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Jewish World Review
January 18, 2008
/ 11 Shevat 5768
So far, we've got a lot of losers
So far we've got a nice collection of distinguished losers. We've had three winners and a dozen losers, more if you count Dennis Kucinich. A couple of them are threatening to break away from the pack. It's just not clear who they are.
Barack Obama wins in Iowa, and takes a drubbing in New Hampshire. Mike Huckabee embarrasses the Republican establishment in Iowa and runs far behind in New Hampshire, reviving John McCain, who was roadkill on the highway to the White House only a fortnight ago. The results are so confusing, in fact, that one young correspondent for National Public Radio reports breathlessly that Mitt Romney, who led in Michigan, is trying to "extend his winning streak in South Carolina." The candidates are so bereft of the "big mo' " that one victory makes a "winning streak."
The Democratic promise to unify the splintered country is a rebuke of George W. Bush, who has been busy collecting swords and scrolls from the Saudis. Candidates with big talk about unity never identify the convictions and positions they're ready to abandon in the search for common ground. There's no hint that Barack Obama, who has made "unification" the guiding star of his campaign, will adopt any of the Republican positions for the sake of "unity." Like all special pleaders for vague and windy notions, what he means is that if everybody adopts his convictions and views, we'll be unified.
Scott Rasmussen, one of the most reliable pollsters, argues that what we really need in addition to phony unity and other high-minded good stuff is a blowout election. This would establish a new benchmark for who we are, as a nation and perhaps even a culture, and where we want to go. We haven't had a victory like that since Ronald Reagan decisively whipped Jimmy Carter in 1980, and confirmed that it wasn't merely a fluke victory over a weak and ineffectual incumbent president with a blowout of Walter Mondale four years later, winning all but one state. He could have won all 50. Michael Deaver and his pollsters told him that Minnesota, the only Mondale state, was within his grasp and one more airport stop at Minneapolis on the eve of the election would win it. The Gipper, whose generous heart was a good part of his charm, said no, he wouldn't humiliate his opponent in his home state. Mr. Mondale won by only a handful of votes.
Barack Obama, campaigning yesterday in Nevada, no doubt infuriated his partisans by citing the Gipper as one of the rare culture-changing presidents. "Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not," he said. "We wanted clarity, we wanted optimism, we wanted a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."
A Democratic victory by either Mr. Obama or Hillary Clinton would, however, change the habits if not the culture of America. We've never elected a woman, and we've never elected an "ethnic," loosely defined. The roster of our first 43 presidents is a roster mostly of white, Anglo-Saxon Episcopalians, small-c conservatives and evolutionaries, not revolutionaries.
Hillary, a senator at the start of her second term with no administrative experience, emphasizes the Senate connection. She might boast of her prowess at finding missing records; if national-security papers, drafts of legislation, memoranda of confidential conversations with world leaders should be misplaced, she could always look for them lying around on a coffee table or the sofa in the family quarters. Such things have turned up there before.
Mr. Obama picked up another Senate endorsement yesterday, from Patrick Leahy of Vermont, one of the most liberal men in the Senate. He follows John Kerry's endorsement last week. "We need a president who can reintroduce America to the world, and actually reintroduce America to ourselves," he said. But that's wrong. America, the last best hope anywhere, needs no introduction to anyone. Making the country over, to make it acceptable to its critics, losers all, would be a futile exercise in self-flagellation, satisfying only the flagellantes. What we need is a president who tries to satisfy only the people who elect our presidents.
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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.
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