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FRIDAY,  OCTOBER 24,  2008


Posted at 7:03 p.m. ET

There have been a number of stories about Republicans sniping at each other over their anticipated defeat on election day.  You can find a typical one here, at The Politico.

There's nothing unusual about this.  When parties go down to defeat, no one wants to take the blame, so party activists blame each other.  Republicans went at it pretty intensely in the 1970s, leading the party to issue what came to be called "the 11th Commandment" - "thou shalt not speak ill of any other Republican."

The eleventh Commandment did some good, but did not entirely stop the bloodletting.  Please recall that, even at the 1980 convention that nominated Ronald Reagan, the party was divided.  Some in the GOP establishment had serious doubts about Reagan, and urged him to select former President Gerald R. Ford as his running mate, assuring voters that there'd be a "joint presidency."  It was a ridiculous idea, and, of course, never flew.  But Reagan did, with party unity in mind, select George H.W. Bush, a man with whom he shared little ideology.

The Democrats, of course, have an even more vivid history of civil war.  In 1948, with Harry S. Truman running a desperate campaign to hang onto the presidency, the party split.  The Southern wing, angered over civil-rights rumblings, walked off and ran Strom Thurmond against Truman.  The far-left wing, in a huff over anti-Communism, similarly departed, and ran former Vice President Henry A. Wallace for president on the Progressive ticket.  In subsequent years the Southerners kept drifting away, but the left returned, making the party what it is today.

The split among Democrats cost the party the presidency in 1968, when enough Democrats, angered by Vietnam, stayed home on election day to allow Richard M. Nixon to win by a narrow margin.

So don't be shocked by the internecine warfare.  The idea, though, is to do what Reagan did - spend the time in the wilderness developing a coherent, powerful and workable alternative to failed liberalism.  And it's equally important to identify and nurture the candidates who can bring that alternative to power.

A final note:  Some of the greatest leaders in our history have been brutally ridiculed.  Ridicule is often a sign of fear in the heart of the perpetrator. If you lack a winning argument, just ridicule the opposition.  Never write off those who, like Sarah Palin now, and Ronald Reagan earlier, become targets of sneering and ridicule.  They often are the very ones who are poised for greatness.

October 24, 2008.      Permalink          

UPDATE AT 4:03 P.M. ET:  Based on preliminary figures, the Dow closed off 324.  This is not good, but could have been much worse, considering the earlier, overseas markets. 

UPDATE AT 3:43 P.M. ET:   The IBD/TIPP poll, which had Obama up only one yesterday, has him up four today.  The Real Clear Politics spread is now 7.8 percent, and expanding for Obama. 

UPDATE AT 3:04 P.M. ET:  The Dow is recovering, at least right now, and is down 147.

UPDATE AT 1:30 P.M. ET:  Dow is down 282.  So far it has stayed out of disaster territory for the day.

UPDATE AT 1:08 P.M. ET:   Gallup's tracker, just out, shows Obama up five among likely voters, using Gallup's traditional method, a gain of one for Obama since yesterday.  It shows Obama up seven using an expanded model, taking into account possible new voters, also a gain of one since yesterday. 

UPDATE AT 12:47 P.M. ET:  The Dow is down 337.

UPDATE AT 10:09 A.M. ET:  Hotline, which had Obama up five yesterday, has him up seven today.  Battleground, which had Obama up four yesterday, has him up three today.

NOTE AT 10:02 A.M. ET: 
Reader Joseph J. Gallick sends in the following, of unknown origin:  "If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in Delta Airlines one year ago, you would have $49 today.  If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in AIG one year ago, you would have $33 today.  If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in Lehman Brothers one year ago, you would have $0 today.

"But, if you had purchased $1,000 worth of beer one year ago, drank all the beer, then sold the aluminum cans for recycling, you would have received $214.

"Based on the above, and given the state of today's financial world, the best current investment plan is to drink heavily and recycle.  It's called the 401-KEG. 

"A recent study found that the average American walks about 900 miles a year.  Another study found that Americans drink, on average, 22 gallons of alcohol a year.  That means that, on average, Americans get about 41 miles to the gallon.

"Makes you proud to be an American!"


UPDATE AT 9:43 A.M. ET:  Dow is now down 451.

UPDATE AT 9:38 A.M. ET:  Rasmussen reports Obama up seven, same as yesterday.

UPDATE AT 9:36 A.M. ET:  After overnight reports of major stock declines in Asia and Europe, the Dow is down 164 at the opening bell.


Posted at 8:34 a.m. ET

Peter Robinson, who was a speechwriter for President Reagan, paints a clear picture of what we have in store for us if, as they say, present polling trends continue.  His is one of several articles I've seen in the last few days, each well written, that doesn't hesitate to show deep concern for what is ahead.  Writing in Forbes, and reflecting the words and ideas of the great Thomas Sowell, Robinson says:

Sowell calls one worldview the "constrained vision." It sees human nature as flawed or fallen, seeking to make the best of the possibilities that exist within that constraint. The competing worldview, which Sowell terms the "unconstrained vision," instead sees human nature as capable of continual improvement.


The American Revolution embodied the constrained vision. "In the United States," Sowell says, "it was assumed from the outset that what you needed to do above all was minimize [the damage that could be done by] the flaws in human nature." The founders did so by composing a constitution of checks and balances. More than two centuries later, their work remains in place.

The French Revolution, by contrast, embodied the unconstrained vision. "In France," Sowell says, "the idea was that if you put the right people in charge--if you had a political Messiah--then problems would just go away." The result? The Terror, Napoleon and so many decades of instability that France finally sorted itself out only when Charles de Gaulle declared the Fifth Republic.


Sen. John McCain, who is trailing, has by and large embraced the constrained vision; Sen. Barack Obama, who is leading, the unconstrained vision...

...Whereas McCain has promised to nominate justices "who have a history of strict adherence to the constitution," Obama has said instead that if "someone is being treated unfairly, then the Court has to stand up if nobody else will, and that is the kind of judge I want."

And the result of this?

"Only once you got into the courtroom, in front of the judge," Sowell says, "would you finally learn what the law was. You would have no clue beforehand." We would become less and less a nation of laws, more and more a nation ruled by nine men and women in robes.

And on foreign policy?

"Barack Obama," Sowell says, "has a lot more faith in verbal interactions than I would. What he is proposing under the guise of change is what was tried between the two world wars and failed disastrously." Accommodation, diplomatic overtures, talk. It failed seven decades ago. It would fail today.

No mincing of the vocabulary there. 

Take it all together, Sowell believes, and this election will prove decisive.

"There is such a thing as a point of no return," he says. If Obama wins the White House and Democrats expand their majorities in the House and Senate, they will intervene in the economy and redistribute wealth. Yet their economic policies "will pale by comparison to what they will do in permitting countries to acquire nuclear weapons and turn them over to terrorists. Once that happens, we're at the point of no return. The next generation will live under that threat as far out as the eye can see."


"The unconstrained vision is really an elitist vision," Sowell explains. "This man [Obama] really does believe that he can change the world. And people like that are infinitely more dangerous than mere crooked politicians."

It is rare, though, to find discussions like this in the mass media, which is far more interested in Sarah Palin's clothing allowance or any signs of John McCain's age.  Had the facts been explained to the American people, or even hinted at, it's quite possible we'd be going in a different political direction.

October 24, 2008.      Permalink          


Posted at 7:26 a.m. ET

I attended a fine talk last night by Herbert London, president of the Hudson Institute and professor emeritus at New York University.  He's just written a brief and utterly readable book called "America's Secular Challenge, The Rise of a New National Religion," which I commend to you.  (You can click on the Amazon link at the top of our right-hand column to order, should you wish.)

London, a prominent social critic, is concerned about the rise of secularism in America, and the historic challenge it poses to the traditional notion of a country founded on the Judeo-Christian ethic.  Part of that challenge, and one that worries London greatly, is the tearing down of the idea of American exceptionalism, the belief that our values and dreams are in fact exceptional, and an inspiration to the world. 

Herb London made the point that, during the Tiananmen Square riots in China in 1989, the protesters constructed a model, not of Marx or Lenin, or the Eiffel Tower, but a model of the Statue of Liberty.  Of course, America's "intellectual" classes scoffed, or pretended not to notice, but the image cannot be denied.

And so London worries about Barack Obama, who seems to accept the idea of a secular society pretty much on a par with other societies, and London notes that, during his recent Berlin speech, Obama proclaimed himself a citizen of the world.  But he's not running for president of the world.  He's running for president of the United States.  We wonder how he will see his own country as he sits in the Oval Office during a crisis, or a conflict with a dictatorship.  The evidence thus far is less than encouraging.  We hope for a positive surprise.

October 23, 2008.        Permalink          


UPDATE AT 7:01 A.M. ET:  Zogby, who may or may not use sound methodology, has Obama up 10 this morning, a decline from 12 yesterday.

UPDATE AT 6:54 A.M. ET:   From The New York Times:  VIENNA — OPEC ordered a cut in oil production Friday of at least 1.5 million barrels a day. The reduction, announced at an emergency meeting here, will come into effect on Nov. 1, according to Ali al-Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister.

COMMENT:  The aim is to raise oil prices...for us.  Let's always remember who our friends are, and aren't, if those in Washington being paid off by the Saudi lobby allow us to remember.






Posted at 11:58 p.m. ET

The polls are bizarre.  Some show Obama with a double-digit lead.  Others show the race tightening.  I have no idea which is right. An informed source told me this evening that people at Republican National Committee headquarters are gloomy, and believe that the double-digit figure is accurate.  This, of course, may be spin, a way to lower expectations and whip the troops into action.  On the other hand, it may be an accurate reflection of internal polling.

Charles Krauthammer feels that this is the time for conservatives to stand fast.  His argument:

Contrarian that I am, I'm voting for John McCain.

I'm not talking about bucking the polls or the media consensus that it's over before it's over. I'm talking about bucking the rush of wet-fingered conservatives leaping to Barack Obama before they're left out in the cold without a single state dinner for the next four years.

I stand athwart the rush of conservative ship-jumpers of every stripe — neo (Ken Adelman), moderate (Colin Powell), genetic/ironic (Christopher Buckley) and socialist/atheist (Christopher Hitchens) — yelling "Stop!"

I shall have no part of this motley crew. I will go down with the McCain ship. I'd rather lose an election than lose my bearings.

I especially like the part about the state dinners.  I've argued many times that the party-invitation mentality is a powerful force in politics, one not to be underestimated.

McCain the "erratic" is a cheap Obama talking point. The 40-year record testifies to McCain the stalwart.

Nor will I countenance the "dirty campaign" pretense. The double standard here is stunning. Obama ran a scurrilous Spanish-language ad falsely associating McCain with anti-Hispanic slurs. Another ad falsely claimed McCain supports "cutting Social Security benefits in half." And for months Democrats insisted that McCain sought 100 years of war in Iraq.

You mean, the saint acted in an unsaintly way?  Take this columnist's name.  Report him.

McCain's critics are offended that he raised the issue of William Ayers. What's astonishing is that Obama was himself not offended by William Ayers.


The case for McCain is straightforward. The financial crisis has made us forget, or just blindly deny, how dangerous the world out there is...

...Who do you want answering that phone at 3 a.m.? A man who's been cramming on these issues for the last year, who's never had to make an executive decision affecting so much as a city, let alone the world?

Or do you want a man who is the most prepared, most knowledgeable, most serious foreign policy thinker in the United States Senate? A man who not only has the best instincts, but has the honor and the courage to, yes, put country first, as when he carried the lonely fight for the surge that turned Iraq from catastrophic defeat into achievable strategic victory?

I wish the McCain campaign had the literary skill to put it that way.

There's just no comparison. Obama's own running mate warned this week that Obama's youth and inexperience will invite a crisis — indeed a crisis "generated" precisely to test him. Can you be serious about national security and vote on Nov. 4 to invite that test?

And finally...

Today's economic crisis, like every other in our history, will in time pass. But the barbarians will still be at the gates. Whom do you want on the parapet? I'm for the guy who can tell the lion from the lamb.

Well said.  Well reasoned.  I hope America listens.

October 23, 2008.      Permalink          


UPDATE AT 4:00 P.M. ET:  The Dow closed in positive territory.  The tentative figure is, up 173.

UPDATE AT 2:58 P.M. ET:  The IDP/TIPP tracker, just published, has Obama up only one point.  This was the most accurate poll in 2004, but, as we emphasize, past performance is no guarantee of future result.  This poll shows the smallest Obama lead of any poll, and must be considered an outlier, at least for now. 

UPDATE AT 2:53 P.M. ET:  The Dow has recovered somewhat, but is still down 117.

UPDATE AT 2:23 P.M. ET:  Whoops.  The Dow is now down 202. 

UPDATE AT 1:49 P.M. ET:  Battleground poll has Obama up four, up from two yesterday.  Hotline has him up five, no change.  Gallup's traditional model has Obama up four, down one from yesterday.  Their expanded model, taking into account possible new voters, has Obama up six, down two from yesterday.  Obama's lead in all polls ranges from 14 points to 1 point.  Among trackers it ranges from 12 points (Zogby) to four (Battleground and Gallup traditional).  The Real Clear Politics average of polls has Obama up 7.1 points.  In the primaries, Obama consistently overpolled by about seven points.  That may not hold true in the general election. 

COMMENT:  Some of these results are more encouraging than the ones out earlier today.  But we have less than two weeks.  If the "big lead" polls are correct, McCain is probably out of it.  But if the "small lead" polls, less than a five-point deficit, are right, he has a shot.  He's got to fight. 

UPDATE AT 1:33 P.M. ET:  The Dow is down, but only by 17.

UPDATE AT 9:39 A.M. ET:  The Dow is up 124 at opening, something of a surprise.

UPDATE AT 9:33 A.M. ET:  Rasmussen has Obama up seven, 52-45, up from six yesterday, and five the day before.  Rasmussen thus ratifies the upward trend we've seen in many (but not all) polls in the last three days.  The 52-percent figure is the highest Obama has been in the Rasmussen poll this year.

COMMENT:  McCain is running out of time.  The election is a week from Tuesday.  The race normally tightens toward the end.  If some polls are to be believed, this one is widening.  Colin Powell's cynical endorsement of Obama may have had the desired impact.


Posted at 8:10 a.m. ET

There has been ample grumbling from the tut-tutting left about "hate" in the McCain campaign.  Victor Davis Hanson alluded to the charge in the piece below.  But now James Kirchick, an assistant editor at the liberal New Republic, joins a small but growing number of writers on the left who are clearly disgusted at the self-righteousness and double standards of some of their amigos.  Writing in The New York Daily News, he says:

In his endorsement of Barack Obama last week, former Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell said that "I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim and he might be associated [with] terrorists.' "

This is a serious accusation to level, and Powell ought to have had the courage to name names.

Nonetheless, the notion that the McCain campaign, and conservatives more broadly, have stooped to an unprecedented level of "sleaziness" with negative, nasty and mendacious campaign tactics has become the accepted media narrative over the past several weeks. "Smear" is the word you most often hear nowadays next to "Republican." But while it may be true that some in the conservative fever swamps have resorted to ugly tactics, they don't hold a candle to the left's rhetoric over the past eight years.

It's heartening to see that some on the left recognize that.

Liberal pundits are attempting to outdo one another in describing just how unscrupulous conservatives have become. In The New Yorker last week, Hendrik Hertzberg referred to McCain-Palin rallies as "blood-curdling hate-fests." Frank Rich went one step further in The New York Times, decrying the "Weimar-like rage" of the Republican Party base, evidenced by a few attendees at a Sarah Palin rally who shouted "terrorist" and "off with his head" when she mentioned Barack Obama.

There's an old saying in show business:  You're responsible to your audience.  You're never responsible for your audience.

Rich's use of the term "Weimar-like rage," ironically in a column decrying Republican scare tactics, is but one example of the left's careless usage of Nazi allegories to describe people and policies they don't like.  Since 9/11, major anti-war rallies have included people holding signs and puppets comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler. Leftist writer Naomi Wolf, who has expressed fears that the feds were monitoring her children's letters from summer camp, recently published a book titled, "The End of America," which likens the Bush administration to a fascist junta.

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann spews over-the-top, hateful rhetoric in his "Special Comments" on a regular basis. He has said that the Bush administration threatens America with a "new type of fascism," referred to the GOP as the "leading terrorist group in this country" on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and has said that Fox News is "worse than Al Qaeda" and "as dangerous as the Ku Klux Klan ever was."

I'm so glad someone is bringing this out.

By imputing the crazy views of a few right-wing extremists to all conservatives, Obama supporters cut off legitimate concerns about their candidate's positions and qualifications for office. Anyone troubled by the Democratic presidential candidate's years-long association with unrepentant terrorist William Ayers and his dismissal of that individual as "a guy who lives in my neighborhood" becomes a right-wing lunatic. Anyone who raises the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is answered with an eye roll.

We've noticed. 

And finally,

To be sure, the McCain campaign has made its fair share of exaggerations and distortions about its opponent's record. But nothing he or his surrogates have done is any more egregious than the lies, hysteria and ad hominem attacks that have poured from the mouths and keyboards of the left. So pardon me for being a little skeptical about the pundit class' selective indignation over gutter-ball campaign tactics. It would have been nice if they paid attention the last eight years.

Wonderful, wonderful.  One of the characteristics of the left, of course, is the tendency to accuse others of the very tactics they use themselves.  They will, on college campuses, shout down speakers and bar others from visiting.  But if you dare criticize them, they accuse you of "censorship."  They will host the worst hatemongers, allies of Louis Farrakhan.  But if you raise questions, you're accused of racism.  It's an old tactic, worn thin.

Kirsten Powers spoke out yesterday.  Now this column.  There are sane voices in the liberal camp.  We have that small ray of light.

October 23, 2008.      Permalink          



Posted at 7:13 a.m. ET

Victor Davis Hanson has become one of the most important conservative voices in the years since the 9-11 attacks, in large part because he's a perceptive historian.  He says that not since 1976 have the American people been so eager for a political shakeup.

Why then is the charismatic Barack Obama not quite yet a shoo-in?

Easy. Voters apparently still don't know who Obama is, or what he wants to do -- and so are still not altogether sure that Obama is the proper antidote to George Bush. After more than a year of campaigning, he still remains an enigma.

And that is remarkable.  Many people seem to read into Obama what they wish - not the best way to pick a president.

Obama can dismiss his past associations with Bill Ayers as perfunctory and now irrelevant. But why then did an Obama campaign spokesman say Obama hadn't e-mailed with or spoken by phone to Ayers since January 2005 , suggesting more than three years of communications -- in a post-9/11 climate -- after Ayers said publicly he had not done enough bombing?

Oh, silly.  Colin Powell says this isn't important.  And Colin Powell is always right, isn't he?  Isn't he?  Okay, he was wrong on WMD in Iraq and opposed Reagan's "tear down this wall" speech.  But other times?  I'll move on.

Many of Obama's surrogates, from congressional leaders like Rep. John Lewis to his running mate, Joe Biden, have suggested that the McCain and Palin candidacies have heightened racial tensions. Do such preemptory warnings mean that one cannot worry about Obama's 20-year relationship with Rev. Wright or long association with Father Pfleger?

Hmm.  Do we have to answer that?

It's also unclear exactly what Obama's message of "hope" and "change" means. The hope part turned a little weird when Obama, in prophetic fashion, proclaimed, "We are the ones we've been waiting for," and later put up Greek-temple backdrops for his speech at the Democratic convention.

Not exactly in the democratic - small "d" - tradition, was it?

And change? Obama himself has changed positions on FISA, NAFTA, campaign public financing, town-hall meetings with McCain, offshore drilling, nuclear and coal power, capital punishment and gun control, his characterization of Iran, the surge in Iraq, and the future of Jerusalem. So change from what to what?

Don't confuse us with complicated and relevant questions.  The press doesn't.  So why should a historian?

A Martian who reviewed Obama's past elections in Illinois, the various associations he once cultivated, his brief voting record in the Senate, and the positions he originally outlined when he announced his presidential campaign might objectively conclude that America could elect either the most far left or the most unknown presidential candidate in its history.

I just hope that it is still not racist or McCarthy-like -- or blasphemous -- simply to suggest that.

If you appear to be skeptical of Obama, any charge against you will do.  And the media will go along.  They'll even make the charge.  Anything to bask in the halo of The One.

Pretty chilling, ay?

October 23, 2008.       Permalink          

UPDATE AT 6:49 A.M. ET:  Zogby has Obama up 12 this morning.  He also has him leading among independents by 30 points.

COMMENT:  There are several other polls that have Obama in this territory, although that figure for independent voters seems way out of line.  The Powell endorsement may, for some absurd reason, have had an effect.  We await the other trackers, out later today.

"What you see is news.  What you know is background.  What you feel is opinion."
    - Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
      of The New York Times.



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