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Archive for February, 2008

The inimitable Mark Steyn:

These days, Obama worshippers file two kinds of columns. The first school is well represented by Ezra Klein, the elderly bobbysoxer of The American Prospect:

Obama’s finest speeches do not excite. They do not inform. They don’t even really inspire. They elevate. They enmesh you in a grander moment, as if history has stopped flowing passively by, and, just for an instant, contracted around you, made you aware of its presence, and your role in it. He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair.

Er, okay, if you say so. I got a bit bored halfway through and switched over to the Golden Girls rerun. But to each his own. Read on…

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Quite possibly the most reasoned and intelligent conservative on the scene, Brooks always has his feet planted firmly in history and is the kind of guy you sense comes to conclusions after meaningful, judicious thought. We received no less from him today:

In the 19th century, industrialization swept the world. Many European nations expanded their welfare states but kept their education systems exclusive. The U.S. tried the opposite approach. American leaders expanded education and created the highest quality work force on the planet.

That quality work force was the single biggest reason the U.S. emerged as the economic superpower of the 20th century. Generation after generation, American workers were better educated, more industrious and more innovative than the ones that came before.

That progress stopped about 30 years ago. Read on…

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The nature of government is to grow itself, to expand, to become bloated. Thomas Paine, widely ignored today, said, “That government is best which governs least.” There’s much that would pain poor Thomas today.

151 people (the legislature and governor) in a single city in our state are thinking of banning smoking from every private establishment except for shamelessly exempting casinos, allowing red-light cameras to be material evidence on every corner, forcing students to stay in school until 18 years old, telling educators with doctorate degrees that they need so-called “professional development.” And their federal counterparts have created a tax code so complex that few in the country would claim to understand its entirety except we know that we’re taxed on interest, soda pop, home sales, gas, income, and coffins.

Where are the limited-government conservatives, or are they the last dinosaurs? Who is left to make the argument that if people don’t want to be in a smoke-filled environment, they shouldn’t patronize the establishment? There’s a free market solution for a state that might erase the banner on the state flag and replace it with, “Grandma in Des Moines knows best.”

2018 Legislative Agenda: A bill mandating portion sizes in nursing homes, a bill streamlining taxes on Easter Eggs and Halloween Pumpkins, a bill requiring fat-free ranch dressing in every salad bar, and a declaration that the state will launch an investigation into what’s been happening in dryers where mysteriously two matching socks go in and only one comes out.

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The conundrum: Does Huckabee stay in and continue against improbable odds (Texas, South Dakota, and Louisiana are still in the mix and Texas is delegate-heavy) or does he vie for the vice-presidency? Does Huckabee risk alienating McCain by going on the offensive, or does Huckabee keep it nice and complimentary? My suggestion? Go all out and challenge McCain on substantive issues but avoid the Romney-style ads.
Here’s why:

1) Huckabee has been told to get out for over a year. Why quit? He and McCain are the last two standing and while the path seems Goliath-like, it has never bothered Huckabee. While I imagine what a couple thousand votes minus a Thompson in South Carolina and Romney in Missouri might have meant, let’s look forward…

2) The vice-presidency isn’t necessarily Huckabee’s. Some at National Review have suggested that after doing McCain’s bidding, McCain would throw Huckabee overboard. Romney is gearing up for 2012, and there are two candidates left in 2008. The vice-presidency would be only McCain’s to offer in the next day or two, certainly never Huckabee’s to ask for.

3) There are significant issues that divide Huckabee and McCain that aren’t minute: immigration (Huckabee supports humane and first-voluntary deportation, McCain now supports a border and then a pathway to citizenship); the Fair Tax versus a tax system full of hidden taxes that also punishes productivity; a Human Life and Marriage amendment while McCain supports neither (although I don’t dismiss that he is firmly pro-life and pro-traditional marriage). Huckabee opposes McCain-Feingold, and there hasn’t been a better 2nd Amendment advocate in the race since day one. Certainly, there is a debate to be had.

4) McCain may not be the answer to the electability question. While I concede that McCain would formidably challenge Clinton, remember Huckabee’s winsome appeal and ability to debate well that helped to catapult him from the ranks of also-rans. Iowa and the Southern states showed what happens when Value Voters are stirred, and Bush rode on the coattails of 1.4 million volunteers in 2004 which neutralized the Democrats’ ability to outspend the Republicans on paid staffers.

The counter-argument to Huckabee’s staying in is that the party that secures the nomination first is at an advantage. If Huckabee is unwilling to challenge McCain, they should create a ticket this week.

Senator McCain and Governor Huckabee, let Obama and Hillary spend millions duking it out and bring the race-gender warfare to a boiling point while we do our healing. Otherwise, hold Lincoln-Douglas style debates and go after it on the issues. Whatever you both decide to do (and I respect both of your judgment) do not run against each other simply to trade pleasantries. It’s time to have a fair fight–either with both of you against each other or as a team against the other side.

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The key factor in this race so far: authenticity.

On Super Tuesday, voters once again rewarded those candidates who seemed most comfortable playing themselves, and harshly punished the one who came across as a plastic phony.Mike Huckabee’s improbable success continued and swelled, with millions in his home region recognizing him as a real-deal country boy and unassuming good guy, whatever talk radio screamers may say against him. McCain, the big winner who locked down nine states (including the biggest prizes – California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Missouri) may seem edgy and irritating but he does convey the sense of a tightly-coiled, hyper-caffeinated straight-talker. You may not like him (many movement conservatives loathe him, in fact) but his apparent refusal to pose or pretend pays big dividends with the voters. McCain will irreducibly and unapologetically remain McCain – to the frustration of his critics and the delight of his fans (who, according to opinion polls, give him a freakishly high positive-negative rating of five-to-one).

On the Democratic side, Barack Obama’s  other-worldly cool seems almost supernaturally natural: he could even bust a move with Ellen DeGeneres without looking in the least bit uncomfortable. Hillary, of course, has drawn derision for her robotic, stilted presentations, but before both of her big tests (New Hampshire and yesterday) she summoned tears and projected vulnerability that made her seem eerily life-like. In the middle of the campaign, she’s finally achieved something Al Gore has never managed: making her mechanical, geeky, clearly-pre-programmed public appearances seem almost endearing in their clumsiness. Her strong performance on Super Tuesday suggests that the public now recognizes that the guarded, cautious, weirdly tormented, but formidable lady is, after all, the authentic Hill. It’s obviously a struggle to live her life – with the complicated marriage, and the awful scrutiny about grooming and weight, and the seemingly hopeless competition with an unflappable, easy-going, effortlessly articulate, and impossibly slender hunk. Sure, it’s a struggle, but like other underdogs she’s been able to hook the spectators on her soap opera.

The big loser, of course, was Mitt Romney, the one-time “dream candidate” who looks just like a President from central casting, with his simultaneously aristocratic and affable bearing. The problem for Mitt always involved the perception of phoniness – even without the famous history of issues switcheroos, there would have been that air of breathlessly eager pandering, the desperation to please at all costs. Yes, conservatives wanted a candidate who met all the requirements on our check lists, but we didn’t need a contender who so obviously and eagerly assembled his campaign (and his brand new presidential persona) according to every little detail on those lists. Somewhere inside all the meaningless and carefully calculated proclamations (how many more times must we hear that “Washington is Broken”?) lurks the real Mitt, the irreducible essence of the man – the core that could have connected had the consultants and image-makers given it a chance.

If Romney had run as himself—a can-do problem solver who could work with anybody in a post-partisan Washington – he might have won this battle long ago. Instead, he decided to assume the synthetic persona of a right wing ideologue, an enforcer of orthodoxy. This made no sense in a public figure still perceived as a genial moderate as recently as two years ago – which made Mike Huckabee’s line all the more devastating: “Mitt is the only person I’ve ever heard about who went through political puberty at the age of sixty.”

Authenticity represents the ultimate advantage in this election cycle and in the fall we may see a battle royal of four (count ‘em- four!) politicos with demonstrated expertise in projecting that crucial quality. The results of Super Tuesday make a plausible case for an unusually exciting pair of tickets: Clinton-Obama vs. McCain-Huckabee. Sure thing? Hardly, but a distinct possibility and a strong pairing for both parties.

May the most authentic team win.

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Do I have some problems with John McCain? Sure, I do. I want to free our government to drill for oil. I think it ridiculous to impose sweeping standards on American business from a hyper-fear of planetary doomsday while China and India won’t come near our self-imposed standards. And McCain’s own legislation (McCain-Feingold) had the unintended consequence of being the dog that bites the owner’s hand. A Romney can personally finance a campaign by donating untold millions while a McCain or Huckabee is limited to a maximum donation of $2300. But John McCain would be the best match-up in one regard: the war. And who better to fight that battle against than Hillary Clinton?

Here’s why I like the match-up.

  1. This is supposed to the Year of the Democrat. Bush is unpopular. The war is supposedly unpopular, though not so much as it was pre-Surge. Many Democrats act like they have it in the bag, but wait. McCain is a Lazarus-like figure. A comeback kid. Read about how he survived the 1967 Forrestal fire when a bomb cooked off from the heat of an on-deck fire and exploded underneath McCain’s plane; the force destroyed the aircraft (along with its remaining fuel and armament), blew a smoking crater in the deck, and sprayed the deck and crew with shrapnel and burning jet fuel. The explosion killed all but three of the on-deck firefighting contingent who were seriously injured. McCain incredibly survived. Oh yeah, then there’s Hanoi.
  2. McCain represents the swing vote for many independents and Democrats, and Hillary Clinton would be a galvanizing force; those conservatives who feel slightly nauseous at the thought of McCain would be forced into action by the feeling of burning angina coupled with a massive stroke at the thought of Clinton. In other words, Ann Coulter, for all your tough talk, you ain’t staying home or campaigning for Clinton.
  3. The War. The War. The War. Now I know that some are thinking that this is Democrat ground; after all, the war is unpopular. But let me tell you this. The thought of John McCain with the whole lyrical narrative of having been a Vietnam POW and Clinton as poster child of the 1960s stand as a black-and-white contrast. When McCain spoke of Woodstock (Clinton had wanted to pay tribute with earmark funding for a museum there), he said, “I was tied up at the time.” Classic. That may become this year’s “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy” line even one-upping Huckabee’s “Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office.” Speaking of this contrast in pulling out or staying the course, wasn’t it Patton who said that “Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time”? The only thing more unpopular than the war is losing the war and repeating April circa 1975. Who wants to see pro-U.S. Iraqis diving for helicopter skids or the Kurds completing a mass exodus, or worse yet, a mass refugee situation?”Blood and Guts” was right.
  4. The divide between McCain and Clinton on principle will be chasm-like when people consider how they came to their positions on the war. Clinton voted initially for the war because of political expediency and changed with the wind later on when it was inexpedient. Unprincipled. McCain tacked the exact opposite way. He pushed for the surge and staked his candidacy on winning the war and losing an election precisely when it was least popular. Principled.
  5. McCain isn’t afraid to be bullish. The Clintons are formidable, and Hillary Clinton should not be underestimated. Huckabee has an acerbic wit. Romney can debate the issues with laser-like focus. But McCain can figuratively knock the wind out of you. When Romney insisted that he was the candidate of change, some Fresca ended up in my nose when McCain smiled and said, “Yes, you are the candidate of change.” Be nice to see if Clinton (not Romney) were on the other end of such a point.

John McCain isn’t my first choice. But if he is the nominee, I place my bets on the Maverick over the Peacenik.

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Men Like Trees Walking checked the veracity of the following story before posting it. To ensure that it is not “urban legend,” check out the objective article at the best in the business.

Got a tough but heartwarming picture of John Gebhardt in Iraq. For those that did not know John, he was our former Med Group Chief, Dave Nordel replaced him. Anyway, his wife talked with mine last evening and sent this picture. Mindy related that this little girl’s entire family was executed. They intended to execute her also and shot her in the end but they failed to kill her. She was cared for by John’s hospital and healing up, but has been crying and moaning. The nurses said John is the only one she seems to calm down with, so John has spent the last four nights holding her while they both sleep in that chair. The girl is coming along with her healing. John comes home in early October (2006). He is a real Star of the war and is representative of what America is trying to do.

U.S. Soldier Holds the Future in His Hands

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