Saturday, November 08, 2008

It's Time To Restore Liberty

The Next President

By Claudia Rosett
11.06.08, 12:00 AM ET

With more than 63 million votes, President-elect Barack Obama--eloquent, young and bankrolled to the gunwales--has won the White House. That still leaves more than 55 million Americans who voted for the aging, outspent warrior, John McCain.

What were those McCain supporters voting for? Rather than reverting to the zillion polls of recent months, which centered on the platforms put forward by the candidates, I'll hazard a guess--based on what was missing from this campaign, and seems to have all but vanished from the main stage of American politics.

That would be the straightforward love and defense of individual liberty, with its attendant freedom to take risks, and responsibility for the results. And here I stress individual. Not the chant of the crowd, but that basic American passion for individual life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Joe the Plumber, icon that he became, was not ultimately all about marginal tax brackets worked out to the umpteenth decimal point. He was a symbol of the broad principle that America thrives when its citizens are free to chart their own lives under a government more focused on defending their liberty and private property than encroaching on it in the name of redistributive state-administered "justice."

I doubt most McCain supporters cast their votes based chiefly on comparative health care plans or fine points of climate policy. I think they were voting for the closest thing they could get to a politician who believes that collective efforts are best confined to the common defense of the nation, not to confiscatory wealth transfers among interest groups.

But McCain's message was more muddled than Joe's. McCain spent more time promising to "fight" than he did explaining and championing the freedoms for which he himself once literally fought. Toward the end, it was a race in which both candidates were mainly hawking "change." On those vague and utopian terms, Obama had a hands-down lead.

Time was when America's creed could be summed up pretty well by the words of the 18th-century revolutionary Patrick Henry, whose reply in 1775 to the oppressive ways of British colonial rule was: "Give me liberty, or give me death."

In the American system built around that creed, the monstrous original failing and contradiction was the institution of slavery. America paid for that with a civil war, followed by another century in which, finally--about the time of Obama's childhood--segregation and discrimination began to give way to the equality and opportunities that Obama has now surfed to the presidency. Liberty prevailed.

The irony is that Obama arrives at the threshold of the White House steeped in ideas that subordinate individual freedom to the collective. In his campaign and his victory speech, Obama declares that America's "timeless creed" is now, "yes, we can." This is not a defense of liberty. It is a declaration so malleable and generic that it could have applied to anything from Lenin's Bolshevik Revolution to the Little Engine that Could.

Obama has called repeatedly upon America's people to sacrifice. What's not yet clear is whether this will entail sacrifice in the common defense of liberty, or whether it is liberty itself that will step by step be sacrificed in the name of the common good. If the latter, the implications are indeed world-changing. For the past century, America has stood as the world's great bulwark of freedom. That can no longer be taken as a given. Americans will be hard pressed to support freedom elsewhere if they do not protect it at home.

In his victory speech, Obama spoke not only to his supporters, but to "those Americans whose support I have yet to earn." He said he is willing to listen, "I hear your voices, I need your help and I will be your president too."

How will Republicans respond? Right now, the temptation will be great to turn on each other and then look for ways to climb back onto the gravy train that Washington has become.

What this country needs now is something much bigger than that. The field is wide open for a new generation on the right to start all over again--in the tradition of Ronald Reagan, free men and free markets--speaking to the voters who might still prize a vision of America that was not clearly offered in this campaign.

How to do that is a tough question with the left now dominant in Washington, academia and the media. But if America is to remain a great nation, what must somehow be restored as the centerpiece of the nation's goals is not collective "change," but individual liberty.

Claudia Rosett, a journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writes a weekly column on foreign affairs for

'Center-right' America lurches further left

With about half the electorate 'on the dole,' a change of direction isn't likely.

Syndicated columnist
Orange County Register
Friday, November 7, 2008

"Give me liberty or give me death!"

"Live free or die!"

What's that? Oh, don't mind me. I'm just trying out slogans for the 2012 campaign and seeing which one would get the biggest laughs.

My Republican friends are now saying, oh, not to worry, look at the exit polls, this is still a "center-right" country. Americans didn't vote to go left, they voted to go cool. It was a "Dancing With The Stars" election: Obama's a star, and everyone wants to dance with him. It doesn't mean they're suddenly gung-ho for left-wingery.

Up to a point.

Unlike those excitable countries where the peasants overrun the presidential palace, settled democratic societies rarely vote to "go left." Yet oddly enough that's where they've all gone. In its assumptions about the size of the state and the role of government, almost every advanced nation is more left than it was, and getting lefter.

Even in America, federal spending (in inflation-adjusted 2007 dollars) has gone from $600 billion in 1965 to $3 trillion today. The Heritage Foundation put it in a convenient graph: It's pretty much a straight line across four decades, up, up, up. Doesn't make any difference who controls Congress, who's in the White House. The government just grows and grows, remorselessly. Every two years, the voters walk out of their town halls and school gyms and tell the exit pollsters that three-quarters of them are "moderates" or "conservatives" (i.e, the center and the right) and barely 20 percent are "liberals." And then, regardless of how the vote went, big government just resumes its inexorable growth.

"The greatest dangers to liberty," wrote Justice Brandeis, "lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding."

Now who does that remind you of?

Ha! Trick question! Never mind Obama, it's John McCain. He encroached on our liberties with the constitutional abomination of McCain-Feingold. Well-meaning but without understanding, he proposed that the federal government buy up all these junk mortgages so that people would be able to stay in "their" homes. And this is the "center-right" candidate? It's hard for Republicans to hammer Obama as a socialist when their own party's nationalizing the banks and its presidential nominee is denouncing the private sector for putting profits before patriotism. That's why Joe the Plumber struck a chord: He briefly turned a one-and-a-half party election back into a two-party choice again.

If you went back to the end of the 19th century and suggested to, say, William McKinley that one day Americans would find themselves choosing between a candidate promising to guarantee your mortgage and a candidate promising to give "tax cuts" to millions of people who pay no taxes he would scoff at you for concocting some patently absurd H.G. Wells dystopian fantasy. Yet it happened. Slowly, remorselessly, government metastasized to the point where it now seems entirely normal for Peggy Joseph of Sarasota, Fla., to vote for Obama because "I won't have to worry about putting gas in my car. I won't have to worry about paying my mortgage."

While few electorates consciously choose to leap left, a couple more steps every election, and eventually societies reach a tipping point. In much of the West, it's government health care. It changes the relationship between state and citizen into something closer to pusher and junkie. Henceforth, elections are fought over which party is proposing the shiniest government bauble: If you think President-elect Obama's promise of federally subsidized day care was a relatively peripheral part of his platform, in Canada in the election before last it was the dominant issue. Yet America may be approaching its tipping point even more directly. In political terms, the message of the gazillion-dollar bipartisan bailout was a simple one: "Individual responsibility" and "self-reliance" are for chumps. If Goldman Sachs and AIG and Bear Stearns are getting government checks to "stay in their homes" (and boardrooms, and luxury corporate retreats), why shouldn't Peggy Joseph?

I don't need Barack Obama's help to "spread the wealth around." I spread my wealth around every time I hire somebody, expand my business, or just go to the general store and buy a quart of milk and loaf of bread. As far as I know, only one bloated plutocrat declines to spread his wealth around, and that's Scrooge McDuck, whose principal activity in Disney cartoons was getting into his little bulldozer and plowing back and forth over a mountain of warehoused gold and silver coins. Don't know where he is these days. On the board at Halliburton, no doubt. But most of the beleaguered band of American capitalists do not warehouse their wealth in McDuck fashion. It's not a choice between hoarding and spreading, but a choice between who spreads it best: an individual free to make his own decisions about investment and spending, or Barney Frank. I don't find that a difficult question to answer. More to the point, put Barney & Co. in charge of the spreading, and there'll be a lot less to spread.

I disagree with my fellow conservatives who think the Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Frank liberal behemoth will so obviously screw up that they'll be routed in two or four years' time. The president-elect's so-called "tax cut" will absolve 48 percent of Americans from paying any federal income tax at all, while those who are left will pay more. Just under half the population will be, as Daniel Henninger pointed out in The Wall Street Journal, on the dole.

By 2012, it will be more than half on the dole, and this will be an electorate where the majority of the electorate will be able to vote itself more lollipops from the minority of their compatriots still dumb enough to prioritize self-reliance, dynamism and innovation over the sedating cocoon of the Nanny State. That is the death of the American idea – which, after all, began as an economic argument: "No taxation without representation" is a great rallying cry. "No representation without taxation" has less mass appeal. For how do you tell an electorate living high off the entitlement hog that it's unsustainable, and you've got to give some of it back?

At that point, America might as well apply for honorary membership in the European Union. It will be a nation at odds with the spirit of its founding, and embarking on decline from which there are few escape routes. In 2012, the least we deserve is a choice between the collectivist assumptions of the Democrats, and a candidate who stands for individual liberty – for economic dynamism not the sclerotic "managed capitalism" of Germany; for the First Amendment, not Canadian-style government regulation of approved opinion; for self-reliance and the Second Amendment, not the security state in which Britons are second only to North Koreans in the number of times they're photographed by government cameras in the course of going about their daily business.

In Forbes last week, Claudia Rosett issued a stirring defense of individual liberty. That it should require a stirring defense at all is a melancholy reflection on this election season. Live free – or die from a thousand beguiling caresses of Nanny State sirens.


Friday, November 07, 2008

Catholic Teaching & The Public Square

Obama and the Bishops

By Richard John Neuhaus
November 7, 2008

In a few days, the American bishops of the Catholic Church will be holding their annual fall meeting in Baltimore. High on the agenda is how Catholic bishops can better communicate Catholic teaching on social justice both in the Church and in the public square. It is understood that the priority issue of social justice is the protection of innocent human life—from the entrance gates of life to the exit gates, and at every step along life’s way. The most massive and brutal violation of justice is the killing of millions of children in the womb.

Statue of St. Paul, St. Peter's Square, Vatican City

In recent months, an unusually large number of bishops have been assertive, articulate, and even bold, in their public affirmation of the demands of moral reason and the Church’s teaching. Some estimate the number of such bishops to be over a hundred. Critics of these bishops, including Catholic fronts for the Obama campaign, claim that bishops have only spoken out because prominent Democrats stepped on their toes by egregiously misrepresenting Catholic teaching. Why only? It is the most particular duty of bishops to see that the authentic teaching of the Church is safeguarded and honestly communicated.

Not all bishops covered themselves with honor in the doing of their duty. Ignoring their further duty to protect the integrity of the Eucharist and defend against the faithful’s being led into confusion, temptation, and sin by skandolon, some bishops issued statements explaining why they had no intention of addressing the problem of public figures who claim they are Catholics in good standing despite their consistent rejection of the Church’s teaching on the defense of innocent human lives. Some such bishops took the position that publicly doing or saying anything that addressed that very public problem would be viewed as controversial, condemned as politically partisan, and misconstrued by those hostile to the Church. Therefore, they explained, they were doing and saying nothing except to say why they were doing and saying nothing. Such calculated timidity falls embarrassingly short of the apostolic zeal exemplified by the apostles whose successors the bishops are. Fortunately, these timorous shepherds seem to be in the minority among the bishops.

Others seem to have taken to heart in this Pauline Year the counsel of Paul to Timothy: “Fight the good fight . . . I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

After the election, some Catholics with itching ears who are manifestly embarrassed by the Church’s being out of step with the new world of “the change we’ve been waiting for” have gleefully pointed out that the assertiveness of the bishops had little political effect. In the presidential and other races, Catholics voted for pro-abortion candidates. So what? It is not the business of bishops to win political races. It is the business of bishops to defend and teach the faith, including the Church’s moral doctrine. One hopes they will keep that firmly in mind in their Baltimore meeting.

The reading for Mass on the day following the election was Philippians 2, in which St. Paul prays that the faithful “may be blameless and innocent children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” That is as pertinent now as it was in the first century, and will be until our Lord returns in glory. It is the business of bishops to help equip the faithful to let the splendor of moral truth shine through their life and witness as lights in the world. If, on occasion, that coincides with political success, it is to be viewed as an unexpected, albeit welcome, bonus. It is a grievous degradation of their pastoral office, as well as a political delusion, for bishops to see themselves as managers of the Catholic voting bloc.

Earlier this year, the bishops issued “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” It was, as I wrote at the time, a fine statement in almost every respect. But its elaborate attention to nuance and painstaking distinctions made it a virtual invitation for the Catholic flaks of Obama to turn it upside down and inside out. The statement was regularly invoked to justify voting for the most extreme proponent of the unlimited abortion license in American presidential history.

That unintended invitation to distort, eagerly seized upon by those with a mind to do so, was especially evident in the statement’s treatment of a “proportionate” reason to support pro-abortion candidates. The bishops must do better next time. To be sure, any statement must be carefully reasoned, as Catholic moral theology is carefully reasoned. Yet an episcopal statement is not an invitation to an academic seminar but, above all, a call to faithfulness. The task is to offer a firm, unambiguous, and, as much as possible, a persuasive case on the basis of revelation and clear reason.

The events of these months have once again exposed deeper problems in the leadership of the bishops, although certainly not of the bishops alone. To cite an obvious instance, only 25 to 35 percent (depending on whose data you believe) of the 68 million Catholics in this country regularly attend Mass. That means that, except for a few bishops who have larger media access, bishops are being heard by only a minority of their people. Moreover, many parish pastors and priests are embarrassingly eager to avoid controversy, and others are openly disdainful of the Church’s teaching and/or its implications for public justice. Some bishops are tremulously intimidated by their presbyterates. Such bishops and priests need to read again, and with soul-searching prayer, Paul’s counsel to Timothy.

There are deeper problems. In the last four decades, following the pattern of American Protestantism, many, perhaps most, Catholics view the Church in terms of consumption rather than obligation. The Church is there to supply their spiritual needs as they define those needs, not to tell them what to believe or do. This runs very deep both sociologically and psychologically. It is part of the “success” of American Catholics in becoming just like everybody else. Bishops and all of us need to catch the vision of John Paul II that the Church imposes nothing, she only proposes. But what she proposes she believes is the truth, and because human beings are hard-wired for the truth, the truth imposes. And truth obliges.

It is not easy to communicate this understanding in our time, as it has not been easy in any time. In the twentieth century, the motto of the ecumenical movement was “Let the Church be the Church.” The motto was sometimes betrayed by that movement, but it should be courageously embraced by the bishops meeting in Baltimore. The bishops must set aside public relations and political calculations, and be prepared to surrender themselves anew to the task for which they were ordained, to uncompromisingly defend and communicate the faith once delivered to the saints.

Which brings me, finally, to another and related matter that will surely be discussed in Baltimore and deserves to be on the agenda. The Campaign for Human Development (CHD) is an annual collection in parishes, usually on one of the last two Sundays in November. It used to be called the Catholic Campaign for Human Development but the Catholic was dropped, which is just as well since it has nothing to do with Catholicism, except that Catholics are asked to pay for it. Some bishops no longer allow the CHD collection in their dioceses, and more should not allow it. In fact, CHD, misbegotten in concept and corrupt in practice, should, at long last, be terminated.

Ten years ago, CHD was exposed as using the Catholic Church as a milk cow to fund organizations that frequently were actively working against the Church’s mission, especially in their support of pro-abortion activities and politicians. Now it turns out that CHD has long been a major funder of ACORN, a national community agitation organization in support of leftist causes, including the abortion license. ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) is under criminal investigation in several states. In the last decade CHD gave ACORN well over seven million dollars, including more than a million in the past year. It is acknowledged that ACORN, with which Sen. Obama had a close connection over the years, was a major player in his presidential campaign. The bishops say they are investigating the connection between CHD and ACORN. They say they are worried that it might jeopardize the Church’s tax-exemption. No mention is made of abusing the trust of the Catholic faithful.

What most Catholics don’t know, and what would likely astonish them, is that CHD very explicitly does not fund Catholic institutions and apostolates that work with the poor. Part of the thinking when it was established in the ideological climate of the 1960s is that Catholic concern for the poor would not be perceived as credible if CHD funded Catholic organizations. Yes, that’s bizarre, but the history of CHD is bizarre. The bishops could really help poor people by promptly shutting down CHD and giving any remaining funds to, for instance, Catholic inner-city schools. In any event, if there is a collection at your parish this month, I suggest that you can return the envelope empty—and perhaps with a note of explanation—without the slightest moral hesitation.

After this week’s elections, we must brace ourselves for very difficult times, keeping in mind that difficult times can be bracing. As for the meeting of bishops next week: Let the Church be the Church, and let bishops be bishops.

Richard John Neuhaus is editor in chief of First Things.

An Unnecessary Defeat?

By Patrick J. Buchanan
November 06, 2008

Why did John McCain lose?

Let's start with those "headwinds" into which he was flying.

The president of the United States, the leader of his party, was at Nixon-Carter levels of approval, 25 percent, going into Election Day.

Sixty-two percent of the nation thought the economy was the No. 1 issue, and 93 percent thought the economy was bad. Two-thirds of the nation thought the war McCain championed was a mistake, and 80 percent to 90 percent thought the country was on the wrong course.

As a political athlete, measured by charisma and communications skills, McCain is not even in the same league with Barack Obama. He was outspent by vast sums, and his political organization was far inferior.

It is a wonder McCain was even competitive, dealt such a hand.

Yet, by Sept. 10, McCain, thanks to Sarah Palin, whose selection had proven a sensation, had come from eight points behind to take the lead, and Joe Biden was wailing that maybe Hillary would have been a better choice for Obama.

Then came the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the bailout of AIG, McCain's assertion that the economy was fundamentally sound, and his panicked return to Washington to assist Bush and Hank Paulson push through a wildly unpopular bank bailout—using 700 billion in tax dollars to buy up rubbish paper the idiot bankers had put on their books.

The Establishment's Man had come to save the Establishment.

Suddenly, it was McCain who was down 10 points, as the feline and feral press went on a wilding attack on Sister Sarah. He never recovered, though the McCain-Palin final push left egg on the faces of pollsters who were predicting a double-digit triumph for Obama.

Perhaps no Republican, in these circumstances, could have won, especially with that month-long bloodletting on Wall Street that wiped out $4 trillion to $5 trillion in stock and bond value, ravaging IRAs and 401Ks, portfolios and pensions alike.

Yet, McCain might still have won had he not, like his three fellow establishment Republicans Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole, been inhibited by the Mainstream Media and his own Beltway beliefs.

Consider. In California, where a liberal judiciary had ordered the state to recognize homosexual marriages, voters, by 52 to 48, slapped the judges across the face and ordered the ban reimposed and placed in the California constitution. Arizona and Florida also voted to outlaw gay marriage, by landslides.

The New York Times deplored the "ugly outcome" of these three referenda and said voters were "enshrining bigotry," thus calling the majority of Californians, Arizonans and Floridians bigots and their Bible-rooted Christian beliefs nothing but bigotry.

Good to know what they think of us. Yet, McCain, who might have been out front on these moral and cultural issues, paid only lip service—and lost Florida, and California by a landslide.
In Missouri, where McCain eked out a victory, a proposal to make English the official state language carried six to one. In Nebraska, a proposal to ban affirmative action carried 58 to 42, but lost in a 50-50 tie in Colorado.

Parental notification won 48 percent support in California, a far higher share of the vote than McCain got, while a measure to outlaw abortion except in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother got 45 percent in South Dakota. Had McCain made an issue of Obama's support for a Freedom of Choice Act that would eliminate all state restrictions on abortion, he could have forced Obama to defend what yet remains a radical and extreme view in America.

While Barack was locking up black America, McCain failed to hold onto Bush's share of the white working class, though Obama had the most liberal voting record in the Senate and long associations with the likes of Jeremiah Wright and '60s bomber William Ayers.

Perhaps fearful his "good guy" reputation with his old buddies in his media "base" would be imperiled, McCain ruled Wright off limits and seemed hesitant even to go after the Ayers connections. Lee Atwater would not have been so ambivalent. Leo Durocher put it succinctly: "Nice guys finish last."

Ultimately, however, the Beltway Republicans are losing Middle America because they are ideologically incapable of addressing two great concerns: economic insecurity and the perception that we are losing the America that we grew up in.

Economic insecurity is traceable to NAFTA-GATT globalization, under which it makes economic sense for U.S. companies to close factories here, build plants in China and export back to the United States. Manufacturing now accounts for less than 10 percent of all U.S. jobs.

Social insecurity is traceable to mass immigration, legal and illegal, which has brought in scores of millions who are altering the character of communities and competing with U.S. workers by offering their services for far less pay.

These are the twin causes of death of the Reagan coalition, and as long as the Republican Party is hooked on K Street cash, it will not address either, and thus pass, blissfully addicted, from this earth.

- Patrick J. Buchanan needs no introduction to VDARE.COM readers; his book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, can be ordered from His latest book is Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, reviewed here by Paul Craig Roberts.

Patrick J. Buchanan Archive

The Cowardly Character Assassination of Sarah Palin

By Michelle Malkin
November 06, 2008

Sunken ships loosen bitter lips. The failed McCain campaign, for all its high-minded talk of honor, duty and courage, is now teeming with unscrupulous gossipmongers. Seems the dishy staffers forgot to crack open their copies of Sen. McCain's bestseller, Character Is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember.

Rest assured: Their cowardly character assassination of Sarah Palin won't be forgotten.

The finks turned to Newsweek and Fox News to spread petty rumors about Palin's intellect and character. The magazine peddled anecdotes from sources horrified that Palin greeted top advisers at her hotel room—gasp!—"wearing nothing but a towel" and "wet hair." Fox News reporter Carl Cameron breathlessly reported that his unnamed McCain sources told him Palin lacked "a degree of knowledgeability necessary to be a running mate" because, they claimed, she didn't know which countries were parties to the North American Free Trade Agreement and "didn't understand that Africa was a continent, rather than a series, a country just in itself."

Let's assume for a moment that the McCain rumormongers are telling the truth about Palin (and I don't believe they are). Who would it damn more: Palin, or McCain and his vetters, who greenlighted her for the vice presidential nomination? Don't need a fancy Ivy League degree to figure that one out.

In introducing her to America, McCain praised her independence and backbone: She "stands up for what's right, and she doesn't let anyone tell her to sit down." The inside snipers are now roasting her for that very attribute—redefined as "going rogue"——because she had the nerve to try to schedule media interviews on her own. The nerve of her!

Palin's response to the campaign fragging? At a late Wednesday night airport press conference in Anchorage, immediately upon landing home after the election defeat, she smiled cheerfully. The Alaska governor shrugged off the "foolish things" said by the McCain saboteurs, and simply said, "It's politics. … It's rough and tumble and you've got to have a thick skin just like I've got."

Hollywood savaged Palin. Journalists mocked her. Liberal blogs slimed her. Opponents cursed her, Photoshopped her, hacked her e-mail, hanged her in effigy, called her bigot, Bible-thumper and bimbo, and attacked her husband and children. But nothing Palin endured during the election season compares to the treatment she's receiving from these backstabbing blabbermouths who worked on the same campaign she poured herself into over the last three months.

Sarah Palin worked her heart out. She energized tens of thousands to come out when they would have otherwise stayed home. She touched countless families. I didn't agree with everything she said on the campaign trail. But she vigorously defended the Second Amendment and the sanctity of life more eloquently in practice than any of the educated conservative aristocracy. And she did it all with a tirelessness and an infectious optimism that defied the shameless, bottomless attempts by elites in both parties to bring her and her family down.

Liberty needs a virtuous people to survive; self-governance requires virtuous leaders. "Knowledgeability" is a necessary trait in political life, but it is not sufficient. The elitist critics of Palin, so blindly enamored of Barack Obama's ability to hold forth for hours on theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, ignored the Founding Fathers' counsel: Character counts. In times of adversity and crisis, it counts more than IQ points, instant trivia recall and bloviation skills.

"The most important thing I have learned, from my parents, from teachers, from my faith, from many good people I have been blessed to know, and from the lives of people whose stories we have included in this book," John McCain wrote in Character Is Destiny, "is to want what they had, integrity, and to feel the sting of my conscience when I have risked it for some selfish reason."

John McCain not only failed to make that message stick with the electorate, he apparently couldn't persuade his own staff to heed his advice and practice what he preached.

- Michelle Malkin [email her] is author of Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s review. Click here for Michelle Malkin's website. Michelle Malkin's latest book is Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild.

The Campaign Autopsy

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
November 07, 2008

[I don't agree with everything Mr. Krauthammer has to say here, particularly his assessment of Sarah Palin's impact on the campaign, but it's an interesting piece, nonetheless.
I think the campaign would have been far better off with a different candidate know...possibly an actual Republican...maybe even a real, live conservative...with a personality...and some charisma. - jtf]

WASHINGTON -- In my previous life, I witnessed far more difficult postmortems. This one is easy. The patient was fatally stricken on Sept. 15 -- caught in the rubble when the roof fell in (at Lehman Brothers, according to the police report) -- although he did linger until his final, rather quiet demise on Nov. 4.

In the excitement and decisiveness of Barack Obama's victory, we forget that in the first weeks of September, John McCain was actually ahead. Then Lehman collapsed, and the financial system went off a cliff.

This was not just a meltdown but a panic. For an agonizing few days, there was a collapse of faith in the entire financial system -- a run on banks, panicky money-market withdrawals, flights to safety, the impulse to hide one's savings under a mattress.

This did not just have the obvious effect of turning people against the incumbent party, however great or tenuous its responsibility for the crisis. It had the more profound effect of making people seek shelter in government.

After all, if even Goldman Sachs was getting government protection, why not you? And offering the comfort and safety of government is the Democratic Party's vocation. With a Republican White House having partially nationalized the banks and just about everything else, McCain's final anti-Obama maneuver -- Joe the Plumber spread-the-wealth charges of socialism -- became almost comical.

We don't yet appreciate how unprecedented were the events of September and October. We have never had a full-fledged financial panic in the middle of a presidential campaign. Consider. If the S&P were to close at the end of the year where it did on Election Day, it will have suffered this year its steepest drop since 1937. That is 71 years.

At the same time, the economy had suffered nine consecutive months of job losses. Considering the carnage to both capital and labor (which covers just about everybody), even a Ronald Reagan could not have survived. The fact that John McCain got 46 percent of the electorate when 75 percent said the country was going in the wrong direction is quite remarkable.

This is not to say that McCain made no errors. His suspension of the campaign during the economic meltdown was a long shot that not only failed, it created the McCain-the-erratic meme that deeply undermined his huge advantage over Obama in perception of leadership.

The choice of Sarah Palin was also a mistake. I'm talking here about its political effects, not the sideshow psychodrama of feminist rage and elite loathing that had little to do with politics and everything to do with cultural prejudices, resentments and affectations.

Palin was a mistake ("near suicidal," I wrote on the day of her selection) because she completely undercut McCain's principal case against Obama: his inexperience and unreadiness to lead. And her nomination not only intellectually undermined the readiness argument. It changed the election dynamic by shifting attention, for days on end, to Palin's preparedness, fitness and experience -- and away from Obama's.

McCain thought he could steal from Obama the "change" issue by running a Two Mavericks campaign. A fool's errand from the very beginning. It defied logic for the incumbent party candidate to try to take "change" away from the opposition. Election Day exit polls bore that out with a vengeance. Voters for whom change was the most important issue went 89-to-9 for Obama.

Which is not to say that Obama did not run a brilliant general election campaign. He did. In its tactically perfect minimalism, it was as well conceived and well executed as the electrifying, highflying, magic carpet ride of his primary victory. By the time of his Denver convention, Obama understood that he had to dispense with the magic and make himself kitchen-table real, accessible and, above all, reassuring. He did that. And when the economic tsunami hit, he understood that all he had to do was get out of the way. He did that too.

With him we get a president with the political intelligence of a Bill Clinton harnessed to the steely self-discipline of a Vladimir Putin. (I say this admiringly.) With these qualities, Obama will now bestride the political stage as largely as did Reagan.

But before our old soldier fades away, it is worth acknowledging that McCain ran a valiant race against impossible odds. He will be -- he should be -- remembered as the most worthy presidential nominee ever to be denied the prize.

Michael Crichton, Author of Thrillers, Dies at 66

The New York Times
November 6, 2008

Michael Crichton, whose technological thrillers like “The Andromeda Strain” and “Jurassic Park” dominated best-seller lists for decades and were translated into Hollywood megahits, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 66 and lived in Santa Monica, Calif.

A statement released by his family gave the cause as cancer, but provided no other details.

A doctor by training — he also created the hit television series “ER” — Mr. Crichton used fiction to explore the moral and political problems posed by modern technology and scientific breakthroughs, which in his books defied human control or ended up as tools used for evil ends. In his fictional worlds, human greed, hubris and the urge to dominate were just as powerful as the most advanced computers.

Mr. Crichton’s fast-paced narratives often involved the arcana of medical technology, computer science, chaos theory or genetic engineering. But by combining old-fashioned storytelling with up-to-date, gee-whiz science, the books made for a compelling formula that was adapted easily by Hollywood. His books sold in the tens of millions and almost routinely became movies, many of them blockbusters like “Jurassic Park” and the sequel, “The Lost World,” as well as “Rising Sun.”

Reviewers often complained that Mr. Crichton’s characters were wooden, that his ear for dialogue was tin and that his science was suspect. Environmentalists raged against his skeptical views on climate change, first expressed in the 2004 novel, “State of Fear,” and subsequently in various public forums. Even his severest critics, however, confessed to being seduced by his plots and unable to resist turning the pages, rapidly.

“He had a ferocious, brilliant intellect and the ability to write entertaining narratives,” said Lynn Nesbitt, his agent since “The Andromeda Strain.” “I can’t think of many writers who can match that.”

John Michael Crichton was born in Chicago, the oldest of four children, and grew up in Roslyn, on Long Island. His father was the editor of Advertising Age and later president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

At Harvard, after a professor criticized his writing style, the younger Mr. Crichton changed his major from English to anthropology and graduated summa cum laude in 1964. He then spent a year teaching anthropology on a fellowship at Cambridge University. In 1966 he entered Harvard Medical School and began writing on the side to help pay tuition.

Under the pseudonym John Lange — the German word for tall was a sly reference to his height, 6 feet 7 inches — he wrote eight thrillers. Under the name Jeffery Hudson, he wrote “A Case of Need” (1968), a medical detective novel that revolved around moral issues posed by abortion. It won an Edgar Award for best novel.

In 1969, after earning his medical degree, Mr. Crichton moved to the La Jolla section of San Diego and spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Already inclining toward a writing career, he tilted decisively with “The Andromeda Strain,” a medical thriller about a group of scientists racing against time to stop the spread of a lethal organism from outer space code-named Andromeda.

With a breakneck, suspenseful plot that played out against a carefully researched scientific setting, the novel — he was now writing under his own name — became an enormous best seller and a successful 1971 Hollywood film, a pattern repeated many times in the years to come. More than a dozen of Mr. Crichton’s novels became movies, and he turned his hand to directing, screenwriting and producing for film and television along the way. A television version of “The Andromeda Strain” was shown on the A&E network in May.

After publishing the nonfiction book “Five Patients: The Hospital Explained” (1970), Mr. Crichton returned to the best-seller list with “The Terminal Man” (1972), an updated “Frankenstein” in which an accident victim goes on a killing spree after a tiny computer implant, intended to control his brain, malfunctions. Technology, for Mr. Crichton, never worked quite the way it was intended.

Having directed “Pursuit,” an adaptation of one of his early novels, for television, Mr. Crichton turned to film, directing the low-budget “Westworld” (1973), for which he wrote the screenplay, about a virtual-reality theme park that made it possible to enter ancient Rome or the old West. The film’s highlight was a showdown between a renegade android gunfighter, played by Yul Brynner, and a luckless businessman played by Richard Benjamin.

Mr. Crichton followed this quirky project with a series of departures. In his novel “The Great Train Robbery” (1975), he turned back the clock to Victorian England to tell the story of a genteel archcriminal (Sean Connery in the film) who relieves a speeding train of its cargo of gold bullion. Then came the novel “Eaters of the Dead” (1976), in which he plunged into the mist-shrouded world of the Vikings. “Jasper Johns” (1977), a straightforward biography of that painter, completed this rash of projects.

After directing his adaptation of the Robin Cook novel “Coma,” with Geneviève Bujold in the starring role, Mr. Crichton returned to familiar territory in the novel “Congo” (1980), about a team of hunters on a jungle expedition in search of a rare variety of diamond capable of being transformed into a power source more efficient than nuclear energy.

A remarkably facile writer, with a restless imagination, Mr. Crichton continued to juggle roles as a novelist, screenwriter and director. His marital schedule was also crowded. Mr. Crichton married five times. He is survived by his wife, the former Sherri Alexander, and by a daughter, Taylor.

In the 1980s he directed a string of less than memorable films, including “Looker” (1981), “Runaway” (1984) and “Physical Evidence” (1989). The novel “Sphere” (1987), about the underwater discovery of a naval vessel from the future, struck many reviewers as a disappointment. He did manage to complete a well-regarded primer on computers, “Electronic Life” (1983), but for a time it seemed as though Mr. Crichton might have lost his magic touch.

Not so. In 1990 he published “Jurassic Park,” his immensely successful tale about a theme park inhabited by reconstituted dinosaurs who run wild after the park’s security system fails.

Part fantasy, part nightmare, the novel ingeniously blended the techno-thriller elements of Mr. Crichton’s previous work with the enduring appeal of T. rex and his prehistoric peers. The 1993 film version, directed by Steven Spielberg, became a phenomenal box-office success. Mr. Crichton returned to the dinosaur world in a sequel, “The Lost World” (1995), which Mr. Spielberg made into a film in 1997.

Those two men met during the filming of “The Andromeda Strain,” when Mr. Spielberg had just been hired as a television director by Universal.

“My first assignment was to show Michael Crichton around the Universal lot,” Mr. Spielberg said in a statement on Wednesday. He added: “Michael’s talent outscaled even his own dinosaurs of ‘Jurassic Park.’ He was the greatest at blending science with big theatrical concepts, which is what gave credibility to dinosaurs again walking the earth.”

Michael Crichton in 1977.

Mr. Crichton took advantage of his medical training for a television series, “ER,” which he had been developing as a film, to be directed by Mr. Spielberg, when “Jurassic Park” pre-empted it. Rewritten for television, “ER” first appeared on NBC in 1994 and became a long-running hit.

The growing economic power of Japan inspired “Rising Sun” (1992), a political thriller with paranoid overtones. A murder investigation at the Los Angeles offices of a Japanese company uncovers a Japanese plot to displace the United States as a technological leader. A strange combination of crime novel and economic manifesto, the book became, as usual, a successful film, with Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes as the detectives on the case.

After fending off charges of racism and xenophobia for “Rising Sun,” Mr. Crichton found himself in the thick of the debate on climate change with “State of Fear,” an eco-thriller in which evil environmentalists whip up hysteria over global warming to advance their sinister agenda.

Mr. Crichton was attacked by environmentalists for presenting a tendentious picture of the issue. In his defense, Mr. Crichton said that he accepted the reality of climate change but thought that its dangers could not be known with any certainty and had been exaggerated by environmentalists.

Mr. Crichton seemed to spin out his best-selling yarns effortlessly. A voracious consumer of scientific data and a vivid imaginer of unintended consequences, he drew on nanotechnology to populate “Prey” (2002) with horrible tiny robots. In “Next” (2006), his most recent novel, pioneering work in genetics and biotechnology unleashes creepy mayhem.

“He was extraordinarily knowledgeable about art, science and medicine,” Ms. Nesbitt, his agent, said. “He felt that he had a responsibility to educate as well as entertain.”

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Michael Crichton, 1942-2008

Ave atque vale

By Mark Steyn
Thursday, 06 November 2008

Michael Crichton was a man of formidable intelligence and boundless curiosity. The two don't go together quite as often as they should. For years, when I picked up his latest novel, I'd find myself sighing, "Of course." The books had the inevitability of all the truly great ideas - as if they had not been cooked up in his study but had always been lying there, like truffles out in the woods, and he'd just been the first hound to get to them and snuffle them out. But, of course, he got to them again and again, for over 30 years. To be sure, the characters and the prose didn't always rise to life, but the concept, the premise, the hit title usually saw him through. The critics were snippy about Crichton, but then he had the the measure of the media far more than they had it of him.

I had a small amount of personal contact with him. A few years back I wrote a piece for The Australian about "climate change" and made a reference to his latest book:

Michael Crichton's environmental novel State Of Fear has many enjoyable moments, not least the deliciously apt fate he devises for a Martin Sheenesque Hollywood eco-poseur. But, along the way, his protagonist makes a quietly sensible point - that activist lobby groups ought to close down the office after 10 years. By that stage, regardless of the impact they've had on whatever cause they're hot for, they're chiefly invested in perpetuating their own indispensability.

That's what happened to the environmental movement.

A day or so later I got an e-mail from him, thanking me not just for the endorsement but for the broader argument, and making a couple of very sharp, technical points about the "global warming" scare. As soon as the eco-hooey got his attention, he accumulated a ton of information and marshaled it more effectively than most folks on either side of the debate. That was the way he worked. Once a subject grabbed him, he soaked up far more factoids and graphs and pie charts than he could ever use in a novel. But they were part of the solid foundation from which his most inspired flights of fancy took off. There will be a final posthumous work out early next year, but here's what I wrote for Maclean's in 2007 about his penultimate and perfectly titled novel:

The title of Michael Crichton’s new novel, Next, would be a grand title for his collected works. He has a remarkable instinct not just for novelizing the hot topic du jour but for pushing it on to the next stage, across the thin line that separates today’s headlines from tomorrow’s brave new world. He’s especially good at the convergence of the mighty currents of the time – the intersection of the technological, legal, political and cultural forces in society and the way wily opportunists can hop and skip from one lily pad to another until something that would once have sounded insane is now routine. In Next, for example, a celebrity divorce attorney slumbering through a yawnsville meeting with some schlub cuckold of a genetic research exec suddenly spots the possibilities:

'What did you just say?'

'I said, "I want my wife tested…"'

'For what?'

'For everything,' he said.

'Ah,' Barry said, nodding wisely. What the hell was the guy talking about? Genetic testing? In a custody case…?

'For example,' Diehl said. 'I’ll bet my wife has a genetic predisposition to bipolar disorder. She certainly acts erratic. She might have the Alzheimer’s gene…'

'Good, very good.' Barry Sindler was nodding vigorously now. This was making him happy. Fresh, new disputed areas. Sindler loved disputed areas… Whatever the test results, they would be disputed. More days in court, more expert witnesses to interview, battles of the doctorates, dragging on for days. Days in court were especially lucrative.

And best of all, Barry realized that this genetic testing could become standard procedure for all custody cases.

Doesn’t that sound not just plausible but inevitable? And that’s before they’ve even identified half the genes worth litigating over. The best Crichton novels are like the DNA double-helix – strands of science and media, genius and huckstering that twist in and out of each other.

To be sure, he is an airport novelist, in the sense that airport bookstores are piled high with his books. By far the most conventional part of Next is the prologue, in which a couple of private detectives pursue a guy and a Ukrainian hooker through a landmark Vegas hotel – it’s all payphones and confused chases through restaurant kitchens and frantic pushing of elevator buttons. And it ends in death. It’s like reading a great description of some movie. But where Crichton goes after that is all his own – invented Google search results, mock newspaper reports (very mocking in the case of The New York Times’ correction-prone style), and wodges of peculiarly convincing techno-jargon. Take this passage. In a way, it’s nothing special – a meeting between a lawyer and a genetic researcher. But to be able to pull off the detail at this level is impressive:

The attorney consulted a notepad. 'Your best candidate is a patent application from 1998 for aminocarboxymuconate methaldehyde dehydrogenase, or ACMMD. The patent claims effects on neurotransmitter potentials in the cingulate gyrus.’

‘That’s the mode of action,’ Josh said, ‘for our maturity gene.’

The “maturity gene” is an example of what one might call the geneticization of life. Crichton also unveils a “sociability gene” – formerly a “conventional gene” (ie, it predisposes one to boringly conventional behavior) but that name didn’t focus-group well. There is also a “Neanderthal gene”, to which environmentalists are prone: “Why, then, did Neanderthals die out? The answer, according to Professor Sheldon Harmon of the University of Wisconsin, was that the Neanderthals carried a gene that led them to resist change. ‘Neanderthals were the first environmentalists. They created a lifestyle in harmony with nature. They limited game hunting, and they controlled tool use. But this same ethos also made them intensely conservative and resistant to change.”

This is a bit of harmlessly low payback for those eco-bores who attacked Crichton for his last novel, State Of Fear, a gleeful assault on the enviro-hucksters that’s full of facts and hugely enjoyable to those not in thrall to the climate-change cultists. There’s one scene in which Crichton devises a very apt demise for a blowhard Hollywood activist. They’re easy targets, of course, but Crichton’s prose achieves a rare poetry in its account of a man unaware of how profoundly unaware he is.

Next is a different kind of novel. It’s a book set on the brink of a trans-human if not post-human future in which tourists in Sumatra can stumble across an orangutang who speaks fluent Dutch and the state of California can use eminent domain to seize your cells and, on balance, the orangutang seems to enjoy more legal protection than you do. It’s fitting that, in a novel in which humanity is a commodity, every character is a minor character. Next is a mosaic, in which scientists and researchers plus assorted wives, husbands, moms, brothers and pets move in and out of focus sliding inch by inch down the slippery slope to ethically dark territory. They’re little people caught up in something big, and as Crichton moves through the usual scenarios – infidelity, drug abuse, underage sex – he tosses in some fresh new high-tech angle that takes you by surprise and yet seems utterly logical: the effect is a bit like getting an advance preview of the next generation’s clichés. Consider, for example, this interlude between chapters – a press release from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:

MIT scientists have grown a human ear in tissue culture for the first time… The extra ear could be considered ‘a partial life form – partly constructed and partly grown.’ The ear fits comfortably in the palm of the hand…

Several hearing-aid companies have opened talks with MIT about licensing their ear-making technology. According to geneticist Zack Rabi, ‘As the American population ages, many senior citizens may prefer to grow slightly enlarged, genetically modified ears, rather than rely on hearing-aid technology. A spokesman for Audion, the hearing-aid company, noted, ‘We’re not talking about Dumbo ears. Just a small increase of 20 percent in pinna size would double auditory efficiency. We think the market for enhanced ears is huge. When lots of people have them, no one will notice anymore. We believe big ears will become the new standard, like silicon breast implants.

Which, of course, is all too likely. Picture Florida circa 2015, a gated community full of big-eared nonagenarians. I like the way Crichton’s thriller brings us the usual low characters with the usual low motives – sleazy men with the hots for unfeasibly breasted babes. But, in doing so, he reminds you how easily we accept what would once have seemed downright creepy: cities full of women with concrete embonpoints that bear no relation to the rest of their bodies. As one character says, he knows they’re fake and they don’t feel right but it turns him on anyway. If you can accept, in effect, a technological transformation of something as central as sexual arousal, why would you have any scruples about what technology can do for the human body in far more peripheral areas? By the time an accused pederast is advised by his lawyers to claim his need for transgressive sexual encounters is due to his having the “novelty gene”, you begin to appreciate the horrors that lie ahead: for tactical advantage here and there, we’re likely to wind up surrendering strategically the essence of humanity. It is, in Crichton’s telling, both a thriller and a comedy of errors, a big grab-bag of ideas wrapped up in one kaleidoscopic whole. I wish more novelists meandering through fey limpid literary inconsequentialities would try books like this, but who knows? Maybe they lack the blockbuster gene.

In appreciation of Michael Crichton

By Marjorie Kehe 11.05.08
Christian Science Monitor

Brad Zweerink / News & Observer

Michael Crichton, author of "Jurrasic Park," at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in 2000 after a newly discovered species of dinosaur was named Crichton's ankylosaur in his honor.

“Michael Crichton may puzzle or annoy in his occasional lapses in taste, but he cannot be dismissed. Serious questions and important issues often lurk beneath what can seem to be a slick commercial surface,” wrote Lorraine Hirsch in a 1981 Monitor interview with author, film producer, film director, medical doctor, and television producer Michael Crichton in 1981. The words continued to ring true throughout the rest of Crichton’s career.

Crichton’s death today at the age of 66 leaves millions of fans in mourning. Crichton is known worldwide for his science fiction and techno-thriller novels, films, and television programs. His books – which include “The Andromeda Strain,” (1969) “Congo,” (1980) and “Jurassic Park” (1990) – have sold over 150 million copies worldwide.

Crichton was born in Chicago in 1942. He attended Harvard as an undergraduate and also graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1969. It was while he was in medical school that he began writing novels, publishing two under assumed names.

His big success, however, came in 1969 with the publication of “The Andromeda Strain,” a thriller in which a team of scientists investigate a deadly extraterrestrial microorganism.

Crichton often wrote about technology and its failures. It was a theme he puzzled on throughout his life. In 1980 he told Hirsch, “It’s amazing that, among all the lessons of the Vietnam war, we didn’t have our faith in technology challenged. Here we were, the greatest technological nation on earth , and we marched into a little jungle nation – and lost! Obviously, technology doesn’t have all the answers.”

He also told Hirsch, “I am not a science fiction writer. My books are all set in the past and they are all about actual possibilities. I don’t write about fantasies. I write about near-reality.”

Crichton was very tall – 6′ 7″. Hirsch wrote that in meeting him in person he had “the most patient, shy curiosity of a giraffe.”

Crichton married five times in his life, but on the day that Hirsch met with him in 1980 he was single. She asked him at the end of the interview what would make him happiest in life.

“To get married again,” he told Hirsch. She wrote, “His response is as quick as it is soft. ‘I’d like to get married again and have children and live like a normal person,’ he continues. ‘I can’t explain it. It’s like being hungry for a certain food. I’d like to be like the wild gorillas in ‘Congo,’ sitting back and watching my children play in the sunshine.’ ”

Crichton got his wish. He and his fourth wife Anne-Marie Martin had a daughter named Taylor Anne in 1989.

Preventing National Suicide

Tips on conserving and protecting from across the pond.

By Melanie Phillips
November 06, 2008, 4:30 a.m.

[Check out Ms. Phillips' "Daily Diary" at: ...her book 'Londonistan' is brilliant...a link is provided below. - jtf]

In Britain, there is a collective swoon over the election of Barack Obama. Media superlatives have exhausted the lexicon of cliches. Journalists wept with joy over his acceptance speech. Even members of the Conservative shadow cabinet are firmly in the fan club. There’s been nothing like it since... well, I was going to say Dianamania, but actually the person who most comes to mind at this moment is Britain’s former prime minister, Tony Blair.

Barack Obama meets with Tony Blair in London (July, 2008).
AP Photo

Like Obama, Blair took the country by storm when he won the first of his three general elections in 1997and threw the Conservative party completely off balance (indeed, it still hasn’t recovered). Like Obama, Blair was charismatic, eloquent, hip, and relaxed, in cruel contrast to the bunch of sleazy, incompetent throwbacks to the paleolithic era in the departing Conservative administration. Like Obama, Blair was seen as a messiah figure, who would lay his hands upon a broken nation and bring healing where there was discord. And like Obama, Blair had an agenda of change.

Blair was widely considered to be a conservative cuckoo in the Labour nest. Indeed, he came to power because he symbolically trashed the party’s commitment to state-control socialism, thus establishing his credentials as a centrist. What few realized at the time was that in fact he was a radical of a different stripe. He wanted to remake Britain and even change human nature itself, wiping out prejudice and ushering in a new world order of progressivism.

Accordingly, his government either directly promoted or did nothing to stop the long march through Britain’s institutions — the systematic undermining of the country’s fundamental values and traditions, in line with the cultural Marxism strategy of the philosopher Antonin Gramsci. It tore up Britain’s (unwritten) constitution, devolving power to Scotland and changing the composition of the upper parliamentary chamber, the House of Lords, destroying the delicate equilibrium of the balance of power.

It also set about changing the identity of the country. Promoting the doctrine of multiculturalism, it opened Britain’s doors to mass immigration. In the state-controlled schools, teachers no longer saw their role as the transmission of Britain’s historic culture, which was “racist”; accordingly, children were not taught the history of their country, but instead a concept of ‘citizenship’ which was all about changing the values of the country. It undermined marriage, promoting instead “lifestyle choice” by incentivising lone parenthood (official forms no longer refer to husband and wives, merely “partners”). It discouraged prison sentences because criminals were said to be victims of life and jail would make them worse.

Obama has talked about remedying what he sees as the flaws in the U.S. Constitution which promotes only “negative liberties,” or freedom from something rather than positive rights to something. Well, through human-rights legislation Britain has exchanged its historic concept of “negative” liberty — everything is permitted unless it is actively prohibited — for the ‘positive’ European idea that only what is codified is to be permitted.

As a result, freedom has shrunk to what ideology permits. Equality legislation has cemented a “victim culture” under which the interests of all groups deemed to be powerless (black people, women, gays ) trump those deemed to be powerful (white people, men, Christians). Since this doctrine holds that the “powerless” can do no wrong while the “powerful” can do no right, injustice is thus institutionalized, and anyone who queries the preferential treatment afforded such groups is vilified as a racist or bigot.

All this constitutes a profoundly illiberal culture in which no dissent is permitted, group is set against group and intimidation is the order of the day. And this also happens to be the culture of ACORN, of the radical groups funded by the Annenberg Challenge and Woods Fund, and the ‘educational’ or criminal justice ideas of William Ayers, endorsed by Barack Obama.

Just as Britain thinks the “powerless” can do no wrong at home, so it thinks the third world can do no wrong abroad — and even when they fly planes into American buildings, the blame therefore lies with America for behaving badly in the first place. It is hard to exaggerate the virulent hatred of America that has been coursing through Britain these past eight years. The reason was that America had dared to defend itself by use of force, riding roughshod over the U.N., and thus, it was said, putting the rest of the world at risk; and that it wanted to export its values to countries which did not live under democracy and the rule of law because it thought that these values were superior to their own. Britain thought this was an imperialism which had cost thousands of lives — and that America was to blame for Islamic violence in the first place because it supported Israel.

Now, however, the refrain in Britain is that “now we can all love America again.” Britain is ecstatic that America has elected an apparently antiwar president in a time of war. Some might think this is a form of national suicide. But Britain recognizes Obama as one of its own. That is because Britain’s intelligentsia and political class is signed up to “transnational progressivism” which holds that the nation is the source of all the ills in the world because it is inherently racist.

Obama believes America has to expiate its sins: both its original, Founding sins of slavery and racism, and its latter-day sins against the world of Islam. Britain likes the sound of that. It wants America to be humbled. Nations, it thinks, cause wars. Arrogant, hubristic, imperial nations like Bush’s America cause big and horrible wars. By contrast transnational institutions — such as the sacred UN or EU — promote civilised “engagement” with the enemy to discuss grievances and reach compromises. So it is thrilled that Obama will get out of Iraq and talk to Iran and may even force wretched Israel (which Britain blames for Everything Bad in the World) to give away the disputed territories and half of Jerusalem to the Arabs.

The fact that such actions would leave Iraq in chaos, empower Iran still further, destroy Israel’s security and imperil the free world doesn’t trouble it at all. And if Obama, under the responsibility of office, should change from an appeaser to a war leader in America’s national interest, then Britain’s new found love for America would revert once again into rage and disdain.

Of course. transnational progressivism, multiculturalism, victim culture, pacifism. and all the rest of it do amount to a national suicide note. The reason Britain has embraced them is because, for the past several decades, it has lost belief in itself as a nation and so has been systematically hollowing out its values and its defences.

The result is a cultural vacuum which is steadily being filled by radical Islamism. Paralyzed by its “universal” value system of multiculturalism and minority rights, Britain is failing to assert its own civilisational principles against the cultural onslaught being mounted by Islamists. Accordingly, it is permitting the spread of Muslim enclaves governed by a parallel jurisdiction of sharia law — the steady creation of a “state within a state” — encouraging the development of sharia finance, and permitting Saudi money to fund British universities and other institutions.

Millions of Britons are appalled by the implosion of British culture, identity, and values. But they find themselves politically disenfranchized, because the Conservative party does not understand that British values are under attack. And Republicans should take careful note of this in order to recognize a similar danger and dilemma facing them following their defeat.

The British Conservatives think that, to regain power, they have to show they have broken with cultural conservatism and go instead with the way society has changed — gay rights, green politics, anti-racism. What they have failed to grasp is that such change has turned values such as right and wrong, good and bad on their heads and has produced a sentimentalised, cruel, oppressive and perverse society — one where burglars go scot-free but householders are prosecuted for putting the wrong kind of garbage in the trash can, and where people are too frightened to protest at the erosion of British, Christian, or Western values because of the opprobrium that will follow.

The Conservatives don’t realize that by embracing such “change” they are endorsing a kind of enslavement. They don’t realize that the first duty of a conservative is to conserve that which is precious and protect it against attack. The result is that millions feel betrayed and abandoned by the absence of conservatism, and yet more still think the Conservative party is just a bunch of opportunists who don’t have any principles. Why vote for the progressive wannabes, after all, when you can have the real thing?

The challenge for conservatives on both sides of the pond is to find a way of conserving the essential values of Western Civilization and defend them against the onslaught being mounted against them both from within and from without — but to do so in a way that is generous and big-hearted rather than narrow and sectarian, and embraces rather than repels.

Melanie Phillips is author of Londonistan.

Election questions no one ever asks

By Jonah Goldberg
Posted at 12:17 AM/ET, November 06, 2008

No doubt everyone is relieved to have the election behind us, even if some of us are less than ecstatic about its result. The president-elect and Democrats in Congress very much want to move forward, talk about the future and get busy on their agenda. After all, the oceans aren't going to stop rising on their own.

Of course, how we move "forward" (quotation marks are necessary because one man's forward is another man's backward), depends very much on how we view the larger meaning of the election. Was this a vote for radical leftwingery or a vote for moderation? Is the electorate pro-liberal or merely anti-Republican? What did voters have in mind? What do they expect?

The nice thing about such questions is that you actually get real debate about them, and we'll be hearing lots of that in the weeks and months ahead. But there are other questions no one ever asks, in part because our political discourse is choked with stupefying clichés and gassy assumptions about what matters and what doesn't.

So while the election is still fresh in our minds, let us look at some of the goofy assumptions and buzzwords that defined so much of the coverage discussion this year.

Change and youngsters

Ever since the primaries, Democrats have been promising to be "agents of change" (which kind of sounds like a brand of James Bond villain; watch out — he's an agent of C*H*A*N*G*E). It's a weird quirk of our television-soaked culture that we think change is a good in and of itself. The phrase "change the channel" is a ubiquitous explanation for voters' desire to be done with President Bush. Fair enough, but change has no moral content. Winning the lottery is change, and so is catching a ball peen hammer to the bridge of your nose. The desire for change for change's sake is the stuff of children and attention-deficit disorder.

Speaking of children, the national obsession with the "youth vote" is one of the great embarrassments of deliberative democracy. Why is the participation of youth so vital? According to "youth activists" themselves, it's because they bring so much "passion" to politics. Passion, again, is not necessarily a good thing. Mobs and small children are passionate. There was a time when voting was supposed to be a matter for sober, mature reflection. Now it's more like a fashion statement. "In America," remarked Oscar Wilde long ago, "the young are always ready to give those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience." The only difference now is they get to vote.

In fact, everyone gets to vote, or at least that's the hope of vote-voluptuaries. The country is experimenting with ever-more-novel ways to make it easier for people to join "the process," which makes democracy sound like a digestive phenomenon. Gone entirely is the tradition of Election Day. Now it's Election Week or even Election Month in some states. Voting by mail, online voting, even voting by phone are increasingly in vogue, all because it's assumed that we desperately need input from voters who couldn't be bothered to get off the couch for a normal Election Day but can be coaxed to vote if it doesn't interfere too much with their video game schedule. In Arizona, there was an aggressive movement to make voting into a lottery, where casting a ballot could also lead to a big payday. The logic seemed to be that having the same folks who hang out at the local liquor store or keno parlor move their action to the polling station would enrich our democracy.

Of course, helping the infirm, the handicapped or soldiers overseas cast ballots makes sense. But do we really think the outcomes will be improved if we triple the turnout of the lazy and uninformed?

Apparently, the answer is yes, particularly judging by the virtual deification of "undecided" voters this year. I understand why campaigns care so much about the undecided voter in the last days of the election: They're kingmakers of a sort. But the press lionizes these people as geniuses and, judging from some of the focus groups we've been subjected to, these proudly indecisive and lazy voters actually believe all their good press.

The 'real people' exhibit

After each debate, some network would convene a focus group of undecided voters who then preened over their lofty status. Pollster Frank Luntz, CNN's Soledad O'Brien or some other enabler would gush over how fascinating it was to talk to "real people." Indeed, so exotic are these creatures, most of the journalists actually observed them from the other side of a two-way mirror, like visitors to the "Earthling Exhibit" on some alien planet in that old episode of The Twilight Zone. During the debates, the creatures were monitored every second, their instant reactions to the candidates' every vowel and burp were charted, often in real time, for the rest of us to decipher and applaud. Invariably, they shook their heads, more in sadness than anger, and complained they didn't get enough "specifics," as if presidential debates are the proper source of basic campaign information.

And that proves the point. These people are undecided because they don't do their homework. CNN profiled an undecided voter from Nebraska the day before the election who said he is "definitely pro-life" and a single-issue voter on abortion. But, according to CNN, he was still trying to figure out which candidate was pro-life. Um, really? Don't strain yourself trying to figure that one out.

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

Obama's Post-Racial Promise

By Shelby Steele
The Los Angeles Times
Wednesday, November 05, 2008

U.S. President-elect Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks to supporters during his election night rally after being declared the winner of the 2008 U.S. Presidential Campaign in Chicago November 4, 2008.

For the first time in human history, a largely white nation has elected a black man to be its paramount leader. And the cultural meaning of this unprecedented convergence of dark skin and ultimate power will likely become -- at least for a time -- a national obsession. In fact, the Obama presidency will always be read as an allegory. Already we are as curious about the cultural significance of his victory as we are about its political significance.

Does his victory mean that America is now officially beyond racism? Does it finally complete the work of the civil rights movement so that racism is at last dismissible as an explanation of black difficulty? Can the good Revs. Jackson and Sharpton now safely retire to the seashore? Will the Obama victory dispel the twin stigmas that have tormented black and white Americans for so long -- that blacks are inherently inferior and whites inherently racist? Doesn't a black in the Oval Office put the lie to both black inferiority and white racism? Doesn't it imply a "post-racial" America? And shouldn't those of us -- white and black -- who did not vote for Mr. Obama take pride in what his victory says about our culture even as we mourn our political loss?

Answering no to such questions is like saying no to any idealism; it seems callow. How could a decent person not hope for all these possibilities, or not give America credit for electing its first black president? And yet an element of Barack Obama's success was always his use of the idealism implied in these questions as political muscle. His talent was to project an idealized vision of a post-racial America -- and then to have that vision define political decency. Thus, a failure to support Obama politically implied a failure of decency.

Obama's special charisma -- since his famous 2004 convention speech -- always came much more from the racial idealism he embodied than from his political ideas. In fact, this was his only true political originality. On the level of public policy, he was quite unremarkable. His economics were the redistributive axioms of old-fashioned Keynesianism; his social thought was recycled Great Society. But all this policy boilerplate was freshened up -- given an air of "change" -- by the dreamy post-racial and post-ideological kitsch he dressed it in.

This worked politically for Obama because it tapped into a deep longing in American life -- the longing on the part of whites to escape the stigma of racism. In running for the presidency -- and presenting himself to a majority white nation -- Obama knew intuitively that he was dealing with a stigmatized people. He knew whites were stigmatized as being prejudiced, and that they hated this situation and literally longed for ways to disprove the stigma.

Obama is what I have called a "bargainer" -- a black who says to whites, "I will never presume that you are racist if you will not hold my race against me." Whites become enthralled with bargainers out of gratitude for the presumption of innocence they offer. Bargainers relieve their anxiety about being white and, for this gift of trust, bargainers are often rewarded with a kind of halo.

Obama's post-racial idealism told whites the one thing they most wanted to hear: America had essentially contained the evil of racism to the point at which it was no longer a serious barrier to black advancement. Thus, whites became enchanted enough with Obama to become his political base. It was Iowa -- 95% white -- that made him a contender. Blacks came his way only after he won enough white voters to be a plausible candidate.

Of course, it is true that white America has made great progress in curbing racism over the last 40 years. I believe, for example, that Colin Powell might well have been elected president in 1996 had he run against a then rather weak Bill Clinton. It is exactly because America has made such dramatic racial progress that whites today chafe so under the racist stigma. So I don't think whites really want change from Obama as much as they want documentation of change that has already occurred. They want him in the White House first of all as evidence, certification and recognition.

But there is an inherent contradiction in all this. When whites -- especially today's younger generation -- proudly support Obama for his post-racialism, they unwittingly embrace race as their primary motivation. They think and act racially, not post-racially. The point is that a post-racial society is a bargainer's ploy: It seduces whites with a vision of their racial innocence precisely to coerce them into acting out of a racial motivation. A real post-racialist could not be bargained with and would not care about displaying or documenting his racial innocence. Such a person would evaluate Obama politically rather than culturally.

Certainly things other than bargaining account for Obama's victory. He was a talented campaigner. He was reassuringly articulate on many issues -- a quality that Americans now long for in a president. And, in these last weeks, he was clearly pushed over the top by the economic terrors that beset the nation. But it was the peculiar cultural manipulation of racial bargaining that brought him to the political dance. It inflated him as a candidate, and it may well inflate him as a president.

There is nothing to suggest that Obama will lead America into true post-racialism. His campaign style revealed a tweaker of the status quo, not a revolutionary. Culturally and racially, he is likely to leave America pretty much where he found her.

But what about black Americans? Won't an Obama presidency at last lead us across a centuries-old gulf of alienation into the recognition that America really is our country? Might this milestone not infuse black America with a new American nationalism? And wouldn't this be revolutionary in itself? Like most Americans, I would love to see an Obama presidency nudge things in this direction. But the larger reality is the profound disparity between black and white Americans that will persist even under the glow of an Obama presidency. The black illegitimacy rate remains at 70%. Blacks did worse on the SAT in 2000 than in 1990. Fifty-five percent of all federal prisoners are black, though we are only 13% of the population. The academic achievement gap between blacks and whites persists even for the black middle class. All this disparity will continue to accuse blacks of inferiority and whites of racism -- thus refueling our racial politics -- despite the level of melanin in the president's skin.

The torture of racial conflict in America periodically spits up a new faith that idealism can help us "overcome" -- America's favorite racial word. If we can just have the right inspiration, a heroic role model, a symbolism of hope, a new sense of possibility. It is an American cultural habit to endure our racial tensions by periodically alighting on little islands of fresh hope and idealism. But true reform, like the civil rights victories of the '60s, never happens until people become exhausted with their suffering. Then they don't care who the president is.

Presidents follow the culture; they don't lead it. I hope for a competent president.

Shelby Steele is an author, columnist and senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


By Ann Coulter
November 5, 2008

Last night was truly a historic occasion: For only the second time in her adult life, Michelle Obama was proud of her country!

The big loser of this election is Colin Powell, whose last-minute endorsement of Obama put the Illinois senator over the top. Powell was probably at home last night, yelling at his TV, "Are you KIDDING me? That endorsement was sarcastic!"

The winner, of course, is Obama, who must be excited because now he can start hanging out in public with Bill Ayers and Rev. Jeremiah Wright again. John McCain is a winner because he can resume buying more houses.

And we're all winners because we will never again have to hear McCain say, "my friends."

After Bill Clinton won the 1992 presidential election, Hillary Clinton immediately announced that, henceforth, she would be known as "Hillary Rodham Clinton." So maybe Obama can now become B. Hussein Obama, his rightful name.

This was such an enormous Democratic year that even John Murtha won his congressional seat in Pennsylvania after calling his constituents racists. It turns out they're not racists -- they're retards. Question: What exactly would one have to say to alienate Pennsylvanians? That Joe Paterno should retire?

Apparently Florida voters didn't mind Obama's palling around with Palestinian activist Rashid Khalidi and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, either. There must be a whole bunch of retired Pennsylvania Jews down there.

Have you ever noticed that whenever Democrats lose presidential elections, they always blame it on the personal qualities of their candidate? Kerry was a dork, Gore was a stiff, Dukakis was a bloodless android, Mondale was a sad sack.

This blame-the-messenger thesis allows Democrats to conclude that their message was fine -- nothing should be changed! The American people are clamoring for higher taxes, big government, a defeatist foreign policy, gay marriage, the whole magilla. It was just this particular candidate's personality.

Republicans lost this presidential election, and I don't blame the messenger; I blame the message. How could Republicans go after B. Hussein Obama (as he is now known) on planning to bankrupt the coal companies when McCain supports the exact same cap and trade policies and earnestly believes in global warming?

How could we go after Obama for his illegal alien aunt and for supporting driver's licenses for illegal aliens when McCain fanatically pushed amnesty along with his good friend Teddy Kennedy?

How could we go after Obama for Jeremiah Wright when McCain denounced any Republicans who did so?

How could we go after Obama for planning to hike taxes on the "rich," when McCain was the only Republican to vote against both of Bush's tax cuts on the grounds that they were tax cuts for the rich?

And why should Republican activists slave away working for McCain when he has personally, viciously attacked: John O'Neill and the Swift Boat Veterans, National Right to Life director Doug Johnson, evangelical pastors Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and John Hagee, various conservative talk radio hosts, the Tennessee Republican Party and on and on and on?

As liberal Democrat E.J. Dionne Jr. exuded about McCain in The Washington Post during the Republican primaries, "John McCain is feared by Democrats and liked by independents." Dionne proclaimed that McCain "may be the one Republican who can rescue his party from the undertow of the Bush years."

Similarly, after unelectable, ultraconservative Reagan won two landslide victories, James Reston of The New York Times gave the same advice to Vice President George H.W. Bush: Stop being conservative! Bush was "a good man," Reston said in 1988, "and might run a strong campaign if liberated from Mr. Reagan's coattails."

Roll that phrase around a bit -- "liberated from Mr. Reagan's coattails." This is why it takes so long to read the Times -- you have to keep reading the same paragraph over again to see if you missed a word.

Bush, of course, rode Reagan's ultraconservative coattails to victory, then snipped those coattails by raising taxes and was soundly defeated four years later.

I keep trying to get Democrats to take my advice (stop being so crazy), but they never listen to me. Why do Republicans take the advice of their enemies?

How many times do we have to run this experiment before Republican primary voters learn that "moderate," "independent," "maverick" Republicans never win, and right-wing Republicans never lose?

Indeed, the only good thing about McCain is that he gave us a genuine conservative, Sarah Palin. He's like one of those insects that lives just long enough to reproduce so that the species can survive. That's why a lot of us are referring to Sarah as "The One" these days.

Like Sarah Connor in "The Terminator," Sarah Palin is destined to give birth to a new movement. That's why the Democrats are trying to kill her. And Arnold Schwarzenegger is involved somehow, too. Good Lord, I'm tired.

After showing nearly superhuman restraint throughout this campaign, which was lost the night McCain won the California primary, I am now liberated to announce that all I care about is hunting down and punishing every Republican who voted for McCain in the primaries. I have a list and am prepared to produce the names of every person who told me he was voting for McCain to the proper authorities.

We'll start with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Then we shall march through the states of New Hampshire and South Carolina -- states that must never, ever be allowed to hold early Republican primaries again.

For now, we have a new president-elect. In the spirit of reaching across the aisle, we owe it to the Democrats to show their president the exact same kind of respect and loyalty that they have shown our recent Republican president.

Starting tomorrow, if not sooner.