Nearer To Thee


High-Class Boilerplate

Barack Obama's biggest draw is not his eloquence. When you watch an Obama speech, you lean forward and listen and think, That's good. He's compelling, I like the way he speaks. And afterward all the commentators call him "impossibly eloquent" and say "he gave me thrills and chills." But, in fact, when you go on the Internet and get a transcript of the speech and print it out and read it--that is, when you remove Mr. Obama from the words and take them on their own--you see the speech wasn't all that interesting, and was in fact high-class boilerplate. (This was not true of John F. Kennedy's speeches, for instance, which could be read seriously as part of the literature of modern American politics, or Martin Luther King's work, which was powerful absent his voice.) --Peggy Noonan

In Obama's defense, JFK was working with the likes of Ted Sorenson. Still, I think Noonan (who has always been very kind to the Illinois senator) is right: it's Obama's presence that's remarkable, but stripped to bare text, his rhetoric lacks the gravity of a Lincoln, or an FDR, or a JFK/RFK.


Obama's Golden-Tongue?

Might be more like a stolen tongue.



It's hard not to be dazzled by Barack Obama. At the 2004 Democratic convention, he visited with Newsweek reporters and editors, including me. I came away deeply impressed by his intelligence, his forceful language and his apparent willingness to take positions that seemed to rise above narrow partisanship. Obama has become the Democratic presidential front-runner, precisely because countless millions have formed a similar opinion. It is, I now think, mistaken. --Robert Samuelson


Fidel Calls It Quits

HAVANA (Feb. 19) - An ailing, 81-year-old Fidel Castro resigned as Cuba's president Tuesday after nearly a half-century in power, saying he will not accept a new term when parliament meets Sunday. --Anita Snow, AP

While I'm sure this won't change our official status with Cuba for quite some time (as his brother will most likely take over), I'd like to sign up now for the first legal cruise to Havana.


Happy Birthday, Mr. President

An appropriate article honoring probably the greatest president -- certainly the greatest republican -- this nation has ever known . . .

George Washington earned the respect even of his former enemy, King George III, by doing something exceedingly rare in history: When he had the chance to increase personal power, he decreased it — not once, not twice, but repeatedly.

During the American Revolution, Washington put service before self. His personal example was his greatest gift to the nation. It has often been said that the “Father of our country” was less eloquent than Jefferson; less educated than Madison; less experienced than Franklin; less talented than Hamilton. Yet all these leaders looked to Washington to lead them because they trusted him with power. He didn’t need power.

Ironically, the piece appears in National Review, a journal that has consistently supported the expansion of executive power and privilege during the last seven years.


$698 Million

How much money we're granting to Tanzania to combat disease in that east African country. Because, you know, our coffers are just bursting right now with surplus cash . . . This is typical Bush, selling out conservatism to ensure his legacy.

Look, I'm all for charity and aid, but only in proper doses. In a world of limited resources, there's a need for priorities. And the #1 priority of the government should be U.S. tax payers -- you know, the people who enable the government's very existence with their hard-earned buck. It's hard to see how their needs are best served by tossing half a billion dollars to third world paupers at a time when America itself is floundering economically.

By the way, Bush has now sent more money to Africa than his liberal predecessor Bill Clinton. Then again, Dubya makes Clinton look like Scrooge in more ways than one.

Bush the conservative -- when's that one finally going to bite the dust? I've said it before, I'll say it again: Bush is a hawkish liberal (the hawk part sorta thrust upon him after 9/11) with a couple social prejudices expected from a Texan. What conservative would find themselves messing around with this claptrap? . . .

"Bush also attended a roundtable on the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, program, which Kikwete said is saving lives and helping the African continent avert a health disaster. Bush has requested $30 billion over the next five years for the program."

To Be Fair

There're bad guys on all sides of this great, long war.

Al-Kahtani was interrogated for 18 to 20 hours a day for 48 of 54 days; he had water dripped on his head and was blasted with cold air-conditioning and loud music to keep him awake; his beard and head were shaved; he was forced to wear a bra and panties and to dance with a male jailer; he was hooded; he was menaced with a dog, told to bark like one and led around on a leash; he was pumped full of intravenous fluids and forced to urinate on himself; he was straddled by a female interrogator and stripped naked; and more -- all under a list of interrogation methods personally approved by Rumsfeld. --The Atlantic

Pretty shameful. "Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one."



Human Rights Watch has appealed to Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of a woman convicted of witchcraft.

In a letter to King Abdullah, the rights group described the trial and conviction of Fawza Falih as a miscarriage of justice.

The illiterate woman was detained by religious police in 2005 and allegedly beaten and forced to fingerprint a confession that she could not read.

Among her accusers was a man who alleged she made him impotent.

Human Rights Watch said that Ms Falih had exhausted all her chances of appealing against her death sentence and she could only now be saved if King Abdullah intervened. --BBC

Kings. Witches. Beheadings. 1008 or 2008 -- you be the judge.


Eurabia Watch

Authorities arrest three Muslim immigrants plotting to murder Kurt Westergaard, the Dutch cartoonist responsible for creating the now infamous Muhammad-in-a-turban cartoon. To celebrate, the newspaper reprints Westergaard's work. Right on.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Prime Minister declares Muslim assimilation in Europe is "tantamount to a crime against humanity."

Also, Dutch Catholics "rebrand" Lent as "Christian Ramadan."

"The image of the Catholic Lent must be polished. The fact that we use a Muslim term is related to the fact that Ramadan is a better-known concept among young people than Lent," said Vastenaktie Director, Martin Van der Kuil.

At the same time, Muslims in Oxford are pressing -- not so vainly -- to have daily prayers broadcast via megaphone from the minaret of a major mosque, despite the surrounding community being predominately non-Islamic.

And, last but certainly not least, 17,000 women in Britain are now being subjected to so-called "honor" violence every year. Read it and weep, Western society:

Up to 17,000 women in Britain are being subjected to "honour" related violence, including murder, every year, according to police chiefs.

And official figures on forced marriages are the tip of the iceberg, says the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

It warns that the number of girls falling victim to forced marriages, kidnappings, sexual assaults, beatings and even murder by relatives intent on upholding the "honour" of their family is up to 35 times higher than official figures suggest.

Ah, but don't worry about any of this, it's just a few rotten apples. Right, Jeff? Clash of civilizations wha'??


Which's Which?

Numbers coming out of Virginia: McCain squeaks by Huckabee (Huckabee!) with 2-3 points, 47-45, while Obama trounces HRC by 25 points, closing the day out with 62 to her 47.

And McCain is the "presumptive nominee" while Obama is in a neck and neck struggle? Weird times, indeed.

I bet Mitt's starting to wish he stuck it out. I bet he would have played well in the Potomac Primaries, maybe snagged one or two other contests, and used that energy (as well as the mountain of establishment conservative support) to cinch the veep slot. Maybe he really is holding his horses for '12.



The global warming movement is finally revealing its true form: a hysterical, undemocratic, technocratic cult, one that wouldn't be all that out of place at the height of the French Revolution, say.

Liberal democracy is sweet and addictive and indeed in the most extreme case, the USA, unbridled individual liberty overwhelms many of the collective needs of the citizens. . .

There must be open minds to look critically at liberal democracy. Reform must involve the adoption of structures to act quickly regardless of some perceived liberties. . .

We are going to have to look how authoritarian decisions based on consensus science can be implemented to contain greenhouse emissions.

But wait, there's more green authoritarianism . . .

David Suzuki has called for political leaders to be thrown in jail for ignoring the science behind climate change.

At a Montreal conference last Thursday, the prominent scientist, broadcaster and Order of Canada recipient exhorted a packed house of 600 to hold politicians legally accountable for what he called an intergenerational crime. Though a spokesman said yesterday the call for imprisonment was not meant to be taken literally, Dr. Suzuki reportedly made similar remarks in an address at the University of Toronto last month.


"What I would challenge you to do is to put a lot of effort into trying to see whether there's a legal way of throwing our so-called leaders into jail because what they're doing is a criminal act," said Dr. Suzuki, a former board member of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

"It's an intergenerational crime in the face of all the knowledge and science from over 20 years."

The statement elicited rounds of applause.



2008 will end up pitting two senators against each other. It may not be the first time, but I'm hard pressed to recall another instance where that was the case. Should add another bizarre element to an already very bizarre election season.


Two Things I Don't Like

The recent primary results from Super Tuesday give me two major causes for concern.

1) Hillary Clinton is winning the race for the Democratic nomination, but not because of the elections. She's simply gathering more 'super-delegates' than Obama. This is completely unfair. The people should choose who their candidate is, not a few 'special' Congressmen and governors.

2) John McCain is going to have to pick an awfully good running mate. Let's face it: McCain's old. His chances of dying in office are much greater than any other candidate still in the race. So his vice president has a better-than-average chance of becoming the next president. So please, McCain, please don't choose Huckabee to win over the hardline conservatives. That would be a really bad idea. Choose Condi instead - everyone likes her! Or, I do, at least.

Romney's Push

McCain's lead in Cali is beginning to shrink. Not too much, but a noticeable amount -- some 3%. Apparently, this is explainable by the fact that absentee ballots were counted early, and these were overwhelmingly in the senator's favor. There's no way Romney will win CA, but if he can close the lead (say, 40 / 30), he'll save a lot of face.

Huge Night For GOP

Can someone please explain to me the far right's love affair with Mitt Romney? I've been trolling RedState, Townhall and other bastions of conservatism, and I keep running into sentiments along these lines: "Ah, well, Mitt in 2012!" That slogan has even popped up at National Review, which is significant more cautious and sophisticated than RS and TH.

It's hard not to laugh at these delusional hacks (especially when you're a McCain man). When will they face the facts? Romney was shut-out in the south, repelled in the west, and embarrassed in much of the north. Self-identifying conservatives didn't rush his way, neither did Christian conservatives. There's also indications from exit polls that those concerned with the economy preferred McCain -- this after Mitt's people have begun shifting his image from Family Man to Business Man. Ah, the snarls of a poll-driven campaign.

How is a man who placed second in South Carolina and third in Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri supposed to represent the Republican Party? Granted, he may have done better without Huckabee, but how much better? Would a Yankee ex-RINO Mormon millionaire really have played well, even without competition? My guess is Huckabee is drawing on Republicans who dislike the Party of Bush, and they likely see Romney as the president's nearest heir (and rightfully so). Given McCain's semi change of heart regarding immigration and his military heritage, could the governor done all that better in a Huck-free race?

Long story short: With some 450 delegates, McCain is close to cinching the GOP nod. Romney still has a chance, but with only ~150 delegates, it's not looking good, not at all. That's a lot of ground to make up, and Mac is sure to do well by riding big momentum. The best Mitt can hope for is a miracle at a brokered convention (which is a miracle unto itself!). A McCain presidency -- even a McCain candidacy -- will hopefully rejuvenate Republican moderates, perhaps even kicking some life into the party's shriveling appendages in the Northeast, Rustbelt, and Mountain West.


In Praise of Common Sense

Sir — A nation has a history, a culture, an identity. Britain is not France, Spain is not Germany, and none of these are Bangladesh or Morocco. Nor do their citizens want them to become so. People do not want to be overrun by foreigners of a strange religion, a different race, or exotic (and sometimes repulsive) customs, even if it means a 1% rise in economic growth. No amount of lecturing will change these attitudes.

This letter appeared in a recent issue of The Economist, in response to an article run by that publication advocating relaxed immigration policies. I join John Derbyshire in marveling at the undiluted candor and old fashioned simplicity of those sentiments. You rarely find such straight-forward commonsense in the mainstream media these days, despite the fact that many Americans are still sharp enough to realize that preserving national identity is part and parcel of preserving our republic as we know it.

If I have an objection to make, it's with the letter writer's decision to use the word "race" instead of ethnicity, though I supposed the ethnicity was implied in the customs bit.

It's remarkable -- also, remarkably scary -- that the notion of "particular community" is receding from American public discourse. In public, in polite company, it's increasingly difficult to articulate a desire for a "familiar" nation without immediately being labeled a bigot, xenophobe, racist, or know-nothing. Really a pity.

Give Me A Break

Clinton cries again.

And she's supposed to be an example of strong, empowered womanhood? Riiight. By my reckoning, Hillary has done everything she possibly can to prove legitimate the patronizing expression that females are the "weaker sex."

When she's on the ropes, she cries. When she can't go eye to eye with the big boys, she whines. When she wants dirty work to be done, she drafts her husband.

Keep Ms. Waterworks out of the Oval Office, please.

Expect the Unexpected

There's something to hate about that trite and illogical expression, but it's the one thing on my mind going into Super Tuesday. Especially after the heartbreak in Phoenix last night, it's hard to be confident about anything.



"I would vote for the Devil over John McCain." --Ann Coulter, craven lunatic.

Clinton more conservative than McCain? Why won't anybody call her on these inane assertions?


John's Party

If you go by the Florida returns, maybe this year positions aren't everything. Republicans on the ground think the conservative is the one who suffered 5½ years in the Hanoi Hilton. Republicans on the ground think the conservative is the one who has endured a lifetime in the rounds in Washington and survived as antispending, antiabortion and pro-military. Republicans on the ground think the conservative is the old fighter jock who'll keep the country safe in a rocky time ahead. And maybe Republicans on the ground are saying: He earned it. --Peggy Noonan

Borderline Treasonous

Look, the military isn't perfect. It has used questionable tactics during these wars, and engaged in some behavior that should be roundly condemned. That said, is there any other way to describe this besides borderline treasonous?

Hey-hey, ho-ho, the Marines in Berkeley have got to go.

That's the message from the Berkeley City Council, which voted 6-3 Tuesday night to tell the U.S. Marines that its Shattuck Avenue recruiting station "is not welcome in the city, and if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders."

In addition, the council voted to explore enforcing its law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation against the Marines because of the military's don't ask, don't tell policy. And it officially encouraged the women's peace group Code Pink to impede the work of the Marines in the city by protesting in front of the station.

In a separate item, the council voted 8-1 to give Code Pink a designated parking space in front of the recruiting station once a week for six months and a free sound permit for protesting once a week from noon to 4 p.m.

. . .

"I believe in the Code Pink cause. The Marines don't belong here, they shouldn't have come here, and they should leave," said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates after votes were cast.