A McCain Voter Finds Silver Linings

Differences on policy issues should not, on this day, obscure the marvel that has occurred. A man who in his early childhood could not use certain public restrooms has just been elected to the most powerful office in the world.

The 109-year-old daughter of a slave lived long enough to help elect a black president.

There will always be toxic individuals, but it’s now permissible to hope that we may have seen “The End of Racism” as a potent force in our society.

I’ve read a lot of conservative commentary in the past few hours, some of it cranky and bitter, more of it gracious and respectful. Here’s an excerpt from my favorite, from Mike Potemra in The Corner:

I voted for John McCain because I admire him immensely as a person, and agree with him on many more issues than I do with Senator Obama. And I ask a rhetorical question: Can we McCain voters, without embarrassment, shed a tear of patriotic joy about the historic significance of what just happened? And I offer a short, rhetorical answer.

Yes, we can.

As Peggy Noonan said earlier, “this means a great deal.”

It also means a great deal that America’s first black President is not a grievance monger like Jesse Jackson or a race-baiting thug like Al Sharpton. Obama is an archetypal family man who exudes a sense of calm leadership and stresses personal responsibility, and who built a winning coalition by earning the support of millions of people of all races. Jackson, who as recently as 2006 was named America’s “most important black leader,” will never wear that mantle again, and America will be the better for it.

More silver linings (and no, dammit, the silver lining metaphor is NOT racial code):

  • As I’ve written before, it’s probably too late to surrender in Iraq — even though Obama’s support for doing so helped him win the Democratic nomination. Enough progress has been made that once it becomes Mr. Obama’s war, 76 days from now, he will not want to be the President who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
  • Obama’s election will, at least temporarily, dramatically improve America’s standing in the eyes of the rest of the world. (I consider this to be similar to the redemptive benefit of electing a black President. It’s not reason enough for me to vote for Obama in a time of war, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be pleased by that part of the package.) When the time comes to respond to the next terrorist assault, President Obama will be more free of the phony unilateralist label than President McCain could ever hope to be.
  • Despite holding the Presidency and both houses of Congress, the Democrats will be constrained in their ability to increase the size of government by the financial crisis that will take at least a year or two to unwind. The Obama Administration may well turn out, against its instincts, to be more financially conservative than the Bush Administration. Not a high hurdle, I admit.

I’ll close this tour of silver linings by returning to the theme of the first post I wrote about Obama: I Prefer the Chicago Politician to the Obamessiah. Obama is an extraordinarily charismatic and talented politician. To quote The Corner again:

The manner of this political victory is important, as well. This was not some prize bestowed upon him, and Barack Obama didn’t just buy a winning lottery ticket; he out-smarted and out-worked both Hillary Clinton and John McCain. It is healthy that the American political system gathers the energies and talents of those who feel excluded into the nation to change it, rather than pushing them away from the nation to oppose it.

“Politics” is often considered a dirty word, but politics is the craft of government, and America has elected a master craftsman. He is a man comfortable in his own skin. Even while taking full electoral advantage of the cult-like following he inspired, he remained self-aware enough to jokingly deny rumors that he was “born in a manger.”

Although I’ve written at length about his occasional appalling choices in associates, to me that always seemed much more of a blot on his judgment than on his own moral character. No person is without flaws, and no successful politician can always take the high road. But I believe President-Elect Obama — like the man he defeated — is fundamentally a good and decent human being with the capacity to be an inspirational leader. The fact that our political system gave us a choice of two such candidates may be the greatest silver lining of all.

My President… America’s President

Godspeed, Mr. Obama.

From The Book of Common Prayer, p. 390:

For the peace of the world, that a spirit of respect and forbearance may grow among nations and peoples, we pray to you, O Lord.

For those in positions of public trust, especially George our President and Barack our next President, that they may serve justice, and promote the dignity and freedom of every person, we pray to you, O Lord.


Purple Finger Majesties

The Web Goddess and I got up early this morning to perform our solemn civic duty of canceling each other out at the election booth.

The polls in New Jersey nominally open at 6 a.m., but voting was already under way when we arrived at 6. At 6:04 I estimated just under 100 people in the cafeteria at Tuscan Elementary School, where three districts vote. We were out of there by about 6:25, and the crowd had swelled to well over 100, in part because the line for the next district over wasn’t moving at all — apparently a voting machine problem.

Neither of us remember ever seeing so many people at the polls. Conventional wisdom holds that high turnout normally favors the Democrats. There’s no doubt that will be true in New Jersey, where electoral-vote.com‘s average of four recent polls shows Obama with a 16-point lead, 55% to 39%.

I voted straight Republican. Aside from the Presidential race, I was voting in the interests of divided government, not because I prefer the positions of whoever the GOP Freeholder candidate was over the positions of whoever the Democratic Freeholder candidate was. The Republicans did not field a candidate for Congress, so I couldn’t vote against Donald Payne, short of writing someone in. I’ve got nothing against Payne other than the fact that he’s a product of the Newark Democratic machine who has served 10 terms in Congress already.

While standing in line, it was tempting to think of voting in a lopsided race as a waste of time. Then I thought of all of the pictures of Iraqi and Afghani voters waving their purple fingers after voting, at some risk to their lives, in their first meaningful election in decades. And I shuffled ahead as the line moved forward.

No, It’s NOT Racial Code

I listen to political podcasts on my iPod when I’m on the treadmill. One of the ones I like is the Slate Political Gabfest, even though all three regular panelists are strong Obama supporters. (So is almost everyone at Slate — when they polled their staffers, the vote went 55-1 for Obama over McCain, with a couple of minor candidates.) I’m not on the same page politically with the Gabfesters, but they have intelligent lively conversations, and generally treat the opposition with respect.

Today, however, I almost fell off the treadmill at something the usually sensible John Dickerson said:

“A lot of voters… when you talk about experience with respect to Obama, that’s code for people’s continuing uncomfortableness about his race… a lot of times when people talk about worries about his experience, they’re really touching against their difficulty with the fact that he’s an African-American.” [about 9 minutes into the podcast]

Oh. My. God.

I thought we had reached the depths of strained attempts to play the race card a couple of weeks ago, when a Kansas City Star columnist opined that the term “socialist” is “an old code word for black.” As evidence for this, columnist Lewis Diuguid said J. Edgar Hoover had used the term to describe prominent black leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois. This ignores the fact that Hoover also referred to white socialists as “socialists,” that King (whom I admire) at least arguably was a socialist, and that Robeson and DuBois were admirers of Josef Stalin and, if anything, to the left of socialism.

But however misguided Diuguid’s argument might be, at least he advanced some reason for asserting that “socialism” is racial code. Dickerson offers no rationale whatsoever for the idea that “inexperience,” a major campaign theme raised by both Hillary Clinton and McCain for many months, all of a sudden has become racial code.

Here’s how to decipher the terms: “Socialism” is code for government redistribution of wealth, as in Obama’s stated desire to “spread the wealth around.” “Inexperience” is code for “not having much experience.” If political opponents criticize Obama for inexperience and leaning toward socialism, it’s because he’s a first-term Senator who has the most liberal voting record in the Senate, to the left of Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-identified democratic socialist.

The clash of ideas is the bedrock of our political system, and it ain’t always pretty. There have been 43 white Presidents, and every single one of them has had both strong supporters and harsh critics. If Obama becomes the first black President, it has to be possible to criticize him without having to defend against specious charges of racism.

A McCain Voter Contemplates an Obama Presidency

I was going to write a poignant, insightful post about why this McCain voter is undismayed by the prospect of an Obama victory, but Peggy Noonan beat me to it. Saves me a few pixels, I suppose. An excerpt:

A great moment: When the press was hitting hard on the pregnancy of Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, he did not respond with a politically shrewd “I have no comment,” or “We shouldn’t judge.” Instead he said, “My mother had me when she was 18,” which shamed the press and others into silence. He showed grace when he didn’t have to.

There is something else. On Feb. 5, Super Tuesday, Mr. Obama won the Alabama primary with 56% to Hillary Clinton’s 42%. That evening, a friend watched the victory speech on TV in his suburban den. His 10-year-old daughter walked in, saw on the screen “Obama Wins” and “Alabama.” She said, “Daddy, we saw a documentary on Martin Luther King Day in school.” She said, “That’s where they used the hoses.” Suddenly my friend saw it new. Birmingham, 1963, and the water hoses used against the civil rights demonstrators. And now look, the black man thanking Alabama for his victory.

This means nothing? This means a great deal.

I’m voting McCain because I believe he has a better understanding of the cost of meekness in the face of fascism. But Obama has demonstrated that he knows he can’t afford to be held hostage by the extreme pacifist wing of his party. Ironically, the success of the surge has worked against its champion, McCain. An Obama Presidency that might have been a disaster two years ago is much less frightening now that the advocates of surrender have lost interest in the war.

For me, the redemptive potential of electing a black man as President is not a sufficient reason to support the candidate I consider less qualified to be commander-in-chief. But if Obama wins, my vote for the other guy will not prevent me from celebrating a joyous milestone. As Noonan wrote, this means a great deal.

The Corner vs. the Messiahmercial

The Web Goddess and I watched the Obamavision special via DVR while snuggling together on the couch. We’re a red-and-blue couple, but in the spirit of bipartisanship, I wore a purple shirt.

I started checking out of the campaign emotionally after the final debate (see “Stick a Fork in Mac, He’s Toast“). So tonight (ok, last night) I took a couple of minor jabs at The One, but afterwards I muted the Obamatron and said to Nina, “he’s good.” I’m in the mode of trying to make the best of the coming Obama presidency, and I was impressed by the performance. His communication skills rival Reagan’s and Clinton’s. I then navigated the DVR to the new Law & Order: SVU that I missed Tuesday night. Up now with a touch of insomnia, I learn that apparently the Phillies won the World Series.

The Corner’s still on the case, however. Some of the Cornerites are trying too hard — “If any undecided voters are moved by this nearly unwatchable garbage, then we will get what we deserve.” But there’s a link to a useful AP deconstruction of the ways in which “Barack Obama was less than upfront in his half-hour commercial.” Then there was this:

I was struck by the guy at the Ford plant; it noted that his father and grandfather had worked at Ford and retired with full benefits. And now he’s only paid to work every other week. Is he suffering currently because of the state of the economy and George Bush’s economic policies, or because his dad and grandad’s union extracted exorbitant benefits and retirement packages that mean Ford is now saddled with crushing financial obligations?

… which eloquently captures the half-formed thoughts that were swirling through my mind at the time.

Nina and I both joked about the “amber waves of grain” that opened the show. Later on we saw the “purple mountain’s majesties” in the backdrop of the Albuquerque (Hi Mom!) vignette. K-Lo came through with the best dig:

“He had me at the waving wheat.” [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
That’s how Rachel Maddow began her show tonight. Must turn off MSNBC.

Woman Bites Candidate on CNN

I just set the DVR to record Obama’s half-hour, blanket-the-airwaves infomercial, since I’ll be out when it airs. It’s a good reminder that I wanted to blog about a woman-bites-candidate story I saw on CNN.

I first became aware of the existence of Campbell Brown when she questioned the significance of Sarah Palin’s role as commander-in-chief of the Alaska National Guard. It struck me as a fair line of questioning, albeit certainly aggressive, but the McCain camp reacted by canceling McCain’s appearance with fellow CNN talking head Larry King. That’ll fix ’em!

To her credit, this week Campbell proved she can jump ugly in both directions:

One year ago, [Obama] made a promise. He pledged to accept public financing and to work with the Republican nominee to ensure that they both operated within those limits.

Then it became clear to Sen. Obama and his campaign that he was going to be able to raise on his own far more cash than he would get with public financing. So Obama went back on his word.

She even quoted an Obama supporter using the word “hypocrite” in describing the situation. You go, girl!

After a lively conversation in the comments of an earlier post, I’m tempted to go through Campbell Brown’s commentary line by line and look for anything that might be interpreted as “racial code,” but I suspect both she and her editors did that beforehand. If she were commentating on Fox News, people would be straining to find dog-whistle language in it.

And speaking of dogs and strained metaphors, my “woman-bites-candidate” reference is not racial code — it’s poking fun at left-leaning media.

Catfight in The Corner! Lopez vs. Parker

Welcome, Andrew Sullivan and 3QuarksDaily readers. While you’re here, I hope you’ll take a look around and leave a comment! The “Labels” section in the right column can be used as a menu.

I’m a big fan of National Review Online’s group blog, called The Corner. It has been described as “the Id of Conservatism,” and it’s the first political blog I visit on most mornings. I visit multiple times on most days — there are a dozen or more contributors who participate with varying degrees of regularity, which means there is fresh content throughout the day.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, known as K-Lo, is the Editor of NRO. She’s also the most frequent poster in The Corner, and serves as its “Mother Hen,” keeping her predominately male colleagues in line when they spin off on tangents such as Star Trek discussions. [Sexist metaphor alert: This post contains politically incorrect, gender-specific references, starting with the headline. What can I say — I’m a man, and men are pigs.] I disagree strongly with Lopez on social issues (she’s an anti-abortion absolutist and opposes gay equality), but I admire her work ethic and I admire, evaluated as a whole, the product she produces at NRO.

In short, I’m not a K-Lo basher (cf. Sullivan, Andrew).

But she made a cryptic post this morning that inspired me to drop everything and figure out what the heck it was about. She thereby called my attention to a column on her own site that she finds “embarrassing and outrageous,” and that I likely would not have seen otherwise.

She doesn’t link to the column in question. Whatever could she be talking about? I had a hunch, but didn’t want to leap to a false conclusion. So I did some research.

Tempted though I am to document my sleuthing with step-by-step screen captures, I have actual professional obligations to get to today. So suffice it to say that I laborious opened each and every column listed under the daily “New on NRO” digest, below:

On each column I searched for the word “Monica,” and found it, as I expected, only on Kathleen Parker’s “Tragic Flaw” column. (Hence the “catfight” reference in the headline — they’re both women, get it? Har, har, har.)

A month ago, Kathleen Parker became one of the earliest and most prominent conservatives to go public with a strong condemnation of the Palin selection, saying she should withdraw for the sake of the party and her country. Pundits and bloggers on the Left gleefully plastered links to the column all over the Internets, while a few on the Right did so more in sorrow than in anger.

Gotta wrap this up, my phone keeps ringing — a happy problem for a self-employed writer/consultant. In today’s column, Parker suggests, without actually saying it in a quotable soundbite way, that McCain picked Palin because he thinks she’s a hot babe. The “Monica” in K-Lo’s headline, as you may have guessed, is a reference to Monica Lewinsky. Here’s the closing of the column:

It is entirely possible that no one could have beaten the political force known as Barack Obama — under any circumstances. And though it isn’t over yet, it seems clear that McCain made a tragic, if familiar, error under that sycamore tree [McCain apparently “proposed” to Palin under such a tree — Ed.]. Will he join the pantheon of men who, intoxicated by a woman’s power, made the wrong call?

Had Antony not fallen for Cleopatra, Octavian might not have captured the Roman Empire. Had Bill resisted Monica, Al Gore may have become president and Hillary might be today’s Democratic nominee.

If McCain, rightful heir to the presidency, loses to Obama, history undoubtedly will note that he was defeated at least in part by his own besotted impulse to discount the future. If he wins, then he must be credited with having correctly calculated nature’s power to befuddle.

K-Lo (and apparently some readers who corresponded with her) are outraged at the idea that Parker arguably has compared Sarah Palin with Monica Lewinsky, and by extension arguably has compared John McCain with Bill “Can’t Keep it Zipped” Clinton. One can certainly interpret the column that way, but I urge you to read the whole column and consider whether the Lewinsky/Clinton analogy is central to her thesis.

I think Parker is on to something — it boils down to “men are pigs.” I don’t think McCain is nearly as big a pig, in the sexual sense, as Clinton… but I think an analogous dynamic is at work. It’s the best explanation I’ve seen for throwing caution to the winds and making the disastrous Palin selection.

I’m not a Palin-basher either, btw, at least not in any absolutist sense… I criticized the choice the day after it was made (“The Five Stages of Adjusting to Palin“), then was wowed by her convention speech (pig that I am, no doubt) and tried to make the best of until Palin became too much of a national joke. Here’s a link to all of my Palin-related posts.

Update: From the comments, Pretty Lady (who blogs about relationships, sex, politics, spirituality and other matters) offers a thoughtful personal perspective on how men relate to, well, pretty ladies:

When I adopted my blog moniker, I thought of it as a staggeringly obvious and overtly ironic joke. I was shocked to discover that it was taken absolutely seriously by the vast majority of bloggers and their commenters, and that it entirely colored their initial take on my observations.

Simply, people pay much more attention to words coming out of the mouth of a Pretty Lady. They may reflexively deride those words, or fawn on them, but they are definitely responding to context, rather than content.

Update: This post led to a Sullivalanche.