often point out something I missed, an article to read, or a logical fallacy; those on the left are more likely to use profanity, name-call–and, yes, refer to themselves in self-absorbing fashion. The almost unconscious resort to profanity, four-letter words, and quasi-threats is quite astonishing, especially when juxtaposed to the titles and self-referencing that accompanies their screeds.

That too is a legacy of the 60s…

Obama’s Ten Commandments

August 4th, 2008 - 9:22 pm

McCain and Obama are essentially even in many of the polls. We all know why—the flip-flops, the evocation of the charge of racial politics, the serial gaffes, the playing up to European crowds, the lack of experience, and public weariness with the media bias, etc.

What should Obama, then, do to reclaim his “hope and change” mania of last spring? I think it is going to be difficult at anytime to elect a Northern hardcore liberal (not since JFK in 1960), even in a year perfect for Democratic politics, but nonetheless in the pursuit of fairness, here’s a blueprint… (in no particular order).

1. Outlaw the use of the word “they.” He recently claimed “they” would evoke the race card, in the manner of Michelle’s serial use of “they” raised the bar. Who is “they”? (The mean University of Chicago who paid the Obamas quite well? The parsimonious state legislature of Illinois? A racist Harvard?). The result of this “they did it” is the image of a sort of whiny elite, well-off victim claiming that a nebulous posse (conservative white Republicans?) is out to get him. Victimization, conspiracies, and whining lose, not win, elections.

2. Avoid sermons: no more lectures about guns, religion, and clinging, or what we eat, how we cool our homes, what kind of cars we drive, how we should pump up our tires, etc. It all comes off as a lean charismatic arugula-eating metrosexual talking down to a nation of obese NASCAR flag-wavers (who outnumber the former by the millions). Play Harry Truman, not Jesus Christ (and get rid of the silly first-year Latin Obama seal; fire the guy who wrote the oceans recede line; demote anyone who tries to get more mileage out of the corny “this is the moment” refrain; and get grainy pictures of a sweating Obama, not that airbrushed haloed Obama gazing off into the powder-blue sky of the sort they photoshop up at the County Fair booth).

3. Europe really doesn’t vote. Obama should have learned that from the disastrous Kerry experience in 2004. What draws tens of thousands out to Berlin (beside free beer and music—and an ugly totem reminding them of lost Prussian prestige and victory over the French) doesn’t necessarily do the same among the American electorate. Most Americans, rightly or wrongly, don’t want to be citizens of the world if that means something akin to the values voiced in the UN General Assembly or lectures from the Euro public.

4. Enough of the flip-flops. Changing course on FISA, campaign-financing, faith-based initiatives, drilling, the strategic oil reserve, late-term abortion, capital punishment, gun control, Iran’s level of threat, the surge, Iraq timetable, et al. may have been what a liberal candidate must do in the general election, but there is a limit beyond which expediency turns to the carnival. Anymore and the public will burst out laughing every time Obama starts a flip-flop with “As I have long said…”

5. Stick with the teleprompter. Almost all of Obama’s gaffes—the 48/58 states, the Pashtun Arab-speaking translators, the 10 years as President, the clingers’ rant, the Rev. Wright praises, the tire pressure sermon, the new civilian Pentagon-sized bureaucracy, the reparations “deeds” promise, all that and more come when he is thinking out loud extemporaneously, and, to be fair, often exhausted. Of course, that is true to some extent of all candidates, but in an inexperienced Obama’s case, the adoring crowds egg him on, and confidence leads to hubris and then onto what the Greeks called atê. I would still “hope and change” it, and play out the fourth quarter rather than expect that a charismatic Obama will dazzle in impomptu rock-star settings. He won’t after the first 30 seconds.

6. Don’t mention race. The public gets it that a racially aware Obama is not Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice, for whom racial solidarity is admirably incidental. It realizes that he looks different from past candidates for President. So he should just cool it and be content with the fact that his race in the past at Columbia, Harvard, and Chicago was no drawback, but often a real advantage—and count his past blessings and move on. Now he should evolve, stick to issues, and not look back at Chicago racial ward politics. Not even in-the-tank CNN and MSNBC pundits really believe that a John McCain is biased, and calling a war hero’s campaign de facto racialist is insane. Obama’s 90% majority of African-American base voters long ago accepted his racial fides thanks to Rev Wright, rappers, and all the rest. They won’t forsake him when he transcends race as promised, but simply sense, as Rev. Wright scoffed, it’s just “politics.” Expect his handlers to look for an Obama staged Sister Soulja moment, or a subtle phase-out of the faux-Trinity Church affected cadences and folksy, southern-spiced mellifluousness that was always somewhat awkward for an Hawaiian-born Barry Obama.

7. Pick an antithesis in every category for VP.
The ideal selection for Obama would be crusty, sloppy, blue-collar, non-arugula eating, southern or Midwestern, white, conservative, old, experienced as an executive, and knowledgeable about foreign affairs that would convince Hillary’s old constituency that someone like themselves doesn’t look silly running with Obama. He will have to go the Dukakis/Lloyd Bentsen route. The problem? They’re aren’t that many Hubert Humphrey/Scoop Jackson looking sorts still around in the Democratic Party.

8. Avoid all town meetings with McCain. I know Obama looks hypocritical in side-stepping his promises to meet McCain anywhere, anytime; but, after his gaffes and deer-in-the-headlights pauses and stuttering, now you can see why he backtracked. If he looks unsure with sympathetic interviewers, he will look even worse in a one-on-one contrast with a grizzled war veteran and Senate pro who will cut the ring down to size and haymaker him on the ropes. Don’t let his lock-step worshipers convince Obama otherwise. Sigh, beg-off, quote the Untouchables, boast, threaten, but skip them!

9. Don’t get near the Hard Left--Moveon.org, Michael Moore, the Daily Kos, the Huffington Post, the Hollywood Set, etc. They are hungry for a return to power and ego-stroking and will put up with, and explain away, anything from Obama. There is no need to reassure the assured–who in a millisecond can on stage let loose with a creepy obscenity or go ballistic in Bush-Derangement Syndrome fits for a clip on Fox News. In contrast, the election will be won or lost in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, etc. where such extremists hold no sway. To the extent they are unknown, or, if known, mad at Obama, it will only help his campaign. If he wins, there will be plenty of time to have Ludacris play at the White House, hang the Medal of Freedom around Noam Chomsky , or small talk in the Rose Garden with George Clooney. It is not that Obama doesn’t remember Ayers all that well, but rather he simply never existed.

10. Do an “ipsa dixit” with Hillary. Praise her, refer to her, thank her, quote her. Wake up each morning thinking “I must coddle Hillary” and go to bed every evening sighing “I didn’t do enough.” Obama is in trouble with wealthy mainstream Democratic donors, the white working-class voters and professional older women, who can’t quite express how they were sandbagged by Obama, but feel it keenly nonetheless. He needs to assure them all that he adores Hillary (and even petulant Bill). Once the frantic October campaigning begins, he wants a smile on her face on the stump, not the infamous Clintonian snicker. Maybe he should play a Fleetwood Mac song and then on stage do a duet with Hil. All that requires swallowing his swelling pride—and thereby may be impossible.

That’s it—and a nod to fair and balanced.

August 1st, 2008 - 10:34 pm

Where Art Thou, Hillary?

I think buyer’s remorse will soon set in among Democrats. Off the teleprompter, some very strange things come from Obama: reparations for Native Americans and African-Americans; inflating our tires properly and “tune-ups” (do we still have points, distributors, and 10,000 mile plugs?) will all obviate the need for more drilling; “they” (recall Michelle’s “they” and how they raised the bar serial speeches) will mention the fact that Obama looks different, or at least unlike the “presidents” (sic) on one-dollar bills; he will be meeting with Sarkozy and Merkle for the next 10 years… You get the message

“Hoping and changing” day in and day out?

If his handlers are not careful, Obama will “58-state” his way to a 10-point deficit before the convention. They must get him back on the teleprompter, avoid the town halls, and ‘hope and change’ his way back to rock star status (I know that it is wearing thin, but his ex tempore quips are far more damaging.)

Speaker Pelosi should simply swear off private jet trips.

Stopping exploration off the shelf and our coasts is a losing political proposition (as Obama knows when he just flipped on the issue), not only because of the economic factor—even a mere million barrels pumped save us over $100,000,000 a day in revenue kept here at home. But there’s the moral argument as well: there is something very wrong in opposing drilling on environmental grounds while hoping others less careful continue at it–while those who oppose drilling don’t seem any less inclined to use oil (cf. the Pelosi request for a mega-jet for frequent transcontinental trips).

More Praise from Obama, but…

Ludacris is about as “talented” as Rev. Wright was “brilliant.”

What Does This Mean?

Barack Obama:

“I personally would want to see our tragic history, or the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged. I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it’s Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds.”


1. Does he know that WWII in our schools is mostly Rosy the Riveter, the Japanese Internment, and Hiroshima–and not much if at all D-Day, Okinawa, or the Bulge? The Civil War is already taught as essentially Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, not Grant and Sherman. Our students already know all the things wrong with the US, and few of what is right, past or present. Honest discussion of American sins is important, but if one doesn’t appreciate that they pale in consideration to others’, or that the culture has created a moral and successful society like none other, then what would be the reason to continue to support its centuries-long institutions? So is our history really more “tragic” than say France’s (compare our respective Revolutions); Russia (cf. the Great Terror); China (compare the 70 million that Mao did away with one way or another); Germany (no need to comment); the post-colonial African states?; maybe the history of Mexico?

2. This complaint is consistent with Obama’s call for more “oppression studies” in our schools. And it seems to be the first call for reparations by any mainstream candidate in our history. Is he serious, and wants a cash grant to anyone who can prove that he has Native-American or African-American ancestry? And the Irish? Hispanics? Asians? One-time money gift–or continual stipend as in the manner of Social Security? And to those like Obama who are of African rather than African-American ancestry? And do we bring back the Old Confederacy racial protocols to ascertain to what degree one of mixed heritage gets 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 of an award?

3. Anyone who has been around a university the last 30 years knows that any bright, well educated student who chooses to make his or her identity essential rather than incidental to their persona–Hispanic, African-American, or female–is snapped up for graduate or professional schools in preference to the proverbial white male. Affirmative action has been going strong for three decades. What again, then, does he mean by “not just offer words, but offer deeds?” Obama should know that for all his own talents, it is rare to have someone with his meager law record selected as Harvard Review Editor, or hired at the University of Chicago Law School, or after a mere two years in the Senate, a presidential candidate. The point is not that his race explains his success, but in America alone it either was irrelevant to it, or, more likely, a great force multiplier.

4. Expect the press, as in the case of Obama’s call for an alternate Pentagon to mirror image the military at the same cost (of half a trillion per year), to simply ignore these quite astounding statements.

Others Listen.

One of the reasons that others abroad trash the US is that they have been versed by our elites in the art of blaming America for their own self-induced miseries. Cf. the latest communiqué from Teheran (at the meeting of the so-called non-aligned nations):

“The rich and powerful countries continue to exercise an inordinate influence in determining the nature and direction of international relations, including economic and trade relations, as well as rules governing these relations, many of which are at the expense of developing countries.”

I agree in some sense, and so suggest that the developing countries create their own non-Western antibiotics, chemotherapy, oil-refinery infrastructure, and automobile industries, and in the meantime forego wealthy nation-contaminated jet travel, I-pods, and Viagra. But apparently the Iranian leadership wants both to practice gender apartheid, autocracy, statism, tribalism, religious intolerance, suppression of free expression, AND import chemicals, industry, medicines, machinery, etc. from those who don’t embrace such failed protocols, AND whine that they are still poorer and less powerful. At some point a Churchillian Western should reply back “we created your oil industry, now sell you the expertise to maintain it, buy your product for $120 a barrel that costs you $5 to pump—and hope you can Westernize in this brief window of windfall profits before we get off oil and leave you to your own devices.”

Lay Off the Race Card—it’s a losing proposition.

I wrote this for the NRO corner:

Why is Obama foolishly evoking race time after time? [Victor Davis Hanson]

And it’s still only July…

Obama’s problems with race have nothing to do with his half -African ancestry or his own experience with racism and unfairness, but boil down to his deftly wanting it both ways: reminding the Germans he is a different sort of American from what they’re used to (false, they knew Rice and Powell well enough), while preempting by suggesting others will evoke race, but in a negative context. But his polls, I wager, will begin to slip from all this, because all this sophisticated triangulation is about to blow up in the public mind.

1) The voter is starting to hear serially from Obama about race; they were promised a racially transcendent candidate, but so far Obama seems obsessed with identity, either accusing others of racism, or using heritage himself for political advantage. This is a tragic blunder.

2) He has the same want-it-both-ways with odious racists: Rev. Wright is a former spiritual advisor, and “brilliant” scholar who nevertheless serially slurs America, whites, Italians, Jews, etc. Ludacris is “a great talent” and “talented” to such an extent Obama wants him in his I-pod menu, and has met with him—but also a racist to be shunned. Ditto Pfleger. A pattern is emerging: Obama associates with or tolerates racists when such quasi-intimacy cements street-cred as an authentic minority or someone cool in the anti-Bush mode; but then when they inevitably revert to form, he not merely casts them off, but is “shocked” at their usual expression, and so like speed bumps they litter the roadway as he barrels ahead.

3). The “typical white person”, grandma under the bus riff, Pennsylvania “clingers” rant etc. , ‘no more disown Rev, Wright/ but now leaving Trinity Church’, etc. themselves are immaterial, but in toto provide a thin margin of tolerance when something like Ludacris or Obama’s latest accusation of racism surfaces.

4) Right now Obama does not need to solidify his 90% African-American base or the Moveon.org white liberal adherents; but instead he must remember why he lost all those primaries to Hillary and to what degree his campaign since then has addressed those concerns that lost him those electorates. When a West Virginian hears that Obama is accusing others of racism, or hears him promise that racial reparations will now be a matter of government deeds not words, or a rapper brags he is a favorite of Obama and then slurs Clinton, McCain, Bush in thinly disguised racist terms, it starts to create an image of someone who is not bringing people together, but precisely the opposite.

Why all this? Inexperience and hubris—the same overconfidence that makes him say we need a Pentagon-sized new civilian aid department, to inflate our tires to avoid drilling, and must stop merely talking about reparations and starting doing something about them. His handlers need to return to the teleprompter, since all these incidents have in common the impromptu moment.

07/31 09:12 PM