Work and Days

The Tragic Self

How We Got Where We Are—Turning Points of the Primaries

Candidates have intrinsic strengths and make their own fate, but the primary campaign did not necessarily have to end up where it did—since the following events were as pivotal as they were unexpected

1. Bill Clinton’s decision to drop the bite-the-lip therapeutic self and revert to the war-room hack, which along with Hillary’s clumsy civil rights revisionism turned off the liberal media.

2. Michelle Obama’s fiery speeches, that along with Oprah’s omnipresence, ended all notion that Barrack Obama was not black enough, and helped solidify the African-American base.

3. The Obama team’s decision to avoid detail and concentrate on his rock-star sermons on “change” and “hope”, that hypnotized voters, who after they woke and found he had said nothing had already joined the pied piper. In contrast, Huckabee’s specifics—fair tax, Bush’s “arrogant” foreign policy, invading Pakistan—proved the dangers of a rookie not talking only about “hope and change.”

4. Rudy Giuliani’s disastrous decision to delay, forgo face time and press coverage, and invest in Florida, based on the false assumption that leads in the national polls are static and are immune from the human desire to switch and side with the winner—even if the perception was created in tiny caucuses or small states primaries.

5. The New York Times’ decision to run serial stories on Giuliani’s personal life and petty sins of a decade prior.

6. Hillary’s scripted tear that gave her a second chance even as her cackle and screeching voice helped lose the first

7. The success of the surge by September/October that gave the McCain candidacy not only a second life, but also sanctioned his lonely and principled stand on the war when few were willing to invest in Iraq.

8. Mitt Romney’s decision to go negative in TV ads rather than give uplifting human speeches that proved effective only at the very end of his effort

9. Talk radio and right-wing base attacks on McCain that won him fides with independents and moderates, and some sympathy from mainstream Republicans

10. The vast dislike of the Clintons in the media, punditry, and among Democratic politicians–cf. Bill’s lectures and finger pointing and Hillary’s whining– who were all looking for a spark to ignite

He Kept Us Safe?

If we are not hit again, and if Iraq continues to settle down, in five years President Bush will be reassessed as the one who kept us safe after 9/11 when popular wisdom insisted that more attacks were to come. Soon someone will write a history detailing the losses al Qaeda suffered in Afghanistan and Iraq from a perspective other than “we created more terrorists”— such as “we killed thousands of committed terrorists over there, not here.”

The Illinois Shooter

No one has an answer to these serial incidents of deranged shooters murdering students. Explanations abound: the culture of the violent video game blurs reality; lack of meds; cultural relativism; easy access to guns; inability of ‘normal’ people to carry concealed guns, etc.

After watching dozens of news reports on the incident, I know all I want to know about the murderer and all the catalysts. My only reaction to this? Had this taken place in 1935 or 1948, the reports would have talked of a “no-good” or an “evil” “criminal” and wondered where the “cops” were and why someone did not shoot him in mediis rebus—and we would have learned very little of his psychological state, upbringing or even motivation other than he was “crazy” or “a monster”.

California’s implosion

Apparently we are back to Gray Davis-like multibillion deficits again. The problem is not Republican or Democratic in California, but structural and built on three dilemmas. Our high income taxes, spiraling sales taxes, and high property assessments are driving out to neighboring, low- tax states our upper-middle class taxpayers. Meanwhile illegal immigration has led to a quarter-million or so a year of illegal aliens arriving without high school diplomas. The results are vanishing high tax-payers, and more and more of those in need of subsidies and entitlements.

Two, the UC, CSU, JC and high-school and grade school systems have been micromanaged from the legislature, and are now largely therapeutic. For thirty years, we have raised an entire generation that cannot read, compute, or reason in a competent fashion, while being indoctrinated that they are important, “somebody” and deserving of esteem. The result is that our educational, political, and government leadership is, well, mostly ignorant, borrowing to create programs and entitlements while state infrastructure was allowed to deteriorate and languish.

Finally, the baby-boomer mentality of “me first” is parasitic: prior generations built our freeways, airports, universities, ports, and rail for us to enjoy. So we ran on their fumes, had a good time, and never invested for our own children. The port at LA has no quick exit links, LAX is a nightmarish airport; the UC campuses (cf. the catalog curriculum at UC Santa Cruz) are noncompetitive; I-5, 101, and the 99 are in perpetual catch-up expansion mode; there is essentially only two all-weather ways to leave the state from West to East over or around the Sierra.

The strangest development is the mixture of the primordial and the postmodern: I get lengthy ag and environmental reports to fill out about a tiny 40-acre parcel that would require a PhD to fathom, and are no doubt filed and forgotten—even as down the road every imaginable zoning, health, and environmental violation is ignored. While I was trying to figure out the exact number of pipeline feet on the farm (who cares?) on my government form, one-quarter mile a way, several Winnebago’s on wheels, outhouses, and dozens live in supposedly single-house parcel. The logic: apparently I am more likely to follow the nonsensical law, while the others are beyond hope in meeting the very critical statute. The felony is now so egregious and widespread that it is mostly unenforceable, so the bureaucratic mind always prefers the misdemeanor that can be addressed.

Meanwhile Back on the Clash of Civilizations Front

British police chiefs claim that there were 17,000 reported crimes of honor “violence” (including murder) last year in the UK. Surely this must be a mistake? Are we to believe that over 45 Middle Eastern UK residents are beaten or killed every day?

Consider the antithesis this past week:

Them—honor violence in the UK; plot broken up to kill the Danish cartoonists; Turkish Prime Minister announces in Germany to Turkish residents that assimilation is a crime against humanity; videos posted of al Qaeda burning prisoners alive; reports of Al Qaeda recruiting women with Down’s syndrome and other mental ailments to serve as human bombs.

Us—Archbishop of Canterbury announces imposition of Sharia Law is “unavoidable; Congress shuts down without passing renewal of ant-terrorist statutes; Obama reiterates proposed withdrawal from Iraq within 60 days of his inauguration; Hirsi Ali pleads in vain for EU security details while in Europe; Nancy Pelosi announces surge has “failed”; Zbigniew Brzezinski visits Syria at time marquee terrorists are murdered, and exposed as having lived here with full knowledge of government.

So the question remains, is the third millennium up to battle against the first? Are we arguing over wiretaps while al Qaeda burns its captives alive in Iraq?


Barrack Obama’s team should begin to worry that in the popular culture and even the mainstream media, people are beginning automatically to associate his set speech with vapidity, “hope” and “change” with saying nothing. If not curtailed, that Pavlovian identification will take on a life of its own.

Historians will wonder at what point the post-racialist Obama, who, it was alleged, “was not black enough”, transmogrified into “The Black Candidate” and began winning 85-95% of the black vote, even when head-to-head with the wife of the honorary “black” president. The downside, as Hillary’s campaign seems to be trying to exploit, is that racial identity politics married with appeals to upscale yuppie whites, is beginning to turn off other minorities such as Asians and Hispanics, as well as working whites. One lives and dies with appeals to the tribe, whether intended or not. A good example was Cruz Bustamante’s run for governor during the California Gray Davis recall. Suddenly commercials ran with crowds of Mexican-Americans shouting and waving red flags, and his ratings nosedived with each spot that aired.

Obama may well capture the nomination, but there is an outside chance that he will lose to Hillary all the key states so important in the general elections—California, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Not a good sign for the November elections.

Much of the rhetoric of the Obama campaign concerns mortgage and student loans, with the clear implication that the borrower has been victimized, and is need of federal redress. Two observations: prior to the mortgage meltdown, the rhetoric had been “home ownership” or the notion that the “non-traditional” borrower had to be accommodated to get him into a first home. Now such marginal borrowers apparently were “tricked”, or coerced into buying more home than they could afford.

The same logic will apply to student loans, as we begin to hear all sorts of bail-out programs aimed at those “burdened”. Perhaps true, but in a great many of cases, many had no business going into debt for college, since they were not yet motivated and only limped through the undergraduate years, attending class haphazardly in a holding pattern, unsure whether to graduate or work or sort of both.

It may be a conservative canard, but the common theme of the Obama rhetoric is that the US is a depressingly oppressive place, where the poor citizen has not much income and gets no help from an uncaring government. It all sounds like 1929, not the entitlement colossus of 2008.