How I Managed to Miss the Election


I have a passion for politics. Thus, I deeply regret that about the only access I have to its vicissisitudes is through the media, so beloved by Americans today. The truth is, I’m what once would have been called, metaphorically, of course, a “junkie.” You can imagine what this means for me during the year of a general election. At least I had the sense to wait until January 1, 2008 to tune in to campaigning that had already been going on for nearly a year. I vaguely recall the relief I felt when the primaries were over.

That was nothing compared to the relief I now feel about being able to think about something other than the future condition of the United States of America. That was such a huge responsibility. The election took that particular weight off my shoulders. It was as if the fate of our national culture had been decided and there was nothing left to do about it. My vote had been cast (by absentee ballot), and my contribution—the climax of hours, days, and months of careful analysis of every nuance of truly weird media coverage—was complete.

But there’s something else that fills out the explanation for my equanimity subsequent to this particular election decision: I missed it! I missed the election!! I was holed up in a cabin on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state, with no TV, no radio, no web connection. I did have popcorn and a microwave, but that didn’t translate into an evening of couch potato, election-watching entrancement—I mean, enchantment—that has been my joy every four years since Ronald Reagan challenged Jimmy Carter.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. But I’m on sabbatical leave from my teaching duties, and due to a series of unavoidable events, the only days I could work into my calendar for “ideal sabbatical working conditions” encompassed the one day when ideal working conditions would cause deep frustration—November 4, election day.

As it happened, I managed pretty well. I did have a cell phone, so my wife was able to fill me in with admirable brevity and enviable composure. She should have been a news anchor for a major cable network. At any rate, and to my surprise, the call was enough for me. I may have swallowed hard a couple of times. But I got right down to work on my writing projects with virtually no remnants of concern. And so, I owe a great debt to the simple grandeur of the Olympic Peninsula and my dear friends who graciously made their cabin available. I learned that I could survive without the usual inoculation of political serum. I found that I could miss the election . . . without missing the election.

Is Obama Pro-Choice or Pro-Abortion?


There is a difference between being pro-choice and being pro-abortion. In other words, “pro-choice” is not just a euphemism for “pro-abortion.” The pro-abortion position is far more extreme than the pro-choice position. I’ll refer you to an argument for that in a moment.

First let’s ask the question: Is presidential candidate Barack Obama pro-choice or pro-abortion? In his public statements he has said he is pro-choice and that no one is pro-abortion. If he didn’t know better, I’d say this is naive. But he does know better, and his own record and future policy plans demonstrate that Barack Obama is pro-abortion. In fact, he is pro-abortion in the extreme. He is pro-actively pro-abortion.

I must confess, I find it difficult to believe that any American has such extreme views and will do everything in his power to make them a matter of enforceable law. But a recent article by Princeton University Professor of Jurisprudence, Robert P. George, makes the case with compelling force. If Professor George is right, then Americans who plan to vote in this election need to consider this carefully before they make their presidential choice. I urge you to read “Obama’s Abortion Extremism” at your earliest opportunity.

Here is the opening paragraph in Professor George’s chilling expose:

Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States. He is the most extreme pro-abortion member of the United States Senate. Indeed, he is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress.

Near the end of his piece, Professor George writes:

In perhaps the most telling comment made by any candidate in either party in this election year, Senator Obama, when asked by Rick Warren when a baby gets human rights, replied: “that question is above my pay grade.” It was a profoundly disingenuous answer: For even at a state senator’s pay grade, Obama presumed to answer that question with blind certainty. His unspoken answer then, as now, is chilling: human beings have no rights until infancy – and if they are unwanted survivors of attempted abortions, not even then.

Some reading this post may be thinking . . .

  • ‘Pro-choice’ . . . ‘pro-abortion,’ whatever—it’s just semantics.
  • I’m not a single-issue voter, and Obama’s strengths in other areas trump his weakness on this point.
  • I believe Obama is honest and sincere and has no hidden agendas. The Princeton professor must be the one with a hidden agenda.
  • There may be a handful of Americans who are pro-abortion extremists, and this is abhorrent and disgusting; but there’s no way a United States Senator on the cusp of winning a presidential election could possibly be this extreme.
  • This is the first opportunity to elect a person of color to the highest office in our Republic, and I’m willing to take a chance on Obama because of this unprecedented opportunity.

I assure you, we are not talking semantics here.

I understand the single-issue concern. But there are two things to say in this case. First, Obama’s unprecedented extremism on abortion is so extreme that no good he could possibly achieve as president could compensate for the permanent damage of his pro-abortion policies—not only to the unborn and the newly-born, but to many health-care professionals and women. Second, this is not a single-issue issue at all. If successful, Obama’s plan will constrain fundamental human liberties for many besides the unborn and the newly-born. Obama’s position on abortion is symptomatic of a political philosophy that is a direct threat to democratic freedom.

What about Obama’s honesty? You can’t tell whether a man is honest just by watching him on TV. You have to study his record and cross-examine his claims. Professor George does this in his article. Obama is not going to volunteer to go on television and talk about his position with this professor of jurisprudence. At most, he will make denials, not arguments that deal with the details of his record. Obama’s agenda, whatever it is, is hidden. By that I mean that he has not been candid about things we should like to know about him. If Professor George has an agenda, he at least has been clear in his claims and he has built a mountain of evidence that cannot simply be dismissed.

There is an extreme pro-abortion movement in this country. Leaders in the movement have been working a strategy for decades. They’ve raised millions of dollars. They understand the American democratic process. They have settled for small victories through less extreme advocates of a pro-choice position. They’ve patiently recruited charismatic individuals to their cause and groomed them for leadership of the movement for the next generation. It would be naive to believe anything else. The tectonic plates in this country are shifting. There is no reason why a major party candidate for the presidency could not, with the help of a minority of powerful insiders, sneak past the electorate into office with an agenda to “change the way politics is done in America,” an agenda that will challenge the moral integrity of American citizens and threaten social stability.

Barack Obama is the first black candidate on a major party ticket. Black men and women have every reason to be proud of the many black leaders, in business, in education, in politics, in the military. Every American should be proud of the progress that’s been made to break down racial barriers and ensure equal opportunity for all who share the American dream. I fully expect that we will eventually have a black president, and I welcome that prospect. I would encourage any voter who is eager to see a black person in that high office make that moment count. If Barack Obama is sworn in as President in January, that will be a historic moment, a proud moment for many black men, women and children. Many others besides will be excited and enthusiastic, and rightly so. But what will become of their pride if Obama disappoints and injects into our shared political bloodstream an ideology that threatens our core values as freedom-loving Americans?

Obama’s position on abortion and other fundamental issues has that potential. I predict, given his record, that this will be the effect if he is elected. Our social and political immune system will be tested then. But it is being tested now, as we contemplate the important choice of president in less than two weeks.

No one of us as individuals will ever have the kind of power a President Barack Obama would have to directly and profoundly influence abortion policy in this country. But we do make the decision whether Obama is invested with that kind of power and opportunity as one individual to transform our culture. And the outcome will be our responsibility.

Spinning Joe Biden


The Senator with the foot-shaped mouth fired off a real whopper this time:

Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We’re about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don’t remember anything else I said. Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.

Barack Obama’s admirers are dumbfounded—that includes people running his campaign. How do you spin a statement like that? Biden’s remarks were so extensive and emphatic that even a retraction would do nothing to mitigate the unease he has created. Besides “the cynical electorate” already knows what retractions mean.

Media response should be interesting. If Obama really is “their candidate,” it may be gut-wrenching for them to report on this story. And let’s remember what “news reporting” means today—it means editorializing in an effort to influence viewers.

This time, Biden’s comments are not mere trifles. They are sober reminders of what everyone knows. The threat of more terror—the likes of which we may not have seen yet—is a real and present danger. That will still be true no matter who becomes President. But would an Obama presidency intensify the risk? That’s what Biden seemed to be saying. And no one can say it isn’t true, because no one knows that it’s false.

It is easy to see why a McCain presidency could have a different effect on our enemies. And now, consideration of that has suddenly become a factor in this election. Maybe this is the “October surprise” that pundits say could change the numbers that pollsters have been producing.

Foreign policy is back on the table, with only two weeks left in this election season. More specifically, the prospect of a new chain of crises has to be considered. Thus we find ourselves asking two questions:

  1. Is Barack Obama as ready as John McCain to lead our nation should new challenges come?
  2. Is it more likely that new challenges would come during an Obama presidency than during a McCain presidency?

Thanks to Joe Biden, the economy is not the only thing we’ll be thinking about when we vote on November 4th.

“It’s Time for a Black President”


“It’s time for a black President.” You’ve heard it and I’ve heard. But what could possibly be a good argument for this claim?

No, I’m not a racist for asking the question. I believe it will be time for a black President when the best candidate for the office happens to be black; but it won’t be because he or she is black.

So, can somebody explain why being black is a qualifying credential for being President?

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What say you?

Why Would a University of Chicago Professor Call Obama a Marxist?


Maybe he knows something we don’t. Or maybe he knows something we secretly suspect. A lunch companion of Barack Obama’s reportedly claims that Obama is a Marxist.

Here’s what James Pethokoukis writes today for U.S. News & World Report:

A while back I chatted with a University of Chicago professor who was a frequent lunch companion of Obama’s. This professor said that Obama was as close to a full-out Marxist as anyone who has ever run for president of the United States. Now, I tend to quickly dismiss that kind of talk as way over the top. My working assumption is that Obama is firmly within the mainstream of Democratic politics. But if he is as free with that sort of redistributive philosophy in private as he was on the campaign trail this week, I have no doubt that U of C professor really does figure him as a radical.

Believe it or not, there are people in America who would dearly love to have a Marxist in the White House. Bill Ayres may be one of those people. Almost certainly the Reverend Jeremiah Wright would be delighted, since he is himself an advocate of liberation theology. I’m not a lunch companion of Barack Obama, but I do know something about liberation theology. It is a fundamentally Marxist ideology with a religious veneer. A major goal of leaders in the liberation theology movement is to radicalize people on the lower end of the economic spectrum by causing them to believe that they are oppressed and entitled to redistributed wealth.

Now we can hear in Obama’s own words that he is a redistributivist. He told a now-famous plumber named Joe that he wants to “spread the wealth around.” His plan for doing this is to penalize the success of some people to provide handouts to the less successful, without regard for the work ethic of the parties involved.

I can’t shake the suspicion that Barack Obama’s students days and his years as a budding politician were framed by a radical ideology. This would explain many of the few things we actually know about Obama.

Was Obama Really as Comfortable as He Looked in Last Night’s Debate?


To me, last night’s debate was the third—and, mercifully, the last—in a series of lackluster debates between senators Obama and McCain. But somehow the media have managed today to cull from the regurgitation of campaign sloganeering some rich moments truly worthy of playback. Maybe it wasn’t so lackluster after all.

Could McCain have done better? Pretty much everyone agrees that he missed opportunities. That’s interesting. It means two things. The first is that McCain has a platform of strength that might really resonate with people if he could only launch his case with compelling pizzaz. Second, Obama has opened himself to some pretty withering criticism that McCain has been reluctant to exploit.

Contrast Obama. What opportunities did he pass on last night? Could he have made his policies more compellingly attractive than he did? Could he have put McCain on the defensive? I don’t think so. Obama did what he could, and all that he needed to perhaps.

Once again, Obama “looked presidential.” But did he feel as comfortble as he looked? The question can’t really be answered objectively, except by Obama, and we all know what he would say. But Obama will raise taxes during “the worst economic crises since the Great Depression”; and McCain made that stick. Obama has fraternized professionally with people most of us wouldn’t shake hands with; and McCain reminded everyone that we still don’t know who Obama really is. McCain was unequivocal in his pro-life stance, and missed an opportunity to demonstrate how radically pro-choice Obama really is. But this was not a comfortable topic for Obama. He had to nuance his way out of the spotlight while McCain beamed confidently in the background.

Obama is counting on his lead and the lateness of the hour to carry him to victory. From this point on it’s a matter of damage control. That’s one thing McCain really doesn’t have to worry about. The most seriously debilitating event for his campaign was the egghead announcement by Hank Paulsen that the sky is falling and the whole world is going to go bankrupt. Paulsen’s alarmist tactics and his timing could not have been worse. You have to wonder if he isn’t a liberal democrat himself, given the tone of his message and the nature of his proposed solution—socialize the entire market in America.

The irony is that Obama is specially vulnerable on this point, if the message gets out. He wants bigger government on every flank and surely relishes the opportunity to preside over the socializing of medicine, our economy, education, and who knows what else. But people are ticked off at government right now. It can’t be just the Republicans and the Bush administration they distrust, but the whole lot of them. So bigger government portends more to be angry about as the months and years tick by.

Obama has two other things to be worried about before the election: Nancy Pelosi and Harry Read. It is an undeniable fact that under Obama our government would be on the verge of its most controlling ever. The democrats are pro big-government. Pelosi and Read, party leaders in their respective houses in Congress, and Obama are democrates, and they are among the most liberal democrats. This is a frightening prospect for anyone who wants government to downsize.

The only way that Americans across this country can prevent unchecked government by tax-and-spend democrats is to vote for John McCain. That’s bad news for Barack Obama, and a reason to be uneasy, even if he looks presidential.

Howard Stern on Doug’s Blog?


Yep. I’ve gone over the edge. I’m posting a video of Howard Stern in his radio studio talking to his listeners. There has to be a good reason for this, right?

There is.

Stern sent one of his guys out to the streets of NYC to ask people about their preferences in this year’s presidential election. Stern shares three audio clips of brief interviews with Obama supporters. The interviewer asks who the individual supports, then tricks the person with questions that entail that Obama wants to keep the troops in Iraq, that Obama is pro-life and against stem cell research, and that Sarah Palin is Obama’s running-mate. These people explain in vague terms why they don’t support McCain (e.g., he’s not very intelligent) and then express unqualified support for Obama, even though Sarah Palin is his running-mate, etc.

You’ve got to hear this. If you’re interested, click here for a post yesterday by SusanUnPc. Thanks, Susan!

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Related Link at Doug’s Blog:

Should Everyone Vote?


Answer—yes . . . and no. It depends. Given the way things are right now, the way things have always been, and the way things will always be, not everyone should vote. So I guess the answer really is “no.”

This is political heresy. You don’t hear many politicians saying this. It isn’t politically expedient because it challenges a pervasive myth. It could be political suicide to say that there are citizens who should not vote.

Who should not vote?

  1. People who don’t exist.
  2. People who have taken no initiative to get registered or to understand the issues.
  3. People who vote to protect their own self-interests only.

I know the first claim is controversial, but in order to save space, I won’t try to support it here.

The second claim is motivated by my belief that a vote should be cast in order to promote the common good. A failure to get registered and negligence in seeking to understand the issues are indicators that this responsibility is not taken seriously. And those who register because someone from a particular party urged them to and provided them with on-the-spot opportunities to register are vulnerable to manipulation. In fact, often they are manipulated. Deliberately compelling people, often the poor and uneducated, to register and vote, and to be sure their vote is cast for a certain named candidate, is manipulative; it betrays the condescending, patronizing attitude of those who take to the streets to get more people registered. The cynicism behind their alleged desire to help the poor and uneducated by getting them to vote for a particular candidate is lethal to democracy. It is a powerful indicator that party leaders are not interested in doing right by the poor and uneducated, that they are more interested in keeping their political machine running by exploiting those very people. If the policies of hard-left liberals succeeded and everyone was educated and living above the poverty level, these liberals would be out of business. To stay in business, they’re counting on there always being people who need their advocacy. Many of their policies will ensure that they remain in business.

I would add that, in general, people who do not understand the issues should not vote, even if they have taken pains to sort out what the issues are and what the candidates stand for.

What about the third claim? It implies that those who are low on the economic spectrum should not cast a vote for someone willing to levy taxes on the wealthy simply because it could mean that they will have more money to spend. It means that public educators should not vote for bills and propositions promising additional benefits to them and to public education just because they are educators and so stand to gain personally. These are but two examples. But the possibilities are legion.

Our elected representative have responsibilities to represent all of the people to the best of their ability. The electorate has responsibilities, too. We have a responsibility to act in support of the common good. We need not agree on what issues and candidates best serve the common good. But it should be our sincere pledge and intention to be informed to the fullest degree possible, to vote in deliberate support of the common good rather than pure self-interest, and to stay home on election day if we can’t meet these basic conditions.

What say you?

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Related Posts on Doug’s Blog:

Louis Farrakhan Knows Messiah Obama Better Than You Do


Louis Farrakhan says he wants to keep a low profile in his support for Barack Obama, because he knows this could hurt Obama’s chances of winning the election. Farrakhan is the Honorable Minister of the Nation of Islam, with headquarters in Chicago. Yesterday, WorldNetDaily posted an article titled “Farrakhan on Obama—’The Messiah is Absolutely Speaking,'” where there’s a YouTube video of Farrakhan gushing about Obama.

I have no doubt that Farrakhan knows Barack Obama better than anyone reading this post. What are the implications of that?

If voting Americans sincerely witsh to know who Obama really is, there are two things to do.

First, we need to connect the dots we have and resist the temptation to connect dots we can only imagine. What are the dots we have to navigate so far? Obama’s voted “present” so often as Senator that all we know is that he was in the room and didn’t cast a vote one way or the other on significant issues. We don’t know what he was into or who he palled with as a university and law school student. We’re beginning to learn that his affiliation with Bill Ayres went deeper than he said at first. And we know that he can speak with some eloquence in vague generalities.

It looks like Barack Obama doesn’t want people to know who he really is. His single greatest acomplishment since achieving public prominence has been keeping us all in the dark about his core values and the specific direction he will take this country if elected.

Second, we need to do everything we can to compel the media and others to thoroughly vet Obama’s background immediately. They’ve been asleep at the wheel on this one. Maybe they have vetted him and are afraid to say what they know. Maybe they’ve neglected their responsibility because they fear what they’ll learn. Or maybe they just don’t care. But we should care. And if we don’t know enough about Barack Obama to vote for him responsibly, then we shouldn’t. This is Obama’s Achilles’ Heel.

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Here are a few other posts related to Farrkahn’s enthusiasm for the “Messiah”:

Do You Know Kathleen Parker?


If you do, there’s only one reason for it—Ms. Parker’s “cringe reflex has been exhausted.” That happened on September 26. She must be truly exasperated by at this point in time. But what does Ms. Parker mean?

She means that Sarah Palin, whose selection by John McCain she really tried hard to endorse, just isn’t verbally fluent enough to be Vice President, to say nothing of being President.

I cringe, too. I even wrote a post about it. But how does having a dilapidated cringe reflex explain why Kathleen Parker is now enjoying a few minutes of fawning media attention? To understand that, you have to know something most of us didn’t know and you have to remember something that really isn’t that easy to forget.

What you have to know is that Kathleen Parker is a conservative columnist who writes for The National Review and a woman (duh) who wrote a piece called “Palin Problem—She’s Out of Her League.” You’ll find it here. In this September 26 piece, Ms. Parker, with great reticence, I’m sure, suggested that McCain should dump Palin because of the liability she has become, and get someone more erudite to stand at his side. (Maybe Ms. Parker would like the job. She seems to believe that she knows better than McCain how to pickem’, and that’s got to count for something . . . right?)

Now, here’s what you have to remember. Sarah Palin is incredibly popular among leagues of women voters. These are women who will vote. And many of them were not as likely to vote at all until Sarah Palin came along. That’s got to scare the bajeebers out of the liberal left and the liberal media that bleed allegiance to their cause, especially their version of the feminist cause.

Who doesn’t know that if the liberal media can find a conservative woman journalist who thinks Palin’s got to go, that woman journalist is bound to get her chance to be on TV? It sure looks like the media is hoping to scare up a caucus of Republican Women Against Palin. (Not that Ms. Parker is a Republican; I wouldn’t know.) This ought to get interesting. Will it work? Who can say? I figure it’s got at least a 50% chance of backfiring.

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Thinking about this has led me to wonder about the polls we’ve been hearing about. I would imagine that a legitimate poll would include a significant number of women who are backing Palin, quite apart from that fellow McCain. I think it would be interesting if pollsters asking who voters are more likely to vote for, McCain or Obama, would also ask, “And what do you think of Sarah Palin?” And report the results, of course.

Here’s what I’m thinking. If only a small fraction of the people polled show real enthusiasm for Palin, then a satisfactory cross-section of likely voters has not been included in the poll. And that ruins the value of the poll.

From Drama to Trauma Under Obama?


Flannery O’Connor, one of our great American writers said, “To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life, and this is a softness that ends in bitterness.”

I have two questions:

  • What do Americans expect if Barack Obama becomes our next president?
  • What can Americans expect if Barack Obama becomes our next president?

Obama Headshot

To the first question there are straightforward answers. Just ask the people around you. To the second all we can say is, “We’ll just have to wait and see.” No matter what the answer to number two is, Obama is going to be faced with a serious problem—if he becomes president. He will have to live up to expectations that he has deliberately fostered as a would-be messiah who stands for The Audacity of Hope.

This is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to vote for a messiah. Barack is special. Barack is young. Barack is charming. And you know what else? Barack doesn’t make mistakes. Just ask him.

Ask Barack what mistakes he’s made when voting as a Senator. Ask Barack what mistakes he’s made in his circle of associates. Ask Barack what mistakes he’s made about the war in Iraq. He might confess a peccadillo or two. But copping to anything substantive would be a strain on his memory and his self-understanding.

Of course, you can’t ask him these questions. You don’t have the opportunity. But members of the media, who have the opportunity, don’t ask, either. Do you know why? Because we don’t interrogate a messiah.

We should be wary of messianic promises. And that begins with shedding the sentimental dreams we all have of a utopian society. When we cherish messianic expectations we are vulnerable to messianic promises. But we are bound to be disappointed. The higher our hopes when a candidate is sworn in as the next president, the greater our feeling of defeat when it turns out that he has feet of clay. We’ve always known that about candidates for the presidency—until now.

Barack Obama’s campaign has been dramatic. He beat Hillary Clinton in the primaries when she was the presumptive nominee from the beginning. He was received with acclamation by European citizens. He’s raised astonishing amounts of money from sources that remain a mystery. He is all-knowing, except when he’s asked about his past associations with unrepentant terrorist thugs and a racist, anti-American minister. He’s made a fetish of inexperience, for he has almost no record to speak of, and so nothing to explain.
And the media have been entranced by this great man. Barack owes them big time for keeping alive the drama of Obama. (And he owes a special debt to Keith Olberman, a man of extraordinary objectivity and an icon of our collective wisdom).

If and when we see the man for who he really is—because he will be making very public decisions that affect us all—what will become of the drama that is Obama? That depends on who Barack Obama really is. If we don’t roll the dice and get him elected, we’ll never know. Could we accept such an anticlimax to such drama? Alternatively, could we stomach the trauma that is Obama if he isn’t the messiah we would like for him to be?

Madeleine L’Engle, another novelist, once said, to no one in particular, “Because you’re not what I would have you be, I blind myself to who, in truth, you are.” That is another option.

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Note: “The Drama of Obama” is part of the title of a book by black activist Wayne Perryman: The Drama of Obama on Racism.

For a book related to this post, see Who Is the Real Barack Obama? For the Rising Generation, By the Rising Generation. The authors, Steve Bierfeldt, Francisco Gonzalez, and Brendan Steinhauser, are young investigators with a message specially written for college and university students whose support the Obama campaign has fought hard to win.

Recent links that dig behind the public persona of Barack Obama:

Do You Agree with the Charlie Gibson Doctrine?


What is the “Bush Doctrine”? Who can say? But we now know something about the “Charlie Gibson Doctrine”—which might also be called the “Elite Media Doctrine.”

Charlie Gibson was the first member of the mainstream media to interview Sarah Palin, Republican candidate for the Vice Presidency. I’m only guessing here, but I’d say Gibson was worried about how he would appear to his media colleagues during the interview. This was a much-anticipated interview and news people country-wide were overtly jealous of Gibson. So Gibson knew he was being scrutinized, and he knew what was expected of him by the media. They wanted red meat, and they got it in the form of one question in particular. He asked Governor Palin, “Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?”

This is pandering. Why? Because Gibson wanted to please his media buddies. It’s also dirty pool. Why? Because there is no such thing as “the Bush doctrine.” But Charlie Gibson thinks there is. He stated it as follows:

“The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that — the right to preemptive attack of a country that was planning an attack on America?”

Charlie Gibson should be embarrassed, not because he put the candidate on the spot, but because he didn’t know what he was talking about.

Everybody knows that the media would disapprove if Palin answered “yes” to Gibson’s question. You can tell from Gibson’s demeanor that he believed two things: (1) Palin would have to say yes, and (2) if Palin said yes this would cause trouble for the McCain campaign. Remember, Barack Obama’s singular objection to John McCain has been that a vote for McCain would be a vote for a four-year extension of the unpopular presidency of George Bush.

There’s only one other possibility, and that is that Palin wouldn’t know what to say because she didn’t know what the Bush doctrine is. That’s pretty cynical, though, and an upright media professional would simply have stated the so-called doctrine, without attributing it uniquely to President Bush, and asked if the candidate agreed with it. Imagine how things would have seemed if Charlie Gibson had asked his question that way, without trying to bait Sarah Palin into an uneasy association with a currently unpopular president. Palin could have said yes. No harm, no foul. Next question.

I know some astute observers believe that Sarah Palin faltered, ever so slightly, in response to Gibson. But there’s another way to interpret her response. Perhaps Gibson should be grateful that Sarah Palin answered graciously. The presupposition of his question was false, and yet Charlie Gibson believed it. Palin was forbearing. She did not confront him about his naivete.

We should hope that every candidate would answer an undisguised formulation of Gibson’s question in the affirmative, without equivocation or nuance. It would be shameful if a President did not adopt this view.

Teddy Roosevelt accepted it, that’s for sure. So did Abraham Lincoln, and I believe his conduct of the Civil War is evidence of it. Every President during the Cold War held firmly to this view, which is one reason why there was a Cold War.

It’s plausible to suppose that the Monroe Doctrine, stated in James Monroe’s annual message to Congress December 2, 1823, presupposes a similar commitment. Here is a passage from Monroe’s presentation nearly two hundred years ago:

Our policy in regard to Europe, which was adopted at an early stage of the wars which have so long agitated that quarter of the globe, nevertheless remains the same, which is, not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers; to consider the government de facto as the legitimate government for us; to cultivate friendly relations with it, and to preserve those relations by a frank, firm, and manly policy, meeting in all instances the just claims of every power, submitting to injuries from none. But in regard to those continents circumstances are eminently and conspicuously different. It is impossible that the allied powers should extend their political system to any portion of either continent without endangering our peace and happiness; nor can anyone believe that our southern brethren, if left to themselves, would adopt it of their own accord. It is equally impossible, therefore, that we should behold such interposition in any form with indifference.

There has been some controversy about whether Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew beforehand of an imminent attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor and deliberately waited for the attack in order to strengthen the grounds for entering the war, which he wanted to do anyway. If the bare suggestion of that possibility is heresy, and beneath the dignity of the President, it is because the so-called “Bush doctrine” is assumed by the American people to be an axiom of American foreign policy.

George Bush, whatever his faults, was right to remind his people that he was duty-bound to protect them from imminent threat with preemptive action. It’s a shame that this required special boldness, especially in the aftermath of 9/11.

Gibson’s question, without its supercilious association with President Bush, ought to be one of the first questions that both Obama and McCain have to answer early in their upcoming debate. Their respective answers could set the tone for the rest of the debate. I wonder what Obama would say. I think we all know what McCain would say.

* * *

Note:

This post was inspired by today’s post by Dennis Prager, who writes:

“All the interview did was reconfirm that Republicans running for office run against both their Democratic opponent and the mainstream news media.

“This year it is more obvious than ever. The press’s beatification of Obama is so obvious, so constant (how many covers of Newsweek and Time has Obama been on?) that media credibility even among many non-conservatives has been hurt.

“Let me put this another way. Charlie Gibson showed far greater hostility toward the Republican vice-presidential candidate than Dan Rather did in his interview with Saddam Hussein or Mike Wallace did in his interview with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”

Who can disagree?

Never Say “Lipstick”


Barack Obama’s supporters recognized a smear that he didn’t intend. When he spoke of putting lipstick on a pig, the house exploded with laughter. Talk about red meat.

Only problem is, Obama didn’t mean it “that way.” And that’s Barack’s problem, not McCain’s, or Sarah Palin’s. Barack said it, paused (as he is wont to do), and his audience punctuated his remark with wild enthusiasm as if they believed it was about Sarah Palin. And right at that moment it became about Sarah Palin. And there was almost nothing Barack Obama could do about it.

The McCain campaign posted a web ad exploiting Obama’s slip. Big mistake, if you ask me. Or maybe not so big if the real “catnip for the media” (Obama’s estimation of his comment) continues to be the video of Obama’s slip and not the McCain ad.

Dennis Miller has an interesting theory about what happened. “Lady Palin,” he said, “is deep inside Obama’s mellon.” I’m from California, so let me translate. The esteemed governor Palin has become so popular and has so effectively derailed the Obama campaign that Obama can’t get her out of his head and he doesn’t know what to do.

What’s this got to do with the lipstick gaffe? Ms. Palin’s most memorable remark during her convention speech was the alleged extempore joke about the difference between a hocky mom and a pitbull. She pointed to her mouth and said, “Lipstick.” America liked that, and they liked Sarah Palin. Still do.

So the lipstick motif became a fixture of the McCain camp. Miller speculates that this motif took subliminal root in Obama’s consciousness. Without malice or forethought, the motif surfaced in the form of a long-standing aphorism. Obama’s problem is that this aphorism had never before been used in this peculiar political context.

People are beginning to speculate that Obama has a liability that could injure him in his upcoming debate with John McCain. He seems constitutionally incapable of packaging his ideas in the form of a sound byte. When commenting without a script, his statements are neither crisp nor compact. (In this respect, he is more like President Bush than John McCain is.) Obama may be thinking now that going for the spontaneous repartee may be more dangerous than his typically long-winded answers to questions he could answer with a simple “yes” or “no.”

***

By the way, suppose Obama was actually intentionally ambiguous when he said what he did. Would that really be sexist?

What say you?

BlogLogic—Rumors of Sarah Palin’s Affiliation with the Alaska Independence Party


It’s been interesting to see how things have unfolded on the Mudflats blog, which purports to be “tiptoeing through the muck of Alaskan politics.”

The host goes by the handle “AKMuckraker.” Today she published a post titled “Palin – Republican Party Infiltrator? Damning Video.” With a title like that, you hardly need to read further to know what’s up:

There’s a video that incriminates Sarah Palin by showing her past ties to the Alaska Independence Party (AIP) and her secret plan to advance that party’s aims by infiltrating the Republican party.

That’s the muckraker’s thesis.

If you want to know what’s so damning about the video, or whether it’s damning at all, then you might want to read the post. The muckraker connects the dots that lead to her conclusion. And she’s remarkably confident of her conclusion.

The only problem is, her evidence doesn’t support her conclusion. Her argument is fallacious. If it’s not a specimen of conscious bias against Palin, it’s at least a case of wishful thinking gone awry.

The video features a small gathering of crazies scheming about how best to achieve the secessionist goals of the Alaska Independence Party. So we’re told. We have to take the muckraker’s word for it that this video is not a setup. We’ll give her the benefit of the doubt here. We’re also told that a key participant seen and heard on the video is Dexter Clark, vice chairman of the Independence party. Fine. We’ll go with that.

The muckraker then provides transcripts of bits of the video. Since these are the portions she uses to make her argument, let’s assume that they are the most damning evidence in support of the muckraker’s conclusion.

The first excerpt shows Dexter Clark estimating the number of American soldiers and dependents who “could be eligible to vote” for Alaska “Statehood.” Of course, Alaska has been a state since 1959. Ah, but it isn’t yet a “State,” as in “independent nation state.” The excerpt doesn’t disambiguate for us, but I take it that Clark is referring to the independent-nation-state kind of state, and he’s calculating the number of votes his party might be able to count on in a referendum on Statehood.

OK?

Well, maybe not. The ensuing paragraph, where the muckraker explains things for us, leaves us in greater suspense. How is “Statehood” really being used here? It isn’t easy to tell.

It might not matter. The basic idea seems to be that the Independence party was shafted by a rigged vote about Alaska Statehood, and the desired result of the AIP went down in smoke.

We come, then, to the next excert, what the muckraker calls “the good part.” Here Clark lauds the election of Sarah Palin to become Alaska’s governor, even though she did so as a Republican. Clark explains why this is good news for his Independence party. Palin had once been a member of the party. The only reason she switched parties and became a Republican was to “get along and go along” (Clark’s words).

At this point, vagueness corrupts the argument. What does Clark mean by “get along and go along”? Presumably, he’s suggesting that at the time of Sarah Palin’s move to the Republican party, she was still an Independence party member at heart and that her new role as a town mayor might work out better if she had the appearance of being a Republican. She couldn’t have been much of a Republican, suggests Dexter Clark, since she discovered that “she all kinds of problems with their ethics.” This is clearly the message that muckraker gleans from Clark’s musings.

The joy in seeing Sarah Palin become governor of Alaska is rooted in Dexter Clark’s perception that Palin remains sympathetic with the AIP cause. And this is based on two things, Palin’s prior membership in the AIP, and Clark’s perception that Palin isn’t a sincere Republican. Clark’s perception that Palin isn’t a sincere Republican is itself based, in part, on Palin’s past association with the AIP. Clark’s perception of Palin’s continued affinities for the AIP is reinforced by his perception of a clash between Sarah Palin and the Republican party over the ethics of the party.

The net effect is supposed to be that Alaskans now have an AIP governor, disguised as a Republican, who can be counted on to reintroduce the issue of Statehood and perhaps facilitate the achievement of the AIP’s primary objective. What makes the whole thing really rich is that, because governor Palin is such a popular figure in her state, many Alaskans would probably vote with the AIP and everything turn out hunky-dory for the AIP.

So strategists in the AIP propose to infiltrate the two mainstream parties, get these pseudo-members elected to municipal and state offices, and watch them use their positions—synchronizing their efforts, of course—to bring about independence for Alaska.

This seems to be the basic trajectory of Clark’s reasoning process.

And the muckraker is floored by this. The video excerpts are so unbelievably damning that the muckraker thinks her readers might want to sit down before they are presented with the evidence she presents.

What’s truly unbelievable is that the muckraker finds the argument so compelling. Indeed, to sort it out you might need to sit down for a spell.

Here’s the argument:

  1. Dexter Clark is the vice chairman of the Alaska Independence Party (AIP). [Fact]
  2. If Dexter Clark is the vice chairman of the AIP, then his proposed strategy for achieving independence has been adopted by the AIP and its members. [Assumption]
  3. Dexter Clark’s strategy for achieving independence has been adopted by the AIP and its members. [MP, 1 and 2]
  4. Dexter Clark’s strategy for achieving independence is for members of the AIP to switch to one of the two main parties, get elected to government positions, and use their new authority to sponsor independence for Alaska.
  5. Members of the AIP agree to switch to one of the two main parties, get elected to government positions, and use their new authority to sponsor independence for Alaska. [Conjunction of 3 and 4]
  6. No member of the AIP ever leaves the AIP except in pursuit of Dexter Clark’s strategy for achieving independence. [Assumption]
  7. If a person who was once a member of the AIP and is now officially a member of the Republican party, then that person has left the AIP and inflitrated the GOP in order to advocate for independence. [Direct implication of 6]
  8. Sarah Palin was once a member of the AIP and is now officially a member of the Republican party. [Assumption or fact, as the case may be; that depends on the truth value of the first conjunct; we can safely believe that the second conjunct is true]
  9. Sarah Palin has left the AIP and inflitrated the GOP in order to advocate for independence. [MP, 7 and 8]
  10. If Sarah Palin has infiltrated the GOP in order to advocate for independence, then Sarah Palin is not a genuine Republican. [Direct implication of 7]
  11. Sarah Palin is not a genuine Republican. [MA, 9 and 10]
  12. If Sarah Palin is not a genuine Republican, then Sarah Palin is unfit to become Vice President of the United State. [Assumption]
  13. Sarah Palin is unfit to become Vice President of the United States. [MP, 11 and 12]
  14. If Sarah Palin is unfit to become Vice President of the United States, then we should not vote for John McCain in this year’s presidential election. [Assumption]
  15. We should not vote for John McCain in this year’s presidential election. [MP, 13 and 14]

Statements 10-15 do not appear in the muckraker’s post. They are gleaned from the tone and content of this and other posts at her blog, and my suspicion that she does not want John McCain to be the next President of the United States. In any case, we can dispense with them here.

The above argument can be simplified by extracting three of the numbered statements, 7-9. The resulting argument is as follows:

  1. If a person was once a member of the AIP and is now officially a member of the Republican party, then that person has left the AIP and inflitrated the GOP in order to advocate for the independence of Alaska. [Assumption]
  2. Sarah Palin was once a member of the AIP and is now officially a member of the Republican party. [Assumption or fact, as the case may be; that depends on the truth value of the first conjunct; we can safely believe that the second conjunct is true]
  3. Sarah Palin has left the AIP and inflitrated the GOP in order to advocate for the independence of Alaska. [MP, 1 and 2]

Notice three things about statement number 1.

First, it is an assumption that is never actually stated in the argument.

Second, it is crucial to the argument, since the muckraker never so much as hints that Sarah Palin was in the room when the video was shot, or even that Sarah Palin has unequivocally embraced Dexter Clark’s strategy for achieving Alaska’s independence.

Third, it isn’t true.

How’s that for a specimen of BlogLogic?

* * *

Why have I written this post?

One should not infer from what I’ve said here that I support the McCain/Palin ticket. That would require another instance of specious reasoning.

I have two reasons for writing this post.

First, Sarah Palin should be defended against arguments that violate the principles of sound reasoning. So should any other candidate. But Palin has been the target of incessant, vicious attack with arguments constructed on manufactured evidence. This seems to be the current number one priority of the muckraker. (Again, that’s what muckrakers do.)

Second, I can at least hope that exposing the barrenness of a BlogArgument—or Blogument, if you will—is a contribution to the common good, as a call to sound reasoning in the public square.

Best Political Cartoon of the Weekend—7 September 2008


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