Politics & Policy

The audacity of McCain, &c.

There is much anger at the Republican ticket, and here’s a suggestion why: McCain was supposed to lose graciously, honorably. He was supposed to be a decent challenger for Barack Obama, The One, who would redeem the land once in the Oval Office. And McCain, with Sarah Barracuda, has gotten in the way. He’s actually trying to win — intending to win.

I remember a hilarious thing Nicklaus once said to Palmer, in a Skins game. Palmer had a long putt, and came very close to making it. Nicklaus said to him, incredulously, “You were trying to make that?” (rather than lagging it close). “Why, yes,” Arnie chuckled.

McCain is actually trying to win — not willing to play the Washington Generals to the Democrats’ ’trotters.


‐Have talked to many, many people about the Palin speech since Wednesday. Many people — conservative Republicans — are floating on air. The Palin speech was one of the most enjoyable political hours of their lives. It was like candy — and a kind of release.

One lady said to me yesterday morning, “I left the house the other day, and I was unusually happy — there was a spring in my step. And I couldn’t remember, for a second, why. And then it hit me: ‘Oh, yeah: Sarah.’”

Do you remember the Cheney-Lieberman debate? That was one of the happiest evenings of any Republican’s political life. Usually, you have to be white-knuckle nervous, if you’re a Republican watching television (during one of these political seasons). That night — ahh. I wish it had gone on and on.

(Cheney was not nearly as good against Edwards — less relaxed, less fluent, and less deft — but still plenty good.)

‐The late, great political scientist Aaron Wildavsky had a saying: “One anecdote is an anecdote. Two anecdotes are data.” In that spirit, I’d like to offer some “data.”

I have discovered something in the last few days: Normal people liked McCain’s speech. And what do I mean by “normal people”? People who aren’t especially political. People who aren’t especially Republican or Democratic — just people. Even those who are undecided.

They liked McCain’s speech very much — more than partisan Republicans (or, of course, partisan Democrats) would have. And that says something important about McCain’s speech.

And Sarah, Sarah, Sarah. I have heard from outright Obamites that they are reconsidering their vote, thanks to Sarah. Something about her has touched them. And I have had many people say — women, I mean — “I’m not a feminist. Never have been. But she has made me proud.”

I’ll say.

The Democrats and their allies in the media know this. So what’s the only option? Well, “destroy” comes to mind.

‐Would like to throw a letter at you:


I usually send you just one e-mail a year, and it’s of the post-Davos “Did you see Queen Rania and is she really that pretty?” variety. [Yes, she is, BTW.] But I wanted to share something with you.

As soon as the Palin choice was announced, my mom of all people calls me on my cell, asking me what I thought. Now, you have to know that my mom may be the most apolitical person on earth. All things being equal, she’s going to lean to the right, but she’ll be ambivalent. So you can imagine how shocked I am that my mom has called me several times since that first time, to talk politics and Palin. (This is in contrast to my dad, who is your prototypical Reagan Democrat and still loves to tell anyone who will listen that Nixon was a great president, but I digress.)

[I loved that digression.]

Everything about Palin speaks to my mom: her beauty, her bio as a working mother who kept the baby, her sassiness to the big boys and the media. And yes, my mom is ticked at the hubbub the liberal media have made about the 17-year-old girl. My mom, who is a great combination of no-nonsense and compassion, sees it as a bunch of liberal elites who will say and do anything to destroy anyone who gets in the way of Obama. And she identifies with Palin’s challenges as the mother of teenagers. (Lord knows what hell my sister and I put her through back then.)

This is quite a feat the media have achieved: to get even people like my mom to see through their liberal cheerleading masked as true journalism, and to want to vote for an old fossil like McCain.

‐Throw one more at you? I think you’ll like it. For the last ten days, many of us have been talking about Palin’s effect on fundraising. Well . . .


My wife is a liberal, and I’m anything but. And I don’t much like John McCain. The way she and I have kept peace in the house for the last 25 years is to be very, very polite, keep yard signs off our property, and not make financial contributions to candidates. (I don’t consider my donation to the Swiftboat guys a violation of this.)

[I just loved that.]

Today, however, I got out the wedding band from my first marriage, and some dental scrap gold, and a single gold cufflink from my dad’s estate. Tomorrow, I’ll sell the gold to a local jeweler, buy a postal money order, and send it to the McCain-Palin campaign. This election is too important. (In any case, I’m sure my behavior is covered under the “for better or worse” clause.)

You gotta love people, sometimes.

‐Was on Irish radio — yes, Irish radio — talking about Sarah, McCain, and the rest of them. (By the way, I still think McCain should introduce himself with, “Hello, I’m Sarah Palin’s running mate” — in the spirit of, “I’m the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris.”) Some people on the other end were not too happy about Sarah.

They said a few things that needed rebutting. 1) Palin herself has said that she doesn’t know what the vice presidency entails. Well, who does? There is barely a prescribed constitutional role. You are president of the Senate, ceremonially, and you stand by in case the president kicks, resigns, or whatever. That’s it.

Otherwise, you do what the president asks you to do. Some presidents ignore you the entire time. Other presidents involve you closely. Probably the first vice president really to be involved was Walter Mondale.

Here’s someone else who has no idea what he would do as vice president: Joe Biden. He would do whatever President Obama told him to do.

2) The woman shoots moose, as did Teddy Roosevelt, a long time ago. Only in TR’s day, there were many more moose — Sarah endangers a species.

Oh, cripe. First of all, the woman’s an Alaskan — that’s what they do: shoot moose (don’t they?). Second, I’m not an environmental scientist, but my impression is that Alaska is not running out of moose. I’d be happy to be corrected on this point.

3) Palin exploited her family, parading them after her speech. Again, oh, cripe. That’s a quadrennial tradition, after all the nominees’ speeches — Republican, Democratic, presidential, vice-presidential. If Sarah had left out her family — people would have said, “What’s she hiding?” (They would have said, more specifically, “They’re hidin’ Bristol.”)

Fiddlesticks. (“Fiddlesticks”?) Anyway, enough with Irishmen (but don’t they talk delightfully?) . . .

‐A reader had an interesting observation about the two conventions: “Did you get the impression that McCain’s message was that the government needs fixing, while Obama’s message was that the country needs fixing? Quite a difference there.”

A sharp formulation.

‐Received many, many responses to my comments on Rudolph Giuliani’s keynote address.

But before I continue, I should note this: You realize, don’t you, that I have been blogging on the Corner since about August 1? Since my Impromptus series on the Beijing Olympics went up? Through my time at the Salzburg Festival, and during the two conventions? Today marks a return to the traditional venue, Impromptus (since 2001) (as in, “Smith Electronics, Since 1958”).

Anyway . . .

Several readers had the same thing to say about Giuliani’s speech. Remember when he talked about Obama’s voting “present,” over 130 times? Wonderful riff. These readers suggested that Rudy should have said, “Those issues must have been above his pay grade!”

‐In those Rudy remarks of mine, I wrote, “They say Rudy ‘looks like an undertaker.’ So, maybe he does — but a formidable and interesting undertaker.” Reader wrote in,

John Kerry looks like an undertaker — to the very, very rich, whom you would loathe. [I think that means, you would loathe the undertaker, rather than his clients.] Rudy looks like a high-school principal — the extremely no-nonsense kind of principal, whom you would remember for the rest of your life.

Got it!

‐You remember, of course, the protesters who disrupted McCain’s acceptance speech (and who tried to disrupt Palin’s). Had a lot of readers make the following remark: In baseball, there is a rule — written or not — that you don’t show such protesters, or disrupters, because it only encourages them. Would that there were such a rule for televising conventions.

Yes, but it’s only a problem at Republican conventions, it seems — if it were a problem at Democratic conventions, there might be some collective action, or agreement. (Did that sound too Agnewesque? Tough.)

‐On the Corner, I remarked the opinion of an AP report that Palin “lacked the soaring oratory skills of Obama.” Reader wrote, “I suppose what they meant was that an hour after she spoke you could still remember what the speech was about.”

Clever, and some truth to it . . .

‐Corner readers may remember that I had an item about Judge Bork, his Supreme Court nomination, and his post-nomination life. I was sort of touched, to receive this:

Hey, Jay,

I’m 24 (next week). Bork’s book was the first major conservative book I read, at the beginning of high school. I either randomly found it in a Barnes & Noble [I wonder] or saw a review of it on some site like NRO that I was new to. I was a conservative way before I knew there was a movement — it’s really an understanding of right versus wrong — but what a delight to discover!

So, I’ll always be grateful for Bork and Slouching Towards Gomorrah.

Not bad, huh, Bob?

‐I’m sure, by this time — on one of our righty sites — you’ve seen the New York Times’s editorial on the vice-presidential nomination of Geraldine Ferraro. (The editorial came out on July 3, 1984.) But in case you haven’t — well, you may wish to memorize it:

Where is it written that only senators are qualified to become President? . . . Or where is it written that mere representatives aren’t qualified, like Geraldine Ferraro of Queens? . . . Where is it written that governors and mayors, like Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco, are too local, too provincial? . . . Presidential candidates have always chosen their running mates for reasons of practical demography, not idealized democracy. . . . What a splendid system, we say to ourselves, that takes little-known men, tests them in high office and permits them to grow into statesmen. . . . Why shouldn’t a little-known woman have the same opportunity to grow?

‐Had a friend say this: At the Republican convention, President Bush was treated rather cheaply — almost ungratefully. At the Democratic convention, there was Bill Clinton, an impeached president — reverently presented and rapturously received. And vouching for the fitness for the presidency of another man. Gimme a break.

Gimme a break, indeed. (No Nell Carter jokes, please.) (P.S. That woman was damn talented — buy the Ain’t Misbehavin’ album.)

‐Couple of months ago, I made a comment on the general election. I said it sparks a rallying around — a general election does. Hillaryites will vote for Obama; Republican anti-McCainiacs will vote for McCain. In fact, after months of listening to Obama, they’ll crawl over broken glass on that first Tuesday in November.

A reader wrote to say, “I’ll have two knees cut and bleeding, but only one hand in that condition — because the other one will be holding my nose.”

Well, many Impromptus readers have written to say, post-Palin: “All four of those — both knees and both hands — will be cut and bleeding. No nose-holding. Just sheer enthusiasm and determination.”

It was an important day, that Friday of her announcement (despite all the drawbacks, or potential drawbacks, of her appointment).

‐On the Corner, I said that I had received many letters saying something like the following: “I’m 40, and my wife is 39. Our oldest child is 21 — you do the math.” And then they went on to talk about their experience with teenage pregnancy.

Well, I received this note, from a friend in Switzerland:

Hi, Jay,

My wife is 42 and I am 46 and our kids are four and two. You do the math. I go to bed very tired each night . . .

Very funny! (But, in truth, I think these parents are invigorated — youthful as all get-out.)

‐Last Tuesday, a reader wrote, “Just wondering while Laura Bush was speaking (how classy she is): If Obama wins, will all of the O’s be removed from the White House keyboards?”

Nicely noted.

Hell, the Bushies may leave them mints.

‐Speaking of Bushies — you may wish to read an article about the president by Andrew Natsios, former administrator of USAID. It’s titled “Bush’s Enduring Legacy in Africa.” And here is the opening paragraph:

When President Bush traveled to sub-Sahara Africa in February he was greeted by large and tumultuous crowds of admirers — which mystified many of his critics, who believe that the animosity toward his administration abroad is universal. But polling data from the Pew Foundation shows something different: Approval ratings for the United States exceed 80 percent in many African countries, some with large Muslim populations. In Darfur, many families name their newborn sons George Bush.

Don’t forget the W.!

‐Care for a little language, at the end of this long and unusual Impromptus? Okay. Was out walking in a Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul neighborhood. Passed a car — a parked car. A Mazda. Called “Protegé.” No, no, no: In for a penny, in for a pound. If you’re going to do accents, do accents. Call it a “Protege” (no accents). Or a “Protégé” (both accents). But don’t tack on just one. Geezum!

‐Finally, in my Corner scribblings — voluminous scribblings — I dropped a couple of limericks. Several readers sent in their own favorite examples of the breed. There was one I had never heard before — rather tickled me.

And bear in mind that Shaw said there are two kinds of limerick: dirty and bad. He was, of course, wrong (as usual).

Anyway . . .

There once was a poet named Todd

Whose meter was seriously flawed.

His limericks would tend

To come to an end


Do “Todd” and “flawed” really rhyme? Cripe, don’t quibble!

See you.


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