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On the road in a changing in America.
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John McCain is a voracious if undisciplined reader, and he insists on sharing his literary enthusiasms. For reasons that escape me, he tells everybody who will listen that his favorite fictional character is Robert Jordan from the Hemingway novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. For those of you some years removed from high school English, Jordan is the American volunteer in the Spanish Civil War who opts for death in a hopeless and effectively pro- Communist cause. We’ll give McCain the benefit of the doubt and presume that he likes the dying part better than the Commie part. Don’t cry for McCain. If he wins, he’s president. If he doesn’t, perhaps he can find satisfaction in having taken a beating for his party.
Sorry, but whenever I get anywhere near Chicago I’m reminded of Richard Jeni’s explanation of how the city got started: “a bunch of people in new York said, ‘Gee, I’m enjoying the crime and the poverty, but it just isn’t cold enough. Let’s go west.’”
Carly Fiorina, the senior McCain aide and former Hewlett-Packard executive, blurted out the gaffish truth that John McCain is not fit to be a corporate CEO. She said the same thing, with more accuracy, about Barack Obama. He’s never run anything bigger than a law review, and the questions about him, your correspondent can confirm, still swirl across the fruited plain. Even the people who embrace his “message” of hope and change add a “but,” such as: but the only old friends we seem to know about are the convict, the terrorist, and that hate-pretzel of a preacher. Or: but when he’s untethered from the teleprompter, he seems to float in rhetorical space, a man of no fixed intellectual address. Or: but there seems to be more change here than a Bolshevik could stand today, more hope than a red-mopped urchin could contemplate tomorrow. Or: but about this family thing— what’s up with that brother who lives in the hut in exurban Nairobi? These are not the usual concerns lingering in the final weeks of a presidential campaign.
Another entry for your must-do list! Spearfish Canyon, located near the old Homestake gold strike in western South Dakota. The word for it is awesome, in the pure, pre-valley Girl sense. Limestone cliffs, crashing falls, bird- and fish-stuffed wetlands, an area so pristine as to justify the local poet’s judgment that it is soul-nourishing to “get out into the silent places.” If you’ve never been a tree hugger, I recommend that you start with the Ponderosa pine. The bark smells like butterscotch. and you don’t have to take my word for any of this. a previous visitor, Frank Lloyd Wright, said of Spearfish, “How is it that I’ve heard so much about the Grand Canyon, when this is even more miraculous.”
Over the past 20 years, Obama has held a series of brief, small-beer jobs, all of them in the nonprofit sector, which is another way of saying that he has made a living out of the economic value created by somebody else. The only real money came when he found the literary subject of a lifetime: himself. At age 46, he has already published two autobiographies, both of them commercially successful. What, you might reasonably ask, would a man who hasn’t accomplished anything write about in two autobiographies? Feelings. What Barack felt about this, what he felt about that, what he almost felt about this, what he should have felt about that. After 500 pages of this picaresque monologue, the reader is moved to scream at the page, “Barack, we know how you feel. Do something!”
You’ve heard the marketing motto, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”? If only, my friends. If only.
It is the universal temptation to divide the human tribe into two neat categories. Some people see the fundamental division as that between men and women. Others see it as between blacks and whites. Or rich and poor, gay and straight, straight and addicted, night people and day people. The late Herman Kahn used to tell me that the critical distinction, the one that really matters in public life, is the one between those who care what the New York Times says about them and those who don’t. Myself, I’ve always been an O’Hara man. The novelist John O’Hara saw the world around him separating itself cleanly into two groups—people who do things and people who describe things.
Barack Obama is a describer. He’s not running to accomplish great things. He’s running to be president, and he’ll get a helluva book out of it. The rest of us will get a describer in chief.
There comes that moment in road life when you can either starve or pick a logo from the billboard misleadingly labeled, “Food.” Hidden in that list of cholesterol palaces is a gem. Go with Chili’s. The Southwestern Cobb is reliably good.
And thus the choice you face on November 4, a choice between Too New and Too Old, a choice between a TR Republican and (I guess) a Kennedy Democrat, an election between two career legislators face to face at last with those “tough choices” they pretend to relish, both of whom seem likely to yield to inflation (and mete out the concomitant punishment to savers and investors) rather than swallowing a stiff dose of fiscal medicine. Maybe Buckley, that master of political theatre, knew just when to tap-dance off stage.
No better time than the end of a trip to slip into the apodictic mode. I have seen the future and I’m pretty sure it’s not California. not so long ago, whatever happened in America tended to happen first in California. now, I strongly suspect, only the bad things will happen there first. The state can no longer afford the politics of social impulse, the politics of ideological whim. Those are the indulgences of youth and wealth and California is past its prime with the bills of boom now coming due. no, I think it’s more likely that the future will unfold first, both the good and the bad, in its neighbor to the east, Colorado. With a layered economy, built on the sedimental foundation of successive booms in energy, telecommunications, and finance, with the spirit of the trailblazer and the grit of the cowboy, Colorado has shown early promise in its efforts to balance past and future, city and town, techie and farmer, and the varied interests of the whites and browns and blacks among its citizenry. My advice is to go west, young man, but not all the way.
And then, and then…and then along came Sarah Palin. I should disclose that I know her a little and like her a lot. I lobbied persistently for her selection as VP. Whatever I write now will sound like time-capsule stuff by the time you read it, but here was my thinking way back in the summer of 2008. Point One: The suits—Pawlenty, Romney, Lieberman—are all fine fellows but will be unable to help McCain move off 42–45 percent of the vote. Point Two: Sarah will reshuffle the deck by stunning the media, caffeinating the base, arresting (at least momentarily) the migration of Hillary voters, and intriguing that huge swath of the country that doesn’t give a damn about politics 10 months of the year. Point Three: Should McCain somehow manage to win, Sarah will embolden his best instincts and inspire his inner reformer. She’d be a great vice president I didn’t bother to make Point Four. With all of her upside, Sarah also brings great risk. Everybody has a tough first lap around the national political track. Biden did, pratfalling twice. Bill Clinton did, with that apparently career-killing keynote address to the 1988 convention. Hillary did, losing most of the caucus states (!) this year to a no-name, no-account junior senator. If form holds, Sarah will be stumbling and crumbling by October. Maybe she won’t. But even if she does, we have been reminded— as have the media and the powerbrokers—that there is a latent conservative constituency out there, waiting for the spark of leadership, listening expectantly for the sound of the trumpet.
Neal B. Freeman is Chairman of The Blackwell Corporation and can be reached at email@example.com.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?