Just Stopping By

A quiet, lazy midday having presented me with an opportunity to switch on my laptop, I thought I might, at the very least, offer those readers who’ve made the effort to stop by (and I think them for doing so) a tidbit or two.

First up is Peggy Noonan, who, in today’s Wall Street Journal, offers her opinion as to why Barack Obama — for whom the election ought to be, if you will forgive the expression, a cakewalk — has failed to establish any clear advantage at all, and seems to be losing momentum. Ms. Noonan is arguably something of a self-satisfied blowhard, and I’ll admit that I find her affected and disingenuous populism, as exemplified by her folksy observation in defense of George W. Bush that “intellectuals start all the trouble in the world”, immensely irritating. But she is an intelligent (even, dare I say so, intellectual), woman, extremely well-connected, and understands the emotional tides of politics as well as anyone.

We read:

Why is it a real race now, with John McCain rising in the polls and Barack Obama falling? There are many answers, but here I think is an essential one: The American people have begun paying attention.

It’s hard for our political class to remember that Mr. Obama has been famous in America only since the winter of ’08. America met him barely six months ago! The political class first interviewed him, or read the interview, in 2003 or ’04, when he was a rising star. They know him. Everyone else is still absorbing.

This is what they see:

An attractive, intelligent man, interesting, but—he’s hard to categorize. Is he Gen. Obama? No, no military background. Brilliant Businessman Obama? No, he never worked in business. Famous Name Obama? No, it’s a new name, an unusual one. Longtime Southern Governor Obama? No. He’s a community organizer (what’s that?), then a lawyer (boo), then a state legislator (so what, so’s my cousin), then U.S. senator (less than four years!).

There is no pre-existing category for him.

Add to that the wear and tear of Jeremiah Wright, secret Muslim rumors, media darling and, this week, abortion.

I’ve been a bit out of touch, but Obama does seem to be digging a bit of a hole for himself as regards abortion; his mind, celebrated for its sharpness, seems to go all fuzzy when he is asked to clarify for his audience the foundations of his position. (Bill Vallicella has taken up the topic, with characteristic lucidity, in a series of posts beginning here.) Also, the water upon which Obama walks has apparently been troubled a bit in recent days by his reported opposition to a bill that would make it illegal to kill, or allow to die, babies that had been born alive following a failed attempt at abortion. (I have not begun to delve into Obama’s history on this issue for myself yet, so no screeds or polemics please; I’m on vacation, and paying scant attention to the media at the moment.)

Further along in Ms. Noonan’s essay, she wonders what Mr. Obama’s speech at the upcoming convention will consist of. We read:

Will Mr. Obama dig deep as to meaning? As to political predicates? During the primary campaigns Republicans were always saying, “This is what I’ll do.” Mr. Obama has a greater tendency to say, “This is how we’ll feel.” Republicans talk to their base with, “If we pass this bill, which the Democrats irresponsibly oppose, we’ll solve this problem.” Democrats are more inclined toward, “If we bring a new attitude of hopefulness and respect for the world, we’ll make the seas higher and the fish more numerous.” Will Mr. Obama be, in terms of programs and plans, specific? And will his specifics be grounded in something that appears to amount to a political philosophy?

It certainly does appear that modern liberalism has become, among its other shortcomings, more concerned with caring and feeling than with anything concrete. We all remember Bill Clinton’s petitioning of the electorate for their votes on the basis of his “feeling their pain”, for example, and when his wife was running a carpetbagger’s campaign for a New York Senate seat she resorted, having absolutely no credibility as a New Yorker — brand-new Yankees cap notwithstanding — to advertising herself as the candidate who was “more concerned about the issues that concern New Yorkers”. In other words, it didn’t matter what her actual position on any issues was; what mattered was that she was concerned.

You can read Ms. Noonan’s article here.

I had planned, on sitting down to write, to offer in this post a few other amusing odds and ends, but a glance at the clock reminds me that the day is slipping away, and I think it’s time for my daily mile in the spring-fed waters of Great Pond. So I think I’ll save them for later.

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  1. Jeffrey Lord, in ‘The American Spectator’, puts his money where his keyboard is and calls it definitely McCain in November. His reasons are heavily dependent on his reading of the American psyche. Should you have time between bathing, snoozing, BBQ-ing and so on, I would be interested in your re-action to his article.

    Posted August 23, 2008 at 11:03 am | Permalink
  2. JK says

    Mr. Duff,

    Just my two cents, should Malcolm be swimming or otherwise enjoying himself, while I’ve never actually cast a vote for a Democrat (for President anyway) I consider it for now – a toss up. In other words, I’m not betting – yet.

    Posted August 23, 2008 at 11:09 am | Permalink
  3. Fair enough, JK, but what do you make of Lord’s assessment of the ‘American psyche’? That is, that they prefer a ‘doer’ to a ‘thinker’?


    Also, from the outside looking in, Obama’s choice of VP strikes me as a very big mistake, almost a case of him admitting that he might not be quite grown-up enough for the job and needs Daddy around to hold his hand. Perhaps, as usual, I am missing something.

    Posted August 23, 2008 at 4:11 pm | Permalink
  4. JK says

    David the observation is sound, and in most cases, well pretty much in every case the tendency for the American populace to depend on the reptilian portion does tend to completely overwhelm “thinking.” This is not to say that voting for Obama would be, in my consideration, a well-thought out, even for a lizard, decision.

    But there is a very specific situation in this particular cycle, that being generally, in the realm of economics, specifically in the greater portion of America there seems to be, a sense of dread where the individual is concerned with his or her own sense of economic survival. I suspect, that the individual reptilian brains have some qualms about a fellow who admits to “not knowing much about economics.” Admittedly I’m wandering quite far from my area of expertise, and much further afield from my comfort zone.

    I also am considering a portion of the eligible electorate that in the past could pretty much be ignored, I consider it “iffy” at best if such will not turn out to be the same when that cold, blustery day in November arrives and it comes time to put the mittens on to go out to vote. That voting bloc being the so-called and “ballyhooed” youth vote.

    The VP pick as I consider it is simply “a means” for the main candidate to hide behind during his fits of “hemming and hawing.” While Barack is busy thinking about how he should respond to a dicey situation, “Old Joe” will be the guy the media will be paying attention to, devoting their time to. He shoots from the hip. Hip-shooters make for better soundbites and you-tubes. That might be part of the reason he got chosen, I don’t really know, admittedly again, I’m out of my league.

    There was a time in the not so distant past when a certain refrain was sure to be heard, “It’s the economy stupid.”


    There are actually much larger problems, problems that I personally consider far more pressing as the above link indicates, but the title of the article listed gives a reasonhable (to me) picture in general, and of course it will be a general election that decides it. My fear is that indeed the reptilian brain will decide which way the lever gets pulled.

    Posted August 23, 2008 at 6:08 pm | Permalink
  5. JO says

    just another case in point for you need your own blog-look at you go with this!

    Mr. Duff,
    I agree that choosing Joe was a “here’s an older, white male ” for you and if I’m inexperienced, he’s not so much.

    I can’t bear Peggy N.-I agree with many of her themes, but the way she gets them expressed leaves me cold. I just always want to smack her!


    Posted August 23, 2008 at 10:10 pm | Permalink
  6. JK says


    “Look how you go with this!” Well that’s the problem when one thinks about it. To be a successful blogger the individual must possess a considerable degree of certainty or in other words, lean in one direction or the other. My individual problem is that I have developed “sea legs” which Mr. Duff (whose prose and acuity I do admire) would nonetheless describe as wobbly and thus, waste no time on any blog I might present.

    And, I like a well-tuned wit. Generally I find that the Conservative take on things “Liberal in nature” tends to lend itself, by the nature of it’s subject, more amenably possessed of subject matter. Understated of course, sometimes less needful of the overt. I think of guys like Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, David Letterman, and guess who: Peggy Noonan? Oh, and Sam Clements.

    Sometimes it is best to begin the joke but not supply the punch line.

    But then I recall guys like Ralph Reed, Jack Abramoff, Milhouse, Larry Craig, that Vitter guy-but heck, as I say, I’ve got “sea-legs.” And as I indicated to Mr. Duff, I’m outta my league when in company with all these guys who, were linguistic gymnastics an Olympic sport, I doubt I’d make B-Team Varsity.

    But JO, I take your words as complimentary.

    Posted August 24, 2008 at 12:26 am | Permalink