Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is Cleanliness Next to Conservatism?

By this standard, The Oracle may be a closet liberal -- and my new co-blogger Lanette would possibly be an out and out socialist.

I am sure to be in trouble for that.

Hat Tip: ACK

The Show Me Nation

All year long, Beltway insiders have wondered about the fools across the heartland who ignored arguments about the importance of experience. How could the naves choose Obama over Clinton? How could they cheer on Palin?

The last two weeks we have seen what all of that Washington experience looks like in what has been described by those lBeltway eaders as the biggest economic crisis in seven decades.

If you're impressed with what you've seen from either party, raise your hands.

That's what I thought.

We have a political culture that has lost the ability to be serious -- even when duty demands it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Financial Brink?

Aside from the partisan sniping inevitably following the failed vote by Congress of a taxpayer "bailout" (aka "rescue") of America's financial services industry, what can be said about the day's shocking events in Washington?

1. Can anyone state an argument for not removing the leaders of both parties in the House from their respective positions? After hearing that negotiations had taken place all weekend and that a vote had been set for today, I laughed aside headlines suggesting that the outcome of the vote was in doubt. The laughter turned out to be wrong because it was based in a trust in the competence of congressional leaders. One of the core competencies of legislative leaders involves the ability to count noses, and it is inconceivable that such momentous legislation was brought to a vote without any certainty that it had the votes to pass.

Speaker Pelosi would blame Minority Leader Boehner for the failure of Republicans to do their part, and Mr. Boehner criticizes Ms. Pelosi for her insulting speech costing votes just before the tally began. They are both right. Mr. Boehner should have had his count. As for Ms. Pelosi, while she and Barney Frank can complain that Republicans should not change votes because they have been insulted, one must remember this: those Republicans never were wholly convinced that the legislation was good. They were leaning one direction over the fence. Ms. Pelosi's offensive remarks pushed them the other direction. No serious responsible leader would have done that. Can anyone imagine Tip O'Neill attacking people who's votes were needed in that way?

2. 40% of Democrats and 2/3 of Republicans voted against the bailout. There is, of course, irony in the fact that more Democrats than Republicans wished to bailout Wall Street financiers. However, Republicans are somewhat more opposed to government interventions regardless of the beneficiary. Even so, this was not really a vote that broke between liberals on one side and conservatives on the other. There were groups of both on each side of the vote. Rather, on one side were those who believed that the country stands on the precipice of a great depression, and on the other were those who find that first group to be made up of the heirs of Chicken Little.

3. While both sides bear some blame for the failure of the bill, ultimately the vote today was a greater risk for the Republican Party. Just because Chicken Little was wrong does not mean that the sky really could not fall, and if it does, Republicans will be standing conspicuously amidst the rubble. The 110 page bill voted on today included concessions to conservatives that improved it over the initial 3 page carte blanche for Secretary Paulson, and it is breathtaking that not enough Republicans crossed over to pass the bill.

4. What will Congress do next in light of the fact that many remain convinced that we are on the brink of a financial collapse? Who can say at this point? Can any bill providing for a bailout of some sort achieve a majority vote?

5. Are we actually on the brink of a financial collapse? Today's plunge of the stock market notwithstanding, it is not clear whether anyone knows the answer to that. However, one senses that we will know very soon.

Spiritual Journey

I have recently developed a working knowledge of predestination, one of the beliefs in Calvinism, or as Calvinists say- the gospel. However, I have had a hard time with the concept of God's election of a select few. It doesn't seem right for a loving God to only pick certain ones from the beginning of time; yet none of us deserve His grace and salvation.

Recently, I debated someone who has a false impression of what Calvinism is, so this is what I told her: "No sinner ever makes himself choose God and His holiness. It is God who chooses us. Calvinists believe God's election is unconditional and sovereign. John 15:16 'Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.' Here is an example of God's election; Romans 9:11-13: 'For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated;' and verse 16: 'So then, it is not of him that: willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.'
It is not the Calvinist viewpoint that we make no decisions or that we cannot accept Christ. Although, it is true that no one can accept Christ on our own, and even non-Calvinists believe that."

There are certain beliefs in Reformed theology that I hold to, most noteably that God is not only the author, but He is the finisher of our faith and that He will complete the good work He has started. This, of course, is based on Biblical passages that most Christians know well, but many still hold to the belief that after salvation, growth in Christ is dependent on them and not on the work of the Holy Spirit.

Yesterday, during a Bible study, I came across this passage in Ephesians 1: 3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him In love
5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved."

The Bible is quite clear that predestination is very much indeed part of the Lord's holy plan. That being said; to think the call goes out to all hearts to be accepted or rejected is something that I can easily accept when people reject the Lord. Knowing that He chose me for no discernable reason from the foundations of the world but not everyone makes me sad for those He has not.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Music City Oracle Becomes Group Blog

A second author is being added to the Music City Oracle. Soon, readers will notice posts written by a writer going by the name Lanette. She has been a somewhat frequent commenter on the site over the last few months.

Lanette is a native Texan and combines a free-spirited personality with politically conservative views. She enjoys writing, though up until now she has primarily written fiction. She has a fantasy novel in the works.

Oh, and she's hot. But don't tell anyone.

Regardless of that last point, I am looking forward to her contributions to the blog.

Warning: Kleenex may be required for this one

The amazing Faske family has 17 children. 15 of them are adopted, mostly from orphanages in an array of other nations and with special needs.

As reported in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, here is the story of their most recent adoption:

The infant suffered from biliary atresia, a rare condition in newborns in which the bile duct between the liver and small intestine is blocked or absent. He also was severely malnourished. In photos, the infant’s skin and the whites of his eyes were turning yellow.

The boy desperately needed a liver transplant.

A part of Jay Faske felt compelled to intervene on behalf of this little one — if they didn’t save him, who would? — but he and his wife had to consider the incalculable cost of medical treatment, and the husband’s fear of the unknown weighed heavily.

"Jay was scared of having a child we could lose," said his wife, who started an orphan ministry at Brenham’s First Baptist Church. "What would it do to the rest of our family?"

One day four years ago the Faskes gathered with their children in the living room of their rural residence. Jay told them the family had a decision to make.

The Faskes could build the swimming pool they wanted — or bring a sick little boy home.

The Faskes didn’t have money for both.

Backyard summer fun or another mouth to feed?

"It’s a silent vote," Jay explained.

Confident he knew the outcome, the father handed out a piece of paper — a ballot — to each child.

They were asked to vote by writing "Jonah" or "swimming pool."
Without discussion the children considered the options and dutifully marked their private ballots and passed them back to their father.

Jay unfolded the first scrap of paper.

He looked at another, then another, and another . . . and as the tally grew he wondered — his blue eyes welling — how he could have underestimated them, misjudged them so.

How wrong he had been.

The vote wasn’t even close.

It was unanimous.

"I guess," the father announced, when he found his voice, "we’re going to Colombia."

Read the rest here.

The Amount of the Financial Services Bailout?

Well, not really, but as of this hour negotiations are ongoing.

Mathematicians at UCLA have identified the largest known prime number: it has 13 million digits.

A prime number is one that is only divisible by two whole numbers: one and itself.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Who Is in the Majority?

Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and other Democrats who have forgotten how to count this morning are blaming House Republicans, while taking a potshot at John McCain for good measure, for derailing budget negotiations over the financial services bailout plan they are attempting, along with the Republican President's financial advisers, to railroad through Congress?

Of course, House Republicans can't stop anything. They are in the minority. Even if every single House Republican opposed the plan -- and nothing close to that would actually happen -- those favoring the plan could ram it through.

The truth is that the Democrats want political cover as they bail out their Wall Street friends. Congressional Democrats love to rail against corporate welfare, but at the end of the day, their desire to deliver for their own group of corporate friends causes them to resent the final stand of a group of fiscally conservative Republicans who really do resist corporate welfare on principle.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Debate or No Debate: Who Cares?

Presidential election debates have rarely provided any substantive value since they were instituted as things that voters must endure starting with the 1980 campaign. If all of them were cancelled, we really wouldn't be any worse off for it. The reasons given by the McCain campaign for his potentially not debating on Friday reveal their utterly spurious nature.

Mr. McCain seems to consider it inappropriate to engage in electioneering and debate at a time when policy decisions affecting the fate of the nation are at stake. But aren't the differences in how the candidates and their parties approach such fateful decision supposed to be what elections are all about?

This is the point at which Sen. McCain -- and much of the American public -- is misguided in his complaints about partisanship. Partisanship for the sake of partisanship -- and for the sake of nothing more than gaining power -- deserves criticism. That kind of partisanship constitutes much of modern politics, and to that extent it is unwelcome at a time of important decision making, but it is not all that partisanship concerns itself with.

Partisanship also is the manifestation of philosophical differences along a spectrum of political belief. What is the role of government in our lives? When is intervention appropriate? When not? In that regard, right now is the perfect time to strip away the irrelevant stylistic concerns that dominate current politics and get down to a broad -- if not deep (one cannot ask too much of modern politicos) -- discussion of how government should face the issues of immediate import.

Lincoln and Douglass could draw a crowd to listen to them debate substantively all day on the Kansas Nebraska Act, Dred Scott, and the like. Why can't we even imagine that Messrs. McCain and Obama could talk coherently and differentiate themselves on the current financial situation for even 20 minutes?

Pundits assure us that our debates are not about policy difference, but about "presentation and poise." Sadly, that is true. Mr. McCain's grandstanding aside, it is really not that important whether he and Mr. Obama debate tomorrow night. Whenever a debate occurs, it will almost assuredly be full of sound and feigned fury, signifying nothing.

The Mother of All Bail Outs

What are we to make of the Bush/Paulson/Bernanke proposal to allocate $700 billion to bail out the financial services sector of the American economy?

One might begin by pointing out that only one thing prevented the proposal from being laughed out of town: fear. Under the proposed legislation, Congress was essentially asked to hand an amount of money equivalent to ¼ of last year’s entire federal budget to the Secretary of the Treasury with the instruction to do with it whatever he saw fit. In the process, he would be expected to engineer something approaching a federal government takeover of a major sector of the U.S. economy. Oh, and there is no time to debate. It must be done right now.

It used to be said that only Nixon could go to China. Well, one supposes that only a Bush administration could take an interventionist approach to the American economy that LBJ and FDR would have never dreamed of.

However, bipartisan fear prevents laughter. Congress relishes the power to make decisions about things that don’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. Now, they face a potential crisis that they are not sure they understand. If they don’t act, will it turn 2008 into 1929 redux? If that happens, it would prove a threat to both their careers and the nation, and between those two things there is something for everyone in Congress to care about.

That being said, there seems to be no will in Congress to take on the root causes of the current crisis. If the United States is now undergoing the risk of a "long and painful recession" that the President spoke of yesterday evening, how did we get to this point? After all, recessions have been few and far between and relatively mild since 1980. None of them required $700 billion to get us out of them. Will Congress address the defects that got us into this mess, or will they just throw a lot of money at the problem while grandstanding about this or that CEO?.

Well, we know the answer to that question, don’t we? It is easier to just throw money at the problem. However, those who do so should consider this: for all of this year, the powers that be in Washington have attempted to address weakness in the economy by focusing on the financial sector and ignoring the burden of inflation on the overall economy. The Fed continued to lower interest rates in spite of inflationary pressures. That has proven counterproductive. Flushing even more cash in the system at this time only increases inflationary pressures, thus sapping buying power from American consumers and inciting employers to trim costs.

Bail out or no bail out, this may not go well for Main Street.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thinking out Loud

I am considering suspending this blog while the Republican candidate for President concludes his bit of moral grandstanding.

Oh, never mind.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Random Observation

It is amazing to note how frequently thoroughly unprincipled people will speak in high minded ways about important moral principles in order to bludgeon genuinely decent people and to promote their own self-interest.

It is both amazing and galling.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Experience and Other Factors

Siris asks, if experience is such an important factor in evaluating presidential candidates, why is it not true that Presidents are not always better in their second terms. In fact, they are usually worse.

Hat Tip: Joe Carter

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Big Government Northwest Style

Earlier this week, before returning my rental car to the airport in Portland, Oregon, I stopped at a convenience store to top off my gas tank. As I removed the gas cap, a man wearing a reflective orange vest scampered toward me.

"Can I help you?" he asked.

"Uh, I am going to fill up with gas," I replied while wondering why this was not completely obvious.

He quickly explained: "In Oregon it's against the law to fill your own tank."

As a result, I handed the man my credit card, so he could stick it in the slot at the pump. He filled my tank, put the gas cap back on, and handed me my receipt after it was printed. It wasn't really like the service provided in service stations of old: he didn't offer to check my oil, nor does he do windows.

Meanwhile, while driving I heard on the radio a report, also discussed here, that Clark County Washington, having taken care of all the serious crime, is pursuing a ban on a resident's ability to wash his own car. The county considers the runoff from such car washes to be inconsistent with the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act. A county official assured listeners that police would not be handing out fines to people soaping up their cars in their own driveways, though the law would prohibit it. Nonetheless, the sorts of charitable car washes commonly conducted by student groups would be shut down under the law.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Caring for People in General but No One in Particular Quote of the Day

"Palin is as bracing as an Arctic breeze and delightfully elicits the condescension of liberals whose enthusiasm for everyday middle-class Americans cannot survive an encounter with one."

--George Will

Speaking of Sarah Palin: while squeezed uncomfortably into a middle seat and declining to pay for a cup of a soft drink that once would have been free on a flight yesterday to the west coast, I glanced over the shoulder of the person sitting next to me and noticed that the Time magazine article she was reading explained that the Republican establishment had the same doubts about Gov. Palin's experience as Democrats have.

That should not be surprising to anyone. Those inside the Beltway have been trying to push the experience argument all year: against Barack Obama in his campaign for the Democratic nomination earlier in the year, and now against Sarah Palin. Perhaps people on both sides of the aisle in Washington should take time to figure out why most people in the rest of the country have decided they don't care:

People who are not on the inside have decided that they are not terribly impressed by the quality of experience that the political establishment has to offer. At a time when the President has an approval rating in the 30% range, and Congress has an approval rating around 20%, voting for experience means getting more of the same. A fresh face is needed.

That is why Democrats and some independents went for Sen. Obama, and why Republicans and some independents are so enthused by Gov. Palin. A fresh face is needed. What we don't need is more of the same.

That is not a welcome message inside Washington. Indeed, they should be concerned. The rest of the country is hoping that, one way or another, the Beltway is shaken up.

"A Different Game"

The passage of time will be necessary before we have enough perspective to sort out what has happened to the financial services industry over the course of this year, so it may be premature to criticize federal regulators for acting precipitously in their bailouts, loans, and other maneuvers designed to prevent our financial services industry from a complete collapse. That being said, whatever the short-term needs of this situation might be, one cannot help to think that in the long-term what has happened is very bad for our way of government. With virtually no congressional debate or public input, the federal government has taken over, financed, and imposed itself upon an enormous segment of the American economy.

Viewed from left, right, or center, that cannot be a good development for representative government.

Meanwhile, even while Congress remains frustrated by its irrelevance in this crisis, lawmakers can be praised at least for the moment for avoiding a do-something-even-if-its-wrong posture. Harry Reid, who rarely is spoken of in a positive way on this site, deserves credit for this candor in explaining why Congress will do nothing on the issue prior to recessing next week: "No one knows what to do."

Monday, September 15, 2008

How Did it Get This Bad?

A few years ago, everyone with any economic sense knew that there was a "housing bubble." That same group also knew that eventually bubbles always burst.

That being the case, how has it turned out that when the bubble burst in an otherwise basically stable economy that the financial services industry appears to be at the brink of total collapse? I understand some individual businesses falling due to bad decision making, poor leadership, inefficiency, and so forth. But the entire industry?

What were the industry missteps? In what ways did the regulatory environment create the problem?

I am not sure that the general public -- including myself -- understands the reasons for the enormity of this collapse. That being the case, one wonders if any new regulatory schemes created by Congress as a result of this will make things worse, not better.

But, at this point, I'm only asking questions.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Are Titans Throwing Young under Bus?

Fort Worth Star-Telegram sports columnist Jennifer Floyd Engel wonders, in the wake of Vince Young's poor performance and off the field personal issues, if the Tennessee Titans have taken as much care of their star as they should have:

So why did Fisher never tamp down talk of VY struggling to read coverages? If Cowboys coach Wade Phillips can repeatedly say Roy Williams is good in coverage, you’d think Fisher could throw down a defense of his quarterback.

And while the events of this week have certainly called into question whether VY has what it takes to be big-time in the NFL, the Titans have not done him any favors. They basically have slapped a big "kick me" sign on his back without a real backup plan.

That coach Jeff Fisher had to risk publicity by calling the police shows a certain level of desperate concern for his distraught quarterback. One hopes that he does well.

Unshackling Education

George Will writes today of a parochial school serving Hispanic students in inner city Chicago with great success:

The school exists to nurture a culture of achievement for children with no other option for college preparation, including those who in public schools might be diverted onto a vocational track. It is not skimming off the cream of the crop of local students; it rejects any who can get accepted by, and afford, other Catholic schools. Some especially promising students are directed to Catholic schools that offer scholarships. Which makes CRJHS's college placement rate especially remarkable: In the past seven years, 99 percent of graduates have been accepted by at least one college, 75 percent of them four-year institutions.

CRJHS can have its work program, its entirely college preparatory courses ("the old, dead white man's curriculum," says an English teacher cheerfully), its zero tolerance of disorder (from gang symbols down to chewing gum), its enforcement of decorum (couples dancing suggestively are told to "leave some space there for the Holy Spirit") and its requirement that every family pay something, if only as little as $25 a month. It can have all this because it is not shackled by bureaucracy or unions, as public schools are.

Read the rest here.

Tennessee Democratic Party to Voters: Go to H***

In a shocking exercise in heavy handed political power, the Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee has overturned the primary win of state senator Rosalind Kurita.

Ms. Kurita had won the primary by a narrow 19 vote margin. Her opponent in the campaign, a lawyer named Tim Barnes, claimed Republicans had "interfered" in the primary, even though Tennessee voters do not register their party affiliations and there was no real evidence of any kind of organized effort by the Republicans to help Ms. Kurita.

In fact, the vote by the executive committee was an exercise in raw political vengeance. Here's the background.

In 2006, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredeson became suddenly and severely ill, with aides attributing the sickness to a tick bite. The administration began to refuse to release information and the governor disappeared for a week or two from public view, causing speculation as to the seriousness of his illness. While the governor eventually recovered fully, his illness focused attention on the fact that had things turned out badly, it would have resulted in the elevation of Lt. Governor John Wilder, a Democrat, to the governorship of the state.

In Tennessee, the Lt. Governor is chosen by the Senate. Whatever the political skills were that initially enabled Lt. Governor Wilder to rise to that position over 30 years ago, by the time that I moved to the state in 1996, he was widely regarded as incompetent. In 2004, I attended a committee hearing at which Mr. Wilder asked a question. After a moment of confusion by the person providing testimony, Mr. Wilder then volunteered that he was sorry and admitted that he didn't know what the meeting was about. This behavior was not unusual. Readers from outside Tennessee may think The Oracle is exaggerating, but it is really not possible to parody real examples of Mr. Wilder's public incoherence.

Mr. Wilder had managed to hang on to his position as Lt. Governor by cobbling together a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to support him. Years before, when Democratic senators (at the time, Democrats held a solid majority in the state senate) made noise about replacing him, Mr. Wilder cut a deal with Republicans to allow some power sharing in exchange for their votes. Democrats were forced to support Mr. Wilder or risk losing the powerful position to Republicans as a result of the party being divided. After Republicans gained a majority in the Senate in 2005 for the first time since Reconstruction, a couple of Republican senators infuriated party regulars by crossing over and allowing Mr. Wilder to remain in his position.

Then, in 2006, Gov. Bredeson's illness brought attention to the fact that a thoroughly incompetent man was one tick bite away from the governor's mansion. Politicians and pundits across the political spectrum began arguing that allowing Mr. Wilder to continue in his position was irresponsible. In response, in 2007, their was speculation that Democratic senator Joe Haynes would challenge Mr. Wilder for the position, but that effort fell apart.

That is the context in which Ms. Kurita cast a vote of conscience. Understanding that it was unconscionable and irresponsible to allow Mr. Wilder to remain Lt. Governor, she essentially broke a tie by voting for Republican Ron Ramsey in the contest for the position. Democrats who previously understood the Wilder problem suddenly expressed shock at her betrayal. And now, the Democrats have overturned a clear vote of her district in a raw exercise of power.

Regardless of party affiliation, this kind of contempt for election outcomes should not stand. One hopes that Tennessee voters will not forget.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

All the News that Will Fit Our Biases

For excerpts revealing how ABC News edited the interview of Sarah Palin in a way that made her look less knowledgeable and more belligerent, see here.

Hat Tip: Instapundit

Classic Pelosi

Demonstrating the kind of political acumen that has brought Congress the lowest approval ratings in American history, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has revealed her plan to allow a vote on legislation that would permit companies to drill for oil in areas where there is no oil.

Yes, that is Speaker Pelosi's answer to high prices for gasoline and the risks inherent in dependence on foreign sources of oil: play a political game where you pretend to do something, but in fact provide absolutely zero solution to the problem. This follows her previous work to make sure that there was no vote at all on a meaningful energy bill prior to the summer recess.

It is no wonder that Americans are looking again at the possibility of a Republican Congress.

Related Stories?

Could it be that these two articles appearing in major newspapers this week bear some relationship to one another?

Healing the Doctor-Patient Divide

More and more Americans feel disconnected from their doctors, especially compared to a generation ago. And they certainly have less confidence in the profession as a whole. In 1966, a Harris Poll found that almost three-quarters of Americans had “a great deal” of confidence in their health care leaders. That number has steadily dropped over the last four decades, so that today only slightly more than a third feel the same way, the same poll shows.

I can’t blame people for losing their confidence in medicine. My mother-in-law has been in and out of hospitals for the past couple of years. While a few of her doctors have been extraordinary, there have also been enough mishaps and misinformation to make me cringe every time the threat of another hospitalization looms.

Studies find knee surgery unnecessary in some cases

Two studies call into question whether many people with arthritis are needlessly undergoing one of the most common operations in America: arthroscopic knee surgery.

It is common nowadays for special interest groups representing doctors and some consumer groups to criticize insurance companies for denying treatment requests. Such criticism is warranted when those companies make financial decisions, as opposed to decisions based on what constitutes reasonable and medically necessary care.

However, most Americans would be shocked at the amount of medical treatment that is not based on clinical evidence or in accord with the professional consensus as to what constitutes best practices. The medical profession needs to pay attention to the serious causes for the loss of patient confidence.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Necessary Trade-offs

The Texas Public Policy Foundation released a study comparing the economies of Texas and California. As summarized in a press release, "According to the study, Texas’ low taxes, reasonable regulations and limited government have created a superior economic climate with growth in income, wealth and employment projected to strengthen relative to California and the nation as a whole."

However, Californians need not worry. While Texas is a better place to get a job, the Center for Public Policy Priorities trumpets the fact that California is a better place not to have one.

Good thing.

No Explanation Required

When New York City attorney John Renehan joined the military, his friends began looking and asking for a "psychological explanation." He describes their reactions:

Perhaps I am in personal crisis. Perhaps I believe that Saddam Hussein knocked down the buildings that used to stand a block from my old office. Perhaps I am angry. The possibility that I am doing an ordinary thing done by many ordinary Americans at all times seems not to have occurred to them.

And so their puzzlement continues. One distressed friend, hearing of my present employment, pounds the table and unleashes obscenities. Another tells people she thinks I’ve “changed.” (My oldest friends tell me I haven’t, which is a comfort.) And another tells me that she’s happy “that you’re doing something you care about,” with the forced enthusiasm of a supportive parent. All of which I try to take with good humor. But I wonder how we came to a point at which young persons—of a class that once viewed military service as an ordinary expression of its own privileged relationship to the state—could come to see the act of entering service as an oddity requiring special explanation.

Indeed, how did we come to that point?

Hat Tip: World Mag Blog

My Precious

Peggy Noonan offers sound advice to Democrats that they seem likely to ignore:

Right now only Mrs. Palin can hurt Mrs. Palin. Messrs. Obama and Biden can't do it and shouldn't try. And the media can't, because more than half the country won't listen to them on this subject now, and for a while. The media could get videotape of Mrs. Palin saying, "We should invade Mars and it will be easy because Mars is hidden inside my hair!" and people would say, "Stop sliming Sarah!"

It is interesting that people from all frames of reference, from all along the political spectrum, have spent the last two weeks advising the Obama campaign to leave Gov. Palin alone and re-focus on delivering their own message and criticizing the top of the Republican ticket. Yet, all of that advice notwithstanding, the Obama campaign and his allies, including his media allies, seem only able to take on the role of Gollum, obsessed and incapable of removing their focus from that small, but powerful, ring.

The Power of Palin and Petroleum

What are we to make of reports of a Gallup Poll suggesting that Republican prospects in congressional elections are improving?

Of course, this is a single poll, and there is plenty of reason to suppose that it may be an outlier. However, even if it overestimates Republican prospects, it still is notable that the gap is at the very least closing. At no time in the last two years has this seemed possible prior to the election.

This summer, I have received political intelligence reports from all over the country. Those reports consistently surmised that even if John McCain won the presidency, it would only be because he had managed to distance himself from the Republican brand, and the Republicans would still be trounced at every other level, with losses only mitigated by the reality of gerrymandered districts.

Does the nomination of Sarah Palin account for the remarkable change? Certainly, her nomination has energized numerous segments of the voting public in the Republicans favor, but it would not seem that her presence on the ticket alone can fully explain the remarkable increase in Republican prospects. Of course, the current "do nothing Congress" has been highly unpopular ever since the beginning of the term. Approval ratings have been far below even the historically low ratings of the President. Then, in the face of extraordinary rises in energy prices, Nancy Pelosi prevented votes on an energy bill and sent Congress home without doing anything.

People noticed. Prices are for the time being falling, but the memory still lingers that a Democratic Congress did nothing on the most important day to day pocketbook issue facing voters.

That lingering memory, combined with the enthusiasm surrounding Gov. Palin, is proving poisonous for Democrats.

Gibson's Gaffe

Charles Krauthammer, who 1) was the first to use the term "Bush Doctrine;" and 2) has not been a fan of the selection of Sarah Palin as the Republican vice-presidential nominee, nonetheless finds that Ms. Palin acquitted herself better than did Charles Gibson in their exchange on the subject. He concludes an excellent piece on that portion of the interview as follows:

Presidential doctrines are inherently malleable and difficult to define. The only fixed "doctrines" in American history are the Monroe and the Truman doctrines which come out of single presidential statements during administrations where there were few other contradictory or conflicting foreign policy crosscurrents.

Such is not the case with the Bush Doctrine.

Sarah Palin didn't know what it is. But neither does Charlie Gibson. And at least she didn't pretend to know -- while he looked down his nose and over his glasses with weary disdain, sighing and "sounding like an impatient teacher," as the Times noted. In doing so, he captured perfectly the establishment snobbery and intellectual condescension that has characterized the chattering classes' reaction to the mother of five who presumes to play on their stage.

Attacking Female Candidates: Texas Lessons

While John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate has thrown Barack Obama's campaign completely off kilter, at least he has not performed as badly as Clayton Williams, who opposed Ann Richards in her first run for governor in 1990. According to the Dallas Morning News:

Mr. Williams made headlines by refusing to shake Ms. Richards' extended hand after taking offense at some of her remarks; he told a joke about rape; he said he would "head her and hoof her and drag her through the dirt;" and he commented on visiting Mexican brothels as a youth because they were the "only places you could get serviced then."

George Shipley, who worked on the Richards' campaign, argues that sexism still works against female candidates, but male opponents still need to be cautious, making sure that any attacks are directed at issues, as opposed to being personal. In fact, Mark Sanders, a spokesman for gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn when she ran against Rick Perry in 2006, says that his candidate was "counting on the Perry people to... one, to attack her and another to do it poorly."

Keeping attacks above board sounds like a good principle for any race -- and not just for one against a woman. Regardless, it is clear that the Democrats have not gone that route, much to their regret.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Mr. McCain in my mind, made a very good choice"

So says former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel (D-AK), who made a quixotic run for the Democratic nomination for President earlier this before bolting for the Libertarian Party. Hear the audio of a contentious interview here.

Mr. Gravel affirms Gov. Palin's "courage" in fighting Republican corruption in the state and defends her role in the "troopergate" story, before saying that he will vote for neither the Republican or Democratic candidate, because, he argues, both parties are complicit in the war effort.

Another Reason Lieberman Would Make a Good Sec. of Defense

The Hill points out that if Joe Lieberman is offered a position in a hypothetical McCain administration, that his replacement will be appointed by a Republican governor. Some inside the state of Connecticut are grousing that the replacement of Sen. Lieberman with a Republican would not make any difference, but that is because they are paying attention only with their emotions and ignoring the facts.

Look at Sen. Lieberman's record any way you wish: he sides with Republicans only on issues related to national defense. On everything else, he is consistently liberal.

Of course, to some liberals, being wrong on just one thing makes a person an enemy of the people.

An Unfortunate Guest

It is sad to see that those who consider themselves "Value Voters" have invited former House Majority Leader Tom Delay to their meeting this week. Rep. Delay's promotion of the so-called K-Street Project and friendship with corrupt Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff played a large role in the Republican Party's loss of majority status in Washington. Certainly, no group that invites Mr. Delay to speak can be seriously interested in reducing earmarks or reforming government. Mr. Delay as leader spent like a Democrat on steroids.

Mr. Delay has managed to stay out of prison thus far, but many of those around him have not. For anyone who has forgotten the kinds of values that Mr. Delay touted while leading the Republican Party down the drain, I would recommend The K Street Gang as a good resource.

In any event, the term "value voter" is not a particularly helpful one for a group dominated by evangelicals. First of all, everyone votes based on their "values;" different people have differing values. Second, the terminology is relativizing. Christians don't really profess to believe in the importance of values, per se; they believe in truth vs. error and right versus wrong.

The values of Mr. Delay would be largely errant and wrong.


On September 11, 2001, as I sat at my computer in my office in Middle Tennessee, someone said to me that an airplane had flown into the World Trade Center. I immediately tried to get to an internet news website, but traffic was making them inaccessible. When I heard that a second plane had flown into the towers, like everyone else, I realized what was going on.

By this time, my co-workers and I had a radio on a station broadcasting the ABC radio network. For as long as I live I will never forget the voice of the late Peter Jennings cracking, but then holding steady, as he described the first, and then the second, tower falling. One of the young women in my office went from quiet weeping to violent sobbing about that time. Sometime later, she would marry a soldier the week before he shipped out for Afghanistan. My boss was at the airport. Later that day, she would return to the office, shaken by the turn of events. Another colleague who had spent most of her life in northern New Jersey and had seen the towers nearly daily over a number of years, simply sat quietly.

Seven years later, perhaps overly optimistic due to the fact that those attacks have not been successfully repeated on American shores, many seem ready to push September 11 off to the dust bins of history. However, this enemy is different from those of the past, including those who caused another date, December 7, to be etched into our national memory. One suspects that we never will really be able to leave September 11 behind us. One hopes that our resolve will last.

Is the Problem the Length?

What is it that causes me to think that only a government lawyer could write this sentence?

“Sexual relationships with prohibited sources cannot, by definition, be arms’ length.”

This is a family friendly blog, so there is nothing left to say here, though one suspects that Leno and Letterman will have a field day with it.

Hat Tip: Instapundit

But, to speak more seriously about the most recent scandal to hit a government entity, some members of the Democratic Party led Congress, being vigilantly serious about the need to address the energy concerns of the nation, seem to be under the illusion that this inappropriate activity somehow has something to do with the need to permit more drilling for oil. For those who are so obtuse, The Oracle recommends a two step approach. Both steps can be accomplished simultaneously, so there is no need for delay:

Step 1: Fire and/or prosecute those guilty of the inappropriate activity.
Step 2: Drill, drill, drill.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Those Subversive Classics

"Great Literature is Great Literature because it’s full of all the genius and art and contradiction and mystery and curiosity of lived life. That’s why there’s nothing more subversive than studying the Classics. They subvert Dull Thought and Thoughtlessness. They expose the cracks in the virtues of the West, while shining a light on their brilliance and durability. That’s subversion."

-- Harrison Scott Key

Unguarded and Unfocused

The blogosphere, as well as the world of journalists that don't wear pajamas to work, is alive with discussion of Barack Obama's pig with lipstick joke yesterday in Virginia. Today, Sen. Obama, without any hint of understanding the hyperbole in his complaint, accused those of crying "sexism" of "Swift-boat politics."

Did Sen. Obama intentionally refer to Gov. Palin as a made up pig? Certainly, the joke has a long history contextually distinct from the Alaskan governor, especially in the south, as is demonstrated by this posting outlining its frequent use by former Texas governor Ann Richards. One wonders, however, if Sen. Obama ever heard it used while laboring as a community organizer on the south side of Chicago or while growing up in Hawaii. Was it a common insult at Harvard Law? One is guessing here, but probably not on all counts.

Besides, it is really difficult to imagine that the Senator really did not realize that its use would be considered to allude to Gov. Palin in the aftermath of her self-deprecating joke about the distinction between a pit bull and a hockey mom.

The best guess from this quarter is that someone in Sen. Obama's speechwriting corp or travelling team thought that it was a clever and subtle put down, so the candidate used it. If so, it was a foolish error. Sen. Obama complains that the media is overly focused on this trivial matter, but, really, he has no one to blame for himself. That his campaign was caught off guard by the selection of Gov. Palin nearly two weeks ago is perhaps understandable. That his campaign remains completely off balance and unfocused, and that the candidate seems to have become obsessed with the person at the bottom of the opposing ticket, is not.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Downhill Fast

Does anyone remember when Andrew Sullivan was a serious and interesting journalist?

Alas, Stuart Buck gives a recent rundown of what he has become.

Sarah Palin Eyes

The Dallas Morning News reports that the bespectacled vice-presidential candidate has started a new fashion trend:

Jeff Brown, the store’s [Image Eyewear in Oaklawn] owner, said his phone has been ringing nonstop from people around the country looking to get in on the latest fashion trend. Even other optical retailers have called wanting to know how they can add the collection in their stores.

Different Presidential Paths

Karl Kurtz of the National Conference of State Legislatures discovered that no Republican candidate for President or Vice-President has served in a state legislature since Calvin Coolidge. During that same time frame, 8 Democratic candidates have had state legislative experience.

Mr. Kurtz suggests that this results from a tendency of Democrats and Republicans to enter politics in different ways. For his specific hypothesis and his tentative conclusion, see here.

Bernanke's Cloudy Crystal Ball

Will congressional leaders require Ben Bernanke to answer follow up questions to his statement before them in July that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are "in no danger of failing."

Hat Tip: J. Michael McBride

Actually, they probably won't. As this editorial in the Wall Street Journal points out, Barney Frank leads the way, but he is accompanied by numerous members of both parties, in defending the status quo for these financial behemoths. They will not be prone to ask questions that would lead to demands of legitimate reform.

An Ennobling Adventure

It is hard to beat the satire of Scott Ott:

Sen. Obama told Mr. Stephanopolous that he had also considered being an Alaskan commercial fisherman and moose hunter, like Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, because “I liked the idea of being a bold adventurer on the American frontier, killing my own food and surviving the harsh elements.”

Instead, young Mr. Obama decided to pursue a law degree, because it was “as close as I could get to having bloody entrails on my hands.”

I Like the Guy Anyway

Stacey Campfield, relying on a letter written by fellow Tennessee legislator Jason Mumpower, criticizes state comptroller John Morgan and Treasurer Dale Sims for participating in a partisan fund raiser.

I am not sure if this was inappropriate, but I must say that Dale Sims is one of the most conscientious public servants I have had the pleasure of dealing with in any state. He is on the opposite side of the aisle from where The Oracle sits, but I will still say that the state of Tennessee is fortunate to have him in the position where he is.

"Not illegal, not unethical, and not a scandal"

Republicans can rest easy if all of the reporters combing the frozen tundra in Alaska can come up with nothing more interesting than this morning's Washington Post hit piece on Sarah Palin's use of per diem's while governor of Alaska. David Bernstein eviscerates the report:

[W]hat the story ultimately reveals is that Palin (a) billed the state for most expenses allowed by law, including per diem when she stayed in her own home (her "duty station" was the state capitol of Juneau) in Wasilla; (b) didn't bill the state for other expenses, when she could have done so lawfully, such as per diems for her children; and (c) spent a lot less money on expenses than did her predecessor, especially on travel and by ridding herself of the state's personal chef.

Just out of curiosity, has anyone seen any reporters poking around Delaware? I didn't think so.


The recent sacking of Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews from their anchor chairs by MSNBC gives rise to a few observations.

For decades, journalists have held forth the ideal of the objective reporter. In fact, pure objectivity, regardless of the tools used, is not psychologically possible, and it is notable that reporters, who sometimes praise cynicism about the motives of everyone else as a necessary part of the journalistic enterprise, have managed to be so credulous regarding their own biases. News consumers, having been promised unbiased reporting, have resented the failure in delivery, even as news producers, who have often managed to convince themselves of their own objectivity, have resented the impudence of their accusing customers. Ending the myth of this sainted objectivity would perhaps ease those mutual resentments.

Given the impossibility of objectivity, one might ask then if journalists are then free to go about their business as a propaganda exercise pushing their individual or collective agendas. Well, no, not if their intention is to be taken seriously. The repudiation of the myth of objectivity does not eradicate the distinction between opinion journalism and hard reporting, nor does it validate the merger of the content of the news sections and the editorial page. What it does do is compel the journalist to acknowledge his biases, rather than pretend that they are either not present or not relevant.

There is no crime in reporting news from a given philosophical vantage point, but to be credible the reporter must manifest a willingness to follow the truth wherever it leads him, a desire to be comprehensive in his approach to the journalistic enterprise, and an effort to treat the arguments of those on all sides fairly. A reporter, regardless of philosophical bent, can produce a valuable service if he does this. One who fails, or does not even try, lapses into the role of propagandist, whether honestly or dishonestly.

This was the failure of MSNBC's anchors. If MSNBC wished to set out to be a left leaning alternative to Fox News, that is not necessarily an illegitimate enterprise, though conservatives will wonder how the network will manage to differentiate itself from CBS, PBS, ABC, and all the others already filling that role. Be that as it may, Mr. Olbermann, who is probably not capable of filling the role appropriately, and Mr. Matthews, who perhaps could, failed the test and could not be taken seriously. For that reason, they had to be removed from that role.

Hindsight with Short Memories

It is frequently being bandied about that Barack Obama wrecked his campaign by not choosing Hillary Clinton as his running mate, thus making the Sarah Palin phenomenon possible. However, everyone seems to be forgetting the behavior of the Clintons in the interim period between the time that Sen. Obama clinched the nomination and the Democratic National Convention. Their conduct, and that of her supporters, made it virtually impossible for the nominee to bring her on to the ticket without losing face, even had he been so inclined. And, an Obama/Clinton ticket, while attractive to the left wing Democratic base, might have turned out to be off putting to centrist voters who will decide this election.

Barack Obama has made a number of mistakes over the course of this campaign. His decision not to select Hillary Clinton as his running mate was not one of them.

Some Things Should Not Be for Sale

A friend who is an Iraq war veteran e-mailed this request to me, and I forward it on to you.

I learned today that Sears will be carrying a new clothing line that will carry the 'Big Red One' patch. This is the combat patch I, and many other veterans, EARNED as a result of our service. I respectfully ask that you either do not patronize Sears and/or purchase this line of clothing, as it cheapens the sacrifices we and our families made.

For more information, see here.

Sliming Palin?

Regarding the veracity of various rumors about Sarah Palin being spread on the internet, see Factcheck.org here.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Turning the Tide

Over the last week, pundits have claimed that it is odd that Senator John McCain would run as an outsider, given that the President for the last eight years has been a fellow Republican. Similarly, Democrats have tried to claim that electing Senator McCain would do nothing more than extend the Bush presidency by another four years.

Both of these groups seem to have short memories. Given that for much of the last eight years, going back to the 2000 Republican primary, Messrs. Bush and McCain have been bitter opponents, if not enemies, it is difficult credibly to characterize a McCain administration as doing nothing more than extending the Bush presidency.

Beyond that, the election of John McCain stands a chance of reversing the unfortunate outgrowth of a vice-presidential selection 28 years ago.

While arguably necessary for political reasons, the selection of George H.W. Bush as Ronald Reagan's running mate in 1980 opened the door to the re-emergence of moderate and liberal dominance in the Republican Party. The elder Bush, who hailed from Texas but spent most of us life in the northeastern United States, made use of Mr. Reagan's coattails to become the last -- arguably the only -- Rockefeller Republican to be elected President. During the 1980 campaign, Mr. Bush had dismissed Reaganism as "voodoo economics." Immediately upon his election in 1988, he promised a "kinder and gentler" administration than that which had preceded him. Being kinder and gentler necessitated breaking a promise not to raise taxes, resulting in his being pitched out of office by voters in 1992.

When the younger Bush came to the White House, he did not arrive as a Rockefeller Republican. However, he did come in as -- if the reader will pardon the oxymoronic phrase -- a big government conservative. The recent Bush presidency has been characterized by an overconfidence in the power of government to achieve conservative ends, both internationally and domestically. The result has been a bloating of the federal government even as liberals complain that too little continues to be spent.

Meanwhile, in Congress, the conservative legacy was taken up by the principled but flawed Newt Gingrich. Ultimately Speaker Gingrich was done in by a combination of his own hubris, Clintonian charisma, and Tom Delay's opportunism. Mr. Delay, who seemed to view conservatism as the view that power should be exercised to reward fellow conservatives with government largess, presided over the corruption and defeat of the Republican machine. Those Republicans left in power, who began to resemble Bob Michel in their contentment with the perks of serving in the minority, reverted to the loser mentality that prevailed in the Republican establishment in an earlier era. Conservatives, who became wed to the Republican Party in the aftermath of President Reagan, found themselves largely without a home -- and not much of a vehicle for reform.

Until now. Until the unlikely vehicle that has emerged named Sarah Palin.

The nomination of Ms. Palin -- and the recent emergence of other exciting young conservatives such as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal -- provides a significant opportunity for conservatives to promote a reform agenda that urges a return to principles of limited government as a way of eliminating its ever growing expansion and inefficiency. Someone commented that Sen. McCain's outsider posturing in effect throws Republicans already in Washington under the bus. That, frankly, is where many of them belong.

By potentially passing the torch to a new generation of leadership -- and bypassing some of the moribund leaders currently in place, Sen. McCain may be proving himself to be a maverick and an agent of change far beyond what he intended or his opponents imagine.

The Oracle is hoping it is so.

Still Good Advice

"In teaching history, there should be extensive discussion of personalities who benefited mankind through independence of character and judgment."

-- Albert Einstein, in advice given to the New York State Education Department, as quoted in Walter Isaacon's "Einstein: His Life and Universe"

NIMBY Windmills Case

In a victory for environmentalists and, at least indirectly, T. Boone Pickens, a Texas appellate court ruled that litigants do not have a right to "unobstructed sunsets, panoramic landscapes, and starlit skies."

The case of the obtrusive windmills will evidently proceed to the Texas Supreme Court.


This is quite different from the typical roadside memorial so frequently seen along American highways.

While Wondering What Parts of that Community Required Organizing....

Last week, vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin delivered many effective zingers at the Republican National Convention. One of the best, and one of those that most irritated many on the left, was this:

Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown. And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities.

Barrack Obama's supporters have complained about this mockery of community organizers, claiming that persons in those positions provide valuable public services. Yet, Democrats regularly made fun of former House Majority Whip Tom Delay's previous job running a pest control company, and no one should underestimate the public service provided by someone who kills roaches in Houston.

They fly down there, you know.

Nonetheless, it is easy to question the value of community organizers, because, I would think, the vast majority of Americans have never met anyone with that job title. I never have, and I've touched most sectors of the American economy, both blue and white collar, over the course of my career. The job title is not listed in the Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook. Someone who has never met anyone with such a title might question whether that is a job that really results in a paycheck. It reminds me of a friend from some years ago whose husband was a square dance caller. Whenever she introduced him, she had to explain that it was something that a person could actually make a living at.

And, those not on the inside of the community organizing industry might wonder if the occupational title is nothing more than a nice way of saying rabble rouser. The title is vague enough that it likely means a variety of things in different contexts. In that regard, it is sort of like being referred to as an "analyst."

Regardless of all of that, it seems that in the past Sen. Obama was less than thrilled by the impact -- and the remuneration -- of his work organizing communities. For a nicely researched look back, see here.

Hat Tip: Mike Hashimoto

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Putting Politics in Perspective

After being told that he probaby had 6 months to live, Robert Novak found friendship, help, and encouragement from unexpected people all along the political spectrum:

My dear friend Bob Shrum, the Democratic political operative, asked Sen. Kennedy's wife, Vicki, to call me. I barely know Mrs. Kennedy, but I have found her to be a warm and gracious person. I have had few good things to say about Teddy Kennedy since I first met him at the 1960 Democratic National Convention, but he and his wife have treated me like a close friend. She was enthusiastic about Dr. Friedman and urged me to opt for surgery at Duke.

The Kennedys were not concerned by political and ideological differences when someone's life was at stake, recalling at least the myth of milder days in Washington. My long conversation with Vicki Kennedy filled me with hope....

Support for me and promises of prayers have poured in from all sides, including from political figures who had not been happy with my columns. I'm told that George W. Bush has not liked my criticism, particularly of his Iraq war policy. But the president is a compassionate man, and he telephoned me at 7:24 a.m. on Aug. 15, six minutes before I went into surgery. The conversation lasted only a minute, but his prayerful concern was touching and much appreciated.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Government Intervention Needed

John Hutcheson points to an example of urban blight for which the owner of the property should be fined.

Except, Mr. Hutcheson, tells us, the owner is the state of Tennessee.

Mr. Hutcheson is correct when he suggests that the prevalence of conditions of this sort make an area a magnet for crime.

Dream Ticket of the Future: Palin/Jindal?

Barack Obama notwithstanding, two of the most interesting new faces in politics this year are the current Republican vice-presidential candidate and the even younger governor of Louisiana. For a severely truncated, but interesting, interview with Bobby Jindal, see here.

Hat Tip: World Magazine Blog

T-Shirts for Palin

This one is perfect.

Hat Tip: Michael Silence

Why Palin Made Sense

I keep reading that critics -- mostly liberal Democrats but also Peggy Noonan -- keep asking why John McCain, if he wanted a woman VP candidate, did not select the more experienced Kay Bailey Hutchison, the senior U.S. Senator from Texas. Well, a couple of reasons.

First, as everyone who pays attention to politics in Texas knows (see my post from almost a year ago), Sen. Hutchison is not so secretly planning to run for governor in 2010, and she has repeatedly stated for the press over the last several months that she did not want to be asked to be Sen. McCain's running mate because she did not want to remain in Washington.

Second, experience does not represent the only value that a candidate brings either to the race or to the position -- the Democrats that selected Barack Obama should recognize this, one would think. Almost all of Kay Bailey Hutchison's political experience has come in the U.S. Senate. She is a moderate Republican over the age of 60. That set of characteristics, while impressive, make her, in part, a female version of what Sen. McCain already offers the ticket.

Governor Sarah Palin offers a fresh face, a great personal story, conservative political principles, and the ability to connect with voters. Her speech last night showed an amazing ability to go negative while not seeming negative. It was brilliantly done.

Before the Palin selection, most Republicans found the rationale for Sen. McCain in the negative -- anyone but Barack Obama. That has changed. Rarely does a vice-presidential selection ultimately make any difference in the results of a campaign. This time, it might.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Where Life Ends

The Associated Press reports that Jason and Rachael Storm were married last week at the funeral home where he serves as director.

I don't know what the big deal is? That sounds as appropriate as any place for a man to get married.

I am going to be in deep trouble over this post.

High Risk, High Reward on Palin Pick

While acknowledging the high risks associated the pick, David Broder points to the potential rewards of John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate:

Obama began his campaign for the nomination as the outsider candidate, promising fundamental change in Washington and offering a post-partisan approach to politics. With time, he has come to be seen as a much more conventional Democrat who is now half of a ticket based in Congress, the least admired institution in a widely scorned capital. Millions who saw his acceptance speech heard a standard recital of liberal Democratic programs.

By picking Palin, McCain has strengthened his reputation not as an ideologue, not as a partisan, but as a reformer -- ready to shake up Washington as his hero, Teddy Roosevelt, once did. My guess is that cleansing Washington of its poisonous partisanship, its wasteful spending and its incompetence will become McCain's major theme.

Perfect Storms and Imperfect Systems

As hurricane Gustav comes ashore this morning somewhere along the Louisiana coast, Republican conventioneers at hotels in the Twin Cities in Minnesota for the most part have nothing to do other than watch Jim Cantore once again stand in the wind and rain and provide updates. Republicans have cancelled most of the day's events, and they stand ready to cancel more throughout the week if necessary based on the severity of the damage inflicted by the hurricane.

While it was necessary for Republicans to take this step given what matters in politics these days, this circumstance serves as a reminder of the bipartisan silliness of a political culture that values symbolism and little else. In a world based on reality, there is no reason to cancel events in Minneapolis based on events in New Orleans, and the notion that going forward with an event planned for months and years risks showing some kind of insensitivity toward people enduring a storm over 1,000 miles away shouldn't be taken seriously.

However, it is taken seriously in the political world that we have, and cynical manipulators in both parties, as well as a segment of the public that fails to think, are to blame. For too much of our political culture, image is everything. The interior is hollow.

As of the time of this writing, it appears that Gustav will not cause the amount of damage that had been feared. Our political system remains a mess.