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October 17, 2008

Trading Places: Christopher Buckley, WAC?

These arresting days of late 2008 may be some of America's best.

Unless we learn, in the next 18 days, that in fact John McCain spearheaded a white slavery operation in Southeast Asia during the six years he was supposed to have been a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, I will vote for McCain to be my next president. My vote will be cast with many reservations and--for the first time in my life--for a Republican presidential candidate.

Try not to demonize me--or any one else who is trying hard to get it right this election year. Barack Obama, as talented as he is, struck me again and again as the new Jimmy Carter: smart, good and yes a great man--and likely an ineffective leader once in office. Carter, at least, was not untested. In Obama's case, I listened but couldn't buy the Kennedy-lite "change now" noises from a gifted young guy who has never managed anything except for his brilliant and historical

Chris Buckley: Vote pairing with Dan Hull?

campaign. Sure, other nations, particularly EU countries, will like Obama. His U.S. Supreme Court appointments would be more to my liking. But I'd prefer Obama's tough but soulful wife, Michelle, as my next president. I seek leaders who are a bit more engaged, and can get angry. Obama is currently not one of them. In six years, Obama will be well shy of 60, and he can start running for president again then.

By then, Obama can get his mojo working, if he has one. Or his wife can run.

Sarah Palin is a Ditz, you say? How can I do this? Answer: we've had at least 3 ditz presidents in my lifetime. Ronald Reagan was the first, and on intellect he makes Palin seem like Harvard's Alan Dershowitz, just in a really cute dress. Look, Palin's not my cup of tea, but she's one of the most talented politicians you'll ever see anywhere. Don't oversimplify or underestimate her. She's going to be around a long time. Make room for her, don't demonize her. Palin's no cartoon. Besides, if you really think she's not "smart enough", she's lots of fun to just watch.

More interestingly and importantly, however, a major conservative has crossed over to the "dark side", albeit a different one than I just did. Christopher Buckley is William F. Buckley's son, a small government conservative and fine, established novelist and journalist in his own right. Two days ago he announced his support for Barack Obama. He offered his resignation from his position on his dad's The National Review--which accepted it. See WSJ. Buckley the Younger's offending piece and reasons for supporting Obama are found in The Daily Beast, in "Sorry, Dad, I'm Voting for Obama".

If you are a Republican, or a libertarian, please don't demonize Buckley, either. Buckley is refusing to be defined by personal ties, traditional conservative doctrine, and life-long identification with The Right. He sees Obama as a fresh and superior thinker, and a temperate problem-solver: a kind of a new age Philosopher-King. I think Buckley is wrong--but it just doesn't matter. I'd love to have dinner with Chris Buckley. If that happens, we promise in advance not to demonize or oversimplify anyone, except perhaps in jest.

Which brings me to the point, a happy one.

Get used to it: Palin's going places.

The mean-spirited and, I think, often mindless Reagan Revolution, which arrived in DC like an angry sandstorm in January 1981, is officially over. During those 28 years, no one helped the national dialogue along that much. True, Republicans made things personal, moral and cast in absolutes. But my mostly Democrat and limousine liberal friends were also busy making sure that the First Amendment became a joke and a nightmare; you couldn't safely use words like chairman, stewardess, girl, secretary, "Chinese wall" or Indian, or tell the receptionist she looked great, without having Geraldo, Nancy Grace and National Public Radio live in your front yard for a few days. Some of us wanted to evolve at our own unenlightened pace.

You also had to be nice to, accommodate and otherwise be careful with mediocre and arguably lazy people in the workplace. No energy, drive, gospel or values about work itself became the norm. "Adequate": that was the new "excellent".

But I think these political and economic events of these arresting days--late 2008--will do some very good things: (1) dismantle cookie-cutter definitions of what Rs and Ds stand for, and (2) modify notions of what government (thanks for buying all my banks, guys)--and markets--can and can't do. Americans may finally talk and solve problems without freeze-dried ideologies, party "identification", routine character assassination, and pop mantras being the main events and passions in their conversations--and the very source of their "ideas". Our politicians, "idea" tanks, mass media and U.S. television news--e.g., Fox and MSNBC--in particular have been doing just that.

Special note: Television news is supposed to give you information, not tell you what to think, or how to vote.

If you need a template to worship (i.e., organized religion), okay, fine. Faith is the hardest--not to mention often the most dangerous--activity for humans. But religion, and spirituality, is something we can do alone. We engage in politics, however, with one another; you can't do it fully in private, and you participate on the basis of reliable information presented fairly. When we start taking cues from the best-sounding available scripts by media-on-a-mission on how to vote, and how to govern ourselves, we are in really trouble.

A suggestion. American media would do well to get back in its box and, to the extent humanly possible, report facts and stop giving cues. U.S. journalists, including broadcast people, are some of the best educated, most traveled and admirably pedigreed citizens in the world. Hey, you folks know better. You do have some responsibilities to your less-polished viewers and readers.

It's going to happen anyway. People will start to think for themselves--and stop relying on the media, forced-PC cultures in all camps, party lines and platforms to instruct them on how they must think and feel. We need a New Conversation, free of certitude, either moral or intellectual, and worthy of the subtleties and complexities of the world we face.

Dinner, anyone?

Posted by JD Hull at October 17, 2008 05:33 AM


Excellent article Dan - don't know enough about US politics (although I follow as best I can) to comment in any detail

Enjoyed the Excessive PC points - points well made... and limousine liberal - excellent.

It has been fascinating to watch the debates and the coverage from over here - and it has had the side benefit of exposing me to a great deal more US writing, politics and news than might have been the case.

Yeah... sure... I'll stand you dinner when you are next in town! It would be a pleasure - I am a disappointed Labour voter in the UK. Brown is a nightmare - and while he enjoys a degree of bounce at the moment for 'saving the world' it is unlikely to continue. He cannot relate to people as people - and that is, I would have thought, important in politics.

Off to have an enjoyable weekend - but will, of course, be doing my postcards from the Boat.

Posted by: Charon QC at October 17, 2008 08:00 AM

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