Category Archives: The Nation

Mark Sanford’s most endearing characteristic: heaping scorn on his own party

One thing about Mark Sanford: He doesn’t hesitate to describe how messed up his own party is. He got quoted at length today by Roll Call regarding the withdrawal of presumptive Speaker-to-be Kevin McCarthy:

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., said it was “mayhem.” McCarthy was “calm, cool and collected,” his wife was there, members were crying. He also named two people who probably could lock up 218 votes for speaker if they threw their hat in the ring: Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. and Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis.

But Ryan, the Ways and Means chairman, vowed Thursday afternoon not to enter the race for speaker. “I will not be a candidate. I continue to believe I can best serve the country and this conference as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee,” he said.

Sanford also said, “I was actually here for the succession of [Newt] Gingrich handing the baton to [Bob] Livingston, the baton didn’t get handed, it ended up [J. Dennis] Hastert. … I was here in those days. This is that level of confusion, change, the suspense, times 10, it’s on steroids. I mean, nobody saw the Boehner thing coming down when it came. … At least with Gingrich, Livingston, Hastert, there was some degree of prediction as to what would come next. It’s gone to the point of no one having a clue as to what’s going to come next.”

And Sanford also addressed the idea of Boehner staying on: “Mentally, I think he’s sort of crossed that Rubicon and there’s no going back.”


Hillary now blows to wherever the wind may take her

Wow, Hillary Clinton is really getting desperate.

She is so anxious to placate the emotional left of her party that she has abandoned the Pacific trade agreement she promoted until recently. The WSJ summed up her conversion this way:

Mrs. Clinton was asked on PBS’s NewsHour whether the trade deal is “something you could support?”

Her reply: “What I know about it, as of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it. And there is one other element I want to make, because I think it’s important. Trade agreements don’t happen in a vacuum, and in order for us to have a competitive economy in the global marketplace, there are things we need to do here at home that help raise wages. And the Republicans have blocked everything President Obama tried to do on that front. So for the larger issues, and then what I know, and again, I don’t have the text, we don’t yet have all the details, I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.”

So she hasn’t seen the agreement’s text, and can’t speak to the details, but she’s against the deal because Republicans who haven’t held the White House in seven years haven’t raised wages.

Mrs. Clinton previously called the Pacific pact the “gold standard in trade agreements,” and as recently as her memoir in 2014 she praised it as “important for American workers who would benefit from competing on a more level playing field.” At State she took a leading role in promoting the pact and in January 2013 said that “I think the Trans-Pacific Partnership is one way that could really enhance our relationship” with Japan. She supported Nafta and she backed the trade deal with South Korea, but now she’s had a change of heart—or should we say soul….

Basically, she preemptively dropped this hot potato before she even had a good grip on it. But the fact that this agreement is a hot potato shows how far gone her party is.

People go on about how the Republicans have lost their way, being held hostage by the flakes on its fringe, and they’re absolutely right to do so.

Well, the Democrats have the same problem. They have their own Know-Nothings, with notions about trade and growth that seem to have been drafted by Occupy Wall Street, and leading candidates are in their thrall.

It’s been awhile since the party has had sensible Third Way leadership with names such as… Clinton.

‘Joe, Run.’ Draft Biden super-PAC releases video

Hey, it gives me goose bumps. Here’s a story about the video. Excerpt:

It comes from the “Yale Day” speech Biden delivered the day before the Ivy League school’s commencement, as he knew his son’s fight with cancer was unlikely to succeed. Beau Biden died two weeks after that speech.

Possibly because of that timing, or something, it reminds me of that famous recording of Bobby Kennedy announcing the death of Martin Luther King, just a month before his own death…

Meanwhile, in Syria, Russia attacking by air, land and sea

Perhaps it’s just as well that we our hands full with immediate problems here in South Carolina. Otherwise, I’d really be stressing about Putin’s new adventure in Syria.

  • Day after day, his air assets are attacking our allies — the Syrian rebels to whom we have been providing aid as a balance against both Assad and ISIS. And lying about it. The one silver lining in this is that they are presumably attacking the forces Assad, their buddy, sees as the most immediate threats. Which indicates that maybe our aid to these rebels is actually having an effect.
  • Now they have a battalion-sized ground force in place, including their most advance tanks. Sure, a battalion isn’t all that huge, but it’s a start.
  • Russian ships have entered the fray. For once, the BBC’s practice of putting everything any nation says in quotes is justified (“Russia ‘hits IS in Syria from Caspian’“), there being such a gap between what Putin is doing and what he says he’s doing.

This is a serious problem, people. I’m having trouble remembering any time in the Cold War that the Soviets moved this boldly, outside of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, which they considered their own turf. Sure, they advised the North Vietnamese, but how many Russians actually went into combat there?

That’s because the Soviets weren’t nearly as reckless as Putin.

He’s playing with both matches and gasoline, and doing so right next to some of our people…


Trey Gowdy for majority leader? Of the U.S. House? Really?

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot…

Trey Gowdy

Trey Gowdy

I almost ran off the road this morning when I heard someone on NPR saying that the crazies who ran John Boehner out of the House were wanting Trey Gowdy to be majority leader. Of the Unites States House of Representatives. And I don’t think they were joking.

Oh, I’m sure Mr. Gowdy is a fine fella, kind to children and dogs and so forth, but No. 2 man in the House?

Apparently, Boehner himself was also promoting this

This is a guy who:

  • Hasn’t even been in the House five years.
  • Was elected over Bob Inglis, one of the finest, most principled people to be elected from South Carolina in a generation, and one of the most sincerely and ostentatiously conservative, because Inglis wasn’t right-wing enough in the Year of the Tea Party.
  • Owes whatever national reputation he does possess entirely to chairing the House’s Benghazi sideshow. True, he’s in good company, in that Lindsey Graham also has a Benghazi obsession — but at least Graham is known for other stuff as well.
  • Is not, lest you be confused, Curt Gowdy. That would be pretty cool. But wrong Gowdy.

And don’t even get me started on the haircut, which makes him look like a cross between Stan Laurel. and Oswald Cobblepot on “Gotham.” Not that that sort of thing should matter.

Anyway, to put it more mildly, I was surprised…

Bloomberg Poll: 1 in 4 Democrats favor Biden

And the guy’s not even running — yet.

Here’s the news from Bloomberg:

One quarter of Americans who are registered Democrats or lean that way say Vice President Joe Biden is now their top choice for president. The findings of a national Bloomberg Politics poll released Wednesday represent a notable achievement for an as-yet undeclared candidate, suggest concerns about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, and raise the prospect of a competitive three-way race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Clinton, once the prohibitive front-runner, is now the top choice of 33 percent of registered Democrats and those who lean Democrat, the poll shows. Biden places second with 25 percent and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is at 24 percent. The other three Democratic candidates combined are the top choice for less than 4 percent of that base….

Not only that, but almost half of respondents say they think the veep should get into it. Sounds like some of those still with Hillary want a backup plan…

Fiorina won the JV debate last time. This time, it was Graham

JV debate

Yeah, Santorum — we caught you smiling…

Actually, I have only partial knowledge of how he did, because all I’ve seen is a few clips from the not-ready-for-prime-time debate.

What I’m talking about is how it played, which is of course of tremendous importance in politics. And it played like this:

And then there was this:

Lindsey Graham tops the undercard debate, but Donald Trump dominates

The most memorable performance in the undercard Republican presidential debate came from Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina.

Serving his third term in the Senate and now one of the party’s leading lights on foreign policy, Graham still found himself at the trailers’ table Wednesday night. But he was easily the funniest of the four early-evening debaters and offered something of a split-personality vision: half gloom and war, half cornball humor.

In an otherwise humorless foursome, Graham delivered the jokes that were the night’s most repeated lines. In explaining his call for more bipartisan cooperation, for instance, he harkened back to deals that President Ronald Reagan and Democrats struck over a drink: “That’s the first thing I’m gonna do as president. We’re gonna drink more.”

In explaining his position that more legal immigrants were needed to pay into the retirement system as baby boomers retire, Graham used a one-liner about a famous — and infamous — senator from his home state.

“Strom Thurmond had four kids after he was 67. If you’re not willing to do that, maybe we need a better legal immigration system,” Graham said….

So go ahead. Heap the usual pile of scorn, abuse and calumny on our senior senator. It’s what y’all always do. I expect you’ll start with something like, “Maybe he should run for court jester instead of president. He’s already the biggest joke on the national stage.”

It’s easy to be scornful. It’s hard to put yourself out there and do your best, especially when all you get is ridicule and abuse…

Tweets from the debate (Kathryn, look away)

debate stage

I know Kathryn hates it when I do this, and most of the rest of y’all just ignore it. But I’m going to post it anyway, because this is how I commented on the debate, and I’m not going to type all this stuff all over again (copying the embed codes over is tedious enough).

Some people liked my comments — I got 13 replies, 17 reTweets, two new follows and 37 favorites. (A little disappointed on the follows — usually I get closer to 10 during such an event with so much interaction.) I didn’t bother to count the Facebook responses (my Tweets automatically post there as well), but it was at least a couple of score.

If running these prompts no discussion, so be it. But at least I made it available to those who don’t indulge in Twitter:

Joyful Graham promises only blood, toil, tears and sacrifice

Graham enjoys himself on the stump.

Graham enjoys himself on the stump.

The Washington Post has published a nice profile of Lindsey Graham the presidential candidate, contrasting his gloomy message (and gloomy poll numbers) with the HHH-style joy he exhibits on the stump.

I learned from it some interesting things about his campaign that appeal to me, particularly his willingness to talk about sacrifice to achieve common goals. It’s been awhile since I’ve heard that from anyone. An excerpt:

In the past, plenty of rich men with attractive families have campaigned on the promise that they are special enough to give voters what they want (in Trump’s case, a border wall and better jobs) without requiring them to sacrifice for it.

But American politics hasn’t seen many characters like Graham: a single, childless 60-year-old promising to make voters suffer a little — just to keep what they already have.

“Sacrifice,” Graham said at the Iowa State Fair, summing up his campaign in a word. “Some of us have got to sacrifice to save this nation. . . . If I get to be your president, we’re gonna do the hard things, and we’re gonna do ’em together.”

In Syria, that sacrifice means a U.S. invasion — 10,000 troops, aided by Arab allies — sent in to defeat both President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the Islamic State. Graham says they will stay indefinitely, as long as it takes.

“We’ve been in Germany and Japan since World War II. We’re still in South Korea” 60 years after the Korean War, Graham said. That long, really? “I don’t know. I just know how it ends: We win. They lose.”

And he would send more troops back into Iraq, to help restabilize that fractured state. “Syria is Medicare,” Graham said. “It’s the hardest of all. Social Security is Iraq,” he said, which means it’s slightly easier.

Of course, Graham also wants to reform the actual Social Security and Medicare programs. His plan for both is to cut benefits for the wealthy in order to preserve full benefits for everyone else. He says his sister’s Social Security survivor benefits were invaluable after his parents died, and he tells voters they might be “one car wreck away” from needing that kind of help.

“I’m 60, I’m not married, I don’t have any kids,” Graham said at last month’s undercard Republican debate. “I would give up some Social Security to save a system that Americans are going to depend on now and in the future.”…

As I’ve said before, this is why I’d love to be a part of his campaign — a campaign for a candidate who can’t win, so he says everything he thinks, including things that most would consider to be political suicide.

I particularly like the part about asking Americans to give, instead of promising what he’ll give to them. Not only does it contain echoes of JFK’s inaugural speech, but it reminds me of another candidate I’m hoping will get into this race on the Democratic side — Joe Biden. As I wrote about a speech Biden gave at Galivants Ferry in 2006:

    Some of his speech I had heard — and agreed with — before, such as “History will judge George Bush harshly not for the mistakes he has made… but because of the opportunities that he has squandered.”
Those include the opportunity to pull the world together on Sept. 12, 2001, to “plan the demise of Islamic fundamentalism,” as FDR or JFK or “even Ronald Reagan” would have done. Or to ask us all to sacrifice and shake off “the grip of foreign oil oligarchs,” instead of giving us tax cuts. “Do you believe anyone in America would have refused?”…

I touched on that in a column in 2007, headlined “Why don’t candidates ask us for more than our votes?,” in which I used another JFK quote that goes beyond his “ask not” speech:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win….”

Wow. “Let’s pull together and accomplish something that will be hard for all of us to do.” It’s like he wasn’t even speaking the same language most pols use today. In that same ’07 column, I took Biden to task a bit for not living up to his rhetoric of the year before:

    Sen. Joe Biden had a great speech a while back about how President Bush missed the golden opportunity to ask us, on Sept. 12, 2001, to do whatever it took to free us from this devil’s bargain whereby we are funding people who want to destroy us and all that we cherish. And yet, his own energy proposals are a tepid combination of expanding alternative fuels (good news to the farmer) and improving fuel efficiency (let’s put the onus on Detroit)….

Something happens to people when they think they have a shot at the White House — they become somewhat less likely to say things I’d like to hear from them. Which is why I continue to enjoy Lindsey Graham. He’s in no danger, as of now, of hitting that threshold…


Graham’s speech today opposing the Iran deal

Since he sent it to me, and I’m too busy this afternoon to digest it, I’ll just share the whole thing with y’all. Here’s the transcript:

Mr. Graham:

Thank you, Senator Corker. Well, I just want to make sure people understand what we’re trying to do here at this point. Our Democratic colleagues are filibustering an attempt to have a debate, an up-or-down vote on the most consequential foreign policy decision in modern history. That’s what you’re doing. And Senator Corker in good faith got us here in a bipartisan manner and Senator Reid has come out of nowhere to change what was the common understanding of how we would proceed, get 60 votes, a simple majority, let the president act as he wishes. But no, we couldn’t do that.  We’re more worried about protecting Barack Obama from having to veto this than you are about having a debate on the floor of the Senate.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about who you’re dealing with here, folks. And if I hear one more comment from my Democratic friends about how much they love Israel……with friends like this, you don’t need an enemy.

Here’s who you are dealing with. This was yesterday. The Iran Supreme Leader predicted Wednesday that Israel would not exist in 25 years and ruled out any new negotiations with a Satan, the United States, beyond the recently concluded nuclear accord. In remarks published Wednesday on his personal web site — at least the Ayatollah has gotten in modern times and post on Twitter — the Supreme Leader — do you know what they call him Supreme Leader? Because he is. Ayatollah Khamenei responding to what he said were claims that Israel would be safe for that period. Where do those claims come from?

It came from this Administration, my colleagues on the other side. You’re telling everybody in the world that this is the best deal for Israel. Guess what? Nobody in Israel agrees with you, who is in the current government.  It’s just not Bibi [Netanyahu]. Everybody who is in the current coalition government understands this is not a good deal for Israel. Why don’t you listen to them? You want it to be a good deal for Israel. Well, it’s not. And you wanting it doesn’t change it.

So let’s finish to what he said.   The Ayatollah responded to claims he would be safe for that period under the nuclear agreement reached in July. After nuclear negotiations, the Zionist regime said they will not be worried about Iran in the next 25 years.  After nuclear negotiations, the Zionist regime said they will not be worried about Iran in the next 25 years. Israel didn’t say that. People over here said that. The Ayatollah wrote I am telling you first you will not be around in 25 years, and god willing, there will be no Zionist regime in 25 years.

Second, during this period, the spirit of fighting heroism and jihad will keep you worried at every moment. Clearly, somebody who is on the course of change, somebody we should give $100 billion to, create a pathway to a nuclear bomb in 15 years, let him buy more weapons in five years and build an intercontinental ballistic missile in eight years. Clearly, this is the man that has changed course and you have empowered.

At least, at least [Neville] Chamberlain can say Hitler lied. At least Chamberlain can say I negotiated with the Fuhrer, he told me to my face if you give me this I’m done. We all know that Chamberlain was a chump and Hitler actually meant what he said when he wrote a book. The question is does this man mean what he says when he tweets yesterday?

The ink is not dry on the deal. One thing you can say about the old Ayatollah, who is crazy, who is a religious Nazi, at least he’s honest. He doesn’t want you to be confused as you vote as to what he wants to do to your friend Israel.

See, he doesn’t want you to mistake what this deal means to him. You obviously are writing him off. You obviously believe he doesn’t mean it. I guess he has a polling problem in Iran. He’s got to get his numbers up. He needs to say these things because he doesn’t mean it but he has to keep his people happy because they like hearing this stuff. All I can tell you, his people tried to rise up against him in 2009 and our president sat on the sidelines and didn’t do a damn thing.

The biggest moment for change in Iran came in 2009 when young people and women took to the streets demanding a fair election that was stolen from them by the Ayatollah and his response was to beat them, shoot them, put them in jail and torture them. This is the guy that you’re going to give $100 billion to. A clear pathway to a bomb. He doesn’t even have to cheat to get there. And buy more weapons to attack us. At least Chamberlain lied. This man is telling you what he’s going to do as of yesterday.

And between the time the negotiations have started to now, has he given us — shown us a little leg about real change? During the negotiations he has toppled four Arab capitals. During the negotiations, he supported the Houthis in Yemen who destroyed a pro-American government, and we’ve lost eyes and ears on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Sunni-extremist group who attacked Paris and will attack us. During the negotiation they have done anything but be modest. I cannot believe that you don’t believe him. I cannot believe that you made the biggest miscalculation in modern history by empowering a religious fanatic with the ability to attack our nation, destroy our friends in Israel and keep the Mideast on fire for 15 years. What are y’all thinking over there?

All I can say is that the last 9/11, 3,000 of us died because they couldn’t get weapons to kill three million of us. If you let this deal go forward, before too long the most radical regime on the planet will have the most lethal weapons available to mankind. They will share that technology with terrorists and it will come here. And why do they need an ICBM folks? What are they going to do with it? They’re not going to send people to space. What are you thinking? What are y’all thinking over there? You’re taking the most radical regime on the planet, a theocracy. This is not a democracy. The moderates were shot down in the streets. They were begging ‘are you with us or with you with him, President Obama?’

President Obama is absolutely the most poor champion of freedom and the weakest opponent of evil in history. Evil is flourishing on his watch. President Obama said you’d have to be crazy not to support this deal. Let’s walk through whether or not we should follow his advice about radical Islam.

This is the president who was told to leave troops in Iraq to make sure our gains would be maintained, and he pulled everybody out because he wanted to get to zero. He turned down every commander’s advice to get to zero because he made a campaign promise. This is the president that was told by his entire national security team three years ago establish a no-fly zone and help the Free Syrian Army because Assad was on the rope. At the time when it would have mattered when there was a Free Syrian Army to help. Obama said no thanks.

This is the president who drew a red line against Assad after he backed off and said if you use chemical weapons and cross that red line, you’ll pay a price. Here’s the facts: Assad is going to be in power and Obama is going to be gone. The last guy standing is going to be Assad. This is the man who said don’t worry about ISIL. They are the J.V. Team.  I killed Bin Laden.  Al-Qaeda is decimated.  At what point do you realize that President Obama has no idea what he’s talking about? At what point in time is it obvious to anybody in the world who’s paying attention when it comes to radical Islam, he has no clue? So this is the guy we’re going to send in to negotiate with a radical Ayatollah, a guy who in the eyes of the world is a complete weak defender of freedom and a very poor adversary of evil?

And if that’s not enough, the Iranians are rubbing this in John Kerry and Barack Obama’s face by tweeting this out hours before you vote on this deal, just to remind you that no matter what you say on this floor about Israel, nothing’s changed in his mind about Israel. And when you claim Israel’s safe, he’s telling you no, they’re not.

But you’re not listening because you — you’re not listening because you don’t think he really means it. I can tell you right now, you better be right. And how about this idea, when it comes to the Ayatollah, assume the worst, not the best. And to our friends in Russia, John Kerry said one of the big benefits of this deal is that we’ll bring Russia in and Iran will be a better partner in the Mideast. And we’ll have a major breakthrough where Iran begins to help us with problems like Syria. Well, here’s Russia’s response before you vote.

They’re sending Russian troops, maybe fighter planes into Syria to prop up Assad before you vote. Taking everything John Kerry said about what would happen if you do this deal and rubbing it in his face. Tell me how you fix Syria with Assad in power? What the Russians are doing are ensuring he will stay in power longer. The longer he stays in power the more refugees the world will have to deal with and the more hell on earth will occur in Syria. The Syrian people want two things. They want to destroy ISIL and want Assad gone because he destroyed their families. Secretary Kerry, how well is this working with this new engagement with Iran and Russia? Things are really changing. Look at the tweet yesterday. What are you going to tell the American people this means? Interpret the Ayatollah for me. This is just all talk? He has to say these things?

He doesn’t get elected. He doesn’t have to worry about the next election. He says these things because he believes it. He’s a religious fanatic compelled by his version of Islam to destroy everything in his religion that he doesn’t agree with, to destroy the one and only Jewish state and attack democracies like ours. And you’re giving him more to do that with.  This is over time a death sentence for Israel if it’s not changed. And if I had $100 billion to negotiate with, for God’s sake, could I get four people out of jail? I could get people out of jail here with $100 billion. Who’s negotiating with Iran? This idea we’re going to separate all of their bad behavior from the nuclear program was the biggest miscalculation in modern foreign policy history. To suggest that we don’t need to look at Iran as a whole unit, that we’re going to ignore the fact that they have four hostages, U.S. personnel held in sham trials, a “Washington Post” reporter, that they are the largest state sponsor of terrorism, they destabilize the region, driven our friends out of Yemen. They are supporting Hezbollah, a mortal enemy of Israel, taken over the Lebanese government. We’re not going to worry about that. What do you think they’re going to do with the $100 billion? Do you think they’re going to build roads and bridges? The best indication of the next 15 years is the last 35. When you separated their nuclear ambitions from their destructive behavior, giving them access to more weapons and $100 billion, you made a huge mistake because you’re damning the Middle East to holy hell for the next 15 years and giving the largest state sponsor of terrorism more money and more weapons to attack us. And you couldn’t get four people out of jail.

The Iranians must — the only reason they’re not dancing in Iran, the Ayatollah, he doesn’t believe in dancing. I’ve got friends over there who I respect and admire. I have no idea what you’re thinking here. I have no idea why you believe the Ayatollah doesn’t mean what he says given the way he’s behaved. If they will shoot their own children down in the streets to keep power, what do you think they’ll do to ours? And the only reason 3,000 people died on 9/11 is they couldn’t get the weapons to kill three million of us, and they’re on course to do it now. I’ve never been more disappointed in the body than I am today. A body known to be the most deliberative body in democracy in the history of the world, and you won’t let us have a vote. You won’t let us have a debate. And please stop saying this deal makes Israel safer.

That’s cruel. And your response to this deal is to give them more weapons because you know they’re not safer. I find it a bit odd that in response to this deal we’re selling the Arabs every kind of weapon known to man. If you really thought this was such a good deal, why do you have to arm everybody who is in the cross hairs of the Ayatollah? When they write the history of these times, they’re going to look back and say that President Obama was a weak opponent of evil and a poor champion of freedom. They’re going to look and say that the United States Senate refused to debate the most consequential foreign policy agreement in modern times. And people in Israel are going to wonder where did America go?

Has it ever crossed your mind that everybody in Israel who is in power, who is running the government today objects to this agreement?

The Presiding Officer:

The senator’s time has expired.

Mr. Graham:

Senator Corker, thank you for trying to have the debate we need. To my Democratic friends, you own this. You own every “I” and every “T” and every bullet and you own everything that is to follow, and it’s going to be holy hell.


graham speech

Lincoln and Trump: Does it get more incongruous than that?


Someone shared with me this link to publicity about an event, and I was immediately struck by how grossly inappropriate it is to juxtapose a photograph of the Lincoln monument with the name “Donald Trump.” And yet there it is, imposed right across Honest Abe’s left shin.

Yeah, I get it. Someone seeking the Republican presidential nomination, and the first Republican nominee to be elected president. On a very literal, superficial level, I can see how that might make sense to somebody.

But, having watched (most of) the first episode of Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” again last night, I am particularly mindful at this moment of Lincoln’s stature as the most careful, thoughtful and profound speaker in our history. He was always careful to say exactly the right thing at the precise moment when it would have maximum effect in moving the nation toward emancipation and reconciliation. Not a word was out of place or ill-timed. He said exactly what needed to be said, for the good of the nation, at exactly the moment when it needed to be said.

He was always about appealing to “the better angels of our nature.” And he succeeded amazingly, at the moment in our history when we were most divided.

And then there’s Donald Trump, who is the opposite of all that. He’s the one person in public life that we can depend on to say precisely the wrong thing (if you define right and wrong according to Lincoln’s priorities of national unity and preservation) whenever he bloody well feels like it.

Putting them together this way is… jarring.

OK, there’s ONE reason I might prefer Hillary to Joe Biden


Generally, I’ve been happy, even a little excited, to hear that Joe Biden might challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Part of it is the unsavory side of the presumed front-runner that her email mess reveals, day after day. Actually, not so much “reveals” as “reminds us of.” We are reminded of the control freak, the Nixonian figure who can’t see legitimate criticism as anything other than another attempt by her enemies in the “vast right-wing conspiracy” to trump up a way to do her in.

Whereas I’ve always liked Joe. He was my fave on the Democratic side in the 2008 campaign until he dropped out. It’s hard not to like Biden; he’s just so chock-full of the best kind of Joe-ness. (What is Joe-ness? Oh, it’s many things. One example: Earlier this morning I was talking to Samuel Tenenbaum, and told him to say hi to Inez and tell her I want to talk with her about Biden. That caused Samuel to tell me about Biden calling him to wish him a happy birthday a couple of weeks back. They got to talking about books they had read recently. Samuel, who loves to share books with friends, mentioned he had wanted to send a book to the veep but couldn’t get past his staff. According to Samuel, Biden said, “My staff and the Secret Service can be a pain in the ass.” That’s one type of Joe-ness.)

However it turns out, I’ll be happy to see him get into it, if he does.

But… all of that said, I read a column this morning in The State that reminds me of at least one reason I might prefer Hillary as a commander-in-chief.

It was by Doyle McManus of the L.A. Times. In part, it said:

Biden and Clinton aren’t far apart when it comes to domestic issues, but that’s decidedly not true when it comes to international affairs.

Clinton was on the hawkish side of Obama’s team. She supported a big surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan in 2009; Obama opted for a smaller surge, with a time limit. In 2011, she called for U.S. military intervention in Libya; Obama went along. In 2012, she urged him to send military aid to Syrian rebels; Obama resisted (after Clinton left office, he changed his mind).

Biden was on the opposite end of all three debates. He didn’t think adding U.S. military force in Afghanistan would solve the country’s problems. He didn’t think Libya was central enough to U.S. interests to justify airstrikes. And he was skeptical about the idea of arming Syrian rebels.

The two even disagreed over whether the president should launch the secret 2011 raid in Pakistan that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Clinton “concluded that this was a rare opportunity and believed we should seize it,” then-CIA Director Leon Panetta wrote in his memoir. “Biden argued that we still did not have enough confidence that Bin Laden was in the compound [where the CIA believed he was living], and he came out firmly in favor of waiting for more information.”

There’s a clear pattern here. Each time, Clinton argued in favor of U.S. intervention. Each time, Biden was a skeptic, warning Obama that the risks outweighed the potential gains….

This piece reminds me that one of the thing I’ve always liked about Hillary is that she is on “the hawkish side of Obama’s team.” It’s not that I’m such a hawk, as many of you believe. It’s just that I’m definitely, without question, to the hawkish side of the current POTUS. More than that, she understands America’s role in the world, that the United States is, as Madeleine Albright used to say, “the indispensable nation.”

And Joe even tried to put the brakes on the Abbottabad operation? OK, it wasn’t unreasonable to want to be more certain about Osama bin Laden being in that compound. Anyone would. Certainty is a nice thing to have. But as it turned out, Obama made the right call in going ahead, and it stands as one of the wisest decisions of his presidency.

So where do we stand here? Definitely, I prefer Joe on a personal level — he passes the “would you want to have a beer with him” test with flying colors. But there’s a lot to be said for Hillary’s approach to national and collective security — which is, you know, kinda important when picking a POTUS.

The bin Laden mission: Biden was the cautious one.

The bin Laden mission: Biden was the cautious one.

‘Black Lives Matter?’ Absolutely. After that, what?

The “Black Lives Matter” movement has sort of been hovering out there, an amorphous thing that no one seems entirely comfortable with.

Not Republican presidential candidates, certainly (some less than others). But not their Democratic counterparts, either.

And our governor is pretty adamant in her disapproval.

Conservatives are uncomfortable with it, and some liberals seem dismissive:

Black Lives Matter demands “freedom for Black bodies, justice for Black lives, safety for Black communities, and rights for Black people,” but it will have to overcome skepticism from fellow progressives to create lasting political change.

Self-identifying members of the left are comparing the movement to Occupy Wall Street, which stormed the American political discourse in 2011, but in 2015 feels like a historical relic.

Adolph Reed, a professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s political science department, told IJReview on August 12 that he had:

“been joking with some friends in the last few days we should call it Blackupy because it is the same kind of thing.”

Of course, I’m taking IJ’s word for it that this Prof. Reed is a liberal. I don’t know.

But I know the Democratic Party has an uneasy relationship with it. The party has been sticking up for it, and today I got a DP release drawing attention to a NYT editorial defending the movement:

The Republican Party and its acolytes in the news media are trying to demonize the protest movement that has sprung up in response to the all-too-common police killings of unarmed African-Americans across the country. The intent of the campaign — evident in comments by politicians likeGov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina,Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin andSenator Rand Paul of Kentucky — is to cast the phrase “Black Lives Matter” as an inflammatory or even hateful anti-white expression that has no legitimate place in a civil rights campaign….

The “Black Lives Matter” movement focuses on the fact that black citizens have long been far more likely than whites to die at the hands of the police, and is of a piece with this history. Demonstrators who chant the phrase are making the same declaration that voting rights and civil rights activists made a half-century ago. They are not asserting that black lives are more precious than white lives. They are underlining an indisputable fact — that the lives of black citizens in this country historically have not mattered, and have been discounted and devalued. People who are unacquainted with this history are understandably uncomfortable with the language of the movement. But politicians who know better and seek to strip this issue of its racial content and context are acting in bad faith. They are trying to cover up an unpleasant truth and asking the country to collude with them.

But the movement itself resists efforts by the liberal establishment to defend it:

The following is a statement is response to the Democratic National Committee resolution expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and can be attributed to the Black Lives Matter Network, including our 26 chapters nationwide.

“A resolution signaling the Democratic National Committee’s endorsement that Black lives matter, in no way implies an endorsement of the DNC by the Black Lives Matter Network, nor was it done in consultation with us. We do not now, nor have we ever, endorsed or affiliated with the Democratic Party, or with any party. The Democratic Party, like the Republican and all political parties, have historically attempted to control or contain Black people’s efforts to liberate ourselves. True change requires real struggle, and that struggle will be in the streets and led by the people, not by a political party.

More specifically, the Black Lives Matter Network is clear that a resolution from the Democratic National Committee won’t bring the changes we seek. Resolutions without concrete change are just business as usual. Promises are not policies. We demand freedom for Black bodies, justice for Black lives, safety for Black communities, and rights for Black people. We demand action, not words, from those who purport to stand with us.

While the Black Lives Matter Network applauds political change towards making the world safer for Black life, our only endorsement goes to the protest movement we’ve built together with Black people nationwide — not the self-interested candidates, parties, or political machine seeking our vote.”


Assuming that statement is in any way legitimately representative of it, the movement, like Occupy and the Tea Party before it, is… prickly — particularly with regard to efforts to co-opt it.

Like those predecessors, especially Occupy (which foolishly had a deep ideological objection to hierarchy), it’s a little hard to focus on because it “is a decentralized network, and has no formal hierarchy or structure.” That is, no one is in charge.

Also, it has arisen from disparate events in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, Charleston and elsewhere. To someone like me, I see those as discrete occurrences and draw different conclusions from them. To Black Lives Matter — I think; as I say, it’s hard to pin down — they are all part of a clear pattern.

All I know is that whenever I hear “Black Lives Matter,” I think, “Of course they do.” Beyond that, when I look at the movement’s clashes with various people, including those you would assume would be sympathetic, I don’t know what to think.


Jeb Bush on the Veterans Administration

This release from SC Democrats reminded me of the Jeb Bush event I attended Monday evening:

SC Dems: “Jeb Bush’s Plan to Privatize Veterans Health Care Services Would Be a Disaster
Columbia, SC—The South Carolina Democratic Party released a statement from Beaufort County Democratic Party Chair and retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Blaine Lotz regarding former Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush campaigning in the Palmetto State today.
“Jeb Bush’s plan to privatize veterans’ health care services would be a disaster for South Carolina veterans. As Governor of Florida, Bush proposed a similar plan that was so disastrous, it was replaced shortly after he left office. Jeb Bush continues to support outdated policies that prove as President, he would look out for his wealthy donors and special interests over our veterans and military families.”



What are they talking about?

Well, Bush had released several proposals with regard to veterans’ benefits on Monday, in advance of the Concerned Veterans for America event I attended over at Seawell’s. (I went basically to take my Dad there, who as a veteran was invited. We didn’t stay for all of it, which is one reason I didn’t write about it before now.) Here’s how Military Times described the proposals, in part:

Bush’s VA reform plan, to be unveiled later today in advance of an appearance with Concerned Veterans for America in South Carolina tonight, includes expanding “choice” options for care outside the department without cutting funding for VA hospitals and medical staff.

Instead, he promises that extra funds can be found through “cutting excess administrators (not caregivers)” and eliminating “billions of dollars in waste, fraud, and abuse.” That includes more competitive bidding for department contracts and firing poorly performing employees.

“Ample resources exist within the VA budget to improve the quality and scope of care,” Bush’s policy paper states. “In other government agencies, common-sense reforms have saved billions. The VA must get its house in order and send savings into improving veteran choice and veteran care.”

He’s also promising better online health care access systems for veterans, calling existing offerings too cumbersome and outdated….

The video clip above shows him talking about his proposals — not in any detail. I just share it to give you some flavor of the event…

Bush speaking to veterans. For those of you who notice such things, Sen. John Courson is in the red shirt on the left-hand side of the image; Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster is seen at the extreme right. McMaster is backing Lindsey Graham; I don't know where Courson stands.

Bush speaking to veterans. For those of you who notice such things, Sen. John Courson is in the Marine Corps red shirt on the left-hand side of the image; Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster is seen at the extreme right. McMaster is backing Lindsey Graham; I don’t know where Courson stands.

OK, let’s talk about guns in America

State Sen. Marlon Kimpson says he’ll introduce legislation to do the following in the wake of the Emanuel AME massacre and other recent mass shootings:

▪  Close a three-day loophole that allows some S.C. gun purchasers to buy and take home a gun before a background check has been completed. That rule, and errors in the federal background-checking system, allowed alleged Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof to buy a gun.

▪  Require background checks to be conducted through the State Law Enforcement Division and the federal system before a gun sale can be completed

▪  Ban assault weapons, defined as semi-automatic firearms designed and configured for rapid fire

▪ Require reporting of lost or stolen guns

▪ Require state registration and permitting of all guns…

In response to Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin’s statement that there is “no appetite” in the State House for gun control legislation — which you had probably guessed already — Sen. Kimpson “said the Charleston church shootings, which killed nine African-Americans including a state senator, ‘opened people’s minds to doing things in the State House that have never been done before.'”

Which is true enough. Whether that applies to this, however, remains to be seen.

On the same day that I read that, I received a graphic from someone with a blog called CrimeWire, urging me to share it.

Actually it doesn’t tell me a lot I didn’t know, but I share it for those of you who like infographics. It’s lighter on numbers than most such efforts. For instance, I doubt many minds will be changed by such an assertion as, “The Harvard Injury Control Research Center found that there’s substantial evidence that indicates more guns means more murders.” Oh, yeah, says Jim Bob, sittin’ with the boys around the cracker barrel. I bet they’s a heap o’ hunters up at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

For those who prefer text, the facts in the graphic seem to have come from a Washington Post story, headlined “11 essential facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States,” that ran the morning after the Charleston shootings.

As for my own views… As I’ve stated before, I think the problem in America is just that too many guns exist. Everybody talks about the rights of individual gun owners, but I don’t really look at who owns the guns. Ownership is something that can change easily, through burglary for instance. There are just too many of them in existence, and it’s inevitable that some of them will be in the hands of the wrong people at the wrong time.

It’s an economic problem: Too many violent people chasing too many guns.

But while I feel like I diagnose the problem correctly, I have no idea what to do about it. I just don’t see a solution. We are so far down this road, and nothing but the mass destruction of the overwhelming majority of guns that exist would back us up. And there are far too many Americans who adamantly oppose taking a single step back. I don’t see that changing.

So I’m not terribly hopeful that any legislation I’ve seen or heard of would have a chance of significantly reducing gun violence. Anything that passes constitutional muster just tinkers with the technicalities of how guns change hands and move around.

Oh, and before the more dedicated advocates for the 2nd Amendment start hollering, “Brad’s gonna round up all your guns and destroy them,” allow me to clarify: That is NOT gonna happen. Not in this country. No one can MAKE it happen. It’s a political impossibility. So stay cool. I only mention this to underline the fact that I see no workable solution to the problem of Too Many Guns.

I usually don’t say “I give up” on an issue. I usually try to suggest a solution. But I just don’t know where to go on this.


Video illustrates why Clinton team is nervous

End of last week, The Washington Post had a story headlined, “Clinton’s team went from nonchalant to nervous over e-mail controversy.”

An anti-Clinton video from the America Rising PAC helps illustrate, in a visceral way, why that might be. Imagine you’re a Clinton campaign staffer, and feel your guts tighten up as you watch.

The video was brought to my attention by Jennifer Rubin, who described it this way:

Hillary screengrab

Thoughts on the GOP debate(s) last night?


Y’all are likely better situated to comment than I am.

First, I missed the early, junior-varsity debate. I was still at work, on a deadline. Then, at 9, I tried to tune in, and found Fox didn’t want to let me do that, even streaming on my laptop. I fumed about that for half an hour or so before Tweeting this:

I mean, seriously: I don’t DO cable these days. Who needs it, with Netflix, Amazon and HBO NOW? And in the 21st century, what major content organization doesn’t want the whole world buzzing about it when it has an exclusive such as this? Dumb. Fox should be looking for viable ways to move away from old-school cable, the way HBO has.

But the nice thing about griping on Twitter is that people go out of their way to offer you solutions. Soon, I was watching it on the SkyNews app on Apple TV. (And apparently Fox even tried to shut that down, but missed the Apple TV avenue.)

So I saw more than an hour of it, and you know what? I was pretty impressed. It could have been SO much worse with that many people on the stage, especially when one of them is Donald Trump. But even The Donald, while bombastic and so red-faced I thought he was about to bust a blood vessel, actually seemed to be trying to be a serious candidate, after his fashion.

The Fox people were really putting their best foot forward, and the moderators — Mike Wallace’s boy, the hot blonde with the late-’60s eyelashes, and the earnest, round-headed kid — were taking their jobs seriously. Fox REALLY should have been paying people to watch this, rather than trying to limit the audience, because it would have made a good impression on people who haven’t seen them lately.

The three were asking serious, tough questions, and following up very professionally, as former Greenville News editorialist Paul Hyde noted on Facebook:

Much to their credit, the Fox News journalists are acting like journalists, challenging the individual candidates on economic policy, abortion, and their own divisive, sexist and strident statements.

You know they were doing a decent job, because a lot of the so-called “conservatives” watching were really ticked off at them. They were all like, “Et tu, Fox?” Only not in Latin, of course.

As for the candidates, I actually felt like I was getting some useful impressions of them, despite the fact that there were far too many of them. Not that I changed my mind or anything — I had previously had the most positive impressions of (in no particular order) Bush, Rubio, Christie and Huckabee, and I came away feeling about the same.

My biggest regret, aside from missing most of the first hour, was that I would have liked Lindsey Graham to be there. I think he would have held his own pretty well. I didn’t really care to see him with the second-tier, although I would have watched if not for the work conflict. That said, I think the criteria for choosing who made the varsity game was fair.

It was interesting. There was plenty of foolishness to put me off, but there was food for thought. And I didn’t expect that from such a crowd scene…


The moderators — Mike Wallace’s boy, the hot blonde with the late-’60s eyelashes, and the earnest, round-headed kid — did a good job.

Thanks to the Voting Rights Act, we’re a better, fairer country — no matter what the Democrats say

LBJ and MLK at the signing of the Voting Rights Act.

LBJ and MLK at the signing of the Voting Rights Act.

Within the past two or three hours, I’ve received three releases marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act — from Jim Clyburn, the Hillary Clinton campaign and the S.C. Democratic Party.

Unfortunately, none of these communications are as celebratory as they should be. They’re all, “the Voting Rights Act is great, but our rights are in terrible danger.”

Which is a shame, because the Act deserves an unqualified hurrah.

Clyburn’s release is typical:


WASHINGTON – U.S. House Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn (SC) released the following statement on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965:

“On this day fifty years ago, surrounded by leaders of both political parties, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. It was a moment worthy of both celebration and reflection. Today, we stand at a similar crossroads.

“The right to vote is the cornerstone of democracy and the foundation upon which all other rights are built. Nearly a century after the ratification of the 15th Amendment, which protected the franchise in theory but not in fact, the world watched as peaceful protesters were brutally attacked and beaten by police while marching for voting rights on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Just five months later, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, and millions of African Americans were finally able to exercise their right to vote.

“Sadly, in 2015, this fundamental right is under threat yet again. Two years ago, the Supreme Court gutted a key component of the Voting Rights Act and made it easier for states to discriminate against minority, elderly and disabled Americans by deliberately making it harder for them to exercise their right to vote. Republican leaders in Congress have thus far refused to take up bipartisan legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act, as states continue to erect new barriers to the ballot box.

“Today, as we celebrate the proud legacy of the Voting Rights Act and reflect on symbolic victories like the furling of the Confederate battle flag in my home state of South Carolina, we must also take substantive action to restore the Voting Rights Act. I call on my Republican colleagues in Congress to do more than issue statements celebrating the past—I urge them to look to the future and work with us to protect the voting rights of all Americans for the next fifty years and beyond.”

– 30 –

No Democrat, it seems, can mention the Act without also bemoaning either of the following, or both: The first is the Supreme Court opinion that lifted the onerous burden from some jurisdictions (and not others, which is key) to get advance approval from the Justice Department before proceeding with any change to its local laws bearing on voting. The second is the ongoing efforts by Republicans to require picture IDs to vote.

What the Supreme Court did was rule on the constitutionality of two provisions in the Act:

Section 5, which requires certain states and local governments to obtain federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices; and Section 4(b), which contains the coverage formula that determines which jurisdictions are subjected to preclearance based on their histories of discrimination in voting.[3][4]

On June 25, 2013, the Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that Section 4(b) is unconstitutional because the coverage formula is based on data over 40 years old, making it no longer responsive to current needs and therefore an impermissible burden on the constitutional principles of federalism and equal sovereignty of the states.[3][4] The Court did not strike down Section 5, but without Section 4(b), no jurisdiction will be subject to Section 5 preclearance unless Congress enacts a new coverage formula.[5]

… which makes sense to me. What did NOT make sense, what was unfair, was the presumption of guilt of anyone residing within particular geographical areas, based on what other people did or did not do 40 years previously.

Why should these jurisdictions not be governed by the law in the same way that all the other jurisdictions in the country were: by getting in trouble if they actually violated the law, rather than having to get advance permission to act based on a presumption of guilt?

As for the Voter ID laws: As I’ve expressed many times before, I find the positions of both the Republicans and Democrats unpersuasive. The Republicans fail to convince me that there’s this huge fraud problem that we need such laws to address, and the Democrats fail to persuade me that the ID requirement is an onerous burden.

I’ll say this for the Democrats: Between the two positions, theirs (that barriers to voting should be low) sounds way nobler than the Republicans’ (that certain people — a category Republicans would describe, unconvincingly, as people trying to vote fraudulently — should be prevented from voting).

But the bottom line, of course, is that one strongly suspects that on a certain level Republicans want these laws because they think they will increase their chances of winning elections, and Democrats oppose them because they think the Republicans are right about that.

In any case, couldn’t we have just one day in which we celebrate a good thing without adulterating the celebration with another reminder of how awful we think those OTHER people are?

So let’s hear it for the Voting Rights Act: Hip-hip…

Why on Earth did Jeb Bush say ‘women’s health’ when that’s not what he meant?

What’s amazing about Jeb Bush getting into trouble over what he said about Planned Parenthood — which led to his having to issue a clarification — is that he essentially handed the cudgel to his critics and begged them to beat him with it.

Here’s what he said:

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who has been criticized recently by some conservatives for serving on the board of a charity that gave money to Planned Parenthood, called for the organization’s defunding during an interview Tuesday with a Southern Baptist leader.

“If you took dollar for dollar, though, I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues,” said Bush, to the cheers and applause from the audience of 13,000 Southern Baptists during his interview with Russell Moore at the denomination’s missions conference….

Obviously, what he meant to say was, I don’t think we need to send half a billion in tax dollars to the nation’s largest provider of abortions. Because, you know, that’s what we do. And that was the context of the statement.

But instead, he adopted the language of the people who use “women’s health” as a euphemism for abortion. This is something we all know and understand, whatever our positions on the issue. If we didn’t know that, we would have a terrible time following political debates. Anyone who thinks “women’s health,” in a political context, refers to fighting breast cancer or putting free clinics to promote overall health in poor neighborhoods is a person who’s going to be very confused about what is being discussed.

So why would Bush use the preferred euphemism of his opposition on this issue, thereby enabling them (with towering cynicism) to paint him as actually being opposed to, you know, women’s health? (Which is something that no one is against, which is why they say that instead of “abortion.”)

It’s inexplicable. Will he continue this trend? Will he start stating his position on abortion to be “anti-choice?” Will he express his objection to Planned Parenthood as being that it “prevents us from controlling women’s bodies?” Will he start wearing an actual sign on his back saying, “Kick Me, Hard?”

We all know that Donald Trump has said some stupid stuff lately. But on this, Jeb Bush voluntarily stuffed both feet in his mouth, completely unnecessarily.

It depends on what the meaning of ‘Christian’ is…

I'm using this photo from Scott Walker's website not because it particularly goes with this post, but to be helpful: If I were to write a post headlined, "Top Five GOP Presidential Candidates I'd Have Trouble Picking Out of a Police Lineup," he'd make the list.

I’m using this photo from Scott Walker’s website not because it particularly goes with this post, but to help y’all get used to seeing him: If I were to write a post headlined, “Top Five GOP Presidential Candidates I’d Have Trouble Picking Out of a Police Lineup,” he’d make the list. And it occurs to me that maybe some of y’all would have the same problem. Or maybe not. Other people watch more TV than I do…

Scott Walker is in hot water again — with Democrats, anyway, which probably isn’t keeping him up nights — for expressing something short of 100 percent certainty on whether POTUS is a Christian:

“You’re not going to get a different answer than I said before,” the Wisconsin governor said. “I don’t know. I presume he is. … But I’ve never asked him about that. As someone who is a believer myself, I don’t presume to know someone’s beliefs about whether they follow Christ or not unless I’ve actually talked with them.”…

Walker wrapped up his answer by saying, “He’s said he is, and I take him at his word.”…

OK, yeah, I get it. Obama is a special case. Expressing anything short of total acceptance of his avowed Christianity hints at birtherism. Dog whistles and all that.

But… suppose for a moment that Walker said that about any one of the other 7 billion and something people on the planet. In those cases, I would say his caution was entirely defensible.

This interests me for reasons totally unrelated to Barack Obama and the paranoid fantasies about him to which some fringe folk subscribe. It has to do with the proper use of the word “Christian.”

I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable myself answering the question, “Are you a Christian?” Not because of the denotative meaning of the word — one who professes belief in Jesus Christ and his teachings — but because of the connotations that attach to it.

Once, it was used among English speakers to mean something like “normal,” or civilized. For instance, the historical novelist Patrick O’Brian would put it in the mouths of his Regency Period characters when they were talking about the normal, proper way of doing a thing. The physician Stephen Maturin, despite years at sea, remains such a landsman that he can’t climb the rigging the way seamen do and must ascend to the top through the “lubber’s hole.” So his friend Jack Aubrey might speak of his inability to get up there “like a Christian.” Aubrey, who is just as incompetent on land as his friend is at sea, is a terrible gardener, so his rose bushes do not resemble “anything planted by a Christian for his pleasure.”

That sense has gone out of favor. Most people would find it confusing today, and like as not take offense at it.

Nevertheless, many English speakers today seem to use the word as a sort of honorific, as something describing a person who has arrived spiritually. This is most common among those who are in the habit of describing Christians as people who are “saved,” as opposed to people who are merely striving to follow the teachings of the carpenter/rabbi from Nazareth.

If I was sure everyone understood it in that striving sense — as describing someone who believes, and wants to live up to the standards set by the teachings of Jesus, and tries to do so — then I’d be perfectly comfortable telling one and all that I am a Christian. Or at least, attempting to be. (After all, I must ask myself always, am I even a Christian in the sense of striving? Am I really trying hard enough to qualify?)

But I fear they may take it the other way, as some sort of self-congratulation on my part — which to me would be contradictory to the whole belief system. In other words, if I said “yes” without mixed feelings, would I be disqualifying myself?

Anyway, if Scott Walker or anyone else says he can’t know whether I am truly a Christian, I’ll congratulate him on his humility in admitting he doesn’t know something he lacks the power to truly know, since it’s a point upon which I can even confuse myself.

But then, I’m not Barack Obama.