Work and Days

The Would-be Presidents


Embryonic Research

What are we to make of the recent news that adult stem cells can be altered to revert to their embryonic forms for purposes of disease research? If true it brings us back to the 2004 election, and the Michael J. Fox commercials and campaigning, along with the references to Christopher Reeve. The overt message was that Bush’s insistence that we not harvest human embryos was somehow a murder sentence to those suffering life-threatening diseases, or spinal-cord injuries.

Now not a peep, of course, about the latest developments. But perhaps the lesson applies to global warming as well: we presently simply don’t know the exact truth about heating up the planet, or why the furor has crested now. But it may well be true in 4-5 years that comprehensive new research may make our current hysteria likewise ‘dated.’

The Edwards Surge

It is hard to believe in the latest Edwards’ “win” in the debate and his surge in the campaign. His hypocrisy hinges on the fact that he has been a trial lawyer, who, like many, found a way to match and trump the corporate elite—and enjoyed the spoils of such success, from his cushy lifestyle to expansive estate.

So it is laughable to hear his populist rhetoric when most of his professional life was geared to finding a way to live rather high off the hog from litigation. When he talks of “two nations” it is always in terms of a zero-sum game—in which for every single rich man (like him), several others less fortunate must do with less.

On the other hand, should the field have had been crowded with hard leftists, and there was an opening on the moderate/right wing of the Democratic Party, surely Edwards would have reverted back to his Southern senator mode who voted for the war, gave fiery speeches about worries over WMD in Iraq, and was once considered a “centrist” in his senatorial campaign.

So why the latest attention? As a trial lawyer famous for his summations, he knows how to pontificate and debate and those skills are beginning to show. Second, Edwards has finally found a way to translate his past abilities in shaking down corporations through law suits into a sort of populist rage in which government under his aegis would suffer the same—sort of like 300 million of us having Edwards suing our government for every sort of monetary recompense for our collective suffering.


Hoi Clintones

Conventional wisdom has it that Al Gore erred in banishing Bill Clinton from his 2000 campaign, on grounds of the disgrace of Monica et al. But Gore captured the popular vote anyway, and he knew well that Clinton had never won 50% of the presidential vote. So the question of Bill emeritus as a plus or minus hasn’t been settled.

I would err on the side of muzzling him. Bringing him in now (or both the mother and daughter) to balance Oprah is risky—it makes Hillary look panicky and in need of her husband to protect or energize her. And as a narcissist and egomaniac, he inevitably talks ad nauseam about himself. He is a distraction since he is prone both to untruth (cf. his “always against the war” claims) and hyperbole (such as his latest praise of Hillary, “I thought she was the most gifted person of our generation”). Mark my words: in one of every two speeches on the stump, he will say something inaccurate, self-serving, or gratuitously mean, and thereby take another day of attention away from Hillary.

Then there is the Freudian thing, in which, as mentioned here a few posts ago, it is not altogether clear he wants her to win (cf. his supposed offer to her years ago: “You know, you really should dump me and go back home to Chicago or go to New York and take one of those offers you’ve got and run for office.”)

By bringing up “dump” we immediate get transported back to all the things that would have justified just that—and none of them are Hillary’s multifarious job opportunities without him. Just the opposite: we think that while she should have dumped him, she stayed with him because she always thought such proximity to such a slick and gifted politician might eventually land her “offers”—as it did.

The Illegal Immigration Land Mine

Democrats and their apologists keep insisting that either illegal immigration is not really an issue, or, that to the extent it is, it only wins Democrats Latino voters. Three things: as of yet the vast voting Latino bloc simply has not emerged; two, all the polls show overwhelming opposition to illegal immigration; three, African-Americans are against it, as are Asians; so legitimate worry over wide-open borders is hardly the equivalent to a Lou Dobbsian “nativist” spasm.

This is a losing issue for Democrats. In today’s press releases and punditry, the National Council of La Raza is often referenced and approvingly quoted. So those alleging that others are nativists or tribalists have now aligned themselves with The National Council of—the Race?

Doesn’t anyone grasp that La Raza (“the race”) should be a toxic term—a 60’s separatist and racist rubric that should have long ago dropped from popular American parlance? Even the recent Univision debate is a reminder why one wouldn’t wish an officially bi-lingual society: the moderator Jorge Ramos is a tribalist of the first order, and the format, with clumsy translations, ear-pieces falling out, and repetition and confusion, reminds one how intellectual commerce simply comes to a halt when everything must be translated rather than simply communicated in a shared language.

All this is so silly: an attritionist position is all Democrats need to mouth: close the border, allow Mexico its privileged 150,000 or so green carders and legal citizens, and then deal with the 10-15 million illegal aliens on an ad hoc basis: some illegals will wish to return home; some can be deported who committed crimes or just arrived; some will marry American citizens; and some long-standing residents with solid work records can stay and apply for earned citizenship. Once the hundreds of thousands stop coming each year, the pool is static and the formidable powers of American assimilation will make all these worries over multiculturalism and bilingualism moot.

As long as Republicans avoid advocating blanket, mass deportations, the issue favors them.

The Clintons as Demosthenes?

It was quite entertaining to hear the Clinton people drudge up Obama’s confessionals about using drugs, proclaiming they were now airing them only in worry that the Republican attack machine might do worse later—classical praeteritio (e.g., ‘as far as my opponent’s drug use, let us not mention it’).

In the past we have seen the use of apophasis, in something like ‘As far as stories about Obama’s Muslim madrassa past, we think such slurs are entirely inappropriate’ (the use of denial to make a positive statement). Before the campaign is over, every classical rhetorical trope will be exhausted—and we haven’t even seen yet the entrance of the nasty relief staff like Begala and Carville.

The Old War Horse

Republicans have serially lambasted McCain for positions deemed hardly conservative—like the immigration bill, McCain-Feingold, opposition to the tax cuts, and extremely nasty past attacks on Rumsfeld, well beyond what was civil. He also looks tired and old, and at times not well. His temper is a matter of record.

And yet—of all the candidates McCain seems the most direct and principled. He did the country an enormous service by advocating the surge, defending it, and never inching away when most last spring were. I enjoy watching him debate. His line about being ‘tied up’ about the time of Woodstock was poignant and the best of the campaign. Give his past injuries and health problems, and his age, his current break-neck pace is nothing short of miraculous. I couldn’t last a week doing what he does in a day.

Whatever his supposed flaws as a candidate, his military service and candor, along with his energy, intelligence, character, and wit, make him a national treasure. If he doesn’t make it (and I’m not yet convinced he won’t), he would be a great VP candidate or cabinet official.


Marines

Last weekend I spoke to a number of returning Marines in San Diego. Some were veterans of Haditha tangentially involved in the incident and libeled by Congressman Murtha (e.g., “there was no firefight, there was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”)

They were all courageous young men, who shared their experiences candidly, and had fought with honor and professionally even while they were pitted against savage jihadists who used women and children, both actively and passively, to kill them, while they were libeled at home by their own representatives. Many are leaving the corps, despite excellent records of combat. When one reviews the Haditha coverage and Murtha’s charges, one is struck once again by the media’s use of unnamed sources to spin and fabricate.

I can’t think of any war in which there have been so few atrocities, but so many false allegations of them—going back to the flushed Koran at Guantanamo to the New Republic’s falsities. And all the while either few if any apologies arise from the fabulists.

In the end the rantings of a Sean Penn, Dick Durbin, Moveon.org, Tim Robbins, Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy and so on become just a blur, a sad reflection of some very unhappy maladjusted people of influence who have attacked the very military who protects them for either partisan advantage or some twisted sort of psychological penance.