Convention bounce?

Many of us, myself included, were less than enthusiastic about the candidacy of John McCain. How do you feel now, after the Republican convention, the choice of Sarah Palin, and the current political landscape? Are you going to bounce?

Why the vitriol?

Friends, dear readers, fellow Cranachers, let us restore the high level of discourse and welcoming spirit this blog is famous for! We’ve got FW, longtime voice of forgiveness who has always held us to the Eighth Commandment, making some of you thinking he’s not the real FW. We’ve got two Anons confusedly arguing different sides, mixing us all up about who’s saying what (do give yourselves different names, please!). We’ve got TK alarmed at our rhetoric. Let’s pause, catch our breath, consider that politics is transient and that we have a citizenship in Heaven, and sing a round of Kum-bah-yah.

I wonder if we could discuss WHY politics in this cultural moment stirs such vitriol.

For example, I do not recall ever seeing such knee-jerk HATE, that’s the only word for it, among liberals at the introduction of Sarah Palin. Nor have I ever seen such seemingly illiberal tactics in going after her. Setting aside the legitimate questions about her qualifications and positions, why was the first and immediate response, before even getting to know her, to try to destroy not just her but her family? I’d like to hear especially from those of you who are Democrats. I don’t want to get into another argument about her; I just want to understand what it is about her that stirs such negative passions.

We Republicans are guilty of this too, of course, in our visceral reaction against, say, Hillary Clinton. Why do we get so worked up?

We’ve discussed controversial theological points and complex moral issues on this blog and stayed friendly. Why do we lose it when it comes to politics? There may be good reasons, but I’d like us to think about what they are.

McCain’s speech

My class ran late last night, so I missed a big part of John McCain’s speech. You’ll have to help me out talking about it. It seemed anti-climactic compared to Sarah Palin’s, but it got moving when he told the story of his captivity–not the heroic part, but how he had been a selfish flyboy until his captivity; how at one point he had been broken by the torture (referring to his being forced to do a propaganda thing for his captors) and was ashamed; how his captivity–and his fellow prisoners–taught him to love his country and deny himself. THAT was good, a confession of brokenness at his time of glory.

But, again, I missed most of it. Give me your analysis.

The Dark Knight of the Soul

I finally saw the Batman movie, “Dark Knight.” (I know I’m way behind, just finally getting around to the Summer.) By every measure–character, plot, acting, filmmaking–it was, indeed, a good movie. I need to think more about its theme, though. Was the movie expressing an ideology that is

(a) liberal, showing how terrorism can bring out the worst in both “good guys” and society as a whole (provoking us to torture captives, wiretap the public, and in our fears turn to violence)?


(b) conservative, showing how anarchy lies just below the surface of our society, and that social order must be maintained by force?


(c) nihilistic, that there is no essential difference between anarchy, crime, lawful authority, and lawless vigilantism?



Geography and personality

“Newsweek” has an article on the relationship between certain personality traits and geographical location:

About 20 years ago scientists established that combinations of five basic dimensions—extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to new ideas and experiences—account for all personalities. Add a pinch of openness, a dollop of agreeableness and, like Grandma’s secret recipe for pasta sauce, the result is unique. . . .

Since personality is so important to both social and individual outcomes, the hunt is on for which traits vary geographically and why. According to the most extensive study yet of how personality varies across the United States, a “neuroticism belt” divides the East and West, with states from Maine to Louisiana scoring highest and the West lowest, find Jason Rentfrow of Cambridge University and colleagues. There is also a geographic divide in openness (a measure of willingness to embrace new ideas and creativity), with the Northeast and West Coast much higher than the Midwest and South, according to the data from 619,397 people who filled out an online personality survey and were representative of the U.S. population in education, income and other measures. Extroversion is highest in the Great Plains, Midwest and Southeast, and lowest in the Northwest and Northeast, the scientists will report next month in Perspectives on Psychological Science. For agreeable people, go to the Midwest and Southeast, and avoid the Northeast. For conscientiousness, head for the South and Midwest, not the Northeast. At a finer scale, Alaskans may be amused (or not) that they rank dead last in agreeableness and conscientiousness, while North Dakotans rank highest on extroversion and agreeableness but last in openness. The good folks of Utah are the least neurotic.

Is this just regional stereotyping, or is there something to it?

Hurricane Sarah blows away the convention

(Credit to the Drudge Report for that metaphor.)

Well, I think Sarah Palin can take care of herself. Did you see how she dealt with the controversy over her daughter getting pregnant? In the most in-your-face way imaginable! She brought the father from Alaska and made him sit with the rest of the family!

And her speech was spectacular. She delivered it perfectly, with impeccable expression, timing,and presence. She was poised, intelligent, and funny. She just lacerated Barack Obama and her Democratic critics, and yet maintained her charm.

Hillary Clinton is also tough, but when she does it, she comes across as angry, icy, and off-putting. When Sarah Palin gets tough, she does it with a smile and she becomes even more likable. A TV pundit noted that she displayed her maternal qualities–her son about to go to Iraq; her promise to parents of special needs kids like her baby that they will have a friend in the White House; her presentation of herself as a hockey mom who got into politics through the P.T.A.–in a way that softened the way she came across in her political attacks. But I think that understates what we saw. Sarah Palin’s toughness is precisely the toughness of a mom.

To put it simply, Sarah Palin has charisma. Barack Obama has charisma, and that has been the Democrats’ big advantage. Now the Republicans have charisma on their ticket. And she may have more of it than Barack Obama does.

But is she qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency? I think many Americans would rather have her as president than John McCain!

Look. I’m not saying this is a good thing, but here is the national mood and the political reality: Americans are not caring about experience. If they did, Obama would never have received the Democratic nomination. And who DOES have adequate experience for the presidency, surely a sui generis job that no one who holds that office is fully prepared for and that everyone who holds it must grow into. Furthermore, I don’t think Americans are caring all that much about issues, in the sense of specific policy proposals. If they did, John McCain would never have received the Republican nomination. Americans right now are craving fresh leadership, someone to like and look up to, someone to inspire them. This has been the appeal of Barack Obama. And this is the appeal of Sarah Palin.

And, frankly, I think Sarah Palin may prove to have even more appeal to Americans than Barack Obama does. Some politicos have fretted how Governor Palin will do in the vice presidential debate with Joe Biden, with all of his foreign policy expertise. Are they kidding? Put those two side by side and Senator Biden is doomed, not just because she will likely speak much better than he does but because her persona is just so much more appealing. The Democrats thought Joe Biden would appeal to blue collar voters, to make up for Obama’s weakness with that demographic? Do they realize how Governor Palin, who embodies the blue collar family, is going to come across?

Great moments from last night: Governor Palin’s speech somehow managed to overshadow that of Rudy Guiliani, which itself had to be one of the best political presentations that I can remember. He just took apart Barack Obama, point by point by point. His method was satire, and it was devastating.

Sarah Palin’s six-year-old daughter, Piper, was utterly cute, jumping up and down, waving, obviously so proud of her mom. I loved it when the camera caught her licking her fingers and smoothing the hair of her baby brother.

When the speech was over, the whole family came on stage, whereupon the vice presidential nominee promptly went up to take her baby, holding little Trig, afflicted with Down’s Syndrome, facing the camera for all the world to see.

The Early Church on abortion

Wyman Richardson, a commenter on James H. Grant’s blog In Light of the Gospel, posted some helpful quotations from various church fathers about abortion, which was a common practice in the Roman empire:

“You shall not kill the child by obtaining an abortion. Nor, again, shall you destroy him after he is born.” (Barnabas, 70-80 AD, 1.148)

“You shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill one who has been born.” (The Didache, 80-140 AD, 1.377)

“We say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder. And we also say that we will have to give an account to God for the abortion.” (Athenagoras, 175 AD, 2.147)

“In our case, murder is once for all forbidden. Therefore, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier way to kill a human. It does not matter whether you take away a life that has been born or destroy one that is not yet born.” (Tertullian, 197 AD, 3.26)

“Indeed, the Law of Moses punishes with appropriate penalties the person who causes abortion. For there already exists the beginning stages of a human being. And even at this stage, [the fetus] is already acknowledged with having the condition of life and death, since he is already susceptible to both.” (Tertullian, 210 AD, 3.218)

“Are you to dissolve the conception by aid of drugs? I believe it is no more lawful to hurt a child in process of birth, than to hurt one who is already born.” (Tertullian, 212 AD, 4.57)

“There are some women who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels. So they commit murder before they bring forth.” (Mark Minucius Felix, 200AD, 4.192)

“The womb of his wife was hit by a blow of his heel. And, in the miscarriage that soon followed, the offspring was brought forth, the fruit of a father’s murder.” (Cyprian, 250AD, 5.326)

“The soul is not introduced into the body after birth, as some philosophers think. Rather, it is introduced immediately after conception, when the divine necessity has formed the offspring in the womb.” (Lactantius, 304-313AD, 7.297)

“You shall not slay your child by causing abortion, nor kill the baby that is born.” (Apostolic Constitutions, 390 AD, 7.466)

HT: Glenn at In Defense of the Faith


One thing that really bothers me about the Democratic attacks on Sarah Palin is the sneering, jeering classism. She talks like that Minnesota sheriff on “Fargo”; she went to the University of Idaho; she competed in beauty pageants; she goes hunting; she has big hair; she is from a small town in the country; she is married to an oil field worker who races snowmobiles; she has all those kids! How hilarious! How declasse!

Democrats used to be the party of the common man–of people like the Palins–but that was before they were taken over by privileged children of the Sixties and wealthy fashionistas. Republicans back then were party of the country club set. But, though Democrats still champion poor people in their rhetoric and harvest them for their votes; and though Republicans still vote pro-business, the social class dynamics are all awry from what they used to be. The so-called “New Class” of information producers–internet tycoons, teachers, media types–is our new elite, displacing the old middle class that produces tangible products, and the New Class is socially liberal.

At any rate, Democratic activists, before they get too clever in their insults, would do well to remember that folks in battleground states like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan talk like Governor Palin. (That’s another thing: the utter rudeness! The commentators would not even call her by her title, Governor, and often didn’t even give her credit for her current job, saying she was just a “small town mayor”!)

Anyway, a backlash against this vicious treatment seems to be setting in. So says New Palin details may help, not hurt – Charles Mahtesian –

Fishing permit violations. A blue-collar husband who racked up a DUI citation as a 22-year-old. An unmarried teenage daughter who is pregnant and a nasty child custody battle involving a family member. 

All of this, to one degree or another, has surfaced in recent days as a result of efforts to discredit or undermine Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. But these revelations may have the opposite effect: In one sense, they could reinforce how remarkably unremarkable she is. 

So far — and it is hard to tell what the future may hold for Palin’s unexpected national candidacy — the travails of the Palin family probably seem awfully familiar to many average Americans. It is this averageness that makes her such a politically promising running mate for John McCain — and such a dangerous opponent for Democrats.

Here Michele Catalano says how she disagrees with Governor Palin on the issues. “But the last two days of mudslinging against Palin have been so extreme, they have transformed her into an almost sympathetic figure in my eyes. More important, the barbs thrown at her have made me look upon liberals with a level of contempt I have not felt since, well, 2004.”

Here a self-described leftist feminist praises Governor Palin and decries the “misogyny” of her critics.

As one TV pundit (whose name I didn’t catch) said, Sarah Palin is the candidate of those small town, religious, gun-loving folks that were the targets of Barack Obama’s condescension. There are a lot of them. They have an attitude. They used to be Democrats. And they vote.

Sarah Palin as Supermom

Some of you expressed concern that Sarah Palin is neglecting her family by pursuing a political career. Well, according to this article in the Washington Post (usually no friend to conservatives), she sounds like a Supermom. She nurses her baby (even at meetings), fired the chef at the governor’s residence so she can do her own cooking, has never paid for child-care (neither hiring a nanny or even babysitters). She still commutes from their small town home in Wasilla. Her husband and parents help out with the kids, but she is reportedly deeply engaged in motherhood.

Here she is, in a photo shot in June, doing her shopping and talking to a constituent:
Sarah Palin doing her shopping

Highlights of the GOP convention

I was finally able to stay up to watch one of the conventions. The highlight of last night’s Republican session was the extraordinary spectacle of Joseph Lieberman giving the evening’s climactic speech in favor of John McCain. Lieberman, who was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000. Lieberman, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004. Lieberman, who was abandoned by his party for his support of the war when he ran for re-election to the Senate in Connecticut but who won anyway as an Independent. How the Democrats will try to punish him now, after that speech in which he threw out more red meat to the crowd than Fred Thompson did (though his speech was effective too, dramatically telling the story of McCain’s heroism in captivity). Lieberman called on disaffected Democrats to vote Republican for the first time in their lives.

The most moving part of the evening, to me, had little direct connection to politics:
The introduction of five winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor. They looked like the elderly men you see at the local diner or at church. But what they went through in combat! And what deeds of valor they performed!