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1/18/2008
THE TOP TEN POLITICAL SPEECHES OF ALL TIME
CATEGORY: History, Politics

I am sick of writing about Mike Huckabee and his desperate, shameless pandering to South Carolinians. I am sick of politics in general. So today I want to write about something a little more uplifting.

Political oratory is not what it once was in America. This is understandable given the advent of television and the lessening attention span of the voter. Back in the day, a good political speech could run 2 hours or more. And in the days before microphones, that meant the orator would have to really belt it out, usually in a sing-song manner so that the diaphragm did most of the work. There was an art and artifice to oratory back then. Audiences came to expect the classical allusions, the histrionic hand waving, the tears, the posing - all tricks of the trade a good orator would have at his beck and call.

How on earth did people sit still for two hours to listen to a speech, you might ask? With the good ones, the people usually begged for more. Most politicians were proud of their ability to deliver a stemwinder of a speech and sway people to vote for them.

This is an outgrowth of the fact that most politicians began their careers as lawyers. In small town America, going to a courtroom was like going to the movies. Court watching was sophisticated entertainment for high born and low born alike.

There are numerous examples of defense attorneys getting a murderer off by giving a closing argument that blatantly appealed to the pity of the jurors or of prosecutors getting a jury to convict an innocent man by raising the jury’s bloodlust.

There were also traveling orators who, for a fee, would deliver appropriate remarks at funerals and holidays like the Fourth of July. Many times, these orators doubled as preachers - another place Americans liked to go to listen to a good speech.

It seems we Americans appreciated a good speech more than just about anything. Think of the Lincoln-Douglas debates where thousands turned out to hear the two men. And, of course, a half a million turned out to hear a Georgia preacher speak of a dream he had for America.

There are a couple of things that all great speeches have in common. 1.) The moment. The exact time in history where the speakers words will resonate. 2.) The backdrop. The place the speech is delivered amplifies its meaning. And 3.) The words. All great speeches are as inspiring when read as they are when delivered orally.

Here following are my personal top 10 political speeches in American history. The idea came from this list filed this morning in the Washington Post. I felt I could do much better.

I doubt whether any of my choices will be controversial although the ranking I give them will spark a healthy debate in the comments, I hope. Just take this little diversion for what it is - a hope that you are as fascinated with our past and the impact of the spoken word as I am.

10. Lincoln’s Second Inaugural

On March 4, 1865 the Civil War was finally winding down. Abraham Lincoln stood on the Capitol steps underneath the recently completed dome - a symbol of the country’s commitment to the Union.

Lincoln delivered one of the shortest but one of the most memorable inaugural addresses of all time. The peroration haunts us to this day:

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether’.

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Standing 15 feet away from Lincoln was John Wilkes Booth. The two would meet a month later in Ford’s Theater.

9. Patrick Henry “Give me liberty or give me death.”

On March 23, 1775, the British were occupying Boston and had declared martial law throughout the colony. A rabble rousing firebrand member of the House of Burgess named Patrick Henry stood up and, some believe, helped start a war. Others say he gave America a national consciousness that day. What he did was convince some very influential people - George Washington among them - that if the British could take away the rights of New Englanders they could do it to Virginians.

Henry’s bombastic, sneering, inspiring speech was a catalyst for Virgina to support Massachusetts and thus start the country down the road to independence. The peroration from Henry’s speech is what we most remember:

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, “Peace! Peace!” — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!

Gives me the chills reading it today.

8. Washington’s Speech before Congress Resigning his Commission

It was an act that stunned the Europeans and caused them to elevate Washington to hero status. A winning general simply resigning and going home? Such a thing had never been done - going all the way back to the Romans.

Washington, ever cognizant of his place in history and knowing full well what his self-abnegation would mean to the history books, nevertheless was quite sincere about going home. On December 23, 1783, he stood before Congress and with trembling hands, delivered a short, graceful speech that assured the strength of civilian rule and democracy in America:

Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.

7. Franklin Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address

March 4, 1933 saw the American experiment in ruins. More than 13 million unemployed. Industrial capacity at 50% of what it was pre-stock market crash. Banks closing, soup lines, suicides up - people had lost faith.

Franklin Roosevelt didn’t change things immediately. Indeed, unemployment was still at 10% more than 8 years later on December 7, 1941. But what Roosevelt offered was hope that things were going to get better. And for a people as optimistic as Americans historically are, that’s all that was needed.

Contrasted with the do-nothing Hoover administration, Roosevelt’s activism was a tonic that got America out of the doldrums and blunted much of the impetus for a communist revolution that in 1932 seemed a possibility. Here’s the passage everyone remembers:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself–nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

But it is his peroration that inspires:

We do not distrust the future of essential democracy. The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership. They have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I take it.

In this dedication of a Nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He protect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days to come.

6. Ronald Reagan at Point du Hoc

This speech is consistently ranked in the top 10 of the greatest of the 20th Century. And for good reason. It has all the elements I mentioned above that makes a great speech plus the drama of having the survivors of D-Day present to listen to it.

I challenge anyone - conservative or liberal - to watch this June 6, 1984 speech in its entirety and not get choked with emotion.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers — the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machineguns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After 2 days of fighting, only 90 could still bear arms.

Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there.

These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.

Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender’s poem. You are men who in your “lives fought for life . . . and left the vivid air signed with your honor.”

Video here. MP3 here.

5. Roosevelt Declaration of War Against Japan

In a voice shaking with emotion and indignation, Roosevelt threw down the gauntlet to the Japanese empire:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

Given before a joint session of Congress while men were still trapped below decks in many of the ships bombed at Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt’s peroration drew the loudest and most prolonged standing ovation of his career:

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

Roosevelt’s words awoke the “Sleeping Giant” by putting the war in terms of a crusade against the Japanese.

MP3 here. Note the applause at the beginning of the speech. Unbelievable.

4. William Jennings Bryan “Cross of Gold” Speech

You can draw a straight line from Bryan to John Edwards without deviating an inch. The angry populist wasn’t invented by Bryan but he carried the shtick all the way to the Democratic nomination in July of 1896.

Basically, some crackpot had come up with the idea that the problem of poverty in rural America could be fixed if only we had a lot more money in circulation. The way to do that was to go off the gold standard and make silver a sort of substitute. It was called “bimetalism” and would have set off an inflation panic that would have destroyed the economy.

But why let that stand in the way of personal ambition? Bryan, a relatively unknown ex-Congressman, got up to speak to the issue at the convention and quite simply wowed ‘em. A contemporary description of the reaction among the delegates:

His dramatic speaking style and rhetoric roused the crowd to a frenzy. The response, wrote one reporter, “came like one great burst of artillery.” Men and women screamed and waved their hats and canes. “Some,” wrote another reporter, “like demented things, divested themselves of their coats and flung them high in the air.” The next day the convention nominated Bryan for President on the fifth ballot.

The peroration sounds a helluva lot like Edwards at his angriest:

If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

Bryan was later humiliated at the Scopes Trial by Clarence Darrow and died a broken bitter old man.

3. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

He was invited as an after thought. The great orator of the time Edward Everett was slated to give the dedication with Lincoln invited to make a “few appropriate remarks.” Originally scheduled for September 23, 1863, Horton said he could hardly do justice to the event with such short notice. The organizers rescheduled for November 19th.

Everett’s two hour oration held the audience spellbound. It was a classic 19th century eulogy with allusions to the Greeks and the Romans, biblical quotes, and flowery language - all given in a booming voice so that all could hear.

Then the President of the United States rose and in his high pitched, tinny, nasally voice, spoke the words that redefined America for all time by greatly expanding the very definition of freedom:

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

No other speech in American history has accomplished so much by saying so little.

2. Kennedy Inaugural

Many historians believe that the January 20, 1961 Kennedy Inaugural address was the best of all time. I agree. The speech is a masterpiece of writing and Kennedy delivered it magnificently.

Beyond that, it was the time the speech was given that gave it such resonance. World War II vets were moving into positions of authority in business, in labor, in politics. The torch was indeed being passed to a new generation. And most Americans believed that the coming years would see a confrontation with the Soviet Union.

But little noticed by many is that the “young people” who flocked to Kennedy’s banner were not baby boomers. That group was too young. Rather it was the “tweeners” who were born between 1935 and 1945 who were too young for World War II and mostly too young for Korea (the Korean war ended in 1953) who supported him. The baby boomers adopted him after his death for the most part.

But Kennedy’s apparent youthfulness - something he cultivated religiously despite his poor health - inspired the entire population. His enthusiasm or “vigor” also was contagious. After the Eisenhower years, it was like the country woke up from a long nap.

The speech was a challenge to the country and to the Soviets. Reading it, one is struck by how bellicose it was - a cold warrior’s dream come true. And its stirring call to sacrifice for the common good - so often misused by Democrats when they call upon the people to help the poor or pay more in taxes - was actually an echo of the kind of sacrifice the country made during World War II.

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Kennedy is referring to the coming confrontation with the Soviets - that he makes quite clear he wishes to avoid but has no illusions about the enemy.

Echoes of this speech are still heard today making it a truly historic speech that deserves its ranking.

Video here.

1. Martin Luther King “I have a dream”

No speech in American history - and few in world history - had the immediate and lasting impact of King’s words on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that 28th day of August, 1963. It electrified both black and white Americans and was the catalyst for passing two extremely important pieces of legislation; the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act.

But beyond the practical effects of the speech, the uplifting, spiritual nature of the words as well as King’s thundering delivery made the speech almost biblical in its incantations:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

King had the ability to hold a mirror up to white America so that they were forced to confront their shame. In many respects, he was almost like a biblical prophet. And his words, with their spectacular imagery and inspirational message poured over the listeners like a cool, refreshing rain.

The man, the moment, the backdrop, and the words all came together that August day to deliver what I consider the greatest speech in American history.

Video here.

By: Rick Moran at 8:56 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (28)

THE ANTI-SOUND BITE CANDIDATE
CATEGORY: Decision '08, FRED!

This article originally appears in The American Thinker

Fred Thompson is not the most inspiring speaker in the GOP race for President. Nor is he the best looking or the smoothest talking among the candidates running. He doesn’t have Mitt Romney’s hair or Mike Huckabee’s glibness. He isn’t as aggressively positive as Rudy Giuliani. And while his personal story is compelling, it can’t compete with John McCain’s inspirational journey from POW to the gates of the White House.

But Fred Thompson is perhaps the most substantitive candidate to run for President in many years. He has taken the time to think about what should be the relationship between the government and the governed. He has framed his thoughts within the context of a set of bedrock conservative principles that animates his thinking and generates sound ideas about where America should be headed.

There is a heft to Thompson, a seriousness of purpose that none of the other candidates can match. It is most pronounced during the debates where Thompson’s answers to questions are more subtle and nuanced than those of his rivals. His sometimes laconic style zings his opponents with brutal accuracy.. Often, the candidate will answer a question by stating “Yep” or “Nope” and pause a few seconds to gather his thoughts. What follows is almost always coherent and is informed by years of experience in government.

His now famous moment during the Des Moines Register debate where he refused to raise his hand like a schoolboy when the moderator asked who believed in global warming was a metaphor for the entire Thompson campaign; keeping the Mickey Mouse to a minimum while trying to be as substantative as possible with the voters. In short, Thompson is running the campaign his way and not in a manner dictated by any previous candidate’s success or any criticism that comes his way from media pundits.

His well thought out policy positions - “White Papers” the campaign calls them - have won him almost universal praise from souces as wildly divergent as the Washington Post and the National Review.

For instance, the Wall Street Journal had this to say about Thompson’s tax plan:

“However, what’s refreshing about the Thompson plan is that it goes well beyond the current Republican mantra to make “the Bush tax cuts permanent.” That is certainly needed, but the GOP also needs a more ambitious agenda, especially with economic growth slowing. The flat tax has the added political benefit of assaulting the special interests who populate the Gucci Gulch outside Congress’s tax-writing committee rooms. Lower rates and simplify the tax code, and you instantly reduce the opportunities for Beltway corruption. It is both a tax policy and political reform.

ABC had this to say about his plan to save Social Security:

Republican presidential contender Fred Thompson’s plan to save Social Security and protect seniors, which he introduced Friday afternoon in a Washington, D.C., hotel, differs starkly from standard election year pablum on the subject in one key way: He’s actually treating voters like adults.

If all of this is true, why is Fred Thompson fighting for his political life this Saturday in the South Carolina primary?

It is a question that, if Thompson’s bid falls short, will be asked by many who saw the former Tennessee senator’s entry into the race as a godsend. In the end, the candidate must look to his own efforts and the way the campaign began.

Leaving aside the question of whether Thompson’s September entry into the race could be considered “too late” there is the reality of how that campaign was conducted. Looking back, one could see it was unfocused, even aimless, in its first weeks with the candidate himself trying to find his voice. His early efforts were spotty and sometimes dreadfully boring. By many reports, voters came away perplexed and not a little disappointed.

Thompson’s socratic style of addressing those early crowds was a good way to discuss issues on a substantive level but a lousy way to run for president. Voters more attuned to snappy, one sentence solutions to the problems of the world coming from other candidates found that when listening to Thompson, they had to think, not react emotionally.

In this way, Thompson appealed to people more on an intellectual level. This was fine as far as it went but it brought him few converts and elicited nothing but contempt from the media.

How often have we heard the refrain that the American people wanted a campaign that dealt with issues not personalities? Well, here was Fred Thompson supposedly giving people what we were told they wanted and his once robust poll numbers began to plummet. Seeking an explanation, reporters and pundits who saw Thompson arrived at the conclusion that the candidate didn’t want it bad enough, that he had no “fire in the belly,” that he hated campaigning and didn’t extend himself as the other candidates were doing.

There may be a glimmer of truth in some of that conventional wisdom. Perhaps the candidate believed it was enough that he put his ideas on the table and let the American people decide whether or not they were worthy of consideration. Indeed, Thompson has said as much in the past. What perhaps the candidate didn’t realize is that fighting for those ideas and tying them to overarching themes is the most effective way to reach the voter.

But for whatever reason - the befuddlement of the press over his style of campaigning or a perceived lack of energy and desire - the candidate found himself at the end of November trailing badly in the polls. It was then that the campaign seemed to find itself and Thompson found those themes as well as his issues and tied them together. Crowds began to react more positively. It appeared the candidate himself was more energized and active.

But Thompson was pushing against weeks of very negative press and a conventional wisdom that had all but written him off. It was a daunting task to turn the campaign around but he has. Now he must convince voters in South Carolina and beyond that the conventional wisdom about his candidacy is wrong and that he deserves a second look.

His most recent appearances in South Carolina have shown an entirely different candidate than the one who appeared unfocused and low key during the first three months of his campaign. He has now found his mission; that the campaign is for the heart and soul of the Republican party and the future of the old Reagan coalition. When speaking in this vein, the candidate exudes a passion that may have been lacking in his earlier campaign stops. It carries over into his contrasting the records of his opponents with his own as he hammers away at their lack of true conservative credentials. He still talks specifics and issues but in a way that delineates his positions from those of his rivals. In short, he has found the bridge between a way to campaign effectively without sacrificing his belief that the voters hunger for substance in their candidate.

Thompson still pauses and thinks before he answers questions either from the media or voters. He speaks in complete sentences. He treats voters like “adults” as ABC mentioned above. In this sense, he is the anti-soundbite candidate. Whether Thompson’s no-nonsense approach to campaigning will give him victory will depend largely on whether voters are moved to support a man who views running for president not as the fullfillment of raw ambition but as a chance to serve the people.

By: Rick Moran at 6:52 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)

1/17/2008
THE COUNCIL HAS SPOKEN

The votes are in from this week’s Watchers Council and the winner in the Council category is “Britain’s Prosecution of The Blogger Lionheart for Criticism of Islam” by Wolf Howling. Finishing second was “Getting a “Clue”" by Soccer Dad.

Coming out on top in the Non Council category was Andy Olmsteds emotional farewell written with the knowledge that the piece wouldn’t be published unless he perished on the battlefields of Iraq. It was published by his good friend Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings.

If you’d like to participate in the weekly Watchers vote, go here and follow instructions.

By: Rick Moran at 10:38 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

TELL US WHAT YOU REALLY THINK, MATT
CATEGORY: Moonbats

Holy Mother! I knew Matt Stoller was a crass, spiteful, hate filled partisan hack whose rants against Bush, Republicans and conservatives are usually tinged with a touch of deranged wackiness that causes the reader to giggle while wondering about his mental health.

But his latest is truly a masterpiece of looniness.

Reagan was a psychotic man who nearly blew up the world and used paranoia and fear to change our culture and government in horrible ways. He also wasn’t particularly popular, though as a politician, he’s worth admiring for his raw political skill. Conservative ideology is based on greed and fear. There’s no such thing as a good conservative leader, period. It is a fundamentally bankrupt, corrupt, and fraudulent ideology, and there is nothing laudable about people like Reagan who tap into the worst of America.

There’s no sense trying parse any of that for the simple reason that Stoller is beyond rationality, beyond reason, and beyond hope. I assume even most liberals - classical liberals rather than the unbalanced internet variety of Stalinist mongrels - would find much to disagree with as far as his personal bric-a-bracs tossed at conservatives. As far as conservative ideology, I know several liberals who admire Locke and who find much to think about and are not entirely dismissive of Kirk. And, of course, there are many liberals who admire Reagan for a variety of reasons - even though they disagree strenuously with many of his policies.

The point being is that Stoller and the grumpy cohort of internet “progressives” who cheer him on still believe themselves to be tolerant, enlightened, mature members of the human race. And yet, to agree with someone so wildly out of touch with human decency and devoid of empathy brands Stoller and his cheering section as spoiled, petulant, bratty children whose emotional growth stopped at around age 6.

Stoller offers not a shred of proof for any of his charges against Reagan or conservatives in his diatribe. Neither do small children when ranting about not getting that flexible flyer sled for which they asked Santa. It is not necessary to offer proof when spouting emotionally charged epithets on the left. What’s important is the emoting itself - as if sticking out your tongue and calling people names is an important act in and of itself. You’re speaking truth to power, man. Why bother with rational thought when screaming like a kid with wet diapers gets just as much attention?

Yes, I know there are so many more important things to write about. But the next time Stoller goes off on a conservative Republican for being “hateful,” most of the rest of us will remember this little screed and smile a wry smile of satisfied amusement.

By: Rick Moran at 6:30 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

FRED ON THE MOVE IN SC: IS IT ENOUGH?
CATEGORY: Decision '08, FRED!

Two polls out today show Fred Thompson picking up a head of steam and moving toward the leaders.

A PPP poll out today (sampling from yesterday) shows Fred in a virtual tie for second with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee:

Public Policy Polling South Carolina Republican Primary (PDF warning)

McCain - 28%
Huckabee - 20%
Romney - 18%
Thompson - 17%
Paul - 4%
Giuliani - 4%

And Zogby’s 4 day tracking poll has Fred moving up also, passing Romney for third place:

Zogby South Carolina GOP Primary Poll

John McCain 29% (-)
Mike Huckabee 22% (-1)
Fred Thompson 14% (+2)
Mitt Romney 12% (-1)
Ron Paul 5% (-)
Rudy Giuliani 5% (-1)

Historically, a candidate that is surging sees a lag in poll numbers of a couple of days because of the way polls are conducted. Even a tracking poll will have a slight lag for similar reasons.

Other polls released in the past few days show Fred in a slightly worse position. But if you take out the highs and lows while averaging Fred’s support it would appear that Thompson is virtually tied for third with Romney with Fred’s numbers going up, Huckabees going down, and McCain staying pretty much the same (about a 6 point lead over Huckabee).

Romney took one look at this situation and headed for Nevada. Declaring McCain the winner in South Carolina, Mitt will race around Nevada until the Saturday Caucuses, trying to build on his narrow lead over McCain in that state.

Meanwhile, Fred is still splitting the anti-McCain vote in South Carolina three ways and is desperately trying to peel supporters away from Huckabee.

It’s working. But is it working fast enough for Fred to win in South Carolina?

The answer is almost certainly no. Another week and who knows? But the primary is 48 hours away and I don’t think he can cut into McCain’s lead enough to overtake him. The Arizona senator has what Zogby calls a “very stable” lead. It would be the upset of the campaign season if Fred were to beat him.

I do think, however, that a strong second place is within Thompson’s grasp. Huckabee is changing his positions on issues almost every news cycle now, trying to stop the bleeding. What I’m sure he sees in his own polls is Fred’s surge and the fact that being hammered on immigration and taxes is playing very well for Fred in the state.

And cheer up, Fredheads. I think a second place for Thompson means a ticket to Florida and probably Super Tuesday. Why should Fred drop out when nothing has been decided and he has proven he can come back? There’s another debate before the Florida primary and lord knows what Fred will come up with for that one. Probably has the rest of them wondering too.

I predict Fred will get into the low 20’s on primary day. Considering he was single digits in South Carolina earlier this month, that would be a stupendous comeback. And in this, the wackiest primary season in a while, none of the top 5 candidates can really be consigned to the dustbin of history quite yet.

UPDATE

Allah links the Quin Hillyer fantasy piece in American Spectator and wonders what stage of the grief process he’s in over the imminent demise of Fred’s candidacy.

Color me between denial and bargaining. I’d sell my soul for a Fred win.

By: Rick Moran at 12:36 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (17)

OBAMA PRAISES REAGAN AS “SINGULAR FIGURE”
CATEGORY: General

This blog post originally appears in The American Thinker

Hard to guess what Obama’s game is here but in an interview with the Reno-Gazette editorial board, the Democratic contender for the nomination praised Ronald Reagan and gave some decidedly un-progressive reasons for his admiration:

I don’t want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. I think part of what’s different are the times. I do think that for example the 1980 was different. I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.

(Transcription from video courtesy of Open Left)

Many heads exploding today on the left. Matt Stoller:

It is extremely disturbing to hear, not that Obama admires Reagan, but why he does so. Reagan was not a sunny optimist pushing dynamic entrepreneurship, but a savvy politician using a civil rights backlash to catapult conservatives to power. Lots of people don’t agree with this, of course, since it doesn’t fit a coherent narrative of GOP ascendancy. Masking Reagan’s true political underpinning principles is a central goal of the conservative movement, with someone as powerful as Grover Norquist seeking to put Reagan’s name on as many monuments as possible and the Republican candidates themselves using Reagan’s name instead of George Bush’s in GOP debates as a mark of greatness. Why would the conservative movement create such idolatry around Reagan? Is is because they just want to honor a great man? Perhaps that is some of it. Or are they trying to escape the legacy of the conservative movement so that it can be rebuilt in a few years, as they did after Nixon, Reagan, and Bush I?

Mr. Stoller cannot be taken seriously if he actually believes that conservatives are trying to "escape the legacy of the conservative movement so that it can be rebuilt in a few years…" That’s the kind of shallow, vapid analysis one would expect from a partisan hack like Stoller but does not reflect the reality of what is happening on the right.

Indeed, others on the left have been pushing this notion that Reagan’s success as a politician was due almost entirely to his pandering to southern whites and playing the race card:

No, Ronald Reagan didn’t appeal to people’s optimism, he appealed to their petty, small minded bigotry and selfishness. Jimmy Carter told people to tighten their energy belts and act for the good of the country; Ronald Reagan told them they could guzzle gas with impunity and do whatever the hell they wanted. He kicked off his 1980 campaign talking about "state’s rights" in Philadelphia, Mississippi — the site of the murder of three civil rights workers in 1964’s Freedom Summer. He thus put up a welcome sign for Reagan Democrats, peeling off white voters who were unhappy with the multi-ethnic coalition within the Democratic Party.

Only those ignorant of the concept of federalism and Reagan’s commitment to turning back the tide of federal control - not in matters of civil rights - but in education and other areas where there was federal overreach. would posit the notion that Reagan was giving a “green light” to racists.

In fact, Obama’s analysis would seem to validate Reagan’s critique - that the government had “grown and grown but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating.” This disconent was fed by people like Carter who talked consistently about America’s better days being behind it and that we must learn to live with less. With that kind of attitude, there would still be a Soviet Union today and America would probably look a lot like it.

The hard left will never understand Reagan nor what his revolution was about or what it has wrought. Obama has made one of the more astute moves of the campaign - if he isn’t forced to backtrack and qualify his words about Reagan. By invoking The Gipper, he establishes a powerful connection with a true agent of change - despite the fact that his policies would serve to undermine most of what Reagan accomplished and represented. As long as he sticks with generalities and platitudes, he can obscure that part of his program.

Obama’s surprising words about Reagan won’t garner him too many GOP votes. But it will soften his image so that he doesn’t look like quite the progressive ogre many on the right would like to paint him.

ADDENDUM

Edwards may be able to get away with trashing Obama for these words of praise for Reagan but one wonders what the Great Triangulator is going to say about it.

Many moderates and independents are also fond of the The Gipper and in a general election, Hillary needs those votes to win. My guess is, if pressed, Hillary will say something like “I wouldn’t have put it quite that way…” and then acknowledge Reagan’s optimism and skill as a politician.

Meanwhile, the netnuts are beside themselves. I’ll have more reaction in a while as the wailing and gnashing of teeth continues.

By: Rick Moran at 8:42 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (11)

1/16/2008
OF “GOD’S STANDARDS” AND CONSERVATISM
CATEGORY: Decision '08, Ethics

Mike Huckabee has said some very strange things this campaign season - mostly to obscure his center-left record as a tax and spend populist while governor of Arkansas. But during his speech Monday night in front of his most fervent supporters in Michigan, Huckabee said something that revealed perhaps the true nature of his candidacy and what it means for America and his brand of “conservatism:”

“[Some of my opponents] do not want to change the Constitution, but I believe it’s a lot easier to change the constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that’s what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards,” Huckabee said, referring to the need for a constitutional human life amendment and an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

The Reverend Huckabee must be a privileged individual indeed to know the mind of God. I suppose it’s all a matter of interpretation; some people might violently disagree with the good reverend about just what those “standards” of God might be. But since Reverend Huckabee has been given the grace to see the light and pronounce the one true list of standards God has set for us then I guess the debate is over and we can simply bow to his superior insights and extra special holiness.

Christian conservatives are fond of saying that their critics don’t want freedom of religion but freedom from religion. In the grossest sense I suppose that’s true. But those making that argument ignore the ramifications of what they are proposing when protesting that they only want to be able to practice their religion in the public square. If that’s all there was too it, I doubt that too many Americans would be uneasy or even fearful. But then along comes Mike Huckabee talking about basically establishing God’s kingdom here in America by amending our Constitution to reflect his idea of “God’s standards” in moral behavior and even Christian evangelicals must look in askance at the Reverend’s candidacy.

As a conservative, I stand on the side of tradition so that when headline seeking atheists and their buddies at the ACLU initiate some unnecessary court action to remove a creche that has been placed in front of some city hall for a hundred years or a cross that has stood atop a mountain for 80 years and has become the centerpiece of a Korean War memorial, I stand with the Christians in complete confidence that I am living up to my conservative ideals. But Huckabee’s all too revealing utterance about exactly how he seeks to accomplish his idea of a “just moral order” should cause every conservative worth their stripes to denounce the candidate’s words and deplore his candidacy.

The impulse that drives Huckabee and his supporters is not a conservative one. It is a statist impulse - a desire to use the power of the government to enforce arbitrary standards of moral behavior on the rest of us. It is taking the conservative dictum requiring a moral order for justice to thrive and twisting the concept to allow for one group to not only dictate morality but also impose their own, necessarily narrow view of justice.

For my lefty friends who may not be familiar with conservative philosophy, I can assure you that going all the way back to Locke and coming forward to the present, you will not find Mr. Huckabee’s notion of state imposed religious standards for either personal behavior or law anywhere. It is, as Andy McCarthy of NRO puts rather mildly, anti-Democratic in the extreme:

Lisa, it’s really infuriating if you’ve had the experience — as I have — of being portrayed at various panels as part of the “American Taliban” for defending the purportedly Islamophobic efforts to root out Muslim terrorists. Part of my usual response, as a demonstration of how nuts this accusation is, focuses on the Taliban, their imposition of sharia (i.e., God’s law), and the marked contrast to our system’s bedrock guarantee of freedom of conscience.

Huckabee is made to order for the Left: his rhetoric embodies their heretofore lunatic indictment that we’re no better that what we’re fighting against. Let’s “amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards”? Who needs to spin when the script speaks for itself? Where has Huck been for the last seven years? Does he not get that our enemies — the people who want to end our way of life — believe they are simply imposing God’s standards?

McCarthy’s reference to a “bedrock guarantee of freedom of conscience” is, in fact, the essence of conservatism. Huckabee apparently rejects this basic freedom as not being up to “God’s standards” and seeks to substitute a capricious slavishness to a single, dominant, narrow moral criterion that brooks no questions because it establishes itself from God.

As McCarthy points out, this is exactly the same thing our enemies wish to impose upon us and the rest of the world. Who cares if it comes from a devout Christian or a devout Muslim. The effect is the same.

The friction between genuine conservatives (even genuine social conservatives) and Huckabee and his acolytes is the story of this election. The Huckabites feel they are being put upon for their religious beliefs. Not hardly. In fact, most Christian conservatives are not supporting Mr. Huckabee. Where the fracture is occurring is in the Huckabites contention that their narrow, warped view of conservatism should dominate and rule the Republican party, that their issues should be given superior weight to other conservative issues.

Giving in to them would betray everything most of the conservative movement stands for. And giving them the leadership of the party would be a catastrophe for conservatism and for the country.

I would suggest those conservatives who prior to this had been taken in by Mr. Huckabee’s easy smile and winning personality to think twice before voting for this charlatan.

By: Rick Moran at 4:35 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (17)

THE GOP RACE IS A MESS
CATEGORY: PJ Media

My latest PJ Media column is up. It’s on the Michigan primary and the mess that is the GOP race for president.

A sample:

Each successive contest in the Republican primary gauntlet has shown that GOP voters are dissatisfied with their choices and have very little idea of who should lead them. They tried on the center-left populism of Mike Huckabee’s religious crusade of a candidacy and didn’t like the fit. They decisively rejected the maverick McCain in Michigan. Now they’re tasting Romney a la King and will decide whether to enjoy the repast or send it back to the chef for being overdone.

Meanwhile, the Democrats watch the Republicans deflating and are rubbing their hands together in anticipation of running against a GOP candidate that elicits little enthusiasm among the rank and file. And while the Democrats have their own problems with trying to resist the temptation to play identity politics with their African American and female candidates, they will have no difficulty energizing their own base whoever the nominee might be.

The aimlessness of Republicans as they continue to search for a leader is not a catastrophe – at the moment. But if the GOP can’t make up its mind prior to the end of the primaries, the small but not impossible chance that they would enter their convention in September without a nominee stares them in the face.

By: Rick Moran at 8:45 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (16)

1/15/2008
“THE RICK MORAN SHOW - LIVE” 2 HOUR ELECTION NIGHT SPECIAL

Join me tonight for a two hour special edition of The Rick Moran Show. We’ll go live from 7:00 - 9:00 PM Central time to talk about the Michigan primary and beyond.

In the first hour, I will welcome Sean Hackbarth, Director of on line media for the Fred Thompson campaign. Sean will discuss the recent surge in Thompson’s fortunes in South Carolina.

The second hour I will once again welcome my comrade from The American Thinker Rich Baehr who is the National Political Correspondent for that fine publication. Rich and I will analyze the Michigan results and talk about what comes next in this wacky primary season.

If you’d like to call in to the show, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

You can access the live stream by clicking on the button below:

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

A podcast will be available for downloading or streaming shortly after the show ends.

Also, make sure you visit our chat room and get involved in the discussion.

UPDATE

It as a great show. Sean and I had a great time taking shots at Huckabee while Rich was his usual brilliant self.

You can access the podcast stream or download it by clicking the button above. Or you can stream it here:

By: Rick Moran at 6:06 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

KATIE COURIC - JOURNALIST?
CATEGORY: Media

Whatever they’re paying her, it’s way too much.

Watch this candid video of Katie Couric “anchoring” CBS coverage of New Hampshire. The breathtaking ignorance of the candidates, the issues, even her medium of television is so pronounced that one wonders how anyone that bad could actually have the hubris to appear on camera every night.

She is that bad.

At one point she says “I don’t know much about Huckabee.” At another, she carefully rehearses what she is going to ask the remote reporter.

It is a shocking, depressing thought that this woman is sitting in the same chair as Douglas Edwards, Cronkite, and Rather. Say what you will about the relative biases of those gentlemen, they were journalists to the core of their beings. Douglas Edwards literally invented the TV anchor position, bringing journalistic standards to the job honed through a career that included covering D-Day. Cronkite reported for Stars and Stripes during World War II and picked up with CBS toward the end of the conflict. Rather was in Dallas on November 22, 1963 and knew his way around a newsroom before ever going on the air.

And now…Katie Couric? A brainless twit of a woman whose ignorance of the personalities and issues she is reporting on makes her unfit to cover an American election.

Put the broad on the weather desk. Or maybe she could do sports. She and Olbermann were made for each other.

By: Rick Moran at 5:26 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)