Hide shortcuts

August 2008

  1. Obama, the postmodernist

    In the Illinois senator’s world, words have no fixed meaning, and truth is often just a matter of perspective.

    By Jonah Goldberg

    Asked to define sin, Barack Obama replied that sin is "being out of alignment with my values." Statements such as this have caused many people to wonder whether Obama has a God complex or is hopelessly arrogant. For the record, sin isn't being out of alignment with your own values (if it were, Hannibal Lecter wouldn't be a sinner because his values hold that it's OK to eat people) nor is it being out of alignment with Obama's  —  unless he really is our Savior.

    There is, however, a third possibility. Obama is a postmodernist.

    An explosive fad in the 1980s, postmodernism was and is an enormous intellectual hustle in which left-wing intellectuals take crowbars and pick axes to anything having to do with the civilizational Mount Rushmore of Dead White European Males.

    "PoMos" hold that there is no such thing as capital-T "Truth." There are only lower-case "truths." Our traditional understandings of right and wrong, true and false, are really just ways for those Pernicious Pale Patriarchs to keep the Coalition of the Oppressed in their place. In the PoMo's telling, reality is "socially constructed." And so the PoMos seek to tear down everything that "privileges" the powerful over the powerless and to replace it with new truths more to their liking.

    Hence the deep dishonesty of postmodernism. It claims to liberate society from fixed meanings and rigid categories, but it is invariably used to impose new ones, usually in the form of political correctness. We've all seen how adept the PC brigades are celebrating free speech, when it's for speech they like.

    Words as power, facts as myths

    Obama gives every indication of having evolved from this intellectual soup. As a student and, later, a law school instructor, Obama was sympathetic to Critical Race Theory, a wholly owned franchise of postmodernism. At Harvard, Obama revered Derrick Bell, a controversial black law professor who preferred personally defined literary truths over old-fashioned literal truth. Words are power, Bell and Co. argued, and your so-called facts are merely myths of the white power structure.

    When Hillary Clinton criticized Obama for being all about empty rhetoric and no action, Obama mocked Clinton  —  "Don't tell me words don't matter!"  —  sounding like a sorcerer offended by the suggestion that magic incantations are mere sounds.

    One reason Obama seems arrogant is that he can never admit he was wrong, a common shortcoming of politicians. But Obama sometimes literally gets exasperated with people who think his words can mean anything other than what he thinks they should mean. Even when he says things he later regrets such as on, say, the North American Free Trade Agreement, he merely says that his rhetoric got overheated, but that he was still accurate. When Jeremiah Wright, his pastor and "spiritual adviser" of 20 years, was caught on videotape (recorded and sold by Wright himself) saying things that contradicted everything Obama ever said about being a post-racial, moderate candidate, Obama simply said that that's not the Jeremiah Wright he knows, as if his personal perspective settled the issue.

    Would that I could have told my math teacher upon receiving a failing grade, "That's not the math I know."

    On the troop surge, Obama's position has changed countless times, but he says it's unchanged. Worse, he has this grating habit of prefacing his new positions with something like "as I said at the time." But he didn't say "it" at the time, he said the opposite of "it." But saying that he said "it" is, to him, the same as having said "it."

    We're told that Obama is "post-racial," but he invokes his own race whenever convenient (e.g., to suggest his opponents are racists, to win support of people who want to vote for him on account of his race). Indeed, the very idea that Obama is post-racial is postmodern claptrap, since only a black candidate can be post-racial, right? No one would say John McCain transcends race. If being post-racial is something only a (liberal) black politician can do, what is "post" about it? Post-racial is just another convenient term used to advance a left-wing agenda under the guise of some highfalutin buzzwords.

    A theoretical reality

    The Obama campaign has a postmodern feel to it because more than anything else, it seems to be about itself. Its relationship to reality is almost theoretical. Sure, the campaign has policy proposals, but they are props to advance the narrative of a grand movement existing in order to be a movement galvanized around the singular ideal of movement-ness. Obama's followers are, to borrow from David Hasselhoff  —  another American hugely popular in Germany  —  hooked on a feeling. "We are the ones we have been waiting for!" Well, of course you are.

    In Berlin two weeks ago, Obama's speech was justified solely by the fact that he was giving it. He offered no policy and  —  not being a president  —  really had no reason to be there other than to tell people, essentially, "now is the moment." He informed the throbbing masses, bathing in his charisma the way hippies wallowed in the mud at Woodstock, that the greatest threat facing the world is the possibility we might allow "new walls to divide us from one another." Nuclear war? Feh. No, walls, walls are the danger. Of course, these new walls aren't real. Some might even say they're just words.

    But not Barack Obama.

    Jonah Goldberg, editor at large of National Review Online and author of Liberal Fascism, is a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors.

  2. Sarah Palin's VP Selection Speech

    Dayton, Ohio

    PALIN: Thank you so much.

    And I thank you, Senator McCain and Mrs. McCain, for the confidence that you have placed in me. Senator, I am honored to be chosen as your running mate.


    I will be honored to serve next to the next president of the United States.


    I know that when Senator McCain gave me this opportunity, he had a short list of highly qualified men and women. And to have made that list at all, it was a privilege. And to have been chosen brings a great challenge.

    I know that it will demand the best that I have to give, and I promise nothing less.


    First -- first, there are a few people whom I would like you to meet. I want to start with my husband, Todd.


    And Todd and I are actually celebrating our 20th anniversary today. And I promised him...


    I had promised Todd a little surprise for the anniversary present, and hopefully he knows that I did deliver.

    And then we have as -- after my husband, who is a lifelong commercial fisherman, lifetime Alaskan. He's a production operator.


    Todd is a production operator in the oil fields up on Alaska's North Slope. And he's a proud member of the United Steelworkers union. And he's a world-champion snow machine racer. (APPLAUSE)

    Todd and I met way back in high school. And I can tell you that he is still the man that I admire most in this world.


    Along the way, Todd and I have shared many blessings. And four out of five of them are here with us today.

    Our oldest son, Track, though, he'll be following the presidential campaign from afar. On September 11th of last year, our son enlisted in the United States Army.


    Track now serves in an infantry brigade. And on September 11th, Track will deploy to Iraq in the service of his country. And Todd and I are so proud of him and of all the fine men and women serving this country (inaudible)



    PALIN: Next to Todd is our daughter, Bristol, another daughter, Willow, our youngest daughter, Piper, and over in their arms is our son, Trig, a beautiful baby boy. He was born just in April.


    PALIN: His name is Trig Paxson Van Palin.

    Some of life's greatest opportunities come unexpectedly. And this is certainly the case today.

    I never really set out to be involved in public affairs, much less to run for this office. My mom and dad both worked at the local elementary school. And my husband and I, we both grew up working with our hands. I was just your average hockey mom in Alaska, raising...


    We're busy raising our kids. I was serving as the team mom and coaching some basketball on the side. I got involved in the PTA and then was elected to the city council, and then elected mayor of my hometown, where my agenda was to stop wasteful spending, and cut property taxes, and put the people first.


    I was then appointed ethics commissioner and chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. And when I found corruption there, I fought it hard, and I held the offenders to account.


    Along with fellow reformers in the great state of Alaska, as governor, I've stood up to the old politics as usual, to the special interests, to the lobbyists, the big oil companies, and the good-old- boy network.


    When oil and gas prices went up so dramatically and the state revenues followed with that increase, I sent a large share of that revenue directly back to the people of Alaska. And we are now -- we're now embarking on a $40 billion natural gas pipeline to help lead America to energy independence.


    I signed major ethics reform. And I appointed both Democrats and independents to serve in my administration. And I championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. In fact, I told Congress -- I told Congress, "Thanks, but no thanks," on that bridge to nowhere.


    If our state wanted a bridge, I said we'd build it ourselves. Well, it's always, though, safer in politics to avoid risk, to just kind of go along with the status quo. But I didn't get into government to do the safe and easy things. A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not why the ship is built.

    Politics isn't just a game of competing interests and clashing parties. The people of America expect us to seek public office and to serve for the right reasons.


    PALIN: And the right reason is to challenge the status quo and to serve the common good.

    Now, no one expects us to agree on everything, whether in Juneau or in Washington. But we are expected to govern with integrity, and goodwill, and clear convictions, and a servant's heart.


    Now, no leader in America has shown these qualities so clearly or present so clear a threat to business as usual in Washington as Senator John S. McCain.


    PALIN: This -- this is a moment when principles and political independence matter a lot more than just the party line. And this is a man who has always been there to serve his country, not just his party.


    And this is a moment that requires resolve and toughness, and strength of heart in the American president. And my running mate is a man who has shown those qualities in the darkest of places, and in the service of his country.


    A colleague once said about Senator McCain, "That man did things for this country that few people could go through. Never forget that." And that speaker was former Senator John Glenn of Ohio.


    And John Glenn knows something about heroism. And I'm going to make sure nobody does forget that in this campaign. There is only one candidate who has truly fought for America, and that man is John McCain.


    PALIN: This is a moment -- this is a moment when great causes can be won and great threats overcome, depending on the judgment of our next president.

    In a dangerous world, it is John McCain who will lead America's friends and allies in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.


    It was John McCain who cautioned long ago about the harm that Russian aggression could do to Georgia and to other small democratic neighbors and to the world oil markets.

    It was Senator McCain who refused to hedge his support for our troops in Iraq, regardless of the political costs.


    And you know what? As the mother of one of those troops, and as the commander of Alaska's National Guard, that's the kind of man I want as our commander in chief.



    PALIN: Profiles in courage: They can be hard to come by these days. You know, so often we just find them in books. But next week when we nominate John McCain for president, we're putting one on the ballot.


    PALIN: To serve as vice president beside such a man would be the privilege of a lifetime. And it's fitting that this trust has been given to me 88 years almost to the day after the women of America first gained the right to vote.


    I think -- I think as well today of two other women who came before me in national elections.

    I can't begin this great effort without honoring the achievements of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984...


    ... and of course Senator Hillary Clinton, who showed such determination and grace in her presidential campaign.


    It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America...


    ... but it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.


    So for my part, the mission is clear: The next 67 days I'm going to take our campaign to every part of our country and our message of reform to every voter of every background in every political party, or no party at all.

    PALIN: If you want change in Washington, if you hope for a better America, then we're asking for your vote on the 4th of November.

    My fellow Americans, come join our cause.


    Join our cause and help our country to elect a great man the next president of the United States.

    And I thank you, and I -- God bless you, I say, and God bless America. Thank you.


    Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska, is the presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee.
  3. Palin electrifies conservative base

    Palin electrifies conservative base
    By: Jonathan Martin
    August 31, 2008 01:00 PM EST

    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate has electrified conservative activists, providing a boost of energy to the GOP nominee-in-waiting from a key constituency that previously had been lukewarm — at best — about him.

    By tapping the anti-abortion and pro-gun Alaska governor just ahead of his convention, which is set to start here Monday, McCain hasn’t just won approval from a skeptical Republican base — he’s ignited a wave of elation and emotion that has led some grass-roots activists to weep with joy.

    Serious questions remain about McCain’s pick — exactly how much he knows about her and her positions, past and present, on key issues. But for the worker bee core of the party that is essential to any Republican victory, there are no doubts.

    “I woke up and my e-mail was just going crazy,” said Charmaine Yoest, head of the legislative arm of Americans United for Life and a former top official in Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign. “And then when it was announced — it was like you couldn’t breathe.”

    The media elite — as well as elite members of the GOP consulting community — have all but mocked Palin as a former small-town mayor with zero Washington experience. But that view of her totally misses the cultural resonance she carries to crucial Republican power centers and could not be more at odds with the jubilation felt among true believers that one of their own is on the ticket.

    Palin, say conservative activists, has instantly changed how they feel about McCain’s campaign and spurred them to go to work for the Republican ticket.

    First, though, they’re expressing their newfound fondness for McCain with their checkbooks. Since tapping Palin, the campaign has raised nearly $7 million online, according to McCain aides.

    Most importantly for McCain, the two constituencies who are most energized by Palin just happen to be the twin grassroots pillars of the GOP: anti-abortion activists and pro-Second Amendment enthusiasts and sportsmen. Without these two camps making phone calls, stuffing envelopes and knocking on doors, Republican presidential candidates would severely lack for volunteers. They are critical to the health of the conservative coalition that has dominated Republican politics for a generation.

    Republicans say the primary source for the passion can be found in Palin’s example and authenticity.

    Not only is the 44-year-old governor opposed to abortion rights — but she carried and gave birth to a child with Down syndrome earlier this year, a profound and powerful motivating force to both opponents of abortion rights and the parents and relatives of special needs children.

    And not only is she a supporter of the right to bear arms — but she’s a lifetime member of the NRA and an avid hunter and fisherman whose gubernatorial office couch is adorned with a massive grizzly bear pelt.

    “She’s lived it!” exulted Yoest. “It’s so satisfying as a conservative woman. When she walked out on that stage there was just this moment. It was really emotional for a lot of us.”

    After hearing the news, Yoest, who was in St. Paul preparing for the convention, said she and other Republican women here “were grabbing each other and jumping up and down.”

    Steve Duprey, a former New Hampshire GOP chairman and top McCain backer who hails from the moderate wing of the party, was also in the Twin Cities when the news broke.

    “I was in the Rules Committee with about 150 people in the room. They had TVs set up and we took a break to watch the announcement. For a second after she came out, it was silent. Then there was a gasp and everybody stood up and started cheering and clapping. We stayed standing the whole speech.”

    After Palin finished, he said, the emotion set in.

    “There were 10 or 12 women, party stalwarts, in tears, using napkins and handkerchiefs.”

    Part of the reason for the joy is what President Bush once called, in another context, “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Social conservatives just didn’t expect one of their own to be tapped and were actually bracing themselves for the selection of a supporter of abortion rights.

    “There is an electricity going through the social conservative crowd right now; it’s unbelievable,” said James Muffett, head of Michigan’s Citizens for Traditional Values, who had met with McCain in the weeks leading up to his selection of a running mate. “Especially given all the set-ups and head fakes — it’s amazing. A lot of people were sure he was going to show his more moderate colors.”

    Muffett said the effect on his conservative comrades in arms has been immediate and visceral.

    “My wife and I watched an MSNBC special on her last night,” he said. “My wife knew nothing about this woman. But she was in tears listening to her articulate the views she had.”

    Since the pick, Muffett said, he’s gotten “dozens of e-mails and the phones have been ringing off the hook” from other social conservatives who had assumed McCain would spurn them.

    “They were taunting me, saying ‘McCain’s going to disappoint you,’” he said of the sentiment before the pick.


    “’Boy, what kind of prayers have you been saying for McCain?’” he said with a chuckle about the question asked on one phone call. “He went and chose a Pentecostal for his running mate!”


    The adoration goes beyond Christian conservatives.

    Sportsmen are also overjoyed at the addition of one of their own, and can’t get enough of video and pictures showing Palin firing a weapon.

    “She's one of us,” wrote Michael Bane, a prominent Colorado-based gun enthusiast who has a show on the Outdoor Channel, on his blog. “FINALLY, we can get 100 percent behind the Republican ticket ... change we can believe in!”

    “You know I've had my problems with McCain, but he has reached out a hand to us both at the NRA Annual Meeting [earlier this year] and with the amazing selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate,” Bane added.

    And then there is the contrast: “While [Barack Obama] wants to ban AR-15s, Palin shoots AR-15s, and apparently pretty well.”

    “Every shooter, every hunter, every gun owner, every competitor needs to understand that it is time to, in the words of Bruce Willis, ‘cowboy the 'f...' up.’ ”

    Chris Cox, the top political aide at the NRA, suggested that his job just got a whole lot easier, not just with a pro-gun Republican vice presidential nominee but a Democratic number two — Delaware Sen. Joe Biden — who is anathema to the Second Amendment community

    “We’ll be able to have some fun contrasting not just McCain and Obama, but Biden and Palin,” said Cox, whose organization is giving "I'm a Bitter Gun Owner and I Vote!" signs and T-shirts to its members. “She’s great on our issues and [Biden’s] been terrible for 35 years.”

    Her image as a pistol-packin’ mama could prove especially key in the hunter-filled Rust Belt, said Paul Erhardt, a longtime political strategist who specializes on gun issues.

    “Palin could play strong in the sporting states like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, depending on how they use her,” he said. “Most pundits will underestimate her appeal in these key areas because they don't know her and they are unfamiliar with the sporting scene. But among sportsmen, authenticity counts and Palin's got that and then some.”

    Palin also reassures those concerned about McCain's judgment on judges. Said Gary Marx, head of the Judicial Confirmation Network and a former Mitt Romney aide: "I can tell you that this pick tells millions in the base of the party that they can trust McCain. More specifically that they can trust him with Supreme Court picks and other key appoitments"

    The sense of rejuvenation is not just limited to party activists, though. Conservative elites, among the most disdainful of McCain, are also coming around.

    James Dobson, long a McCain skeptic, said after the announcement Friday that he’d support Palin.

    And he’s not alone.

    “I’ve talked to two prominent social conservative leaders in the past 24 hours who told me they had previously not planned to attend the convention, but were now coming to Minneapolis after the Palin pick,” wrote Ralph Reed, a Christian conservative leader who has tangled with McCain, in an e-mail. “One scrambled to find a hotel room and is coming tomorrow; the other rearranged his schedule and is flying in Wednesday. I got a call this afternoon from an evangelical business leader who told me he was contacting the McCain campaign and offering to host a fundraiser with his friends for McCain (sans the candidate) before the Thursday deadline [when McCain shifts to the public financing system]. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a veep pick energize the grass roots like this.”

    Rush Limbaugh, who exulted on the air this week, summed up the response he’s gotten from his loyal listeners: “Home f***ing run.”

    “Palin=Guns, Babies, Jesus,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Contrast that to Obama's bitter clingers. Obama just lost blue-collar, white Democratic voters in Pennsylvania and other states.”

    And, he said, the line that the pick was aimed at picking off Democratic women who backed Hillary Rodham Clinton doesn’t get it right.

    “[The] choice is to shore up the conservative, pro-drilling base,” he said. “This is an aggressive, on-offense pick, not a defensive pick.”

    The pick caps off what has been a turbulent few weeks for conservative Republicans.

    Muffett, who was talking on his cell phone from a church outing at Ohio’s Cedar Point amusement park, likened McCain’s campaign to the world-record 17 roller coasters that dot the park on the banks of Lake Erie.

    “Oh my gosh, holy moly,” he said. “He floated the pro-abortion running mate, then there was his performance at the Saddleback debate, and then you had the Lieberman headfake and now this.”

    “Up and down, up and down.”

    For now, though, at least as it relates to the long-mistrustful conservatives he’ll need energized to win, McCain is sky-high.

    “Now that he has so thoroughly exceeded their expectations for his candidacy (first with his stellar performance at the Saddleback Showdown, now with his selection of his running mate), social conservatives are finally putting on their cleats and getting on to the field,” wrote Reed. “It’s really quite remarkable, and something that no one would have guessed would happen even three months ago.”

  4. The Pelosi Protest

    August 8, 2008.  Our little protest last night made national news.  Michigan GOP Chair Saul Anuzis was interviewed by Fox News correspondent Neil Cavuto in the Business Block program this afternoon.  Let's hope that others note our success here, and that enough dissent occurs during the rest of the Speaker's August journeys that she decides to get back to work and produce a realistic energy program for America.

    Local news, too.  The Ann Arbor News headline was "Pelosi met by fans and protestors at Ann Arbor Book Tour stop."  You see the article at The Pelosi Article  and the video that we put together is just below:

  5. Michigan a Key Battleground State

    I See Four
    Key Battleground States

    August 14, 2008; Page A11 WSJ

    Presidential campaigns ultimately come down to who can win 270 Electoral College votes. With most states favoring one candidate or the other, this year's contest could come down to a few battleground states.

    Based on visits this past week with party leaders and old pros, it's clear that Barack Obama will focus on Colorado and Virginia. Both have large concentrations of white, college-educated voters with whom Mr. Obama is popular. And both have seen Democrats surge recently.

    Of the two, Mr. Obama is best positioned to pick up Colorado's nine electoral votes. Denver hosts the Democratic convention at the end of this month. And a quartet of local millionaires (mini-George Soroses) have spent lavishly to boost Democrats. They have succeeded at shrinking the Republican advantage among registered voters. The GOP now has just 68,507 more voters on the rolls in Colorado than Democrats, down from a 176,572 edge four years ago.

    Democrats win the state when they hold down GOP margins in rural districts, and appeal to swing women voters in Larimer County and the Denver suburbs. Mr. Obama lacks rural credentials, but he might make inroads in the suburbs.

    Sen. McCain's independence will help him in Colorado. Also, there will be two anti-union initiatives on the ballot this fall that could energize conservatives. But he needs to run up votes in the GOP strongholds of El Paso (Colorado Springs), Douglas (south of Denver), Weld (Eastern Plains) and Mesa (Western Slope) counties, while appealing to Democratic and independent Hispanics and Catholics.

    The last time Virginia (13 electoral votes) went for a Democratic presidential candidate was 1964. In 2004, the GOP's margin was eight points. That makes Virginia an uphill climb for Mr. Obama, but not out of reach. He's focused on increasing African-American voters in Hampton Roads (in the southeastern corner of the state), Richmond and Petersburg, and on deepening his strength in Northern Virginia, where Fairfax was one of only 60 counties in America to flip from Republican in '00 to Democrat in '04.

    But Mr. McCain's maverick image allows him to compete in Northern Virginia, where he's buying expensive D.C. TV ads. He also needs to do well in rural Virginia and the Richmond suburbs. Hampton Roads is home to nearly twice as many veterans as the national average, so Mr. McCain should be able to do well there.

    If Mr. McCain lost Colorado and Virginia, he would likely have 264 electoral votes (assuming he carried the other states President Bush won in 2004). To win, he would have to pick up a state Democrats are counting on winning, such as Michigan.

    With 17 electoral votes, Michigan is an attractive target. But it is also a complicated state. The Democratic machine is in near meltdown in Detroit, where the city's mayor is fighting felony charges stemming from an alleged cover-up of a sex scandal (he recently spent a night in jail). The party is also hurt by adverse reactions to Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm's $1.5 billion tax increase last year, which dampened economic growth.

    Mr. McCain needs Reagan Democrats and independents in eastern Michigan. These working class, culturally conservative, mostly Catholic voters are how the GOP elected an attorney general, a secretary of state and a state Senate majority. These voters care about jobs and know manufacturing runs on affordable energy. They will respond to Mr. McCain's call for domestic drilling and expanded nuclear power.

    Mr. McCain also needs to focus on "soft" Republicans, particularly in the Detroit suburbs. His renegade reputation will help him with socially liberal independents and Republicans. But Mr. Obama's change message will help him in western Michigan where the socially conscious, historically Republican Dutch voters have antiwar tendencies.

    Then there is Ohio. Ground zero in '04, its 20 electoral votes will be hotly contested again this year. No Republican has won the White House without winning the Buckeye State.

    How can Mr. McCain take Ohio? He can appeal to swing voters in the northeastern part of the state. Cuyahoga, Summit and Lucas counties and the Mahoning Valley are full of culturally conservative, working-class voters. In addition, Mr. Obama was wiped out in the primary among the blue-collar Reagan Democrats of southeastern Ohio. Outside of the university town of Athens, he won less than 30% of the vote in southeastern Ohio. This Appalachian region remains bad turf for him.

    Mr. McCain will need to do well with suburban independents in the counties surrounding Columbus to balance heavy African-American turnout. He will also need to run strong in the Cincinnati suburbs in the southwest, and in rural and small-town counties.

    Other states will see serious competition, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Hampshire, Missouri and Wisconsin. But Colorado, Virginia, Michigan and Ohio are likely to be the center of the action. To win, Mr. Obama needs to pick up 18 electoral votes more than John Kerry received, meaning Mr. Obama must carry Colorado or Virginia and add another small state to his column. If Mr. McCain carries Michigan as well as Ohio, it would make Mr. Obama's Electoral College math very difficult. And if Mr. McCain can limit GOP losses to one or two small states from those won by the GOP in 2004, he'll be America's 44th president.