Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 6, 2008

Key Bloc In Virginia

From time to time I check in with fellow Virginian Larry J. Sabato about the state of the presidential race here and in other swing states. Sabato tells me:

 “I’ve always said Virginia was a toss-up but unless McCain is losing by 5-8 points nationally, he can probably eke out a win. [Sarah] Palin has only a marginal effect in Virginia. McCain’s veteran ties are far more important in this veteran-rich state. “

How big a factor are vets? He says, “Almost 15%. Vets may be a larger proportion of the voting population since they are older and their turnout is higher. And of course you can more than double that percentage once you include their immediate families.” (Virginia isn’t the only state where that is true, of course. Florida, for example, has the second largest veteran population after California.)

So while everyone is swept up by Palin-mania, it is important to remember that the race still will come down to a few states and some key demographic groups, some of whom — like veterans — get virtually no attention from the mainstream media.

From time to time I check in with fellow Virginian Larry J. Sabato about the state of the presidential race here and in other swing states. Sabato tells me:

 “I’ve always said Virginia was a toss-up but unless McCain is losing by 5-8 points nationally, he can probably eke out a win. [Sarah] Palin has only a marginal effect in Virginia. McCain’s veteran ties are far more important in this veteran-rich state. “

How big a factor are vets? He says, “Almost 15%. Vets may be a larger proportion of the voting population since they are older and their turnout is higher. And of course you can more than double that percentage once you include their immediate families.” (Virginia isn’t the only state where that is true, of course. Florida, for example, has the second largest veteran population after California.)

So while everyone is swept up by Palin-mania, it is important to remember that the race still will come down to a few states and some key demographic groups, some of whom — like veterans — get virtually no attention from the mainstream media.

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The Natural

Via streaming video, I watched Sarah Palin in New Mexico Saturday night, speaking to a very loud crowd before she introduced John McCain.  Observing not as a partisan but as a student of politics, I found it nothing short of breathtaking. I was struck by the ease of delivery, the sense of calm at the podium, the smile when she chides Barack Obama (“I’m surprised he went there” she says before explaining his horrid record on earmarks), and the non-boastful way in which she gives chapter and verse on her own record of budget and tax reform and energy development. The total package of political skills is rare and almost unheard of in someone who previously never operated on a national stage.

Her proficiency and political showmanship raise two issues. First, when the two candidates separate for future campaigning, will her crowds dwarf his? (And does it matter?) She is now the star of the race, and the choice as to how and where to use her will be a tricky one for the McCain camp.  Second, the assessment of the mainstream media — that she was an untested, unaccomplished hick — has proven to be so totally at odds with reality that average voters, even those not previously inclined to doubt the fairness of the media, may conclude that the press is utterly clueless and unworthy of their attention. Over the course of the campaign this might insulate the McCain-Palin ticket from the constant barbs and attacks that are sure to be launched against them.

Via streaming video, I watched Sarah Palin in New Mexico Saturday night, speaking to a very loud crowd before she introduced John McCain.  Observing not as a partisan but as a student of politics, I found it nothing short of breathtaking. I was struck by the ease of delivery, the sense of calm at the podium, the smile when she chides Barack Obama (“I’m surprised he went there” she says before explaining his horrid record on earmarks), and the non-boastful way in which she gives chapter and verse on her own record of budget and tax reform and energy development. The total package of political skills is rare and almost unheard of in someone who previously never operated on a national stage.

Her proficiency and political showmanship raise two issues. First, when the two candidates separate for future campaigning, will her crowds dwarf his? (And does it matter?) She is now the star of the race, and the choice as to how and where to use her will be a tricky one for the McCain camp.  Second, the assessment of the mainstream media — that she was an untested, unaccomplished hick — has proven to be so totally at odds with reality that average voters, even those not previously inclined to doubt the fairness of the media, may conclude that the press is utterly clueless and unworthy of their attention. Over the course of the campaign this might insulate the McCain-Palin ticket from the constant barbs and attacks that are sure to be launched against them.

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An Opinion Piece I Won’t Be Reading Anytime Soon

Available at Newsweek.com: “What Hillary Should Say Now,” by Patti Davis. I don’t think Hillary will be reading it either.

Available at Newsweek.com: “What Hillary Should Say Now,” by Patti Davis. I don’t think Hillary will be reading it either.

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The Republican Ticket and Abortion

The next time someone tells you the Republican Party is controlled by an extremist agenda on the subject of abortion, you might reply by noting the number of times the word “abortion” appeared in the speeches of Sarah Palin and John McCain.

The number: 0.

The number of times abortion was even alluded to, as in a reference to a “culture of life”: 1. Once.

It came, 25 paragraphs down, in McCain’s speech. And it so displeased Jody Bottum, the editor of the splendid monthly First Things, that he wrote a disgusted blog item about it:

One reference to a “culture of life,” buried in a laundry list in the twenty-fifth paragraph? That’s it in John McCain’s acceptance speech? The sole mention of abortion in the combined hour and a half of oratory from the two Republican nominees over the last two nights?

Doubtless, those who have committed themselves to a conviction that the Republican ticket has been assembled to march all women in lockstep into a back alley where there is a rusty coat hanger and a gleeful undertaker will see the silence on these matters as a form of deliberate deception. Or it could be what it truly is: It’s a pro-life ticket, but the man at the top of the ticket, with a perfect pro-life voting record in the Senate, is far more concerned with other matters. And his vice presidential pick is there to follow his lead.

The next time someone tells you the Republican Party is controlled by an extremist agenda on the subject of abortion, you might reply by noting the number of times the word “abortion” appeared in the speeches of Sarah Palin and John McCain.

The number: 0.

The number of times abortion was even alluded to, as in a reference to a “culture of life”: 1. Once.

It came, 25 paragraphs down, in McCain’s speech. And it so displeased Jody Bottum, the editor of the splendid monthly First Things, that he wrote a disgusted blog item about it:

One reference to a “culture of life,” buried in a laundry list in the twenty-fifth paragraph? That’s it in John McCain’s acceptance speech? The sole mention of abortion in the combined hour and a half of oratory from the two Republican nominees over the last two nights?

Doubtless, those who have committed themselves to a conviction that the Republican ticket has been assembled to march all women in lockstep into a back alley where there is a rusty coat hanger and a gleeful undertaker will see the silence on these matters as a form of deliberate deception. Or it could be what it truly is: It’s a pro-life ticket, but the man at the top of the ticket, with a perfect pro-life voting record in the Senate, is far more concerned with other matters. And his vice presidential pick is there to follow his lead.

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Commentary of the Day

Ahithophel, on John Podhoretz:

Actually, I found this article in TIME more insulting: “Are Evangelicals Really Sold on Palin?”

I am an evangelical, an academic, and a conservative. I often find that my fellow academics speak of evangelicals as insects to be studied and classified and explained away. If one believes as the liberal intellectuals do, then one believes this on the basis of reason. If one believes otherwise, especially if one believes anything remotely resembling conservative Christianity (and perhaps conservative Judaism), then one believes this on the basis of neuroses or pathologies or delusions. As you suggest, the “arrow” of development moves only one way. If you move in the liberal direction, you are growing, advancing, maturing, progressing. If you move in the opposite direction, you are reverting, digressing, falling backwards into some sort of comfortable prejudice or intellectual rigidity.

What is remarkable is the way in which the liberal media carry the water for the liberals on this. When they see that prayers are being offered at the Democratic National Convention, then they eagerly report this so that some of those benighted Christians will switch over and vote Democrat. Thus Obama can talk about his personal faith, his prayer life, his devotion to the church–he can even preach at a church on Sunday–and all of this will be celebrated and put front-and-center for everyone to see *as an example of how attractive he is*. When a conservative speaks of the relevance of her prayer life to her decisions, or when she says that she thinks a certain decision is God’s will, or so on, then this is a subject of fear and loathing, and if it is reported it is reported in order to show everyone what a dangerous wacko this is.

I’m no longer surprised by double standards, of course. But this one is particularly breathtaking.

Ahithophel, on John Podhoretz:

Actually, I found this article in TIME more insulting: “Are Evangelicals Really Sold on Palin?”

I am an evangelical, an academic, and a conservative. I often find that my fellow academics speak of evangelicals as insects to be studied and classified and explained away. If one believes as the liberal intellectuals do, then one believes this on the basis of reason. If one believes otherwise, especially if one believes anything remotely resembling conservative Christianity (and perhaps conservative Judaism), then one believes this on the basis of neuroses or pathologies or delusions. As you suggest, the “arrow” of development moves only one way. If you move in the liberal direction, you are growing, advancing, maturing, progressing. If you move in the opposite direction, you are reverting, digressing, falling backwards into some sort of comfortable prejudice or intellectual rigidity.

What is remarkable is the way in which the liberal media carry the water for the liberals on this. When they see that prayers are being offered at the Democratic National Convention, then they eagerly report this so that some of those benighted Christians will switch over and vote Democrat. Thus Obama can talk about his personal faith, his prayer life, his devotion to the church–he can even preach at a church on Sunday–and all of this will be celebrated and put front-and-center for everyone to see *as an example of how attractive he is*. When a conservative speaks of the relevance of her prayer life to her decisions, or when she says that she thinks a certain decision is God’s will, or so on, then this is a subject of fear and loathing, and if it is reported it is reported in order to show everyone what a dangerous wacko this is.

I’m no longer surprised by double standards, of course. But this one is particularly breathtaking.

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It Is Worth Reconsidering

My initial reaction after the McCain speech was ” workmanlike” and “basic.” But I rewatched the last ten minutes or so. Upon further review I have to conclude that it is political art practiced well. It’s not flowery or over the top, but it is stirring. I leave it to professional speechwriters to tell me otherwise, but it seems that it is not the language itself that is so moving. It is the core idea: we can and should all stand up for our country. Yes, McCain is an especially effective presenter of that idea, but the emotion stems not from his biography or the language, but from the central core idea.

And that, it strikes me, is the difference between the Obama and McCain speeches. I can’t for the life of me recall a single line now from Obama’s speech or really what the animating idea was. “George W. Bush’s presidency stinks,” I suppose. Really, the message was base partisanship — throw the bums out. And so it isn’t hard to understand how a speech like that quickly fades from memory.

But when there is a motivating message of high principle — stand up for your country and resist partisanship — it is easier to recall the text of the speech itself. Of course, it helps that the most stirring part of McCain’s speech was at the very end with the message as the repeating cadence (“Stand up for. . . “).

Unlike the Seinfeld-ian Obama speech and campaign (which leave one meandering around in a field of intellectual “nothingness”) McCain’s speech, like his campaign, is about something other than not letting the Democrats get their mitts on  the White House. And it could not be more different that Obama’s message.

How ironic that the key phrase and image for Democrats was people getting “knocked down” and for McCain it is people “standing up.” If that isn’t a contrast in vision I don’t know what is.

My initial reaction after the McCain speech was ” workmanlike” and “basic.” But I rewatched the last ten minutes or so. Upon further review I have to conclude that it is political art practiced well. It’s not flowery or over the top, but it is stirring. I leave it to professional speechwriters to tell me otherwise, but it seems that it is not the language itself that is so moving. It is the core idea: we can and should all stand up for our country. Yes, McCain is an especially effective presenter of that idea, but the emotion stems not from his biography or the language, but from the central core idea.

And that, it strikes me, is the difference between the Obama and McCain speeches. I can’t for the life of me recall a single line now from Obama’s speech or really what the animating idea was. “George W. Bush’s presidency stinks,” I suppose. Really, the message was base partisanship — throw the bums out. And so it isn’t hard to understand how a speech like that quickly fades from memory.

But when there is a motivating message of high principle — stand up for your country and resist partisanship — it is easier to recall the text of the speech itself. Of course, it helps that the most stirring part of McCain’s speech was at the very end with the message as the repeating cadence (“Stand up for. . . “).

Unlike the Seinfeld-ian Obama speech and campaign (which leave one meandering around in a field of intellectual “nothingness”) McCain’s speech, like his campaign, is about something other than not letting the Democrats get their mitts on  the White House. And it could not be more different that Obama’s message.

How ironic that the key phrase and image for Democrats was people getting “knocked down” and for McCain it is people “standing up.” If that isn’t a contrast in vision I don’t know what is.

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Re: “Where You’ve Been. . . “

John, the flailing seems to continue. The Obama team plainly doesn’t know what to do about Sarah Palin or Palin-mania. Today Barack Obama took after Palin:

“She’s a skillful politician. But, you know, when you’ve been taking all these earmarks when it’s convenient, and then suddenly you’re the champion anti-earmark person, that’s not change. Come on! I mean, words mean something, you can’t just make stuff up.”

The subject was a report that she received earmarks for her constituents in Alaska. There are at least four off things about this. First, John McCain never asked for a single earmark and Obama got many worth hundreds of millions,includings ones for his wife’s employer. Why in the world go down this road? Second, Obama invites comparison to Joe Biden on the subject of earmarks and inside the Beltway favoritism. They don’t want to go there. (Mark my words: an unintended benefit of Palin is greater scrutiny of Biden whose lobbyist ties, not to mention his mouth, are a disaster waiting to happen.) Third,  perhaps in a fit of jealousy, Obama is insistent on going after the newest political star and his opponent’s VP, thereby lowering himself to fighting with the bottom of his real opponent’s ticket. He forgets that the job of VPs is to punch and his job is to sail above the fray. And finally and not surprisingly, he leaves himself open to the counterattack that he is a man with no record  — which came swiftly from the McCain camp:

“Barack Obama has requested the equivalent of one million dollars in new pork barrel spending for every working day he’s been in the U.S Senate, while John McCain has never once asked for an earmark, and Governor Palin has vetoed hundreds of millions in government spending including killing the infamous ‘bridge to nowhere’. Just like so many other issues Barack Obama is all talk, has no record to back it up and isn’t ready to make change.”

Obama’s counterattack on Palin has all the, excuse me, earmarks of a nervous and confused campaign. Rather than say, “how nice for McCain to find a VP with such energy” they are apparently obsessed with knocking her down. I suspect their polling is inducing a measure of panic, and today’s ill-conceived effort is the result.

John, the flailing seems to continue. The Obama team plainly doesn’t know what to do about Sarah Palin or Palin-mania. Today Barack Obama took after Palin:

“She’s a skillful politician. But, you know, when you’ve been taking all these earmarks when it’s convenient, and then suddenly you’re the champion anti-earmark person, that’s not change. Come on! I mean, words mean something, you can’t just make stuff up.”

The subject was a report that she received earmarks for her constituents in Alaska. There are at least four off things about this. First, John McCain never asked for a single earmark and Obama got many worth hundreds of millions,includings ones for his wife’s employer. Why in the world go down this road? Second, Obama invites comparison to Joe Biden on the subject of earmarks and inside the Beltway favoritism. They don’t want to go there. (Mark my words: an unintended benefit of Palin is greater scrutiny of Biden whose lobbyist ties, not to mention his mouth, are a disaster waiting to happen.) Third,  perhaps in a fit of jealousy, Obama is insistent on going after the newest political star and his opponent’s VP, thereby lowering himself to fighting with the bottom of his real opponent’s ticket. He forgets that the job of VPs is to punch and his job is to sail above the fray. And finally and not surprisingly, he leaves himself open to the counterattack that he is a man with no record  — which came swiftly from the McCain camp:

“Barack Obama has requested the equivalent of one million dollars in new pork barrel spending for every working day he’s been in the U.S Senate, while John McCain has never once asked for an earmark, and Governor Palin has vetoed hundreds of millions in government spending including killing the infamous ‘bridge to nowhere’. Just like so many other issues Barack Obama is all talk, has no record to back it up and isn’t ready to make change.”

Obama’s counterattack on Palin has all the, excuse me, earmarks of a nervous and confused campaign. Rather than say, “how nice for McCain to find a VP with such energy” they are apparently obsessed with knocking her down. I suspect their polling is inducing a measure of panic, and today’s ill-conceived effort is the result.

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Palin, Evangelicals, and the Secularists

All year, we’ve been told about the political “maturation” of evangelical Christians — about how younger evangelicals show interest in issues like global warming that cut against the socially conservative politics for which they have become famous, and about how they’re more tolerant of homosexuals than their elders. The primary evidence adduced for this change is the popularity of Rick Warren, the  pastor of Saddleback Church, host of general-election discussions, and author of a book that has sold 25 million copies.

But like all stories about political growth in which the “growth” is always in a leftward direction, there was reason to be skeptical. And indeed, when it came to Warren’s asking Obama and McCain questions at his brilliant forum in August, the questions he asked were sophisticated but certainly very much within the social-conservative worldview evangelicals have been said to be in the process of transcending. He wanted to know about evil. He wanted to know about abortion, and how marriage should be defined, and the moral harm of stem cell research, and the role of religion in public life. It appears that even this most mainstream of evangelical Christians operates within the same moral and political frame as the supposedly more aggressive, more confrontational, more negative, more “right-wing” evangelicals.

Today, the New York Times published an article that, should it receive wide circulation (and it might, on the web), will do a great deal to harden evangelical attitudes against the supposed leftward swing — because it is an act of secular aggression condescension against a believing Christian.

Headlined “In Palin’s Life and Politics, Goal to Follow God’s Will,” the article has about it the wide-eyed wonder that anyone might actually be crazy enough to believe in a Creator Who still plays a role in human affairs.

One sentence reads: ‘Mr. Kroon (pronounced krone), a soft-spoken, bearded Alaska native, said he was convinced that the Bible is the Word of God,  and that the task of believers is to ponder and analyze the book for meaning — including scrutiny, he said, for errors and mistranslations over the centuries that may have obscured the original intent.”

The actual inclusion of this sentence in a major newspaper is an indication of the distance of secular America from religious America. Need it actually be noted that a member of the clergy believes the “Bible is the Word of God, and that the task of believers is to ponder and analyze the book for meaning”? That is what all believers, Christian and Jew, think (though Jews don’t think it of the New Testament).

It notes, ominously, that upon her election as governor of Alaska, she called a former pastor and asked him for advice:

“She asked for a biblical example of people who were great leaders and what was the secret of their leadership,” Mr. Riley said.

He wrote back that she should read again from the Old Testament the story of Esther, a beauty queen who became a real one, gaining the king’s ear to avert the slaughter of the Jews and vanquish their enemies. When Esther is called to serve, God grants her a strength she never knew she had.

Leave aside the fact, for a second, that the Book of Esther is the only one of two books in the Bible in which God is never mentioned, and that Esther is a particularly bad example for Palin, since Esther was a power behind the throne whereas Palin actually was given the power by the voters of Alaska.

If Palin had called her favorite professor at the University of Idaho to ask him for advice on what leaders she should emulate, and he had said Golda Meir, this would probably be the sort of thing that would earn the support and praise of the New York Times. If she had called her favorite English professor and asked for a great example from literature and he had said Penelope, or Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, or Spenser’s “Faerie Queene,” there would have been swoons from coast to coast.

Instead, she spoke to a pastor. Indeed, the New York Times spoke to two of the pastors, both of whom are, as one might imagine, extremely committed Christians clearly delighted to have a former parishioner rise to the heights Sarah Palin has, and a friend from church — and the Word hath come forth that

her foundation and source of guidance is the Bible, and with it has come a conviction to be God’s servant.

“Just be amazed at the umbrella of this church here, where God is going to send you from this church,” Ms. Palin told the gathering in June of young graduates of a ministry program at the Assembly of God Church, a video of which has been posted on YouTube.

“Believe me,” she said, “I know what I am saying — where God has sent me, from underneath the umbrella of this church, throughout the state.”

Janet Kincaid, who has known Ms. Palin for about 15 years and worked with her on some Wasilla town boards and commissions when Ms. Palin was mayor here, said Ms. Palin’s spiritual path, from the Assembly of God to Wasilla Bible, has had a consistent theme.

“The churches that Sarah has attended all believe in a literal translation of the Bible,” Ms. Kincaid said. “Her principal ethical and moral beliefs stem from this.”

Prayer, and belief in its power, is another constant theme, Ms. Kincaid said, in what she has witnessed in Ms. Palin. “Her beliefs are firm in the power of prayer — let’s put it that way,” she said.

She believes in the power of prayer! Imagine that! What a Yahoo! What does it matter if prayer and its efficacy stand at the center of all religious practice and belief? Every Sabbath, in synagogues worldwide, a prayer for the sick is spoken. It’s called a “mishabeirach,” and it is the custom either for congregants to stand up and speak the name of the ill person they wish to pray for or to speak the name in the rabbi’s ear and have him recite it. Do we do this because we don’t believe in the power of prayer?

There should be nothing exceptional to anyone in this country at this date about a politician who is also a believing Christian and who therefore thinks she owes her ascension to office to the role of the divine. What Palin said wasn’t even notable; it was what might be called Christian boilerplate.

The point here is that by treating the views of such people as though they are exotically fascinating at best and terrifyingly Other at worst, and by highlighting the views of a prominent Christian in an article intended to frighten rather than enlighten its readership, the New York Times (and those organizations sure to follow it down this path) only makes it likely that any ideological journey evangelicals might take this year will not be to the left, but back into the bosom of the Right.

After all, who wants to be friends with someone who treats you with such contempt condescension?

UPDATE: After a day’s consideration, I think many commenters were right; the Times piece was not really an act of aggression, more an embarrassingly earnest effort to “understand” Sarah Palin, as though she were a native of a strange new world it had only recently discovered. I’ve amended the two words where I think I went too far.  The rest of the piece can stand without qualification.

All year, we’ve been told about the political “maturation” of evangelical Christians — about how younger evangelicals show interest in issues like global warming that cut against the socially conservative politics for which they have become famous, and about how they’re more tolerant of homosexuals than their elders. The primary evidence adduced for this change is the popularity of Rick Warren, the  pastor of Saddleback Church, host of general-election discussions, and author of a book that has sold 25 million copies.

But like all stories about political growth in which the “growth” is always in a leftward direction, there was reason to be skeptical. And indeed, when it came to Warren’s asking Obama and McCain questions at his brilliant forum in August, the questions he asked were sophisticated but certainly very much within the social-conservative worldview evangelicals have been said to be in the process of transcending. He wanted to know about evil. He wanted to know about abortion, and how marriage should be defined, and the moral harm of stem cell research, and the role of religion in public life. It appears that even this most mainstream of evangelical Christians operates within the same moral and political frame as the supposedly more aggressive, more confrontational, more negative, more “right-wing” evangelicals.

Today, the New York Times published an article that, should it receive wide circulation (and it might, on the web), will do a great deal to harden evangelical attitudes against the supposed leftward swing — because it is an act of secular aggression condescension against a believing Christian.

Headlined “In Palin’s Life and Politics, Goal to Follow God’s Will,” the article has about it the wide-eyed wonder that anyone might actually be crazy enough to believe in a Creator Who still plays a role in human affairs.

One sentence reads: ‘Mr. Kroon (pronounced krone), a soft-spoken, bearded Alaska native, said he was convinced that the Bible is the Word of God,  and that the task of believers is to ponder and analyze the book for meaning — including scrutiny, he said, for errors and mistranslations over the centuries that may have obscured the original intent.”

The actual inclusion of this sentence in a major newspaper is an indication of the distance of secular America from religious America. Need it actually be noted that a member of the clergy believes the “Bible is the Word of God, and that the task of believers is to ponder and analyze the book for meaning”? That is what all believers, Christian and Jew, think (though Jews don’t think it of the New Testament).

It notes, ominously, that upon her election as governor of Alaska, she called a former pastor and asked him for advice:

“She asked for a biblical example of people who were great leaders and what was the secret of their leadership,” Mr. Riley said.

He wrote back that she should read again from the Old Testament the story of Esther, a beauty queen who became a real one, gaining the king’s ear to avert the slaughter of the Jews and vanquish their enemies. When Esther is called to serve, God grants her a strength she never knew she had.

Leave aside the fact, for a second, that the Book of Esther is the only one of two books in the Bible in which God is never mentioned, and that Esther is a particularly bad example for Palin, since Esther was a power behind the throne whereas Palin actually was given the power by the voters of Alaska.

If Palin had called her favorite professor at the University of Idaho to ask him for advice on what leaders she should emulate, and he had said Golda Meir, this would probably be the sort of thing that would earn the support and praise of the New York Times. If she had called her favorite English professor and asked for a great example from literature and he had said Penelope, or Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, or Spenser’s “Faerie Queene,” there would have been swoons from coast to coast.

Instead, she spoke to a pastor. Indeed, the New York Times spoke to two of the pastors, both of whom are, as one might imagine, extremely committed Christians clearly delighted to have a former parishioner rise to the heights Sarah Palin has, and a friend from church — and the Word hath come forth that

her foundation and source of guidance is the Bible, and with it has come a conviction to be God’s servant.

“Just be amazed at the umbrella of this church here, where God is going to send you from this church,” Ms. Palin told the gathering in June of young graduates of a ministry program at the Assembly of God Church, a video of which has been posted on YouTube.

“Believe me,” she said, “I know what I am saying — where God has sent me, from underneath the umbrella of this church, throughout the state.”

Janet Kincaid, who has known Ms. Palin for about 15 years and worked with her on some Wasilla town boards and commissions when Ms. Palin was mayor here, said Ms. Palin’s spiritual path, from the Assembly of God to Wasilla Bible, has had a consistent theme.

“The churches that Sarah has attended all believe in a literal translation of the Bible,” Ms. Kincaid said. “Her principal ethical and moral beliefs stem from this.”

Prayer, and belief in its power, is another constant theme, Ms. Kincaid said, in what she has witnessed in Ms. Palin. “Her beliefs are firm in the power of prayer — let’s put it that way,” she said.

She believes in the power of prayer! Imagine that! What a Yahoo! What does it matter if prayer and its efficacy stand at the center of all religious practice and belief? Every Sabbath, in synagogues worldwide, a prayer for the sick is spoken. It’s called a “mishabeirach,” and it is the custom either for congregants to stand up and speak the name of the ill person they wish to pray for or to speak the name in the rabbi’s ear and have him recite it. Do we do this because we don’t believe in the power of prayer?

There should be nothing exceptional to anyone in this country at this date about a politician who is also a believing Christian and who therefore thinks she owes her ascension to office to the role of the divine. What Palin said wasn’t even notable; it was what might be called Christian boilerplate.

The point here is that by treating the views of such people as though they are exotically fascinating at best and terrifyingly Other at worst, and by highlighting the views of a prominent Christian in an article intended to frighten rather than enlighten its readership, the New York Times (and those organizations sure to follow it down this path) only makes it likely that any ideological journey evangelicals might take this year will not be to the left, but back into the bosom of the Right.

After all, who wants to be friends with someone who treats you with such contempt condescension?

UPDATE: After a day’s consideration, I think many commenters were right; the Times piece was not really an act of aggression, more an embarrassingly earnest effort to “understand” Sarah Palin, as though she were a native of a strange new world it had only recently discovered. I’ve amended the two words where I think I went too far.  The rest of the piece can stand without qualification.

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Obama Finance Chieftan Slams Palin Parenting

The Obama camp must be in melt down. Perhaps fearing that the MSM has now slowed in its efforts to villify Sarah Palin and drive her out of the race,  they have taken up the slurs and slams directly. Howard Guttman, an original member of the Obama national finance committee, went on Laura Ingraham Friday to again and again infer that Palin’s parenting skills and the choice to run for VP were suspect. It is stunning actually. A sample:

Gutman said the issue wasn’t one of gender, but one of parenting -– regardless of the gender of the parent.

“This has nothing to do with gender, whether Todd Palin was the nominee or Sarah Palin was the nominee,” Gutman said. “If my daughter had just come home at 17 years old and said, ‘Mom, Dad, I’m pregnant, we have a family problem,’ I wouldn’t say, ‘You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to take this private family problem…and you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to go on the international stage and broadcast this to the world.'”

Gutman continued, “this wasn’t a working mother issue, this was a parent issue…The proper attack is not that a woman shouldn’t run for vice president with five kids, it’s that a parent, when they have a family in need, a Down’s baby who needs them — mother or father.”

“So you are judging her parenting skills,” Ingraham said. “You’re saying you don’t think she’s a good parent for doing this job.”

“I’m saying the proper criticism is not that it’s a woman or man – it doesn’t matter whether it’s Todd or Sarah,” Gutman said. “Think of how many politicians have said it’s not the right time in my family’s life for me to run.”

The Obama camp denied that this outburst represented their views. (If you believe that, I have some old Wesley Clark interviews to play for you.) And if Guttman really strayed entirely off message and his views violate the Obama directive to leave kids and family “out of it,” isn’t the correct response to give Guttman back his money? He can’t be fired because he is not, to my knowledge, working on the campaign. But the equivalent treatment would be to denounce him and separate the Obama campaign from his noxious views by returning his check(s).

One wonders what the Obama internal polling must be and what the chit-chat within the Obama camp must be to set off such blather and stupidity. Like the “hair trigger” response which greeted the original Palin announcement, one wonders if this latest episode suggests that Obama isn’t, after all, a great executive, but rather a mere figurehead unable to reign in his troops or provide them with guidance in troubling times. Imagine if the crisis were something other than a drop in his poll numbers.

The Obama camp must be in melt down. Perhaps fearing that the MSM has now slowed in its efforts to villify Sarah Palin and drive her out of the race,  they have taken up the slurs and slams directly. Howard Guttman, an original member of the Obama national finance committee, went on Laura Ingraham Friday to again and again infer that Palin’s parenting skills and the choice to run for VP were suspect. It is stunning actually. A sample:

Gutman said the issue wasn’t one of gender, but one of parenting -– regardless of the gender of the parent.

“This has nothing to do with gender, whether Todd Palin was the nominee or Sarah Palin was the nominee,” Gutman said. “If my daughter had just come home at 17 years old and said, ‘Mom, Dad, I’m pregnant, we have a family problem,’ I wouldn’t say, ‘You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to take this private family problem…and you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to go on the international stage and broadcast this to the world.'”

Gutman continued, “this wasn’t a working mother issue, this was a parent issue…The proper attack is not that a woman shouldn’t run for vice president with five kids, it’s that a parent, when they have a family in need, a Down’s baby who needs them — mother or father.”

“So you are judging her parenting skills,” Ingraham said. “You’re saying you don’t think she’s a good parent for doing this job.”

“I’m saying the proper criticism is not that it’s a woman or man – it doesn’t matter whether it’s Todd or Sarah,” Gutman said. “Think of how many politicians have said it’s not the right time in my family’s life for me to run.”

The Obama camp denied that this outburst represented their views. (If you believe that, I have some old Wesley Clark interviews to play for you.) And if Guttman really strayed entirely off message and his views violate the Obama directive to leave kids and family “out of it,” isn’t the correct response to give Guttman back his money? He can’t be fired because he is not, to my knowledge, working on the campaign. But the equivalent treatment would be to denounce him and separate the Obama campaign from his noxious views by returning his check(s).

One wonders what the Obama internal polling must be and what the chit-chat within the Obama camp must be to set off such blather and stupidity. Like the “hair trigger” response which greeted the original Palin announcement, one wonders if this latest episode suggests that Obama isn’t, after all, a great executive, but rather a mere figurehead unable to reign in his troops or provide them with guidance in troubling times. Imagine if the crisis were something other than a drop in his poll numbers.

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What Has She Done?

The notion that Sarah Palin is unaccomplished and untested is frankly a media invention. For those who bother to examine her actual record, the facts tell a different story. Kim Strassel in the Wall Street Journal rightly notes that from media coverage ” you’ve heard plenty about her religious views and private family matters,” but precious little about what she has done in office. Strassel tries to correct this  by describing in blow-by-blow fashion Palin’s record in bringing down a corrupt machine and taking on the oil companies.

Ironically, Palin’s record before becoming Governor (which the Obama team has ridiculed) is in and of itself more impressive than anything Barack Obama has actually done. Strassel explains:

The former mayor of Wasilla had been appointed by Mr. Murkowski in 2003 to the state oil and gas regulatory agency. She’d had the temerity to blow the whistle on fellow GOP Commissioner Randy Ruedrich for refusing to disclose energy dealings. Mr. Murkowski and GOP Attorney General Gregg Renkes closed ranks around Mr. Ruedrich—who also chaired the state GOP. Mrs. Palin resigned. Having thus offended the entire old boy network, she challenged the governor for his seat.

Mrs. Palin ran against the secret deal, and vowed to put the pipeline back out for competitive, transparent, bidding. She railed against cozy politics. Mr. Murkowski ran on his unpopular pipeline deal. The oil industry warned the state would never get its project without his leadership. Mrs. Palin walloped him in the primary and won office in late 2006. Around this time, news broke of a federal probe that would show oil executives had bribed lawmakers to support the Murkowski tax changes.

Then as Governor Palin reinstated the Natural Reosurces Commissioner who had been fired after challenging the Murkowski machine, passed an ethics reform, and renegotiated the pipeline deal. Strassel sums up:

Throughout it all, Mrs. Palin has stood for reform, though not populism. She thanks oil companies and says executives who “seek maximum revenue” are “simply doing their job.” She says her own job is to be a “savvy” negotiator on behalf of Alaska’s citizens and to provide credible oversight. It is this combination that lets her aggressively promote new energy while retaining public trust.

Several things are remarkable. First, it is not a story which MSM outlets are explaining or acknowledging. Why? Because it runs counter to their concocted storyline that her sole selling point is as a cheerleader for social conservatives, sent to whip up the base at the expense of selecting a competent VP. Second, there is nothing remotely evident in Obama’s record, or Joe Biden’s, frankly, which demonstrates this level of political competence, direction, accomplishment or tenacity. It is not merely a throw away line to say that she is more experienced than Obama, it is factually well established — for those who care to look. And finally, of course, John McCain wants such a person. This is now the essence of his campaign — run against corruption and do-nothing careerism.

I think the Obama camp would be smart to ignore Palin. As Palin rightly pointed out Wednesday night, Obama, when asked what he has done of note, can only cite two books, some speeches, and a perpetual quest for higher office.  If the media ever get around to reporting on the comparative records of the two, it won’t be a favorable one for Obama.

The notion that Sarah Palin is unaccomplished and untested is frankly a media invention. For those who bother to examine her actual record, the facts tell a different story. Kim Strassel in the Wall Street Journal rightly notes that from media coverage ” you’ve heard plenty about her religious views and private family matters,” but precious little about what she has done in office. Strassel tries to correct this  by describing in blow-by-blow fashion Palin’s record in bringing down a corrupt machine and taking on the oil companies.

Ironically, Palin’s record before becoming Governor (which the Obama team has ridiculed) is in and of itself more impressive than anything Barack Obama has actually done. Strassel explains:

The former mayor of Wasilla had been appointed by Mr. Murkowski in 2003 to the state oil and gas regulatory agency. She’d had the temerity to blow the whistle on fellow GOP Commissioner Randy Ruedrich for refusing to disclose energy dealings. Mr. Murkowski and GOP Attorney General Gregg Renkes closed ranks around Mr. Ruedrich—who also chaired the state GOP. Mrs. Palin resigned. Having thus offended the entire old boy network, she challenged the governor for his seat.

Mrs. Palin ran against the secret deal, and vowed to put the pipeline back out for competitive, transparent, bidding. She railed against cozy politics. Mr. Murkowski ran on his unpopular pipeline deal. The oil industry warned the state would never get its project without his leadership. Mrs. Palin walloped him in the primary and won office in late 2006. Around this time, news broke of a federal probe that would show oil executives had bribed lawmakers to support the Murkowski tax changes.

Then as Governor Palin reinstated the Natural Reosurces Commissioner who had been fired after challenging the Murkowski machine, passed an ethics reform, and renegotiated the pipeline deal. Strassel sums up:

Throughout it all, Mrs. Palin has stood for reform, though not populism. She thanks oil companies and says executives who “seek maximum revenue” are “simply doing their job.” She says her own job is to be a “savvy” negotiator on behalf of Alaska’s citizens and to provide credible oversight. It is this combination that lets her aggressively promote new energy while retaining public trust.

Several things are remarkable. First, it is not a story which MSM outlets are explaining or acknowledging. Why? Because it runs counter to their concocted storyline that her sole selling point is as a cheerleader for social conservatives, sent to whip up the base at the expense of selecting a competent VP. Second, there is nothing remotely evident in Obama’s record, or Joe Biden’s, frankly, which demonstrates this level of political competence, direction, accomplishment or tenacity. It is not merely a throw away line to say that she is more experienced than Obama, it is factually well established — for those who care to look. And finally, of course, John McCain wants such a person. This is now the essence of his campaign — run against corruption and do-nothing careerism.

I think the Obama camp would be smart to ignore Palin. As Palin rightly pointed out Wednesday night, Obama, when asked what he has done of note, can only cite two books, some speeches, and a perpetual quest for higher office.  If the media ever get around to reporting on the comparative records of the two, it won’t be a favorable one for Obama.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A smart take on John McCain’s speech.

Former UN Ambassador John Bolton hopes the Bush administration leaves on a high note. I’m skeptical.

My recent interview with Bolton who talks about Sarah Palin and the world’s hot spots is here.

Arianna Huffington tries to warn the Left and the Obama camp: “Americans love the outsider plucked from obscurity. And Palin provides bucketfuls of the new and exciting. As long as voters and the media are caught up in the latest installment of As Sarah Turns or the Alaska version of All My Children, they aren’t paying attention to the lack of solutions McCain is offering to the serious crises that face us.” She may be right but it’s hard to imagine they will heed her warning: “It’s tempting to prime the Palin attack pump. But Obama and the Democrats do so at their own peril.”

McCain gets better ratings than Barack Obama. The Palin effect?

This is certainly the question of the week. They do seem flummoxed. Claim she is too negative? Argue their Presidential nominee is more qualified than McCain’s VP? Perhaps they could do clever web ads mocking her as a celebrity. Oh, I  guess that’s been done.

Could one of those on the chopping block be Section A?

It struck me viewing the Michigan delegation up front on the floor of the RNC that they might like Palin a lot there — blue collar, pro-gun, etc. I was right.

In the hall on Thursday, you could barely hear John McCain. Listening again I agree it does have a Churchillian quality.

And let’s be honest: they were never this excited before Palin.

Styrofoam columns meet Harry Reid in the latest McCain ad.

A smart take on John McCain’s speech.

Former UN Ambassador John Bolton hopes the Bush administration leaves on a high note. I’m skeptical.

My recent interview with Bolton who talks about Sarah Palin and the world’s hot spots is here.

Arianna Huffington tries to warn the Left and the Obama camp: “Americans love the outsider plucked from obscurity. And Palin provides bucketfuls of the new and exciting. As long as voters and the media are caught up in the latest installment of As Sarah Turns or the Alaska version of All My Children, they aren’t paying attention to the lack of solutions McCain is offering to the serious crises that face us.” She may be right but it’s hard to imagine they will heed her warning: “It’s tempting to prime the Palin attack pump. But Obama and the Democrats do so at their own peril.”

McCain gets better ratings than Barack Obama. The Palin effect?

This is certainly the question of the week. They do seem flummoxed. Claim she is too negative? Argue their Presidential nominee is more qualified than McCain’s VP? Perhaps they could do clever web ads mocking her as a celebrity. Oh, I  guess that’s been done.

Could one of those on the chopping block be Section A?

It struck me viewing the Michigan delegation up front on the floor of the RNC that they might like Palin a lot there — blue collar, pro-gun, etc. I was right.

In the hall on Thursday, you could barely hear John McCain. Listening again I agree it does have a Churchillian quality.

And let’s be honest: they were never this excited before Palin.

Styrofoam columns meet Harry Reid in the latest McCain ad.

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Head of Alaskan National Guard

I confess I thought the “head of the National Guard” argument was a weak one in defense of Sarah Palin.  But this is actually a fairly illuminating interview which explains what she did and how she did it.  You actually learn something about Palin and how she operates.

This is one of those instances where the talking point sounds goofy on the surface, but actually has some merit.

I confess I thought the “head of the National Guard” argument was a weak one in defense of Sarah Palin.  But this is actually a fairly illuminating interview which explains what she did and how she did it.  You actually learn something about Palin and how she operates.

This is one of those instances where the talking point sounds goofy on the surface, but actually has some merit.

Read Less




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