Mitt Happens

I met Mitt Romney yesterday. Well, if you can consider shaking his hand and saying hello “meeting” him. Mr. Romney is the governor of Massachusetts and a probable candidate for President in 2008. As with all presidential campaigns, the early path has to run through Iowa. And so Governor Romney found his way to Cedar Rapids to give the commencement address at Coe College on Sunday and then meet with various political groups yesterday. One of the groups he was meeting was our Christian Action group here in Linn County. Since the head of that group is also one of our elders at Noelridge, they held the meeting there at our little church. So for half an hour or so, I sat back and ran sound while Governor Romney answered questions brought by our local people.

I have a difficult time trying not to be cynical about politicians. Now, of course, Romney will tell you he’s not a politician. But he sure comes across as one. Besides the perfectly-styled hair, the booming voice, the picture-perfect blonde wife who gushes about their family, well, there’s something in the performance, too. I was pretty impressed, he was doing a pretty good job at what was, I imagine, his usual 5-minute introductory speech. But then he introduced his wife, and she came up and said a few things about their children and grandchildren. OK, nice so far. But then she says how she knows people have been saying a lot of nice things about her husband, but how she knows that the most important things to him are his family. Now that statement by itself is just fine. But as she says the phrase “people have been saying a lot of nice things about my husband”, the Governor emits far too loud a chuckle and an obvious “aw shucks” kind of look. It was so obviously rehearsed that it was painful. And from there on out, the cynicism kicked in. He was just another politician performing.

I suppose the American system is just so big now that it’s unreasonable to think that a “normal guy” could be elected president; so, instead of electing the best “normal guy”, we have to elect the best politician. But back in my heart somewhere I wish a really real normal guy could make it. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way – go read Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series. He propels his “normal guy” hero on a path from history teacher and CIA consultant all the way up to POTUS. And of course then Clancy lets him give all the conservative speeches that Clancy (not-so-)secretly wishes a real POTUS would give. So the dream is alive… just unlikely.

So now we’re back to Mr. Romney. It will be interesting to see how his (as of yet unannounced) candidacy goes. His success will largely depend on who decides to run against him. I will also be curious to see if his Mormon beliefs hurt him any. I tend to think that the religious right will look past it. Oh, are we really starting the presidential election cycle already? The season in Iowa seems eternal. I guess we still have one more year of relative peace.

lazy teenagers?

Noel Sheppard has a good column over on Newsbusters today regarding a little-reported statistic that has some bearing on the recent immigration debate. We hear every day that illegal immigrants are “doing jobs Americans won’t do.” However, Noel asks us to take a look at the rate of teenage employment over the past 30 years.

Some highlights:

What are the numbers? Well, in February of this year, only 34.5 percent of people aged sixteen through nineteen were employed. Now, this doesn’t mean the unemployment rate in this demographic was 65.5 percent. Instead, the problem is that only 41 percent of folks this age were considered part of the workforce.

Ergo, 59 percent weren’t.

From a historical perspective, this percentage of teenagers out of the workforce is close to the highest rate since the Labor Department started keeping such statistics in 1948. By contrast, in February 1979, only 47 percent of teenagers were out of the workforce. And, at that time, 44 percent of the teenaged population over the age of fifteen had jobs.

And a bit later:

If you speak to any small business owner in America today, you will certainly get a different rationale for hiring Mexicans than the cheap wage benefit being ascribed by the so-called experts on the subject. Quite the contrary, all of the restaurant owners in my town say they hire Mexicans because they are hard-working, devoted, and dependable.

By contrast, these same business owners complain about teenagers and younger employees that won’t work eight hour days or 40 hours a week, are regularly late, miss a lot of days due to supposed illness, and seem to always be on a break.

Should we begrudge employers that want to hire people who actually want to work? And, maybe more important, do we really want to consider penalizing small business owners for hiring such folks by fining them if they do?

Something to consider before you quickly answer this question is that increasing numbers of young adults are moving back home to live with their parents for a variety of reasons. Is this poor work ethic developed in the late teens the cause of the problem? Are we as a nation doing a lousy job making young adults responsible employees capable of providing for themselves?

Joe Klein on how Consultants have ruined Politics

Joe Klein has a good column on time.com today about how political consultants, pollsters, and focus groups have been the ruination of politics. His conclusion:

I hate predictions. Most pundits, like most pollsters, get their information by looking in the rearview mirror. But let me give 2008 a try. The winner will be the candidate who comes closest to this model: a politician who refuses to be a “performer,” at least in the current sense. Who speaks but doesn’t orate. Who never holds a press conference on or in front of an aircraft carrier. Who doesn’t assume the public is stupid or uncaring. Who believes in at least one major idea, or program, that has less than 40% support in the polls. Who can tell a joke—at his or her own expense, if possible. Who gets angry, within reason; gets weepy, within reason … but only if those emotions are real and rare. Who isn’t averse to kicking his or her opponent in the shins but does it gently and cleverly. Who radiates good sense, common decency and calm. Who is not afraid to deliver bad news. Who is not afraid to admit a mistake. And who, above all, abides by the motto that graced Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Oval Office: let unconquerable gladness dwell.

Go read the whole column if you’re interested.

Victor Davis Hanson once again…

Victor Davis Hanson on the issues with Islamic Radicalism on National Review Online

I think I could link to nearly every column VDH writes… he has wonderful insights, and today’s column is no different.

now it makes more sense…

Emanuele Ottolenghi, who teaches at Oxford Uninversity, writes a column today on National Review Online that makes a crucial connection between some recent Islamic dots.

Much has been in the news the past week or so of the unrest caused by Muslims in response to some cartoons published in a Danish newspaper that ridiculed Mohammed. Much fury has been unleashed at Denmark, including the torching of its mission in Lebanon and its embassy in Syria.

Given that Syria is a very tightly-run country, Ottolenghi draws the reasonable conclusion that the protests aren’t as “spontaneous” as we might be led to believe. And then he makes this connection:

Could it be that, as David Conway of Civitas suggests, this has little to do with Muhammad the Prophet and much to do with Iran the nuclear power? Iran, after all, has just been refereed to the U.N. Security Council on account of its nuclear program. And guess what: When Iran finds itself in the eye of the storm, which, of all countries, will be chairing the U.N. body? Denmark.

And suddenly it makes sense. Denmark is serving a term on the Security Council, and will hold the presidency of the Security Council in June 2006, which would be around a reasonable timeframe that the Security Council might take up the issues with Iran.

It makes sense to me. And it’s scary.

Alito hearings, Day 1

I’m sitting here at work with a stream from C-Span playing the Senate Judiciary committee hearing of Judge Samuel Alito.

Question 1: Why the heck do they call it a “hearing” when the senators do so much more talking than the nominee does?

I’m getting really tired of listening to all of the speeches. Right now Joe Biden is in the middle of what will be at least a 7-minute speech regarding how Judge Alito will be replacing the woman who was the “fulcrum” on the court – the swing vote on a lot of issues. Senator Biden, a couple of words for you: shut up and let the nominee say something.

“Unlikely firebrand” or “Murderous Fanatic”?

A great column from Jonah Goldberg from a week ago, but it just ran in my print newspaper today.

http://www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg200512231243.asp

Among the proud recipients of Time magazine’s fluffy end-of-year “People Who Mattered” feature is Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Here’s how his blurb begins: “He is an unlikely firebrand: the soft-spoken son of a blacksmith who still sometimes drives a 30-year-old Peugeot. But Iran’s new President doesn’t shrink from controversy. After winning a disputed election, he said . . .” Now, before I finish that sentence, let’s at least note that so far Time is using the same tone it might use to talk about John McCain, Joe Wilson, George Clooney, or some other “soft-spoken” “unlikely firebrand” beloved by the media. (Time has referred to both Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sen. Joe Lieberman as “unlikely firebrands”as well. To date neither has proposed genocide.)

So, does Ahmadinejad have a wacky blog? Did he admit on Larry King Live that he voted for Ralph Nader in 2000? What makes him such a charming rogue?

Let’s pick up that sentence where we left off and see: “After winning a disputed election,” Time reports, “he said he would continue Iran’s nuclear program, called the Holocaust a ‘myth’ and pledged to destroy Israel. Even some of the nation’s ruling clerics are nervous about what he will do next.” So even some of Iran’s terrorism-supporting theocratic dictators are “nervous” about this guy.

What, one wonders, would it take for the editors to get really rough? Perhaps if Ahmadinejad offered a deeply negative review of Brokeback Mountain?

Time describes Pope Benedict XVI as perhaps “too polarizing a conservative.” But for Ahmadinejad, who declared that a member nation of the U.N. should be “wiped off the map” and that the touchstone moral horror of modernity was nothing but a “myth” . . . well, let’s make sure to bring up that he drives an old Peugeot. That’s a crucial fact. If only we could find out what kind of tree he would be if he could be a tree. Maybe next year.

I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t a jab at liberal media bias — though we can have that argument if you like. Rather, this points to something deeper: the resurgence of American isolationism.

Few issues are more shrouded in myth and misunderstanding than isolationism. Even as the “come home, America” chorus grows louder on the left, we’re still told that isolationism is a right-wing phenomenon. This myth starts with the Republican party’s rejection of the Treaty of Versailles, which didn’t really have much to do with isolationism. The Republican party — the party of Teddy Roosevelt, after all — was full of interventionists and hawks. And the Democratic party had plenty of isolationists and doves.

In the 1930s, isolationism was respectable across the ideological spectrum. Norman Thomas — the president of the American Socialist party — was an isolationist. Oswald Garrison Villard (former editor of the Nation), Charles Beard, John Dewey, Bernard Baruch, and countless other liberal luminaries were isolationists of varying intensity.

John F. Kennedy sent the isolationist America First Committee $100 while he was at Harvard with the note, “what you are doing is vital.” But that was the same JFK who wrote Why England Slept — his senior thesis-cum-bestseller on why Britain was unready for war. Kennedy’s explanation: The British people were unwilling to face reality. The same was true of the United States in the 1930s. The memory of the horror and stupidity of World War I was fresh enough in Americans’ minds — as was the ongoing Depression — that the idea of going to war or even engaging in world affairs just seemed unthinkable. So, we didn’t think about it. We used language that made things seem okay.

But the problem, as Kennedy learned, is that evil men and dangerous forces don’t take a timeout until we’re ready to pay attention. And that’s where Iran comes in. Seriously challenging Iran just strikes a lot of people as too much to fit on the American plate right now, so we prefer to call Ahmadinejad an “unlikely firebrand” instead of a murderous fanatic.

But whatever we call him, it won’t change the fact that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and that Ahmadinejad is a particularly kooky religious fanatic (possibly a member of the Hojjatieh, which seeks to foment global chaos in order to hasten the arrival of the messianic 12th imam).

In response to Ahmadinejad’s comments, the world has responded with only slightly more outrage than it would if he’d called for trade barriers on pistachios. It’s time to wake up.

(c) 2005 Tribune Media Services

“Unlikely firebrand” or “Murderous Fanatic”?

A great column from Jonah Goldberg from a week ago, but it just ran in my print newspaper today.

http://www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg200512231243.asp

Among the proud recipients of Time magazine’s fluffy end-of-year “People Who Mattered” feature is Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Here’s how his blurb begins: “He is an unlikely firebrand: the soft-spoken son of a blacksmith who still sometimes drives a 30-year-old Peugeot. But Iran’s new President doesn’t shrink from controversy. After winning a disputed election, he said . . .” Now, before I finish that sentence, let’s at least note that so far Time is using the same tone it might use to talk about John McCain, Joe Wilson, George Clooney, or some other “soft-spoken” “unlikely firebrand” beloved by the media. (Time has referred to both Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sen. Joe Lieberman as “unlikely firebrands”as well. To date neither has proposed genocide.)

So, does Ahmadinejad have a wacky blog? Did he admit on Larry King Live that he voted for Ralph Nader in 2000? What makes him such a charming rogue?

Let’s pick up that sentence where we left off and see: “After winning a disputed election,” Time reports, “he said he would continue Iran’s nuclear program, called the Holocaust a ‘myth’ and pledged to destroy Israel. Even some of the nation’s ruling clerics are nervous about what he will do next.” So even some of Iran’s terrorism-supporting theocratic dictators are “nervous” about this guy.

What, one wonders, would it take for the editors to get really rough? Perhaps if Ahmadinejad offered a deeply negative review of Brokeback Mountain?

Time describes Pope Benedict XVI as perhaps “too polarizing a conservative.” But for Ahmadinejad, who declared that a member nation of the U.N. should be “wiped off the map” and that the touchstone moral horror of modernity was nothing but a “myth” . . . well, let’s make sure to bring up that he drives an old Peugeot. That’s a crucial fact. If only we could find out what kind of tree he would be if he could be a tree. Maybe next year.

I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t a jab at liberal media bias — though we can have that argument if you like. Rather, this points to something deeper: the resurgence of American isolationism.

Few issues are more shrouded in myth and misunderstanding than isolationism. Even as the “come home, America” chorus grows louder on the left, we’re still told that isolationism is a right-wing phenomenon. This myth starts with the Republican party’s rejection of the Treaty of Versailles, which didn’t really have much to do with isolationism. The Republican party — the party of Teddy Roosevelt, after all — was full of interventionists and hawks. And the Democratic party had plenty of isolationists and doves.

In the 1930s, isolationism was respectable across the ideological spectrum. Norman Thomas — the president of the American Socialist party — was an isolationist. Oswald Garrison Villard (former editor of the Nation), Charles Beard, John Dewey, Bernard Baruch, and countless other liberal luminaries were isolationists of varying intensity.

John F. Kennedy sent the isolationist America First Committee $100 while he was at Harvard with the note, “what you are doing is vital.” But that was the same JFK who wrote Why England Slept — his senior thesis-cum-bestseller on why Britain was unready for war. Kennedy’s explanation: The British people were unwilling to face reality. The same was true of the United States in the 1930s. The memory of the horror and stupidity of World War I was fresh enough in Americans’ minds — as was the ongoing Depression — that the idea of going to war or even engaging in world affairs just seemed unthinkable. So, we didn’t think about it. We used language that made things seem okay.

But the problem, as Kennedy learned, is that evil men and dangerous forces don’t take a timeout until we’re ready to pay attention. And that’s where Iran comes in. Seriously challenging Iran just strikes a lot of people as too much to fit on the American plate right now, so we prefer to call Ahmadinejad an “unlikely firebrand” instead of a murderous fanatic.

But whatever we call him, it won’t change the fact that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and that Ahmadinejad is a particularly kooky religious fanatic (possibly a member of the Hojjatieh, which seeks to foment global chaos in order to hasten the arrival of the messianic 12th imam).

In response to Ahmadinejad’s comments, the world has responded with only slightly more outrage than it would if he’d called for trade barriers on pistachios. It’s time to wake up.

(c) 2005 Tribune Media Services

“Unlikely firebrand” or “Murderous Fanatic”?

A great column from Jonah Goldberg from a week ago, but it just ran in my print newspaper today.

http://www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg200512231243.asp

Among the proud recipients of Time magazine’s fluffy end-of-year “People Who Mattered” feature is Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Here’s how his blurb begins: “He is an unlikely firebrand: the soft-spoken son of a blacksmith who still sometimes drives a 30-year-old Peugeot. But Iran’s new President doesn’t shrink from controversy. After winning a disputed election, he said . . .” Now, before I finish that sentence, let’s at least note that so far Time is using the same tone it might use to talk about John McCain, Joe Wilson, George Clooney, or some other “soft-spoken” “unlikely firebrand” beloved by the media. (Time has referred to both Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sen. Joe Lieberman as “unlikely firebrands”as well. To date neither has proposed genocide.)

So, does Ahmadinejad have a wacky blog? Did he admit on Larry King Live that he voted for Ralph Nader in 2000? What makes him such a charming rogue?

Let’s pick up that sentence where we left off and see: “After winning a disputed election,” Time reports, “he said he would continue Iran’s nuclear program, called the Holocaust a ‘myth’ and pledged to destroy Israel. Even some of the nation’s ruling clerics are nervous about what he will do next.” So even some of Iran’s terrorism-supporting theocratic dictators are “nervous” about this guy.

What, one wonders, would it take for the editors to get really rough? Perhaps if Ahmadinejad offered a deeply negative review of Brokeback Mountain?

Time describes Pope Benedict XVI as perhaps “too polarizing a conservative.” But for Ahmadinejad, who declared that a member nation of the U.N. should be “wiped off the map” and that the touchstone moral horror of modernity was nothing but a “myth” . . . well, let’s make sure to bring up that he drives an old Peugeot. That’s a crucial fact. If only we could find out what kind of tree he would be if he could be a tree. Maybe next year.

I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t a jab at liberal media bias — though we can have that argument if you like. Rather, this points to something deeper: the resurgence of American isolationism.

Few issues are more shrouded in myth and misunderstanding than isolationism. Even as the “come home, America” chorus grows louder on the left, we’re still told that isolationism is a right-wing phenomenon. This myth starts with the Republican party’s rejection of the Treaty of Versailles, which didn’t really have much to do with isolationism. The Republican party — the party of Teddy Roosevelt, after all — was full of interventionists and hawks. And the Democratic party had plenty of isolationists and doves.

In the 1930s, isolationism was respectable across the ideological spectrum. Norman Thomas — the president of the American Socialist party — was an isolationist. Oswald Garrison Villard (former editor of the Nation), Charles Beard, John Dewey, Bernard Baruch, and countless other liberal luminaries were isolationists of varying intensity.

John F. Kennedy sent the isolationist America First Committee $100 while he was at Harvard with the note, “what you are doing is vital.” But that was the same JFK who wrote Why England Slept — his senior thesis-cum-bestseller on why Britain was unready for war. Kennedy’s explanation: The British people were unwilling to face reality. The same was true of the United States in the 1930s. The memory of the horror and stupidity of World War I was fresh enough in Americans’ minds — as was the ongoing Depression — that the idea of going to war or even engaging in world affairs just seemed unthinkable. So, we didn’t think about it. We used language that made things seem okay.

But the problem, as Kennedy learned, is that evil men and dangerous forces don’t take a timeout until we’re ready to pay attention. And that’s where Iran comes in. Seriously challenging Iran just strikes a lot of people as too much to fit on the American plate right now, so we prefer to call Ahmadinejad an “unlikely firebrand” instead of a murderous fanatic.

But whatever we call him, it won’t change the fact that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and that Ahmadinejad is a particularly kooky religious fanatic (possibly a member of the Hojjatieh, which seeks to foment global chaos in order to hasten the arrival of the messianic 12th imam).

In response to Ahmadinejad’s comments, the world has responded with only slightly more outrage than it would if he’d called for trade barriers on pistachios. It’s time to wake up.

(c) 2005 Tribune Media Services

“A Separate Peace”

Peggy Noonan writes a somber column today. An excerpt:

I think there is an unspoken subtext in our national political culture right now. In fact I think it’s a subtext to our society. I think that a lot of people are carrying around in their heads, unarticulated and even in some cases unnoticed, a sense that the wheels are coming off the trolley and the trolley off the tracks. That in some deep and fundamental way things have broken down and can’t be fixed, or won’t be fixed any time soon. That our pollsters are preoccupied with “right track” and “wrong track” but missing the number of people who think the answer to “How are things going in America?” is “Off the tracks and hurtling forward, toward an unknown destination.”

I’m not talking about “Plamegate.” As I write no indictments have come up. I’m not talking about “Miers.” I mean . . . the whole ball of wax. Everything. Cloning, nuts with nukes, epidemics; the growing knowledge that there’s no such thing as homeland security; the fact that we’re leaving our kids with a bill no one can pay. A sense of unreality in our courts so deep that they think they can seize grandma’s house to build a strip mall; our media institutions imploding–the spectacle of a great American newspaper, the New York Times, hurtling off its own tracks, as did CBS. The fear of parents that their children will wind up disturbed, and their souls actually imperiled, by the popular culture in which we are raising them. Senators who seem owned by someone, actually owned, by an interest group or a financial entity. Great churches that have lost all sense of mission, and all authority. Do you have confidence in the CIA? The FBI? I didn’t think so.

But this recounting doesn’t quite get me to what I mean. I mean I believe there’s a general and amorphous sense that things are broken and tough history is coming.

She uses the rest of the column to note that the “elites” who ought to be leading us out of this have instead made “a separate peace” and, rather than lead, have resigned themselves to doing what they want to do and just letting the thing derail.

It’s worth reading the piece just for its thought-provoking capacity. But then step back, take a deep breath, and give thanks for a Heavenly Father who is soveriegn over all these events.