Big Bird Doesn’t Need Big Government

From a (free) editorial in The Wall Street Journal:

According to financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2011, Sesame Workshop and its nonprofit and for-profit subsidiaries had total operating revenue of more than $134 million. They receive about $8 million a year in direct government grants and more indirectly via PBS subsidies. …

At the end of fiscal 2011, Sesame Workshop and its subsidiaries had total assets of $289 million…. these investments included stakes in hedge funds and private-equity funds. …

So Big Bird likes to maximize revenues and investment gains as much as the next muppet. And now the President has made this adorable critter the symbol of federal programs that allegedly require eternal taxpayer aid, even if it has to be put on the future tax bill of today’s pre-schoolers. Is that funny?

How can we trust the government to make the difficult choices required to balance the budget when we can’t even trust them to make the easy choices?  Yes, the $8 million Sesame subsidy is small potatoes, but symbolism is important.  In a 500-channel television environment, the notion that there would be no quality programming without government subsidy is ludicrous.

(Image from Wikipedia)

His & Hers Candidates: When Love Is Stronger Than Politics

On November 6, the Web Goddess and I will walk down the hill to the Presbyterian church and fulfill our solemn civic duty of canceling each other out at the polls.

It’ll be the third straight election where we support different candidates.  This, combined with my ongoing political advocacy on this blog, makes for some careful conversations at home.

But never anything heated — we don’t “do” acrimony. She’s my summer love in the spring, fall and winter, and I’m sure as hell not going to let differences over healthcare policy or the war in Iraq come between us.

In online forums where I’ve disclosed my “mixed marriage,” I’ve had Republicans ask “how can you stand living with a Democrat”?  Well, I was a lifelong Democrat before becoming a 9-11 Republican — we both supported Mr. Gore in 2000.  I’ve seen demonization of “the other” from both sides, and it’s ugly from any perspective.  Liberalism and conservatism are both vibrant and essential strains of thought, and each deserves its champions in the clash of ideas.  That’s why on this blog I try, with perhaps mixed success, to treat opposing ideas with respect.  We’ve gotta be able to talk with each other.

Perhaps the most prominent example of opposing viewpoints within a marriage is James Carville and Mary Matalin — although a friend just nominated Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver.  Carville was the campaign manager for Bill Clinton in 1992, while Matalin was a senior campaign adviser to George H.W. Bush.  A year after the election they got married, had two kids, and by all accounts they’ve been happily married for more than two decades.  (Schwarzenegger and Shriver, not so much, although that had more to do with adultery than politics.)

At the end of the day, of course, as residents of New Jersey it doesn’t matter who either of us votes for.  The Founders in their wisdom created the Electoral College, which means your vote is meaningless if you live in a lopsided state.  No, I’m not bitter — I generally support the idea of federalism, and the Electoral College comes with the package.  So on November 6, the Web Goddess and I will tune in while the election is settled by the good citizens of Ohio, Virginia and [shudder] Florida.  And on November 7 we’ll wake up grateful for the blessings in our lives.

(Photo by Ray Folkman — our neighbor)

Romney Should Use Tax Return Release to Make the Moral Case for Capitalism

Much as it pains me to link to the outfit that threw the odious Keith Olbermann a lifeline when even MSNBC could no longer stomach him, Current.com has a useful roundup entitled “List of Republicans calling on Mitt to release returns keeps growing and growing.”

Author Jonathan Kuperberg starts with a lead nearly as snarky as mine on this post, then plays it straight while quoting Rick Perry, Bill Kristol, Haley Barbour, Bret Hume, Richard Lugar, Michael Steele and a dozen more conservatives (or Republicans) calling on Romney to release more tax returns.  George Will describes the perception Romney is creating:

“The cost of not releasing the returns are clear,” Will said. “Therefore, he must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them.”

I suspect that when he inevitably releases them, the returns will establish that Romney is really, really, really rich.  Master of the Universe rich.  Maybe “Forbes 400″ rich, although Forbes doesn’t currently think so.  In an op-ed titled “Why Capitalism Has an Image Problem,” Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute describes why Romney should not run from the fact of his wealth:

Mitt Romney’s résumé at Bain should be a slam dunk. He has been a successful capitalist, and capitalism is the best thing that has ever happened to the material condition of the human race. From the dawn of history until the 18th century, every society in the world was impoverished, with only the thinnest film of wealth on top. Then came capitalism and the Industrial Revolution. Everywhere that capitalism subsequently took hold, national wealth began to increase and poverty began to fall. Everywhere that capitalism didn’t take hold, people remained impoverished. Everywhere that capitalism has been rejected since then, poverty has increased.

Capitalism has lifted the world out of poverty because it gives people a chance to get rich by creating value and reaping the rewards. Who better to be president of the greatest of all capitalist nations than a man who got rich by being a brilliant capitalist?

I suspect it also will turn out that Romney has aggressively made use of tax-minimization strategies that are not practical for people of lesser means.  Assuming everything he did was legal, I say good for him.  If Obama supporters want to claim that it is somehow immoral to take advantage of loopholes in the law for financial benefit, they should take a one-question quiz: Who is the first major presidential candidate ever to opt out of the system of public funding of campaigns, even while supporting that system on “principle”? Hint: he’s running again this year, and his name is not Romney.

Granted, any rich man traipsing through a defense of capitalism will encounter pitfalls, and Romney no doubt would blunder into some of them.  But this election is shaping up as the clearest choice in memory between the champions of free enterprise and the champions of bigger government, and Romney should make no apology for playing hard for the team to which he belongs.

 

Spiking the Football: Obama Tarnishes a Genuine Triumph Through Tone-Deaf Politicizing

President Obama seems to be on the verge of turning the only positive accomplishment of his presidency into a campaign liability.

Veterans for a Strong America logoI don’t know what he and his campaign staff were thinking when they started saying and implying that Romney might not have given the go-ahead for the take-down of Osama bin Laden.   Do they really think Obama or any Democrat is going to win votes by claiming to be more hawkish than a Republican opponent?

The Veterans for a Strong America ad embedded above is just devastating.  The parallels with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004 are obvious — but James Taranto makes an important distinction (second item):

It sounds a bit like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who helped sink John Kerry. We’re not the first to make that connection. On Wednesday Bloomberg’s Margaret Carlson wrote a defensive piece titled “Why Obama Can’t Be Swift-Boated”:

Kerry may have been Swift-Boated, but Obama is not going to be SEALed. Republicans are used to calling Democrats cowards and worse. Not this time. Republicans have the squishy, soft, cosseted, consensus-building candidate, while Democrats have the fighter. Finally.

Liberal pundits always make us laugh when they cheer on Democratic macho posturing like this. That said, it seems to us Carlson is probably right to think the SEALs won’t be able to hurt Obama nearly as much as the Swift Boat veterans hurt Kerry. After all, Kerry wasn’t really a war hero, whereas killing bin Laden is a real accomplishment for Obama, one that even his braggadocio cannot completely erase.

Allahpundit thinks the “spiking the football” dustup could actually end up helping Obama (hat tip: Contentions):

He’d much rather have an argument with conservatives over the OBL raid than the economy since every minute spent talking about Bin Laden is (a) a reminder that O did in fact give the order to liquidate the bastard, however shoddy his behavior might have been afterward, and (b) a minute not spent talking about the thoroughgoing crappiness of, oh, pretty much every other part of his record.

It’s not just conservatives going after Obama for celebrating in the end zone.  In the video, Arianna Huffington called the President’s politicizing of the matter “despicable.”  I actually think that overstates it — I just think it’s stupid and counter-productive. But I’m delighted by Huffington’s reaction — it provides a lot of protective cover for conservative criticism on the topic.

 

Jonah Goldberg’s Take on “Defend to the Death” Rings a Bell…

Goldberg (from Wikipedia)

(Welcome, National Review readers!)

Jonah Goldberg is the writer I want to be if I grow up. (Since I’m a decade older than Goldberg, I guess I should have started earlier.)

Literally tens of people read this blog every day.  Goldberg, OTOH, has tens of bazillions of readers at National Review Online and elsewhere, and his first book, Liberal Fascism, was a No. 1 bestseller.  How did my first book do?  I’ll get back to you on that.  (Note to self: write a book.)

I bought Liberal Fascism despite the tendentious title, expecting humorous insights.  I found it more dry and scholarly than I expected.  (If you’d like to buy a copy based on that ringing endorsement, please do so through my Amazon widget in the column at right.)

Goldberg’s next book, due out in a few days, seems likely to be more fun, although the slightly less provocative title might keep a damper on sales. The book is Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas, and if you’d like to purchase a copy, I recommend using my widget.  (Hey, did you know that if you go to Amazon via my widget, I’ll supposedly get a sliver of revenue from whatever you purchase in that browser session?)

Goldberg’s blog for the book offers a link to the introduction, where this passage caught my fancy:

There’s a kind of argument-that-isn’t-an-argument that vexes me. I first started to notice it on university campuses. I’ve spoken to a lot of college audiences. Often, I will encounter an earnest student, much more serious looking than the typical hippie with open-toed shoes and a closed mind. During the Q&A session after my speech he will say something like “Mr. Goldberg, I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Then he will sit down, and the audience will applaud. Faculty will nod proudly at this wiser-than-his-years hatchling under their wings. What a glorious moment for everybody. Blessed are the bridge builders.

My response? Who gives a rat’s ass?

First of all, my right to speak never was in doubt. Indeed, I’m usually paid to speak. Besides, I’ve given my speech already and we’re in Q&A time: Shouldn’t you have told me this beforehand? Second, the kid is almost surely lying. He’ll take a bullet for me? Really?

Clichés like these are a way to earn bravery on the cheap, defending principles you haven’t thought through or perhaps only vaguely support. Or, heck, maybe he really would leap on a grenade so I could finish talking about how stupid high-speed rail is. But it still doesn’t matter, because mouthing these sorts of clichés is a way to avoid arguments, not make them.

As I have in the past, I experienced a little frisson of kinship with Goldberg.  I’ve always been annoyed by the phony sincerity of the “defend to the death” line.  Here’s my take on it from three years ago:

There’s an old platitude, “I may not agree with what you say, but I would defend to the death your right to say it.”  That rings slightly false — although I would verbally defend your right to disagree with me, if there’s a realistic prospect of death, you’re probably on your own. But surely all of us would be better off if more people treated opposing ideas with some level of respect.

No, I don’t think Goldberg got the idea from me, I just think it’s kind of cool that by being a blogger, I can go back and look up stuff I wrote in the past, and brag about having an idea first.

The Sooner Christie Loses on Same-Sex Marriage, the Better Off He’ll Be

(Welcome, TigerHawk and Patch readers!  You can find more New Jersey posts here, more marriage equality posts here.)
The Web Goddess, who reads the left-leaning Salon so that I don’t have to, today flagged a very astute and even-handed article on the political dilemma that same-sex marriage poses for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

I argued earlier this week that although Christie will veto the marriage equality bill if it reaches his desk, the governor is fighting a losing battle.  The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.  As of this week seven states permit same-sex marriage.  New Jersey will not become the eighth, but I fully expect it to be in the front half of the parade, despite Christie’s efforts.

In Salon, author Steven Kornacki captures the dilemma well:

There are two elections on the horizon that Chris Christie has a particular interest in. The first is in New Jersey next year, when he’ll seek a second term as governor. The second is in 2016, when he’ll make a logical presidential candidate — if he wins reelection in ’13 and if the Republican nomination is open. (For now, at least, let’s leave aside the idea that Christie might serve as his party’s vice presidential candidate this year.)

This makes the debate over gay marriage in the Garden State, where the Democratic-controlled Senate approved marriage equality legislation yesterday, a problem for him.

On the one hand, support for gay marriage among New Jersey voters is solid…  Christie has to be very careful as he approaches his reelection race. He doesn’t have much margin for error when it comes to alienating swing voters — one of the reasons he was so colorful and adamant in denying interest in the presidential race last year — and swing voters in New Jersey are generally fine with gay marriage.

But Republican voters nationally are not, and it will be a long time before they are (if they ever are). So if he wants to preserve his viability for ’16, Christie cannot be known as the New Jersey governor who enacted same-sex marriage. But he also can’t position himself as a hard-line, stop-at-nothing-to-derail-it opponent of it; to do so would reek of the cultural conservatism that has made most national Republicans unmarketable in New Jersey and endanger Christie’s reelection prospects. And if he gets the boot in ’13, it could sink whatever ’16 ambitions he has.

In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Christie did campaign “as a hard-line, stop-at-nothing-to-derail-it opponent” of marriage equality.  He went beyond merely promising to veto it — he promised to support a state constitutional amendment banning it.  You won’t hear The Great Man repeating that promise.  The legislature may or may not be able to overcome a veto in the current session (which lasts until January 2014), but there is zero chance that a constitutional amendment would pass in New Jersey.

I want to be careful here — I am not criticizing Christie for having moderated his stance on same-sex marriage.  I think it’s a move in the right direction.  I have no doubt that Christie honestly believes that marriage should be reserved for the union of one man and one woman. I disagree with his position, but holding that position does not make him evil.  Don’t forget, that’s precisely the position Barack Obama articulated just days before the 2008 election.  The most important difference between Obama’s pre-election stance and Christie’s is that Obama opposed tinkering with state constitutions.

Christie has every right to modulate his level of aggressiveness in supporting one-man-one-woman.  He’s promised to veto the current bill, and he has to go through with that.  But as Kornacki writes, the best thing that could happen to Christie in terms of his future political ambitions would be for marriage equality to become the law of the land in New Jersey without his fingerprints on it.  If it begins to look possible that the legislature could override a veto, look for only token arm-twisting by Christie.

Who First Asked “Is Mitt Romney the Republican John Kerry?”

Separated...

... at birth?

When I was in high school, one of my favorite gag lines was, “I’m a reformed Druid — we worship bushes.”  I thought this was hilarious.  More than that, after saying it enough times, I went through the next quarter century honestly believing I had made it up. (According to the spoilsport Internet, it dates at least back to a M*A*S*H episode in 1973 — a year I remember as “10th grade” — and probably to the whimsical founding of the Reformed Druids of North America in 1963.)

Some time ago I started talking about my concern that Mitt Romney might be the Republican equivalent of John Kerry.  Here’s how I described it in my December 12 endorsement of Romney:

The saying is, “you can’t beat somebody with nobody” — and any sitting president is a somebody.  Romney’s not exactly charismatic or inspirational, and the risk is that he becomes the Republican analog to John Kerry.  Lots of people voted against George Bush in 2004, but hardly anybody voted for Kerry.

I don’t remember hearing that analogy offered previously by anyone else, but I’m wary of claiming authorship.  A search for “Is Mitt Romney the Republican John Kerry?” — including the quotation marks in the search — yields more than 7,500 results.  But the vast majority of them turn out to be other sites referring to a post by that name on Daily KosAnd the Kos reference is more than a full month later than mine.

The Kos post is by someone who hides behind the screen name Zackpunk, and as you would expect, it is highly tendentious:

Both Romney and Kerry have a political issue that makes them unpopular with their own base. For Kerry it was his vote for the war in Iraq (or the authorization for Bush to wage said war). Hardcore progressives were loathe to forgive him on that. Romney’s scarlet letter is the healthcare mandate he enacted as governor for Massachusetts. Trying to help the sick is an unforgivable offense for today’s GOP.

Really, Zackpunk? Do you really think Republican opposition to Obamacare is driven by animosity toward sick people?

But whatev, let’s turn our attention back to me.  Those 7,500 Google hits collapse down to a mere two screens of results, followed by “we have omitted some entries very similar to the 18 already displayed.” Of those 18, only one appears to predate the Kos reference.  It also predates mine: It’s from a group blog I had not previously encountered called Exchange Coffee House.  In a post titled “Is Mitt Romney the Republican’s John Kerry?“, Roland Hulme offered a much more balanced post than Zackpunk, adhering to the blogosphere’s typical inverse relationship between thoughtfulness and web traffic.

[P]oor old Mitt makes the worst possible candidate precisely because of the reason he’s been chosen – his mediocrity.

The GOP are planning to run a middle-of-the-road Republican based on nothing more substantial than the slogan: “He’s not Barack.” The problem is, Romney has a track record of so-called “statism” that rivals Obama’s own! …

For example, he invented the “Obamacare” health care reform that the Republicans now expect him to criticize and discredit. Romney’s political advisers even met with Obama to help draft the bill!

If Romney ultimately takes the candidacy for 2012, Obama will get his second term in office

The post is dated October 18, 2011, which trumps me by two months.  I think I first started talking about the analogy earlier than that, but I can’t prove it.  (Note to self: get off your fetish about research, just start posting stuff as it pops into your head.)

Hulme certainly has correctly identified Romney’s heaviest baggage.  “Romneycare” (a misnomer) makes it much more complicated to take advantage of the wildly unpopular Obamacare.  Complicated, but not impossible.  While Romney signed legislation with a constitutionally questionable individual mandate, the Massachusetts version was a bipartisan effort — not a single-party cramdown advanced in 1 a.m. votes and “deem and pass” maneuvers in a desperate race to get the bill signed before enough people realized just how bad it was.

The healthcare bill Romney signed is more of a liability in the GOP primary than it will be in the general election. And while Romney may be more of a “big-government Republican” than many conservatives would prefer, most of those conservatives will vote for him anyway, correctly reasoning that he’s well to the right of Obama.

I think Hulme is on shakier ground in saying Mitt’s “mediocrity” is the reason he’s been chosen.  (I’m posting this half an hour before the polls open in Florida, where I expect Romney’s inevitability to re-emerge.)  Romney, who can point to his background as a governor and a successful businessman, is bland, not mediocre.  That distinguishes him from Kerry, who was both.

Why Do People Still Pretend to Think Some Republican Can Beat Romney?

(Disclosure: I support Mitt Romney.)

I’m watching the GOP campaign through a rotating filter of boredom and frustration. I mean, c’mon — I declared Romney the winner just hours after the Iowa caucuses.  At the risk of making a distasteful reference, could we all just move on?

It’s hard to believe we’re still reading about So-and-So challenging What’s-His-Name for second place in Such-and-Such a state.  Unless somebody challenges Romney for first place, it’s over.  In the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove breaks it down:

In an open race for the GOP nomination, no Republican has won both Iowa and New Hampshire, as Mitt Romney has. No one has come in fourth or fifth in New Hampshire, as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum did, and become the nominee. No one has entirely skipped Iowa, as Jon Huntsman did, and won elsewhere. No one has recovered after grabbing the 1% that Rick Perry received in the Granite State. And no one became the nominee after failing to win one of the first two contests, a position in which Ron Paul finds himself.

Rove apparently wanted to refer to each of the non-Romneys by name, so Ron Paul got his turn in the final sentence.  However, note that all of the non-Romneys have failed to win one of the first two contests.  Yes, yes, Santorum didn’t lose by much in Iowa.  But a close victory is still a victory.

The non-Romney flavor-of-the-week contest has become almost comical.  The chart above from the tracking poll at Real Clear Politics shows first Perry, then Cain, then Gingrich popping briefly into the lead, only to wither quickly in the harsh spotlight of front-runnership.  Perry kept chewing on his toes, Cain was exposed as a foreign-policy lightweight well before the sexual allegations, and Gingrich quickly reminded us that he’s temperamentally unsuited to high government office.  Santorum’s boomlet has already peaked after his near-tie in Iowa — and if you go all the way back to August, Michelle Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll.  Ask President Huckabee about the predictive value of an Iowa victory.

Through it all, Romney’s support trended upward while fluctuating in a narrow band.  A recent Washington Post article points to the benefit of having run before:

In five of the last six presidential elections, Republicans have chosen candidates they had rejected before — Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole and McCain. The exception was George W. Bush in 2000, the son of the former president well- known to party insiders.

This is not precisely correct — it should refer to the last six presidential elections without a Republican incumbent.  But more substantively, the author ruminates at length about the historical trend while missing the most obvious point.  A previous credible run for president is a huge advantage because whatever skeletons there may be get plucked from the closet in the first campaign.  Romney has essentially been running for president for half a decade now, and there’s no dirt left to uncover.

 

Announcing A.T.I.N.’s Much-Coveted Endorsement: Romney for President

Months ago it became clear that I was not going to fall in love with anybody in the Republican field.  Ronald Reagan wasn’t coming back.

Chris Christie produces echoes of the Great Communicator, but he never had any intention of running.

I tried to generate some enthusiasm for Tim Pawlenty, but I didn’t work hard at it because he showed no signs of getting any traction.

When Rick Perry belatedly got into the race, I took a hard look at him.  Too much of a social conservative for my taste, but that would help him with part of the Republican base, and I liked the fact that he had governed a very large state.  But he started chewing on his toes almost immediately, and ultimately it seemed almost like he didn’t even want the job.

I was sorry to see Herman Cain flame out, but I sure didn’t want him to get the nomination.  He would have complicated the Left’s phony “racism” gambit, but he clearly had given very little thought to foreign affairs — the most important arena for any president.

When Newt Gingrich debuted as the not-Romney flavor of the week, I was surprised — I thought his campaign blew up months ago.  (Or maybe years ago.)  I figured he would fade quickly, but he’s already held on at the head of the polls longer than I expected — and the Iowa caucuses are only three weeks away.

As one prominent Republican after another steps forward to remind us that Gingrich is a hothead, Ross Douthat explains why the former Speaker’s vaunted debating skills hold little promise of overcoming President Obama’s incumbancy advantage:

Gingrich might debate circles around Obama. He might implode spectacularly, making a hot mess of himself while the president keeps his famous cool. But either way, setting up a grand rhetorical showdown seems unlikely to supply a disillusioned country with what it’s looking for from Republicans in 2012.

Conservatives may want catharsis, but the rest of the public seems to mainly want reassurance. They already know Barack Obama isn’t the messiah he was once cracked up to be. What they don’t know is whether they can trust anyone else to do better.

Last year, when the President and his party were foisting Obamacare on an unwilling public, the conventional wisdom was that Romney couldn’t possibly win the Republican nomination because he had implemented something similar in Massachusetts.  That made sense to me, and Romneycare is part of the reason Republicans have been flirting with one not-Romney after another for months.

But if Romney wins the nomination, I think he’ll be able to differentiate himself from Obama on healthcare pretty easily. It’s one thing to launch an experiment in a single state with broad bipartisan support.  It’s quite another to annex one-sixth of the nation’s economy without a single Republican vote in either house of Congress.

The other Republican complaint about Romney is that he isn’t conservative enough. But that also means he has a better chance of defeating Obama in a center-right nation.

Is America ready for a president who adheres to a faith that is only slightly older and slightly more reputable than Scientology?  Only time will tell, but there are 15 Mormons currently in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and I don’t think the Democrats should bank on the religion issue.

The saying is, “you can’t beat somebody with nobody” — and any sitting president is a somebody.  Romney’s not exactly charismatic or inspirational, and the risk is that he becomes the Republican analog to John Kerry.  Lots of people voted against George Bush in 2004, but hardly anybody voted for Kerry.

But Romney has a strong record of executive leadership, both in business and government.  It’s his second trip through the crucible of a presidential campaign, so there presumably are no skeletons left in the closet.  He has the best chance of beating Obama, and the country literally can’t afford four more years of this administration.

Ever since I realized that Michele Bachmann had no chance, I’ve told people that I’ll be voting for “whichever flawed candidate the Republicans nominate.”  Today I’m endorsing the flawed candidacy of Mitt Romney.

Despite MoveOn Link, Zach Wahls Gay Marriage Video Inspires

In the category of “even a blind pig finds a truffle now and then,” a repugnant left-wing organization has created a minor Facebook frenzy by publicizing a remarkable and inspiring three-minute speech by a 19-year-old advocate of same-sex marriage.

MoveOn.org is best known for the disgraceful “General Betray Us” ad that slandered the general who was winning the war in Iraq.  I’ll not link to their website, but it isn’t necessary, as the video is available directly on YouTube.  (There’s also a transcript, at Shakesville, “a progressive feminist blog” that is so eloquent I intend to explore it further.)

In the video, 19-year-old Zach Wahls, who was raised by a lesbian couple, makes an impassioned plea to  the Iowa legislature, asking them to vote down a constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage.  (It happened back in February, and the amendment never cleared the legislature.)

It seems like half of my liberal Facebook friends have linked to the video, which truly is remarkable and well worth the three minutes it will take to watch it.  If you can’t spare three minutes, here are the bits that bring tears to my eyes:

My mom Terri was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000; it is a devastating disease that put her in a wheelchair, so we’ve had our share of struggles.

But, you know, we’re Iowans; we don’t expect anyone to solve our problems for us; we’ll fight our own battles; we just hope for equal and fair treatment from our government. …

I’m not really so different from any of your children. My family really isn’t so different from yours. After all, your family doesn’t derive its sense of worth from being told by the state, “You’re married—congratulations!” No, the sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other, to work through the hard times so we can enjoy the good ones; it comes from the love that binds us. That’s what makes a family….

So will this vote affect my family? Will it affect yours? Over the next two hours, I’m sure we’re going to hear plenty of testimony about how damaging having gay parents is on kids. But in my 19 years, not once have I ever been confronted by an individual who realized independently that I was raised by a gay couple.

And you know why? Because the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero effect on the content of my character.

Bravo, Zach.  The “content of my character,” with its echo of one of the greatest speeches in American history, is a particularly nice touch.   His masterful performance takes me back to the days of the “extemp speaking” tournaments I entered in junior high, although I never crafted or delivered anything as powerful as that.