Category Archives: Today on our opinion pages

Endorsing Lindsey Graham


It is perhaps ironic that while his buddy McCain is struggling so, Lindsey Graham is coasting to easy re-election. Of course, if McCain only had to win South Carolina, he’d be sitting pretty, too. (Although I don’t for a moment believe he’ll win by 20 points, as that poll said the other day.)

Anyway, for your perusal, here’s our endorsement of Graham from today’s paper.

And just to give y’all a little extra something for coming to the blog, here’s a video clip from an interview we had with Sen. Graham in our offices on Oct. 6. This was just before the second presidential debate — in fact, the senator was on his way to Nashville to help McCain with debate prep — and I had just asked him about Sarah Palin. Essentially, I’d aked why her and not Joe Lieberman, and did he not think she had hurt the ticket?


Cindi’s ‘undecided’ column

    Cindi was off on Friday when I wrote my Sunday column, but asked me to fax it to her. She promptly told me that my original draft had described her role in the endorsement discussion inaccurately. I had correctly put her statement that she might sorta kinda be leaning to Obama AFTER she asked me whether a tie would prevent us from endorsing, but I had failed to get in the cause-and-effect relationship, which was that she wouldn’t even have said that much if I had said her vote would deadlock us. So we negotiated new language. But apparently I still didn’t fully communicate the depth of her neutrality, since some folks in their comments counted her as a pro-Obama vote. She insists, in this column and in private conversation, that she is still torn and undecided.

    I know from long experience with you partisans out there that you can’t possibly imagine that a thinking person could be undecided. And what’s particularly amazing in this case is that Cindi is seldom without a strongly held opinion. But be nice to her, folks. I understand her completely. I have decided whom to vote for in presidential elections more than once in the voting booth itself. So be patient with Cindi; she’s in an uncomfortable place. Also, I’ve probably already teased her about it more than a supervisor should.

    Anyway, add this to the overall endorsement package, along with the endorsement itself, my column, Warren’s column, and all the stuff that’s been said here on the blog.

Undecided, and awaiting an epiphany
Associate Editor
I BOUGHT myself two weeks by copping out when our editorial board decided whom to endorse for president. For all the good it’s done so far.
    One week to go, and I remain an undecided voter.
    I’ve never been in this position before. Never stayed on the sidelines in an important endorsement decision before.
    Oh, I’ve been undecided about what I would do in the voting booth. But that indecision wasn’t over which candidate to support; it was over whether I could hold my nose hard enough to cast my ballot for the candidate I agreed we should endorse, or whether to leave that race blank. What’s different this time is that I want to vote for both the candidates.
    Neither is clearly superior in my mind. Both John McCain and Barack Obama bring an approach to politics that is sorely lacking in Washington and, increasingly, throughout our nation. They see it not as a game to win — and certainly not as an opportunity to demolish “the other side” — but rather as a way to debate issues and reach conclusions that are best for our country. Both have shown they’re willing to look beyond party labels and rigid ideologies; Sen. McCain has a much clearer track record on this score, but at the same time, he  has strayed further during this campaign than has Sen. Obama. If for no other reason than their approach to politics, I believe that either man would greatly improve our nation.
    I much prefer Sen. McCain’s approach to foreign policy; not a week has passed since 9/11 when I have not bemoaned how much better off our country, and our world, would be had he been elected in 2000. But over the past year, we have watched Sen. Obama grow more responsible on the topic; he has demonstrated that he will surround himself with smart advisers, and Colin Powell’s decision to endorse him certainly has reduced my worries. I believe that either candidate would greatly improve our standing in the world, which would improve our world.
    I prefer Sen. Obama’s approach to domestic policy. He’s further to the left than I find comfortable, but I believe our nation has swung far too far right — dismantling regulatory systems, adopting policies that have produced the greatest wealth disparity in modern history between workers and executives; and say what you will about Sen. Obama’s health insurance plan, Sen. McCain’s would dismantle the very notion of “insurance.” (David Brooks’ fine column on the facing page does a much better job explaining where I’m coming from — on all but insurance — than I can.)
    What worries me is that a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress would swing the pendulum too far left — just as the Republican president and Congress swung it too far right. I do believe Sen. McCain would be far more willing to work with a Democratic Congress to make pragmatic changes than the current president ever has been, but I also believe that if the Democrats went too far, the voters would put Republicans back in charge of the House, the Senate or both in two years.
    I’m not sure that a more activist government isn’t what our nation needs right now. Both candidates have come to realize that we can no longer take such a laissez-faire approach to the financial markets. But we also need a president who believes in regulation even when the bottom isn’t falling out. One who believes the Consumer Product Safety Commission needs to actually look out for the safety of consumer products, rather than seeking to further dismantle the agency even when defective Chinese products are flooding our markets. One who believes the Agriculture Department should actually try to protect consumers from mad cow disease, rather than protecting the cattle industry from those who would protect us. I think Sen. Obama sees this; Sen. McCain, on the other hand, has a track record of pushing for deregulation, although he is much more a pragmatist than a devoted member of the Church of the Free Market.
    What I am not considering in making my decision is the venom being spewed by the so-called supporters of each candidate. Every new e-mail with the doctored photos and clumsily concocted “facts” about Sen. Obama’s alleged Muslim heritage pushes me a little toward voting for him — if only to disassociate myself from the racists who peddle such lies. But there are equal and opposing forces pushing me back toward Sen. McCain — most notably those self-satisfied souls who proclaim that the only reason anyone could possibly not vote for Sen. Obama is racism; what utter nonsense.
    These aren’t supporters. They are opponents of the other candidate, the other party, of anyone who doesn’t share their opinions.
    When Sarah Palin speaks glibly of Mr. Obama “palling around” with “domestic terrorists,” I am turned off; she’s counting on people assuming that he really is “palling around,” and doing it with Islamic terrorists. Sen. Obama and his campaign haven’t been nearly as misleading — you don’t have to be when you’re leading in the polls — although this “third term of George Bush” nonsense is wearing.
    What would help me decide? An epiphany, I suppose.
    But I’m not holding my breath. The last one of those I had was the sudden realization that there aren’t a lot of epiphanies to go around, that what we have to do is make a decision and act on it — act on it as though we had an epiphany.
    Fortunately, there’s no wrong decision this time around.

Ms. Scoppe can be reached at or at (803) 771-8571.

Photos I did NOT use with ‘Palin and sexual attraction’ column


eing a responsible editor and all, I resisted the temptation to choose any of these pictures when I was looking for art to go with Kathleen Parker’s column on the theory that McCain picked Palin because… well, because guys can’t think straight in the presence of a good-looking woman.

An excerpt from the column in question:

As my husband observed early on,
McCain the mortal couldn’t mind having an attractive woman all but singing arias to his greatness. Cameras frequently capture McCain beaming like a gold-starred schoolboy while Palinsex2Palin tells crowds that he is “exactly the kind of man I want as commander in chief.” This, notes Draper, “seemed to confer not only valor but virility on a 72-year-old politician who only weeks ago barely registered with the party faithful.”

It is entirely possible that no one could have beaten the political force known as Barack Obama — under any circumstances. And though it isn’t over yet, it seems clear that McCain made a tragic, if familiar, error under that sycamore tree. Will he join the pantheon of men who, intoxicated by a woman’s power, made the wrong call?

Had Antony not fallen for Cleopatra, Octavian might not have captured the Roman Empire. Had Bill resisted Monica, Al Gore may have become president and Hillary might be today’s Democratic nominee.

Palinsex3But they didn’t — resist those women, that is. Guys seldom do. Certain things make us stupid, and
Kathleen maintains this was one of those things.

Hey, but at least I resisted using these pictures, right? That shows that there’s still such a thing as decorum in a family newspaper.

Of course, I did save them, to share with y’all. Don’t tell the ladies, though, guys…


More about the McCain endorsement

MANY WHO KNOW my views — and between my columns and my blog, readers probably know my mind better than they do any other editor’s of their acquaintance — assumed all along that we would endorse John McCain.
    I’ve made it clear many times that I thought we should have done so in 2000 (in the GOP primary). And my belief in his suitability remains undiminished, despite much that has happened in this general election campaign. (I found both Sen. McCain and Barack Obama more appealing running against the angry elements in their respective parties, rather than as their standard-bearers.) My judgments tend to be cumulative, based on years of observation more than the spin cycle topic of the day.
    But to assume this endorsement was inevitable is to presume to know more than I did.
    First, I am not the editorial board; I merely preside over it. Associate Editors Warren Bolton (whose strong, eloquent dissenting opinion is on the facing page) and Cindi Ross Scoppe both have their say, as does my boss, President and Publisher Henry Haitz. To absurdly condense a two-hour discussion: Henry and I favored McCain, Warren preferred Obama, and Cindi wasn’t sure — and she is seldom unsure about anything. She asked me whether a tie meant no endorsement, or whether Henry’s and my votes outweighed hers and Warren’s. I acknowledged that if it came to that, yes — our votes counted more. (In 2000, the board was evenly split between Bush and McCain, with our then-publisher on one side and me on the other, so I lost.) Only when she thought the matter was thus settled did she say she thought she was leaning ever so slightly toward Sen. Obama. She remains torn. (She plans her own column on the subject for next week.)
    So this was not a foregone conclusion. But lest you think we’re terribly divided, remember that we unanimously and enthusiastically endorsed both McCain and Obama in their respective primaries in January. We just split over which we like more.
    Even if I had had to decide all alone, I would have struggled with not endorsing Barack Obama. I meant every word that we said in praising him in January. Also, ever since I became editorial page editor in 1997, I have looked forward to the day that we could break the paper’s long pattern of endorsing Republicans for president, if only because in some people’s minds, that makes us a “Republican newspaper,” and I find it deeply distasteful to be identified with either party. Yes, I can point to the fact that in my tenure, we have endorsed slightly more Democrats than Republicans — and we spend far more time on those state and local races than we do on the presidential. But people attach huge importance to the presidential endorsement — many don’t pay attention to anything else. So I’ve hoped for years that the national Democratic Party would give us a nominee we could support.
    Barack Obama is that Democrat. We would happily endorse him over Mitt Romney, or Rudy Giuliani, or Mike Huckabee — and certainly over the current occupant of the White House.
    But he was up against the one Republican who happens to be the national political figure I respect and admire most, and have wanted to see in the White House for at least a decade. So his timing couldn’t have been worse.
    I don’t regret endorsing John McCain one bit; I’m proud to see this day. But I hate missing the chance to endorse Obama.
    Beyond that, let me briefly address several questions that came up on my blog after we posted our endorsement online Friday (I answer them more fully on the blog itself):
    Why does the endorsement not talk about the current economic crisis? Because it doesn’t figure in our preference for Sen. McCain. Both senators backed the $700 billion rescue plan, which I think they were right to do. Beyond that, I remain unconvinced that either of them has a better idea what to do next than the other. I wish I did, but I don’t. So I consider their positions on this critical issue something of a wash, and therefore out of place in the endorsement.
    Why so many words about the Colombian Free Trade Agreement? Because it has broader implications that do illustrate a clear, dramatic difference between the candidates, and one that points unequivocally to McCain. Besides, it is an issue you may not have heard as much about (meaning it took a certain number of words merely to explain), and if an endorsement accomplishes nothing else, we hope it helps you think of things you might not have thought about otherwise.
    Why didn’t you mention Sarah Palin? Because the endorsement was about why we did choose McCain, not about why we “shouldn’t have.” I don’t think Sarah Palin is ready to be president. She has about as much experience in government as Barack Obama, but let’s face it — he’s smarter. If I were choosing the president solely on the basis of his choice of a running mate, I’d pick Obama, because I like Joe Biden. But I’ve never picked a presidential preference on that basis before, and see insufficient reason to start now. Bottom line: For me, the reasons to favor Sen. McCain outweigh my misgivings about Gov. Palin.
    We could go on and on, and we will. Please come to my blog and continue the conversation.

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Today’s ‘other’ endorsement — Elise Partin


The McCain endorsement, being released early today, was sort of predestined to make a splash to the exclusion of readers noting anything else. So I call your attention to the endorsement that actually ran in today’s paper — that of Elise Partin for mayor of Cayce.

Certainly I want to make sure readers who live in Cayce see it. But beyond that, I see that race as being of at least passing interest to others in the Midlands — which is why we decided to interview and endorse in that race to begin with. The decision of the current and immediately past city administrations to pursue Lebensraum even to the point of going into a neighboring county — combined with such ongoing cross-jurisdictional issues as riverfront development, the regional transit system and such — made this election worth thinking about. In fact, the very first among several people who urged us to look into this race actually lives in Columbia (although others were actual Cayce voters).

Ms. Partin is an unusually engaging candidate who presents a sharp contrast to status quo incumbent
(Robert Malpass, shown below), and offers a better course for the future than the third candidate (businessman Paul Giugliano, right). It’s an interesting race.

Anyway, I just wanted to make sure this endorsement didn’t get ignored entirely.


Faith of our Fathers


One day in late summer 1970, I was playing tennis on the courts next to the Officer’s Club at Pearl Harbor. I was 16. My opponent, a long-haired boy whose name I now forget, was younger. He was a visitor from the mainland, the little brother of the wife of a junior officer on my Dad’s ship.
    Suddenly, a gnarly bantam rooster of a man rushed onto our court through one of the gates, followed by an entourage of followers who could only be senior naval officers, despite the fact that all were in white shorts, conspicuously devoid of insignia.
    Without pausing in his stride, the first man commanded, “You boys get out of here! I’ve got this court.” Taken aback, we nevertheless immediately moved to obey. I knew active-duty officers had precedence over dependents on Navy courts, and although this man looked old for active duty — at 59, he seemed ancient — we could not doubt his authority. As we moved to collect our gear, he noticed my father — at that time the executive officer of the USS Kawishiwi — sitting on the bench where he had been watching us play. The man went immediately to Dad and spoke to him briefly, then came quickly over to us boys. I was unprepared for what came next — an apology.
    Introducing himself, he explained that he was extremely busy, that he reserved the court for this time and that it was the only recreation he had, so he had been in a hurry to get to it, which explained but did not excuse his brusqueness, and he hoped we would understand.
    No problem, admiral, I said. Don’t mind us. We’re moving. Enjoy your game.
    The man was John S. McCain Jr. Had he been in uniform, he would have worn four stars — the same rank his father had attained in World War II. He was CINCPAC — the Commander In Chief Pacific Command — a title that to a Navy brat had the same ring as the words “the king” would have had to someone in Medieval Europe. Except that no king of old ever had authority over as much military power. He commanded all U.S. forces in and around the Pacific and Indian Oceans, from the U.S. west coast to the Persian Gulf. The American forces fighting the war in Vietnam were only a portion of his responsibility.
    Among the hundreds of thousands of men under his command was a lieutenant commander being held as a prisoner of war in Hanoi. The naval aviator was nearing his third anniversary in captivity, most of that time in solitary confinement in a tiny, stifling cell, his monotony relieved only by brutal interrogations. His body, and at one point even his spirit, broken, he would be there for another two-and-a-half years.
    I didn’t know any of that at the time. Only years after Sen. John McCain had risen to national prominence did I connect him to the admiral I’d met that day. But even among the many who knew about the connection, few ever heard CINCPAC speak of it. Only those closest to him knew about the ritual with which he would mark each Christmas: Every year, he would go to Vietnam and visit troops stationed closest to the DMZ. At some point he would go off by himself to the edge of the base and stare silently northward, in the direction of his son.
    Last week, you read (I hope) a column headlined “Barack Like Me,” in which I explained my sense of identification with elements of Barack Obama’s personal journey of self-definition. If you missed it, I urge you to go to my blog (the address is at the end of this piece) and read it. This column is a companion to it. I wrote the earlier piece after reading Sen. Obama’s autobiography about his youth.
    This past week, I read Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir, by John McCain and Mark Salter. It’s the very different story of a young man who was far less confused about who he was or where he came from. And as much as I felt I understood “Barry” Obama, my commonality with Navy brat McCain is much more direct, and certainly simpler.
    A few months ago, I wrote another column headlined, “Give me that old-time conservatism,” in which I wrote of the values I had learned growing up in a Navy family, “the old-fashioned ones: Traditional moral values. Respect for others. Good stewardship. Plain speaking. And finally, the concept that no passing fancy, no merely political idea, is worth as much as Duty, Honor and Country.” It was written shortly after Sen. McCain won the S.C. primary, at a time when “conservatives” in his party were doing all they could to stop him.
    His autobiography is a 349-page exploration of those values.
    His grandfather was a hard-driving, smoking, drinking, gambling old salt who cried when he read casualty reports. He had less regard for his own welfare, once telling his wife he would not spend a penny on doctors, preferring to lavish all his money “on riotous living.” He commanded the fast carriers of Task Force 38 through one epic battle after another across the Pacific, stood in the front row at the Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri, then flew home that day. He dropped dead during the party his wife threw to welcome him home.
    His father was a cigar-chomping submarine commander in the same war, who over the next 25 years worked ceaselessly to live up to his father’s example. As CINCPAC, he unsuccessfully pressed his civilian superiors to let him pursue victory in Vietnam. The B-52 attacks on Hanoi (wildly cheered by his son and fellow prisoners as the bombs fell around them) and mining of Haiphong harbor helped focus the North Vietnamese on an eventual peace agreement in Paris. But Admiral McCain didn’t even get to see the war to that unsatisfactory conclusion before being relieved as CINCPAC. He retired, and lived another nine years, but was never a well man after that. His son believes that he, “like his father before him, sacrificed his life” to the strains of wartime command.
    On the fringes of this presidential campaign, one reads silly e-mails and blogs accusing Barack Obama of being less than American because of the African, Muslim part of his ancestry. Some Democrats weakly respond that John McCain isn’t an American, either, having been born in the Canal Zone in Panama. I have to smile at that, because in my life’s experience, the Zone looms as the very essence of America. During the two-and-a-half years I lived in South America in the 1960s, Panama was the place we occasionally visited to get our booster shot of home, the Land of the Big PX, a place to revel in the miracles of television and drinking water straight from the tap without fear.
    Ironically, Panama means far less to John McCain, since his family left there when he was three months old. It was the start of a routine that I know very well:

As soon as I had begun to settle into a school, my father would be reassigned, and I would find myself again a stranger in new surroundings forced to establish myself quickly in another social order.

    If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. It fostered in McCain and me and thousand
s like us an independence that’s hard to explain to those who never experienced it. I suspect it contributed greatly to the characteristics that his campaign inadequately, and monotonously, tries to describe with the word “maverick.”
    But there was a constant in our lives. Growing up, I most often heard the United States Navy referred to as “the Service.” It both described what my father did and why he did it. It was the same for the McCains.
    Barack Obama struggled for identity in his formative years largely because of the absence of his father. John McCain and I both experienced the absence of fathers: “We see much less of our fathers than do other children. Our fathers are often at sea, in peace and war.” But unlike Mr. Obama, we understood exactly who our fathers were and why they were gone:

    You are taught to consider their absence not as a deprivation, but as an honor. By your father’s calling, you are born into an exclusive, noble tradition. Its standards require your father to dutifully serve a cause greater than his self-interest, and everyone around you… drafts you to the cause as well. Your father’s life is marked by brave and uncomplaining sacrifice. You are asked only to bear the inconveniences caused by his absence with a little of the same stoic acceptance.

    But as much as our childhoods were alike, John McCain the man is very different. It’s one thing to know “the Service” as a dependent. It’s far different to serve. As I type that, it sounds terribly trite. Yes, we all know John McCain is a war hero, yadda-yadda, right? But I don’t care how much of a cliche it’s become, it’s true. And it sets him apart.
    I can’t write a “McCain Like Me” column because from an early age, he was different. He always knew he would follow his father and grandfather to the Naval Academy. I knew nothing of the kind, and not just because my father graduated from Presbyterian College. There was a brief time in my late 20s when I considered giving up journalism for the Navy; I even took a written test for prospective officer candidates, and did well on it. But my father pointed out to me what I had always known: My chronic asthma would keep me out. So I dropped the idea.
    John McCain, by contrast, rebelled against inevitability, raising hell and breaking rules all the way through his four years at Annapolis, repeatedly stepping to the brink of expulsion, and graduating fifth from the bottom of his class. Even reading about the hazing he experienced as a plebe, when upperclassmen did everything they could think of to break him and cause him to “bilge out” — nothing, compared to what he would suffer as a POW — I thought, Did I ever experience such treatment? Was I ever tested to that extent? And the answer was “no.” Nor, despite all his doubts about himself, his own period of rebellion or his sense of alienation, did Barack Obama have such a formative experience. If so, he doesn’t tell about it.
    The gulf between John McCain and me would exist if he had never been captured. His heroism during those five unimaginable years — a time when he finally learned the full importance of being part of something larger than himself — only turns the gulf into an ocean.
    I say that not to criticize Sen. Obama, or myself. But it’s a fact. We never knew anything like it. Men like John McCain and my friend Jack Van Loan — his fellow prisoner at the Hanoi Hilton — will forever be imbued with an aura that not even The One can claim. Some dismiss the McCain slogan “Country First” as worn-out rhetoric. But I know that for him, perhaps more than for any candidate I’ve ever known, it simply describes who he is and how he’s lived his life.
    That almost certainly is not enough to help him win the election. As I watch him on the verge of failure, that saddens me. He’s had three decades to come to terms with the fact that the war in which he gave so much caused so many of his fellow Americans to lose their faith in their country, and he’s dealt with it admirably.
    Now this. As I watch him drift further from his goal, I can say “Barack Like Me,” but McCain — he’s on a different plane, and always has been. And increasingly, he seems to be there alone.

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Broder just won’t go out on a limb

One of the reasons I had to quit the whole news gig back in the early ’90s and turn to editorializing is that I got sick and tired of all the dodges, all the going out of your way NOT to say what you think. I’d rather just be straight-up with people, and opinion writing and editing lets you do that.

Still, I continue to have enormous respect for David Broder, even though (or perhaps because) he never fully made the transition. He’s still a newsman to the core.

Take his column that I put on today’s op-ed page. It’s premise is that those pesky Pennsylvanians who went for Hillary just a few months ago are "part of a mass movement to Obama." You see, being at heart a reporter, David Broder does this thing where goes out and talks to regular folks and finds out what they’re thinking. (And being an old-fashioned guy, he thinks of them as "voters" rather than "stakeholders".)

He backs up his premise reasonably well, to the extent that such a haphazard anecdotal approach is helpful. But apparently he doesn’t trust his own observations. Here’s how the piece started:

UPPER DUBLIN, Pa. — Last April, on the eve of the Pennsylvania primary, voters in this Philadelphia suburb were finding plenty of fault with both Barack Obama and John McCain. Many were preparing to — and soon did — vote for Hillary Clinton, helping her to a decisive victory in Pennsylvania.

This week, those voters are part of a mass movement to Obama, driven by much greater familiarity with the Illinois senator’s views, and a pronounced distaste for McCain and running mate Sarah Palin.

The striking shift in Montgomery County, often a bellwether, makes McCain’s task of recapturing Pennsylvania from the Democrats look almost like Mission Impossible…

Say what? "Look almost like…"?!?!? Mr. Broder, either it LOOKS like it or it doesn’t. We fully understand that if you go ahead and say it LOOKS like it to you, that’s your opinion. And you’re entitled to it; you’re the Dean of American political writers. I think you can go ahead and say what you think. If not now, when? You’re retiring at the end of the year. Take the plunge.

If it only "almost" looks like it, why bother us with it? What factor prevents it from looking entirely like it…

Anyway, stuff like this probably doesn’t bother anyone but an editor. I’ll go away now.

Our first endorsement ran today

A couple of weeks ago, I came up with the idea of doing something different with endorsements this cycle. Back during the campaigns for the June primaries, I became frustrated that we had so many candidates, and so little time and space, that we didn’t serve readers as well as we should have. After hours and hours and hours of interviews, research and discussion, in some cases our explanations of endorsements were absurdly abbreviated, in extreme cases amounting to less than a sentence. And as I’ve always said, to me the endorsement is ABOUT the explanation, so I was very dissatisfied. All of that work, and so little of it shared with readers.

So I said to my colleagues at the time, we either needed to do better in the future, or quit endorsing altogether. Our staff is too small to spend that much time on something that produces such thin gruel for readers.

Of course, being obsessive, we resolved to keep doing it, but do it better. Fortunately for that purpose, we had far fewer contested races to deal with in the fall. This fact is UNfortunate for democracy — the fact that primary contests are far more numerous than general election ones is a testament to the power of incumbency and partisanship in redistricting. But at least it offered us a chance to be somewhat more thorough in our presentation, to make it more reflective of our preparation.

A couple of weeks ago, I thought of a way to do even better: Do our endorsements earlier. In the past, we’ve held them as long as we can, given the number we have to do — the theory being that that’s when voters are paying the most attention. Also, it meant we had as much information as possible, preventing post-endorsement "surprises" about the candidates.

But I proposed to Warren and Cindi that we start doing them as soon as we can. It keeps them from being jammed up, thereby allowing us more space. It also frees us up as commentators. Increasingly, I have found it hard to write the summaries of interviews without going ahead and saying "this is the guy for us" or "no way on this one." You’ll note that I haven’t written anything from the interviews with the candidates in today’s endorsement of Anton Gunn, because the choice was so clear, and I hate to scoop my colleagues. Now, I’m free to go back and write those blog entries from the interviews — which I will, perhaps today — as well as to write columns. I suspect that Cindi and Warren will find additional things they want to say about their candidates once the ice is broken with an endorsement. Maybe not, but we’ll see.

In any event, I’ve been pleased with the first two endorsements (one running today, the other tomorrow), even if that’s all that is written. They flow better, they’re less cramped and hurried in their style. They’re more thoughtful. And that’s supposed to be the point — provoking thought.

Anyway, here’s the endorsement of Anton Gunn. More commentary on that contest will be forthcoming.

I marvel at the uncanny insight of our readers


… or one of them, anyway. Just now, I was kidding Robert Ariail about this letter in today’s paper:

Ariail’s work deserves a Pulitzer Prize
In case it comes up, I nominate Robert Ariail for a Pulitzer Prize. His pen is multidirectional: It cuts up and down as well as sideways. A case in point is his masterpiece Tuesday regarding the bailout fiasco in Washington.

Brad Warthen also deserves some sort of special credit for whatever role he plays in victim selection.


Here’s what’s funny about that if you’re me: Robert’s been having a bad week, by his reckoning. Robert’s problem is that his "bad weeks" are largely in his head. He’s unhappy with his ideas, so he thinks he’s not doing well. Artists. On Monday, it was going so badly that even after our page was long done and in the proofing stage — past mid-afternoon — he hadn’t even started on a cartoon, although he had several sketches he was unhappy with.

He was on the verge of saying he just wouldn’t have a cartoon for the next day (something that almost never happens) when I started in on him, telling him he was dogging it, he could do it, it was all in his head, and a bunch of other halftime exhortations. I told him this particular idea that he had sketched was just what was needed, as it touched on the debate AND the news of Monday. So he finished it.

And this reader not only thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but sensed somehow that I had something to do with it. I’m loving it.

Kathleen Parker says Palin should drop out

I thought y’all might want your attention drawn to the Kathleen Parker column on today’s page (our first syndicated column in the hallowed space previously reserved to editorial board members) in which she concludes:

What to do?

McCain can’t repudiate his choice for running
mate. He not only risks the wrath of the GOP’s unforgiving base, but he
invites others to second-guess his executive decision-making ability.
Barack Obama faces the same problem with Biden.

Only Palin can
save McCain, her party and the country she loves. She can bow out for
personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her
newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.

Do it for your country.

But you should really go read it and see how she gets there. Wanting to make sure readers did that, I didn’t put the slam-bang conclusion in the headline. I DID put it in THIS headline, on account of the blog being all about provoking discussion.

An interesting thing about the column: Like Nixon going to China, you sort of needed a "conservative" (which I put in quotes because that oversimplifies Kathleen, but in this context it’s about widespread perception) woman to say this, assuming it needed saying. Sort of like nobody but fellow veterans could have criticized John Kerry’s service in the war.

Kathleen is able to cite her initial defense of Sarah, then her breathless tension watching her and hoping she wouldn’t screw up. And that’s something I can’t possibly identify with — worrying about someone’s performance because I’m a member of the same demographic. Maybe I’m too self-centered. But I have had to accept that black folks do that with Obama, and women do that with Hillary Clinton and/or Sarah Palin, depending on their proclivities. When I see a white guy out there succeeding or failing, he’s on his own as far as I’m concerned. I might agree with him or I might not, but it won’t have anything to do with which restroom he uses or what boxes he checks off on a census form.

That’s why it took Kathleen to write this piece. For my part, I haven’t had any particular expectations of Mrs. Palin. Y’all know what I thought when I first saw her, and all she had to do was give a reasonably competent convention speech to exceed my expectations.

But that’s me. What do you think?

No more op-ed pages Mondays, Fridays

Well, there’s just no way to sugar-coat this, so I’ll go ahead and tell you what I’ll be telling you on the Friday editorial page:

No separate op-ed page today
     Starting today, The State will not have separate op-ed pages on Fridays and Mondays. This is a cost-saving measure, reducing our newsprint expenditure. Instead, we will frequently run a syndicated column on this page on Fridays, and a local guest column on the Monday letters page. We also invite readers to explore our offerings at, and Brad Warthen’s Blog at

             — The Editors

This is a continuation of the painful recent cutbacks we’ve experienced in personnel and operational funds. As I’ve mentioned before, Mike Fitts’ departure brought the editorial staff down to less than half what I had at the start of this decade. Our elimination of Saturday pages earlier this year was a reflection of both the staff cutbacks — so few people can only do so much — and newsprint savings. This one is pretty much all about the newsprint.

You don’t like this? Well, guess what? I’m pretty sure I hate it a lot more than you do. All of us do. There’s nothing we can do about losing these pages, so we struggle constantly to figure out what we CAN do instead to keep serving readers. (What do you think this blog is about, for instance?)

Consider the earlier "cutbacks." When we eliminated staff-written editorials on Mondays, we gave you a full page of letters that otherwise would not have been published, and added the blograil feature. You’d be surprised how much staff time those take.

Then, when we eliminated the Saturday pages, we launched the Saturday Web-only super-op-ed page, with a whole lot more content than we could get into the paper (plus video). Yeah, that’s been an unpopular move with many — but the people who complain about the Saturday feature don’t seem to understand that it’s not a choice between that and having our pages in the Saturday paper, it’s a choice between that and nothing. And believe me, it takes a lot more trouble to produce that Web page than "nothing" would.

Now this, the loss of those half-pages on Monday and Friday. What that means is that on each of those days, we’re losing two columns (one syndicated, one local) and maybe a syndicated cartoon. So far, our best idea for compensating for that is to put a syndicated column on the Friday page whenever we don’t have an overriding staff-written column (and that’s happened about once a week in the past; this just pushes that event to Fridays), and put a local guest column on the Monday letters page. That means in both cases fewer letters.

It probably will NOT mean fewer staff-written columns. Our first and foremost priority is always South Carolina — you can get news and commentary about the rest of the world from a thousand sources, but what Warren and Cindi are able to say about local and state issues is something you can’t get anywhere else. But since we "frequently" have one weekday without a staff column — today’s page was an example of that — we’ll just try to push that vacancy to Fridays, and run a syndicated column there instead of the long letter and the secondary cartoon.

We’re still scrambling to figure out what else we can provide, and I’ve been really pleased at the initiative shown by my colleagues under these circumstances. Warren Bolton, who just became a proud Papa for the second time and took some family leave, surprised me with an editorial (which ended up on the Sunday page) and a column written from home last week. I’m grateful to Cindi for suggesting today (and making it happen, which is more valuable) that we post the Charles Krauthammer column that I almost used on the Friday page (we used Kathleen Parker instead) online. We’re going to have to start doing that more systematically, not just on Saturdays.

Robert Ariail today offered up an extra cartoon for the Monday letters page. Randle Christian, our letters editor, came to me while I was typing this post to suggest a better way to use the Web to provide more letters on the election. More work for each of them, of course.

There aren’t as many of us as there were, but I’m proud and privileged to work with each of the folks I have. They’re all striving harder than ever to fulfill our mission of providing a forum for discussing the issues of greatest importance to our community.

And we welcome your suggestions as to how we can do that better.

The Granny within us all

Editorial Page Editor
KILLING TIME during my too-short stay at the beach over the summer, I flipped on the tube and vegged out briefly over an episode of “The Beverly Hillbillies:
    Granny became suspicious of banker Milburn Drysdale. To reassure her, Jed accompanied her to the bank and asked that Mr. Drysdale show Granny her money. Mr. Drysdale sputtered that he didn’t have it, that it had been invested, that it would take weeks to gather that much cash. Jed, deeply disappointed, soberly told him he’d best do so right quick; Granny felt bitterly vindicated in her lack of trust.
    Oh, those silly, unsophisticated Clampetts! What a laugh! They thought those millions were in actual notes and coins in the vault! What rubes.
    Too lowbrow for you? Consider Shakespeare’s Polonius, who advises Laertes:

    Neither a borrower, nor a lender be;
    For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
    And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry….

    Oh, that silly, pompous old windbag and his cliches! If he’d minded his own business, “Hamlet” wouldn’t have turned out as a tragedy.
    Of course one cannot have a modern economy without a whole heap of borrowing and lending — only the richest of us could own homes, or go to college, or drive cars; businesses couldn’t grow; factories would shut down for the lack of raw materials. No one could trade in stocks or commodities.
    And all wealth is based on the sort of trust that Granny was so reluctant to extend to Mr. Drysdale. Most who have achieved middle-class status seldom hold in their wallets an amount equal to even a single paycheck. If you do direct deposit, your compensation consists of 1s and Os transferred from one financial institution to another, and the only reason your debit card works at the grocery store is that everyone involved, from your employer to your bank to the store, plus various middlemen, trusts that those blips of data represent something of real and quantifiable value.
    And yet, it seems that on some level, the crisis on Wall Street that so threatens our entire economy is the result of major financial institutions not having sufficient assets to balance their debts — no cash to show Granny, even given time to gather it, in terms I can understand — leading the normally trusting Jeds of the world to say “Hold on!” to such an extent that Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke saw all borrowing and lending about to come to a screeching halt. In the prosaic wording of The Wall Street Journal over the weekend, what those officials saw was “the circulatory system of the U.S. economy — credit markets — starting to fail.”
    So it was that Messrs. Paulson and Bernanke went to Congress late last week to ask for a $700 billion bailout of our financial infrastructure.
    Congress was at first deeply impressed. Speaking of a presentation by Mr. Paulson, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said, “When you listened to him describe it, you gulped.” Over the weekend, though, the usual sorts of reflexes kicked in, questions were raised, and more than one voice said, “Hold on.”
    As one who would have trouble coming up with $700 on such short notice, I find myself wondering whom I trust in all this. And I wonder that even as I remain convinced that I must trust someone. In fact, the restoration of a healthy state of affairs seems to my mean understanding dependent on a multilateral restoration of trust throughout the system.
    On Monday morning, I read everything I could get my hands on trying to decide what I think Congress should do. Unfortunately, everything I read caused me to question whether I trusted the source.
If Mr. Paulson and Mr. Bernanke know what they’re doing, how did things get this bad? Congressional Democrats make sense when they say the bad behavior of executives at these failed financial firms should not be rewarded by the taxpayers, but how much of that is populist demagoguery? And conservatives are right to say that there are limits to the extent that government can shield us from risk and consequences, but at what point do their objections become mere ideological pedantry in the face of a crisis of this proportion?
    Consider the piece on the opposite page by Paul Krugman. I chose it because it broke down the situation into elements even I could understand. But given his oft-demonstrated animus toward the Bush administration, am I at all surprised that he concludes that he doesn’t like its plan?
    The really awful thing is that it was trusting the experts — from the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street to an administration headed by, as Gail Collins of The New York Times wrote over the weekend, “the-first-president-with-an-MBA-and-a-lot-of-good-it-did-us” — that got us here.
    The even awfuler thing is that our only way out of this mess is to trust. We have to rely upon the “experts” in the administration, and members of Congress and their staffs, to draft the right plan and make it work. And then we have to trust our bankers and brokers and each other going forward, or nothing the government can do can get our economy back on its feet.
    That means we’re going to have to hush up the Granny within us, and given present circumstances, that’s not going to be easy.

Go to

The cognitive divide between black and white, 2008 election edition

For me, reading the piece by my old friend Joe Darby on today’s op-ed page was another excruciating instance of the apparently unbridgeable cognitive divide between black and white Americans. I always find it very troubling — in fact, I lack words for just how much it troubles me.

Somehow, Joe looked at the fact that Republicans LIKE an inexperienced conservative Republican, but DON’T like an inexperienced liberal Democrat, and saw it as racism. I realize that after my more than half a century of living in this country, I should not be shocked at such things, but I was. Shocked, and very worried.

Remember this post about Bill Moyers’ hyperbole about the stakes in this election. Something one of y’all said caused me to express my worry about what will happen if Barack Obama loses this election: Democrats, who have been VERY charged up about their expectation of winning, and whose hatred of Republicans has reached new depths in the past eight years, will be so bitter that — and I hate even to think this thought aloud — the political polarization will be even WORSE in this country., to name but one segment of that alliance, will probably implode to the point of nuclear fusion.

(Republicans, by contrast, have been expecting to lose all year. As recently as last week, when I wrote that earlier post, I would have expected the GOP to accept defeat in November relatively fatalistically. Of course, that was before Sarah Palin got them excited. Now, if they lose, I expect the usual level of bitterness, just not as severe as what I think we’re in store for if Democrats lose.)

And that was without considering race. If you add in the expectations of so many black voters this year, the potential for bitter disappointment is incalculable. This year I’ve noted a potent paradox in the attitude of many black voters: A disbelief that a black man (if you consider Obama to be a black man, which I don’t — another subject for another day) has won a major party nomination, combined incongruously with the notion that if he doesn’t also win the general election, it’s because of racism.

Even though I was aware of that, Joe’s piece was a shock, because it wasn’t just generalized excitement about Obama combined with being prepared to resent it if he loses. It was the logic, or lack thereof, that Joe employed in seeing racism specifically in the fact that Republicans like Sarah Palin and not Barack Obama.

No sooner had I read that on proofs yesterday and taken my worrying to a new level than The Wall Street Journal reported this morning:

    An anxious murmur is rising among black voters as the presidential race tightens: What if Barack Obama loses?
    Black talk-show hosts and black-themed Web sites are being flooded with callers and bloggers reflecting a nervousness — and anger — over the campaign. Bev Smith, a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host, devoted her entire three-hour show Monday night to the question: "If Obama doesn’t win, what will you think?"…
    If Sen. Obama loses, "African-Americans could be disappointed to the point of not engaging in the process anymore," or consider forming a third political party, said Richard McIntire, communications director for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

This is not a good place to be.

I first met Joe Darby about 15 years ago. The newspaper sponsored a black-white dialogue group that was coordinated by a reporter I supervised. Joe was one of the panelists, and I was struck by his patience and mildness of manner in explaining his perspective to whites flustered over black citizens’ sense of aggrievement.

I’m sure Joe would have been just as patient with the middle-aged white acquaintance — someone I’ve known for many years, and who I am quite sure is not a racist — who came up to me this morning and said, based on the op-ed piece, "That Joe Darby is a racist." I insisted that I knew Joe Darby well, and he was not, but this was exactly the reaction I had predicted to a colleague when I saw the proof the day before. I had said that what Joe had written was precisely the kind of thing that caused white conservatives to be profoundly alienated by the way many blacks express themselves politically.

Fifteen years after that black-white dialogue experience — and many, many less formal such dialogues later — I find myself close to despair that mutual understanding can be achieved.

Particularly if Barack Obama loses the election.

Today’s puzzler

In the spirit of Click and Clack, I offer the following conundrum. Consider first this letter to the editor from today’s paper:

Stupid blue laws thwart purchase
    Government is the only source of such stupidity. Or at least with the authority to enforce such ignorance.
    After church, my wife, Mary, and I went to Wal-Mart for a new sports watch for her. She decided on one and told the clerk to ring it up. The clerk said, “I can’t ring it up until 1:30, and it’s only 1:15. Why don’t you shop around and come back in 15 minutes?”
    We wandered around for about 10 minutes and saw folks were checking out with bananas, potato chips and, yes, even beer, but you can’t purchase a watch until 1:30. I said I’ll have a beer while I wait till 1:30 to buy the watch.
    Woe unto you who think government is the answer. When are we going to vote these nitwits out?

Bruce G. Kelly

This is an interesting letter on several levels, but the most immediate question that arises is this: Where in the Midlands do you find a jurisdiction where it would be illegal to buy the watch before 1:30, yet legal to buy beer on Sunday?

The simple answer is that there isn’t one. Poor Mr. Kelly would be hard-pressed to find the "nitwits" that he wants to "vote out," since there is no jurisdiction that has made those two decisions that he finds so maddeningly inconsistent.

Give up? I had, but then Warren proposed a potential answer — while there is no one such jurisdiction, this Wal-Mart was in an anomalous location that was both in the city of Columbia and in Lexington County. It’s not a thought that would have immediately occurred to me, but of course there are such places.

My first guess was that we’re talking about the new Wal-Mart on Bush River Road, right next to Malfunction Junction. The map on my wall in the editorial dept. shows it as in Lexington County. It does NOT show it as being in Columbia, but it’s an old map, and I have the advantage of private intelligence in this case: I recently tried to buy beer there on a Sunday, and succeeded. Ipso facto, to wit, etc….

But that’s not where this happened. When Randle, who edits our letters, got back to the office, I asked her to call Mr. Kelly and get to the bottom of the mystery.

The answer: This incident occurred at the Harbison Wal-Mart, which is certainly in Lexington County, and — while I couldn’t find confirmation of the fact on any map readily at hand, the odds are that if it’s in that area and developed, it’s in the city.

Of course, Mr. Kelly still can’t find anyone to vote out of office for creating this situation. Even if he lives in both the city and Lexington County, it’s beyond the power of any local elected official to solve his problem. A Columbia city council member, for instance, might change the beer-sale ordinance, but could do nothing about Lexington’s blue law — and vice versa, if you follow me.

His problem is similar to one we’ve pointed out many times before, in somewhat different contexts. It’s not a matter of too MUCH government, but of too MANY governments.

He can vote against EVERY incumbent if he chooses (the Doug Ross solution), just as a sort of universal, howl-at-the-moon sort of protest, but that wouldn’t solve his problem. That is, if you consider not being able to buy a sports watch for 15 minutes a problem. And I’m sure many of you would. So commiserate with poor Mr. Kelly, a man without recourse to redress.

What the Capital City Club did for Columbia (column version)

Yep, once again, my column today was something you’ve read before here. In fact, the earlier blog version was more complete — I couldn’t fit all that into the paper today.

But there is something new to mention on the subject, which is to urge you to watch for Clif LeBlanc’s follow-up story to the one he wrote that appeared on our front page Wednesday. The folo will be in the paper Sunday (or so I’m told), and it will address the question that  has occurred to me a number of times in the years since the Capital City Club opened Columbia’s private club world to minorities and women:

Just how open ARE the rest of the Midlands’ clubs today?

I look forward to reading it.

Today’s editorial about Georgia

With Mike gone, I’ve taken up the task of occasionally writing editorials on national and international issues (I say "occasionally" because our editorial emphasis remains as always on South Carolina). So it is that I offer for your discussion the one I wrote for today about Russian aggression in Georgia. Here’s the link, and here’s an excerpt…

… Aw, it was all so good that I couldn’t pick an excerpt. Here’s the whole thing:

Russian aggression
turns U.S. focus
to true global stakes

THERE IS A STRAIN of naive isolationism that has been woven tightly into the American character since the birth of the nation. Insulated by oceans from Europe and Asia, occupied with our own pursuits of happiness, we have through most of our history wished the rest of the world would just take care of itself.

This has been true on the political right as well as on the left. George W. Bush promised as a candidate not to engage in “nation-building” (and his frequent bungling of that task post-9/11 might be seen as a backhanded way of keeping that promise), while Democrats still repeat the post-Cold War mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid!” We prefer to view the rest of the world in simple terms, from the rare need to respond to naked aggression (think the 1991 Gulf War, World War II) to the occasional opportunity to show charity (think the Somalia relief effort, before that day in Mogadishu), or as spectacle (the Olympics).

But the world is more complicated than that, and demands our full attention, and our complete engagement on all fronts — economic, military, humanitarian, cultural and diplomatic. The world was more interconnected than George Washington wanted to face even in his day (as we quickly learned from the Quasi-War with France, and the War of 1812). And since 1945, the United States has been not only the world’s mightiest power, but its most interconnected — whether we want it to be or not.

Last week, a Russia still dominated by an ex-KGB man yanked us back to that mode. Russia’s swift and remorseless move to crush a U.S. ally that had tried to assert control over two disaffected provinces was a direct challenge to U.S. complacency, and a stark warning to other former Soviet republics and satellite states that they had better reconsider their steady drift toward the West, or else.

A resurgent, oil-rich Russia has for some time moved resentfully from emulation of the democratic West toward pursuit of its lost superpower status. Add to that China’s determination to go far beyond dominance in Olympic gold medals, toward an economic and military hegemony that is within the reach of its phenomenally dynamic economy and vast supply of human capital. Both countries have the potential, and apparently the will, to pose challenges to the United States and other liberal democracies that will make Iraq and Afghanistan seem like minor irritations.

America’s first response to the Georgia incursion was to realize just how little it was prepared to do about it. The second response was to send in U.S. troops to provide humanitarian aid, an assertion of soft power that nevertheless drew a line in the sand, evoking the Berlin Airlift.

But this is not the Cold War. This is not Czechoslovakia in 1968, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asserted. Nor was it either of the other U.S. presidential election years in which Russia used force against its neighbors, in Hungary in 1956 or Afghanistan in 1980. (Today, for instance, oil wealth and control of natural gas supplies are the new “nuclear deterrent.”)

But in this election year, what is at stake goes so far beyond our internal obsessions about celebrity or even such serious domestic concerns as health care. And yes, it goes far beyond Iraq. And it will go beyond Georgia. The selection of the next president of the United States should be about who will lead us more wisely through the global challenges we have not even yet foreseen.

Sen. McCain, Sen. Obama — we’re listening.

Don’t test the cranky old guy

Did you read Kathleen Parker’s column today, which I recommended yesterday? Well, go read it now before the rest of this, because it’s good, and I’m about to give away the punch line.

Basically, she imagined three missives to Putin, the first one from Bush — an excerpt:

    Hey, which reminds me. What’s up with Georgia? This is not good,
Vlad. You and I have had our moments. And, OK, fine, your dog’s bigger
than mine. A lot bigger. Stronger and faster, too. We got it. But you
can’t just go invading democratically elected countries that are U.S.
allies. You can’t have everything, Vlad. If you don’t stop, I’m going
to have to do something, and you know I don’t want that. What I want is
for you to not make me look like a fool.

    Look, Vlad. Seven years
ago, it was you and me in Crawford. We had a blast. You loved my truck!
We bonded. I went out on a very big limb and told the whole dadgum
world that we were soul mates….

Then, she imagined one from Obama. An excerpt from THAT:

    I’m sorry to be writing this e-mail instead of meeting you in person, preferably in the Oval Office, where I belong. Soon, soon.

and notwithstanding the foregoing, I felt it imperative that I express
my deep concern about Russia’s invasion of the tiny, democratically
elected sovereign nation of Georgia. It would appear that you are not
familiar with my platform for change and hope. War does not fit into
this template, and I am quite frankly at a loss for words to express my
deep, deep distress.

    As the chosen leader of a new generation of
Americans who speak a global language of peace, hope, harmony and
change, this is simply unacceptable. Quite frankly, your actions pose
potentially severe, long-term consequences. I’m not sure what those
might be, but they won’t be nice or fun.

Then, finally, the message from McCain, which you should be able to enjoy whether you like him or not. The following is NOT an excerpt, but the entire message:

Hey, Putin.

    Don’t make me come over there.


Actually, I’m not certain she made that last one up. Maybe she’s tapped into his e-mail.

Is the Georgia invasion ‘McCain’s moment?’

You may note that the pundits most eager to write about Georgia and what it means are of the conservative persuasion. And there’s no question that they, at least, believe that moments like this one make McCain look like a more attractive choice for commander in chief. George Will wrote this:

    Vladimir Putin, into whose soul President George W. Bush once peered
and liked what he saw, has conspicuously conferred with Russia’s
military, thereby making his poodle, “President” Dmitry Medvedev, yet
more risible. But big events reveal smallness, such as that of New
Mexico’s Gov. Bill Richardson.

    On ABC’s “This Week,” Richardson,
auditioning to be Barack Obama’s running mate, disqualified himself.
Clinging to the Obama campaign’s talking points like a drunk to a
lamppost, Richardson said this crisis proves the wisdom of Obama’s zest
for diplomacy, and that America should get the U.N. Security Council
“to pass a strong resolution getting the Russians to show some
restraint.” Apparently Richardson was ambassador to the U.N. for 19
months without noticing that Russia has a Security Council veto.

crisis illustrates, redundantly, the paralysis of the U.N. regarding
major powers, hence regarding major events, and the fictitiousness of
the European Union regarding foreign policy. Does this disturb Obama’s
serenity about the efficacy of diplomacy? Obama’s second statement
about the crisis, in which he tardily acknowledged Russia’s invasion,
underscored the folly of his first, which echoed the Bush
administration’s initial evenhandedness. “Now,” said Obama, “is the
time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint.”

    John McCain, the
“life is real, life is earnest” candidate, says he has looked into
Putin’s eyes and seen “a K, a G and a B.” But McCain owes the thug
thanks, as does America’s electorate. Putin has abruptly pulled the
presidential campaign up from preoccupation with plumbing the shallows
of John Edwards and wondering what “catharsis” is “owed” to
disappointed Clintonites.

In tomorrow’s paper, Kathleen Parker even more starkly — and more amusingly — contrasts McCain to both Bush and Obama.

Whomever you like for president, you gotta admit the KGB line is a good one. It’s a favorite of McCain’s, and we’re likely to hear him saying it more. His campaign is already putting out the line that events in Georgia have shown him to be "‘Prescient’ On Russia And Putin."

So how about it, folks? Does this affect your choice for November, and how? Does it make you more likely to vote for McCain — or for Obama? Or does it not affect your thinking one way or the other?

Yes, it’s grotesque to speak of such awful events in terms of its effect upon an election, but face it, folks: About all that you and I and the guy down the street can do in reaction to what’s happened is choose the guy who’s going to lead us in a world in which Russia knows it can get away with stuff like this.

What is it about the Russians and the Olympics?


n a recent post, I mentioned the fact that the Russians hit Georgia while we were distracted by the Olympics.

But there’s nothing special about that; this is part of a pattern. It really hit me when I saw Robert’s cartoon this morning (or rather, when I saw it yesterday). Take a look at these dates:

1956 — Hungary
1968 — Czechoslovakia
1980 — Afghanistan (one that Robert left out)
2008 — Georgia

Now, what do those dates have in common? Yep, they’re all years in which the Summer Olympics were held.

They have another thing in common, of course. They’re all U.S. presidential election years. What do you make of the fact that they choose such moments to test the resolve of the West to stop them?

Something else I just realized — those first three are all years in which Republicans were elected. Is there a connection here?

The Rooskies catch us with our pants down


The central narrative of global affairs in the first 37 years of my life (I choose that number out of convenience, since German reunification occurred on my 37th birthday, and that is sort of midpoint between the fall of the Wall and the failed Soviet coup of 1991) was dreading, preparing for and at the same time trying to avoid the moment that Slim Pickens, in "Dr. Strangelove," described as "New-q-lure combat, toe-to-toe with the Rooskies."

Well, we put all that behind us some time ago — people voting for the first time in this year’s elections have no memory of the time when our itchy trigger fingers hovered over that calamity, fueling such pop culture reflections as not only Strangelove, but its dead-serious counterpart "Failsafe," or lesser touchstones such as "The Day After," or "Twilight’s Last Gleaming," or "WarGames," or … well, we could go on and on. Suffice it to say, we thought about that stuff a lot.

Now, we argue over Iraq, worry over Afghanistan, and basically are unmotivated to think about any greater military challenges — such as that posed by our host in the current Olympics. Our toes are now too busy on the starting lines at poolside, waiting for the starting pistol, to be set against the toes of the Rooskies.

And into that vacuum strides, suddenly and decisively, a newly resurgent, confident, muscular, resentful, petulant, oil-rich Russia, once again under KGB management. And takes out Georgia before we’ve managed to say so much as, "Hey, wait a minute…"

That’s the thing that strikes me about the events of recent days. While Americans have concerned themselves with Beijing’s festivities and the sins of John Edwards, the Russians have dropped the hammer on one of our most promising allies in their once and future sphere of influence. Decisively.

I had to wait yesterday past the usual time for a George Will column — the one we ran today — which was the first commentary from one of our main syndicated columnists on what was happening in Georgia. And by that time, the Russians had essentially achieved their goals.

And the lesson here is that they can do this, and will do it again when they choose — and no one here, or in Europe, is ready for either this time or the next one.