(Denver Post, May 30) An Alaska mayor shocks the governor in a primary, then humbles an ex-governor in the general election, then electrifies the nation as John McCain’s running mate. A legislator from the laughing-stock Massachusetts Republicans upsets the attorney general to capture a perennially Democratic Senate seat. A lowly Pennsylvania congressman ignores the president’s support for a party-switching senator and retires him in a primary, Obama endorsement and all.You know their names. In ousting Arlen Specter, Joe Sestak (corrupt job offer notwithstanding) followed a pattern set by Scott Brown and Sarah Palin. Voters in both parties are turning to conviction candidates and giving resume’ candidates the boot. Palin’s rollicking speech at DU last weekend, hours after the state Republican convention, got me wondering whether the same pattern fits Colorado.Laughing that it was fun to do politics at an ice rink, the Wasilla hockey mom skated in to forecheck the Messiah himself. Her deft indictment of Mr. Obama’s policies delighted the crowd of several thousand, about half of them Tea Partiers by a show of hands. With her peroration on Reagan as a model of the “lifeguard leadership” America needs, you could hear Sarah asking herself: “Should I run in 2012?”Time will tell. Right now there is 2010 to deal with, and on a Saturday that had seen conventional wisdom toppled among both Democrats and Republicans, something else you could hear was our state’s previously favored hopefuls for senator and governor frantically recalculating their chances.Jane Norton and Ken Buck, Senate rivals in the August GOP primary, both attended the Palin event. Once the underdog, he was riding a 77% delegate majority and positive media buzz. She was coming off several days of rough press and party grumbling over her decision to bypass the convention and file petitions. Listening in on their thoughts that night would have been fascinating. Though still formidable in likability, endorsements, and funding, the former lieutenant governor now clearly has a race on her hands. For all that Norton was recently lauded by Gov. Palin as a “pink elephant,” a conservative woman to watch, the pit bull of the hour seems to be Buck.The same dramatic reversal of fortune, like something out of the movies, has befallen Michael Bennet and Andrew Romanoff, Senate rivals on the Democratic side. Romanoff, feisty and buoyant, radiates conviction. Bennet has the resume’, but he plods. The incumbent’s war chest and White House backing may prove no more decisive for him than they were for poor Arlen Specter.It was in the race for governor, though, that May 22 invited the craziest speculation on who might become Colorado’s Sarah Palin. Evergreen businessman Dan Maes, authentic and fearless but politically unknown, announced in early 2009 against Gov. Bill Ritter. Fat chance. Like most Republicans, I shrugged and awaited the serious contenders. First came former congressman Scott McInnis, then state Sen. Josh Penry, then (very briefly) former presidential candidate Tom Tancredo. But suddenly last November, Penry and Tancredo were out. This January, Ritter too was out. And now as June begins, McInnis sits SECOND on the ballot behind, of all people, Dan Maes.Is it another case of conviction trumping resume’? If latecomer Joe Gschwendtner gains traction, does a three-way primary (like Palin’s in 2006) help Maes? Could Dauntless Dan, if nominated by the GOP, beat the media’s darling, John Hickenlooper? There is precedent. Back in 1962, the untried John Love took out Democrat Gov. Steve McNichols. Things are at a boil, and as Samuel Adams of Boston Tea Party fame observed, “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.” Americans and Coloradans, fired up about over-government, have made this a year of surprises already. My hunch is we haven’t seen anything yet.
('76 Contributor) Last Saturday, May 22, I went to a conference at the University of Denver where Governor Sarah Palin, along with radio hosts Dennis Prager and Hugh Hewitt, defended limited constitutional government against the excesses of President Obama. While I found all three speeches inspiring and entertaining, Dennis Prager’s speech stood out as the most concise and substantive.
Hugh Hewitt gave a “Ten Commandments for 2010,” in which he exhorted the American people to support powerful republican candidates in the election and to discuss current issues with their Democratic friends.
Sarah Palin gave a rousing speech against Obamacare and its inherent rationing, Obama’s apology-driven foreign policy, the irresponsibility in government that gave rise to Greece’s economic debacle, and the condemnation of Arizona for enforcing national immigration laws. She ended on a positive note, mentioning Ronald Reagan’s history as a lifeguard, his personality grounded in conviction, and his optimistic common sense.
While these speeches strongly encouraged the audience, their focus on current issues constrains their power to the present. Dennis Prager’s speech, by contrast, voiced America’s foundational principles and the current disagreement about them. He proclaimed that the current political struggle is not about personalities, but ideas, that the American and Left-wing worldviews are waging a civil war over the heart of America.
He illustrated the Left-wing’s confusion in three points. The Left attacks the motives of TEA Partiers, declaring them racist and prejudiced, while defending those of terrorists, explaining that they might have had a bad day or faced a difficult foreclosure. The Left considers Arizona to be an enemy, and tries to negotiate with Iran. Finally, they do not understand the American system.
After listing these confusions, Prager explained the spirit of America as a trinity of three values proclaimed on any coin in your pocket -- E Pluribus Unum, "Liberty," and "In God We Trust."
**He praised America as the least racist country in the world, noting how any immigrant becomes an American the very day he arrives, while immigrants to Europe do not assimilate, even after many generations. In contrast to the American spirit of E Pluribus Unum, the Left divides Americans into interest groups, and cannot understand when a black man stands up at a TEA Party with his “fellow Americans.”
** Secondly, Prager commented on the American love of liberty, in contrast to the Left’s desire for equality of result, even when it leads to poverty.
** Finally, he acknowledged America’s motto, “In God We Trust,” arguing that America was not founded to be a secular nation. Declaring the United States a Bible-based country, he explained that there is no liberty without God, and that God is the author of Human Rights.
After praising the term “Radical Islam” as a defense of normal Islam, Prager concluded his speech with another emphasis on liberty. He declared that “the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen,” and that as the freedom of citizens grows, the size government must shrink.
When asked about the biggest threat to the future of our country, Dennis Prager answered that it is not Obama, but rather our failure to understand what it means to be an American. He declared that there is a moral dimension to smaller government, and that when the government grows the citizens lose their virtue. We are our own problem, and we need to fix it.
Finally, in his closing remarks, Prager stood up against Obama’s attack on American exceptionalism. He quoted Lincoln, who said that America is the last best hope for mankind. Such a statement, Prager noted, has never been voiced for Norway, Sweden or Denmark. Obama states that he believes in American exceptionalism just as a Brit believes in British exceptionalism or a Norwegian believes in Norwegian exceptionalism. This relativistic statement holds that American exceptionalism is not exceptional. Dennis Prager believes that it is, explaining that it was our military who liberated Auschvitz and repeating the age-old wisdom that we mark a great experiment in Republican Government.
America stands at a cross-roads, and struggles in what many have called a “culture war.” The battlefield stands all around us, and American values face daily attacks. The very character of our great nation seems to be at stake, and it depends upon the people to stand up for what is good, true, and beautiful. I do not know whether the “Left” is the enemy, but someone is, and we must stand up for what we know to be good and true. Each citizen has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and therefore he has a duty to stand for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
As Governor Palin said at the end of her speech, our nation’s hope does not lie in Washington D.C., amid the columns of Congress or the power of the President. Our nation’s hope lies in the hearts and minds of its people, and you, and you alone, can defend her.
Tyler O'Neil is a Coloradan currently majoring in history at Hillsdale College.
I recently got an email from a university professor in the former Soviet Republic of Moldova. He was my colleague, when I was a visiting Fulbright professor to his country five years ago, and he visited CCU in 1998, debating me publically on whether Vladimir Putin was responsible for the decline in personal freedom in Russia and a threat to the United States. So the other day he wrote me to ask, “How is the current US President viewed in Colorado, specifically knowing your state's political view. You know I was always interested in U.S. politics, elections.” Since my friend is a leading expert in his country on western politics and often serves as an advisor to his government, I felt compelled to respond: Dear Vitalie: America was born in a tax revolt. A European king was trying to squeeze as much money as possible from his subjects to fund his global agenda. Those very settlers had already fled Europe to avoid tyrannical government. Their dream, what we know call “The American Dream” was to create a better life for themselves and their family, to build their own wealth, which would not be siphoned off by a government claiming to represent their interests. When they finally began to organize their own government, they made sure there were certain safeguards built in their explicit written constitution to insure their freedom. They wanted:1) Free Markets, not manipulated by government bureaucrats, who would claim to speak for the masses but actually look out for their own corrupt special interests. In a free market everybody gets a voice. Every time one spends a dollar, it is a vote for more of that product to be produced. They spent that dollar because they felt they got the best product at the most reasonable price. If the government had set that price, it would have been a bureaucrat not the people who affected the economy. As in any command economy, bureaucrats look out for their own interests, which results in a corrupt system where those who know the bureaucrat get the product. When I lived in your country, I was amazed at the level of corruption within the government. Free markets empower the people. Governments subjugate the people. For that reason America’s founders also wanted: 2) Limited Government. If governments made decisions for individuals, those decisions would benefit bureaucrats, not the people. Who knows what is best for you and your family, a government official or you? Who cares most for you and your family, a government official or you? Statist political experiments from both right and left have been tried around the world and have failed. They have only brought massive violence, death and poverty.Most Americans I know prefer the ideas of John Locke and Adam Smith, to those of Karl Marx and Mao Tse-tung. Locke and Smith wanted personal political and economic freedom, and produced untold prosperity. Marx and Mao wanted to control the masses, and brought untold suffering to hundreds of millions. Many here in Colorado with whom I have spoken fear that Obama will not bring the hope many expect, but instead bring another failed experiment in social planning and human deprivation. Respectfully, William Watson
('76 Editor) Which big speech best expressed the concerns and hopes of most Americans right now, Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Jan. 26, or Sarah Palin's forceful and confident speech at the Tea Party convention tonight? I give it to Palin hands down.
This may be the opening salvo of her presidential campaign for 2012, a campaign that stands a better chance of success with every passing week. It's still very early, but three years from now we just might be getting used to the first woman ever to win the White House -- and recalling that it all got started on Reagan's birthday in Nashville, when American heard its next president give her State of the Palin address.
CNN seems to be the first news organization up with a lengthy text story on the speech (which wrapped up only 45 minutes ago). CSPAN's website is promising a complete video file on the speech shortly.
There's a case of Founding Father forgetfulness creeping through the GOP. Sarah Palin recently showed the extent of the infection. But it seems Colorado is not immune, and may be in desperate need of the vaccine.
In a recent interview with Glenn Beck, Palin was asked to name her favorite Founding Father. While visibly scrounging through her mind's historical file cabinet, she bought some time by declaring, “Well, all of them.” Beck fired back: “Bull crap.” Like a young paralegal, she continued to search her files, eventually producing a name: “Of course, George Washington.” The light bulb above her head was almost blinding, the relief in her face embarrassing.
But while Palin's latest hiccup may cause our historical hearts to murmur, she is not alone in her post-antiquity amnesia. In fact, Palin resembles some Republicans in Colorado.
In November, CCU hosted a debate between the top four Republican candidates for Colorado's upcoming U.S. Senate seat (Ken Buck, Jane Norton, Cleve Tidwell, and Tow Wiens). After the questions about health care and national security came a lighthearted question by moderator John Andrews. The query went something like this: “Tell us what President of the United States you would like to travel back in time and have dinner with?”
While one could not expect the Continental Congress to dominate the dinner table, one could at least expect names such as Washington, Adams, or Jefferson to garner an invite. But according to our potential senators, such patriots would go hungry at their dinner party. Instead, Teddy Roosevelt would have to shuffle his schedule, as most picked him for Andrews's imaginary dinner date.
To be clear, Teddy is not a bad choice. But at a debate where the themes of “fixing Washington” and “getting back to our roots” permeated the discussion, one could not help but note the absence of those who got it right in the first place. And in a national conversation dominated by partisan politics, are we asking too much when we ask our leaders to name a favorite statesman from an era when statesmanship, not rhetoric, brought true hope and change?
So what is the cure? I can't say for sure. But the medicine must contain a steady concoction of history, civic duty, and respect. Historians such as David McCullough, with his book John Adams, could offer the perfect prescription. But it's up to our leaders to fill those prescriptions. Otherwise, we may end up with a group of civic servants who no longer esteem those who have created this democracy. Or worse, who just can't remember.
('76 Editor) A friend emailed his list praising the Palin putdown article from Tuesday's Denver Post ("The Sarah: A classic teenage type," by Mark Moe, see link and full text below.) I found Moe's patronizing tone not only offensive in political terms, but quite revealing as to his overall persona. Where in the smugness of this piece is there any glimmer of respect or caring for the students of whatever "type" that he taught in the classroom? Who would want to have this guy for a teacher? So I used the dreaded reply-all button to comment as follows:
Friends, here's my problem with Mark Moe's piece. Objectively in terms of personal achievement, public impact, and civic benefit, former Gov. Sarah Palin has done far more with her life than retired teacher Mark Moe has done with his. And I confidently predict she will continue to achieve rings around him in whatever remains of life for the two of them. Gimme a break. Beyond that, if you read Moe's commentary looking for instances of him doing exactly what he accuses her, or her type, of doing, the whole thing becomes hilariously self-referential. Point a finger at someone and three point back at you, as the saying goes. But this is typical with liberals - they project their own attitudes and behaviors accusingly onto others. What is he doing, in eagerness to please fellow liberals and in utter ignorance of the arts or demands of politics and statesmanship, but manifesting a "tendency to parrot for validation with imperfect understanding of the information"? The piece is replete with his own redhanded commission of the other two alleged "Sarah" failings as well. What a hoot. I find the analysis of Jack Kelly on Real Clear Politics, citing liberal columnist Clarence Page in praise of Palin, much more persuasive.
THE SARAH: A CLASSIC TEENAGE TYPE - By Mark Moe
In more than 30 years of teaching, I've seen all sorts of student "types," from the manic grade calculator, to the obsequious over- achiever, to the brilliant but dysfunctional slacker.
It recently dawned on me that one of the most predominant types — especially among female students — has as its avatar a political celebrity who has made a raucous re-entry onto the national stage. Therefore, I'm calling it The Sarah.
The Sarah has three basic characteristics: a lack of self-evaluative skills; a tendency to parrot whatever she thinks her immediate audience wants or needs to hear to gain validation, and the mistaken belief that popularity implies importance.
The Sarah is short on self-evaluative skills, that is, the ability to realistically assess one's capabilities. Many are the times I had weeping, semi-hysterical girls (and some red-faced boys, it's true) in my office at grade time, stunned to find that instead of that A or B they were so sure of, they had earned a C or worse.
Even when I showed them their point totals, there was this blankness of non-recognition, as if they were in shock that I would be so cruel as to use basic math to crush their dreams. In fact, their cluelessness shocked me, just as Palin's did when she accepted the nomination as vice president when anyone could have told her that doing so would put her so far over her head that it would be a dangerous disservice to the country she so proudly denied wanting to secede from.
The Sarah also craves acceptance and validation from whomever happens to be her audience at the moment. Thus, The Sarah attends to information not to necessarily evaluate it critically, but so that she remembers to parrot it later to seem knowledgeable to the right people. Student essays are rife with this sort of confused regurgitation of lecture notes and secondary source material.
Many times The Sarah believes that repeating whatever the teacher or critic said is sufficient to earn a good grade, even if the context is wrong or, worse, its use is contradictory.
This tendency to parrot for validation with imperfect understanding of the information is one of the real Sarah's hallmarks, seen in her many interview retractions, Facebook flip- flops, "death panel" rants, and her recent confusion over the cause of global warming.
Finally, The Sarah believes that popularity implies importance. It's been my experience that certain high school girls view popularity as a way to gain preferential treatment, the benefit of the doubt, and a kind of unspoken "rounding up" of their efforts, especially grades. They confuse popularity with the kind of status that can only be earned by hard work and actual accomplishments. Sarah herself is similarly confused. Her current media blitz and Facebook shout-outs, while bolstering her popularity with her base, aren't nearly as important as finishing the hard work of governing Alaska would have been. Writing a self-aggrandizing tell-all isn't an accomplishment as much as a way to Oprahsize herself and dive into the mosh pit of her gushy Real-American groupies. Both Sarah and The Sarah mistakenly see popularity as the foundation of importance, and not vice-versa.
I know that others don't see Palin as I do. Certainly she has gumption and a kind of flair, even if that flair is more celebrity than cerebral. But if The Sarah in her is dominant, and I think it is, then her rise in the serious business of governance seems more like a deluded teenage girl's bid for acceptance to a position of authority for which she is neither ready nor qualified.
Mark Moe (email@example.com) is a retired English teacher.
Entertainer Bill Maher commented this week that America is a stupid nation. Of course he is correct: any nation that pays well for this type of comedy is stupid. But this gives reasonable observers a real insight into the liberal mindset. An aphorism I often use is, "liberals are sure they are smarter than we, conservatives are sure they are more moral than we." The former is obviously not true and the latter is for a different discussion. But Maher illustrates the former in action.
Viewing the video does Maher's comments more justice than my paraphrase can. But when he was asked by Wolf Blitzer on CNN, whether Sarah Palin had a chance at becoming president he responded, "I wouldn’t put anything past this stupid country." Blitzer then continues saying that "people are already complaining..." At the word complaining, the left side of Maher's mouth raises slightly in consternation that people are complaining about an obvious truth. At least that is the way I read his body language.
Blitzer then gives Maher a chance to "clarify." Maher seems to be thinking of an answer, but says, "I don"t need to clarify, it is." The absolutely deadpan delivery of "I don't need to clarify" may be a practiced comedian's delivery; if so, he is good. But I suspect it is rather the insouciant reaction of an elite to the masses. Blitzer then asks why he believes we are a stupid county and Maher responds, "Because Sarah Plain could be president.... I mean please, do I have to expand on that anymore?" He finishes with "just because they [the American people] elected a bright guy doesn’t mean they [the American people] are bright."
Two thoughts come out of this: We elected Barack Obama because he was bright and, Maher does not understand the concept of circular reasoning, claiming something is true by repeating the "truth." This fallacy is closely associated with the false authority fallacy. Here, we accept an argument because a certain type of person says it is so. The cult of celebrity, evidenced by Michael Jackson's death, allows for us to believe that celebrities like Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, Barbara Streisand are authorities. Conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham wrote an excellent book on the subject, Shut Up and Sing.
Electing a president because he is bright is an old liberal canard. An old Saturday Night Live skit has Jon Lovitz playing Michael Dukakis and the brilliant Dana Carvey playing G.H.W. Bush. Carvey is babbling on and the camera goes to Lovitz who looks pleadingly into the camera, "How can I be losing to this guy?" Jimmy Carter was a nuclear physicist, and Clinton was a Rhodes scholar. Did these presidents govern better because they were smart?
Make no mistake, liberalistas believe they have a secular, are opposed to a divine right, to rule because they are educated. The problem is it is a modern, as opposed to a classical education. Classical education was dedicated to finding man's highest purpose, what was the ultimate good. Not to put too fine a point on it, the ultimate good is freedom. This freedom is of a certain type. In Aristotle's words, freedom is doing something for its own sake. It is what man does in his leisure time, after we have secured our freedom in material senses: secured our borders and secured ourselves economically. Education, then, was the development of the arts, as opposed to the sciences of freedom, war and economics.
The modern idea of freedom comes after Thomas Hobbes's argument that, as Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland, there is no there there. There is no highest good only the baddest bad, i.e., life without an overarching authority to keep us in line. Education then is dedicated to the preservation of life, the expansion of physical comfort and the avoidance of death.
Modern education then becomes, at least in comparative terms, anti-intellectual. Education is a means to power, to expand our power and control over the universe. Thus, modern education is merely a means to power, willing one's way to power. Once in power this educated class forces their conception of freedom upon us.
In a recent column for the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan commented, "We are living in a time in which educated people who are at the top of American life feel they have the right to make very public criticisms of . . . let's call it the private, pleasurable but health-related choices of others. They shame smokers and the overweight. Drinking will be next. Mr. Obama's own choice for surgeon general has come under criticism as too heavy. Only a generation ago such criticisms would have been considered rude and unacceptable. But they are part of the ugly, chafing price of having the government in something: Suddenly it can make big and very personal demands on you."
The deciding question to this logic is in fact simple: has any intelligent president actually made a better president because he is smart? Jimmy Carter, probably America's worst president if you combine his activities in and out of office, would seem to refute that. Is there even one incident in which Bill Clinton's degrees have made the political situation better?
The reverse should also be true. Have "stupid" presidents made things worse? Bush derangement syndrome in which one must hate for hate's sake needs no proof for true believers. FDR has been described as an intellectual lightweight by scholar Bruce Kuklick. Harry Truman did not go to college. JFK graduated from Harvard with Honors because his thesis, later turned into the book Why England Slept, was completed with the assistance of Kennedy's father's staff while Joseph P. Kennedy was Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Young John had a solid gentleman's C while an undergraduate. LBJ graduated from Southwest Teachers College in Texas. And we are back to Carter.
The result of this trip down memory lane actually indicates the opposite of the elite liberal contention: the most successful Democratic presidents have been of average education and intelligence. How 'bout them apples?