Kristol on Obama

Kristol_311 "But that clearly isn’t what she was talking about. For as she had argued in the Wisconsin speech, America’s illness goes far beyond a flawed political process: “Barack knows that at some level there’s a hole in our souls.” This was a variation of language she had used earlier on the campaign trail: “Barack Obama is the only person in this race who understands that, that before we can work on the problems, we have to fix our souls. Our souls are broken in this nation.”

But they can be repaired. Indeed, she had said a couple of weeks before, in Los Angeles: “Barack Obama … is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.”

So we don’t have to work to improve our souls. Our broken souls can be fixed — by our voting for Barack Obama. We don’t have to fight or sacrifice to help our country. Our uninvolved and uninformed lives can be changed — by our choosing Barack Obama. America can become a nation to be proud of — by letting ourselves be led by Barack Obama."  William Kristol in the NY Times


Here you see the essence of this Fall’s Republican campaign against Obama (if he is nominated).  The argument will be made that Obama is a threat to traditional American political life.

This will be easy to do given the present rhetoric from the Obamians.  Mrs. Obama describes her husband as a "cure" rather than a candidate.  In her view, he is going to change us, permanently.  I did not know that this was a function of political leadership in this country.  Actually, I have labored under the burden of the notion that the presidency of the United States was a rather limited job, carefully limited in fact to that which the constitution allows.  Perhaps that is no longer true.  Perhaps the president is now "king for a while."  Presidents are praised or blamed for everything that happens "on their watch."  That tendency in the media and public seems indicative of an inability to deal with the notion of limited government.  That is too bad.  It may indicate that the days of real republicanism in this country are passing.

I, for one, do not wish to be "changed" by any politician.  I do not want to have the "hole in my soul" repaired.  I do not wish to be forbidden  to go on with my own petty little life in my own petty little way.

It is odd that Bill Kristol, Brooks and I are on the same side in this.  Odd, but refreshing.  I wonder how many of their opponents on the left would feel so strongly for Obama if he were on the right with these two men?

Incidentally. I don’t intimidate easily, so those people who write nasty notes about this (as opposed to reasoned objection) should simply "vote with their feet."  pl

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71 Responses to Kristol on Obama

  1. Ronald says:

    Again, the rhetoric from both sides is preposterous. Doesn’t the right also engage in this nonsense? The difference is that the right’s appeal to voters has been more explicitly moralistic and religious, with appeals to ‘Christian’ notions of marriage, adoption, etc. and the moral certainty which goes along with it.
    At least Obama stands up there and says I understand what the Constitution says, unlike this President. At the risk of over-parsing the Obama rhetoric, I think that ‘the hole in our souls’ (ugh) is profound cynicism about politics. Of course, “politics” in its pure sense should be considered a high calling, rather than a synonym for cynical machinations. I do not take this soaring stuff from any candidate too seriously, but to the extent to which I take this stuff seriously, I see his goal as restoring some optimism and engagement in politics.
    If you are casting this “changing the soul” stuff as some sort of self-help program or a religious calling, then I would say you are mis-reading it.

  2. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I think it is a great mistake to ignore politicians’ rhetoric,
    The rhetoric of the right is irrlevant. They are going to lose the election.
    “Words matter.” Who said that recently? pl

  3. JohnH says:

    Like you, I did not want to be ‘changed’ by any politician. But Bush changed America. It is no longer the same place as when he took office.
    Bush knew that he had the cure for what ailed America and acted on his ideology–occupation of Iraq, massive tax cuts for the top 0.5%, warrantless wiretapping, war profiteering. The essence of his mantra was fear for the many and greed for the few. Bush’s cure was worse than whatever disease Bush imagined there was.
    Now many Americans are reeling from the Bush years, which is why Obama resonates among so many.
    Maybe Obama has a cure for the Bush years. Maybe not. But at least we could use a substantial correction for the disastrous ride Bush took us on.
    We have to stop digging deeper into the same hole we’re in. And Obama looks like the man most likely to stop the digging.

  4. Ben says:

    I grew up in East Asia. Obama reminds me politicians from my home country who appeals emotions only. I have a deep suspicion of anyone who wants to use government to shap citizen lives. Would it possible? Sure, JFK did, but there are ten times more failures. Look at my home state governor Deveal Patrick, who talked almost as good as Mr. Obama, yet once in the office advocated casinos. Media gives a lot of leeways to these great orators, but it is the citizens who suffer the consequence. If Mr. Obama really wants to change, he should advocate limit federal government power. We foreigners who came to this country actually have this romantic view of America as a land of truly free. What we did not realize it was 50 or 60 years ago. Now it is government out of the control, beauracracy,entitlement programs,military spending,etc.

  5. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Maybe he will dig a different hole. pl

  6. frank durkee says:

    Politically we live in a religiously charged rhetorical atmosphere of the right and now the left. If the “common good” is to have any meaning then we all must move a bit beyond our individual and/or collective self interest.

  7. Actually, I have labored under the burden of the notion that the presidency of the United States was a rather limited job, carefully limited in fact to that which the constitution allows. Perhaps that is no longer true. Perhaps the president is now “king for a while.”
    To reflect reality, you can remove both the “perhaps”. I think your views have not been the majority in this country for a long, long time. And arguments over the power of the presidency have been going strong since our founding. If my memory serves me right, Hamilton was a proponent of a strong Executive and Jefferson was not. We all know who you admire most.
    Hamilton won a long time ago by default in my view, thanks to human nature’s desire to be ruled by an individual supported by an elite class. If it isn’t Jesus, or a sports “role model,” or a pop superstar, or the CEO of some multi-national corporate behemoth, it’s the President.
    I spent the better part of my Saturday morning coffee-drinking time trying to understand the role of leadership in our form of government, and putting it on paper in a cohesive essay. I failed. It became a jumble of contradictory points between theory and fact. Theoretically, and based solely on the Constitution, the best President would be a technocrat who rises through the civil service with excellent corporate leadership skills. He would only apply those leadership skills in the executive branch agencies to execute the laws of the United States as efficiently as possible within the boundaries of the Constitution and Congress’ intent. Have we ever had that kind of president?
    That’s theory. Reality is that we Americans need leaders just like any other peoples. So who should our leaders be? Our Congress-critters should be taking leadership roles for their constituents. But Congressional Dems aren’t providing that leadership. So Dems are looking for leadership anywhere they can get it.
    But why aren’t Congressional Dems providing leadership? Because Democratic voters have not been demanding it hard enough to break through the establishment barriers. So the Democratic voters need to show more leadership in banding together and electing better representatives!
    And round and round and round I go.

  8. charlottemom says:

    Col Lang,
    You are absolutely right to call me (or others) out when I (we) step over the line when discussing presidential politics. I’m happy that you post on these subjects and invite thoughtful discourse. I’m wondering if not Obama, then who would be the better presidential choice? You are quite skeptical of him. I think skepticism of politicians in general is warranted.
    I don’t want to misread you, so I ask: Are you advising temperance in general on the Obamamania thing or do you suspect something more concerning in his “change” theme?
    Interesting reading of Kristol parsing Mrs. Obama’s words into a Republican general election campaign theme. Maybe it’ll work.
    I see more and more Americans are defaulting on their overextended personal financial obligations. Corporations asking for bailouts and workers laid off, banks writing off debt. In this changing cultural scenario, will the average American “keep the faith” and fight and sacrifice for our overextended political institutions? Personally, I don’t think Americans be content to fix things on the margins. The change meme gives Americans an out –political permission to tack a different direction.

  9. zot23 says:

    I don’t believe Obama is really much the “cure” for anything, but that the ailment exists I must insist. No offense, but you are on the comfortable retirement side of life, having been given your chances and made your rewards from your labor. The problem these days is that for kids coming out of grotesquely expensive higher education program (with high amounts of debt), the ability to get a good job and have upward mobility is greatly diminished. Anyone can work at Starbucks, but can you pay off a Ph.D by pushing coffee for $8 a hour? Forget about even dreaming of a house, condo, family, etc. How can they not battle pessimism, apathy, and moral decay? Young people are running like psychotic rats on a wheel just to stay solvent, if they don’t drop completely out of the game in frustration.
    The American Dream has slammed shut for anyone who wasn’t already in the door, and really that is turning this country into an American Nightmare. The center of this cannot hold, without hope and a path to fulfill it, is there an America anymore?
    “Those who would make peaceful evolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.”
    It’s much worse than you think friend. Obama might not be able to put this train back on the tracks (or want to), but at least he isn’t acting like everything is still hunky-doory in the USA. That seems to be the best we’ll get this election cycle.

  10. Don Bacon says:

    This is the faulty argument that our difficulties are due to our own shortcomings, not those of the politicians who fail to represent us. If only we could shed our cynicism then our estimation of the Congress and the President could rise above twenty percent, and our problems would be over! Peace, medical care, a chicken in every pot — there would be no limit to the benefits if we were simply to cast our criticality aside and become obedient followers of a chosen few. We should push ourselves to believe and accept our fates at the hands of these Orwellian criminals, she says.
    “No man is wise enough to be another man’s master. Each man’s as good as the next — if not a damn sight better.” — Edward Abbey

  11. Mad Dogs says:

    It seems the 2008 presidential campaign will be between that of:
    “The Mystic vs The Madman.”
    And like you Pat, I agree the Republicans will lose.
    That said, my first preference as a Democrat, was the clear leader John Edwards.
    After his exit, I’ve had to examine the other 2 top Democratic candidates.
    Hillary Clinton came next in my analysis.
    I can’t say that I like Hillary all that much, but I do have a certain amount of respect and regard for her intellect and abilities.
    Barak Obama came last in my estimation.
    This is based upon the typical things we’ve all heard/said before:
    1. Inexperience – particularly in Foreign Affairs, but also things Domestic.
    2. Heavy on rhetoric, but light on substance – Yes, Barak can talk the talk, but the real issue is whether he can walk the walk. I see little in his record to suggest he has the skills to move the levers of power. And of course, talk is indeed cheap.
    As I said back in November when he eked out that tiny win in Iowa:

    I ask myself, what in the world are these folks smoking? And the answer seems to me, is “Hope-a-dope”.

    Passion is fine, but it is not a substitute for the ability to actually do things.
    You can be passionate about art, but if you can’t draw, an artist you’ll never be.
    When the passion is gone, will there be anything left?

  12. JohnH says:

    The genius of the Constitution is that a President can’t dig us into a hole by himself. Bush’s fiasco was fully aided and abetted by politicians on both sides of the aisle.
    Much as Obama might want to chart a new course, he will be limited by Congress–unless he can convince America to really throw the bums out. In fact, it’s not really very likely that Congress will let the country stop digging us deeper into the hole we’re already in, even with Obama in office.
    If Obama were to follow Bush’s example of a unitary presidency, there would be serious push back, maybe ending the Imperial Presidency forever.
    I don’t see any major down sides here.

  13. ckrantz says:

    It’s strange how Americans with a deep mistrust of Washington and it’s politicians seems to trust Barack Obama without a question.
    But maybe I’m to cynical to believe in anyone. And the party system is very different in Europe. The US Presidency and Washington politics I’v always understood in the light of separation of powers. In other words even presidents with a popular mandate is controlled by the competing interests of others. GWB being the exception for much of his reign. There seem to be a reality disconnect somewhere. Of course I’m watching the election from across the Atlantic. Maybe I’m missing something.

  14. lina says:

    I wouldn’t take Mrs. Obama’s rhetoric too literally. She is 43 years old and grew up in the age of emotional expression, e.g., Oprah, Dr. Phil, Melodie Beattie, etc.
    I understand that all this touchy-feely stuff leaves a sour taste to those born before 1960. My advice: get over it. There’s a whole new post-Vietnam world emerging, and the language is different.
    Of course, if Obama is the nominee, the Republicans will throw everything including the kitchen sink at him full force. We should expect that. In fact, we should probably prepare ourselves for the Swift Boat Mullahs for Truth claiming to have worshipped at the same Mosque as Sen. Obama. Blah, blah, blah……..
    But I honestly don’t understand why a smart guy like you, Col. Lang, should dismiss Obama just because he inspires people with his rhetoric. What have you got against hope?
    If you want the substance of Obama’s policy positions, go to his web site and read them. Those of us who have been around the block a few times are skeptical that he can change politics or business-as-usual in Washington. But geez louise, if the man is making people feel good about America again, why do you want to rain on our parade? There’s enough cynicism in this world to last until doom’s day.

  15. Tim Ryder says:

    If Senator McCain is elected he will advance the conservative neocon agenda directly. If Senator Obama is elected he will advance the same agenda using his rational of getting along with one another. If Senator Clinton is elected she might actually stop the train.

  16. jonst says:

    I DREAM that they come at him this way in the Fall. They will fall flat on their faces. I am under no illusion about the intractability of changing the American govt right now. However that is not the central problem right now….i.e. what comes AFTER Obama is elected. The central problem, the main threat, right now is stopping the GOP from winning the next election. Very little else matters. If creating a ’cause’ will accomplish that….I’m all for it. Whether I buy into that cause, all the way, part of the way, or none of the way. I just want to stop the GOP….then we can worry about the rest. And there is, and will be, plenty to worry about.

  17. jonst says:

    I DREAM that they come at him this way in the Fall. They will fall flat on their faces. I am under no illusion about the intractability of changing the American govt right now. However that is not the central problem right now….i.e. what comes AFTER Obama is elected. The central problem, the main threat, right now is stopping the GOP from winning the next election. Very little else matters. If creating a ’cause’ will accomplish that….I’m all for it. Whether I buy into that cause, all the way, part of the way, or none of the way. I just want to stop the GOP….then we can worry about the rest. And there is, and will be, plenty to worry about.

  18. Ronald says:

    If there were a smart, sensible candidate who actually spoke English (rather than politician-ese) I would vote for him/her. As it is, that candidate does not exist.
    In other words, I see us choosing among candidates guilty of distinct, but equally overreaching, rhetoric. I would not ignore anyone’s rhetoric – it matters. I would only place it in context. It is a kind of pick your poison choice. For my part, if Obama “cures” us of our political cynicism, great. Good luck, I say. That is how I interpret his rhetoric.
    Is the problem with Obama’s rhetoric that it is working? That people buy it? You have written off the GOP . . . is Hillary’s rhetoric better? She sure talks a lot about “change” herself now. What are the substantive differences that make HRC a better potential president?

  19. Mike says:

    I would agree that some of the rhetoric lends itself to criticism. Obama can still give inspiring speeches, but they need to tighten up their message a bit.
    As long as we are going to get real here, however, Hillary has a less than 10% chance of winning this race now. Obama is ahead by more than 150 pledged delegates and she will likely net very few delegates out of Texas. Any slim chance for Hillary to win involves a party-splitting fight two months before the general election. If you want to give the Democratic party its best chance to win in November, it is really too late to be supporting Hillary.

  20. Matthew says:

    I think this line is priceless: “I, for one, do not wish to be “changed” by any politician. I do not want to have the “hole in my soul” repaired. I do not wish to be forbidden to go on with my own petty little life in my own petty little way.”
    I like Obama, but I agree that a great American strength is a healthy cynacism about polticians. I am voting for him because he opposed the Iraq War Crime. That is reason enough.

  21. pbrownlee says:

    Maybe “Foxhole Bill” Kristol and “Dugout Dave” Brooks will enjoy the change of scenery.
    Have we heard from “Jingo Judy” Miller yet?
    Such people are without a shred of shame or decency.
    (Pure ad hominem stuff but what the hell? And what the hell is going on at the bloody NY Times? Haven’t they learned anything?)

  22. robj says:

    Col. Lang, I share your view of presidents. It’s an executive job, not a visionary one. I don’t mind Obama’s rhetoric (I mostly tune it out), I only worry that he doesn’t fully grasp how much more is required of a president than the “vision thing.” Articulating the hopes and dreams (etc., yadda yadda) was Reagan’s strength — it’s the basis of his sainthood among the right. “Fixing the hole in the nation’s soul” sounds to me like just another version of “morning in America,” just aimed at a different part of the electorate. When I saw how conservatives were trying to turn W into another Reagan-like icon (fat chance of that) I thought that hero worshiping had become the basis of right-wing political culture. Ironic, that the left is just as prone to it as well.

  23. Nancy K says:

    I’m voting for Obama, but not because I feel my soul is broken, however I think politics as usual in the US is broken. I’m sick to death of special interest groups leading our representatives and thusly us around by our noses. Maybe Obama can’t fix it. Maybe our Constitution is obsolete as some seem to implay. However I think Obama is the only choice we have albeit not a perfect one.

  24. fnord says:

    Sir: I find your negativism towards mr. Obama somewhat pussling. True, he is running on a populist platform, digging into the deep feeling running that something has gone horribly wrong somewhere. But, he has a point, hasnt he? I, too, would like to see him disuss substance a lot more and dampen down the rhetorical flourish, but at the same time, what does mrs. Clinton have to offer? A continuation of the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton cycle stands to many as just a different face on the same machine, push-pull-push-pull. I think mr. Obama is tapping into that deep unrest in the US. that is starting to seep through. The deep unrest that Abu Ghraib, waterboarding and Gitmo has brought about: That you might not always be the guys in White Hats anymore. That something is rotten at the core of the naive american dream seen on television every day.
    Now, he might be digging a different hole. But when youre up to your neck in sh&t in your current hole, any other hole looks dry & cozy.

  25. psd says:

    PL: “Maybe he will dig a different hole.”
    well, possibly, he will. But at least it will be a new hole, perhaps with a better view and perhaps with a way out on the other side.
    remember, things always get worse before they get better. (even tho’ I keep thinking the country can’t possibly get any worse, thanks to our current set of peabrains, I also know that anything’s possible)
    I can tell that Obama really hits your buttons, Pat. Well, at least his rhetoric does. I’m not a fan of the rhetoric either, BUT I think it wouldn’t be healthy for the country to have a continuation of Bush/Clinton/Bush. New blood and all that. My horse is out of this race, so I’m betting on Obama. We could use a Pres that would lead and inspire a new generation. After all, it’s their turn to screw things up……
    As for your comment: “It is odd that Bill Kristol, Brooks and I are on the same side in this. Odd, but refreshing.” I’m sure it pains many of your readers that you would put yourself in these yahoos’ company, but every man chooses his own poison–uh, I mean position–and I for one am willing to put up with a whole posting about Bill Kristol (cough, cough) to read all the other interesting, educational, and entertaining stuff you and your posters write.

  26. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    I can’t resist.
    You have consistently revealed that you espouse an approach to the kind of basic human morality that is found in much of the world’s religions. For example, how many homilies have you listened to that encouraged you to remember the import of the Sermon on the Mount, the parable of the Good Samaritan, of being your brother’s keeper, of treating your neighbor as yourself, and the value of using these as guideposts in establishing good relationships with your fellow man?
    Yet, how many times have you also been bombarded with the implicit theological argument that tells you to ignore all that ‘fellow man’ stuff because all that really matters is your personal salvation?
    In my view Obama is doing nothing more than reminding us that we have lost sight of our tradition of treating each other with dignity and respect. I don’t view this as a “. . . threat to traditional American political life” but as a return to it.
    Permanent and unwanted change to our political life is much more likely to occur if we continue to give up basic liberties to leaders whose language (words do matter) promises protection from threats both real and imagined.
    My argument to you is that of late the NIMBY folks have been winning. The Grover Norquists and Karl Roves of the world have been eating our lunch.
    By appealing to narrow self interests and fear they have encouraged folks to ignore the needs of their fellow human beings; read country.
    And, they have rationalized doing so by perverting a conservative theological tradition that tells us that regardless of our sins, whether against God or man, we’re going to get to heaven as long as we’re born again.
    As a result, we are in serious danger of losing a country that I hope still believes in the unalienable Rights enumerated by the Declaration of Independence or the Blessings of Liberty as defined in the Preamble to the Constitution.
    This is the real threat to “traditional American political life.” This is the approach to politics that will change us permanently if not stopped. I don’t find William Kristol’s critique of Obama substantive. It reminds me of that elegant phrase from an equally compromised conservative politician who accused the opposition of being nothing more than the “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

  27. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “a whole new post-Vietnam world” Rubbish. People have not changed at all.
    Many of you are rationalizing your own acceptance of a king by whatever name you call him/her.
    I used to laugh at Europeans for their supine servility to government.
    Now we have met the enemy and he is us.
    Our present Constitution is outmoded? The president is hedged in by division of powers? If so, then why have you been so worried by Bush? pl

  28. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    re: All
    I doubt that any of us is choosing to ignore the obvious; no choice is perfect. Too true.
    Yet focusing solely on imperfections as if a candidate had no other redeeming values is equally invalid.
    The tension in this country is palpable and will get worse before it gets better. Not a good environment for well-reasoned decisions. The last minute decision making of the recent voters is mute testimony to that.
    Yes, we will reap what we sow and may inherit the whirlwind and Pogo is right, and people have not changed, and will forever rationalize their actions, but, where would you have us go?

  29. RSK says:

    Col. Lang,
    As always, your insightful analysis and principled skepticism are refreshing. Two counterpoints: 1) as others have noted, Obama’s history as a professor of constitutional law (at Chicago) could mean that he understands and respects generally “conservative” positions; it could also mean that he understands the limits of presidential power much better than the current incumbent, or than some interpretations of his rhetoric would suggest; 2) for better or worse, any political system requires not just the rational but also the emotional consent of the governed; rhetoric can help achieve this consent.

  30. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “Where would you have us go?” Where indeed? pl

  31. Bobo says:

    Soul, thats personal, I let mine fly after Confiteor Deo omnipotenti started being uttered as I confess… my pew.
    People run for office, spouses trudge along trying to help but their words usually are taken with more meaning than meant. Thus Mrs. Obama should be given a break and misspoken words left at that.
    Never gave the keys, to the family car, to the kids when they were first learning without my presence. Thus my concern with giving the keys to the White House for a 1st term Senator.
    Still trying to put that soul back where it belongs..Carpe Diem

  32. Again and being repetitive it looks like VP selection by the major party candidates could be outcome determinative. Close analysis of the electoral college indicates another very very very close election. It might be that Congressional seats-Senate and House- are drastically realigned but probably doubtful there also. A long term realignment creeps in on “Little Cat Feet” as Carl Sandburg would say.

  33. Cieran says:

    My favorite candidates didn’t run (Webb) or left earlier (Edwards), so I’m no great fan of any of those remaining, but…
    I have come to welcome an Obama-McCain presidential race, for the simple reason that it gives Americans a clear opportunity to choose a future, and most importantly, to live in that future, whether they like it or not (accountability often hurts). This country is in serious trouble, and we need a national referendum to decide our path through the next decades, and this election offers a pretty-good opportunity for specifying those choices.
    McCain offers us “more of the same”. He embraces Bush’s war of choice, and will continue Bush’s policies on virtually every front. If elected, his four years in office (certainly no more) will be defined by a terrible recession (or depression), and he will preside over the end of the GOP as we know it today. He will serve as the 21st century equivalent of Herbert Hoover, and will continue, and perhaps even accelerate, the spectacular fall from grace of the GOP from their 2004 visions of a (now-laughable) “permanent Republican majority” to their lamentable state of today.
    Obama represents what America’s future is going to be about, i.e., a multicultural melting pot of diverse ideas, including strong elements of the black culture that so helped build this country in the first place (as well as influences of wealthy elites operating in the background). Obama’s presidency would also be hampered by serious economic duress as the end results of Bush’s disastrous economic and military policies arrive in force, but at least Obama can credibly place the blame for these messes where they belong: on the GOP’s obsession with a declining marginal tax rate and its dubious desire for empire. That’s where Obama’s rhetorical abilities will come in most handy. Placing blame squarely where it is due will require “great communicator” skills, and Obama is the current candidate who has the ability to tell the truth without triangulation.
    Thus Americans will be confronted with a presidential choice between the current scheme of delusional imperial rule that charges all costs to future generations, and that of letting some non-WASP and non-neocon citizens have their day in the sun to learn if they can do better. I believe it’s too early to call the election yet, but at least we’re being presented with a clear choice between two competing visions of the future of America.
    And that has all-too-often not been the case in presidential elections, which is why I welcome this matchup, even though my favorites aren’t in the game.

  34. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    <"Hole in soul"????>
    1.So just what does one conclude from this? Kevin Phillips’ book “American Theocracy” gets into the Dominionism of the Christian Right and the theopolitical world of our present Decider. Scary stuff, IMO.
    So now we are going to get more of the same from the Left??? Liberation Theology rather than Dominionism?
    We already have a “Born Again” Fundamentalist in the White House deciding things. To be replaced by another Holy Roller?
    2. Seeking data I visited the website of Obama’s current church, Trinity United Church.
    The About Us sections says:
    “We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian… Our roots in the Black religious experience and tradition are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain “true to our native land,” the mother continent, the cradle of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism. It is God who gives us the strength and courage to continuously address injustice as a people, and as a congregation. We constantly affirm our trust in God through cultural expression of a Black worship service and ministries which address the Black Community.
    The Pastor as well as the membership of Trinity United Church of Christ is committed to a 10-point Vision:
    A congregation committed to ADORATION.
    A congregation preaching SALVATION.
    A congregation actively seeking RECONCILIATION.
    A congregation with a non-negotiable COMMITMENT TO AFRICA.
    A congregation committed to BIBLICAL EDUCATION.
    A congregation committed to CULTURAL EDUCATION.
    A congregation committed to LIBERATION.
    A congregation committed to RESTORATION.
    A congregation working towards ECONOMIC PARITY”
    Under Mission:
    “Trinity United Church of Christ has been called by God to be a congregation that is not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ and that does not apologize for its African roots! As a congregation of baptized believers, we are called to be agents of liberation not only for the oppressed, but for all of God’s family.”
    3. Seeking more data, I googled “Liberation Theology” and Wiki lays it out thusly (fairly accurate I think).
    4. Noting the name Jeremiah Wright on the Wiki/Liberation Theology entry, I hyperlinked to his bio. As he is Obama’s pastor (just retired) at the above church, his entry is logical for due consideration:
    Perhaps an SST reader could cast light on just what Africentric Liberation Theology is and what the domestic and foreign policy implications would be for a Decider deciding on such a theopolitical basis? Just what might he do to “liberate” us from whatever (???). Currently, our Decider is liberating us from “Islamofascism”, oh joy, so what is next?

  35. Ed says:

    I think Kristol’s argument is more than a little disingenuous. I don’t find Obama’s message one that offers to baby this nation. This change he is less than clear on would require effort from the nation he would like to lead and for Kristol to imply he wants to be our daddy is…well, it’s Kristol and he drives me nuts.

  36. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    re: Where to go
    How about we stop keeping score.
    After all, it’s only a baseball game.

  37. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You misunderstand I was serious in trying to think for whom you might vote. pl

  38. spaniel says:

    There seems to be a strain of Puritanism in Obama’s speeches. Though he doesn’t speak in religious terms, the discussion nonetheless is similar to divine grace to a sinful nature with a ‘hole in the heart’. Somehow Obama can change the hearts of the people on earth to become ‘good’ — sounds very similar to something that happened 2000 years ago.
    This dialog may go a long way for Obama in a country that can be moved with Puritan ideals every now and then. May be he will prove me wrong, but I see these type of idealistic speeches as a continuation of the policies set forth by the younger Bush and his advisors. Granted he said things would change, I just don’t see it happening.
    Just my observation.

  39. swerv21 says:

    if he is the nominee, then he may have almost as much work to do to unify his party as mccain. i think this could be potentially treacherous ground for him, if not for winning the presidency, then for costing dems the majority in one or both houses.
    recently i heard that rush limbaugh was saying that since, to him, the isn’t any difference between any of the candidates, dittoheads should work to get conservatives in congress- i think that this is the real threat that the right will be able to mount this fall. if i were the democratic candidate, i guess i might beware and mend fences wherever possible in order to prevent this from bearing fruit

  40. son of liberty says:

    I recommend everyone read the new Spengler column over at Asia times. If you really believe Obama will somehow “change” America into some happy la la land where everyone gets along, I suppose all the generalizations us Europeans grow up with regarding America and its politics were true after all. I fully stand behind Ben’s comment. Us immigrants who abandoned our stagnant cultures know more about what makes America great than these stale nanny-state children. Add a layer of political correctness on top of the stew of racial problems and immigration and any semblance modern America still had to its old roots of individual liberty are a sick joke.
    A republic, if you can keep it. Alas, Al Qaeda did its job better than they could have ever hoped for. First a religious warlord, then a resentful calculating communist pseudo-preacher that will cause a race war.
    Which country to move to? The future looks bleak.

  41. Jose says:

    Mr. Kristol knows the “Neo-cons” are history but so is “triangulation”.
    Why anybody thinks that HRC is a better option based on experience should just look at how HRC has run her campaign.

  42. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    I’m stuck with my choice.
    I got imprinted on JFK, which was reinforced later by the death of his brother.
    I was working at the Counseling Center at UCLA that November Friday.
    We had been helping in the selection of Peace Corps Volunteers, working to develop a gifted student program, teaching new students the study habits they needed to succeed, trying to outwit Sputnik and most of the time feeling good about who we were and what we were doing. ‘Ask Not’ had been a powerful stimulant.
    We all left for home. I remember spending the weekend crying and watching the funeral. My amygdala got a big dose of emotional memory.
    Then there was RFK in June of 68. The assassination of a second Kennedy brought to you live on KNXT from the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California.
    Obama brings me back to all that. I think I understand what the young people are responding to. I did it myself. Imagine that in 1969 we landed on the moon.
    I’ve looked all over for holes in Obama’s armor but don’t find much except he’s only 46. Young by some standards; old I would guess by others.
    Then I’m confronted by the treasure trove of trivia the oppo folks dig up and feed gleefully into the MSM; plagiarist, a pied piper, an Elmer Gantry, yes, even a Father Coughlin.
    Sinclair Lewis took up the fragility of democracy and its potential for fascism in his 1935 novel “It Can’t Happen Here.” Some say Lewis was prescient, others say, no, it hasn’t happened yet. In any event it’s worth a quick scan.
    I don’t think Obama is a broken reed. Nor is he the Messiah. To confound the metaphor even more, I know I won’t get to the Promised Land but I hope by grandchildren will.

  43. Adam Stilson says:

    I agree with Col. Lang’s concern about the president’s expanding powers and Obama’s conceit in stretching those powers to the ‘metaphysical’ realm. When I see him and people’s reaction to him, I can’t help thinking of Voltaire’s quote:
    “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”

  44. dca says:

    I believe that we have just had a chance to compare the candidate’s abilities to react to the kind of unexpected news that Presidents deal with: Castro’s “resignation” (or whatever it is). Obama was, I think, the only one to suggest that this would be a time to re-examine our Cuba policy–which seems to me to be a better choice than simply continuing what we have, since this hasn’t been a great success.
    I very much wish your understanding of the role of the President was more common, but this may be impossible to retrieve.

  45. zanzibar says:

    I believe a deep skepticism of our politicians and our pundits are required if we are to “restore” our constitutional framework of limited government and sovereignty of the people.
    I take what the Kristol’s and Brooks and Friedman’s write with many rocks of salt. If there is ever a crew in contemporary America that have got it wrong each and every time its these guys. They have zero credibility in my eyes. IMO, the reason these guys have got it so wrong consistently is that they are essentially propagandists.
    Now, the America of limited government, the rule of law and balance of powers is a historical America. It has not existed for some time.
    If one measures the size of government by the metric of government spending as a percent of GDP it has grown inexorably and more so under Republican administrations. We have evolved into a patronage system where the biggest proponents of “capitalism” are the biggest “socialists”. Wall Street is all about privatization of profits and socialization of losses. Bank of America recently prepared a report for Congress to bail out every bank by buying out all “mortgage related” assets after all the banks happily took all the “profits” on mortgage derivatives in past years and paid the executives more than handsomely. Goldman Sachs has had more Treasury secretaries than anyone else in the recent past. Lockheed and General Dynamics and Blackwater want larger Pentagon and black budgets and of course more wars on something.
    Over the last 7 years we have a political and “national security” class that feels it is their right to spy on citizens for any or no cause. And they can detain any citizen for any or no reason just by labeling them an enemy combatant and there is no right for habeas corpus. We have a ruling class in government that believes they have the right to torture detainees at their whim. The Bill of Rights has effectively been eviscerated and the vast majority of our citizens don’t even know or care.
    What we have is a ruling class that owns the media, financial and corporate structures and the levers of political power. They serve their interests.
    So if we are to return to the ethos of Jefferson and Madison we will need another revolution but American’s, IMO, are no longer revolutionary. We no longer have the stomach to exercise our sovereignty. So we are probably going to have to live with an oligarchy for some time.
    Obama, Hillary and McCain will all do their part to feed and sustain the beast.

  46. Twit says:

    I agree with the principle of a limited presidency and a limited government, which is interesting because I have an almost opposite take on Obama’s rhetoric. I see Obama as kind of a libertarian/communist love child, rather than some populist cult-leader.
    I see your points, but I predict an Obama administration would try to reorient American institutions (i.e. not people’s brains) to promote both individual liberty (he has no record of being a top down big government leftist) and social justice (he was an organizer).
    Whether that will or even can work are separate issues, and I have my doubts. But this is a true departure from the institutionalized elitism of Bush/Clinton. And it puts the US back into what I think is actually our national debate: how do we as a society be rich, free, and just? Is this possible or even desirable?
    Bottom line is that I think that way more evidence points to Obama wanting to let the state wither away, rather than expand its power.
    My big problem though with Obama is that like any good marketing message, I can never be sure if I am actually hearing these things from him, or whether his message is just vague enough to let me project my own desires on to his message.
    Still, compared to the alternatives, Obama is my first choice to be president.

  47. Larry K says:

    Col. Lang — I think I am familar enough with your own work and background as well as those of Kristol and Brooks to say that even though your quite reasonable views here seem on this point to closely resemble those of Kristol and Brooks, you do not in fact agree with Kristol and Brooks. You arrived at your conclusions about Obama through reasoning, temperament, and experience; Kristol and Brooks are essentially political operatives masquerading as journalists (or columnists, if you prefer) who are willing to say just about anything to advance their interests — because advancing those interests under the cover of journalism is, as they see it, their job. In this, Brooks arguably is the more dangerous figure because he picks his spots fairly well — throwing two or three bones into the realm of disinterested, reasoned discourse so he can then try to get away with some genteel cloaked thuggery. Kristol, by contrast, could hardly pretend to be disinterested, given his track record and the way he habitually expresses himself. Again, though, I’m fairly sure that your “agreement” with them on this point is a momentary accident. You are at base as different from Brooks and Kristol as can be — a quintessential “honest man,” for one.

  48. lina says:

    “People have not changed at all.”
    I didn’t say people have changed. I said language has changed. You projected religiosity onto Michelle Obama’s rhetoric, when all she’s doing is “Oprah-speak.”
    Many of us have been desparing over what has happened to America in the last seven years. You can call it whatever you want: soul-sickness, depression, disillusionment, etc. Whatever it is, it is born of patriotism. To see the Constitution trampled and the ideals of the country you love getting abused by megalomaniacs is jarring to the psyche and corrosive to the soul.
    If you can devise another way to talk about this personal phenomenom, have at it. I’m all ears.

  49. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Your comment provided some helpful insights, at least for me. Thanks.
    Over the past few years, I had developed a great respect for the Nebraska Admiral — Sen. Hagel. In fact, after the Casey confirmation hearing, I started to respect and even trust him more than Sen. Webb, at least when it comes to US military/foreign policy of late in the Middle East . Despite Sen. Webb’s obvious VN war heroism, his keen intellect, and even his identity as a Southern Scot Irish, I just can’t quite figure him out. Maybe that will change. But Sen. Hagel…yeah, I felt comfortable with him. I am saddened that Sen. Hagel has left the scene.

  50. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I don’t know where you found “religiosity” in my comments about Mrs. Obama’s remarks. Quite the contrary. The talk about a wounded American collective psyche reminds me of Jimmy Carter’s “malaise” infecting the country. People ought to stop going on about our wounded this or that and look at just how good life is in this country.
    NAFTA was never a particularly good idea. Perot’s “sucking sound” as jobs fled the country for Mexico was predictable. Perot was mocked for that in the MSM who, as usual, demonstrated an inability to think clearly. We have lost jobs because of NAFTA but the vast majority of people in the USA were in favor of it at the time of passage because they have been conditioned for generations to think that unlimited free trade is a cure all.
    The mortgage crisis is bad, but the same MSM beat the drum for the real estate boom a few years ago and people loved the idea and signed themselves up for this rodeo by the hundreds of thousands.
    Conclusion? There is nothing seriously wrong in this country. We have elected dolts to run the place and have believed the press idiots in their ravings.
    Let us stop doing these things. Think for yourselves! Try it! It is not all that painful.
    PL (the fossilized one)
    A number of you folks are clearly troubled by my willingness to cite neocon editorial writings in making an argument.
    I have the habit of separating information from source in making evaluations of truth. This is an old intelligence trade practise since information and source are often different in quality.
    Truth and politics are not the same thing. pl

  51. jedermann says:

    Everyone wants change. Well, so long as it is someone else who is getting changed. By keeping the rhetoric on the Olympian heights everyone is free to imagine a better world at someone else’s expense. Hillary Clinton not only bores a citizenry of little attention span with her wonkish discussion of policy and political mechanics, but they are also confronted with her apparent acceptance of and ease with the realities of a process they look upon as corrupt and ineffective. The discussion of ways and means just reminds everybody of their frustration. Obama implies the promise of a different process, one that political creatures of the status quo cannot hope to understand. With a paucity of details about what that new collaborative process might be and reliance upon his personal ability to “bring people together” all kinds of stuff flows in to fill the vacuum including the healing of broken souls and just about any other kind of yearning people have. This kind of blank check goes stale on 01/20/09. After that we deal in cash only.

  52. rjj says:

    I support Obama, because he has implied – or suggested strongly — in several of his coded messages he will save us from ourselves by outlawing credulity. If congress is reluctant, he can always exercise legacy unitary executive powers.

  53. JohnS says:

    The argument will be made that Obama is a threat to traditional American political life.
    I’m beginning to suspect that this is exactly his appeal to voters (note: I was an Edwards guy, voted for Hillary when he dropped out, and I still think she’s the better nominee).
    It is well known that the GOP considers Obama the easier target, but I think they are missing the paradigm shift in the electorate after eight years of George Bush. I am beginning to think that traditional attacks like those from Kristol and Brooks will be as about effective coming from the right as they have been coming from the HRC campaign.
    My concern about President Obama concern his lack of partisanship. The last time I checked, bi-partisanship of late refers soley to those Blue Dog Dems who willingly roll with the GOP right in Congress to pass Bush/right wing-favored initiatives. There just is no bi-partisan coalition to pass progressive legislation. Obama would have to create it out of thin air.
    Then again, all of this talk of “cure” and such leads me to believe that Obama and his followers favor cleaning up the process in Washington over pushing policy initiatives. He can’t do both, meaning reforming the process and pushing through major new initiative like healthcare reform (all while getting us out of our miasma in the ME!). Obama would need an enormous (unprecendented?) amount of political capitol to do all that. If he does attempt it, look for the wheels will come off his cart pretty quickly, and we’ll be left with nada.

  54. rjj says:

    PL has linked to this site before, so it can’t be too inappropriate.

  55. I’m basically with jonst – the overriding imperative is to throw the bastards out. I genuinely believe that if today’s Republican Party (a far cry from that party when I was growing up) has four more years, Whatever shreds of participatory democracy we now have will very likely be gone. Therefore, I lean toward Obama for purely tactical reasons. He’s seems to have aroused younger voters to an extent we havenn’t seen in decades, and will thus boost turnout in that segment; and he will not incite the substantial segment that viscerally hates Hilary. This very conservative segment is ambivalent at best about McCain, the likely nominee and thus many of them will likely stay home in November. Obama may incite the diminishing ranks of rabid racists, but most of them are in states he’s unlikely to win in any case.
    I must say I disagree with you about your dismissal of “the vision thing” regarding presidents. A “Vision” has got to come from somewhere, and it’s very rare that someone arises in Congress with the requisite force of intellect and personality to provide it. Not to mention having access to a prominent enough bully pulpit to arouse the necessary followers. That said, we are dangerously close to the president/king.

  56. zanzibar says:

    If words do matter….
    We know it’s time to time to restore our Constitution and the rule of law. This is an issue that was at the heart of Senator Dodd’s candidacy, and I share his passion for restoring the balance between the security we demand and the civil liberties that we cherish.
    The American people must be able to trust that their president values principle over politics, and justice over unchecked power. I’ve been proud to stand with Senator Dodd in his fight against retroactive immunity for the telecommunications industry. Secrecy and special interests must not trump accountability. We must show our citizens – and set an example to the world – that laws cannot be ignored when it is inconvenient. Because in America – no one is above the law.
    It’s time to reject torture without equivocation. It’s time to close Guantanamo and to restore habeas corpus. It’s time to give our intelligence and law enforcement agencies the tools they need to track down and take out terrorists, while ensuring that their actions are subject to vigorous oversight that protects our freedom. So let me be perfectly clear: I have taught the Constitution, I understand the Constitution, and I will obey the Constitution when I am President of the United States.

    Obama prepared remarks on Se. Dodd’s endorsement

  57. Paul says:

    I was surprised to see that you were on the side of Kristol and Brooks.
    Forget for a moment all the “hole in your soul” stuff and consider his general presentation. Wouldn’t you say that he motivates and inspires? Are you expecting Power Point slides? Were he wearing a uniform, you might even praise his ability to persuade. One cannot deny that he’s a leader.
    More importantly, he can take a punch for he does not unfurl as has Hillary and McCain. It is my view that he is as poised and tough as they come.
    He has rare communication skills and his message resonates because too many Americans have been violated and dispossessed by Republican corporate and social policies.
    Bush and his acolytes, especially guys like Kristol and Brook, measure patriotism by the square yard of flag. Why a dozen flags behind a speaker’s podium? Normal people see right through this hyperbole.

  58. frank dirkee says:

    While I hope the Col. is correct about the outcome of the election, there are clearly circustances in which the Republicans could win.

  59. Babak Makkinejad says:

    This bit about “Barack Obama … is going to demand that you shed your cynicism…” reminds me of that agitator in New York City’s Times Square:
    Agitator: Come to the Revolution and we will all eat strawberries with cream.
    Man: But I do not like strawberries with cream.
    Agitator: Come to the Revolution and we will make you like strawberries with cream.

  60. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    Feeling the need to get some distance on what is proving to be a stressful but interesting experience, I went back and looked again at your post and the comments.
    Not too much conflict with basic agreement on the need to get it right coupled with a lot of angst as to whether one or another of the candidates would be able to get it right.
    Lot of what Rogers would call the “Interpersonal Gap” meaning that words are slippery. They mean different things to different people at different times and in different contexts. Its a wonder we’ve been able to communicate at all.
    What’s missing is the affective component of the signal that serves to reduce our confusion about what is really being said; one of those humint things you spent a lot of time worrying about. No easy way to fix that nor do we really need to.
    Another thing that caught my eye is the quality of the arguments. People are truly invested in this and have taken the time to say so.
    I can’t find an exact historical parallel but Marshall McLuhan’s Global Village comes to mind.
    You’ve set up an information granary where us nomads can come to forage. The food here is pretty good. Think I’ll come back.
    Thank you

  61. Rosemary says:

    Pat, I think you’ve outlined exactly what makes me nervous about Obama. Rhetoric is rhetoric from the left or the right, and my fears about Obama are that he’ll not be able to convince the people in the center that he’s the right guy because of it. I still maintain that what we need come 2009 is someone who can bridge the gap between the parties and start to fill in the hole, but I think Obama’s change policies are too scary to the people on the right and will just drive them deeper. I think the Dems are very close to making the mistake of choosing someone who can’t win and who will make John McCain look like the safer alternative to change that doesn’t seem to have a direction.

  62. marquer says:

    I had a hole in my soul last year. Most vexing.
    Patched it up with water-resistant joint caulk and some gaffer’s tape. Refilled with a fine India Pale Ale from my local microbrewery.
    Fit as a fiddle again. No leaks. No drips. And no involvement by DC Beltway politicos required.

  63. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “If he were in uniform..”
    A cheap shot. You don’t know that about me. pl

  64. Cieran says:

    The mortgage crisis is bad, but the same MSM beat the drum for the real estate boom a few years ago and people loved the idea and signed themselves up for this rodeo by the hundreds of thousands.
    The problems with the U.S. economy are a lot deeper than the current mortgage crisis — that’ s only the tip of the iceberg of a huge and difficult insolvency problem that afflicts homeowners, businesses (large and small), and the nation at large. Getting out of this in one piece will take some serious economic smarts, and the GOP simply doesn’t have the intellectual horses for the job (all they offer is ideology).
    This is one awful legacy to leave to younger Americans, and that fact is part of why so many young voters are getting on the Obama bandwagon. At least he’s talking about the real problems afflicting the state of the union now and in their future, instead of insisting that more tax cuts for the wealthy will solve all our ills.
    Or if you like, I’d rather have a president who worries about my having a hole in my soul than one who insists upon drilling a much bigger hole in my wallet.

  65. While I hope the Col. is correct about the outcome of the election, there are clearly circumstances in which the Republicans could win.
    I think McCain has a pretty good shot at winning in November.

  66. Are you expecting Power Point slides? Were he wearing a uniform,…
    An opening from heaven!
    If he were wearing a uniform, we’d see lots and lots and lots of PowerPoint slides!
    Behold my favorite new site on the Web:
    PowerPoint Pogues & Rangers
    I’m torn between the INFIDEL, SLIDE BITCH, and “PowerPoint Jedi Master” tabs and patches. Maybe I should order all three?
    Have a look…
    Patches & Tabs

  67. arthurdecco says:

    How much more plain-spoken can words be than in this quote from the statement Senator Barak Obama made while accepting Chris Dodd’s endorsement – there’s nothing ethereal here:
    “We know it’s time to time to restore our Constitution and the rule of law. This is an issue that was at the heart of Senator Dodd’s candidacy, and I share his passion for restoring the balance between the security we demand and the civil liberties that we cherish. . . .
    I’ve been proud to stand with Senator Dodd in his fight against retroactive immunity for the telecommunications industry. Secrecy and special interests must not trump accountability. We must show our citizens – and set an example to the world – that laws cannot be ignored when it is inconvenient. Because in America – no one is above the law. . .
    It’s time to give our intelligence and law enforcement agencies the tools they need to track down and take out terrorists, while ensuring that their actions are subject to vigorous oversight that protects our freedom.
    So let me be perfectly clear: I have taught the Constitution, I understand the Constitution, and I will obey the Constitution when I am President of the United States.”
    Well, well, well…
    In my opinion, Senator Obama was unequivocal. He spoke plainly. The phrases weren’t the least bit evangelical or cultist, were they? Hard as rocks and as sharp as tacks, they were.
    After reading that, even I want to believe him.
    Secondly: How can his platform, (or the perceived lack of one), be worse for America, or for the rest of the world’s citizens at this time in our collective history than what the Bush/Cheney administration’s grand strategy, “Ripping the Heart out of America” has accomplished? Or what Senator McCain might bring to the “War-Economy-As-Savior” equation as president?
    Could Senator Obama screw it up any more than we’ve already been screwed by both the past and potential future Republican administrations? Or even by another Apparatchik government like Hilary-Bill Clinton’s?
    Someone said the other day on a blog somewhere, “After watching how carefully and intelligently Hilary Clinton has waged her campaign in the Democratic primaries, I’ve come to the regretful realization that she doesn’t have the skill set to be President.”
    But Obama’s kickin’ some butt, isn’t he?

  68. Twit says:

    RE: “There is nothing seriously wrong in this country…” and “hole in the soul”
    Does anyone have any thoughts on John Gray’s writings (Straw Dogs, Black Mass, or Al Qaeda and What It Means to be Modern especially)? His idea that we are basically changing from idealists to utopians – and utopian projects inevitably end in oppression, death, and misery – seems very relevant to this discussion.
    I do think that something is seriously wrong in the mentality of many Americans, a ‘hole in our soul’ if you will. That hole is that many of us have forgotten that modern life is not perfect. Just think of the last 15 years as we’ve gone from one utopian dream to another: we’ve gone from believing in the ‘end of history’ after the Cold War, to the internet bubble, to the housing bubble, to the Bush-is-a-hero-who-cannot-be-critized bubble, to the invincible-American-empire bubble, and now, dare I say, to the Obamania bubble.
    Each of these bubbles has led to serious trouble.
    But, like you said, Colonel, one must separate information from source, and while I agree with much of the criticism of Obama, I still think that his marketing message is more a viable strategy to win given a fickle media and the lazy and cheap utopianism
    of much of the electorate than an indication of demagoguery. And I still disagree that Hillary’s elitism is a better alternative than Obama’s populism.
    And as for young people: we were raised to believe the hype about the perfectability of society, and now some of us at least are learning that this was an untenable expectation. Don’t feel bad for young people. We are lucky to be American. It is alright though to get angry about people who want to change that system which makes us so lucky.

  69. Mike says:

    I finally read the Kristol piece and I wasn’t that impressed. He cherry-picked a few dumb lines from Obama’s wife and tried to get the most mileage he could out of it. Obama’s team seems to learn pretty fast and I doubt that they will leave themselves open for this line of attack in the future. In the recent debates, Obama was able to put his lofty speech rhetoric in some perspective and he has been filling out his speeches with more policy detail. His debate performance has improved substantially throughout the primaries and I think his general rhetoric will improve as well. He has put together a great team, managed it well, and proven that he can learn quickly and make necessary adjustments. I can’t really say the same about Clinton.

  70. Altoid says:

    Beware right-wing operatives bearing warnings. That’s my first response, Pat, and I’m not one of them, nor am I an Obama backer (nor HRC, for that matter).
    I have a rule about the rovian and neo-rovian right: whatever they accuse the Dems of doing, is exactly what they’re doing themselves. It’s a combination of having limited imagination and some residual twinges of conscience. Here we have Kristol and Brooks accusing Obama of fomenting a cult of personality. Imagine that! Having worshiped at the codpiece of bush, they now warn against an Obama cult. Only through having served in the bush priesthood would they know of cults, and it’s the only way they can think about Obama.
    That aspect of Obama’s campaign has always worried me too, but I come by it honestly. Seeing him in action in short snips, though, I’m wondering whether I have the right take on what he’s doing and what he represents.
    He’s clearly learned a lot from watching Reagan and Gingrich and the ruthless right (in the same way I remember how Vidal described watching Reagan at the, I think, ’64 GOP convention studying Goldwater like an actor learning a role).
    He’s become very adept at the GOP trick of turning attacks on him into attacks on the attacker. It frustrates HRC no end, and it will destroy McCain and the nasty GOP surrogates, if Obama wins the nomination and survives to the election. He will turn these attacks into indictments of the attackers.
    Techniques he uses to achieve that effect contribute to the cult of personality appearance. And they work devastatingly well; they’re the secret of GOP success for at least 15 years now. He’s the only Dem I’ve seen besides Webb who understands how this works and doesn’t look ineffectual or whining when trying to respond to attacks. That’s worth a lot. He can do it; HRC can’t. She doesn’t understand how it’s done. Why that is I don’t know, but like most of that generation of Dems, she doesn’t.
    His tactics don’t tell us much about what he’ll want to do, and that’s scary. On the other hand, most people who don’t really have a stake in DC institutions really do think Washington’s completely broken and is flinging mud pies while the rest of the country burns.
    That can’t be completely true, and government has many parts with mostly earnest people doing their best, often despite being consistently kicked in the teeth by their own GOP heads of government ever since Reagan. Institutional continuity matters a lot in the non-political areas, a good reason to back Clinton.
    But as to the visible political areas, there’s a lot of disgust. For better or worse, I do think a lot of people look at everyone who’s been there for the last 15 or 20 years as being either morally equivalent or unable to get out of the spiral, so a big part of Obamamania is simple relief that there’s someone who’s reasonably articulate and hasn’t been involved too much in all that who seems to have a decent chance now. I think it’s wrong to underestimate that not-part-of-the-same-old-crowd factor here.
    Of course that makes a lot of us nervous. It’s the big reason I’m wary of him. But Clinton, as an old hand, also makes me nervous. To me, her big limitation, like Bill’s, is that since she knows she’ll end up with less than half a loaf anyway, she seems to start her negotiations or her thinking by conceding at least half the loaf. She doesn’t start strong and work to get as much as she can, but only to save as much as she can of the half a loaf she starts out with.
    Even so, I’d be a damn sight happier with her than with McCain, who seems pretty nutty in a lot of ways.
    While I’m sympathetic to your view that a president is a technocrat, I think that the FFs also understood that politics is part of the job. Why else would Madison have stressed that people identify their own successes with the powers of the offices they hold, and have said that “ambition must counteract ambition”? Checks and balances is all about politics, and they knew it had to be. Henry Clay may have been the last leader of the Congress to actually presume that the president was a mere technocrat.
    Ultimately, there’s a lot about Obama I don’t like but I don’t have a visceral dislike or fear about him and his greenness, just worries about his opacity; there’s also a lot about HRC that I don’t like but a lot of compensations there too (and don’t tell me her handlers haven’t tried to develop some personality-cult elements in her campaign, please).
    The modern right wing scares the living hell out of me, and experience only sharpens the fear. They’ve got to be allowed and encouraged to destroy themselves. They have more money than God so there’ll be an underground and a residual core that’ll come back one day, but they have to be repudiated by the voters to such a degree that they won’t be able to steal this one. I’ll favor whatever flawed candidate can do that.

  71. ISL says:

    IMHO if Obama is elected with a mandate for change, perhaps things will change. It may be into a different hole, but maybe out of the current hole. If he (or Clinton or McCain) is elected without a mandate for change (and Clinton/McCain are not proposing significant changes), even supposing they have a desire to change, status quo forces would likely rapidly prevent it.
    Lack of enthusiasm – yes, but also a lack of dark pessimism.

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