Daily Archives: January 3, 2012

In the Des Moines Register tonight, Obama has the loudest voice

I’ve been checking the Des Moines Register website tonight, and I can’t help being struck by the way Obama bought up the front-page ad space so as to dominate coverage of the Republican caucuses tonight. No matter who is momentarily ahead as Paul, Romney and Santorum vie to break out of a tie, Obama’s message plays bigger than anything else, all night.


Virtual Front Page, Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Here’s what’s available to us at this hour:

  1. Iran warns U.S. Navy: Stay out of Persian Gulf (WashPost) — Which has got the Navy like, shaking with fear, I’m sure. Nevertheless, this bears watching.
  2. Iran tensions send oil prices soaring (The Guardian) — In case you didn’t care before, maybe you care now…
  3. It’s caucus day, and the spotlight is on Romney (WashPost) — Yeah, everybody’s talking about it, but I can’t really lead with this, because it hasn’t happened yet. Nothing to tell…
  4. Gingrich Calls Romney a Liar (NYT) — … nothing you’d want your children paying attention to, anyway.
  5. Dow Rings In 179-Point Gain (WSJ) — Nice start to the year. Not to wish ill on the Republican field or anything, but let’s hope the trend continues…
  6. Judge: Black church rightful owner of KKK store (AP) — In a related development, Man bites Dog.

Drat! The Professor was here, and I missed him!

That is to say, he was “here” if you define “here” as “in this country.” I learned that obliquely this morning, from this Tweet:

So very lovely to come back from the states and find nearly all of my twitter friends talking about the weather. #comforting #likeanicesoup.

What?!? He was on this side of the pond, and I missed him? Confound the luck. It’s enough to make a chap want to don his fighting trousers.

I wrote to the Professor to express my dismay in the strongest terms, and by way of consolation he replied,

@BradWarthen I’ll be in San francisco at the end of january if that’s any help old chap. #edwardianball

Well, that would be just as lovely as a cup of the brown stuff, if not for the fact that this country has grown a bit since we were colonies (the news may not have traveled back to the Old World as yet), and S.F. is hardly nearer than Brighton…

For those of you not among the cognoscenti, Professor Elemental (known to his particular friends as Paul Alborough), is the master of Chap-hop, a sort of cultural offshoot of the Steampunk sensibility.

He’s also one of my highly valued celebrity followers on Twitter, along with the inimitable Adam Baldwin. I feel honored by this, naturally, even though he does follow 27,389 others. (There are those who might call him indiscriminate, but if they do, I’m certain that the Professor will demand satisfaction. Perhaps he’ll ask me to be his second, if the other 27,389 are busy.)

But I still would very much like to see his act in person. So here’s hoping that next time he comes to the East Coast, he’s not booked by the same agents who chose where “Tinker, Tailor” would be screened

Got a nice note from E.J. Dionne this morning

I appreciated E.J. taking the time to point something out to me...

So we’re entering the stage at which national media are about to start paying attention to what is said in South Carolina. So it is that I got a note from E.J. Dionne this morning. After praising this “poetic” passage in my blog earlier: “What fools the calendar doth make of us, even when we know better.”

… he went on to say,

OK, but still, does it have any impact? Huck wouldn’t have come within 3 points of McCain without Iowa — and Fred Thompson probably made the difference.
But you are right about our being fools. Original sin and all that.
Warmest EJ

He’s got a point. Especially about the Original Sin thing. But then, E.J.’s a smart guy. And a Catholic.

Yes, if Santorum wins Iowa, this is fertile territory for him. Being a values guy and all.

As for Iowa… My dismissive statements may be based in what I wish were true. As in, “Iowa shouldn’t matter, so I’ll say it doesn’t.” I wrote a column urging everyone to ignore Iowa four years ago. Then, when Obama won there, I started hoping it DID mean something — only to see him get body-slammed in N.H.

As I’ve mentioned here before, my baptism in national politics came when I covered Howard Baker in Iowa in 1980, for my Tennessee newspaper. Since I was covering it, Iowa took on  disproportionate importance in my mind. When Reagan lost there, I was eager to pronounce his candidacy over. We know how that turned out. My prejudice also arises from the fact that, as a voter, I am barred from participating in a caucus. I’d have the same problem, of course, in a primary state with party registration. Fortunately, we don’t have that here in SC, and our primaries are open.

Huntsman ad: “We are getting screwed…”

Kudos to Jon Huntsman for being the first GOP candidate to break out of the prison of the trite and poorly worded, and give us an ad that says something, and does it with a bit of a bite.

And I’m not just saying that because he uses the word “screwed” in mixed company.

I’m saying it because he actually tells you something about himself in a way that you might take note, and remember.

I don’t know if I’d go so far as Henry McMaster in praising it:

I miss Ronald Reagan.  I served as his first US Attorney.

We all wish he would appear out of the cornfield in a “Field of Dreams” and be our nominee for President.

But right now – there is only one true Reagan Republican in the race, a leader who worked for Ronald Reagan and has proven himself over the years to be a strong, consistent conservative, with the best record as a chief executive creating jobs, cutting taxes and balancing budgets at the state level.

That is my good friend Jon Huntsman.

I hope you’ll take a moment to watch Jon’s latest TV ad. It truly is a wake up call for America.

Our nation is deep in debt.  And we’ve lost trust in government to solve problems.

I believe Jon Huntsman is the leader we need to repair both the economic deficit and the deficit of trust that has afflicted our country.

Jon has never been a flip-flopper or an opportunist.  He has always been consistently pro-life and pro-family.  As Governor of Utah, he led the nation in creating jobs, cutting taxes and stimulating real economic growth.

Jon Huntsman is the most extraordinary Governor I’ve seen since Carroll Campbell. And he’s also the only one in the presidential race with foreign policy experience as a United States Ambassador to both Singapore and China.  The world we live in is far too dangerous to pick another president with no foreign policy experience.

I ask you as a friend, as a South Carolinian, a father and an American to join me in restoring trust, dignity, and integrity in Washington, DC by supporting Jon Huntsman for President.

Peggy and I wish you and your family a very happy, healthy and blessed 2012.

Henry McMaster

I’m not sure this is a “wake-up call for America.” It’s more like a “get up briefly and let the dog out” call. But at least you don’t sleep soundly through it, and that’s something.

Compared to what it’s up against, this ad deserves brief applause, at the minimum.

And now, a few words from the Grownup Party

The ATV discussion caused me to invoke the Grownup Party (which was my third effort to start my own party, after the UnParty and the Energy Party), which caused me to go back and reread the party’s founding document, and I think this passage is always good to keep in mind:

Which brings us to something else about Grownups — they understand that in America, the government is us, rather than being some menacing thing out there, and that we’re very fortunate to live in this country at this time rather than in Russia under the czars — or under Vladimir Putin, for that matter. And we’re especially fortunate not to live in a place where there is no government, such as Somalia under the warlords.
When the government does something we don’t like — which is pretty often, political immaturity being rampant — we don’t stamp our feet and talk about taking our ball (or  taxes, or whatever) and going home. Instead, we take responsibility for it, and try to bring it along. Yes, it’s a thankless task, like picking up after one’s children, or explaining to them why they can’t stay out late with their friends. But someone has to do it.
The task may seem hopeless as well — but only to the sort who gives up. Grownups know they don’t have that option, so they keep putting forth ideas that make sense, day after day, just like Daddy  going to work…

Amen to that. The Founder of the Grownup Party knows what he’s on about…

There’s still time left to get your greens ground

We didn’t wait for the liturgically correct date, but went ahead and got rid of our Christmas tree on the 8th day, because we had the time for the chore then.

And at least we did the environmentally correct thing and took it to Saxe Gotha Presbyterian Church, which is one of the locations in the Midlands for the Grinding of the Greens project.

You can still drop off your tree, wreaths and what have you by Jan. 13, after which:

Free mulch from the recycled Christmas trees will be available to the public on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012 at Seven Oaks Park and the Clemson Institute for Economic & Community Development from 9 a.m. until the mulch runs out.

Which is cool, I think.

That's mine on the left, with the hole in the base. Goodbye, tree...

Santorum tries to ‘look older’ — you know, like Jimmy Olsen, cub reporter

I was somewhat taken aback this morning when I read this:

We thought Rick Santorum’s sweater vests were just a regular old-fashion statement. Turns out, they’re so much more. Santorum explained to Laura Ingraham on Monday that he likes to wear the sleeveless numbers because they make him look “a little older.”

Said Ingraham, “When I think of sweaters I think of Jimmy Carter, I think of Lamar Alexander, so all I’m saying Rick, with how you and I are so aligned on social issues and world view, but I’ve got to take issue with you on the sweater vest.”

“Is it geek chic? What is it?” Ingraham pressed.

The 2012 candidate explained that saying yes to the vests has a lot to do with looking more like an elder statesman. Santorum, 53, pointed out that a man in Iowa guessed he was 32…

So he’s trying to look older? You mean, like Jimmy Olsen, cub reporter? Jimmy was often portrayed with a sweater vest back in DC’s Silver Age, and I see evidence, both here and here, that he hasn’t lost the look in his latter-day manifestations, either.

Nothing against sweater vests, mind you. Below, you can see the one I’m wearing today. Unfortunately, I’m not going the fully Jimmy today — no bow tie — on account of all my shirts being too tight in the collar all of a sudden. I think I was exposed to some kind of special Kryptonite over the holidays or something. More on that later, though…

Back to Santorum: Does it tell us something that someone who presumes to ask us to elect him president looks so much like a kid that the Jimmy Olsen look is a step up in gravitas? By the way, if you want to look avuncular, you need a long-sleeved cardigan, not a sweater vest. Do I have to explain everything to these people?

In the views of some of my cartoonist friends…

When I received the above cartoon from Bill Day, it caused me to go look for Robert Ariail‘s latest on the subject (more or less).

There’s an interesting area of agreement there — interesting because, given their political predilections, Bill would welcome the idea of the GOP being led into obsolescence, while the idea of Obama being the beneficiary would be distressing to Robert.

Politics aside, I hope this New Year will be a great one for both of these guys. Which reminds me: It’s past time Robert and I got together again at Yesterday’s. I need to find out when he’ll be in town…

Apparently there’s ennui in Iowa, as well

Over the last couple of months, I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions that I’m perceiving a certain… lack of enthusiasm… over the GOP presidential nominating process in South Carolina this year.

Today, at the very height of hoopla in that neck of the woods, I see an indication that there is a similar dearth of excitement in Iowa (thanks to Andrew Sullivan for bringing this Philip Klein piece to my attention):

Those following the Iowa caucuses from home, hearing a steady stream of reports such as this about “packed rooms” that are “standing room only” with people still waiting outside, may be getting the impression that there’s a groundswell of enthusiasm for this year’s candidates that will drive turnout for the caucuses to stratospheric levels.

But don’t be fooled. The truth is that the venues candidates are holding events at this year are much smaller than in 2008, back when some candidates were filling large ballrooms or even small arenas. When going into a Barack Obama event in 2008, it wouldn’t be unusual have to get there early and still park a five or 10 minute walk away from the actual rally site, only to come into a massive venue where crowds in the thousands were going wild. Even on the Republican side, Mike Huckabee was filling larger venues.

Yet yesterday, reporters, photograhers and a few actual patrons were packed into a tiny diner at a Mitt Romney event in Atlantic, Iowa. True, later that evening, he attracted hundreds to a town hall-style building in Council Bluffs, but it was still a relatively small venue.

On Saturday, Newt Gingrich squeezed people into a diner in Council Bluffs and a small corner of a Coca Cola bottling factory in Atlantic.

At the same time, the audiences seem a lot more subdued than in 2008 — less shouting and sign waving….

Clever of the candidates’ handlers to make it look like they’re in demand by shrinking the venues. But I’m grateful to hear that this certain lack of vitality is not just a South Carolina phenomenon — and even more importantly, not in my imagination.

The causes? I haven’t sorted that out entirely, but among the causes I suspect are lack of enchantment with the field, an ongoing identity crisis in the GOP (are they about fiscal libertarianism? or is it values? and what happened to a muscular foreign policy?) and a general gut feeling, fairly broadly held, that the incumbent will win in the end.

The table is open to entertain other theories — as well as evidence to the contrary regarding this diminution of enthusiasm.

By all means, let’s ban kids from ATVs

Admittedly, not quite all kids use ATVs this way, it was the best freely-available picture I could find to illustrate the post. attritubion: Royalbroil

I got a bit of a debate going on Twitter this morning when I reacted to this tragic news:

HENDERSONVILLE, SC (AP) – A 12-year-old girl has died after a wreck on an all-terrain vehicle in Colleton County.

The Post and Courier of Charleston reported rescue crews were called to a home near Hendersonville shortly after 1:30 p.m. Monday.

Colleton County Fire and Rescue Director Barry McRoy says witnesses said some children at a birthday party were driving two all-terrain vehicles in the woods behind the house when 1 of the vehicles rolled over.

The girl was treated by paramedics and was flown to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston where she died. Her name has not been released…

My reaction was simple, and straightforward: “Why is this legal?”

My rhetorical question was quickly reTweeted by two or three users, with Tyler Jones adding an answer: “Rednecks in the Gen Assembly.”

Palmetto Record added this elaboration, “The under-16 helmet law was signed earlier this year — should kids now be banned from ATVs altogether?”

To which my answer is, yes.

But the libertarian view was represented, as it always is. This time, my friend Bryan Cox played the Mark Sanford role, saying, “I’ll bet more kids die riding in cars than driving ATVs. Ban those too? Risk is inherent to freedom.”

For me, that was easy to answer. Riding in cars is an unavoidable risk, in a society that lacks adequate public transit. Riding an ATV is absolutely unnecessary. Big difference.

Bryan elaborated on his point by saying:

If govt should ban those under 18 from activities deemed an unnecessary risk — why not skiing, swimming, football as well?

My reply? I merely expressed my weariness with the “We shouldn’t do A unless we also do B” argument, which is always presented as a way of preventing us from doing A, never as a way of advocating that we do B. In fact, B is generally deliberately chosen for its utter lack of political viability.

Bryan added, “The judgment ATV riding isn’t of value, but football is = opinion. Govt making those arbitrary content calls isn’t freedom.”

No one can ever accuse me of valuing football. But I also know there is little point in trying to ban football, in this society. There is a chance of banning ATV riding by minors. So we should do it, and at least save the lives we can.

That’s because that’s what government is — communities deciding for themselves what they will countenance and what they will not. It’s not some entity out there imposing something. It’s us. And I know my neighbors. They won’t even consider banning football. So I’ll say it again: Let’s save the lives we can.