Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

30 November 2007

It’s Obama!


For the first time in this prolonged and confusing primary race, we can see Barack Obama’s path to the Democratic nomination and the presidency. Three truths light his way.

The first is that Hillary Clinton has peaked. She’s got all the support she’s ever going to get. She has nowhere to go but down.

Hillary’s strength is intellectual swindle in what passes today for “debates.” So far she’s been able to sell failure (on health care) and bad votes (on Iraq and Iran) as “experience.” She’s sold waffling and poll-watching as “leadership” and refusing to answer questions as “wisdom” or “debating skill.” No one who’s not already for her is going to wake up some day and say, “Gee, that’s just what we need in a president!”

There are too many clips of Hillary switching positions, for example, in her little immigrant-drivers-license dance. As more voters focus on her record, more will come to understand that she is no leader and has little to offer but being female.

The second truth is that John Edwards can’t win. In some ways, he’s an attractive candidate. For a politician, he’s preternaturally honest and open. He’s diagnosed what ails us domestically: Congress’ nearly complete capture by monied special interests. But that’s nothing new. John McCain has been pointing that out for years.

Regardless of his honesty in speaking truth to power, two flaws will eventually sink Edwards’ candidacy. First, he has virtually no experience in foreign or military affairs. He can’t credibly claim that stopping special interests at home will thwart international terrorism or win our struggles in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Korea. A trial lawyer is no match for bin Laden.

The second flaw is the clincher. As a trial lawyer, Edwards wants to lead an epic struggle—a “fight” for the right against special interests. That message resonates with a few Democrats, who are righteously angry at Dubya, Cheney, Gingrich, Army, DeLay et al. and their snake-oil factory.

But that song is out of tune with the times. After seven years of Dubya’s 50.1% government, the nation wants unity, not division. Voters are fed up with internal bickering and government’s failure to accomplish anything. They don’t want a “fight;” they want results.

Obama, not Edwards, carries the banner of unity. That’s been clear since Obama’s keynote speech in 2004. That’s why only he can win the general election.

The final truth is that Edwards supporters are potential Obama supporters. Edwards himself acknowledged as much on Charlie Rose last night. The reason, he said, is that only he and Obama offer real change. When Edwards bows out, his supporters will surge to Obama, who will overtake Clinton decisively.

That’s not all. In retiring from the fray, Edwards is likely to endorse Obama. It’s not clear whether Edwards dislikes Hillary personally. But his dislike for her policies and her politics as usual grows visibly every day. And her campaign’s hauteur—not to mention her refusing to shake hands before debates—must be personally galling to a man like him, who is polite to a fault and who rose from humble origins.

Edwards is nothing if not a man of principle. He won’t allow a single potential vote for him to slip to Hillary if he can avoid it.

So watch Edwards carefully. Although he can’t win himself, he has the power to pick the Democratic nominee. His supporters will pick Obama. When they do, the race for the Democratic nomination will all be over but the shouting. Then the real campaign will begin.


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29 November 2007

Lightweights and Heavyweights


Last night’s YouTube-assisted Republican debate proved what we already knew. Out of some sixteen presidential candidates, no more than three are actually qualified to be president. The rest are lightweights.

It makes you long for the old days, when savvy, world-weary, largely anonymous party bosses picked the nominees in smoke-filled rooms. Sometimes they picked badly. But they rarely chose lightweights.

Often they gave their party’s convention a real choice among heavyweights. When they did, the nominee that emerged from the “floor fight” was ready not just to wage a good campaign, but to govern the country if successful.

The stakes have never been higher. The choices we make may determine whether one of our major cities gets nuked in the next eight years, bringing on a uniquely American police state or a new dark age. They may determine whether our grandchildren will live on a planet that looks and feels like the Earth today.

Yet measured against the challenges, the quality of the field has never been lower. The Republican front runner, Rudy Giuliani, has held no public office higher than mayor. In our entire history, we’ve never stooped so low. Why should we do so now, when the stakes are so high?

There are reasons why Rudy has never attained higher office. In the eight years between the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and 9/11, he couldn’t even manage to get New York’s fire fighters radios that worked. That’s why so many of them died on 9/11. He also put the command center for New York’s emergency services right in the World Trade Center complex, where it was predictably destroyed on 9/11. Electing a president with a track record of neglect and incompetence on that scale would be committing national suicide.

Then take Mitt—please. So rich, so arrogant, so full of himself, so full of numbers. We’ve seen his like before, in Robert S. McNamara, the author of the War in Vietnam. At his very best, Mitt is just like McNamara: a narrow, arrogant, soulless technocrat without humanity or experience in world affairs. We at least ought to study the history of that war and the awful man who brought it to us before making the same mistake again.

But Mitt is even worse than McNamara. McNamara at least pretended to be a serious policy maker, not a demagogue. Mitt is busy trying to out-demagogue Rudy on immigration. He’s a lightweight’s lightweight.

Hillary Clinton is better, but not much. According to our brainless pundits, she has “won” most of the too many Democratic debates. Yet on every major decision in her political career, she has failed or made the wrong choice. In the early nineties, she failed to develop a health-care plan that Congress could adopt. In 2002, she voted to authorize a disastrous war in Iraq, and she did so for political reasons, without even reading the crucial report. This year she voted to give the Bush Administration a pretext for invading Iran.

On vital domestic issues like immigration and social security, she has waffled and temporized to the point of caricature. She’s running as the nation’s fallen but reformed mother, a cheery and confident figure who touts her failure on health care as “experience.” She’s a walking lemon trying to sell herself as lemonade.

So what makes a heavyweight? Mostly, experience. I don’t mean experience in the type of high-school chop contests that pass for presidential debates today. Hillary, Mitt and Rudy are all good at that. I mean experience in making and publicly announcing tough choices with real, national consequences and having the choices stand the test of history.

You don’t have to wield executive power to do that. All you have to do is make choices, announce them publicly, and stand by them. Oh—and one other little thing: your choices have to be right.

Take John McCain. He’s been decisive, and he always lets us know his mind. He hasn’t waffled until recently (probably due to bad campaign advice), and his waffling concerns mainly social and religious issues—hardly the vital questions of our time.

On things that really matter, McCain has been vocal, rock solid, and mostly right. He supported invading Iraq, but he also supported the generals who wanted to do what had to be done to win. He was the first figure of national prominence to recognize That Idiot Rumsfeld for what he is. Had Dubya fired Rumsfeld when McCain first advised doing so, we’d probably be getting out of Iraq by now. And McCain has been right and a leader on other vital issues, including energy independence, money and politics, immigration and torture.

Sadly, that list of issues also explains why McCain is behind. Mitt and Rudy are busy demagoguing immigration, making noises as if we can solve the problem by hermetically sealing our borders and deporting undocumented workers already here.

Of course we can’t. Not only would any such “solution” require more immigration officers than we have troops in Iraq. It would also turn our country into a police state the like of which none of us would care to live in, let alone admire. And if we succeeded, who would wash our clothes, make our hotel beds, cut our lawns, landscape our homes, care for our children when we are at work, and cut and pack our meat? Demagoguery on an issue that important—which cuts that close to our fundamental national values—is the mark of lightweights who would be unpredictable and dangerous in office.

Lightweights’ demagoguery is not heavyweights’ only obstacle. There is also the weight of time. No one can be right all the time. Nor can any one person appeal to everyone in this diverse land. As time goes on, heavyweights like McCain get scars of dissent and struggle. They make mistakes, and they make enemies.

The tests of a heavyweight are not making mistakes or provoking opposition. Any good leader will do both. The tests are whether the choices are right most of the time, whether the rare mistakes are important, and, if so, whether they are acknowledged and corrected in time to avoid serious harm.

But the lightweights don’t want us to apply this common-sense test. They believe we will elect a person who has made few decisions and reveals few views, but who cleverly panders to our worst fears and suspicions, and then only in a nonspecific way. They believe we want a “perfect” candidate who has made no mistakes because he or she has never done anything really hard and balks at making and publicly revealing though choices.

Rudy, Mitt and Hillary don’t understand that you can’t demagogue or “triangulate” real life. Isn’t that the definition of a lightweight?

So who are the Democrats’ heavyweights? There are only two: Joe Biden and Barack Obama.

Biden has McCain’s longevity in the Senate and considerable experience in foreign affairs. He was instrumental in our successful intervention in Bosnia, and his well-publicized advice for “soft” partitioning of Iraq may be the only way to stop the millennial bloodletting there. He also co-authored the 1990s bill to put 100,000 new cops on our streets. But he’s not known for any particular risky but ultimately correct decision. Like most of the rest of the Senate, he voted to authorize the war in Iraq. He’s experienced, bright and savvy but not a notable leader.

That leaves Obama. Although his twelve years of political experience will be right in the mainstream for presidents, he is younger and less experienced than Biden. Yet he has stuck his neck out prominently on vital issues more than Biden—on Iraq, on Iran and on going after bin Laden in Pakistan.

So far Obama’s neck is in fine condition. History has not yet fully rendered its verdict, but he appears to have been right, if not prescient, on all three. The recent turmoil in Pakistan reminds us just how important our unfinished business there may be.

Obama is also a man with once-in-a-century political skill. His 2004 keynote speech was universally admired not for his unusual background, but for its substance.

Already Obama has built a reputation as an honest and outspoken straight shooter with uncanny judgment and wisdom on crucial issues. In short, he’s a younger, smarter and steadier John McCain. He is also a less contentious figure, and his values are more in tune with the Democrats’ and therefore now with the country’s.

Anyone who believes that our children’s future depends on how our president thinks on gays, guns and abortion hasn’t been reading the newspapers. Heavyweights like McCain, Obama and Biden de-emphasize those divisive and historically irrelevant disputes. They focus on issues that will determine whether our children’s and grandchildren’s lives will be happy and prosperous or full of debt, struggle, pollution, pain and misery. And they stick their necks out to give us real choices. Our Republic might survive with any of them as leader.

Serious people know that this is the most important election in two generations. If we could bring back those savvy party bosses and their smoke-filled rooms, they would know that the chips are down. They would pick only heavyweights as nominees for our most important office, especially at this turning point in history. Will we?



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24 November 2007

Dream Team


Have you ever wondered what our Cabinet would look like if we just picked the best people for the job, regardless of party, race and gender?

Suppose we looked for brains, expertise, competence, political skill, and a track record of good judgment. Suppose we ignored patronage, “balancing the ticket,” and all the other political factors that perpetuate incompetence and corruption. Then we might have a Cabinet that looks like this:

President: Barack Obama. Of all candidates in either party, he’s got the best record of good judgment on vital issues: on Iraq, on terrorism, on health care, and on the need for national unity and how to get there. He’s also energetic, brilliant, thoughtful, superbly educated, empathetic, centrist, non-ideological, politically charismatic, sympathetic to the religious, morally rock solid, and accustomed from birth to dealing with foreign cultures. What more could you ask?

Vice President: Joe Biden. Want a greybeard in the Cabinet who knows every corner of the world? We might have to hire an editor for his speeches, but who else knows more and has thought more about foreign peoples, foreign affairs and how they might affect us? Who could provide better liaison with Congress on foreign policy?

Secretary of State: As a brilliant, widely respected leader with unfailing judgment, Obama would set policy. At State we’d need an equally brilliant but quiet negotiator to cut the best possible deals. Two come to mind:
    Richard Holbrooke. Remember him? Low key, with a first-rate mind, a superb negotiator, he’s James Baker III with scruples. And he knows the Middle East.
    Alternate: Christopher Hill, the guy who’s successfully dissuading “mad” Kim Jong Il from nuclear brinksmanship.
Secretary of Defense: Colin Powell. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a SecDef who actually knows the military inside and out? Powell could cut the waste of useless Cold-War weaponry, restore our troops’ morale, and prepare our technology and our forces for future conflicts. Lest we forget, he’s shown superb judgment, and he planned and executed Gulf I, our last clear and decisive military victory.

Attorney General: Diane Feinstein.
Low key, with iron integrity and a mind like a steel trap. If you’ve ever watched her sweetly take apart a witness at a Senate hearing, you want her enforcing our laws and our civil rights. Maybe she’d bring back Carol Lam.

Secretary of Homeland Security: Richard Clarke.
How about a security chief who actually had the brains and foresight to imagine 9/11 before it happened?

Secretary of Energy: Richard Lugar. One of the first Republicans to get serious about energy independence, he’s a low-key thinker who’s decades ahead of everyone else. A politician by trade, he approaches energy like a scientist. That’s exactly what we need.

Secretary of the Interior: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Our environmental problems are intimidating, so we need a personality to match. Who better to “terminate” pollution, global warming and spoliation of our wilderness than the man who’s already started doing so, ignoring party labels, in our most populous and productive state?

Secretary of Health and Human Services: Julie Gerberding.
Brilliant scientist and brilliant politician, she can explain complex science even to members of the House. If you’re afraid of disease or bugs—whether bird flu, MRSA, or AIDS—you want her not just down in the trenches, but in charge.

Secretary of the Treasury: Bob Rubin. Let’s reward success for a change and bring him back. He won’t be all that happy at Citigroup anyway—a once-great bank brought low by hucksterism.

Secretary of Transportation: Michael Bloomberg. A financial and business wizard, he’s already started using market-based solutions to clear up Manhattan’s gridlock and pollution. We need him to go national.

Secretary of Commerce: Charlene Barshefsky. What better way to recognize that commerce is now global than to put Clinton’s successful USTR in this position?

Secretary of Labor: Dick Durbin. A first-rate politician, first-rate mind and first-rate lawyer, with a low-key, attractive personality, he’s a lifelong progressive. Who better to stand up for the working stiff at home and abroad?

Secretary of Veterans Affairs: John McCain. Would our tough, maverick, no-nonsense senator take the job? He might; he cares passionately about his fellow warriors. What better way to end his career than making sure our returning troops have the respect and care they deserve? McCain would not suffer their mistreatment in silence, and the Cabinet could use his independent judgment on other matters as well.

* * *


What makes this roster a Dream Team? Experience, accomplishment and brains. Colin Powell served 35 years in the military, plus four more as Secretary of State. Richard Clarke served our government for 30 years, eighteen of them in intelligence. Together Joe Biden, Diane Feinstein, Richard Lugar, Dick Durbin and John McCain have been in Congress for 127 years. Imagine what they could do for us if they were making decisions and solving problems, rather than raising money and bickering.

There are no amateurs or cronies here. Every one of these figures has independent political power, business stature, or both. Imagine how smoothly relations between Congress and the Executive would go with them on the job. We wouldn’t have to worry about independent judgment in the Cabinet or checks and balances within the all-powerful executive.

If you want a Dream Team like this one working for us, you should vote for Barack Obama to head the list and pick the rest. He’s the only candidate likely to assemble such a team. Rudy values only loyalty; he wanted his ex-chauffeur in charge of Homeland Security. Hillary will give us the same old tired, jaded and forgettable Clinton crew. Mitt hasn’t worked with these folks or known them personally; his appointments are likely to be cronies and certain to be pigs in a poke.

Obama knows all the Senators personally and is high in their regard. He has worked with most of the rest. He was Senator Lugar’s protege, and he has promised a bipartisan cabinet.

So Obama’s team will look more like this Dream Team than any other candidate’s. And recruiting is cumulative. While some of these luminaries might balk at serving in isolation, who could refuse to be part of a team like this?

Not even Obama can do it all alone. The team’s the thing. He’ll give us the best.

Don’t be Fooled by Name Dropping

I don’t know whether someone from the Clinton campaign has been reading this blog. But according to Fox News, as reported by the New York Times, Hillary has started dropping Colin Powell’s name.

The context is enough to turn your stomach. She named Powell not as a possible Secretary of Defense, but as a possible roving goodwill ambassador for her administration, working with her loyal husband Bill. And she dropped Powell’s name not for a general audience, but for a group of African-American ministers in South Carolina. Need I say more?

Appointing Colin Powell as a mere marketer of Hillary’s “expertise” on military and foreign affairs would be like a third-rate scientific hack appointing Albert Einstein as messenger boy. It would insult the intelligence not just of African-Americans, but of everyone else as well. That’s just the sort of hubris and lack of perspective that we’ve come to expect from Hillary.

It is Colin Powell, not Hillary, who spent 35 years in the military and was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Secretary of State. It was he who planned and executed our stunning, nearly casualty-free victory in Gulf I. It was he, not Hillary, who advised Dubya not to invade Iraq and stuck his neck out by making his advice public before the invasion. It was he who tried to bring George Tenet to account for false intelligence by having Tenet sit behind his right shoulder, on camera, as he gave his speech at the United Nations. Hillary did nothing but vote for war, without even reading the crucial report.

It was Powell who backed up Generals Shinseki and Zinni in insisting on sending enough troops to do the job. If he had been Secretary of Defense, rather than That Idiot Rumsfeld, our enterprise in Iraq would have been about where it is now by early 2004, with little or no insurgency and far fewer casualties on all sides. In addition, Powell showed superb judgment on other issues, including the spy-plane crisis in China and the need to pressure Israel for peace.

So don’t be fooled by Hillary’s name dropping. Building a Dream Team person by person requires more than dropping names. In her name dropping Hillary offers us the same snake oil that Dubya has been offering for the last seven years. Don’t buy it.



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21 November 2007

Thanksgiving Message


Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. No other people or nation has it. If you happen to be traveling abroad on the third Thursday in November, you always sense a little void. The void remains, no matter how accommodating and gracious your hosts may be.

Thanksgiving is unique not just because it’s our own. It’s also unique in kind.

It’s not a religious holiday; it’s completely secular. It doesn’t commemorate the birth or achievements of any particular notable. Unlike many holidays abroad, it doesn’t remind us of a costly battle or the beginning or end of some military or political upheaval. Unlike Guy Fawkes Day in Britain, it doesn’t recall the survival of a symbol of democracy (the Parliament building) in the face of a dastardly plot. All it commemorates is the bounty bestowed by a new land and the cooperation of two radically different cultures.

The native people we misnamed “Indians” were an integral part of our first Thanksgiving. They were there at the feast. They participated in the festivities and the speechmaking. Most of all, they gave us the seeds and shared the information on native agriculture that made the bounty of that first Thanksgiving possible.

Without the Indians’ help, some historians believe, the Pilgrims might not have survived. They were long on hope and religious zeal and short on practical skills for living in their harsh new wilderness. The Indians supplied the skills.

Agriculture was not all we learned from them. Indians also gave us aspects of our own culture that we still practice today. If you’ve ever observed a meeting of the British House of Commons on TV, you might have been surprised at how participants boo and cheer each other and occasionally shout each other down. Our practice in Congress is different: members speak in turn, with others waiting in mostly respectful silence. We adopted that practice after observing the Iroquois’ tribal councils, which seemed so much more civilized.

Our first Thanksgiving came in 1621, long before we were an independent nation. Its lessons are approaching four centuries old. But they are still as powerful today as they were when Governor Bradford thanked God for nature’s bounty and the Indians’ friendly help.

Today we use more sophisticated language. We speak of the “environment” or “ecology” rather than just the “land.” We worry about the “technology” and “values” of foreign cultures and are suspicious of those that differ from our own.

But the lessons of that first Thanksgiving still ring out loud and clear across the intervening centuries. We knew humility and respect before the land and its bounty. We practiced humility and cooperation with a foreign culture in “our” new land, whose members we now know to be, like all humans, more than 99% genetically identical to us.

On that bright fall day so long ago, those two American values—respect for our planet and for our fellow beings—seemed to offer the same boundless possibility as the land itself. So we gave thanks, and we still do.

Happy Thanksgiving!

18 November 2007

Is Hillary Dangerous?


NOTE: For more serious reasons why Hillary may be dangerous, see this post on wars and terrorism and this post on the importance of judgment.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is always a good read. Sometimes her work is zany and hilarious. Sometimes it touches on something profound.

Sunday’s column was one of those. Dowd reported Hillary’s “icing” of her chief political rivals Barack and John. According to Dowd, Hillary refuses to engage them in pre-debate banter, to make eye contact, or even to shake hands. She stiffs them and mixes only with her less prominent challengers.

Dowd seemed to approve this practice. She described Hillary the debater as a “dominatrix” who reduced her feckless male opponents to “wimps.” Although she later questioned whether Hillary could best Rudy so easily, she seemed to admire Hillary’s use of emotional ju-jitsu to gain every last shred of advantage in debate.

My reaction was different. The piece troubled me more than anything I’ve ever read by Dowd. I sat down to ponder why.

Politicians and lawyers are not like you and me. While most of us strive to avoid conflict in our personal and professional lives, conflict is their turf. Resolving it is what they do. To be good at it, they must be able to rise above conflict and see it as something separate from themselves. That’s what we call professionalism.

Nearly all of our leaders (including Hillary) are lawyers. Once they knew the drill. The allegedly heinous killer would go to the chair, or would walk free, depending on the jury’s decision. Then the prosecution and defense would go out together for drinks and a good laugh.

Both sides knew the outcome depended on so many things—such as the facts of the case and the jury’s mood—beyond their control. They understood there would always be another day, another issue, another trial. They saw themselves as parts of a delicate system that ultimately depends not on words on paper but on civilization and civility. So they didn’t take things personally.

Politicians were much the same. Both FDR and Reagan were famous for being able to charm the pants off rivals and detractors. So was JFK. Dubya’s own father was known for remembering the birthdays and anniversaries of everyone in Washington with hand-written greeting cards.

Those days are gone. Except in small towns, prosecution and defense no longer mingle. They attend separate conferences, where they plot and hatch strategic schemes against each other.

There is no longer “the” bar, consisting of all lawyers, whomever they represent. There is only the “defense bar” and the “prosecution” or the “plaintiffs’ bar.” They study each other’s trial tricks separately, just as the Soviet and American military used to study each other’s nuclear submarine designs. If you want to see a clash of civilizations, you needn’t look to Islam and Christianity; just observe plaintiffs’ and defense lawyers in all but the smallest towns.

Recently the clash has become personal. The change has everything to do with personal ambition and greed. Plaintiffs’ lawyers, working on contingency, get paid only if they win. Prosecutors often have politics in their sights; they can win office only if they win in court. And defense counsel advance in prestige and pay only if they get their corporate clients off the hook.

Recently we have seen an epidemic of retirement announcements by members of Congress. Most of them are Republicans, so it’s easy to write off their leaving as sour grapes. But every one of them, including the few Democrats, has mourned the loss of civility and collegiality among their peers. Inexorably, the bar’s divisiveness has spread to the halls of Congress.

If you think this is just a minor cultural failing, think again. Culture is everything in human affairs. The Soviet Union’s voluminous constitution had nearly all the guarantees of personal liberty that our shorter one does. But who would have wanted to live there? Russia’s modern constitution does have all our guarantees of liberty and some provisions (like the supremacy of treaties over domestic law) that we ought to have but don’t. Yet who in his right mind would exchange American citizenship for Russian, or rely easily on Russia’s national commitment? The difference isn’t words on paper; it’s culture.

When differences on issues get personal, egos and emotions get involved. That’s when professionalism goes out the window and mistakes (or worse) get made. The purges of Stalinist Russia are not too far removed from what happened to our United States Attorneys under Alberto Gonzales. The difference was a matter of degree, not kind.

For us in the West, the long, hard slog toward modern civilization began in 1215, in the fields of Runnymede. There King John, outnumbered and outgunned, acceded to the Barons’ wishes without a fight. What could have been a bloody battle ended with words on sheepskin, the Magna Carta.

The words on that sheepskin are quaint and long forgotten. But its symbolism is not. It stands for the principle that conflict can be resolved, and governmental power can pass, without the prelude of large-scale death and dismemberment. Isn’t that the same principle we are now purportedly fighting for in Iraq?

A party leader’s refusal to speak or shake hands with her principal rivals before a debate is not just a social peccadillo. It is a firm cultural step backward on that long path from sword and spear.

That, in the end, is why Barack Obama has to win this race. Our veneer of civilization is wearing thin. In a nuclear age, that wearing could destroy our society or even our species. We need a leader of wisdom and grace, not one ruled by personal ambition, to restore our civility and preserve our civilization.


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16 November 2007

Gleams, Boos, and Historical Inevitability


The Democratic debate two weeks ago had three headlines. Last night’s had only two: gleams and boos.

The gleams were in the eyes of women as they contemplated Hillary’s presidency. I thought I saw them in almost every female eye, from the students and moms asking questions to the sole female moderator.

Was it my imagination? It could have been, but I don’t think so.

My conviction rose when I heard the boos. How many times have you heard a rabidly Democratic audience boo two of the party’s top three contenders for the presidency? I’ve never heard that before, and I’ve watched a lot of debates and conventions.

The boos came when Obama and Edwards offered Clinton mild criticism. I agreed with the substance of their criticism. But the substance and mild tone didn’t seem to matter to the audience; only the fact of criticism did.

Toward the end of the debate, Clinton got the inevitable question about playing the gender card. She handled it beautifully. She deftly conflated her own aspirations with women’s generally.

As she wound up her reply, Clinton described women in their nineties coming to her, filled with hope. They were born before women got the vote, she reported, and didn’t want to die before seeing a woman as president.

I had no sound meter with me, but I could have sworn that line got the loudest applause of the evening. Immediately afterward, Edwards chided Clinton for her wicked Washington ways. He got the loudest boos of the evening.

What struck me most was how obtuse the men were. Obama and Edwards—two of the smartest politicians in either party—treated Clinton like just another guy. Edwards even said that was the proper thing to do. It was as if they’d never read about Mars and Venus or argued with their wives. Political correctness submerged common sense, let alone what every husband knows instinctively about gender.

If I’m right about the gleams and boos, then this election is all but over. They reflect a growing female thirst and hope for victory. Women are beginning to understand the big number—51%—that is their share of the electorate. They are starting to feel their political power.

In the primaries, Obama, Edwards and the other males will split the anti-Clinton vote. A lot of men will vote for Clinton, too. Unless Obama can close the gender gap, Clinton will win the primaries decisively. As attack-dog-in-chief, Edwards is already out of the running. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Once she’s won the primaries, can Clinton win the general election? There’s been a lot of talk about her divisiveness and entrenched opposition to her candidacy. But I now wonder how much of that opposition—let alone the commentary on it—is male wishful thinking.

That fact is that Clinton is good enough to be president, especially after the disaster she will follow. I’ve noted her flaws on this blog, and I stand by my critiques. Obama is a once-in-two-generations candidate; I’d hate to see my party settle for second best. But I’d hate even more to watch our democracy go down the toilet under a two-bit Caesar or an authoritarian pseudo-religious frat boy. (If you appreciate a good nightmare, read the latest about Mitt’s upbringing. It’s perfect for Big Brother.)

So if Hillary wins the nomination, I will vote for her without much enthusiasm but with firm conviction that I’m doing the right thing. So will most Democrats and independents, male or female.

To win the general election, she needs the votes of more than half the men and women. The polls suggest that more than half the men are now Democrats or independents and will vote for her. The growing anti-Bush, anti-Cheney backlash will only increase her share of the male vote as time goes by.

As for the female vote, won’t Rudy’s or Mitt’s attacks in the general campaign produce the same result that Obama’s and Edwards’ did last night? Gender ju-jitsu doesn’t stop at party lines. If you don’t understand why more than half of women are likely to support Hillary in a secret ballot, regardless of party, then you haven’t thought seriously about all those gleams and boos.

Maybe there was something unusual in the air of Las Vegas or the university atmosphere there. But I don’t think so. If the truth be told, testosterone has not been a recipe for good government. Not only have we suffered through seven years of testosterone-fueled Texas swagger. Lest we forget, our beloved Bill threw away three years of what could have been a stellar presidency on a fling with a White House intern. After ten years of pathetic male blunders, it’s not hard to understand why women’s time has come, even if “their” candidate is imperfect.

I hope that my impression of last night is wrong. I still believe in Obama as, if not the sole, then our most likely salvation. But if the female tide I thought I saw last night is real, there is nothing that Obama, I or any other male can do about it. We had better get used to seeing a lot of Hillary and hoping for the best.

Postscript on Comments Below


Never have I been more delighted to be criticized than on reading the comments below. I hope that readers of this post will study every one of them (and more in the same vein that I hope will come), as well as the blog that Amalia referenced.

As I said above, I fervently hope my fears are wrong. I thought long and hard before publishing the above post. My wish not to harm Obama’s campaign warred with my personal integrity: my need to call things as I saw them. In the end, my integrity won, in part out of respect for Obama. He tells us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear, and I tried to do the same.

Of course I, too, thought Obama “won” the debate on substance. If you listen to what candidates say, not how they say it, he always does.

I particularly liked his succinct reply to Clinton’s blatant tax pandering on social security. While she decried a “trillion dollar tax increase”—taking a page right out of the Bush/Rove Book of Demagoguery—Obama dryly noted that raising the earnings cap on the social-security tax would hurt only the top six percent of earners. I’m in that six percent, and I certainly don’t want janitors and single moms making $20,000 a year carrying my water for me. That’s not just bad policy; it’s immoral.

As usual, Obama made several other wise and thoughtful remarks, including observations on the loaded question of human rights trumping national security. But to me, his superior analysis and honesty were an old story. The new story was the gleams, applause and boos. Unless Campbell Brown is an undiscovered Meryl Streep, I don’t think she could could fake the look on her face as she served Hillary her softball question on gender.

Those looks and the sound effects surprised me and disturbed me deeply. That’s why I thought they—not Obama’s usual victory on substance—were the headline. The ire and indignation of thinking women that my post provoked is music to my ears.

Two final points are worth mentioning. The thought that the audience and sound effects might have been manipulated occurred to me, but I had no evidence, only suspicion. If the Clinton campaign manipulated the audience or the sound effects, it should be investigated and exposed. The thought that Hillary’s campaign might do something so Bush-like—and so slickly—is truly frightening. Who would suspect that Big Brother might be a woman?

If, as is more likely, CNN’s own bias and complete lack of professionalism were responsible, there is little that anyone can do about that. Will the last professional and objective television news organization (other than PBS) please stand up?

Finally, to the extent my post stereotyped or underestimated women, I apologize. That certainly wasn’t my intent. But the whole nation inexplicably voted George W. Bush into office a second time, having had nearly four years to study his stupidity and bad character. Someone (I think it was P.T. Barnum) said that you never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. I don’t think there are any notable gender differences there.

In fact, there are good reasons to excuse women (and men) for supporting Hillary. It is past time for a female president; she’s a lot smarter than Bush; her heart is closer to the right place; she’s likely to appoint far better people; and she’s a Democrat. We might all have to swallow our distaste and support her in the general election, to avoid the far greater disaster of Rudy or Mitt in the White House.

There should be no gender differences in voting for the lesser of two evils. That’s no fun, but it’s a vital duty. If more people had done it in 1968, Nixon would have been an historical footnote, not our second-worst president. If more people had voted for Gore, rather than Nader, in 2000, so would George W. Bush. Then the War in Iraq would be historical speculation, not dismal fact.

We all have to be circumspect in pointing out Hillary’s deficiencies because we may have to support her next year. It’s hard to walk that fine line, but it’s necessary.

So the quest for an Obama presidency is a bit quixotic. It always has been. That doesn’t mean the fight is not worth while, or that Obama might not win. If my post provokes women to fight harder for him, it will have done its job.







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14 November 2007

Who Can Win?


If George W. Bush has taught us anything, it’s that winning a campaign and governing are two very different things. Who would have thought that a man who can barely speak English, who thinks like a caricature of a frat boy, and whose only political experience was six years as governor of Texas could win the presidency?

When it came to governing, he performed about as well as you might expect a man like him to perform. No surprise there. The only surprise was that we elected him for a second term.

For a time, Barack Obama seemed to have the opposite problem. With his extraordinary intelligence and political skill, you know he can govern well. He knows how to solve problems in the real world—as distinguished from the alternate universe of Washington. He has the skill and charisma to bring us together after the deliberate divisiveness of Bush and Rove. Every one of his positions is sensible, centrist and meticulously planned, including his approaches to health care, to so-called “women’s issues,” to war and diplomacy as instruments of foreign policy, and to fighting the real terrorist menace.

If Obama can get to the Oval Office, you know he will give us the type of government we haven’t seen since FDR. But can he win?

That’s always been the question, hasn’t it? A man as bright and thoughtful as he can easily be mistaken for a feckless intellectual. Can he survive the rough and tumble of dirty campaign politics and the Republicans’ computer-driven demagoguery?

After his speech last week at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Iowa, there should no longer be any doubt. It’s a must-see.

The Obama in that speech was a different man from the one we’ve seen so far. Gone was the slight stammer. Gone were the hesitation and the intellectual’s thoughtfulness. The new Obama stood revealed as a fighter and a winner—the same guy who organized the toughest streets of Chicago.

As you watch and listen to that speech, it’s easy to imagine him giving his inaugural address in January 2009 or his first State of the Union speech in January 2010. The speech left no doubt that he’s presidential material.

It was not just the tone, which was forceful, serious and hard-hitting. It was substance, too. In gutsy but eloquent language, Obama showed exactly why he can win where Hillary cannot.

Hillary can’t beat Rudy or Mitt because she’s afraid of her own shadow. At heart, she’s still a student of politics terrified of making a mistake. She cringes at hard questions for fear they’ll be “gotchas!” She’s afraid of the polls; she’s afraid of Republican demagoguery; and she’s afraid of her own possible missteps.

People sense fear. It’s not a male or a female thing. It’s an animal thing. Deep down in the parts of our brains that let us survive long enough to evolve are circuits that won’t follow a fearful leader.

If we Democrats are foolish enough to nominate Hillary, her fears will come out. All it will take is once. It may be something like her little dance over New York driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants in the last debate. Or it may be something more important. Rudy will pounce, and it will all be over but the shouting. We’ll end up with a two-bit Caesar for president and his chauffer for head of Homeland Security. God help us.

If you don’t think Obama has a better chance of stopping that awful outcome, play his Iowa speech. Play it twice.

What you’ll see is a man with courage, conviction and passion. You’ll see a man who knows what is right and wrong, knows what he believes, and doesn’t have to think about it.

On things that matter, Obama won’t bend or budge. He won’t be caught in “gotchas” because he doesn’t think in those terms. He wants to solve real problems and he knows how to do it. He won’t support a first unjustified war, or provide the excuse for a second, just for fear he’ll be slimed.

Don’t just play the speech. Think about backgrounds, too. From the cloistered halls of Wellesley to Yale Law School and the White House, Hillary has led a charmed and sheltered life. Her only adversity was Bill’s philandering. As a minority in his own country, in Hawaii and in Indonesia, Obama learned to stand up for himself from childhood. On his own accord, he went from Harvard Law School and a plush job on Wall Street to the meanest streets of Chicago. There he survived to win the toughest hearts and minds and eventually the Senate.

Who’s going to be tougher and more resilient when the chips are down, in the campaign or the Oval Office? There is only one reasonable answer.



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10 November 2007

Campaign Math 101


Women
Religious Voters
African-Americans
Racists
Conclusion

If you want to understand Senator Obama’s campaign, you have to know some numbers. Basic math determines his strategy.

Women. The first number to know is 51. That’s the percentage of the electorate that is female. If you consider women an interest group, they are the largest and most powerful one in American political history.

I know, I know. Women are not a monolithic bloc. They don’t all think alike. Many won’t support Hillary Clinton for a variety of reasons. But I have yet to discuss the election with a woman who doesn’t have at least a little gleam in her eye when speaking of Senator Clinton.

The gleam is there whether or not the speaker supports Clinton’s candidacy. And polls show there’s a big gender gap in Obama’s support.

It’s not hard to see why. Over 87 years have passed since women got the vote. They represent more than half of our electorate. It is past time for a female president, and many women feel that hunger keenly.

Among professional women, the hunger is palpable. They have striven and made sacrifices in their own lives to break their own glass ceilings. Many have suffered without complaint, sometimes for decades, under better paid male bosses less smart and less capable than they. Whether or not they support Senator Clinton’s candidacy, they know that she carries the banner for their struggle. Because she is also a woman and a mother, Clinton understands their daily act of balancing family and career.

Barack Obama appreciates all this. He’s naturally empathetic, and he’s trying to break a barrier of his own. He knows he can’t achieve his own goals by trampling on women’s dreams.

That’s why he is circumspect in pointing out Senator Clinton’s weaknesses. That’s why you won’t ever see him “go negative”—let alone become an attack dog. The more he tarnishes women’s dreams of equality and real leadership, the more he sullies his own candidacy.

So Obama has to walk a delicate and dangerous line. He can reveal Clinton’s deficiencies only indirectly. He can tout his own qualifications, including demonstrated good judgment, moral consistency, and character. He can draw comparisons with Clinton on policy and matters of judgment. But he has to earn women’s respect and trust the hard way, slowly and carefully.

Further than that he cannot go. It’s not just that his candidacy promises a new kind of politics. It’s a matter of women’s understandable yearning for full equality and a rightful place in the nation’s leadership. He of all people appreciates that yearning. He knows what resentment he might invite just by appearing to oppose it.

But Obama must do more than avoid appearing to oppose women’s aspirations. He must actively support them. Already he has good plans for health care, education, child care, and family leave.

But his Website doesn’t tout the last two points; it hides them. The link to his page on Family and Community appears near the bottom of his “Issues” list, off screen on my computer. It begins with a point about fathers’ responsibilities and never mentions child care or family leave. His staff should push that material up several notches and bring it up to date. (The Website also needs immediate attention in another respect: the new registration screen blocks access to the site, has no obvious way for previous registrants to bypass it, and is likely to drive inexperienced computer users away. Obama’s computer geeks need to do much better.)

Perhaps Michelle Obama should get more deeply involved in the campaign. She is an attractive figure who can draw some of the female empathy that Senator Clinton relentlessly exploits.

But I think Obama must do still more. I hope he will announce his intention to appoint women to his Cabinet. I hope he will even publish a short list of prominent women committed to serve, preferably those with national name recognition and independent constituencies. He might even go so far as to name names for specific positions.

Although such a daring act would contradict conventional political wisdom, I’ve argued that likely appointments are among the most important things we can know about any candidate. Obama needs to do something dramatic to embrace women’s aspirations, and he needs to do it quickly. If he won’t announce female Cabinet appointments, maybe Michelle will have some other ideas. She’s lived the maternal balancing act, and she’ll have an even more difficult balancing act if Obama wins the primary.


Religious Voters. The next most important number is uncertain: 35 to 41. That’s roughly the percentage of evangelical and religious voters in the national electorate. Those numbers represent an average; religious voters reach even larger percentages in some states.

Next to women, these voters are the most important single interest group. They far outnumber African-Americans and Hispanics, each of which represents 15% or less of the electorate.

Some think that religious voters matter only in the general election, not the primary. That conclusion assumes that most religious voters are and will stay Republicans. But is that assumption right?

Two facts contradict that bit of conventional wisdom. First, as I have outlined in a separate post, evangelicals and other Christians, betrayed by Bush and Rove, are leaving the Republican Party in droves. Second, the Democratic Party is real Christians’ natural home. If Jesus were alive today and a member of a political party, he would almost certainly be a Democrat, if only to comfort sick children and the poor.

Obama has about sixty days to explain to Christian voters why they should support his candidacy. That’s one of the most important pieces of unfinished business in his campaign.

His campaign appears to recognize the point. It’s devoting a lot of effort to Iowa and South Carolina, where religious voters are important. It should make a broad and explicit appeal to independent and Republican religious voters to re-register as Democrats and vote for Obama in the primary.

African-Americans. Paradoxically, voters who share Obama’s African ancestry are one of the least important interest groups for his primary campaign. They represent only about 13% of the electorate. Except in southern states like South Carolina, where they represent much larger fractions, Obama can win without them.

If he wins the primary, he probably will do so largely without them. There are three reasons for this conclusion. First, African-Americans are small in number outside the South. Second, they have spent several decades achieving power and prominence in the Democratic Party. Key leaders like Charlie Rangel are firmly entrenched in the Democratic establishment. By and large, they support Clinton because she’s the establishment candidate. The rank and file may break with their leadership, but that outcome is far from certain.

The final reason is more important: low expectations. Having fought ingrained racism all of their lives, most African-Americans simply can’t believe that white America will vote for Obama.

They may be right. But Obama’s success depends upon them being wrong. He can and must win a majority of other voters. So his success among African-Americans is largely irrelevant to his primary campaign, except in states where they represent a far larger percentage of the electorate than the national average. (Only if Obama wins the primary, disproving fatalistic theories of racism, will African-Americans become a crucial constituency in the general election.)


Racists.
There are undoubtedly voters who won’t support Obama under any circumstances just because of his African ancestry. Some of them are certainly Democrats.

But these voters are the “wild card” in the primary. No one has the faintest idea how many there are. There could be far more than we expect; there could be far less. Obama’s easy victory in downstate Illinois, which is mostly rural and mostly white, gives us reason for hope.

But no one will really know until the primary is over. Even then we probably won’t know for sure. These days few willingly confess to racism—whether to an exit pollster or to anyone else. In any event, the matter will probably turn on unconscious racism, not overt racism, which even the voters themselves don’t recognize. Pundits will have to infer the size of the racist vote from complex statistical calculations that are speculative and uncertain.

These points have practical implications for voting strategy. If you think (as I do) that Obama is the best candidate, you should vote for him regardless of whether you think the racist vote makes his victory unlikely. If your fears are right, your vote for Obama will do your party no harm: Obama will lose the primary and Clinton will represent the party in the general election. If you are wrong, a vote for Clinton would help put the weaker candidate forward for the general election.

Should you vote for Clinton for fear of racism in the general election? That strategy assumes that racism is more prevalent than sexism, i.e., that there are more voters in the national electorate who will refuse to vote for Obama because of race than will refuse to vote for Clinton because of gender.

That may be true, but it’s pure speculation. No one knows the relative size of the racist and sexist votes. There is no way of knowing even in theory, because voters don’t generally confess to being either racist or sexist. What’s more, unconscious racism and sexism are far more prevalent than their overt counterparts. There is no way to know in advance how important these factors will be.

The only thing you can know for sure is that voters are more likely to elect the better candidate. So a primary vote for Obama as the better candidate is a safe and proper vote.

* * *


Conclusions. Three general conclusions follow from this analysis. First, Obama must court female voters carefully and far more vigorously that he has done so far. Don’t push him to bash Clinton: that’s a good way to lose. Second, Obama needs a full-court press for religious voters’ support. He appears to be making it, discreetly, in the states where it matters most. Third, the only rational thing to do about the racist vote, which may be a phantom, is to ignore it. Obama seems to be doing just that, implying (with sunny optimism) that it doesn’t exist. That’s a good strategy.

So Obama’s campaign is doing some of the right things. It needs to do more, but its general strategy is fundamentally sound. All we can do now is work hard for Obama, hope for the best, and pray for victory for him and for us.

If he is destined to lose, going negative won’t save him from losing. But negativity could harm his long-term political future. He’s a young man with lots of years to give us, and he has to proceed with care.


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03 November 2007

Obama and Evangelicals


Lots of things about Barack Obama are unusual. With the possible exception of Bill Clinton, he’s the brightest politician on the national stage in two generations. In raw intellect, he towers over both parties’ presidential fields. His academic credentials are the best since Woodrow Wilson’s. He understands economics better than the entire Republican field and much better than most Democrats.

But Obama’s qualities go far beyond intelligence and reason. His humanity is transcendent, too. Listen to him—really listen. Read him. If you do, you will find something unique about him, at least among politicians. Obama is a truly spiritual man.

I’m not talking about his being a Christian. Every presidential candidate claims to be a Christian of some sort. They all wear their religion on their lapels like some intangible campaign badge. They put it on when they want to attract religious voters. Then they take if off, just as quickly, when the campaigning is done.

Obama is different. He’s spiritual not in his political persona but in his heart.

That’s why he hasn’t slammed Hillary Clinton as a second-rate intellect, a failed leader, and a flawed candidate. It’s not his style. It’s not in his nature to attack and condemn. He prefers to find good and humanity in everyone, and he can bring it out. That may not be the best approach to campaigning in an era of rabid negativity, but it will bring us a world of change when he wins.

I say “when” because I think Obama has a secret constituency: evangelical voters. They don’t all know it yet, but he is the only candidate in either party whom they can happily support and who can win. When they learn who he is, they will turn to him—maybe not the leaders and pontificators, but the rank and file. That’s why, I think, Obama is doing better now in Iowa than in New Hampshire, whose voters are more secular.

Our evangelicals now know that George W. Bush and Karl Rove betrayed them. Worse yet, they know that Bush and Rove betrayed Jesus’ teaching.

Where Jesus preached peace, Bush and Rove brought war. Where Jesus taught uncritical love for sinners, Bush and Rove encouraged hate and exclusion—for homosexuals, for those who support abortion rights, even for the poor. Where Jesus kicked money-changers out of the temple and praised the spiritual value of poverty, Bush and Rove urged us to keep our own money and spurn those in need. So we abandoned the poor and uninsured—even our own lower middle class—to the tender mercies of an uncaring global marketplace. Where Jesus taught humility and community, Bush and Rove personify arrogance and unilateralism in both domestic politics and foreign affairs. Take any caring innovation in Jesus’ words, as reported in the New Testament, and you will find that Bush and Rove did just the opposite.

The trouble is, evangelicals read the Bible. They are beginning to realize that the neocons conned them. They are turning away from right-wing politics of hate, selfishness, self-righteousness and division. They are turning again toward Jesus’ path of love, understanding, humility, and generosity.

Not a week goes by without a new report of this phenomenon. Having rediscovered that Genesis anoints us as stewards of our Earth, evangelicals are jumping on the environmental bandwagon in order to become good stewards. The best of them are learning how to retard global warming in order to preserve our planet as God made it. Having discovered anew that laissez faire capitalism has victims, they are starting to care again about the poor and abandoned, just as Jesus did.

Many are leaving the right-wing megachurches and starting their own schismatic movements. The young are often in the vanguard. Youth are quick to see hypocrisy in their elders. They are first to kill and be killed in unjust wars. They now understand that Jesus and jingoism do not mix. They are leaving the Republican party and becoming independents, and their votes are up for grabs.

So whom can evangelicals trust? Every candidate will pander to them to some extent, just because their votes reportedly were decisive in the last two presidential elections. How can they be sure that whoever is elected won’t betray them—and Jesus—again as Bush and Cheney have done? When these disappointed religious voters go to the polls, whom should they pick?

Hillary Clinton is lost to them. For them, through no fault of her own, she personifies personal moral decay and the family’s decline. In any event, she has no moral core and little moral courage. She twists and turns in every political wind, as her little two-step at the last Democratic debate showed so well. So if evangelicals want moral constancy, the leading Democrat is not likely to get many of their votes.

What about the leading Republicans? Mitt Romney is Hillary’s male counterpart: he’ll say anything, and he’ll claim he believes anything, to get elected. He’s already disclaimed his previous pro-choice stance on abortion and his work for universal health care in Massachusetts. Even if these turnabouts were sincere, and not matters of political expediency, he could always change his mind again once elected.

As for Giuliani, his stance on guns, gays and abortion is far from evangelicals’. What’s more, his lie about 9/11, although subtle, was one of the most morally outrageous acts in recent American political history. He claimed that New York firefighters’ own courage killed them during the 9/11 attacks, implying that they disobeyed orders to evacuate the doomed North Tower. In fact, they never received those orders because Giuliani’s mayoralty never got them radios that worked, despite eight years of imploring. If Giuliani is a spiritual and moral leader, I’m Napoleon.

So whom among the leading candidates could evangelicals trust? There is only one who says he is a Christian, actually acts like one, and has a plausible claim to moral constancy and courage. That candidate is Obama.

Obama bears his Christianity in his heart, not on his sleeve. He has a rock-solid family, with no history of straying or divorce. More important, his moral constancy and courage reveal a man of spiritual depth. He gave his famous speech against invading Iraq not after we appeared to be losing the war, but when Bush’s popularity was at 65% and even the media were joining the drumbeat to war. He was a lone voice of sanity and humanity in the wilderness. When Obama spoke of the need for conservation and greater fuel efficiency to save our country and our planet, he stood before the captains of the car industry at the Detroit Economic Club, who most needed to hear that message.

As for humanity, Obama has disclaimed first use of nuclear weapons even against Al Qaeda. That stand is contrary to the longstanding U.S. policy of leaving all military options on the table. It fundamentally contradicts the Bush Administration’s pre-emption doctrine, which implicitly endorses the first use of nuclear weapons when necessary to avoid anticipated attacks. Obama has the moral courage to take that stand when terrorists’ use of nuclear weapons is our greatest national nightmare.

That stand may be the most important “pro life” position of any political figure today. In this age of terror and proliferation, the risk of nuclear weapons actually being used is greater than at any time since 1962. It is growing daily. If Obama’s position can provide an example for others and avoid future use of nuclear weapons, it may save more human lives than all the protests against abortion and the death penalty in human history.

I myself am more cynical. I am on record opposing unilateral disclaimers of any nuclear first strike. But I think Obama’s position is supportable practically, and I admire his moral constancy and his moral courage. Jesus would not launch nuclear weapons either.

So I hope that evangelicals and other religious voters will give Obama a second look. He is the only candidate in whom they can find both a kindred spirit and a winner. Only he shares their best principles. Among leading candidates, only he has shunned the contradictions and inconstancy that make them gag.

Obama does not just pretend to believe in Jesus; he lives Jesus’ words. He does so even in the white heat of a political campaign. Once religious voters get to know him, they will be charmed. So don’t be surprised at fast-breaking trends, which may never show up in the polls until he’s won.

As for those of you who (like me) value reason over faith, don’t be troubled by seeing Obama at churches, prayer meetings, and revivals. Don’t think that he is pandering or forsaking his intellect or his principles. He is just showing who he is and bringing Jesus’ children home.


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