August 2008

By Nancy Salvato  

Michelle Obama: “His family was so much like mine.”
Fact: Barack Obama’s father, a Harvard trained economist, fathered eight children by four different women.

Michelle Obama: “He was raised by grandparents who were working-class folks just like my parents, and by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills just like we did.”

Fact: One of the first two female vice presidents at Bank of Hawaii, Madelyn Dunham, his grandmother, raised Barry Obama. She paid the tuition to the prestigious Punahou School in Hawaii. Barack Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham Obama Sutoro, described as a fellow traveler, spent Barack’s formative years studying anthropology in Indonesia and helping thousands of poor women. She is credited with creating a microfinance program there.

Michelle Obama: “And like my family, they scrimped and saved so that he could have opportunities that they never had for themselves.”

Fact: Michelle’s family was middle class and Obama’s father advocated an “active” program to achieve a classless society by removing the economic disparities between black Africans and Asian and Europeans.

Michelle Obama: “And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values, like you work hard for what you want in life.

Fact: After Obama was sworn in as U.S. Senator, Michelle’s salary went from $121,910 to $316,962 at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Obama used his influence to request a $1 million earmark for the hospital where Michelle works.

Obama’s half brother Malik Obango Roy Obama, a terrorist in Kenya supported by the PLO and Hamas in his bid to make Kenya an Islamic State, believes Barack to be a good Muslim. And this, coming from a man who conducted genocide against people who don’t support his cause and who openly attacks Christians. It was Malik who shared video of Barack Obama declaring his faith to Islam and Muhammad.

Michelle Obama: “That your word is your bond; that you do what you say you’re going to do.”

Fact: Obama served as director of the Woods Fund board alongside William C. Ayers, a founding member of the Weathermen terrorist group which declared war against and sought to overthrow the U.S. government and took responsibility for bombing the U.S. Capitol in 1971.

Michelle Obama: “That you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them and even if you don’t agree with them.”

Fact: Obama’s half brother George Hussein Onyango lives on the outskirts of Nairobi in a hut surviving on less than a dollar a month.”

Michelle Obama: Barack…talked about the world as it is and the world as it should be. And he said that all too often we accept the distance between the two, and we settle for the world as it is, even when it doesn’t reflect our values and aspirations.

Fact: Michelle believes the United States is a mean country guided by fear and made up of cynics, sloths, and complacents. It’s hard to empathize with her assessment knowing that Barack’s half brother Raila Odinga who is married to the niece of Mohammad Taha, the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip and who is the head of the militant branch of Hamas, Al Aqsa Mosque red Brigade, orders the firing of rockets into Israel.

Michelle Obama: “See, that’s why Barack’s running: to end the war in Iraq responsibly.”

Fact: Mark Ndesandjo, Obama’s half brother who received a degree from Brown University, a masters in physics from Stanford and an MBA from Emory and has 3 wives (two Chinese and one African) is charged by the UK with supporting terrorism and using his business, Worldnexus, to funnel money to terrorists -including Osama Bin Laden.

Michelle Obama: “[Barack will] build an economy that lifts every family, to make sure health care is available for every American and to make sure that every child in this nation has a world-class education all the way from preschool to college.”

Fact: Obama’s two decades of public service work translates into going to school, working for a law firm, writing a book and community organizing. Michelle backed the Urban Health Initiative which was designed to steer primarily black, poor, uninsured patients, to other health care facilities instead of University of Chicago Medical Center.

Michelle Obama: He’ll achieve these goals the same way he always has: by bringing us together and reminding us how much we share and how alike we really are. You see, Barack doesn’t care where you’re from or what your background is or what party, if any, you belong to.

Fact: Michelle wrote in her Princeton thesis, “As a member of the black community, I am obligated to this community and will utilize all of my present and future resources to benefit the black community first and foremost.”

Michelle Obama: He knows that thread that connects us—our belief in America’s promise, our commitment to our children’s future—he knows that that thread is strong enough to hold us together as one nation even when we disagree.

Fact: The Woods Fund Board provided $75,000 in grant money to the Arab American Action Network, headquartered in Chicago’s Palestinian immigrant community, which works to empower Chicago-area Arabs. AAAN’s co-founder Rashid Khalidi called Israel an “apartheid system and a racist” state, labeling suicide bombings a response to Israeli aggression.

In her speech at the Democratic Convention, Michelle Obama attempted to paint a picture of her husband as a man who defied the odds, who despite being raised by a single mother and his grandparents, worked through adversity to achieve his success and who uses his accomplishments to better his community and our world. She explains that they have similar values and experiences and assures the American people that when he becomes president they will change this country for the better, to reflect their utopian vision for our society. There’s just one sticky point. Anyone with more than a superficial understanding of what they represent understands that Barack’s Mother and father, and Michelle’s bitter feelings about the racial divide in America have succeeded in distorting this man’s worldview into one that is diametrically opposed to that which fosters pride in our country and its accomplishments, respect for tradition, and an understanding that a person’s character is built from self reliance and independence. With such a distorted view of themselves and their past, it would be a tragedy if the voters buy the Obama’s vision for the future as their own.

By Mark Steyn

Over in the Frumistan province of the NR caliphate, our pal David is not happy about the Palin pick. I am – for several reasons.

First, Governor Palin is not merely, as Jay describes her, "all-American", but hyper-American. What other country in the developed world produces beauty queens who hunt caribou and serve up a terrific moose stew? As an immigrant, I’m not saying I came to the United States purely to meet chicks like that, but it was certainly high on my list of priorities. And for the gun-totin’ Miss Wasilla then to go on to become Governor while having five kids makes it an even more uniquely American story. Next to her resume, a guy who’s done nothing but serve in the phony-baloney job of "community organizer" and write multiple autobiographies looks like just another creepily self-absorbed lifelong member of the full-time political class that infests every advanced democracy.

Second, it can’t be in Senator Obama’s interest for the punditocracy to spends its time arguing about whether the Republicans’ vice-presidential pick is "even more" inexperienced than the Democrats’ presidential one.

Third, real people don’t define "experience" as appearing on unwatched Sunday-morning talk shows every week for 35 years and having been around long enough to have got both the War on Terror and the Cold War wrong. (On the first point, at the Gun Owners of New Hampshire dinner in the 2000 campaign, I remember Orrin Hatch telling me sadly that he was stunned to discover how few Granite State voters knew who he was.) Sarah Palin and Barack Obama are more or less the same age, but Governor Palin has run a state and a town and a commercial fishing operation, whereas (to reprise a famous line on the Rev Jackson) Senator Obama ain’t run nothin’ but his mouth. She’s done the stuff he’s merely a poseur about. Post-partisan? She took on her own party’s corrupt political culture directly while Obama was sucking up to Wright and Ayers and being just another get-along Chicago machine pol (see his campaign’s thuggish attempt to throttle Stanley Kurtz and Milt Rosenberg on WGN the other night).

Fourth, Governor Palin has what the British Labour Party politician Denis Healy likes to call a "hinterland" – a life beyond politics. Whenever Senator Obama attempts anything non-political (such as bowling), he comes over like a visiting dignitary to a foreign country getting shanghaied into some impenetrable local folk ritual. Sarah Palin isn’t just on the right side of the issues intellectually. She won’t need the usual stage-managed "hunting" trip to reassure gun owners: she’s lived the Second Amendment all her life. Likewise, on abortion, we’re often told it’s easy to be against it in principle but what if you were a woman facing a difficult birth or a handicapped child? Been there, done that.

Fifth, she complicates all the laziest Democrat pieties. Energy? Unlike Biden and Obama, she’s been to ANWR and, like most Alaskans, supports drilling there.

Sixth (see Kathleen’s link to Craig Ferguson below), I kinda like the whole naughty librarian vibe.  

By Fred Barnes

The wipeout in the 2006 election left Republicans in such a state of dejection that they’ve overlooked the one shining victory in which a Republican star was born. The triumph came in Alaska where Sarah Palin, a politician of eye-popping integrity, was elected governor. She is now the most popular governor in America, with an approval rating in the 90s, and probably the most popular public official in any state.

Her rise is a great (and rare) story of how adherence to principle–especially to transparency and accountability in government–can produce political success. And by the way, Palin is a conservative who only last month vetoed 13 percent of the state’s proposed budget for capital projects. The cuts, the Anchorage Daily News said, "may be the biggest single-year line-item veto total in state history."

As recently as last year, Palin (pronounced pale-in) was a political outcast. She resigned in January 2004 as head of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission after complaining to the office of Governor Frank Murkowski and to state Attorney General Gregg Renkes about ethical violations by another commissioner, Randy Ruedrich, who was also Republican state chairman.

State law barred Palin from speaking out publicly about ethical violations and corruption. But she was vindicated later in 2004 when Ruedrich, who’d been reconfirmed as state chairman, agreed to pay a $12,000 fine for breaking state ethics laws. She became a hero in the eyes of the public and the press, and the bane of Republican leaders.

In 2005, she continued to take on the Republican establishment by joining Eric Croft, a Democrat, in lodging an ethics complaint against Renkes, who was not only attorney general but also a long-time adviser and campaign manager for Murkowski. The governor reprimanded Renkes and said the case was closed. It wasn’t. Renkes resigned a few weeks later, and Palin was again hailed as a hero.

Palin, 43, the mother of four, passed up a chance to challenge Republican senator Lisa Murkowski, the then-governor’s daughter, in 2004. She endorsed another candidate in the primary, but Murkowski won and was reelected. Palin said then that her 14-year-old son talked her out of running, though it’s doubtful that was the sole reason.

In 2006, she didn’t hesitate. She ran against Gov. Murkowski, who was seeking a second term despite sagging poll ratings, in the Republican primary. In a three-way race, Palin captured 51 percent and won in a landslide. She defeated former Democratic governor Tony Knowles in the general election, 49 percent to 41 percent. She was one of the few Republicans anywhere in the country to perform above expectations in 2006, an overwhelmingly Democratic year. Palin is unabashedly pro life.

With her emphasis on ethics and openness in government, "it turned out Palin caught the temper of the times perfectly," wrote Tom Kizzia of the Anchorage Daily News. She was also lucky. News broke of an FBI investigation of corruption by legislators between the primary and general elections. So far, three legislators have been indicted.

In the roughly three years since she quit as the state’s chief regulator of the oil industry, Palin has crushed the Republican hierarchy (virtually all male) and nearly every other foe or critic. Political analysts in Alaska refer to the "body count" of Palin’s rivals. "The landscape is littered with the bodies of those who crossed Sarah," says pollster Dave Dittman, who worked for her gubernatorial campaign. It includes Ruedrich, Renkes, Murkowski, gubernatorial contenders John Binkley and Andrew Halcro, the three big oil companies in Alaska, and a section of the Daily News called "Voice of the Times," which was highly critical of Palin and is now defunct.

One of her first acts as governor was to fire the Alaska Board of Agriculture. Her ultimate target was the state Creamery Board, which has been marketing the products of Alaska dairy farmers for 71 years and wanted to close down after receiving $600,000 from the state. "You don’t just close your doors and walk away," Palin told me. She discovered she lacked the power to fire the Creamery Board. Only the board of agriculture had that authority. So Palin replaced the agriculture board, which appointed a new creamery board, which has rescinded the plan to shut down.

In preserving support for dairy farmers, Palin exhibited a kind of Alaskan chauvinism. She came to the state as an infant, making her practically a native. And she is eager to keep Alaska free from domination by oil companies or from reliance on cruise lines whose ships bring thousands of tourists to the state.

"She’s as Alaskan as you can get," says Dan Fagan, an Anchorage radio talk show host. "She’s a hockey mom, she lives on a lake, she ice fishes, she snowmobiles, she hunts, she’s an NRA member, she has a float plane, and her husband works for BP on the North Slope," Fagan says. Todd Palin, her high school sweetheart, is a three-time winner of the 2,000-mile Iron Dog snowmobile race from Wasilla to Nome to Fairbanks. It’s the world’s longest snowmobile race.

Gov. Palin grew up in Wasilla, where as star of her high school basketball team she got the nickname "Sarah Barracuda" for her fierce competitiveness. She led her underdog team to the state basketball championship. Palin also won the Miss Wasilla beauty contest, in which she was named Miss Congeniality, and went on to compete in the Miss Alaska pageant.

At 32, she was elected mayor of Wasilla, a burgeoning bedroom community outside Anchorage. Though Alaskans tend to be ferociously anti-tax, she persuaded Wasilla voters to increase the local sales tax to pay for an indoor arena and convention center. The tax referendum won by 20 votes.

In 2002, Palin entered statewide politics, running for lieutenant governor. She finished a strong second in the Republican primary. That fall, she dutifully campaigned for Murkowski, who’d given up his Senate seat to run for governor. Afterwards, she turned down several job offers from Murkowski, finally accepting the oil and gas post. When she quit 11 months later, "that was her defining moment" in politics, says Fagan.

Her campaign for governor was bumpy. She missed enough campaign appearances to be tagged "No Show Sarah" by her opponents. She was criticized for being vague on issues. But she sold voters on the one product that mattered: herself.

Her Christian faith–Palin grew up attending nondenominational Bible churches–was a minor issue in the race. She told me her faith affects her politics this way: "I believe everything happens for a purpose. In my own personal life, if I dedicated back to my Creator what I’m trying to create for the good . . . everything will turn out fine." That same concept applies to her political career, she suggested.

The biggest issue in the campaign was the proposed natural gas pipeline from the North Slope that’s crucial to the state’s economy. Murkowski had made a deal with the three big oil companies–Exxon, BP, ConocoPhillips–which own the gas reserves to build the pipeline. But the legislature turned it down and Palin promised to create competition for the pipeline contract.

She made three other promises: to end corruption in state government, cut spending, and provide accountability. She’s now redeeming those promises.

Palin describes herself as "pro-business and pro-development." She doesn’t want the oil companies to sit on their energy reserves or environmental groups to block development of the state’s resources. "I get frustrated with folks from outside Alaska who come up and say you shouldn’t develop your resources," she says. Alaska needs to be self-sufficient, she says, instead of relying heavily on "federal dollars," as the state does today.

Her first major achievement as governor was lopsided passage by the legislature of the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, which is designed to attract pipeline proposals this summer. The state is offering $500 million in incentives, but the developer must meet strict requirements. The oil companies have said they won’t join the competition.

Palin’s tough spending cuts drew criticism from Republican legislators whose pet projects were vetoed. But her popularity doesn’t appear threatened. "It’s not just that she’s pretty and young," says Dittman. "She’s really smart. And there’s no guile. She says her favorite meal is moose stew or mooseburgers. It wouldn’t shock people if that were true."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D) California

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) ― Sen. Dianne Feinstein says she’s actively considering a run for California governor in 2010, but wants to see the results of the November election before she makes a decision.

Feinstein, who didn’t attend the Democratic convention in Denver because of a broken ankle, told the San Francisco Chronicle that she might choose to stay in Washington if Democrats gain a large enough majority in Congress to move major legislation.

"I can’t say that since this (convention) started I haven’t thought about it, because I have," Feinstein, 75, said Thursday of a possible run. "I want to see how close to 60 votes we can get in the Senate, what the committee structure is and how best I can use my time."

California’s senior senator already chairs the Senate Rules Committee, but also has significant clout on the Intelligence, Appropriations and Judiciary committees.

"The job I do now I think is important, and what I really want to do is make a difference," Feinstein said. "The question is, how can I best do that? Is it using the seniority I have in the Senate, or is it in getting out there and running for governor?"

Feinstein said she sees no reason to rush into the decision to run in two years, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is termed out of office. The popular senator already has a campaign team, a large pool of donors and a network of supporters ready if she decides to run.

Other top Democrats considering a gubernatorial bid include San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor, was first elected to the Senate in a special election in 1992 and re-elected in 1994, 2000 and 2006. But she lost her first bid for governor in 1990 to Republican Pete Wilson.


(CNN) — Twelve decapitated bodies were found Thursday on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, a local official said.

Eleven of the bodies were found in Chichi Suarez, and the 12th in Buctzotz, a source with the Yucatan state government told CNN.

The heads themselves have not been found, said Yetel Castillo, from the department of communication for Yucatan.

According to The Associated Press, photos of the crime scene showed headless corpses stacked on top of one another in a field outside the city of Merida. Some of the bodies had tattoos and were jumbled amid blankets and tarps.

It appeared to be the largest single group of beheadings in recent years in Mexico, AP said.

The tactic has become more frequent in gangland-style killings, and the largest previous instance of decapitations occurred in 2006, when gunmen tossed five human heads into a bar in central Mexico, the agency added.



FOX News says sources telling them Sarah Palin is McCain’s VP pick. Developing…

Officially confirmed that Sarah Palin is McCain’s VP pick.

Let the left wing attacks commence!

Via Rossputin:

On Thursday, members of the Peoples Press Collective along with Hot Air’s Jason Mattera caught up with a fairly large march of illegal aliens and their supporters marching to Denver’s Lincoln Park.

The park was led by Indian- or Aztec-style dancers wearing feathered costumes, followed by hundreds of people carrying signs in English and Spanish such as "We Are America" ("Sonos America" on the back of the sign), "Legalizacion si, Deportacion no", "Nosotros hacemos el cambio" (meaning "we make the change", showing a picture of a woman who looked very much like Nancy Pelosi, though I can’t believe it actually was) and wearing t-shirts such as "Legalize L.A."

Jason is with the cause…or might be if he read Spanish.

There was a Hispanic-looking man wearing a German SS uniform carrying a sign saying "SStop the RaidSS" (with the S’s in the well-known font of the SS insignia) who posed for a photograph in Hitler-style salute.

When the speakers were about to come on stage, one of the female emcees asked for the crowd’s attention and requested a moment of silence "for the thousands who had died in the desert". Both my Peoples Press Collective colleague and I were somewhat surprised to hear that sort of support for our troops in that crowd, and our surprise was proven correct when she continued by saying "And the five hundred who were just arrested in Mississippi that nobody wants to talk about." What a let-down…just when I thought there was something redeeming about the day’s message.

In addition to the many immigration marchers (quite a few of whom didn’t speak English, unsurprisingly), there were dozens of people handing out fliers for events supporting marijuana rights parties (not sure if that means people having rights to use it or it having rights in the way that PETA believes animals have rights.)

By Jacob Laksin

WHATEVER ONE’S VIEW of Barack Obama, it’s hard to disagree with the New York Times when it calls his party nomination for the presidency, capped off yesterday with an elaborately staged acceptance speech in Denver’s Invesco field, a “remarkable achievement in what has been a remarkable ascendance.” But the trouble with the Obama campaign has always been the gulf between the truly inspiring story of the candidate and the thoroughly conventional substance of his politics, which remains the stuff of left-liberal orthodoxy. For all the pomp and circumstance of Obama’s mile-high moment, that gulf endures.

It is only fair to acknowledge that Obama’s nomination stands as a significant benchmark in American history: it is the first time that a black American has been selected by a major U.S. party to bear its standard for the presidency. If the relentless harping on this point by Democratic operatives is not exactly disinterested, that makes it no less admirable. Just as significant, the nomination is a tribute to the impressive political skills of a man whose name was largely unknown as recently as four years ago. To go from a humbling defeat in a congressional race against Black Panther Bobby Rush in 2000 to clinching the Democratic Party’s nomination just eight years later is a singular political feat.

Both themes were neatly highlighted in the biographical video that preceded Obama’s speech. In it, Obama affectionately recalled his grandfather’s dictum that Americans “can do anything if we put our minds to it.” Echoing his grandfather’s wisdom, Obama affirmed that what the country needs most is to “make sure opportunity is there.” There is no better proof of the truth of that statement than the political success of the man making it.

All the more jarring, then, that this introduction was followed by a speech that dispensed with the do-it-yourself ethos of Obama’s grandfather in favor of a nanny-state liberalism that sees government intervention as the only reliable guarantor of success. True, Obama acknowledged that “government cannot solve all our problems,” and that “we are responsible for ourselves.” But these concessions seemed merely symbolic, as the bulk of his speech counted the realms – the environment, the economy, healthcare, the housing market, education, etc. – where government could expand its reach. Aside from a single remark about parental responsibility, which would be controversial to no one save Rev. Jesse Jackson and the more aggressive peddlers of racial grievance, it was not clear where, if anywhere, a President Obama would be prepared to place limits on government action.

By contrast, in the one area where there is a consensus about government responsibility – the national defense – Obama sounded the least steady. It did not help his case that he became bogged down in contradiction. For instance, he promised to end the war in Iraq “responsibly,” and then to “finish the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.” But given that Iraq remains a central battleground in the war against al-Qaeda, and that coalition forces are at last winning that war, Obama’s proposal to withdraw troops is anything but responsible.

Nor did Obama provide any hint that he understood what the war on terror is fundamentally about. Yes, there was a cheap snipe that John McCain, even as he has promised to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, “won’t follow bin Laden to the cave where he lives” (as if the Democratic nominee knows where that might be). But the words “Islam” and “jihad” never featured in the speech, and it is not at all clear that Obama understands their relevance to the conflict he proposes to wage.

Obama’s pledge to “curb Russian aggression” showed a better grasp of geopolitical realities. It is doubtful, however, that it will make much of an impression on Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin lieutenants. After all, how credible is such a threat coming from the same man who has promised to meet even the leaders of terror-sponsoring Iran “without preconditions”?

The more disappointing aspect of Obama’s speech – a speech that in many ways represents his vision for the country – was his repeated derision of individual responsibility. To hear Obama tell it, what is needed is not opportunity but government assistance. It’s hard to imagine that his grandfather, a tough-tempered Kansan who uncomplainingly endured the Great Depression and then served his country in World War II, would admire his grandson’s mocking of the idea that one can “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps,” as he did yesterday to raucous applause from the Democratic audience. For all his nostalgia about his grandparents, it seems that when it comes to the deeper lessons in life, the Democratic nominee is not in Kansas anymore.

Whether or not Obama gets a post-convention “bounce,” there is no denying that the week was, like the candidate himself, an impressive piece of work. Crucially, however, it was also very much a scripted affair. It’s one thing to win over a crowd of 84,000 adoring Democratic partisans. But as Obama’s own relatives might have reminded him, America is bigger than that.

By Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama is an immensely talented man whose talents have been largely devoted to crafting, and chronicling, his own life. Not things. Not ideas. Not institutions. But himself.

Nothing wrong or even terribly odd about that, except that he is laying claim to the job of crafting the coming history of the United States. A leap of such audacity is odd. The air of unease at the Democratic convention this week was not just a result of the Clinton psychodrama. The deeper anxiety was that the party was nominating a man of many gifts but precious few accomplishments — bearing even fewer witnesses.

When John Kerry was introduced at his convention four years ago, an honor guard of a dozen mates from his Vietnam days surrounded him on the podium attesting to his character and readiness to lead. Such personal testimonials are the norm. The roster of fellow soldiers or fellow senators who could from personal experience vouch for John McCain is rather long. At a less partisan date in the calendar, that roster might even include Democrats Russ Feingold and Edward Kennedy, with whom John McCain has worked to fashion important legislation.

Eerily missing at the Democratic convention this year were people of stature who were seriously involved at some point in Obama’s life standing up to say: I know Barack Obama. I’ve been with Barack Obama. We’ve toiled/endured together. You can trust him. I do.

Hillary Clinton could have said something like that. She and Obama had, after all, engaged in a historic, utterly compelling contest for the nomination. During her convention speech, you kept waiting for her to offer just one line of testimony: I have come to know this man, to admire this man, to see his character, his courage, his wisdom, his judgment. Whatever. Anything.

Instead, nothing. She of course endorsed him. But the endorsement was entirely programmatic: We’re all Democrats. He’s a Democrat. He believes what you believe. So we must elect him — I am currently unavailable — to get Democratic things done. God bless America.

Clinton’s withholding the "I’ve come to know this man" was vindictive and supremely self-serving — but jarring, too, because you realize that if she didn’t do it, no one else would. Not because of any inherent deficiency in Obama’s character. But simply as a reflection of a young life with a biography remarkably thin by the standard of presidential candidates.

Who was there to speak about the real Barack Obama? His wife. She could tell you about Barack the father, the husband, the family man in a winning and perfectly sincere way. But that only takes you so far. It doesn’t take you to the public man, the national leader.

Who is to testify to that? Hillary’s husband on night three did aver that Obama is "ready to lead." However, he offered not a shred of evidence, let alone personal experience with Obama. And although he pulled it off charmingly, everyone knew that, having been suggesting precisely the opposite for months, he meant not a word of it.

Obama’s vice presidential selection, Joe Biden, naturally advertised his patron’s virtues, such as the fact that he had "reached across party lines to … keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists." But securing loose nukes is as bipartisan as motherhood and as uncontroversial as apple pie. The measure was so minimal that it passed by voice vote and received near zero media coverage.

Thought experiment. Assume John McCain had retired from politics. Would he have testified to Obama’s political courage in reaching across the aisle to work with him on ethics reform, a collaboration Obama boasted about in the Saddleback debate? "In fact," reports the Annenberg Political Fact Check, "the two worked together for barely a week, after which McCain accused Obama of ‘partisan posturing’" — and launched a volcanic missive charging him with double cross.

So where are the colleagues? The buddies? The political or spiritual soul mates? His most important spiritual adviser and mentor was Jeremiah Wright. But he’s out. Then there’s William Ayers, with whom he served on a board. He’s out. Where are the others?

The oddity of this convention is that its central figure is the ultimate self-made man, a dazzling mysterious Gatsby. The palpable apprehension is that the anointed is a stranger — a deeply engaging, elegant, brilliant stranger with whom the Democrats had a torrid affair. Having slowly woken up, they see the ring and wonder who exactly they married last night.

Things aren’t as bad as the Democrats claim

By Irwin M. Stelzer

TODAY IS THAT DAY that we all realize that summer’s lease has all too short a date. The Labor Day weekend starts tomorrow–the last long, lazy weekend of summer. Fewer Americans than usual have taken to the road because gasoline prices, although easing (Hurricane Gustav permitting), remain high by historic standards. But whether at home or on the road, we know that there won’t be another long weekend until Thanksgiving rolls around late in November, and that holiday is more likely to witness snow flurries than warming sunshine in most parts of the country.

Americans who were glued to their television sets watching the Democratic convention that ended last night with Obama’s acceptance speech might not be in a mood to relax with their last gin-and-tonic of the season. The picture of America they got from Denver, the mile-high host city–mile-high as in altitude, not the stuff that contributed to making the Democrats’ 1968 convention in Chicago such a riotous affair–is of a nation in serious economic trouble and shunned by its former allies. Only 18 percent of Americans believe the nation is on the right track, we were reminded by an Obama-loving media.

As the Democrats see it, America circa 2008 consists largely of uninsured people struggling to pay the health-care bills of their sick kids, people whose homes have been snatched from them by hard-hearted bankers, a massive army of the unemployed, women discriminated against in the workplace, greedy rich people unwilling to pay their fair share of taxes, returning veterans denied benefits by none other than war hero John McCain, and unionized teachers, who say they are eager to do their best for our kids, but remain adamantly opposed to allowing parents to pick the schools that are best for their children and to merit-based pay to reward excellent teaching.

To the Democrats, and to about the half of Americans who have made up their minds, the solution is to elect Barack Obama president of the United States. With the exception of an undetermined number of angry Hillary Clinton fans, Obama’s supporters are notable for their enthusiasm. Their man, they believe, will bring justice to the downtrodden, heal the sick, feed the poor, save the planet, and end war. This will be accomplished by raising income, estate, capital gains, and dividend taxes paid by the rich, and freeing up funds by ending the war in Iraq "responsibly". Throw in taxes on polluters and the withdrawal of some tax advantages enjoyed by the big oil companies, and you have a sort of anti-Keynesian fiscal policy: higher taxes as the economy weakens–although not, we are promised, for middle- and lower-income families.

Fortunately for America, the state of the nation is not quite as described by the Democrats. Yes, the health care system is not what it should be, in part because government regulations have intervened between doctor and patient to convert what once was a respectful relationship into an adversarial one. Yes, health care costs are escalating, in part because new technologies and medicines that improve the quality of life are costly to develop. And, yes, things would be a lot better if Americans who do not get insurance from their employers were treated equally for tax purposes with those who do, as John McCain suggests.

But in the end, 85 percent of Americans do have health insurance coverage. Of the 45.7 million people who are uninsured, many receive health care at no cost to themselves from the non-profit hospitals that account for about 90 percent of all such institutions in the US. And, according to the Wall Street Journal, 25 percent of the uninsured are eligible for government-funded Medicaid, but have not signed up, and 54 percent are between the ages of 18 and 34, a group heavily weighted with people who, right or wrong, probably see little need for coverage. Can things get better with sensible policies? Sure. But experience in other countries suggests that massive government intervention in the health care system just might not be the answer. Canadian fugitives from government health care slip across the border to avoid long delays by getting their ills attended to here. There is no traffic in the other direction.

Then there is housing. Again, there is no doubt that foreclosures are all-too common, and a tragedy for displaced families. But the vast majority of Americans are paying their mortgages regularly and living in houses worth far more than when they were purchased, even though prices are down from their peak of a few years ago. And thanks to some sensible bipartisan work by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Democratic chairman of the House Financial Services Committee Barney Frank, the government is doing a good bit to ease the plight of some who are caught in the credit crunch. The sort of bipartisan work in which John McCain has specialized for decades and in which Barack Obama has never engaged.

There is no question that the job market has weakened, but neither is there any question that it has not sunk to the levels of past recessions. There is also no question that inflation in food and energy prices is hurting American consumers, but price increases are nothing like those unleashed in the late 1970s by then-President Jimmy Carter, a smiling, warmly greeted Democratic superdelegate in Denver last week. Much will turn on whether the Fed is right in guessing that the worldwide economic slowdown will ease pressures on commodity prices and bring inflation down to acceptable levels.

Karlyn Bowman, the American Enterprise poll analyst who has her finger on the pulse of America, tells me that "Job satisfaction remains very high. Most workers don’t fear losing their jobs nor do they think their job is about to be sent overseas .Seventy-six percent in a new Harris poll said things are on the right track in their personal lives."

But the number of Americans who say that their employer has laid off workers in the past six months is up, which must produce some anxiety, and even though 76 percent feel things are on the right track in their personal lives, only 18 percent think that of the nation. This gives Obama an opportunity to persuade the undecideds, some 30 percent of all voters, that he is the agent-of-change for whom they have been waiting.

McCain’s chances, which are proving to be better than anyone imagined they would be, will depend heavily on two things: continued progress of "the surge" in Iraq, and the state of the economy. Fortunately for him, the economy continues to grow, at the quite satisfactory rate of 3.3 percent in the last quarter, powered by the exports that Obama would cut into were he to go ahead with his plans to crack down on free trade.

And there are signs that the housing market is finding a bottom, as Wall Street types put it. Faint signs, but signs nevertheless. The fall in prices is slowing, nine of the 20 metropolitan areas tracked by the much-watched S&P/Case-Shiller index posted price gains in June, new-home sales ticked up in July, and the inventory of unsold homes, although still high, declined for the second consecutive month. Nigel Gault, economist with forecasting firm Global Insights, told the Wall Street Journal, "We’re starting to see some hopeful signs in parts of the country." And on a recent visit to Phoenix, arguably the hardest hit and over-stocked housing market in the country, one builder told me that sales of homes priced under $350,000 are picking up, and another that he is now buying building sites in anticipation of a pick-up early in the new year.

That might not be the beginning of the end of the housing crisis, or even the end of the beginning. After all, mortgage rates are creeping up; the banks face the enormous task of refunding almost $800 billion of their debt by the end of next year–$95 billion next month; the list of troubled banks is growing; and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae may face tougher terms from lenders and be forced to curtail their support for the mortgage market.

But the majority of Americans are comfortable with their own circumstances as they fire up their barbecues for the last time this summer, or stretch out on their couches to watch some great tennis at the U.S. Open in New York, or subject themselves to the start of the Minneapolis-St.Paul shindig at which the Republicans will anoint their champion.

« Previous PageNext Page »