The Race Tightens Up (Again and Again)
McCain Versus Obama
It is interesting how Obama has been evolving toward McCain’s positions rather than vice versa. Take Iran. At first, to Obama it posed little threat; now it is a danger large indeed—as McCain insisted all along. Obama used to ridicule the surge and claim it had failed; now he assures us that it has worked beyond our wildest dreams. Obama was opposed to oil drilling, and was silent about coal and nuclear power. Now suddenly he has dropped mention of inflating our tires, and is referring to oil, gas, coal, and nuclear production as legitimate means to wean ourselves off foreign oil. In political terms, all this is wise, since voters ultimately want to be reassured about centrist positions rather than worry over consistency. As Anbar quiets and we leave, expect him to suggest his pressure and criticism were responsible for the Iraqi government's turn-about.
On matters like abortion, capital punishment, gun control and FISA, Obama again moves closer to McCain rather than vice versa. Apparently, he realizes that no northern Democratic liberal has been elected since JFK, nearly a half-century ago—an amazing fact in and of itself—and so has to follow the Bill Clinton centrist route, which can be accomplished by a variety of measures.
Thus Biden is playing up his distant Scranton childhood; Michelle is muzzled; Ayers, Pfleger, and Wright are no doubt somewhere in suspended animation; and Obama has suddenly dropped all talk of reparations, oppression studies, America’s tragic history, typical white people, etc. And when he does start in on his preemptory “they’re going after me” stump whine, he doesn’t mention race, only his name and the faux charge of being a Muslim. Again, if he continues, in another month he won’t sound like a Pelosi liberal anymore, and perhaps eat into the working class white voting block.
Where do the candidates then differ? Mostly on taxes and spending. Obama would raise most taxes, albeit mostly (but not completely) on the more affluent, by ending FICA limits, raising income rates, upping capital gains, and raising the death tax. He would use the resulting trillions (if such taxation did not itself stifle economic growth and thus not bring in additional revenue) not to pay off the deficit, but to fund new entitlements in education, health, and housing.
McCain would not likely create new programs or new government health and education entitlements, but hope to cut where he could and lower the deficit by spending restraint rather than by new taxation. In times of recession, I think cutting spending is far preferable to raising any taxes on anyone. Bottom line: for a couple making $300,000, there would probably be at least $20,000 more to pay to the fed, and that money in turn would be redirected to a couple making $50,000 in various additional entitlements. If one lives in a high-tax New York or California, one can imagine paying 60-65% of much of one’s income going to FICA, federal and state taxes, on top of capital gains, property and sales taxes.
Obama would appoint more judges like Breyer and Ginsburg, McCain more like Roberts and Alito. That seems a wide difference. I don’t think the Right will allow another Souter or Kennedy, and the Left would never allow, one time, anyone like Roberts.
On foreign policy, Obama would, to be fair, return more to the Clinton than the Carter model—welcome to some after the blood and treasure lost in the Iraqi war, frightening to others, as they remember the 1990s and the serial terrorist attacks on US soldiers and diplomats that went unanswered and logically led to 9/11.
A forgotten difference is that Obama has navigated a great deal in the Ivy League, Chicago’s corrupt politics, and Trinity Church, without executive or managerial experience and without a lot of knowledge of Middle America. One does not see any antithesis on his part to all this, in the manner Palin took on the old-boy, corrupt Republican Alaskan establishment.
I have led a sort of schizophrenic life, growing up and living in rural Selma, farming, and remodeling various farm houses and buildings, juxtaposed with graduate school at Stanford and years working, speaking, and writing in academic environments. From my perspective, I have been far more comfortable with, and have far more confidence in, the pragmatic judgment and worldview of rural America than I have found among the blinkered and intolerant sophisticated and educated elite. Out of politeness, I’ll stop there, since I confess that Columbia, Harvard, Chicago wards, and Trinity Church do not offer any stimulus for pragmatism, self-reliance, or American exceptionalism, but are landscapes in which government is the answer, a particular elite know best, politics is the art of dispersing someone else’s money, and America is to blamed first not last in matters of controversy.
Obama would now be far better prepared had he taken a three-year hiatus from community organizing in Chicago and gone downstate to work with struggling Illinois farmers—or better yet, apprenticed for a year on a John Deere and “seen the world” so to speak.
For some reason the nation is arguing over whether the Republican Vice Presidential nominee is as minimally qualified for office as the Democratic Presidential nominee, and that simply can't be good for Obama.
The Boomerang keeps on boomeranging
I wrote last week in several venues that this media hysteria over Sarah Palin would incite a terrible backlash, manifested in furor expressed at the New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, etc., the climb in the McCain-Palin polls, and a surge in Republican fund-raising. I think that has already happened. An outraged Chris Matthews or snide Andrew Mitchell or disappointed Anderson Cooper should in toto be worth 2-3 points for McCain.
For some Pavlovian reason, the media’s talking heads still harangue about Palin’s oration being written by a speech writer, as they send hundreds of reporters scurrying to Alaska to talk to the sorry miscreant brother-in-law trooper. No such emissaries were sent to inquire about Biden; when a freelance inquirer like Stanley Kurtz tries to wade through the Obama archives, he’s met with institutional obstacles. Isn't there one honest person in the media who will stand up to the madness, and cry "ENOUGH!"?
My favorite example was the dour CNN reporter interrogating the Palin former brother-in-lawyer trooper. Even he seemed taken back at the fellow’s maze of transgressions, as we inadvertently learned that, as a state trooper, the ex-brother-in-law was drinking on the job, shot a moose out of season, really did Taser his step-son, and is now married and divorced four times. The question is not whether Gov. Palin worried that this miscreant should be fired, or why the poor trooper went public, but why CNN itself thought it could extract anything negative about Palin after talking to this confused employee. If anything, the entire episode was a reminder how state bureaucracies and employee unions have conspired to make it impossible to fire anyone for anything.
In the Palin case, there seems a sort of the straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back phenomenon about the sheer hypocrisy of the elite liberal media. For decades they have been championing the independent, audacious woman, which, we learn, only meant any female that toed the hyper-liberal, secular, pro-abortion, affirmative-action, big government, more entitlement, and power-couple professional agenda. But more importantly, we learn that there is a gatekeeper sect who adjudicates who is a proper feminist and who is not, and its top rung is limited to an New York-Washington DC economic, political and journalistic/media elite, with auxiliary status accorded to the southern California and Bay Area wealthy celebrity crowd.
Perhaps Andrea Mitchell summed up the assumptions best when she explained why no sane feminist would vote for McCain/Palin: “She is not appealing to the same women who were really voting or supporting Hillary Clinton on ideological issues but they think that they can peel off some of these working class women, not college educated, who, the blue collar women who were voting for Hillary Clinton and may be more conservative on social causes.” But wait, Sarah Palin is college educated—with the same degree BA degree that Andrea Mitchell received—at least if non Ivy-League University of Idaho still counts in the mindset of New York and Washington.
As I wrote last time, one artifact of this creepy frenzy is reexamination of how today’s uberwoman really makes it to the top. And the answer is revealing since it is surely not the way Sarah Palin did, with the small-town, rural Alaska, Idaho BA, five kids, calloused-handed, snowmobiling husband resume.
Who Will Police the Feminist Police?
So I invite readers to play a small game with me, and recall in various fields as many liberal feminist icons as they can, especially in politics or the media. Ponder their pedigrees and then speculate just how they reached their present celebrity and influence. And, lastly, ask whether it has anything to do with the much reviled old-boy patrimonial lineage or the much caricatured old-boy matrimonial connections. Here I mean again politicians like Barbara Boxer, Hillary Clinton, Diane Feinstein, Mary Landrieu, Nancy Pelosi, or a media person like Campbell Brown, Gail Collins, Andrea Mitchell, or Sally Quinn.
Let’s briefly collate some, and then see just how many powerhouse-feminists were either (a) themselves the daughters of powerful politicians; (b) married insider politicians or government officials, or influential media figures, or (c) inherited substantial money or found plenty of income by marrying wealthy men who energized their careers.
An Ode to Palin
I predict we will be astonished that in comparison to their normal cursus honorum, Sarah Palin’s up-by-the-bootstraps background is itself nothing short of astonishing. Here, I don’t wish to suggest that one finds enormous success without talent, or is to be criticized de factis for being lucky by birth or in marriage, only to suggest that all these woman who themselves tsk, tsk Palin should take a deep breath and ask themselves whether they would have made it as Vice Presidential candidate should they have shared the Palin background.
The View from the Distant Shore
Apparently the federal government is going to open up coastal waters for wind turbines. But we all know that in key places off the coasts of Massachusetts and California suddenly we will hear that the windmills are either dangerous, harmful to wildlife, uneconomical, and any other reasons to stop these obstructions from marring once scenic views from the living rooms of the blessed. Here I think the left has it all wrong: with new horizontal drilling techniques, it would be far less conspicuous to go after gas and oil.
Many readers questioned my suggestion that the Democrats should try nominating from a field far wider than just lawyers. I have nothing against lawyers (my mother was an appellate court justice and I remember her advice that “a competent honest lawyer is a treasure”.) My point is only that modern legal training, given the nature of our now hyper-litigious society, should not become the only requisite background for Presidential candidates. I think that worry was no exaggeration, since every Democratic nominee for both President and Vice President, since Jimmy Carter (with the exception of Al Gore who did not finish law school), has been a lawyer. Again, the point was really presidential diversity, not that legal training is not valuable.
I don’t think my comments about Palin are partisan. Read what David Frum, Dr. Laura, Peggy Noonan, George Will and a host of other conservatives have written about the choice. Whereas, as one reader noted, a Michael Savage can tear her apart, or a Charles Krauthammer can worry over her qualifications, I don’t think Democratic pundits expressed worry over Joe Biden, although his own past had plenty of reasons to evoke worry, whether we talk of plagiarism, invented bios, terrible performances as a Senate judiciary inquirer, or hare-brained foreign policy ideas, and so on.
I don’t know yet how Palin will do on the stump as a candidate; I do know her Middle-America credentials and conservative ideas have sent a particular elite into apoplexy not seen since the Clarence Thomas appointment. And why powerful conservative women or independent black intellectuals do that to the liberal mindset (who should applaud the success of “the other”), is an interesting question all in itself.
I have been following both the medical problems of Ted Kennedy and Robert Novak very carefully, perhaps because my mother Pauline Davis Hanson, an appellate justice at the Fifth District in California, died, in perfect health, in her sixties in 1989 from a malignant brain tumor— initially (her tumors were removed twice by surgery) wrongly thought to have been a benign meningioma.
It was a terrible time, and I now remember most of it as a blur as I camped out for months in the university library (in the days before the internet for me) reading every scholarly article I could find on the typologies, courses, and treatments of various brain tumors, and then trying to cross-reference that information with dozens of surgeons and oncologists. In the end, all was for naught. And I still second-guess myself daily that I might have erred in directing her to a particular course of treatment, among the very many experimental regimens that were offered in the late 1980s, that unfortunately not only did not bring a cure, but made things far worse—and caused her a great deal of discomfort from the effects of that particular toxic chemotherapy.
So I hope both Kennedy and Novak can beat the diagnoses—even if they prove to be glioblastomas, which, unlike meningiomas, are not so encapsulated and never benign. I disagreed adamantly with Novak on Iraq, and, decades ago, thought both his politics and manner in presenting them were often unnecessarily over the top. That said, I have always liked him, even more so in recent years, since he has a twinkle in his eye, was of good humor, and never seemed to have held a grudge.
I once watched an interview with him about his newfound Catholic faith and found him sincere and at times moving. I read his memoir and, again, found his candor and ‘prince of darkness’ humor admirable. For me the heavies in the Plame affair were two: Joe Wilson who simply could not tell the truth, and exaggerated almost everything he came into contact with, in flamboyant and obnoxious style; and Richard Armitage who knew from the beginning, that he, not Scooter Libby, had first been told about Plame’s status and passed it on to others—and yet reminded publicly silent about it while someone else was demonized for just those supposed transgressions.
So I hope both Novak and Kennedy can beat these tumors and survive well through their eighties—possible perhaps given recent enormous breakthroughs in the treatment of such tumors.
Good luck to both and God bless them!
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