John Zogby believes this election is historical. But I think Zogby confuses the novel with the good.
But think about it, a young African-American (with roots in Kenya, Indonesia, Hawaii and Kansas, certainly not the path taken by Chester A. Arthur or Calvin Coolidge) defeated a woman senator (from New York, Arkansas, Illinois and Washington, D.C.) for the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States.
And he is running against a 72-year-old former prisoner of war, who was tortured for five-and-a-half years.
Think about it. This is history. I have written before about the other historical aspects of the 2008 election-change like 1932 and 1980-but when the votes are finally tallied, records will be set, adding to records already established during the primary season.
So what does this tell us about ourselves? In short, Americans are ready for change, even if it means the oldest man ever elected to a first term or an African-American candidate. This election is very much the story of the maturing of a people.
Do these two choices show wisdom on the part of the electorate? Obama seems like a standard left-liberal with the added racial element to make him seem novel and a change. But the racial element is in large part a distraction from his liberal agenda. As for McCain's former POW status: I do not see how this somehow compensates for his aged brain, his lack of understanding (e.g. of economics and foreign affairs), or his temper. If we ignore their novelties they are not good candidates.
Lots of fools live in each of the place Obama has lived. A small number of wise people have as well. Some people develop a great understanding of the world without living lots of different places. Others live in lots of different places and come out none the better for their experience. Some people seem to have gained wisdom from suffering (Alexander Solzhenitsyn comes to mind). But maybe they would have become wise even without that suffering. Others get seriously damaged by their suffering and come out as unwise as they were when they started their ordeal.
I see Dwight D. Eisenhower as one of the most competent and successful of the US Presidents. He didn't suffer. His upbringing wasn't exotic (someone correct me if I'm wrong). He seemed outwardly a boring and conventional WASP. Yet he was a highly competent and wise president, far more competent than many of his critics saw him at the time. He entered the Presidency with a far greater record of accomplishment than the records of our two US Presidential candidates of 2008. His military service war far more relevant to the running of the country than McCain's service.
Suffering in a North Vietnamese prison was a horrible ordeal that gives me sympathy for McCain and others who went through that ordeal. But I fail to see how that ordeal makes McCain more competent to serve as President. Rather, I suspect the ordeal accelerated his brain and body's aging process and leaves him less fit to sit in the Oval Office and make decisions.
Update: I was watching David Broder interview George Will on C-SPAN today. George Will said that people end up feeling bitter about Presidents because prospective Presidents are oversold in terms of what they can reasonably hope to accomplish. The President is in charge of just one branch of one of our governments (other governments being at the state, county, and local level as well as assorted agencies that have separate sets of elected officials such as school boards). He says Obama has so unrealistically stoked expectations that he'll meet the same fate. Will also commented that the Presidency is not a sacerdotal office. In other words, it is not religious.
The sheer scale of incompetency that characterizes American politics and the American press strikes me as the most important political problem of our era. Steve Sailer reviews Karl Rove's incompetency.
The real problem for the GOP is less Hispanic voters than Hispanic leaders—92 percent of all elected Hispanic politicians are Democrats.
The reason for the 92% Democrats is obvious if you stop and think about it (which apparently nobody does): since most Hispanic citizens vote Democratic, most Hispanic-majority districts in the country are Democratic. And those are the ones in which Hispanics are most probable to get elected. So, it makes all the sense in the world for politically ambitious young Hispanics to join the party that's more likely to get them elected to office: the Democrats.
So, what Bush and Rove have been doing by not enforcing the immigration laws is helping create a new Democratic Latino elite that will plague the GOP for decades.
As politics, Rove's immigration ploy was negligent at the levels of simple logic and numeracy.
Sen. Mitch McConnell's close backing of President Bush on immigration and the Iraq war is costing him support among Kentucky Republicans, and, according to some party members, hurting his chances for re-election next year.
He even could face a primary challenge from former Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Forgy, who contends that Mr. McConnell's in-state problems are compounded by job losses to producers beyond America's borders.
Most of us are too young to remember what it was like to have a highly competent President of the United States who had excellent character.
In today's landscape of ideology-driven, scorched-earth political partisanship, Dwight D. Eisenhower looks like some extinct dinosaur from eons ago. Americans, to echo the famous campaign slogan, genuinely liked Ike. Europeans liked Ike. Michael Korda likes Ike, too, and after reading Ike: An American Hero, his mammoth biography, it's easy to see why: "Ike was an American from Abilene, but he was also a good European, perhaps even a great one; and his view of life was rooted in common sense, decency, and tolerance, not in ideology."
Whether as president during the 1950s or as Supreme Commander of Allied forces during World War II, Eisenhower developed productive working relationships with some of the most difficult personalities imaginable, including US Gen. George Patton, France's Charles DeGaulle, Winston Churchill, and British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery. Korda sums up Eisenhower's unique genius for working well with others: "Even his critics praised his fairness, his energy, his patience, his common sense ... and above all his matchless ability to deal with even the most difficult of prima donnas."
Imagine that George W. Bush and our current top generals all reported to Ike and that they came to see Ike to tell him that the US military would need years to withdraw from Iraq. Suppose they tried to tell Ike (as they lie to the American people) that the withdrawal would take years just because the logistics of trucking out so many men and so much material. Ike would fire the idiots. But today we get these idiots in the White House and serving as highest level officers in the Pentagon. We once were much better ruled.
Why this decline in level of competency at the top? World War II put Ike in a situation where his competence became widely known. I think one of the reasons we have less competent politicians today is that conditions afford fewer opportunities for demonstrating real competencies in areas touching on politics. People who demonstrate very high competency in business mostly would prefer to make money than run for public office. We seem to lack theaters for competency demonstration for those not aiming at wealth as their main ambition.
By the time he arrived in Prague in June for a democracy conference, President Bush was frustrated. He had committed his presidency to working toward the goal of "ending tyranny in our world," yet the march of freedom seemed stalled. Just as aggravating was the sense that his own government was not committed to his vision.
As he sat down with opposition leaders from authoritarian societies around the world, he gave voice to his exasperation. "You're not the only dissident," Bush told Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a leader in the resistance to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. "I too am a dissident in Washington. Bureaucracy in the United States does not help change. It seems that Mubarak succeeded in brainwashing them."
If Mubarak's propaganda is effective then Bush ought to stop and consider what this says about the limits to what we can expect democracy to accomplish. A democracy isn't much better than its voters. Well, real voters are pretty ignorant and most voters aren't high in IQ.
Although there is little to no record of this operation in Ike's official papers, one piece of historic evidence indicates how he felt. In 1951, Ike wrote a letter to Sen. William Fulbright (D) of Arkansas. The senator had just proposed that a special commission be created by Congress to examine unethical conduct by government officials who accepted gifts and favors in exchange for special treatment of private individuals.
General Eisenhower, who was gearing up for his run for the presidency, said "Amen" to Senator Fulbright's proposal. He then quoted a report in The New York Times, highlighting one paragraph that said: "The rise in illegal border-crossing by Mexican 'wetbacks' to a current rate of more than 1,000,000 cases a year has been accompanied by a curious relaxation in ethical standards extending all the way from the farmer-exploiters of this contraband labor to the highest levels of the Federal Government."
What a guy.