Monday, September 29, 2008

Sarah Palin in Pants: Wall Street vs. Main Street – Sarah 10, Barack McCain 1

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/29/08

There was potentially a change in venue and archetype with Sarah Palin. There was the possibility of the awakening of a holistic inner life as when Victoria was queen – to my grandmother and oldest aunties she was more the mother than their real mothers and every English person felt a part of her family. Another possibility was of a new Jacksonian populism awakening Alaska-style which would have been restorative. A republic should every several generations marry to the coyote or artic wolf to retain its original vitality. But McCain is prone to the work of the Trickster and his mercurial play. That alone might have been his motivation for choosing her. However, now that she is here and every manicured and coiffured squid on CNN and in the northeast press is taking shots at her, it could get interesting.

Palin’s mistake was in letting the poltroons who have been composing her recent public appearances – said to have been sent over from Bush’s office; they worship at the altar of Kali, the Death Mother – put her in pants. She wore a skirt and was free, natural, womanly and instinctive at her VP speech and it sent McCain toward the winners circle for the first time in months. And she came in with enough personal references – Dick Morris, William Kristol, David Brooks – to assume that she had at least entry-level ballast as Alaskan governor.

The interviews with Katie Couric were disastrous – but she also seemed paralyzed by the format, reading talking points from McCain/Bush and injecting them randomly into the discussion. Vastly different from the VP speech. Her debate with Biden will be the defining moment in the campaign and McCain’s last chance for the nomination.

She needs to find herself again and send the handlers back to the Crawford Ranch to coach Bush in cutting brush. My prediction is that if she comes out in pants on Thursday night McCain is finished. If she gets back to herself and ignores the squids they still have a very slight chance.

But win or lose, she will not go away now. And she would be better off without McCain anyway because she has commandeered the will of the people at a time when the people are beginning to feel their will. In a simple twist of fate, nature has conspired to bring her to an issue just minutes after she arrived in the public square. When Henry Paulson rushed into the room he expected the Congress of Peeps to respond as they always do to a tall man with a serious frown. He expected a bipartisan effort to save Wall Street by Thursday. But then they didn’t have it by the weekend. McCain rode in to bond the renegade Southerners with the others, round them up and bring them in. Obama, seeing no other option, reluctantly agreed, furiously waving agenda.

But they are having a problem now with Main Street. 1,100 calls came in to the Virginia Senator Jim Webb’s office over the weekend. Only about 100 of them thought the proposed federal bailout was a good idea. More than 10 to one oppose. It’s like that all over the heartland.

Palin will support the bailout because she is McCain’s running mate and she must. But she doesn’t seem to actually support it. She is just doing what they tell her to do.

When she was asked last week what she thought of the bailout she said, “What I’m hearing all over Main Street . . . everyone opposes it . . . the tax payer pays again.” This was fed to us in an attempt to show how off message she was. See, see . . . we told you . . . she’s out there where the buses don’t run. In fact, she was off the McCain message but was instinctively right there with the people.

It is amazing how bitterness still bleeds through the page regarding Sarah, as country folk have come to call her. Particularly here in the northeast. Barney Frank, for whom conspicuous buffoonery is a strategic part of the political persona, scorns McCain by implying that Palin is too stupid to be part of the Congressional discussion with real men like him. You’d think an experienced representative who is daily compared to a duck by Rush Limbaugh would walk more softly. Lincoln Chafee, former Senator from Rhode Island, whose father once landed in my yard in a helicopter for some unknown reason, calls her a “cocky wacko.” These lace curtain types from industrial New England might be excused for being too long in the valley. But Frank Rich’s long scorn in his Sunday column this week at the New York Times suggesting that “no doubt Bristol Palin’s nuptials had to be suspended immediately . . .” so McCain could ride to the rescue in Congress is pure evil.

Something else is going on here. These people are terrified. They are the High Priests who accompany the Conquistadors and now their sponsors, the Masters of the Universe as author Tom Wolfe calls the investment warriors of Wall Street, are succumbing. And in all of New York and Boston today there is only one point of light, Brett Favre, and he is from Wisconsin or someplace and appears to cut his own hair.

The contempt pouring from the northeast is good for Palin. These people do not like the heartland and the heartland does not like them. But they do like her.

War changes people. Before the Mexican War the people of the heartland and the South in particular, would yield to whatever was decided for them by the white-glove Unitarians in Boston in consultation with the Virginia Episcopalians. After the war they would demand to be heard themselves. We might be there again.

A popular backlash is changing America’s political climate. Inflamed by the financial crisis and bailout, a form of class warfare could haunt business leaders for years to come, says Nina Easton, Washington Bureau Chief of Fortune Magazine.

“A month of historic government interventions shows signs of triggering a political version of climate change - unleashing a new era of class fury that could hurt U.S. companies, business leaders, and wealthy investors for years,” she writes.

If she is right, Obama and McCain will be the most unlucky politicians in the history of Presidential politics, both deemed obsolete within weeks of the election. Because the people are starting to act on their own initiative and they may be finding their own champion in Sarah Palin.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sarah Palin in Pants: comment to Ted at The Hill

Ted: There was potentially a change in venue and archetype with Sarah Palin; like the awakening of a holistic inner life when Victoria was queen – to my grandmother she was more the mother than her real mother and every Englishman felt part of her family. Another possibility was of a new Jacksonian populism awakening Alaska-style which would have been nice – but McCain is prone to the work of the Trickster and its mercurial play and that might have been his motivation. Palin’s mistake was in letting the squids who compose these public presentations put her in pants – they worship at the altar of Kali, the Death Mother. She wore a skirt and was free, natural, womanly and instinctive at her VP speech and came in with enough personal references – Dick Morris, William Kristol, David Brooks – to assume she had at least entry-level ballast as Alaskan governor. The interviews with Katie Couric are disastrous – but she also seemed paralyzed by the format, reading talking points and injecting them randomly into the discussion while she wasn’t in the VP speech. The debate with Biden is the defining moment and McCain’s last chance for the nomination. My prediction is that if she comes out in pants McCain is finished. If she gets back to herself and ignores the squids they still have a very slight chance.

- more ahead on this.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

McCain, Eisenhower and Ulysses S. Grant: Imagine Warfare

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/27/08

Twice the name of Dwight Eisenhower hovered over the first Presidential debate, with John McCain emphasizing the middle name – David - of the man traditionally referred to as Ike, somberly using his full and formal name to bring gravitas to the proceedings and express the awe he feels for the man who brought victory in the Second World War. McCain would return accountability to Washington he said, citing Eisenhower on the eve of the Normandy Invasion, for example.

His presentation was of the warrior mythos; the soldier, the veteran and the victory which if eluded in war would turn the heart dark, blacken the flag and spoil the village. It comes from the heart of darkness McCain himself was visited to as a POW in Vietnam. It is still unfinished in his mind. And his presence on the stage last night gives evidence that that moment – 1967 to 1973 when McCain was held prisoner – is likewise still unresolved in the hearts and minds of America. That moment is still this moment.

McCain is the old soldier to whom the varied ways of the warrior are one passage over the centuries, from Yorktown to Bull Run and Cemetery Ridge, from Ardennes to Normandy and from Khe Sahn to Basra; petals lightly falling. It is auspicious that he admires Eisenhower, because Eisenhower’s management skills were prodigious. Hopefully, it is that which McCain admires about Eisenhower.

But I think not. McCain lit up last night when it came time to talk about war abroad. He likes war and still hopes to meet the 93-year old novelist Herman Wouk, who wrote the popular romance, The Winds of War, before he dies. But he had virtually nothing to contribute to the discussion about life here at home, except the 3 x 5 card he still keeps in his breast pocket from the small government period about “cutting waste.”

I’m not sure Eisenhower would approve. He was our greatest general not because he so much as honored honor (“ . . . honor for the sake of honor”; “war for the sake of honor”). He was our greatest general because he was our greatest manager in time of war. His mother was a Mennonite and a pacifist. He showed no desire to be a soldier as a young man. He said he attended West Point simply to play football and he received a football scholarship to go there.

There is a historic photo of Eisenhower on the morning of the invasion of France talking with a singular American marine in combat kit and darkened face. Eisenhower appears in the photo almost fatherly to a brave son about to face the crucible of life and death which would determine the fate of the world for the next 50 years in just the next few hours ahead. One could only imagine what Eisenhower was saying to him and the photo is composed to make you think about that. Maybe they were talking about the Constitution as George H. W. Bush liked to think about floating on a raft in the Pacific. Maybe something prayerful, like the simple faith of his Virginia tradition which sustained McCain as a POW.

In fact, Eisenhower and the marine were talking about fly fishing.

It is that detachment which won the war in Europe. Eisenhower had no desire to be warrior or President. He had not much interest in doing anything, it is reported in one of his biographies, except playing football. He was simply so good at tasks that became assigned to him that he rose to the top of his profession. Eisenhower put the world back together after others – diplomats, philosophers, strivers . . . warriors - broke it. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates today might bring a very, very minor comparison.

And if lineage is any indication, I don’t think McCain can take much sustenance from the fact that John Eisenhower, son of Dwight, a life-long Republican, a retired military officer and the author of several books of military history (including one on Ike), left the Republican party in 2004 to support John Kerry citing the “ . . . current administration's decision to invade Iraq unilaterally.” Republican Party leadership confused confident leadership with hubris and arrogance, he told the Manchester Union.

“The fact is that today's ‘Republican’ Party is one with which I am totally unfamiliar,” he said.

And it makes matters worse when Susan Eisenhower, daughter of John and grand daughter of Ike, another life-long Republican, has done the same this year to actively support Barack Obama.

“We are disliked overseas and feel insecure at home,” she wrote in the Washington Post. “We watch as our federal budget hemorrhages red ink and our civil liberties are eroded. Crises in energy, health care and education threaten our way of life and our ability to compete internationally. There are also the issues of a costly, unpopular war; a long-neglected infrastructure; and an aging and increasingly needy population.”

McCain wants to be the warrior’s President. But I can’t think of any time in our history that we have ever elected a warrior to be President just because he was a warrior. The election of Ulysses S. Grant in 1869 is the closest. Although the great and necessary soldier, he was not a great public manager and is considered one of the worst Presidents ever. His Presidency was one long victory march lasting almost ten years.

That’s what McCain wants. He wants his Presidency to be a victory march for Vietnam, for Basra and Baghdad and Afghanistan and Pakistan and Russia and all the places since Yalta where he and we have felt somehow unfinished. It is a personal McCain obsession and a national obsession and it borders on the edge of the pathological.

As one who watched the planes go up 120 mile south of where McCain was held prisoner, I’d be reassured to see a reference to Grant’s brilliant Autobiography, rather than to the make believe war of Herman Wouk. I guess Tolstoy’s Sevastopol or Hemingway’s A Farewell to Alms would be too much of a reach.

And I’d like to see him taking advice from someone other than his perennially strange and nervous side kick, Lindsey Graham, the Senator from South Carolina. If there was a dark corner in the veterans hall where Goth soldiers with black fingernail polish, fuchsia hair, body piercings and torn Marylyn Manson shirts gathered, that’s where you’d find Lindsay. He was among the first to bring the notion from the edge of the occult that a good war would help the economy and bring confidence to the country. It would get us over the “Vietnam syndrome.” He was there everywhere at the beginning comparing the invasion of Iraq to the invasion of Normandy and declaring every aspect of the misconceived adventure to be the equivalent to World War II.

It was like the flip side of the John Lennon anthem, Imagine: Imagine warfare, it’s easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky.

If you just went over there someplace and blew some stuff up, had a war, then came back and had a victory parade it would be the same as World War II. Only the criminally insane could actually believe that. But that was fully the conceptualization of the Iraq invasion at the beginning of the Bush administration.

World War II and the Civil War were wars of survival. Eisenhower and Grant were heroes because they saved our lives and livelihoods. They saved our culture. They created our culture. That is why they are celebrated, because when the war was over we were still alive and alive thanks to them.

It is the essential flaw in the McCain candidacy and it casts sadness on this very decent man and his very honorable public life. He has come to be seen as the savior of something that cannot be saved; the redeemer of something that cannot be redeemed; the fixer of a hurt in the soul which darkens the heart and blackens the flag and will never go away.

Friday, September 26, 2008

If the Bailout Fails, a New Political Movement Could Grow

by Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/26/08

We have seen here the call for consensus all week. If we don’t get the agreement by Friday the bear will come out of the woods. It is as if consensus itself is the answer, and I’ve heard a former head of Securities Exchange Commission say just that. Makes us all feel good about ourselves. This is not about Democrats and Republicans, this is about being Americans.

But it is just that fraternal nature which has reinforced bipartisan incompetence in Congress and even catastrophe in our times. Especially when both parties rushed in a similar manner to approve George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq without, as West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd said, so much as a brief discussion on the floor of Congress. Wasn’t time for discussion; needed to act fast before Al Qaeda snuck a dirty bomb into Cleveland or dropped WMDs into the porridge. They’re coming in the windows.

But there is a real division developing here now and if they don’t get an agreement by Friday it could well begin to subsidize a new political direction and a possibly even a new political party. And it would begin with Senator Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, who attended the meeting and yesterday said, "we will not have a deal."

I hope they pass the bailout, but seeing Nancy Pelosi, John McCain, Barack Obama and Harry Reid all huggy bear is no pretty picture in my mind. Nor it is at all reassuring watching the current worthies gather with history’s leftovers at the Clinton Global Initiative where they shamelessly self promote and preen in vanity’s yuppie equivalent of the court of Louis quatorze and in make believe pretend to solve the glut of the world problems which they themselves created, including this one. We seem to have come in our times from citizen to consumer and now to a binary horde, our political and spiritual origins forgotten and our families and traditions abandoned for the pink and light blue ties of the unified corporate culture of Clinton Democrats and Bush Republicans.

In my neighborhood up here in northern New England people have suddenly started growing very large vegetable gardens. They bought out the country store’s stock of potatoes and onions on the first day of the season. They bought every wood stove available in northern New England. They even bought out stock of one-day-old baby chicks from national distributors, which is unprecedented in our time. They have lost faith. They are waiting for something.

There have been rumors of third party for several years now, a good one supported by William Weld and Angus King, possibly the most enlightened of recent governors in the northeast, and a new back-to-gold movement by conservative libertarian Ron Paul.

Say want you like, but up here the same fear they had of Ronald Reagan and the same scorn for Sarah Palin they display for Ron Paul, which if nothing more is a harbinger. Ron Paul had a clear plan in opposition to the two-headed Uniparty of Barack McCain. Nothing fancy, and in some ways as simple as hanging clothes out on the line to dry.

Paul was of course famously not allowed to appear at the Republican convention this year; too ornery and unpredictable. On Fox news shortly before he quoted Upton Sinclair writing if America ever became a fascist country it would do so waiving the cross and wrapped in the American flag. No telling what he’d say. But I couldn’t help notice that when Henry Paulson first rushed into the room, some of the first interview requests called in by the networks were for Ron Paul.

The other day Newt Gingrich said that what John McCain should do is oppose the plan. Obama embraces it and aligned himself with President Bush. Gingrich said it was a bad plan and the voters would know that by November. If McCain opposed, he would open a new direction in the Republican Party and take the day in November.

Too late for McCain. He’s all about not being on the Letterman show so’s to gird for economic war with the others. Are we not men? Too late for Obama, too.

And if they don’t have Paulson’s plan by Friday, Gingrich said, they will not have his plan thereafter.

Even Paul said that what has happened this week on Wall Street is the natural path for our economy as we have planned it in our times through the several decades, but you can’t just let it die overnight. You need a different economy, which he has proposed all along, but it will take time.

If we don’t have a plan by Friday we will begin to have a new direction; a new direction in politics, culture and economy because they are all related. It will begin to be drawn by Newt Gingrich, Richard Shelby, Richard Viguerie, who pioneered organizational advancement for the Christian Coalition, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul.

“The word out of Washington this afternoon is that Congress and the Bush administration are very close to an agreement on The ‘Bailout,’” Huckabee said last night in an email message to supporters. “I can't tell you how disappointed and disgusted I am with this news. Like most Americans I have no idea what this ‘Sweetheart’ deal will consist of, but I do know that forcing the American people to accept the secretive work of Washington politicians is just plain wrong.”

Although it has been largely unseen by Washington eyes, Viguerie, who brought the Christian Coalition to be a formidable political establishment at the rise of the Reagan era, has made progress in this election cycle in converging the culture of his constituents with the economics of Ron Paul. They have always seemed a likely alliance in the Jefferson tradition.

“Stop the bailout,” Viguerie said in an email to supporters. “Congress and the administration are preparing to pass a bailout of Wall Street and of the corrupt and incompetent corporations that – along with Washington politicians and bureaucrats – are responsible for the current mess. It is going to cost each family in America $10,000, and perhaps much, much more. And that’s just the beginning.”

Viguerie and Paul together form an amorphous political culture waiting for a trigger event to make it happen. This could be it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Fourth Turning . . . the end of things and a beginning

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/22/08

Now might be a good time to review The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny by historians William Strauss and Neil Howe. The authors’ theme is that all historical periods are "post-war periods" and every eighty years or so a human cycle of four generations concludes itself in catastrophe and rebirth.

“Just after the millennium,” the authors write, “America will enter a new era that will culminate with a crisis comparable to the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression, and World War II. The survival of the nation will almost certainly be at stake.”

The book explains why the great gods fall like the petty gods; each becomes "post-seasonal" and submits to the ravages of time. It is the catastrophic failure of systems that have run their course that causes the turnings.

Sometime around the year 2005, say Strauss and Howe, America will enter a period of unraveling; the end of the third post-war generation and the beginning of the fourth. "The nation will be more affluent, enjoy better health, possess more technology, encompass a larger and more diverse population, and command more powerful weapons - but the same could be said about every other Unraveling era society compared to its predecessor. They were not exempt from the saeculum [the historical period]; nor will we be."

They make five possible crisis projections: the first, beset by fiscal crisis, a state lays claim to its residents' federal tax monies. Declaring this an act of secession, the president obtains a federal injunction. The second is a terrorist attack; the third an impasse over a federal budget that reaches a stalemate; the fourth, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announce the spread of a new communicable virus; the fifth; growing anarchy throughout the former Soviet republics prompts Russia to conduct training exercises around its borders. They point out that it is highly unlikely that any one of these scenarios will actually happen. But what is likely, they say, is that the catalyst will unfold according to a basic Crisis dynamic that underlies all of these scenarios: "An initial spark will trigger a chain reaction of unyielding responses and further emergencies."

First published in 1997, the authors show remarkable prescience. Did somebody say terrorist attack? Did somebody say Russia conducting training exercises? Did somebody say fiscal crisis?

Crazy about Sarah: The Return of the Earth Mother – America’s Center is Red

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill at 9/21/08

The worst harbinger for Obama, which awakened this week and will grow exponentially now, is the idea that if he loses this race it will be because latent racism is so widespread among white voters. This is the ascending nihilist narrative and it can only originate from the feeling that he is starting to slip. It is a way of saying it is not our fault, it is their fault. I’ve read this on blogs all week and heard it from rural rednecks who for reasons unfathomable have a conditioned affection for Hillary. And it has come just as quickly to the airy imagination of light-as-air artists in the ivory towers of the East. It is everywhere now.

Hillary’s industrial strength morlocks have used this race-baiting strategy all along to promote her and will again in 2012 and again and again until the Clintons finally bring the Democratic Party to ruins. But with the eloi of the ivory tower who support Obama it is a different matter. They appear to be giving up.

The new racist theme is an insidious and immoral conditioning of the horde on the part of MSM. It is Mao Theater - a concerted cooperation of bad sociology and trash TV news and opera - and Obama should counter it. He would have won this in a walk had McCain chosen Joe Lieberman, Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee to share his ticket. Obama knows that. He only chose Joe Biden because he was so high in the polls.

It was also a mistake to compare Obama to Lincoln, as Al Gore and others have done recently, but perhaps this Clinton-era group is so lost to language by now that it can no longer distinguish hyperbole from reality. It was an injustice to Lincoln, to blacks and to the country to implicitly compare the situation of black people in America today to the conditions of slavery in Lincoln’s time.

Comparison to the mid-1800s does however begin to approximate the contention which has now grown to outright contempt between red states and blue states. The sudden, unlikely agent and catalyst for this transition is Sarah Palin.

Dick Morris’s tally on the election map at Newsmax shows McCain way ahead of Obama in electoral votes, 290 to 172. Perhaps Dick is smitten by Palin. But the University of Illinois model put together by the computer department and some political science students also shows McCain ahead 247 to 235 in safe electoral votes.

From here to November there are two critical events which will determine the outcome of this race. The October 2 debate between Palin and Joe Biden is the second. Much more important will be Palin’s September 29 and 30 interviews with CBS’s Katie Couric. This will be Palin’s rite of entry into our full American condition. Here she meets with the Gatekeeper. This is the first moment in which she officially becomes not just an archetypal Earth Mother from the Alaska wilderness, but one of us and potentially our Earth Mother.

This will be an important moment in our time. It is a moment we have been heading toward for almost 50 years because it is a moment which could mark the alienation of the regions. Forget the Russians and the collapsing economy – it was bound to happen; it was built that way. Forget the failing dollar – it’s been failing since they changed the composition to the bloated, off-centered, deconstructivist dollar in the ‘90s. Forget the Chinese and the Four Tigers. A chain saw, a Glock 9, a four-wheel drive and a country boy can survive. What we are beginning to see is the materialization of an organic division between red and blue America.

The honest call for bipartisanship and post partisanship we have been hearing from Mark Warner, former governor of Virginia, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California, is another symptom of the alienation of the regions. People only call for bipartisanship when consensus is breaking irretrievably or already broken.

The original plea came from George Washington in his famous farewell address, in which Washington warned against “the poison of partisanship.” The regions had already divided psychologically you could say, when Washington teamed up with Adams and the Northerners in opposition to Jefferson and the Virginians at Jay’s Treaty. But the contention was only conceptual; it was a cultural division between the industrial North and the pastoral South which lived largely in the minds of the Eastern aristocrats both North and South represented by Adams and Jefferson. The actual “irrepressible conflict” only began to materialize when Tennessee representative Andrew Jackson heard Washington’s farewell address.

Jackson was unimpressed. He disliked the whole idea of a State of the Union speech which aped, he felt, the English king’s speeches to Parliament. He also disliked Congress’s toadying and fawning response to the President. Congress’s response simply ratified the practice.

“In my mind, this address of Congress to the President was a servile imitation of that custom,” Jackson wrote. “My vote was not against the address as such, but against the custom, or the servile imitation of a kingly custom that it grew out of.”

Jackson’s dissent had an impact. As President, Jefferson declined to give such an address and the practice disappeared until Woodrow Wilson revived it.

Jackson was the first citizen of the west and had the South won or found parity in the Civil War, the conflict and its attending culture might have been conceived differently there. It might have been called the War between East and West or the War against the Gulf States as the region was referred to in post-war Southern literature. The Alamo would supplant the Boston Massacre as the Creation Myth of this region and Houston would be the capital. Virginia would be the distant frontier on the edge of the Jersey Turnpike which now seems to extend all the way to Richmond.

This came to mind over the weekend when I was looking at Dick’s electoral map of red states and blue states. Up top and around is New York and its extended colonies; Los Angeles, San Francisco and the Boston regions, most all on the edges; still hooked on Europe and untouched by the indigenous spirits of the heartland. Europe’s edge creeps in on the Atlantic side and soon to be perhaps, China’s edge will creep in on the Pacific side. The rest is red. There’s a lot of red on that map. It is almost all red. America has found its center and the center is red.

Easterners of the upper caste North and South, Adams and Jefferson alike, hated Jackson. And both were terrified of the republican vigor of the Tennesseans who had little interest in the fine points of Constitutional law and considered instead a woman or man’s character. These were Indian fighters and free and independent spirits; tough and capable frontier settlers with a stronger nature and constitution than the earlier colonial settlers who were pushed back to the seaboard by the Indians.

“I feel much alarmed at the prospect of seeing General Jackson President,” Jefferson said to Daniel Webster, an Adams man. “He is one of the most unfit men I know of for such a place. He has very little respect for law or constitutions . . . . He is a dangerous man.”

The same contempt, fear and even terror of the end of things is felt again today in the ivory towers of the East, its agents now on the ledges, watching Sarah and Todd – a whole big family of them with extended kin - coming right at them out of the frigid heartland permafrost on snow machines.

But this time there is one important difference. In the earlier day the great speeches and writing of the Bostonians, Emerson, Garrison and Theodore Parker, could eulogize purpose and perspective in bringing opposition to the South and the west as contention rose during the age of Jackson. The issue would be slavery if war came. And they could count of the common class in the North to fight on their own initiatives. Letters home from Vermont soldiers show that few common soldiers had any interest in slavery and virtually all fought to prevent the South from seceding. But they would fight.

This time the common class in the north country of New England where I live – the same mechanics and farm hands who brought Jackson to prominence – could not be counted on to do the same.

That is the fortuitous feature of the culture wars today. The scenario does not lead to such catastrophe because the common people – the people who do the work – are crazy about Sarah. The eloi would have to find someone else to do their fighting for them.

Palin faces in this debate ahead Joe Biden, the consummate Eastern striver from a northeastern Irish family much like my own who so wants to join the existing Eastern Establishment and prove himself to it, even decades after the Establishment’s founders and patrons; the Bordens, the Prescott Bushes, the Rockefellers and the other industrial and financial families of the north have abandoned the plantation to us ethnics and moved on to West Virginia, Texas and Arizona, fully disinterested in our efforts. What could present a more poignant picture of buildings falling?

This perhaps, coincidental in this season of departure: The closing of the gates to Yankee Stadium, the northern edifice, says baseball writer Ronal Blum, “ . . . built to symbolize American power, a place meant to hold the same place in New York’s imagination as the Coliseum does in Rome’s.”

It ain’t over till it’s over, the one true god king of New York at the peak of its arc of power, Yogi Berra, once said.

“I’m going to miss it all,” he said yesterday.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is 2008 the Election of a Lifetime? 2012 Could Be Better.

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/17/08

Reagan administrator Ed Rollins writes that this is the election of a lifetime. We’ve been hearing that quite a lot. Maybe so. Maybe not.

There are too many amateurs in this race. Obama was pulled out of nowhere by Oprah and He brightened a dark corner in a chaotic time. But it is a management job and he has no experience in management (and is 99 in seniority in his current position). Nor does McCain. And is it good to have someone as President who can think of little else besides the war he was in over 40 years ago? Could cloud your mind. Most of us have moved on.

Biden has plenty of experience, but not the kind you need to be President. Supreme Court justice maybe or chaired professor at some Eastern university like Georgetown. Governor Palin actually has more relevant experience for the job than any of the others, which says not so much about her as it does about the others.

To some degree all four of these candidates are novelties when you consider that the job at hand is primarily a management task.

There ought to be an institution or think thank of some kind which grades aspiring Presidents in a kind of classification systems like we use for sheep or at dog shows. A First Tier candidate for President might be Governor of a big state – Texas, California, New York or Pennsylvania for example; someone like Ed Rendell, Mark Warner, Deval Patrick or Arnold Schwarzenegger if he were native born. Of course, Bush was Governor of Texas, so there are no guarantees.

Second Tier: Mayor of a really big city like New York or Chicago; Mike Bloomberg or Richard Daley. Or a major military operation like NATO: Wes Clark. Or held a major cabinet post in a previous administration. We don’t usually do that but I’d like to see it: Robert Gates or Condoleezza Rice or Reagan administrators George Schultz and James A. Baker or Jim Webb, who was Secretary of the Navy under Reagan.

Third Tier: Governor of a small or lightly-populated state like Vermont or New Mexico; Bill Richardson, Howard Dean, Sarah Palin or Linda Lingle of Hawaii. A governor could get a star here for being a really good manager of a small state, like John Lynch in New Hampshire or a great governor in a bigger state, like Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas.

Fourth Tier: Senators with no other experience – Biden.

Fifth Tier: Dennis Kucinich or a relative of a former President or a stand up comedian or professional wrestler or talk show host or just any celebrity or performer named Darryl or Krystal or someone who writes his name with punctuation marks in the middle of it or with the prefix Lil like Lil Wayne or Lil Kim.

The election of a lifetime is always the one that elects the great man or woman – Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt – to the position. I don’t think it is one of these four. I like them all. I think they are all nice. I just don’t think they are great.

And they are not great because history has not made them great. And history will not make them great in the next four years because the next four years will not be great. The next four years will be a dumping ground and the next President will have the pitiful task of cleaning the stables after Clinton and Bush and presiding over an unraveling. He and possibly shortly thereafter she will first have the task of getting us out of the war with Russia that Al Gore and Bill Clinton started by forcing a missile program on Congress in the mid ‘90s. He will have the task of facing an America without Wall Street and a New York without the Yankees as a winning team or The New York Times as a definitive voice. She will have the experience of watching the dollar flailing like a bird in a wind storm in an economy without walls where extended tribes in the desert have their own exchanges in buildings taller than ours. She will have the job of finding form and direction in a war that has taken on a life of its own as they tend to do when they are badly conceived and mismanaged for four years. He will watch all the hopes and aspirations of the last century and the one before that fall apart and he will hold the broken pieces.

When the pain is deep enough, the people will call up the great man or woman. It isn’t yet and the Bush people will try to hold it off best they can until after November. Then it will really start to unravel.

It will all unravel on the next President and it will unravel for a long time. Who were the Presidents during the last unravelings, in the times just before the Great Man came and we turned the corner? Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover preceded Roosevelt. Before that? Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan preceded Lincoln. What we will see in the 2008 cycle perhaps is the new Coolidge or Buchanan.

It was a sense of panic that brought us here. That and generations which have come to their ends. In 2008 and next year and the year after, we will still be at the end of things; things which began as early as the 1840s some of them and others which began in 1917. But by 2012 we might be starting to get to the new beginnings again.

The party which loses this race might be better off. I think some of the Republicans already intuit that. An Obama victory in November would likely set him up as fall guy for the mess ahead and turn it over in 2012 to Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney. In a McCain/Palin Presidency the Democrats would be able to go back to the cave and pull themselves together. In 2012 they could come back with Warner, Sebelius and Rendell, their best, brightest and most capable, any one of whom is able to accept the original challenges of new awakenings in the new millennium.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Foxes in the Henhouse: Where Obama Missed the Turn

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/16/08

At the very beginning of this longest-in-history Presidential campaign there was a small but critical debate going on although few paid attention outside of the Old Dominion. The question was, could a Democratic candidate be elected to office in this country without carrying the South and the red states? The answer presented by Democratic strategists Steve Jarding and Dave “Mudcat” Saunders was no.

In a book titled, Foxes in the Henhouse; How the Republicans Stole the South and the Heartland and What the Democrats Must Do to Run ‘em Out, the authors argued that demographics since post-war demand that the South be included in the national dialog. The Democrats have been in denial of the rising influence of the red states, they pointed out. Indeed, the northeast Democrats saw themselves in opposition to the red states. They saw the red states and the South in particular as a recalcitrant historical backwater which would soon yield to Wall St. influence and incursion by out-of-town young urban professionals.

Ignoring the culture and people of the South was inherently immoral and imperial, agued Jarding. It could well destroy the Democratic Party.

There was a second book by Tom Shaller titled, Whistling Past Dixie. It was exactly Sheller’s point that the South should be ignored.

Spending valuable resources in Southern states is a dangerously self-destructive strategy that could serve to relegate Democrats to minority-party status for a generation, it states on the book’s website.

The South could be simply deeded over to the Republicans, writes Shaller. There were enough Democrats outside the region to win in national elections.

As one might expect, of these authors Shaller was the darling of NPR, PBS, and his work appeared regularly throughout the liberal press. So it should come as no surprise that Shaller’s thesis was the one adopted by the northeast strategists of the Clinton and Obama campaigns.

In 2008 it was actually possible to win with this strategy but only if the Republicans put forth the most egregious candidates possible and yielded to their narrowest orthodoxy. And as of July this year, when Obama was dropping three-pointers with ease on the basketball court in Iraq, it appeared that the Republicans were going to do just that.

Obama seemed to have it all by summer. Even thoughtful and moderate Republicans like South Carolina’s Governor Mark Sanford seemed charmed.

I don’t think many Democratic strategists actually read the Jarding/Saunders book although the authors had successfully helped bring former Virginia Governor Mark Warner and Virginia Senator Jim Webb to the national scene. The party people I spoke to who did were all either Virginians or Texans.

And Obama’s ignorant and patronizing comment about 102 million rural people defaulting to “. . . God and guns. . . “ in weak economic times suggested that he had no clue about the South and little desire to learn.

But the McCain people did appear to be listening in on Jarding and Saunders.

A Joe Lieberman or Mitt Romney would have had both parties whistling past Dixie. The South would have had no options, and the playing field between the parties would have found a staid and tedious equilibrium. But if Obama had chosen Jim Webb, the Virginian with Scotch-Irish roots in rural Virginia, or Kathleen Sebelius, Governor of Kansas and one of the most accomplished governors in the country, he would have approached the needs of the heartland. But the choice of Joe Biden, the consummate striver of the Eastern Establishment, was the fatal mistake.

In one masterful hand, McCain responded by calling up Sarah Palin, the personification of heartland values. He awakened the South and the red states. He has been rising ever since.

The Obama campaign might not end in victory. But it is a well-run campaign run by a brilliant and gifted Senator even if it is based on a flawed paradigm which may damn its possibility of success. Even so, it could serve as a bridge to Jim Webb or Mark Warner and Kathleen Sebelius in the Presidential race of 2012 and begin a restructuring of the Democratic Party along more suitable lines.

This would in fact follow in the tradition of the mid-1800s when northeast liberals recognized that they must leave the ivory tower behind and look west and enter the real world of the new frontier if they wanted to participate in the future of America. As Benjamin Franklin advised early on, the future was in the west. Recognizing the needs of the heartland as Jarding and Saunders prescribe could again restore the Democratic party today.

There is a third book that needs to enter into this discussion, H.W. Brands’ masterful historical study, Andrew Jackson, His Life and Times. It is important for northern strategists to begin to understand the life force of the heartland and the South in particular. Jackson was, like Jim Webb, born fighting. From childhood on, Jackson fought Indians and English on his way from the North Carolina Piedmont to New Orleans, and he fought the Eastern Establishment with the same ferocity on his way to the White House.

The lesson then is appropriate again at the beginning of our new century: The South and the heartland will not be passed by, not now, not ever.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Can Joe Biden Change a Diaper?: Sarah Palin, Jim Webb, Andrew Jackson – Blame Mudcat

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill at 9/15/08

I can’t think of any time in our American history when the country repudiated a war it just fought. It is not in our soul’s nature to do so. Not in anyone’s.

75 percent of the country approved of the invasion of Iraq at the beginning and in spite of what Senators Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton said later, they knew full well and had it from the best and most reliable and detached experts that the evidence of WMDs – Saddam’s secret stash of Weapons of Mass Destruction which provided cause for the invasion – was faked. Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN was almost accompanied by the wink and the nod.

They knew the Bush administration planned to invade Iraq to kill Saddam within weeks after 9/11. And if they didn’t, they knew by the 2004 Presidential race because Clinton agent Wesley Clark told them. He wasn’t exactly that hard to get a hold of. Yet many of them still supported the invasion.

These Democrats were not brave when they were needed to be brave. They were not brave when the venerable Robert C. Byrd, the senior senator from West Virginia, stood virtually alone on the Senate floor denouncing them as a Congress of Peeps for rushing through the President’s request without any thoughtful discussion. They were not brave when Jim Webb, the new senator from Virginia, then a Republican, called the invasion a surreptitious incursion of the Middle East, long planned in secret closets of the Pentagon and awaiting only this trigger moment.

They were not brave then and now, when 75% oppose the war, they are not brave again. It is the instruction of the Lion King to his cub: “I am only brave when I need to be brave.” Perhaps they missed that movie. To act otherwise is hubris and public theater.

Obama was brave. Webb was and is, and so were Byrd and Russ Feingold, the senator from Wisconsin, who gave a perfectly formed picture of a better path to any senator who would listen. Few did. Instead, they listened to the market surveys and when the herd shifted from 75% in favor of to 75% against, they followed the herd. Leadership in the Democratic party consisted of President Clinton, Senator Clinton and as he touts himself to be the enlightened and fully informed expert on foreign policy today, long-time on the Foreign Relations Committee and its current chairman, Joe Biden. The first two should have addressed the moment and Biden’s responsibility was to inform the Senate.

The Senate vote was the key moment of their political career and will again be key to their political futures or lack thereof. 77 Senators voted for the invasion and only 23 against, all but two of them Democrats. Had 50 or 40 or even 30 Democratic senators followed the Webb, Byrd, Clark and Feingold advice, it might have been a different story. It might have been a different war.

It might have been a war against Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. A senate imbued with character like the Lion King, being brave when bravery was required, could have changed the course of this war but only at that moment just before the war started. It was their responsibility to do so. Now, in spite of what they say about going into Afghanistan, the military and the intelligence agencies understand that it is increasingly out of reach.

Obama has a key problem today and it is a problem that cannot be transcended. It is the baggage he carries; not the good work he did as a community organizer or his alleged lack of experience (Elizabeth I, Victoria and Lincoln had less) but the burden of the weakling rank and file he carries with him, particularly the Senators who were accommodating and appeasing when they needed to be resolute and vociferous.

Ulysses S. Grant writes in his autobiography that the Mexican War was simply a war of the strong against the weak, but “ . . . once initiated, there were but few public men who would have the courage to oppose it.”

Experience proves, he writes, that the man who obstructs a war in which his nation is engaged, “ . . . no matter whether right or wrong,” occupies no enviable place in life or history.

“Better for him, individually, to advocate ‘war, pestilence, and famine,’ than to act as obstructionist to a war already begun.”

Time will tell if Grant is right, and that time will be November 8 when America votes for either John McCain or Barack Obama.

It has been repeated again and again that this is the most important election of our lifetime. My own feeling is that after November 8 the war will in our minds be over and we as a nation will move on to something else. In my mind what we will move on to is very promising and auspicious; the beginning of a new age, a new century and a new America. It will bring a future we can’t yet envision, but I believe it will bring a brand new future, one which we are not expecting and one which will not yield its path and substance to any of our traditions and expectations.

Such new periods most always start with a phenom and it has been noted repeatedly in these last two weeks that McCain’s Vice Presidential choice of Sarah Palin is a political phenomenon, a word best described as a “psychological event.” A phenom starts the world fresh again and leaves behind all that came before in the dust: Elizabeth I was a phenom, Lord Nelson and Victoria were as well and so were Miles Davis and The Beatles.

Does Palin fit a pattern of American politics? Most definitely so. Her candidacy and the new awakening it has brought about in the heartland suggests more than anything in our past hundred years comparison to the first great populist awakening in America, the Jacksonian period. Andrew Jackson was perhaps the most important of the Presidents as he brought democratic empowerment to the common people of the frontier in the South and Texas. And when they got it, they wouldn’t let go. The Eastern Establishments, right and left – Adams and Jefferson – expressed the same consternation at the rise of these country ruffians just as they do today on the op-ed pages and board of The New York Times and in the hallowed halls of Harvard. But in the end, the Eastern Establishment, to compete effectively against the riding Jacksonian culture, had to abandon its own stale and calcified orthodoxies and find their own country bumpkin: Abraham Lincoln. Indeed, when Emerson got himself thrown out of Harvard it gave him cachet.

It was a little surprising watching the Democrats freak out this week because McCain’s Alaskan woman-from-the-forest idea came from the Democrats themselves. Senator Jim Webb sent a shot of fear across the bow year before last when he responded to the President’s State of the Union speech by referring to “Wall St. Barons.” This was the first threat the Eastern Establishment felt and this was the origin of the Palin phenomenon.

Webb, a combat soldier in Vietnam, was well known as a war novelist and Reagan administrator. He switched to the Democratic party in 2006 and ran for senator in Virginia to oppose Bush’s policies in Iraq. He chews tobacco and carries a Glock under the seat of his truck. He wore his son’s combat boots in his campaign. He has writing a book about the history of the Scotch-Irish people in the far western hollows of Virginia from whom he - and the Jacksons Andrew and Stonewall - hail. His presentation on behalf of the Democrats was purely Jacksonian. He almost brought a sea change to the Democrats but it was crushed by the return of the Clintons. He was one of the first considered as a vice presidential running mate for any Democratic candidate this cycle.

Webb applied a formula which had already worked most successfully for Mark Warner when Warner, a lawyer who made his millions as founder of Nextel, ran for governor of Virginia. Warner, Harvard-educated and Hartford, Connecticut, reared, hired the brilliant political consultants Steve Jarding and Mudcat Saunders to get him heard and accepted in Virginia’s hinterland. They brought in the greatest of all bluegrass groups, the Stanley Brothers from Clinch Mountain, to sing at their events, and they got Warner to sponsor a NASCAR stock car with his name on it. They presented him as the avatar of Virginia’s Democratic populist roots and oldest rural traditions and it worked. Warner was one of the most popular and successful Virginia governors of all time; a Yankee and a Democrat in a meat-red state at that.

With the rise of McCain’s formidable Jacksonian Alaskan the Democrats might do well to turn again to Warner, Webb, Jarding and Mudcat. If they want to win in the near future they might consider “Editor of the Harvard Law Review” a youthful indiscretion and mask it on their resume. Voters might want to know this instead: Can you tend a wood stove without burning your house down? Can you find your way in the woods? Can you change a diaper?

Does Joe Biden know how to change a diaper? Does Charles Gibson? Does Peggy Noonan? Do you?

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Way of the Hockey Mom: Sarah Palin Doesn’t Blink

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/12/08

There is an old Zen Buddhist parable about a monk watching a young Samurai in a duel. A child is standing nearby with a large scary mask hanging over his shoulder. The Samurai notices the child just before he dispatches his opponent. He turns to the monk with pride after his battle but the monk says in disgust, “You’ll never be a Samurai. You saw the mask before you saw the child.”

It was the first thing to come to my mind when I saw Sarah Palin, McCain’s Vice Presidential pick, take the podium when he announced her candidacy. She sees the child before she sees the mask. She sees the awakening moment and steps forward to the duty at hand before she see experiences the fear that the new encounter will bring. She is fearless.

In her ABC interview yesterday she said she had no doubts in her ability to be Vice President and she answered McCain directly when he asked her.

“I answered him yes, because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can’t blink,” Ms. Palin told Charles Gibson, the ABC reporter. “You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we’re on, reform of this country and victory in the war.”

The zen child/mask barometer has always been close to my mind in measuring politicians. The only one in my lifetime who measured 100% Child, 0% Mask was Dwight Eisenhower. When he said something he generally meant what he said. We might have left the Child behind altogether in decades past and been living behind a series of Masks ever since. So many masks, so little time.

There was a shot of fear came across the bow when Palin talked last night of war with Russia. But what she did was clearly enunciate, without threat or intimidation, stated American policy with Russia. It is a policy initiated by President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore in 1997, but no one seemed to notice at the time that the object of this policy was war with Russia. The ascending concerns in the Democratic Party back then were gay marriage, stocks promising to rise stocks to 35,000 and the madcap antics of the Clintons.

That’s what’s freaking out the Democrats. Sarah Palin wears no mask.

That is the way of the Samurai but here in the north country of New Hampshire there is a secret cult which Sarah Palin and I both belong to that is the closest thing on this continent to the Tao path of the Samurai. Anyone who recalls with religious devotion seeing Cassie Campbell win the Olympic gold in 2002 or the almost 40-year-old Dougie Gilmore crawl off the ice on his hands and knees in his final game, or Bobby Orr’s scoring the Stanley Cup’s winning goal against the St. Louis Blues while airborne 40 seconds into overtime will understand.

It is the way of the Samurai but it is also the way of the Hockey Mom.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Penguin vs. Barracuda: Sarah Palin’s Egalitarian Revolution

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill at 9/11/08

Boston actor Matt Damon is appalled that a rural “hockey mom” even be considered for the Presidency. A very popular, nationally-syndicated political cartoonist presents her in the Oval Office astride a moose. What is sending terror through the hearts of Urban Northeast Liberals; a terror felt more deeply than that felt by Karl Rove, Osama bin Laden or Al-Qaida, is that the common people of the heartland; the people who listen to George Jones and go to Church of God and wear Hush Puppies, have found an attractive and capable candidate who fully represents them: Sarah Palin.

As the Washington Post’s Marc Fisher reports on McCain and Palin in Centreville, VA yesterday, eight working mothers went together to see her because she is “ . . . just like us.”

Fisher: “We don't live in an age of looking up to authority anymore. We don't cotton to the idea that there are people who are our betters. In this time of "American Idol” bedroom bloggers and the belief that experience, knowledge and education don't necessarily mean a whole lot, Palin is a symbol, a statement that anyone can make it if he or she really tries.”

"She's just as flawed as we are," one of the women said. "It's not the fact that she's a woman but the way she does it all. And let me tell you: There're more American parents with unwed pregnant teenaged children than American parents with Harvard grads. She's real."

Welcome to the world.

As Obama well pointed out in his book, The Audacity of Hope, Jefferson and Madison forced freedom of religion onto the Bill of Rights in opposition to Patrick Henry because Henry did not trust the common people. Patrick wanted rule by Virginia Episcopalians and he wanted legislation to keep the common people who identified with the Baptist religion from coming to power. These folk have become economically empowered since WW II and began to rise politically in the 1960s, in opposition to the rise of what was perceived to be northern decadence.

Their moment could well be at hand. This is a contention between countervailing American values and between regions and classes: Hamilton vs. Jefferson; corporation vs. family, North vs. South; Starbucks vs. Waffle House. Penguin vs. Barracuda. The old “Jeffersonian” values of family, small town, church and community with power devolved to the states and regions vs. Hamilton’s goal of corporate dominance of economy and culture globally based out of Wall St.

Jefferson is experiencing resurgence. It is coming to power now and will not go away.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Can Buffy Save the Democrats?

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/9/08

There is something here in the air of northern New England which was not here when I was a child. It seems to have come into the world like a spirit born of its own accord in the early Sixties when the great elms died all throughout the region’s countryside. It is the dissident spirit of trash social studies which pervades the university, politics, the press and the public culture up here and it has mushroomed in my lifetime. And it has moved now across the heartland.

It is a witch spirit.

Nathanial Hawthorne says it is a life force from the spirit world which has always been here. It comes, he says, from “those strange old times, when fantastic dreams and madmen’s reveries were realized among the actual circumstances of life.”
When I attended the University of Massachusetts in late Sixties early Seventies, this spirit rose into the world and Awakened, much like the corpse plant that hatches every 50 years or so in the Smithsonian’s Botanical Garden.

It was a spirit pretentious and somewhat pitiful. It seeped throughout my generation and pervaded New England, like the ooze of industrial sludge which covered the ponds in towns like Fall River, where I grew up. It was a kind of half-knowledge and half-hostility which had no light within itself and saw itself exclusively in opposition to power.

In the lexicon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this spirit manifests as Revenge Demons. Regular viewers of Buffy know what Revenge Demons are. They are malevolent spirits which identify at every turn with the discontent, rather than with the civilization. They come out of the earth just when you are doing something joyful, healthy and family-like, such as trimming the Christmas tree and stuffing stockings, and they attempt to disrupt the situation.

Buffy is the avatar and front line of defense against Revenge Demons. In Buffy World, men are no longer men and they no longer have the political will to defend themselves, their traditions and their families. Indeed, family is a shattered shard of the past and men who once defended the hearth have been made cowering wimps by these Creatures from Beneath the Earth. So Buffy – for aficionados, she is technically the Earth Mother Incarnate and we call her The Slayer – has to take it back by herself with her few heroic mortal apprentices.

The Democratic Party in the last week may have experienced full possession by Revenge Demons. It could well be a permanent condition now. If so, the party will go the way of the Whigs.

The first few days after the announcement of Sarah Palin as Vice President, the Revenge Demons found possibly their finest hour and struck their most venomous chord. New York Times columnist William Kristol offered a few snippets from New Republic editor, Martin Peretz, blogging directly after the speech: “give [Palin] her due: she is pretty like a cosmetics saleswoman at Macy’s . . .good to see that the Palin family didn’t torture poor Bristol, at least in the open. . . . Yes, please God, do bless America and rescue us from these swilly people.”

Right now we are seeing the bitter reenactment of the anti-war movement toward the end of the war in Vietnam, a movement which deeply damaged the party when its candidate, George McGovern, lost to Richard Nixon, 49 – 1.

The Democrats suffered also an almost a complete defeat with Eisenhower and again in Ronald Reagan’s second term. The return of the nihilist Vietnam-era attitudes could this time be a mortal blow to the Democrats.

But I feel here in northern New England that there is something in the Democrats that likes to lose.

I worked for Wesley Clark’s candidacy in 2004 here in New Hampshire and at a house party in Concord Wes’s state director, a political consultant well-known nationally, expressed her excitement in having General Clark on board saying it was “ . . . just like George McGovern.” I knew then that we were screwed.

It is a sense of superiority we feel; like the poet’s circle or the esoteric realm of occult game players lost in their own aura in the darkened corners of the head shop. High-minded failure leaves us pure. But high-minded failure also relieves us from responsibility and grants unlimited power to the opposition. Perhaps history has passed us by up here – moving with the economy and population to the South and the Southwest and places where we never venture – and it has left us bitter and disaffected.

I supported Wes and still do because he brought a singular character to the Democratic party which we had not seen in a long time. He was the odd man out and was not at all characteristic of Democrats. I felt he could possibly restore a moribund party by giving it the heart of a bull dog. Likewise, Obama is a unique individual with great skill, intuition and abilities. But that was introduced on Oprah and rapidly rose in the mainstream thereafter is almost farcical. No reflection on him or Oprah. I greatly admire Obama and especially Oprah, the “free woman” who successfully takes on the world with her bare hands. But with Obama, like Clark, we were looking for a single-combat warrior to single-handedly find some direction – any direction- for the Democratic Party. We were not looking for a platform. We were looking for a savior.

And even at that, Obama had to fight his own party all the way.

Anyone who watched the speeches at the Republican Convention on the night of Sarah Palin’s speech couldn’t help but notice a conspicuous absence. There was not one mention – not one mention – of George Bush all through the night. Compared to the Democratic Convention the week before when they couldn’t get the Clintons off the stage, and Obama had to use a varied of shrewd maneuvers to trick and out stage them.

I have questioned whether or not the Democratic party can survive the Clintons. Truthfully, I don’t think they can. Whenever Bill appears with Obama as he does today, Obama’s numbers go down, and now he has few numbers left to keep him above water. Obama is the last hope for the Democrats. Without him they have nothing left, only the Clintons. And that is not a political party. That is a personality cult.

It has been theorized that the Whig party fell to defeat for two reasons: The Mexican War, although in Grant’s opinion it was merely a war of the strong against the weak, was not supported by the Transcendentalists and many in the Boston region took on a diffident air. The other reason is that they became effete, superior and disaffected. They took pride in esoteric and detached issues. They became irrelevant and they came to consider their irrelevance to be evidence of themselves as being of a higher order.

We hear it again. With McGovern and with others, frequently Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, who ran for president in 2004. Dr. Dean, after his time was up in Vermont, was looking for a job and got one. But on the build up to the 2008 race you would hear again and again on the blogs that one candidate or another was “ . . . the new Howard Dean.”

Note to Democrats: George McGovern lost. Howard Dean lost. Wesley Clark lost. And if the party doesn’t find a more civil tone and a more relevant and responsible direction, it will lose everything.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Foreign Policy Questions for Sarah Palin: A Better Idea from Thomas Friedman

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/9/08

There are reports now that Sarah Palin, John McCain’s new Vice President candidate, is being prepped by Joe Lieberman and other experts on foreign policy for her upcoming debate on October 2. There is a sense here of “ . . . the little woman” here up against a real pro. Foreign policy debates are important man tasks; not something a woman mayor does like keeping a budget or management a household of seven. This is man work. Better call the big dogs off the porch.

After all, she will be facing Joe Biden, long-time member and current chair of the Foreign Relations Committee and a regular technical wizard of all the important minutia of foreign policy, although he was dead wrong on Iraq and as an influential Senator on foreign affairs, he holds heavy responsibility in leading the other Senators down the Bush/Rove yellow brick road. But he uses phrases like “. . . take him out” in reference to Saddam Hussein same as George Bush, Dick Cheney and the others who have never worn the uniform of their country nor fired a shot in anger. Biden is at least as good as Cheney, and like Cheney, he is a technician who studies the existing paradigm but can’t imagine it shifting. He can’t imagine the world of 2008 being organically different than 1957. And like Cheney, he is a five-time recidivist draft evader – something about these guys liking foreign policy and war as old men although they had asthma or something when they were called to service.

Frankly, I see Palin having the advantage here over Biden on issues of war and peace: At least she actually knows how to shoot a gun.

I have some advice for Palin: Watch out for those trick questions they’re likely to throw you. Like this one (note: A question in a compound sentence is almost always a trick question): In 1997, President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore enthusiastically endorsed putting missiles and a nuclear umbrella in Russia’s neighborhood because they thought Russia was falling apart and we could take the advantage and besides, a Czech poet who chain-smoked cigarettes and really liked Frank Zappa told them it was a good idea. But now that the missiles are going in, the Russians are all strong again and are ready to drive them out. This has created issues in the EU which was already showing problems with the pesky Irish refusing to endorse the Lisbon agreements and its currency is only five years old. The problem is that France is now pitting against Germany since Sarko, the new French guy, wants to bring in a bunch of southern states in the Mediterranean regions to the EU, some of which have Islamic tendencies, and it brings now a classic and tradition challenge to the Germans power in the EU. And now some of the Germans – a people who never seem to sit still and are always up to something – are forming a new Communist party and teaming up with the Socialists. This because the American alliance with what Donald Rumsfeld calls “New Europe” – that would be the states the smoking poet wanted us to defend – has completely alienated the other Europe – the one where they had the Enlightenment and where people go to study art – and they are all against America now.

As Wall Street Journal editor Daniel Schwammenthal writes this week: “Considering the [German] Left's success in driving Germany's economic debate from the opposition bench, it's not hard to imagine the damage the party could inflict once in national government. Its reach would go beyond just economic policy and affect foreign affairs as well.”

That's a worrying prospect, he says, because Germany is already one of the weaker links in the Western alliance.

“Former Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder successfully tapped into anti-American feelings when he disagreed with Washington's Iraq policy and tried to sabotage it. Mr. Schröder also pushed for closer ties with Russia while insisting on toothless diplomacy to stop Iran's nuclear program.”

And if the burgeoning German Communist/Socialist alliance wins in new elections in and Schwammenthal says it is now possible, that would be primarily an anti-American move. It would in effect bring an end to the NATO Alliance. It would be quite conceivable then that the new commies in Germany hook up with Russia in opposition to the American intentions in Rumsfeld’s New Europe. So the question is this: What should America do if and when Germany becomes a democratically elected communist state? Should we leave NATO? What if they hook up with Russia? Suppose then they go after Sarko and his new Muslim friends? Should we go in there and defend France again like we always do?

You got to think about these things because Joe Lieberman and all the others they will send you initially advised that the invasion of Iraq would last a week and it would be a cake walk; a “slam dunk.” So far it has been about five years. So when they tell you that an invasion of Russia or one of those other places near Prague Castle will only take a few days and no more than a month, multiply it by about 250. Like your great pal, Linda Lingle, Governor of Hawaii, said about Delaware, Biden’s state, that it would take 250 of them to fill Alaska.

Try to get the conversation back to something the Senator from Delaware feels uncertain about. Like Clinton and Gore he is enamored of the Europeans and their poets and always does what they say and is always quoting Seamus Heaney who is a European poet. Try to bring it back to Michigan, Ohio and western Pennsylvania and places we live. And if they want to get artsy and talk poets, bring in Van Halen or maybe Neil Young or Patsy Cline or Black Elk. People Biden likely never heard of. Try to bring it back to something relevant to our lives on this continent and to the promising day ahead of us in the distant future when we finally begin to stop seeing enemies in the witch mirror and stop seeing ourselves reflected on other continents where we don’t live and in the sky and on other planets and come back to earth.

Another thing: Ask them if you can talk to Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, and when they say no, demand it. You’ll want to talk to him. He’s the adult. He’s the guy they brought in to fix it when all the initial advice of Biden and Lieberman led the country and half the world to unmitigated disaster. And you might talk to your Hawaiian fried Linda Lingle about this. Hawaiians, being Pacific people like Alaskans, don’t seem so obsessed with and enamored of Europe as we are here in the East. And she seems to have much better sense than those Harvard guys.

It is important that you take command of this whole scene quickly because just as Bill and Hillary are planning strategy lest Obama stumble, so Mitt Romney is quietly stalking you. It was interesting to hear your remarks and his back to back on speech night. There is an old Indian belief that says a person will be defined by the first thing she or he looks at. In your speech you first spoke of Michigan, Ohio and western Pennsylvania, places that are us at our center. Romney first looked to China, then Russia and other places that only Joe Biden could find on the map. Maybe he’s missing something at his center and that could be a problem for all of us and all the world in 2012.

Romney is hungry to continue the war brought by Biden and Lieberman on to Russia and Georgia. Tom Friedman, a strong supporter of the initial invasion of Iraq, has a better idea. In his Sunday column in The New York Times he notes that we are spending a billion dollars to agitate contention between Russia and Georgia. He says we would be better off giving the money to Georgia Tech to invest alternatives to oil.

“We’re going to spend $1 billion to fix the Georgia between Russia and Turkey, not the one between South Carolina and Florida,” he writes. “Sorry, but the thought of us spending $1 billion to repair a country whose president, though a democrat, recklessly provoked a war with a brutish Russia, which was itching to bash its neighbor, makes no sense . . . “

Americans are struggling to meet their mortgages, he writes, and we’re sending $1 billion to a country whose president behaved irresponsibly, just to poke Vladimir Putin in the eye.

“Couldn’t we poke Putin with $100 million? And shouldn’t we be fostering a dialogue with Georgia and with Putin? Otherwise, where is this going? A new cold war? Over what?”

Friday, September 05, 2008

Wrong for 12 Hours

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill at 9/05/08

Directly after Obama’s speech at the Democratic Convention I wrote a column saying that Obama would be the “fourth man”; the significant figure in a historical sequence that opens the last post-war generation and the figure which the country consolidates around. It is that figure who makes history. It is that figure who is remembered when the culture turns. Everyone else who came before is forgotten.

12 hours later John McCain nominated Sarah Palin for Vice President. History could well show that I have never been so wrong in my prognosis. But I have been wrong about things before and held on to the wrong for years, even decades. This time I was wrong for only 12 hours.

I came to the conclusion about Obama because of a system I use; a theory of generational sequences unfolding in history in an eight-part, four-generation pattern observed by historians William Strauss and Neil Howe. The system combines business cycles and religious cycles together to create historical pictures in 80-year patterns. When I first studied the theory and corresponded with author Howe about it, I wrote to both John Kerry and John McCain and said that one or the other of them was likely to be the Gray Champion; the old soldier who restores grandfather’s old values and character and reawakens that character in the new generation. The question is, which one?

There had been two men in mid-century who had awakened new ideas and spirit in our post-war period, Jack Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. John Kerry would come forth to materialize the spirit of Kennedy or John McCain would come forth to materialize the spirit of Reagan.

But when Obama appeared on the scene last year, the Kennedy karma was apparent although the trip to Germany (“I am a Berliner,”) was a little contrived; a little over the top. Nevertheless, McCain, looking to Lieberman or Romney for VP, was holding a bluff; he had nothing in his hand: Obama would open the gate to the new generation.

Then Sarah Palin happened.

“Happened” is a good way to express it because the Strauss/Howe ideas are actually based on the archetypal theories of C.J. Jung and work much like Jung’s theory of personality types, which alternate and complement one another. The cycle is predictable; the agent of change is not. As Jung wrote, the archetypes are based “ . . . in the Universe” – the endless Fibonacci swirl of the unconscious. They seem to come, “ . . . out of nowhere.”

What I get for being self assured. Looking more closely, Kennedy actually fulfilled an older path. His vision was an extension of Roosevelt and the New Deal. A system intended for a large European immigrant labor force which worked primarily in factories. Then Kennedy applied the old system to a variable labor force in a different age.

Reagan, on the other hand, was a new beginning to a new labor force with new business patterns and new populations, particularly in the West. It was a system beginning to suit itself to a continent that had finally become filled with people doing varied tasks, not laborers clustered together and doing related tasks in vast factories in Detroit, Fall River, Massachusetts, Pittsburgh and other Eastern cities.

Reagan began to bring new solutions to a new set of economic conditions and to a people less beholden to Europe as the pre-war generation of laborers. His was a “prequel” to something which would come ahead to find its fulfillment. Kennedy was a sequel to a labor period which had more or less already completed itself with Roosevelt.

The common misperception today is that McCain, if elected, will not run again in 2012 because he will be too old. McCain is a warrior – a Jedi – and it is not in the warrior’s nature to retire, but to die at the wheel. Retirement is not native to the soul condition of the Samurai or Templar; Samurai follows the path where duty leads. There is no good English word for this but the word to the Hindu is dharma; duty to the path; to nature; as the path opens before you. No rest, no retreat, no ordinary pleasures of the everyday. It is quite possible to see now with McCain/Palin a 16-year historical ride with the two working closely together; a ride to the end of the saeculum.

Strauss and Howe point out that the historical period ends with the singular man who fulfills the period and that is the person who history remembers. In the last three periods that will have been Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt. If our historical period follows the pattern, the final figure could well be Sarah Palin.

Maybe not. I’ve been wrong about these things before, but only for 12 hours.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Peggy Noonan vs. Sarah Palin

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/4/08

Peggy Noonan has long been one of my favorite writers, able to see around the corner when systemic transformations were about to occur; able to tell of danger ahead like a canary in the coal mine. What has given Noonan’s writing grace and perspective in the past is an ability to see what the pack was missing. This time she was fully riding with the pack.

Her comments yesterday caught on tape that John McCain’s nomination of Sarah Palin for Vice President was “ . . . bullshit” and certain to damn McCain’s run were puzzling. What I found disappointing yesterday was the self assurance in her tone of voice. She was bemoaning McCain’s pick as a “ . . . narrative” choice by which I think she means a new face come in from the country with some stories that could be weaved for public consumption. She considered Palin a novelty.

Tom Shales, the TV critic for The Washington Post, was one of the few who got it right. Possibly because the kind of political turning that is happening today is much like what happens in movies, on TV and in stories. If McCain wins in November, he said, it would be because of Palin’s performance last night.

This has been a historic week. It is possible to see now two faces of the Democratic Party and two of the Republicans. Both parties are vastly improved; the Democrats by pushing Barach Obama to the center and sending the Clintons to the shadows. The Republicans did the same last night by bringing in Sarah Palin center stage and sending Romney and the others to the showers.

And Palin’s sudden success is precisely because of her “narrative.” Her story being told with images of her delightful family passing a newborn from arm to arm then over to Cindy McCain all during the night’s events presented a picture of Republicans – considered a party of clerks where I grew up – suddenly imbued with a vital new life force.

The baby and the Palins’ littlest daughter, wetting her hand to slick back the baby’s downy hair, stole the show. I’m sure Noonan is well educated. Perhaps it is time go back and reread Harriet Beecher Stowe’s historical novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Particularly the passage in this book that virtually changed the consciousness of the world which symbolized America’s journey from slavery to freedom with a narrative picture of a young woman crossing a frozen river with a newborn baby in her arms.

There was a good deal of talk of the “elites” and the “Eastern establishment” last night. Rightly so, because this election cycle more than any other outlines distinctions that have been evolving in both parties since the 1960s. Both parties have their traditional “establishments” but the Republicans are leaving theirs behind and morphing into a new political force. It is entirely relevant as it follows the contours of the American work force changing and adapting from the manufacturing base of the 1930s and before to a more mixed and varied economy featuring small businesses and entrepreneurial start ups. Romney stated it plainly: This is a race between East Coast Establishment and new Western developments unbeholding to the traditions of the Eastern elites.

And there is where Noonan missed the turn. She did so because she, a Wall Street Journal columnist with long ties to the Republican Party, has become part of that Eastern Establishment and subliminally reinforces and institutionalizes its vision.

I was surprised to see the startlingly innovative choice of Palin coming from John McCain. This is the old John McCain; the maverick, the America-before-party John McCain, who became as of last night a respected elder and Gray Champion to a brand new generation. And I was surprised to see the crowd thoroughly enchanted by Palin and family.

Palin brought a sea change to Republican politics last night and Noonan and the rest of the pack missed it.

But then there is this: Noonan probably doesn’t know anyone from the indigenous American culture. People who name their kids after Van Halen and drive snow machines; people who wear the “3” decal on their truck window to honor the memory of The Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt; people who own service stations as the family business; people who have more than one child and more than three cousins; people who eat at Waffle House and have family hunting camps and go to hockey games.

If she did she would feel fully alienated from them, for this is a different country of the mind in class and in origin of culture than hers and it is a brand new American country.

Thankfully, John McCain does know such people.

Noonan is still the touchstone for political events. Her warm encouragement of Barack Obama signified that he had found full acceptance by the Eastern Establishment.

But this race is no longer about Obama or the Clintons or George W. Bush and the entrenched traditions of both Democrats and Republicans.

It is now about Peggy Noonan vs. Sarah Palin. Which will territorialize the political process and take the day? Noonan and the aged Establishments of the East or Sarah Palin and the new generations, the new politics and culture and the new people of the West?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Like a Hurricane – Sarah Palin at the Republican Convention

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 9/3/08

I would like to outline a brief history of the so-called culture wars and what potential future they hold because I am getting the feeling that they could actualize out of abstraction very quickly around one extraordinary woman: John McCain’s selection for Vice President, Sarah Palin. She will not let go and the Republicans will not let her go. As David Brooks said last night, he has not met one delegate who opposes her. In fact, they’re crazy about her. All of the blue collar people I have talked to up here in northern New Hampshire, and this is a blue collar, bears-in-the-yard, libertarian Republican state, are likewise utterly crazy about her. They will not let go of her either, from what I can see, under any circumstances.

Power Points RE culture war:

1 - The culture wars or the division between red and blue states is a continuation of the Civil War. To paraphrase Carl Von Clausewitz, culture war is hot war by other means; by political and cultural means. Historian Dan Carter, in his biography of George Wallace, The Politics of Rage, makes the point that the Christian Coalition and the Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson movement arose in direct opposition to the perceived decadence of the Sixties – the hippies, racial integration, sexual freedom, etc. Wallace correctly guessed that the regional values of the rural South would serve as a national theme in opposition. It did when amplified by Falwall and Robertson.

2 – Northern people are educated to believe that the Civil War was about slavery, which it was, but the inherent philosophical and underlying difference between North and South was a division between the view of the world of the New Yorker, Alexander Hamilton, and the view of the Virginian, Thomas Jefferson. Historian Frank Owsley identifies this here: “In the beginning of Washington’s administration two men defined the fundamental principles of the political philosophy of the two societies, Hamilton for the North and Jefferson for the South. The one was extreme centralization, the other was extreme decentralization; the one was nationalistic and the other provincial; the first was called Federalism, the other Sates Rights, but in truth the first should have been called Unitarianism and the second Federalism.”

3 – This Christian Coalition’s perspective was empowered when big economy came to the South and the Southwest in the post-war period. Once the South came to power it could bring forth its own traditional values, called Jeffersonian values, and leave behind passive submission to the way of Hamilton and the North. In the later ‘80s and ’90, my old rural neighborhood in Tobaccoville, NC, which had voted Baptist and Democrat since the mid-1800s changed: More than 80% of my precinct suddenly registered Republican. Very many changed church as well to Assembly of God. It was a full-scale cultural transformation. What we are seeing today is western states adopting the traditional Jeffersonian values of the South, particularly Arizona and now Alaska. The North/South division is opening now to an East/West division.

4 – By choosing Sarah Palin for his Vice President, McCain has chosen an independent person from the most independent region of America who embodies the Jeffersonian ideal. As The Hill’s A.B. Stoddard says here this week, “she walks the walk . . . .” Managing her daughter’s pregnancy through family tradition (Jefferson) rather than ideological, institutional or technical strategies (Hamilton and the Northeast) brings folkloric cachet to Palin at a critical moment and brings broad sympathy to her through the Republican ranks. The Republican ranks have been awakened by her, particularly the common class. There is a distinct class difference now between political parties: Palin represents a common class; blue collar America, whereas Obama/Hillary appeal to an “elite” – but a Northeastern elite made up primarily of middle class people only one or two generations out of the working class.

5 – Goldwater, Reagan, McCain and Palin represent a complete breach with the Hamiltonian tradition in our time. When the northern urban Irish and the other common ethnic people of the Democratic Party came to power with Jack Kennedy, they hoped to join the same tradition of those of the elite schools and the traditional agents of the so-called Protestant Ethic (“This is a Protestant country,” FDR said to Joe Kennedy, “And you Jews and Catholics better get used to it.”). The urban ethnics of that age adopted the Hamiltonian direction with a difference of style and modified by European (Marxist) ideas. Carroll Quigley, an influential post-war historian, writes about this “Establishment” – ethnics now come to power wanting a place at the same table as the old Northeastern elites. But a greater division occurred in our period when Barry Goldwater ran for President against Lyndon Johnson. Goldwater didn’t want a place at the table. Goldwater rejected the table and the entire Eastern Establishment (Hamilton or the Hamilton/Marx hybrid) for a restored Jeffersonian position. The Republican from Arizona challenged the Eastern Establishment, both Democrat and Republican. Reagan did so likewise with far greater impact although with his vast federal spending turned out to be a federalist. Nevertheless, he was Jeffersonian in principle.

6 – McCain and Palin are both Jeffersonian in spirit; Palin is the perfect contemporary model of the Jeffersonian vision. Through McCain and Palin, the abstractions of the red state/blue state contention could materialize into a real-life social division in our time, possibly with territorial implications.

7 - Historians like William Strauss and Neil Howe who study generational patterns in politics point out that around the 60th year, the end of the third post-war generation, a breach occurs which will bring about the major change in the country’s destiny. We are at the 60th year more or less right now. I’ve felt that could well be an internal rather than an external division as party divisions today suggest the 1830s to 1850s when party lines broke and realigned. Ron Paul, Jeffersonian Trickster incarnate, could be a harbinger.

Sarah Palin’s speech tonight and how the Republican base responds to it should be telling and important in determining how this will proceed.

The Biden vs. Palin debate will be the key event of the fall season. In this Goldwater-Reagan tradition it will pit the old Eastern Establishment against the new Jeffersonian West. It will be a key moment. Joe Biden is the perfect exemplar of the liberal mask of the Eastern Establishment which Quigley (no relation) outlines ( – y’all watch The X Files ? The Elders – the secret coterie which “runs the world” from a paneled room in New York). Palin is the perfect avatar for the new American West.

Monday, September 01, 2008

How the Palins’ Pregnancy Issue Could Hurt Obama

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/2/08

The pregnancy of Sarah Palin’s daughter will in time be a plus to her campaign. People get pregnant. Welcome to the world. She and her husband Todd do what any family which has its dinner together would do; counsel, love and encourage. This is a family which takes life as it comes and deals with it. Obama and Michelle understand because like Todd and Sarah they are family first as well (and ideology second or in family matters, not at all).

In fact, this could hurt Obama and he knows it. Recently, on a PBS series called The Sixties, Todd Gitlin, a professor at Columbia, recalled the state of the nation in the mid-1970s when bitterness and anger replaced objectivity and purpose in the anti-war movement. He made the lucid point that a few individuals who went to extreme positions created a slingshot effect and consolidated the vast middle of America in opposition, engendering a conservative backlash.

This might be called the “Merle Haggard Effect”; regular folk for or against the war watching a pandemic of pointless violence against Pope John Paul, John Lennon and Presidents Ford and Reagan find a healthy response in wanting to return to the simple faith and solid heartland values of Muskogee. A return to folk like the Palins.

We have begun to see some of the same bitterness and anger reflected today in the blogs. It is entirely heartless and unconscionable when directed at a 17-year-old child who is rushed suddenly into adulthood. Anyone who has watched the Obama family can plainly see that they are not like that and they would have responded to the child’s plight with love and compassion just as the Palins have. Nevertheless, Obama could be touched by this unfortunate and immature behavior coming from his supporters. If he is marred by it - as George McGovern’s candidacy was marred by extremists – he could suffer the same fate as McGovern.

Regarding the pregnancy of Palin’s daughter Obama had it exactly right. “This shouldn't be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin's performance as governor or her potential performance as a vice president,” he said.

Nevertheless, the liberal blogs today; their anguish and venom amplified by the press, could be Obama's biggest handicap.