Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 30, 2008

Will Anyone Notice?

The dean of the Washington print press corps David Broder describes Barack Obama’s Denver acceptance speech in much the same terms many conservative commentators did. Broder observes that, in contrast to Obama’s 2004 Convention speech, this was not one for the ages:

No one is likely to argue that the speech here “changed politics in America.” His jibes at John McCain and George Bush were standard-issue Democratic fare, and his recital of a long list of domestic promises could have been delivered by any Democratic nominee from Walter Mondale to John Kerry.

And the New Politics? Broder, unlike his smitten colleagues in the cable news world, is honest enough to acknowledge that this is the same gruel served up by liberals for forty years. He writes:

One of the major questions about Obama, of whom so little is known, is whether he is really serious about challenging the partisan gridlock in Washington or whether his election would simply bring on the regular wish list of liberal policies. His Boston speech — and many others early in this campaign — suggested that he was sincere in wanting to tamp down partisanship and would be creative enough to see the need for enlisting bright people from both parties in confronting the nation’s problems. But the Denver speech, like many others he has given recently, subordinated any talk of fundamental systemic change to a checklist of traditional Democratic programs.

So it may have been an unexpected gift for the public to be diverted so quickly by the Sarah Palin nomination. Given more time to fully ponder Obama’s speech they might reach the same conclusion as Broder. Instead, the dazzle of fireworks and the music of the rock stars remains as a pleasing memory of the night.

The emotional “oomph” of an Obama speech should not be discounted. He may have succeeded in reinvigorating his base of younger, ultra-liberal supporters who were disillusioned by The One’s moves earlier in the summer to scoot to the center and renounce his promise on campaign financing. But if older, independent voters were left with the same impressions as Broder, Obama may not have moved the ball as far down the field as he needed to do.

The dean of the Washington print press corps David Broder describes Barack Obama’s Denver acceptance speech in much the same terms many conservative commentators did. Broder observes that, in contrast to Obama’s 2004 Convention speech, this was not one for the ages:

No one is likely to argue that the speech here “changed politics in America.” His jibes at John McCain and George Bush were standard-issue Democratic fare, and his recital of a long list of domestic promises could have been delivered by any Democratic nominee from Walter Mondale to John Kerry.

And the New Politics? Broder, unlike his smitten colleagues in the cable news world, is honest enough to acknowledge that this is the same gruel served up by liberals for forty years. He writes:

One of the major questions about Obama, of whom so little is known, is whether he is really serious about challenging the partisan gridlock in Washington or whether his election would simply bring on the regular wish list of liberal policies. His Boston speech — and many others early in this campaign — suggested that he was sincere in wanting to tamp down partisanship and would be creative enough to see the need for enlisting bright people from both parties in confronting the nation’s problems. But the Denver speech, like many others he has given recently, subordinated any talk of fundamental systemic change to a checklist of traditional Democratic programs.

So it may have been an unexpected gift for the public to be diverted so quickly by the Sarah Palin nomination. Given more time to fully ponder Obama’s speech they might reach the same conclusion as Broder. Instead, the dazzle of fireworks and the music of the rock stars remains as a pleasing memory of the night.

The emotional “oomph” of an Obama speech should not be discounted. He may have succeeded in reinvigorating his base of younger, ultra-liberal supporters who were disillusioned by The One’s moves earlier in the summer to scoot to the center and renounce his promise on campaign financing. But if older, independent voters were left with the same impressions as Broder, Obama may not have moved the ball as far down the field as he needed to do.

Read Less

A Fresh Face

Newt Gingrich’s emails are better than most people’s books. This one capture what Republicans hope is going on:

There is something unaffected and “unsophisticated” (in the Columbia, Princeton, Harvard and University of Chicago meanings of the word) about Governor Palin. She really was point guard of a state championship basketball team. She really is a competent hunter. She is a hockey mom. She has one son about to go to Iraq. She has 13 years in elected office. By any practical standard she has done far more in the real world with much more spontaneity and practicality than Barack Obama. And there is something deeply real and courageous about John McCain ignoring most of his advisers and all of the “insider wisdom” to reach out to a younger woman whose greatest characteristic is undaunted courage and a willingness to clean out the corruption in her own party.

.  .  .

As I wandered around from a family restaurant to the dry cleaners to a variety of other non-political places, people kept walking up to me and talking with energy and enthusiasm about their reaction to McCain’s choice of Governor Palin. As I sifted through their emotions and the intensity of their reaction it hit me that they were responding to “the real thing.” The power of Palin is that she is so out of the establishment, and so out of the talking-heads, inside-the –Beltway-elite mindset, that the 80 per cent of Americans who believe we are on the wrong track suddenly can identify with someone who isn’t part of what got us on that track.

Read the whole thing. More than once.

But there is something else going on here: Barack Obama isn’t new anymore. One reason for all the columns, fireworks and rock music was to make Obama seem more distinctive and groundbreaking than the substance of the speech would have otherwise led us to believe.

But before everyone could absorb the Denver show, the campaign took an unexpected turn. In a single day, everyone moved on to someone who really is new and about whom the public is anxious to learn more. The fact that Palin is so obviously non-elite in her background, upbringing, geography and outlook only makes her seem that much fresher. We don’t see people like her, especially Republican woman, on the national stage.

The danger with conflating celebrity and candidacy is that someone new and more exciting may come along. On Friday, she did.

Newt Gingrich’s emails are better than most people’s books. This one capture what Republicans hope is going on:

There is something unaffected and “unsophisticated” (in the Columbia, Princeton, Harvard and University of Chicago meanings of the word) about Governor Palin. She really was point guard of a state championship basketball team. She really is a competent hunter. She is a hockey mom. She has one son about to go to Iraq. She has 13 years in elected office. By any practical standard she has done far more in the real world with much more spontaneity and practicality than Barack Obama. And there is something deeply real and courageous about John McCain ignoring most of his advisers and all of the “insider wisdom” to reach out to a younger woman whose greatest characteristic is undaunted courage and a willingness to clean out the corruption in her own party.

.  .  .

As I wandered around from a family restaurant to the dry cleaners to a variety of other non-political places, people kept walking up to me and talking with energy and enthusiasm about their reaction to McCain’s choice of Governor Palin. As I sifted through their emotions and the intensity of their reaction it hit me that they were responding to “the real thing.” The power of Palin is that she is so out of the establishment, and so out of the talking-heads, inside-the –Beltway-elite mindset, that the 80 per cent of Americans who believe we are on the wrong track suddenly can identify with someone who isn’t part of what got us on that track.

Read the whole thing. More than once.

But there is something else going on here: Barack Obama isn’t new anymore. One reason for all the columns, fireworks and rock music was to make Obama seem more distinctive and groundbreaking than the substance of the speech would have otherwise led us to believe.

But before everyone could absorb the Denver show, the campaign took an unexpected turn. In a single day, everyone moved on to someone who really is new and about whom the public is anxious to learn more. The fact that Palin is so obviously non-elite in her background, upbringing, geography and outlook only makes her seem that much fresher. We don’t see people like her, especially Republican woman, on the national stage.

The danger with conflating celebrity and candidacy is that someone new and more exciting may come along. On Friday, she did.

Read Less

You Read It Here First

Michael Gordon of the New York Times has just published a lengthy and well-written account that will receive a great deal of attention over the next couple of days about how the surge came to be. It functions as a companion piece to the authoritative portrait offered by Peter D. Feaver in the April 2008 issue of COMMENTARY entitled “Anatomy of the Surge,” which you can read here.

Michael Gordon of the New York Times has just published a lengthy and well-written account that will receive a great deal of attention over the next couple of days about how the surge came to be. It functions as a companion piece to the authoritative portrait offered by Peter D. Feaver in the April 2008 issue of COMMENTARY entitled “Anatomy of the Surge,” which you can read here.

Read Less

Meet Jennifer Rubin

Our Jennifer Rubin, who does double duty as the Washington Editor of Pajamas Media, offers very interesting observations on blogging, reporting, and CONTENTIONS in this very high-quality streaming video from the new Pajamas TV.

Our Jennifer Rubin, who does double duty as the Washington Editor of Pajamas Media, offers very interesting observations on blogging, reporting, and CONTENTIONS in this very high-quality streaming video from the new Pajamas TV.

Read Less

Wexler on the Warpath

Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Impeach Bush and co-chair of the Obama campaign in Florida, is clearly trying to scare the hell out of Joe Klein’s parents:

“John McCain’s decision to select a vice presidential running mate that endorsed Pat Buchanan for president in 2000 is a direct affront to all Jewish Americans. Pat Buchanan is a Nazi sympathizer with a uniquely atrocious record on Israel, even going as far as to denounce bringing former Nazi soldiers to justice and praising Adolf Hitler for his ‘great courage.’ At a time when standing up for Israel’s right to self-defense has never been more critical, John McCain has failed his first test of leadership and judgment by selecting a running mate who has aligned herself with a leading anti-Israel voice in American politics. It is frightening that John McCain would select someone one heartbeat away from the presidency who supported a man who embodies vitriolic anti-Israel sentiments.”

Wexler’s portrait of Buchanan is spot-on, but his hatchet-job on Palin is grotesque and factually inaccurate. Palin never “endorsed” Buchanan, nor offered him anything more than perfunctory hospitality on his visit to Wasilla, Alaska, when she was mayor. Jake Tapper notes an AP story from a month after Buchanan’s visit in which Palin is referenced as a member of Steve Forbes’ leadership committee. Rep. Wexler is trying to frighten old Jewish ladies. Where is Joe Klein’s outrage?

Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Impeach Bush and co-chair of the Obama campaign in Florida, is clearly trying to scare the hell out of Joe Klein’s parents:

“John McCain’s decision to select a vice presidential running mate that endorsed Pat Buchanan for president in 2000 is a direct affront to all Jewish Americans. Pat Buchanan is a Nazi sympathizer with a uniquely atrocious record on Israel, even going as far as to denounce bringing former Nazi soldiers to justice and praising Adolf Hitler for his ‘great courage.’ At a time when standing up for Israel’s right to self-defense has never been more critical, John McCain has failed his first test of leadership and judgment by selecting a running mate who has aligned herself with a leading anti-Israel voice in American politics. It is frightening that John McCain would select someone one heartbeat away from the presidency who supported a man who embodies vitriolic anti-Israel sentiments.”

Wexler’s portrait of Buchanan is spot-on, but his hatchet-job on Palin is grotesque and factually inaccurate. Palin never “endorsed” Buchanan, nor offered him anything more than perfunctory hospitality on his visit to Wasilla, Alaska, when she was mayor. Jake Tapper notes an AP story from a month after Buchanan’s visit in which Palin is referenced as a member of Steve Forbes’ leadership committee. Rep. Wexler is trying to frighten old Jewish ladies. Where is Joe Klein’s outrage?

Read Less

Funny How Things Change

It was just three days ago, when it was reported that Karl Rove had asked Senator Joe Lieberman to take his name off the VP candidates’ list. Republican columnists and operatives were urging John McCain not to pick Lieberman. “His selection would mean GOP civil war” wrote Rich Lowery, one of many to predict such revolt. Annoying the Party with someone who does not always subscribe to Republican beliefs seemed like the last thing McCain needs right now.

Enter Sarah Palin.

A Republican darling? Not in her home state of Alaska, and Phillip Gourevitch of the New Yorker has these highly entertaining quotes to prove it:

Before she was running against him, Sarah Palin-the governor of Alaska and now the Republican candidate for Vice-President of the United States-thought it was pretty neat that Barack Obama was edging ahead of John McCain in her usually solidly red state. After all, she said, Obama’s campaign was using the same sort of language that she had in her gubernatorial race. “The theme of our campaign was ‘new energy,’ ” she said recently. “It was no more status quo, no more politics as usual, it was all about change. So then to see that Obama-literally, part of his campaign uses those themes, even, new energy, change, all that, I think, O.K., well, we were a little bit ahead on that.” She also noted, “Something’s kind of changing here in Alaska, too, for being such a red state on the Presidential level. Obama’s doing just fine in polls up here, which is kind of wigging people out, because they’re saying, ‘This hasn’t happened for decades that in polls the D’ “-the Democratic candidate-” ‘is doing just fine.’ To me, that’s indicative, too. It’s the no-more-status-quo, it’s change.”

This was two weeks ago, at the statehouse in Juneau. After persistent reports, in July, that Palin was on McCain’s short list of potential running mates, her name had faded back into obscurity. Nobody in Alaska seemed to take her seriously as a national prospect, and she had shrugged the whole thing off on television, telling CNBC’s Larry Kudlow that, before considering the job, she would want to know “what is it, exactly, that the V.P. does every day.” Now, at the statehouse, she sat, unattended by aides, curled up in a cardigan, and explained that what she had done every day since becoming governor was to stick her thumb in the eye of Alaska’s Republican Party establishment. “The G.O.P. leader of the state-we haven’t spoken since I got elected,” she said.

Apparently, being the unconventional Party-pooper can be a liability – or an advantage. Depends on the day of writing.

PS: The selection of Palin makes for a good reason to go back and read a PEW survey from five days ago:

Asked what accounts for this slow movement toward gender parity in top political positions, about half (51%) of all survey respondents say a major reason is that Americans simply aren’t ready to elect a woman to high office; more than four-in-ten (43%) say a major reason is that women who are active in politics are held back by men, and 38% say a major reason is that women are discriminated against in all realms of society, and politics is no exception. These are the three most prevalent choices among seven possible explanations presented in the survey.

Next in the pecking order of explanations is the time pressure that comes with trying to balance work and family; 27% of the public cites this as a major reason there aren’t more women leaders in politics. Some 26% say that a big reason is that women don’t have the experience required for higher office. The least common explanations – chosen as a major reason by just 16% and 14% of respondents, respectively – are that women don’t make as good leaders as men and that women aren’t tough enough for politics.

It was just three days ago, when it was reported that Karl Rove had asked Senator Joe Lieberman to take his name off the VP candidates’ list. Republican columnists and operatives were urging John McCain not to pick Lieberman. “His selection would mean GOP civil war” wrote Rich Lowery, one of many to predict such revolt. Annoying the Party with someone who does not always subscribe to Republican beliefs seemed like the last thing McCain needs right now.

Enter Sarah Palin.

A Republican darling? Not in her home state of Alaska, and Phillip Gourevitch of the New Yorker has these highly entertaining quotes to prove it:

Before she was running against him, Sarah Palin-the governor of Alaska and now the Republican candidate for Vice-President of the United States-thought it was pretty neat that Barack Obama was edging ahead of John McCain in her usually solidly red state. After all, she said, Obama’s campaign was using the same sort of language that she had in her gubernatorial race. “The theme of our campaign was ‘new energy,’ ” she said recently. “It was no more status quo, no more politics as usual, it was all about change. So then to see that Obama-literally, part of his campaign uses those themes, even, new energy, change, all that, I think, O.K., well, we were a little bit ahead on that.” She also noted, “Something’s kind of changing here in Alaska, too, for being such a red state on the Presidential level. Obama’s doing just fine in polls up here, which is kind of wigging people out, because they’re saying, ‘This hasn’t happened for decades that in polls the D’ “-the Democratic candidate-” ‘is doing just fine.’ To me, that’s indicative, too. It’s the no-more-status-quo, it’s change.”

This was two weeks ago, at the statehouse in Juneau. After persistent reports, in July, that Palin was on McCain’s short list of potential running mates, her name had faded back into obscurity. Nobody in Alaska seemed to take her seriously as a national prospect, and she had shrugged the whole thing off on television, telling CNBC’s Larry Kudlow that, before considering the job, she would want to know “what is it, exactly, that the V.P. does every day.” Now, at the statehouse, she sat, unattended by aides, curled up in a cardigan, and explained that what she had done every day since becoming governor was to stick her thumb in the eye of Alaska’s Republican Party establishment. “The G.O.P. leader of the state-we haven’t spoken since I got elected,” she said.

Apparently, being the unconventional Party-pooper can be a liability – or an advantage. Depends on the day of writing.

PS: The selection of Palin makes for a good reason to go back and read a PEW survey from five days ago:

Asked what accounts for this slow movement toward gender parity in top political positions, about half (51%) of all survey respondents say a major reason is that Americans simply aren’t ready to elect a woman to high office; more than four-in-ten (43%) say a major reason is that women who are active in politics are held back by men, and 38% say a major reason is that women are discriminated against in all realms of society, and politics is no exception. These are the three most prevalent choices among seven possible explanations presented in the survey.

Next in the pecking order of explanations is the time pressure that comes with trying to balance work and family; 27% of the public cites this as a major reason there aren’t more women leaders in politics. Some 26% say that a big reason is that women don’t have the experience required for higher office. The least common explanations – chosen as a major reason by just 16% and 14% of respondents, respectively – are that women don’t make as good leaders as men and that women aren’t tough enough for politics.

Read Less

The Idiossey

Iowahawk delivers a blog post of pure brilliance. With apologies to Homer.

Speak to me, O Muse, of this resourceful man
who strides so boldly upon the golden shrine at Invescos,
Between Ionic plywood columns, to the kleig light altar.
Fair Obamacles, favored of the gods, ascends to Olympus
Amidst lusty tributes and the strumming lyres of Media;
Their mounted skyboxes echo with the singing of his name
While Olbermos and Mattheus in their greasy togas wrassle
For first honor of basking in their hero’s reflected glory.
Who is this man, so bronzed in countenance,
So skilled of TelePropter, clean and articulate
whose ears like a stately urn’s protrude?
So now, daughter of Zeus, tell us his story.
And just the Cliff Notes if you don’t mind,
We don’t have all day.

Read it all.

Iowahawk delivers a blog post of pure brilliance. With apologies to Homer.

Speak to me, O Muse, of this resourceful man
who strides so boldly upon the golden shrine at Invescos,
Between Ionic plywood columns, to the kleig light altar.
Fair Obamacles, favored of the gods, ascends to Olympus
Amidst lusty tributes and the strumming lyres of Media;
Their mounted skyboxes echo with the singing of his name
While Olbermos and Mattheus in their greasy togas wrassle
For first honor of basking in their hero’s reflected glory.
Who is this man, so bronzed in countenance,
So skilled of TelePropter, clean and articulate
whose ears like a stately urn’s protrude?
So now, daughter of Zeus, tell us his story.
And just the Cliff Notes if you don’t mind,
We don’t have all day.

Read it all.

Read Less

Biden vs. Palin

Some facts:

Alaska has a population of 660,000.

Delaware has a population of 835,000.

In his last Senate race, in 2002, Joe Biden received 135,000 votes.

In her gubernatorial race in 2006, Sarah Palin received 117,000 votes.

Delaware has the highest per-capita income of any state: $56,000. Alaska is sixth, behind Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, with a per-capita income of 44,807.

The bottom line — as officials in public service, Biden and Palin come from a very similar electoral circumstances, despite the disparity in the number of years they have served.

Some facts:

Alaska has a population of 660,000.

Delaware has a population of 835,000.

In his last Senate race, in 2002, Joe Biden received 135,000 votes.

In her gubernatorial race in 2006, Sarah Palin received 117,000 votes.

Delaware has the highest per-capita income of any state: $56,000. Alaska is sixth, behind Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, with a per-capita income of 44,807.

The bottom line — as officials in public service, Biden and Palin come from a very similar electoral circumstances, despite the disparity in the number of years they have served.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

You mean he doesn’t pay for all the spending? That’s not the half of it.

Has Barack Obama’s convention bounce already stalled?

Oy. There’s a reason he came in fifth in Iowa.

What a country: “What other country in the developed world produces beauty queens who hunt caribou and serve up a terrific moose stew?”

For now Sarah Palin is viewed more favorably than Joe Biden. By a lot.

John is right: the parade of glossy magazine spreads begins. Moose hot dogs?

Maybe it’s not the female vote that will get a jump start –which picture would energize men to go vote?

If energy is going to be front and center in the McCain campaign you’d be hard pressed to find a better spokesperson. Notice how she draws the contrast with Joe Biden’s record on domestic energy development.

Is the New York Times smitten?

Peggy Noonan, wordsmith and comedienne. (Watch to the end.)

John Fund says Barack Obama should come clean on his questionable associations.  He argues: “All presidential candidates resist full examination of their records. But it should be the job of reporters not to accept noncooperation, stonewalling or intimidation when it comes to questions about fitness for the nation’s highest office.”

There is an interesting contrast between Sarah Palin and Obama when it comes to local political machines, says the Wall Street Journal’s editors: “For starters, we’d say Governor Palin’s credentials as an agent of reform exceed Barack Obama’s. Mr. Obama rose through the Chicago Democratic machine without a peep of pushback. Alaska’s politics are deeply inbred and backed by energy-industry money. Mr. Obama slid past the kind of forces that Mrs. Palin took head on.”

Grover Norquist on Palin: “Her focus on spending continues the McCain strategy of putting distance between himself and the greatest liability of the Bush presidency — its failure to even try and limit overall spending. More like Reagan, less like Bush. Obama is the guy who wants to spend like Bush.” Sounds like both tickets are running against the Bush administration now. Newt Gingrich is pumped up too.

The Left wonders now whether Hillary should have been the VP pick. As my kids would say, “Duh.”

How quickly the press moves on.

No dissent permitted at the Democratic Politburo.

The real story behind the “scandal” — we should all be accused of trying to fire a child abuser.

You mean he doesn’t pay for all the spending? That’s not the half of it.

Has Barack Obama’s convention bounce already stalled?

Oy. There’s a reason he came in fifth in Iowa.

What a country: “What other country in the developed world produces beauty queens who hunt caribou and serve up a terrific moose stew?”

For now Sarah Palin is viewed more favorably than Joe Biden. By a lot.

John is right: the parade of glossy magazine spreads begins. Moose hot dogs?

Maybe it’s not the female vote that will get a jump start –which picture would energize men to go vote?

If energy is going to be front and center in the McCain campaign you’d be hard pressed to find a better spokesperson. Notice how she draws the contrast with Joe Biden’s record on domestic energy development.

Is the New York Times smitten?

Peggy Noonan, wordsmith and comedienne. (Watch to the end.)

John Fund says Barack Obama should come clean on his questionable associations.  He argues: “All presidential candidates resist full examination of their records. But it should be the job of reporters not to accept noncooperation, stonewalling or intimidation when it comes to questions about fitness for the nation’s highest office.”

There is an interesting contrast between Sarah Palin and Obama when it comes to local political machines, says the Wall Street Journal’s editors: “For starters, we’d say Governor Palin’s credentials as an agent of reform exceed Barack Obama’s. Mr. Obama rose through the Chicago Democratic machine without a peep of pushback. Alaska’s politics are deeply inbred and backed by energy-industry money. Mr. Obama slid past the kind of forces that Mrs. Palin took head on.”

Grover Norquist on Palin: “Her focus on spending continues the McCain strategy of putting distance between himself and the greatest liability of the Bush presidency — its failure to even try and limit overall spending. More like Reagan, less like Bush. Obama is the guy who wants to spend like Bush.” Sounds like both tickets are running against the Bush administration now. Newt Gingrich is pumped up too.

The Left wonders now whether Hillary should have been the VP pick. As my kids would say, “Duh.”

How quickly the press moves on.

No dissent permitted at the Democratic Politburo.

The real story behind the “scandal” — we should all be accused of trying to fire a child abuser.

Read Less

A Doer

In the inevitable battle to define Sarah Palin two things stand out. And both are potentially helpful for John McCain

First, the comparison is being made between the Republican VP and the Democratic Presidential nominees. I don’t recall this ever happening. Arguably, she has more experience (as this piece explains):

She brought down Alaska’s governor, attorney general, and state Republican chairman (see my “Most Popular Governor,” July 16, 2007). She killed the “bridge to nowhere.” She used increased tax revenues from high oil prices to give Alaskans a rebate. She slashed government spending. She took on the biggest industry in Alaska, the oil companies, to work out an equitable deal on building a new gas pipeline.

And second, in a race against two first class talkers Palin is a doer. Her life story is filled with action: hunt, fish, have five kids, run for office, tackle old boys, slash the budget, and so on. She does a lot. “Sarah the Barracuda” got her nickname for aggressive play on the basketball court – and it stuck in elected office.  Contrast that to the light footprint of Barack Obama, who never seems to accomplish anything. That was even apparent at the Democratic Convention when both in the autobiographical film and Joe Biden’s speech we saw the straining to elevate and inflate the meager accomplishments of Obama’s public record. His greatest triumphs have been writing books, giving speeches, and running for office.

In this regard, I wonder if the McCain camp is baiting Obama to take on the “experience” fight with Palin. It might be a very productive one — for McCain and Palin. If voters want action not talk there’s a good argument they won’t find it with the speechifiers on the Democratic ticket. As one conservative observer put it:

McCain at least has executive experience as a squadron commander in the US Navy, but Palin has the actual executive track record that the others lack.  She has governed Alaska for 20 months, negotiated a pipeline deal with Canada (which gives her more formal diplomatic experience than either Obama or Biden), was commander-in-chief of Alaska’s National Guard, and so on.  Even her more local-level experience is more applicable than Obama’s: she served two terms as mayor, an executive position, cutting taxes and running a small city.  Obama served in the state legislature, with no executive responsibilities at all.

And if the Democrats want to fight over whether a first term Senator with no executive experience is better qualified than the Doer from Alaska, that would likely be just fine with the McCain team.

In the inevitable battle to define Sarah Palin two things stand out. And both are potentially helpful for John McCain

First, the comparison is being made between the Republican VP and the Democratic Presidential nominees. I don’t recall this ever happening. Arguably, she has more experience (as this piece explains):

She brought down Alaska’s governor, attorney general, and state Republican chairman (see my “Most Popular Governor,” July 16, 2007). She killed the “bridge to nowhere.” She used increased tax revenues from high oil prices to give Alaskans a rebate. She slashed government spending. She took on the biggest industry in Alaska, the oil companies, to work out an equitable deal on building a new gas pipeline.

And second, in a race against two first class talkers Palin is a doer. Her life story is filled with action: hunt, fish, have five kids, run for office, tackle old boys, slash the budget, and so on. She does a lot. “Sarah the Barracuda” got her nickname for aggressive play on the basketball court – and it stuck in elected office.  Contrast that to the light footprint of Barack Obama, who never seems to accomplish anything. That was even apparent at the Democratic Convention when both in the autobiographical film and Joe Biden’s speech we saw the straining to elevate and inflate the meager accomplishments of Obama’s public record. His greatest triumphs have been writing books, giving speeches, and running for office.

In this regard, I wonder if the McCain camp is baiting Obama to take on the “experience” fight with Palin. It might be a very productive one — for McCain and Palin. If voters want action not talk there’s a good argument they won’t find it with the speechifiers on the Democratic ticket. As one conservative observer put it:

McCain at least has executive experience as a squadron commander in the US Navy, but Palin has the actual executive track record that the others lack.  She has governed Alaska for 20 months, negotiated a pipeline deal with Canada (which gives her more formal diplomatic experience than either Obama or Biden), was commander-in-chief of Alaska’s National Guard, and so on.  Even her more local-level experience is more applicable than Obama’s: she served two terms as mayor, an executive position, cutting taxes and running a small city.  Obama served in the state legislature, with no executive responsibilities at all.

And if the Democrats want to fight over whether a first term Senator with no executive experience is better qualified than the Doer from Alaska, that would likely be just fine with the McCain team.

Read Less

What We Are up Against

There are moments when all the political correctness and universal nonsense about tolerance to alternative belief systems just go out the window. One of them happened recently in a very traditional province in Pakistan. According to the AP, five Muslim women were shot and then buried alive, to avenge the honor of their families after they attempted to marry men of their own choosing. While most Pakistani lawmakers were duly outraged, at least one saw fit to defend the action. “These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them,” Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents Baluchistan province, said Saturday. “Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid.”

I know, I know. It’s not all of Islam that endorses honor killings of women. But it is nonetheless a fairly unique problem to Islam, an insufferable evil that even the most extreme Christian and Jewish groups have somehow failed to publicly endorse. When will the international community put this high on its human rights agenda? When will Islam as a whole repudiate once and for all this heinous, wretched, unconscionable repudiation of human freedom and the sanctity of life?

This is the face of radical Islam. Anyone who wants to negotiate with it, to offer it economic incentives for reining in its terroristic aspirations of destruction, anyone who thinks terrorism can be stopped by “giving them what they want,” take note: These are people who do not merely teach children to idolize suicide bombers who kill children at a restaurant, but who glory in the sick and brutal murder of their own family members when the latter have violated their “honor.”

I will be accused of generalization in the way I’m talking. But what on earth am I supposed to do other than generalize in the face of such horror? We’re not talking about “bad apples,” about people who somehow fell between the cracks of the system, about random violence or the failure of social services. There is a civilizational issue here, a culture that has public representatives defending itself in public, a sub-stratum of not a few of today’s Muslim societies, one that is twisted and will only cause endless harm to humanity so long as it is encouraged, both within the Muslim world and everywhere else.

Honor killings must be eradicated from the earth, and those who encourage them or tolerate them in their midst must be excoriated as barbarians unqualified to deal with the rest of mankind. Anything less than that sends us all tumbling into the darkest past.

There are moments when all the political correctness and universal nonsense about tolerance to alternative belief systems just go out the window. One of them happened recently in a very traditional province in Pakistan. According to the AP, five Muslim women were shot and then buried alive, to avenge the honor of their families after they attempted to marry men of their own choosing. While most Pakistani lawmakers were duly outraged, at least one saw fit to defend the action. “These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them,” Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents Baluchistan province, said Saturday. “Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid.”

I know, I know. It’s not all of Islam that endorses honor killings of women. But it is nonetheless a fairly unique problem to Islam, an insufferable evil that even the most extreme Christian and Jewish groups have somehow failed to publicly endorse. When will the international community put this high on its human rights agenda? When will Islam as a whole repudiate once and for all this heinous, wretched, unconscionable repudiation of human freedom and the sanctity of life?

This is the face of radical Islam. Anyone who wants to negotiate with it, to offer it economic incentives for reining in its terroristic aspirations of destruction, anyone who thinks terrorism can be stopped by “giving them what they want,” take note: These are people who do not merely teach children to idolize suicide bombers who kill children at a restaurant, but who glory in the sick and brutal murder of their own family members when the latter have violated their “honor.”

I will be accused of generalization in the way I’m talking. But what on earth am I supposed to do other than generalize in the face of such horror? We’re not talking about “bad apples,” about people who somehow fell between the cracks of the system, about random violence or the failure of social services. There is a civilizational issue here, a culture that has public representatives defending itself in public, a sub-stratum of not a few of today’s Muslim societies, one that is twisted and will only cause endless harm to humanity so long as it is encouraged, both within the Muslim world and everywhere else.

Honor killings must be eradicated from the earth, and those who encourage them or tolerate them in their midst must be excoriated as barbarians unqualified to deal with the rest of mankind. Anything less than that sends us all tumbling into the darkest past.

Read Less

The National Security Question

On January 4, I was on a blogger call with John McCain. I asked him about potential vice presidential picks and he said it was too early in the season to seriously weigh options, but he specifically assured me that whomever he would choose would have strong national security credentials.

In early 2007, Sarah Palin was asked for her thoughts on Iraq. Her answer:

“I’ve been so focused on state government, I haven’t really focused much on the war in Iraq,” she said. “I heard on the news about the new deployments, and while I support our president, Condoleezza Rice and the administration, I want to know that we have an exit plan in place; I want assurances that we are doing all we can to keep our troops safe.”

In July 2007, she was asked about the surge.

“I’m not here to judge the idea of withdrawing, or the timeline,” she said in a teleconference interview with reporters during a July 2007 visit with Alaska National Guard troops stationed in Kuwait. “I’m not going to judge even the surge. I’m here to find out what Alaskans need of me as their governor.”

These are not bad answers. They are obviously truthful and refreshingly humble. But they make mincemeat out of McCain’s vow, and it’s obvious that after 8 months of running for Republican nominee and then president in a general election, he saw fit to change his foremost criteria for VP pick. Does that not warrant a little skepticism?

Yes, you have to win before you can govern and every running mate has weaknesses. But there are weaknesses – and then there are weaknesses. Since September 11, 2001, there hasn’t been a stretch of time during which one legitimate threat to U.S. national security has cooled down without another heating up. Some say that Palin is no risk because should she ever assume the presidency all McCain’s appointees will be in place and she’s not going to drastically change course. The problem here is that McCain’s greatest contribution to national security in the past five years came as a result of his being brave and experienced enough to push for a drastic change of course when no one thought it was prudent. National security reassurance isn’t a mere matter of finding a conservative hawk who will say yes to advisors. To read McCain’s words urging George W. Bush to bulk up forces in Iraq in 2006 is to bear witness to a kind of courage and understanding that rises to the level of genius. It is the very best of McCain. It is the maverick bringing his instincts and temperament into line with his experience and expertise. Ditching his vow to find someone to fill those specific shoes is not necessarily catastrophic and it may yet give him an edge between now and November. But it is not, as some suggest, McCain at his best.

On January 4, I was on a blogger call with John McCain. I asked him about potential vice presidential picks and he said it was too early in the season to seriously weigh options, but he specifically assured me that whomever he would choose would have strong national security credentials.

In early 2007, Sarah Palin was asked for her thoughts on Iraq. Her answer:

“I’ve been so focused on state government, I haven’t really focused much on the war in Iraq,” she said. “I heard on the news about the new deployments, and while I support our president, Condoleezza Rice and the administration, I want to know that we have an exit plan in place; I want assurances that we are doing all we can to keep our troops safe.”

In July 2007, she was asked about the surge.

“I’m not here to judge the idea of withdrawing, or the timeline,” she said in a teleconference interview with reporters during a July 2007 visit with Alaska National Guard troops stationed in Kuwait. “I’m not going to judge even the surge. I’m here to find out what Alaskans need of me as their governor.”

These are not bad answers. They are obviously truthful and refreshingly humble. But they make mincemeat out of McCain’s vow, and it’s obvious that after 8 months of running for Republican nominee and then president in a general election, he saw fit to change his foremost criteria for VP pick. Does that not warrant a little skepticism?

Yes, you have to win before you can govern and every running mate has weaknesses. But there are weaknesses – and then there are weaknesses. Since September 11, 2001, there hasn’t been a stretch of time during which one legitimate threat to U.S. national security has cooled down without another heating up. Some say that Palin is no risk because should she ever assume the presidency all McCain’s appointees will be in place and she’s not going to drastically change course. The problem here is that McCain’s greatest contribution to national security in the past five years came as a result of his being brave and experienced enough to push for a drastic change of course when no one thought it was prudent. National security reassurance isn’t a mere matter of finding a conservative hawk who will say yes to advisors. To read McCain’s words urging George W. Bush to bulk up forces in Iraq in 2006 is to bear witness to a kind of courage and understanding that rises to the level of genius. It is the very best of McCain. It is the maverick bringing his instincts and temperament into line with his experience and expertise. Ditching his vow to find someone to fill those specific shoes is not necessarily catastrophic and it may yet give him an edge between now and November. But it is not, as some suggest, McCain at his best.

Read Less

Sarah Palin, Buchananite?

The Nation‘s Christopher Hayes has dug up a 1999 AP dispatch detailing a Wasilla, Alaska rally during Pat Buchanan’s 2000 presidential campaign which Palin attended, sporting a Buchanan button. Curious as to what this meant, Hayes called Buchanan for comment on McCain’s selection. “It’s great for the base. I’m pretty sure she’s a Buchananite!” Buchanan said.

This would be disturbing, if it were true. At the time, Ben Smith reports, Palin wrote a letter to editor of the local newspaper explaining that “the article may have left your readers with the perception that I am endorsing this candidate, as opposed to welcoming his visit to Wasilla. As mayor, I will welcome all the candidates in Wasilla.” Palin officially supported Steve Forbes. Smith produces a press release from Buchanan’s 1996 campaign listing his Alaska supporters, on which Palin does not appear. Nor has she ever contributed money to his campaigns, Smith reports.

Palin’s ties to Buchanan, however deep, are newsworthy, and no doubt they will be investigated in the coming days. I have trouble believing that the McCain campaign would knowingly choose for him a running mate who supported a third-party presidential candidate in recent elections, especially one who’s such an infamous bigot. We’ll see.

But what also interests me is that someone from The Nation would at all protest that John McCain’s VP pick might be a crypto-Buchananite. On foreign policy, Pat Buchanan and The Nation magazine are near indistinguishable.

The Nation‘s Christopher Hayes has dug up a 1999 AP dispatch detailing a Wasilla, Alaska rally during Pat Buchanan’s 2000 presidential campaign which Palin attended, sporting a Buchanan button. Curious as to what this meant, Hayes called Buchanan for comment on McCain’s selection. “It’s great for the base. I’m pretty sure she’s a Buchananite!” Buchanan said.

This would be disturbing, if it were true. At the time, Ben Smith reports, Palin wrote a letter to editor of the local newspaper explaining that “the article may have left your readers with the perception that I am endorsing this candidate, as opposed to welcoming his visit to Wasilla. As mayor, I will welcome all the candidates in Wasilla.” Palin officially supported Steve Forbes. Smith produces a press release from Buchanan’s 1996 campaign listing his Alaska supporters, on which Palin does not appear. Nor has she ever contributed money to his campaigns, Smith reports.

Palin’s ties to Buchanan, however deep, are newsworthy, and no doubt they will be investigated in the coming days. I have trouble believing that the McCain campaign would knowingly choose for him a running mate who supported a third-party presidential candidate in recent elections, especially one who’s such an infamous bigot. We’ll see.

But what also interests me is that someone from The Nation would at all protest that John McCain’s VP pick might be a crypto-Buchananite. On foreign policy, Pat Buchanan and The Nation magazine are near indistinguishable.

Read Less

A Question About Palin and Experience

What if Palin were a Senator from Alaska, and therefore a Washington person, and not a governor from Alaska, and therefore a Juneau person? Would having been elected in 2006 be considered a catastrophic liability? Or is the presumption of the press corps that someone serving in the Senate is by definition to be taken more seriously because that person lives and works in Washington?

What if Palin were a Senator from Alaska, and therefore a Washington person, and not a governor from Alaska, and therefore a Juneau person? Would having been elected in 2006 be considered a catastrophic liability? Or is the presumption of the press corps that someone serving in the Senate is by definition to be taken more seriously because that person lives and works in Washington?

Read Less

Shaking It Up

Fred Barnes explains that Sarah Palin’s selection doesn’t just shake up the race, it may shake up the Republican Party. The latter is badly in need of just that, having lost its Congressional majority, a number of governorships and most importantly its ideological direction. Politics is about ideas, but compelling personalities are needed to carry those ideas. So great hopes reside in  the “pro-life, pro-gun, pro-military, pro-Iraq war, pro-spending cuts, pro-tax cuts, pro-drilling for oil everywhere (including ANWR), pro-family, and pro-religion” Palin.

It is ironic that it should be John McCain who, if this is successful, would be credited with finding the path to the GOP’s revival and reinvigoration. McCain certainly is not known as a “Party man.” To the contrary, his role in dividing and infuriating his fellow Republicans nearly cost him the nomination. And, until now, it has largely deprived him of the affection and enthusiasm of his base. But now cast in the role of presidential nominee McCain also assumes the position as head of the Republican Party. And in that regard it is fortunate for the Republicans to have one of its greatest critics at its helm. The Party needs, as Barnes put it, someone who “can adapt conservatism to new times and popularize the faith. ”

It does not hurt to have selected someone who made a splash by fighting corruption, slashing budgets, and “shaking up the old boys network.” All of this is why conservatives are downright giddy. They see not only the potential for an improbable presidential victory, but the road out of the political dead end for the GOP.

None of this is possible unless she performs well under pressure, especially in her debate against Joe Biden. (Could she be the perfect foil for the Bombastic Bushkin of politics?) Her stunning performance on Friday gave conservatives hope that she is up to the job. In a little more than two months we’ll find out if Palin is positioned to be the leader of the next generation of Republicans or simply an interesting footnote in political history.

Fred Barnes explains that Sarah Palin’s selection doesn’t just shake up the race, it may shake up the Republican Party. The latter is badly in need of just that, having lost its Congressional majority, a number of governorships and most importantly its ideological direction. Politics is about ideas, but compelling personalities are needed to carry those ideas. So great hopes reside in  the “pro-life, pro-gun, pro-military, pro-Iraq war, pro-spending cuts, pro-tax cuts, pro-drilling for oil everywhere (including ANWR), pro-family, and pro-religion” Palin.

It is ironic that it should be John McCain who, if this is successful, would be credited with finding the path to the GOP’s revival and reinvigoration. McCain certainly is not known as a “Party man.” To the contrary, his role in dividing and infuriating his fellow Republicans nearly cost him the nomination. And, until now, it has largely deprived him of the affection and enthusiasm of his base. But now cast in the role of presidential nominee McCain also assumes the position as head of the Republican Party. And in that regard it is fortunate for the Republicans to have one of its greatest critics at its helm. The Party needs, as Barnes put it, someone who “can adapt conservatism to new times and popularize the faith. ”

It does not hurt to have selected someone who made a splash by fighting corruption, slashing budgets, and “shaking up the old boys network.” All of this is why conservatives are downright giddy. They see not only the potential for an improbable presidential victory, but the road out of the political dead end for the GOP.

None of this is possible unless she performs well under pressure, especially in her debate against Joe Biden. (Could she be the perfect foil for the Bombastic Bushkin of politics?) Her stunning performance on Friday gave conservatives hope that she is up to the job. In a little more than two months we’ll find out if Palin is positioned to be the leader of the next generation of Republicans or simply an interesting footnote in political history.

Read Less

Friday Blues

The Obama campaign had a Convention hang-over yesterday. They were engulfed in the Palin news tsunami, they barked and then retreated in their criticism of McCain’s VP pick, they tried every desperate attack they could dream up (that’s it- let’s turn the Governor of Alaska into an anti-Semite!), dissed small-town America and saw the Hillary Clinton voter rift reappear before the confetti was cleaned up from the stadium field.

This seems to reaffirm that the Obama campaign, like its candidate, is great on the set pieces of politics but lousy on the bruising give-and-take of day-to-day political combat. The Obama campaign’s ads are generally boring and reactive, their daily retorts over-the-top and their push-backs (e.g. the Bill Ayers ad, the Palin sneer) poorly thought out. Is this inexperience or poor judgment?  Both the campaign and the candidate leave you wondering.

The Obama campaign had a Convention hang-over yesterday. They were engulfed in the Palin news tsunami, they barked and then retreated in their criticism of McCain’s VP pick, they tried every desperate attack they could dream up (that’s it- let’s turn the Governor of Alaska into an anti-Semite!), dissed small-town America and saw the Hillary Clinton voter rift reappear before the confetti was cleaned up from the stadium field.

This seems to reaffirm that the Obama campaign, like its candidate, is great on the set pieces of politics but lousy on the bruising give-and-take of day-to-day political combat. The Obama campaign’s ads are generally boring and reactive, their daily retorts over-the-top and their push-backs (e.g. the Bill Ayers ad, the Palin sneer) poorly thought out. Is this inexperience or poor judgment?  Both the campaign and the candidate leave you wondering.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.