Dukakis 2.0

At The Weekly Standard, Noemie Emery hits Obama below the belt by saying that his Presidency is the Dukakis Administration that never was:

As Barack Obama sees his ratings descend toward the high 30s, he is increasingly described as the second coming of James Earl Carter Jr., whose presidency, gone but hardly forgotten, lives on in masochists’ minds. The comparison is unkind and not quite on target: This is less Carter II than the lost presidency of Michael Dukakis, which seemed a sure thing at this date 22 years ago, and from which we were saved by the elder George Bush.

Of course, no one thought Dukakis could be the messiah, but in other ways the connections are strong: both creatures of the liberal Northeast and of Harvard, with no sense at all of most of the rest of the country; both rationalists who impose legalistic criteria on emotion-rich subjects; both with fixed ideas of who society’s victims are, which do not accord with the views of the public; and both with a tin ear for the culture and a genius for creating wedge issues that split their own party. Obama has the Carter naïveté in foreign affairs—treating allies like foes, and vice versa—but it is the Dukakis campaign that provides the better parallel.

She has a point: President Obama managed to glamour the American electorate in 2008 without really giving anyone a sense of who Barack Obama is. He allowed himself to be a kind of empty vessel into which millions of Americans poured their hopes and aspirations. It was a tremendously successful strategy for getting elected, but it hasn’t worked since. The American people don’t want the President to be an empty vessel, they want the President to stand for something. And where Obama has taken his stands have all been on issues that are deeply popular with the American people.

Obama had the benefit of the charisma that Dukakis lacked, but Emery is right in pointing out that at the end of the day, President Obama is a doctrinaire liberal. His vision of the relationship between the American people and the state is a fundamentally left-wing one. President Obama was elected to be a post-racial, post-partisan centrist that would unite the country, heal the wounds of the Bush years, and move America forward. Nearly two years into his presidency, racial tensions are high, partisanship is worse than it was under Bush, and America is mired in economic doldrums. President Obama has lost nearly half his approval among independents precisely because he simply hasn’t governed like the way he promised.

Obama clearly wanted to be a transformational President, but the reality is that a President, no matter how talented, cannot transform this nation. Transformational leaders like FDR and Reagan came along at the right time with the right resonant message. Obama is trying to turn a center-right country into a country that reflects the values of the academic left.

It’s not surprising that he’s failed. Had Obama run as the conventional, doctrinaire academic liberal that he is, he would not have won. Now that he’s in office and acting just as the right said he would, it’s clear that Obama’s allegedly “transformational” Presidency is transforming his positive approval numbers into negative ones.

Eight Years Later

Eight years ago, an atrocity against civilization was committed. The events of that day were not merely attacks against the United States, or Western culture, or any of the other fashionable excuses. They were attacks against civilization itself, examples of an ideology steeped in barbarism.

Eight years later, and we have returned to a sense of complacency. The horrors of that day have become less visceral with age. We have, in some sense, fogotten the lessons we learned that terrible day. We have slipped back into the mentality of pre-9/11 America, when shark attacks and Gary Condit were more important than the barbarians at our gates.

We cannot be so complacent. Despite our best efforts, many of those responsible for these inhuman acts are still at large. Afghanistan is still threatened by the Taliban. Pakistan, a country possessing nuclear arms, still has the sword of Damocles over its head as the lawless frontiers continue to incubate terror.

The events of that day eight years ago changed our world. We owe it to those who died to never forget, and never allow this kind of barbarism to reign free again. The long war has not ended. Eight years ago, a city of millions mourned the loss of 3,000. The next attack could see it the other way around. We cannot bear that cost. We must be unflinching in our defense of our values and unyielding in our determination to fight groups like al-Qaeda.

We must never forget what happened eight years ago, or it will happen again.

Predictions 2009

Every year, I put up my list of predictions for the coming year. Sometimes they come close to the mark, most of the time they do not. Regardless, it’s fun to stare into the crystal ball and make a few predictions about the coming year. Without further ado, here are my predictions:


  • President Barack Obama’s popularity with the left will bleed away as he moves to governing as a centrist.
  • Card check legislation will be narrowly defeated in Congress, preserving the rights of the American worker to a secret ballot.
  • The Republican Party will continue to spend a year in the wilderness, while the seeds of political renewal will come from outside the party structure.
  • Vice President Biden will say something incredibly stupid, creating a great deal of tension between him and President Obama.
  • Congress will continue to be unpopular as the economy continues to backslide and more and more scandals mount. By the end of the year, faith in American government will be at a new low.


  • Iraq will be a bright spot as its nascent democracy continues to develop. Rather than terrorism, its main problem will be corruption and governmental issues. Iraq will start looking less like Lebanon and more like Jordan in terms of its development. The media will basically ignore Iraq, even though there will be no major U.S. troop drawdowns until mid-year at the earliest. President Obama’s Iraq strategy will be a continuation of the existing strategy, not a clean break from the Bush years.
  • Israel will again stop short of destroying their enemies, slowly backing down after token military actions on the ground in Gaza. Seeing another Lebanon, the Israeli people will reject Kadima and elect Netanyahu as Prime Minister.
  • India and Pakistan will be at the brink of war throughout the year, but neither side will pull the trigger. This issue will dominate Secretary of State Clinton’s efforts throughout the year.
  • Iran will test a nuclear weapon, leading Israel to formally announce that they possess nuclear weapons and that they will use them if necessary. Israel will work to expand ts fleet of ballistic missile submarines.
  • Russa’s Gazprom state-owned oil company will collapse, causing massive unrest in the country. Vladimir Putin and his puppet Dmitri Medvedev will use the unrest to further restrict freedoms and consolidate their own power.
  • Due to oil prices plummeting, Hugo Chavez will be deposed in a bloodless coup.


  • The recession will not go away in 2009.
  • Obama’s $1 trillion stimulus bill will narrowly pass on a party-line vote. It will not stimulate the economy, but will cause further job losses as small businesses prepare for the worst.
  • The Dow will sink below 8,000 and not stay above that level for most of the year.
  • By the end of 2009, the U.S. will face double-digit unemployment, economic recession, and massive deflation as the credit markets remain frozen.
  • Congress will pass a protectionist trade measure that will have massive ripple effects throughout the world economy. The European Union will push for the WTO to punish the U.S. for their actions. Rather than improve our relations worldwide, America will be disliked ever more intensely across the globe.
  • The one bright spot will be that consumers begin shedding their debts and living more fiscally responsible lifestyles.


  • The last MacWorld will annonce the iPhone Nano, a new Mac Mini, and a quad-core iMac. It will be revealed that Steve Jobs is in fact unwell, which will cause Apple shares to slide. However, the corporate culture that Jobs has created will keep Apple innovative.
  • Microsoft will release Windows 7 by years-end. It will be better than Vista, but still not sell well due to the decline of the industry.
  • The economic downturn will cause a widespread cultural re-examination. Church attendance will climb as people look for stability in their lives.
  • The New York Times will file for bankruptcy protection. Liberal investors will save it from falling, but circulation will continue to drop.
  • Star Trek will be a major hit as the public rejects the gloomy outlook of other summer films. Chris Pine will become a breakout star from his role as James T. Kirk.
  • A major network will announce a new series to be aired entirely on the web rather than through traditional channels. It will be a major hit and the start of a new trend away from traditional media towards online distribution.

I hope all of you have a wonderful New Year, and thank you for reading!

The First Step Is Admitting You Have A Problem

Via the incomparable James Lileks comes a map that should send chills down the spine of every Republican:

A county-by-county map of the 2008 election results.
A county-by-county map of the 2008 election results.

Even though this election was relatively close, the map does not show that McCain did very well in spreading his message nationwide. The Republican Party cannot hope to win as a regional party any more than the Democrats could. The task for the coming years will be in crafting a Republican message that can resonate beyond the Bible Belt of the country.

The good news is that this country remains a center-right country. There are still more self-described conservatives than liberals, and the center remains persuadable. If Obama over-reaches—and with a strident liberal Congress that is quite likely, the Republicans can come back again. This isn’t necessarily a realigning election that presages a Democratic majority for years to come any more than 2004 was the same. The normal political cycle of realigning elections in this country seems to be dramatically shortened thanks to mass media and technology. Republicans shouldn’t be consigning themselves to defeat yet.

But we have to admit that this map shows a massive problem. The strategies of exploiting cultural wedge issues and national security won’t work anymore. The Karl Rove playbook worked in 2000, 2002, and 2004. It didn’t in 2006 or 2008, and it won’t work in 2010 and 2012. The Republican Party needs to broaden itself and admit that it has a problem reaching out to the center.

Granted, the 2008 result was largely due to two factors: President Bush’s unpopularity and Barack Obama’s immense political skill. Those factors aren’t going to repeat themselves again—and in 2012 it could be a skilled Republican like Bobby Jindal versus an unpopular President Obama. But even if that is true, the problems with the Republican Party are structural, and need to be fixed.

I don’t pretend to have the right answer. There’s going to be gallons of ink and gigabytes of blog posts figuring out where to go next. What I do know is that something has got to change, and the Republican Party will have to adapt to a changing political climate. That does not have to mean compromising on our values—Republicans can win in places like the Northeast without compromising on key values. But it’s also going to require the GOP to do more than try to use cultural wedge issues to their partisan advantage.

In a democracy, parties can and should win and lose. Politics is cyclical, and the Republican Party has done much to put themselves in this position. The goal moving forward is to rebuild the party for a post-Bush world. There can be a Republican renaissance, but only if the party and its constituents are willing to make it happen.

Some Down-To-The-Wire Wisdom

Already there are exit poll “leaks,” and they are all over the map. This could, and likely will be a late night.

Obama’s GOTV will be huge, which is why every Republican needs to turn out before the polls close. Don’t let the media convince you that this night is over, because it isn’t. Go out and vote, even if it’s to make your stand against what Obama will bring.

More as the night continues.

The Case For McCain

While every election of the last few cycles seem to be called “the most important of our time,” the 2008 election may very well be a critical election for the future of this great nation. We have two candidates: one an eloquent speaker with scant experience and the other with a lengthy history of bipartisan accomplishment. The case for McCain is straightforward: John McCain has been tested, Barack Obama has not. McCain has had to make the hard choices that a leader must, Obama has not. In an election that puts hard-edged experience versus gauzy promises of hope, Sen. McCain offers the leadership that this country desperately needs.

In a crisis, we need someone who has demonstrated leadership. John McCain has done so…

The Obama campaign continues to run against a man who is not on the ballot. There is little room for doubt that the Bush Administration in profoundly unpopular, and it has dragged the Republican Party down with it. Politically, it makes sense for the Democrats to tie McCain to Bush. But outside of the world of political spin, George W. Bush and John McCain are radically different. No one can doubt that Sen. McCain has a long record of serving his country. McCain has stood on principle, even when it has put him at odds with his own party. McCain’s life experiences as a prisoner of war—something he has rarely mentioned on the campaign trail—has shaped his view of the world in a way that few can understand. John McCain has been tested in a way that few people ever have.

Sen. McCain’s record demonstrates his commitment to “putting country first.” McCain took a stand on the issue of torture, not because it was popular or politically expedient for him to do so, but because he believed that banning it was for the good of the country. He not only opposed the Bush Administration on this issue, but he pushed them towards his views. He opposed Donald Rumsfeld’s strategy in Iraq and asked for more troops at a time when it was neither popular nor politically expedient. John McCain was right about the surge before there was a surge. He stood on principle and won. On campaign finance reform, he worked with one of the most liberal members of the Senate on crafting a bipartisan solution. Whether one agrees or disagrees with McCain-Feingold, it demonstrates that McCain has reached across party lines to get things done.

John McCain

McCain bucked his party on immigration. It nearly cost him the nomination, but he did so because he honestly believed it was the right policy. He has been a firm supporter of efforts to combat global warming—not because it was popular with his own party, but because he believed it to be in the national interest. That is the character of John McCain. Even if the misleading statistic of him voting with the President 90% of the time were an accurate measure, the whole of his record demonstrates a politician who has reached across the aisle time and time again. The fact that conservatives often vehemently disagree with some of these choices makes it plain that McCain is anything but a party loyalist.

Contrast this with Sen. Obama. Obama has no executive experience. He has never led anything larger than a law school classroom. Obama has not one significant legislative achievement to his name. He has never been seriously tested in a crisis. He has grown up in a political cocoon, and the media is unwilling to probe into his character or his fitness to serve. Barack Obama remains an unknown quantity, an empty vessel into which his supporters are pouring their own hopes. That is not what a President must be. A President must make the hard calls, he must take controversial stands, he must be willing to challenge the system for the good of the nation. We know that John McCain has done these things. We know that McCain can lead, and we know that he will work across the aisle for the good of the country, even at the risk of alienating his party. Do we really know that Obama would do so, or is a large segment of the electorate blindly hoping that he will?

This election should not be about blind hope. Those who put their faith in a politician will always be disappointed. In a crisis, we need someone who has demonstrated leadership. John McCain has done so, Barack Obama has not. We know that John McCain has made hard calls. We don’t know what Obama may do in a real crisis. We know that John McCain has reached across the aisle on multiple occasions to do what he felt is right. We’ve yet to see Obama stand on any principle that significantly departs from his comfortable liberal orthodoxy. John McCain is a known quantity. Barack Obama is a cipher.

In a time of crisis, this nation should not take chances. With the economic meltdown, rash government action could make the situation worse. Handing control of the government to one party is a recipe for disaster. The likely outcome of an Obama Administration and a Reid/Pelosi Congress would be unfettered left-wing experimentation. Our system of government works best when there are checks and balances—and the best way of ensuring that our government produces the best policies is through divided government. There is a reason why Congress’ approval ratings are so abysmal. Do we dare give them a rubber stamp in the White House? Can we truly trust that the results will be any better than when the Republicans had control of the government? Are the Democrats truly any less corrupt, any less viciously partisan, or any more competent than the Republican? The record suggests that they are at best no better, and in many cases worse.

This is the reason why Obama can never be the “transitional” figure that his supporters promise. McCain will have to work across the aisle to get anything done. Obama can embrace the same sense of partisan entitlement that led to the excesses of the Bush years. Would Obama conciliate to a weakened Republican Party? He would not need to do so, and there’s no political reason to do so. The vicious partisan divide in this country will not be healed by giving one side unchecked power—can one honestly expect Obama to “heal” the nation while at the same time pushing his agenda? There is little in Obama’s policies that suggest bipartisan compromise. Taking him at his word, he will shift this country dramatically to the left, which will only feed the cycle of partisanship that has polluted Washington.

John McCain has led. He has reached across the aisle. He has the experience to be President. His record is one of someone who has put country above party. In a time of turmoil, taking chances on an unknown quantity is not a smart policy. McCain is the right man for the job, and the right choice for the nation.

Trick Or Creepy Political Propaganda!

Now you can show your undying devotion to Dear Leader with your very own Barack-O’Latern!

Sometimes the thing that disturbs me the most about Obama is less the man himself, but his followers. There is something deeply undemocratic about the cult of personality that surrounds Sen. Obama. Supporting your chosen candidate is one thing—turning him into a secular messiah is another. Politicians are human beings, and frequently deeply flawed ones at that, and they should be treated as such.

VP Debate Thoughts

Joe Biden is losing this thing for Obama. He is coming off as a pretentious jerk.

Palin is not at all as polished as Biden, but she’s coming off as authentic. She doesn’t have full command of the debate, but she’s not just making things up like Biden has been all night.

All in all, this is a slaughter. Not necessarily because of what Palin is doing, but because Biden is coming off so badly.

McCain definitely made the right pick. Palin isn’t a polished Washington insider, which is precisely why she’s doing so well against Biden.

UPDATE: This isn’t a debate, this is a slaughter. Palin is walking all over Biden. Give that woman some time to develop experience, and she’ll be the first female President of the United States, and she’ll do an amazing job.

UPDATE: So Biden changed his mind from following the Constitution in selecting judicial appointments, to violating it through ravenous partisanship.

Those rumors about him stepping down tomorrow? They seem far more likely tonight.

UPDATE: Final thought before all the spin: Palin just wiped the floor with Biden tonight. It wasn’t even close. Biden had his moments, but there’s a reason why his presidential runs went over like lead balloons. Biden was pure Washington, Palin was pure Main Street. She performed brilliantly with a deck stacked against her, which for someone who has never done this before is quite a feat.

UPDATE: Frank Luntz’s focus group on Fox (which usually leans Democratic) seems to have LOVED Palin. By a huge margin. Her bit about personal responsibility lit up the dials. She was a hit with undecided voters. Luntz thinks that this will cause a huge movement in the polls. I think he’s right.

If McCain can capitalize on this, he can win.

UPDATE: CNN’s panel seemed to be roughly split between Biden and Palin. Which, correcting for media bias, means that Palin won convincingly.

Biden made some major gaffes. His position on judicial appointments was completely against the Constitution. He got basic legal issues wrong. Lawyers note those things. Joe Biden may be a nice guy in person, but he was terrible tonight. He came off as arrogant and meandering. Palin dodged some questions and clearly had some gaps in her knowledge. The difference is that knowledge about the world can be learned and developed. Having the ability to reach out to Americans in their own vernacular is a unique gift. Palin did what she had to do tonight, and she went far beyond the expectations placed upon her.