Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hillary's Last Stand?

“Since you have chosen to elect a man with a timber toe to succeed me, you may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.”
- Davy Crockett

Tradition has it that Saint Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, was clubbed to death, then beheaded, early in the first century. Little is known about him in Evangelical circles, other than the fact that one New Testament book, Jude, originally penned as a letter of encouragement to fellow Christians, is now part of protestant canon.

The letter ends with these words – “Rescue any who need to be saved, as you would rescue someone from a fire. Then with fear in your own hearts, have mercy on everyone who needs it.”

If any politician is in desperate need of rescuing and mercy these days it’s Hillary Clinton. Not long ago she was cruising along, assuming that the presidency was hers as a matter of divine right. Then something happened. Actually, Barack Obama happened. Now her campaign house appears to be on fire and there may not be any fire extinguishers or firemen around to put out the flames. She’s lost eight primaries in a row, which in baseball parlance means that she’s had a long string of Golden Sombreros. In last night’s contests she was soundly trounced, by over twenty percent in each state. Even more ominous was the fact that Hillary lost significant ground in her core support groups, white men, women, Hispanics, blue collar workers, and older voters.

I don’t know if Hillary’s been clubbed to death yet,but she and her campaign have the look of someone who’s been badly battered and wants no more of the other guy.

This coming Tuesday the people of Wisconsin and Hawaii will cast their primary ballots, with a total of ninety-four delegates up for grabs. I’d have to say, based on what’s happened thus far, that it’s advantage Obama. Senator Clinton seems to be conceding as much. Rather than stay on the east coast to lick her wounds, she made her way to Texas, hoping that an overwhelming victory there will turn the tide in her favor.

Will the tide turn? It could, but I doubt it. The old Clinton baggage of crass conniving, lust for power, and dirty tricks won’t be able to put of the fires of hope and change that Obama has set in the bones of the Party faithful. She may win some delegates in Texas, but I think she’ll realize when all is said and done that Texas is the home of the Alamo and Davy Crockett’s last stand.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Other Side of the Coin

“Liberals, it has been said, are generous with other peoples’ money, except when it comes to questions of national survival when they prefer to be generous with other people's freedom and security.”
- William F. Buckley

While the Republican Party leadership is trying to rally the troops around John McCain, Hillary Clinton, who once assumed she was the Democrat’s “anointed one,” may just be getting obliterated by tidal wave of popular support that is increasingly mounting in favor of young Mr. Obama.

As reported by the New York Times this morning:

“Mrs. Clinton held a buck-up-the-troops conference call on Monday with donors, superdelegates and other supporters; several said afterward that she had sounded tired and a little down, but determined about Ohio and Texas.”

“They also said that they had not been especially soothed, and that they believed she might be on a losing streak that could jeopardize her competitiveness in those states.”

“She has to win both Ohio and Texas comfortably, or she’s out,” said one superdelegate who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton, and who spoke on condition of anonymity to share a candid assessment. “The campaign is starting to come to terms with that.” Campaign advisers, also speaking privately in order to speak plainly, confirmed this view.”

The Clinton camp is really getting nervous. Patti Solis Doyle is out; Maggie Williams is in. The talk of inevitability has evaporated, having given way to campaign conference calls about “firewalls.” Even Clinton bean counters are getting into the act. Hassan Nemazee, one of Hillary’s national finance chairmen is telling donors

“Not to get caught up in the headlines about Obama. “I’m telling donors and supporters: Don’t be overly concerned about what goes on in the remainder of the month of February because these are not states teed up well for us,” Mr. Nemazee said.”

Mr. Nemazee had better hope, for Hillary’s sake, that she’s teed up a bit better a month from now than she currently is in Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Wisconsin, or Hawaii. If she can’t do any better there than she did the other day in Washington, Louisiana, Nebraska, and the Virgin Islands, then she just might face the prospect of getting smacked around by the Tiger Woods sized driver Obama will be pulling out of his war chest in Texas and Ohio.

I’m a Huckabee supporter, so I do believe in miracles, as does my candidate. Hillary’s problem is that she has presented herself as the candidate of reality while Obama has been the messenger of change and hope. It’s no contest.

This morning, Governor Huckabee was asked by a group of reporters why Barack seems to be winning against Hillary. His response was one of those classic Huck-isms:

“The American people are not looking for someone who can fix a carburetor. They’re looking for someone who can drive the car.”

I’ve said from the start of this campaign that the issues of vision, hope, and change really matter. That’s why I’ve supported Mike Huckabee from the beginning and will till all the delegates are counted. I believe his message of vertical politics, hope, economic revitalization and populism, and strength in the face of international terror is right for America. It’s become his political currency. Fear and division have been replaced by hope and vertical politics as his coin of the realm.

In one sense, Barack Obama is the other side of that coin. One of the principle reasons so many Democrats seem to be flocking to him is that message of hope and change. His slogans ring true; they hit their mark. When he rails out against the influence of lobbyists in American politics and tells his followers that change is coming they all respond in unison, “Yes we can…Yes we can…Yes we can! When Hillary talks about the need for experience in the White House, Obama counters by reminded all who will listen that twenty years of experience and two political dynasties have gotten us to where we are.

In his victory speech after sweeping the primaries and caucuses on Saturday night, Senator Obama spoke to his younger supporters. He promised them help with what has become the huge financial burden of a college education. The crowd roared as he put forth the idea of a $4,000 college tuition credit that would be granted to America’s young. Years earlier Bill Clinton had made the same promise. I remember the drumbeat of those days. “I’ll give you a college education.” “It’ll be free.” “It’ll be free.” “It’ll be free.” But there was something different in the Obama appeal. Along with the promise of financial support, America’s young were told that they would have to agree to serve the nation in some capacity in order to get the financial aid.

Therein lies the difference between the two Democratic candidates. One panders to the baser elements of our nature; the other calls out to the noble and altruistic.

That stream of altruism flows deep within Obama’s veins. During his 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic convention he spoke eloquently to the sense of shared moral responsibility we Americans share with our fellow citizens:

“If there’s a child on the South side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it isn’t my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for their prescription and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it isn’t my grandparent. If there’s an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It is that fundamental belief – I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper – that makes this country work.”

One doesn’t have to agree with the Senator’s rhetoric, but one should see that it comes from the heart. When compared to the other side of the coin, Hillary Clinton’s cold political calculations, it soars above the crass and mundane that has made Americans sick of the political process.

Odds are that John McCain will be the Republican nominee, and if the momentum keeps building Barack Obama will be his opponent. What then?

It’s well know that economics is not McCain’s strong suit. Bread and butter conservatives love his resistance to the profligate spending that has turned the surpluses of 2000 into the huge deficits of 2008. But, they are also well aware of his previous opposition to the Bush tax cuts that triggered the post 9-11 economic boom. His current promise to support them isn’t being received warmly. The level of trust in his pronouncements is low. By the time November rolls around he’ll be plagued with a mixed economic message, like the ancient mariner wearing an albatross around his neck, while Obama will be appealing to those caught in the grip of the mortgage meltdown and plant layoffs. In such a case, what is perceived to be Wall Street Republicanism will lose hands down to Obama’s message of “social justice and equity.”

Does this mean that an Obama presidency is inevitable? Certainly not. There is another side of the Obama coin which could easily be exploited to expose the glaring gap in his altruism. The issue would be national security, Iraq, and the War on Terror.

I’ve spent some time reading back through Senator Obama’s messages on Iraq and national security. The net result is mixed. Once the layers of the onion are peeled back one thing becomes clear – that the Senator’s message of hope and altruism ends at the water’s edge as he promises to begin what could be the long march of retreat in the face of international terror. While his constant reminders of the fact that he is the only Democratic candidate who was against our involvement in Iraq from the beginning play well to the Daily Kos set, they also reveal that his principles of domestic social justice and equity are less than a layer of the onion deep, if that deep at all. How can one so principled say that he cares about the children who can’t read, senior citizens facing difficult economic choices, the targets of religious bigotry, and the least of us, when he tosses the dreams, aspirations, and hopes of millions who’ve seen their loved ones run through Saddam’s shredders, seen their developmentally disabled children used as walking bombs, or have had an education denied them because they were women, as if they were little more than international flotsam and jetsam? How can he speak convincingly about the responsibility of the powerful to the weak and needy domestically when he demonstrates an alarming willingness for the strong to abandon the helpless in Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran and other victims of political violence crying out for help from the centers of violence and terror in the world?

If Barack Obama is to be true to his principles, he must be held to a standard of consistency. He can’t have it both ways. He can’t be a man of compassion because it plays well to the laid-off worker or single mother in Peoria and then ignore the cries of help from the veiled woman pleading for a new way of life in Baghdad or Kabul. He cannot be allowed to portray himself as a classic, caring Democratic liberal in America’s rust belt at the same time he practices a Nixon-like realpolitik and appeasement on the international scene. It’s not only inconstant, it’s also very dangerous. This inconsistency, this weakness in principle, would be no match for the twisted Vladimir Putins, Mahmud Ahmadinejads, or the Kim Jong-ils of this world. Obama’s rhetoric may soar in this campaign, but it will never convince Iran’s leaders to stop developing nuclear weapons, nor will it woo Osama from the cave where he hatches his evil plans. If Obama is elected, this will be America’s central problem in 2009 and beyond. As Thomas Sowell once said, “If the battle for civilization comes down to the wimps versus the barbarians, the barbarians will win.” .

Every coin has two sides. Obama’s problem in a general election is that his dollar of hope on the domestic side is worth little more than a penny when it’s turned over to the international side. If he can’t overcome that glaring inconsistency in his message, he might win against John McCain if he is the Republican nominee, but he would not win in November against the domestic and international consistency of Mike Huckabee if he becomes the Republican standard bearer.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mathematics and Miracles

“Do not worry about your problems with mathematics; I assure you mine are far greater”
- Albert Einstein

“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”
- C.S. Lewis

Mike Huckabee made the rounds this morning, flitting from FOX to CNN to MSNBC. When asked why he isn’t dropping out of the race he responded, in classic Huckabee style, “As long as my guys are waving their pompons, we'll stay on the field.”

Give ‘em hell, Mike!

The Republican powerful are saying that it’s over. In fact, they’re saying it over and over and over. It’s like watching a bunch of politicians singing the “Anvil Chorus.”

Mike Huckabee is well aware of the mathematics involved. So are his supporters. We all get it, but we’re not giving up. There’s no reason, nor is there any incentive to.

While winning eighty-five to ninety percent of the remaining delegates is a daunting task, winning less than fifty percent of the remaining delegates and then participating in a brokered convention is far from impossible. John McCain must win fifty percent, plus one, of the total delegates in order to secure the nomination. That hasn’t happened yet, and until it does I’m not going to relinquish my pompom. I like Mike!

Many Huckabee detractors have now begun to resort to fear tactics. They seem to delight in taking us back to 1976 when Ronald Reagan decided to take on a sitting president. When all the smoke cleared from that convention, Gerald Ford won a narrow victory, Ronald Reagan left with the support of the Party’s conservative/grass-roots wing, the Republican Party left divided/wounded, and Jimmy Carter won the presidency. Many of the powerful in the G.O.P never forgave Reagan, even though he was to four years later propel his Party into power and return the country to its natural, historic conservatism.

Governor Huckabee has also been accused of splitting Republican conservatives, thus enhancing the chances for a Democratic victory in the general election. Well, I don’t believe it, nor does history seem to validate that point of view.

I spent some time this morning re-reading chapter seven, titled “The Revolution of 1860,” of Jim McPherson’s The Battle Cry of Freedom. The chapter is all about the political upheaval taking place in America in 1860. It seems that one man, Abraham Lincoln, much like Mike Huckabee today, wasn’t nearly as interested in electoral mathematics back then as he was in miracles. The Illinois rail-splitter, and friend of the common man, knew he faced a daunting task. He well understood that William Seward had come to Chicago as the presumptive nominee of the Party. But Lincoln, who once said, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing,” pressed the issue of the nomination to the convention floor. History has recorded the outcome of that convention. Lincoln won, the Union was preserved, and slavery was abolished. Many scholars now believe that Lincoln, in addition to being our greatest political poet, was our greatest President. Thank God that we don’t have to concern ourselves today with a different history, one that might have been written had Lincoln given in to the mathematics he faced.

Some quotes from McPherson follow for your edification and enlightenment. I believe they demonstrate that, while some make assumptions, a few chart their courses to the stars, swim against the collective tide of the naysayers, and then go on to make history:

“Coming into the convention with a large lead based on strength in upper-North states, Seward hoped for a first-ballot nomination. But Republicans were sure to win those states no matter whom they nominated.”

“This left Lincoln. By the time the convention’s opening gavel came down on May 16, Lincoln had emerged from a position as the darkest of horses to that of Seward’s main rival.”

“Yet so obscure was Lincoln in certain circles before his nomination that some pundits had not included his name on their lists of seven or a dozen or even twenty-one potential candidates. Several newspapers spelled his first name Abram.”

“The first ballot revealed Seward’s weakness and Lincoln’s surprising strength. With 233 votes needed to nominate, Seward fell sixty short at 173 ½ while Lincoln polled 102.”

“From then on, Lincoln the rail-splitter became the symbol of the frontier, farm, opportunity, hard work, rags to riches, and other components of the American dream embodied in the Republican self-image.”

“None of the forty thousand people in and around the wigwam ever forgot that moment. All except the diehard Seward delegates were convinced they had selected the strongest candidate.”

We now have the hindsight of history, so we know that Abraham Lincoln was the right candidate for the right time. Some day, when this generation is pushing up the daisies, the history of the 2008 campaign will be written. It may be about John McCain, Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton. And, improbable as it may seem now, it may be about a preacher from a small Arkansas town who was too stubborn to give in to the cackling voices around him calling for his surrender.

So, the campaign goes on. Mike Huckabee is still standing, reaching out to the grass-roots, continuing to make his stirring stump speeches. The shuffle of pompoms can still be heard across the land. It’s not over yet. As Mike has said so many times, the people, the voters, and not the pundits, will decide!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Irreduceable Simplicity

“We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you.”
II Corinthians 1:12 (New Living Translation)

There’s been much talk about the impact “values voters” have had in Mike Huckabee’s success in these presidential primaries. Most media experts who dissect the Huckabee phenomenon assume that his appeal is to a small band of narrow minded religious fanatics. It’s been a consistent anti-Huckabee bias ever since he launched his campaign.

Nowhere is this bias more evident than in the line of questioning the governor has been subjected to – his skepticism about the scientific mantra of our time: evolution. He’s been asked to clarify his beliefs in this area more often than he has been asked his views about taxes, the War on Terror, or national defense. His answer has been as consistent as the question has been persistent. God created the heavens and the earth. He could have done it six billion years ago. He could have used whatever process He cared to. But, whatever the process, the governor is convinced that everything we see in creation is not a matter of time and blind chance.

So do I!

Like many of Mike Huckabee’s supporters I’ve been called a “values voter.” While I should be flattered by the designation, I’ve come to see that the term has become a 21sst century euphemism masking the vitriol behind the words. When the term is used these days the inner image being conveyed is all too often that of an unenlightened, uneducated buffoon. I think you understand what I’m trying to say. The current, trendy image of the “values voter” is the guy who believes the world is flat, was created six thousand years ago, eats squirrels for dinner, and walks around like a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal.

There was a time when I winced every time I heard the term, knowing the venom behind the words. But I don’t any more. I’ve been proven a fool by far better than my political and philosophical critics. Many times in my life I’ve had to utter these words in silence - “O God, you know how foolish I am; my sins cannot be hidden from you.” I’ve lived long enough to accept the fact that I have from time to time played the fool. I suspect that many of Governor Huckabee’s critics, and mine, are young and haven’t had the time to explore their own foolishness and vanity. Perhaps experience, and a reading or two of the second chapter of Ecclesiastes, might change that.

One of the things the pundits and critics fail to see is that we are all “values voters” at heart. Barack Obama supporters are “values voters.” So are Hillary Clinton’s. They tend to believe that we need a social order in which wealth is redistributed and class distinctions are broken down. That’s what makes issues like government funded health care and re-instituting higher tax rates on the wealthy so important to them. They believe we should be pulling our troops out of Iraq, not because they have no values, but precisely because they believe in the idea that America has become an international pariah because of our misadventures since the 2003 invasion.

I don’t share many of the values of the Democratic Party, but it would be foolish for me to believe that their views are value neutral.

The same holds true for John McCain, Mitt Romney, or Ron Paul supporters. They send money, make appeals to their friends and neighbors, or conduct water cooler debates on the merits of their candidate versus those of their work mates. They do so because they share common windows on the world.

These values, when calculated by individual, constitute a worldview, a prism through which we all view the world. Mike Huckabee’s prism is his Christian faith. So is mine. It is my window on the world. As C.S. Lewis, the Christian apologist and “apostle to the skeptics once said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

How does my worldview play itself out in practical terms? It begins, and ends, with my faith in God. So, for example, when a Darwinist tells me that everything I believe in is nothing more than blind chance plus time I look at the world around me. Each year, in the early fall for example, hundreds of monarch butterflies begin to congregate on the butterfly bush that clings to my back porch. They stay for a while, and my wife and I are treated to days and days of beauty floating around. The colors, the patterns, the delicate, gossamer wings are all cause for amazement. Then, at the appointed time, these wispy visitors take wing, traveling over a thousand miles to Mexico. Once their journeys are completed they congregate by the millions, casting a scene of incredible beauty across a grove of trees, lighting up the Mexican landscape. Each time I see the process begin to unfold as they depart from the Flint Hills of Kansas, I find it impossible to believe that their pilgrimages are just matters of time and chance. The Darwinists can explain it however they wish. I see it all as the hand of God, filled with beauty and mystery, revealing to me that neither I, nor the butterflies, are products of time plus chance. What possible survival instinct would be satisfied with such a long and arduous flight? Why would something so delicate do something so counter-intuitive? When did the first journey take place, and how many undertook it? I ask the questions and there are no scientific answers that satisfy.

Almost always when I consider the mysteries unfolding around me I’m also reminded of my own humanity and frailty. I am not the sum off all things, as humanists would have me believe. I see the mysteries and, like Job, I must conclude that the workings of this world are not dependent on my superior wisdom:

“Is it your wisdom that makes the hawk soar and spread its wings toward the south?Is it at your command that the eagle rises to the heights to make its nest?”

As I consider these things I also consider my place in the world. Where do I fit? What do I believe? What role should I play in this great drama?

I’ve answered that question in part at the introduction to this post. I am compelled by faith to conduct myself honorably in this world. I am, as much as is possible, to live in peace and harmony with all men. This is the core of who I am.

How does this faith play itself out in terms of political philosophy? I am a conservative.

In his masterwork, The Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk outlined six basic tenants of conservative belief. There are two that are noteworthy for me as I consider how my religious faith works itself out in political terms. The first canon is “Belief in a transcendent order, or a body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience. Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems.” The second canon is “Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems.”

My thinking has changed over the years. I’ve had a long time to consider my life and what I believe. In my formative years I considered myself a New England liberal. While the roots of altruism still remain, my worldview has evolved over time. I am, today, a Kansas Flint Hills conservative. Winston Churchill once observed that if “you’re young and not liberal you have no heart; if you’re older and not conservative you have no mind.” I am living proof to the truth of that statement.

Do I live my faith out as consistently as I, or my critics, would like? No! Are there blind spots in my political philosophy? Without a doubt! I share these frailties with friend a foe alike.

It would do well for those who debase the public square with epithets and labels to examine their own lives and worldviews. Perhaps they’d discover that folks like Mike Huckabee and supporters like me are not as foolish as they’ve led others to believe.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Faith and Fire

“When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha. “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.
II Kings 6:15-17 (New Living Translation)

One of my favorite films is “Chariots of Fire.” It’s the story Eric Liddell and his approach to athletics and faith. It’s 1924, and the setting is the Olympic Games. Liddell is scheduled to run the 100 meters, in which he is favored. On the day before the race he finds out that his heat is to be run on Sunday - the Sabbath. Liddell tells the British team managers that he cannot run the heat. To do so, he asserts, would violate his Christian faith. Not even the Prince of Wales can persuade him to change his mind. He’s told that he has a duty to his king and country. He responds, “God makes kings…God makes nations.” Seeing that he is firm in his convictions, he is offered an opportunity to run the 400 meters, a race he has never run, on a different day. On the day of the race the manager of the American team tells one of Liddell’s competitors not to worry, that Riger mortis will set in for Liddell at three hundred yards. “He’ll die,” the American coach declares. Just before the race begins, Jackson Schultz, one of America’s greatest sprinters, slips a note into Liddell’s hand. It reads, “The old Book says, “He that honors me, him will I honor.”

Someone who had run and trained understood what dedication of running the race was all about! Liddell won that race. He went from the glory of the Olympics to spend his later years as a Christian missionary in China. He died there, serving the God he had done his utmost to honor in his life.

There are so many times in life that men of faith and conviction are misunderstood, so many times they are given up for dead, so many times that the ideals they live by are archaic.

The message of “Chariots of Fire” is clear. Principle matters. Faith matters. And, our course and lot in life does not have to be determined by experts or pollsters.

Yesterday I attended a Mike Huckabee rally in Olathe, Kansas, just south of downtown Kansas City. While Mike was staying on message, as he has since he began his campaign, the experts were writing and re-writing his political obituary.

My wife and I went to our local Republican caucus here in Emporia, Kansas this morning. Emporia is one of those small Kansas towns (about 25,000) that is at the epicenter of all that’s converging politically in America these days. About a hundred miles south of us, in Wichita, George Tiller continues to ply his grisly trade – providing late term abortions, violating the strong Kansas belief that life is something that has intrinsic value and moral worth. Here in Emporia, Tyson Foods has announced that almost 2000 of its 2400 workers are being laid off. That’s about twenty percent of this city’s workforce. Payday loan shops and ramshackle rentals, overseen by slumlord who prey on the poor, proliferate.

These are things that matter to Kansans. These are things that matter to Mike Huckabee.

I just spoke with one of our local media outlets to either confirm or deny reports from Fox News that Mike Huckabee has won the Kansas caucuses.

According to our outlet, with about 65% of the vote in, Huckabee has about 60% of the of the total ballots counted to this point. Here in Lyon County, Kansas, Mike won the caucus by 50% to 33% over John McCain. “Huckabee is rolling in Kansas,” said my source.

And, so, the race goes on. The pundits keep declaring that Riger mortis is going to set in, but Mike Keeps running. It’s the chariots of fire, the fire shut up in the bones, the abiding faith that keeps him going.

There are twenty-six states to go. I cannot say how it will all end, but I do know that Mike will continue the race. Faith and fire compel him.

Friday, February 08, 2008


“Fall seven times, stand up eight”
- Japanese Proverb

Having made the assumption that John McCain will be their nominee, Republican kingmakers have begun the vice-presidential sweepstakes. Pat Toomey, president of the Club for Growth, is casting his lot with fiscal conservatives like Mark Sanford and Jim Demint of South Carolina, Mike Pence of Indiana, former Texas senator Phil Gramm, or business magnate Steve Forbes. Commentator Fred Barnes’ short list includes Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Sam Brownback of Kansas, or Richard Burr of North Carolina. Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics, not to be outdone, invented a political game called “veepstakes,” in which he invited readers to select who they felt would be the ideal running mate for John McCain.When all was said and done, sixty-six hats were thrown into the ring, including Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, John Kasich, Haley Barbour, Charley Crist, Carly Fiorina, David Petraeus, Joe Lieberman (have you noticed him carrying John McCain’s water everywhere these days), Jodi Rell, the White House groundskeepers, Chuck Hagel, Laura Bush’s appointment secretary, and assorted Party loyalists.

The list even included Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and my candidate, Mike Huckabee. I can’t say what Rudy or Mitt would do with such an offer, but I feel bold enough to say that Mike would feel compelled to turn it down.

I just got back from attending a Mike Huckabee campaign event in Kansas City. I listened pretty intently to his stump speech, and there was nothing in it that hinted of surrender or some latent desire to become John McCain’s buffer if/when things go bad.

Before he suspended his campaign, Mitt Romney was complaining that Mike Huckabee was taking votes away from him. Now the Party powerful, including George Bush, have poured the anointing oil on John McCain. The message seems clear – “resistance is futile.”

Mike Huckabee apparently hasn’t gotten the message. Mike’s still standing tall. Access the following link from this morning’s meeting and you’ll see what I mean:

After his speech, Governor Huckabee was asked whether or not he was, in essence, chasing windmills. “This is about giving people a choice. It’s not a coronation…I’ve spent my whole life fighting my way up from the bottom. I still believe in the impossible,” he responded.

Give ‘em hell, Mike. This movement is still on its feet. To the powerful it looks as if it’s one man chasing an illusory windmill. To those who are following the dream it is something far different. This movement is about us, about having our voices heard. We don’t like the oil being poured by the movers and shakers. We think it may be a bit rancid. So, we’ll just keep dreaming the impossible dream, fighting the unbeatable foe, and trying when our arms are too weary. We won’t give up!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

McCain-Lieberman - A Center Left Republican Ticket?

“We are reformers in spring and summer; in autumn and winter, we stand by the old; reformers in the morning, conservers at night.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

In a piece written for the National Review this morning, Bill Bennett, without making an endorsement, mounted a spirited defense for John McCain’s conservative credentials. While conceding the fact that conservative Republicans do have legitimate concerns about a McCain presidency,

“We know the conservative indictment against Senator McCain — we hear it every day, and even recite some of it ourselves some days. We concede much of it. There is a great deal on which the senator and we do not agree.”

Bennett went on to say:
“There is a great deal of difference between Senators McCain and Clinton (and Obama), and those records become important as we recognize a few simple facts.”

The facts Bennett cited are:

McCain’s vote to de-fund Planned Parenthood
McCain’s vote to ban partial birth abortion
McCain’s vote for Justices Roberts and Alito
McCain’s votes against tax increases
McCain’s votes against pork barrel spending
McCain’s support for the surge in Iraq

If John McCain is as conservative as Bill Bennett would have us believe, why is it that he hasn’t been fully embraced by the majority of social conservatives, Reagan Democrats, and values voters?

I think it all comes down to one thing – many of us have a great deal of concern about which direction John McCain would pull the Republican Party. He says he’s a conservative and touts his 83% conservative rating.

But many of us remain unconvinced. We want to know which direction would John McCain take the Republican Party?

In early January, Tom Curry, a national affairs writer for MSNBC, asked an intriguing question“Does a McCain-Lieberman ticket make sense?” Hearkening back to the 2004 election, Curry made the following observation:

“In the spring of 2004 Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry made overtures to Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican, to be his running mate.”

“A Kerry-McCain ticket had a compelling logic: it would have given Kerry a chance to outflank President Bush, to win some Republican voters, and to carry McCain’s state of Arizona and its ten electoral votes.”

“Will McCain, now a leading contender for the 2008 GOP nomination, borrow Kerry’s idea and offer the vice presidency to Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut’s self-styled “independent Democrat”?”

In addition to the close personal friendship of the two men, Curry cited some of the ways McCain and Lieberman have worked together on legislative issues:

“In 2003, they co-sponsored the Climate Stewardship Act to limit emissions of global warming gases by electric utilities, industrial firms, and refineries. They were leading members of the “Gang of 14,” the bipartisan group of senators who devised a way to avert a fight over judicial filibusters that would have shut down the Senate in 2005. They have been two of the prime movers in Senate efforts to restrict donations to political campaigns. The duo led the push for military intervention by the United State in Kosovo in 1998.”

I don’t know whether or not John McCain would take the Republican Party on a wild ride to the far left, but I am concerned that he will move it from the right to center-left. Bill Bennett and others can cite his conservative credentials all they want, but there are more than a few things in McCain’s record that demonstrate he’s not the friend of conservatives he’d lead us to believe he is.

In 2007, John McCain was given an opportunity to address the annual C.P.A.C (Conservative Political Action Conference). He declined the offer. Mike Huckabee, the candidate I support, was invited and did address the convention. Among the things he had to say, I believe this was one of the most important:

“That's why I love this country, and it's why I believe that the conservative movement must stand clear, firm, consistent and authentic in making sure that we preserve—not just winning an election, but keeping a country.”

C.P.A.C. is holding its convention in a day or so. John McCain has decided to come this year. What has changed in the course of a year? Could be that John McCain realizes that he needs the conservative movement a whole lot more this year than last? Could it be that McCain’s decision has as much to do with politics as it has to do with principle?

In his address Mike Huckabee noted that we’re living in a political time where Damascus Road conversions to conservative principles are becoming more and more common. That, as I see it, is the crux of John McCain’s problem. While many of us conservatives, Reagan Democrats, and values voters are willing to find legitimate avenues of common ground in politics, we’re not inclined to throw our principles into the fiery furnace.

Only time will tell about where the Republican Party will go if John McCain is nominated, and that in itself is a problem. How far would he be willing to go in order to move the Republican base in a new direction? His record to this point is mixed. Would gaining the Republican nomination bring on a “ let's now hold firm” Damascus Road experience or would it move the Party from compromise to compromise, then to the center-left? That’s the question.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Some Chicken, Some Neck

Before you read on, please take a minute to watch the following video. It will go a long way toward explaining the hows and whys of the Mike Huckabee’s ability to continue to flourish in the face of insurmountable odds. It will give you some insight not only into what makes the candidate tick, but will also give you a window into the hearts and souls of his supporters.

Ever since the South Carolina primary, pundits and talk radio megastars have either been writing Mike Huckabee’s obituary or digging his grave. One candidate, Mitt Romney did quite a bit of the digging himself. It all became a theme song of sorts – “Give up, Mike, give up, give up! But the Man from Hope refused to give in. He just kept on, true to his message.

Well, the obituaries were premature and all the digging was in vain. The Mike Huckabee campaign is very much alive.
When I was young I recall reading about the tenacity of the British people in the dark days of 1940 and 1941. Western Europe had been swallowed up by the Nazi juggernaut. Only England was left. There seemed to be no reason to hope; defeat seemed inevitable. Under the leadership of Winston Churchill, the British fought on. Some said that if England persisted in its insanity the Nazis would wring their necks like chickens in two weeks. The crisis eventually passed, there was no surrender, nor were the necks of the British people wrung like chickens. In a December, 1941 speech to the Canadian Parliament, Churchill made the following wry observation about the tenacity and resolve of his people. “Some chicken….Some neck!” he said.

As I watched the returns last night I saw the shock registering on the faces of the illuminati. How could this be? How could a man with no money, fresh from two defeats, facing power and money on all sides, do what he did? It defied conventional wisdom. Why, the last few shovelfuls of cold clay were about to be deposited on his grave.

Some chicken….Some neck!

While the pundits were frantically scratching their heads trying to figure it all out, Mike Huckabee thanked his supporters:

“You know, over the past few days a lot of people have been trying to say that this is a two-man race. Well, you know what? It is. And we're in it! Tonight, we are making sure America understands that sometimes one small smooth stone is even more effective than a whole lot of armor. And we've also seen that the widow's mite has more effectiveness than all the gold in the world.”

I’ve been saying for over a month now that there’s something very powerful about widows’ mites and smooth stones. You see, it’s those widows mites and the passion of Mike’s band of brothers and sisters who’ve made this possible. While others were writing his eulogy, he and his supporters kept plugging away. Surrender wasn’t an option.

E.M.Forster once observed that “one person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.
The real keys to the success of the Huckabee campaign can’t be found in how full the campaign coffers are, nor can they be found in the size of the campaign staff, or the length of the limousines, or whether the candidate is flying first class from junket to junket. The keys are matters of the heart. It’s about passion and belief. It’s vertical politics. It’s in holding to one’s principles. It’s about dreaming and not giving in when the hard times come.

Can we win? I don’t really know. But I do know this. We’re not ready to give in, nor are we going to let the naysayers plant discordant rhythms in our hearts. And why should we. Our dreams and ideals aren’t subject to the gravediggers shovels. As Jesse Jackson once said, “No one should negotiate your dreams. Dreams must be free to fly high. No government, no legislature, has a right to limit your dreams. You should never agree to surrender your dreams.”

And, so, we press on. Washington, Kansas and Louisiana are just a few days away. This is how it will be until June when the last primaries are contested in New Mexico and South Dakota. We’ve been bruised; we’ve been left for dead. We’ve been told to surrender, yet we stubbornly persist.

Some chicken….Some neck!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Change - The American D.N.A

“Men make history, and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”
- Harry Truman

I’ve been asked many times in the past month or so about why change has become such an important political issue for me in this election. Those who ask can’t seem to grasp why change itself would even be a political issue. Isn’t it the candidate’s stands on issues like the economy, Iraq, the War on Terror, health care, or illegal immigration that should be paramount in our minds as we pull the levers in this election cycle? Isn’t the devil of it all in the details, in the policy positions put forth and promises made? Isn’t this current focus on change just a passing fad dredged up from a linguistic nether world, employed only to mask a sense of purpose and direction?

Where are we going as a nation? What course should we take?

Permit me, if you will, to continue dreaming and hoping. I’m not nearly as interested in policy positions as I am with whether or not we can re-capture our sense of national purpose and faith. I sense the winds of change in the air and feel the need to spread my arms and soar with them. I’m ready for change, and millions of my countrymen are, too.

There an old Chinese proverb that says “If we don't change our direction we're likely to end up where we're headed.” I think is the state of America today. We’ve been too long mired in the old ways and the old rhetoric. For nearly a decade now we’ve been flirting with disaster, pitting interest group against interest group. We’ve color coded ourselves – red versus blue. We’ve lost our way and now need to set our national sail in a new direction. We need a leader who sees this and is prepared to launch us into the deep, pursuing a new and better America.

Why change? Why now?

First, change is the dynamic element of the American D.N.A. It’s as American as apple pie. Ours is a history of lurching left and right, descending to the depths and ascending to the heights, seeking to keep one foot firmly planted in our traditions while stepping old boldly into the history that’s yet to be written with the other.

Second, history, as it always has, is demanding change of us. The future we face is filled with both promise and peril. In order to face the challenges we must jettison the old dogma of division. In order to embrace and fulfill the promises we must unify. Our national task as we move ahead is to ensure that that the pendulum of division that has swung too far in one direction now brings us back to a realization that we must once again be one people.

If we refuse to embrace change we will, as Solzhenitsyn said, become victims of the “pitiless crowbar of events.”

The poet laureate of my generation expressed this theme at another of those times when we were on the brink:

Yes, change is once again in the air. The pendulum is swinging. It’s the one great constant of the American way.

Political leaders from my generation and the generations of our forefathers have also come our way to call upon us to embrace the changes necessitated by history:

“What does the change mean? That is the question that is uppermost in our minds to-day. That is the question I am going to try to answer, in order, if I may, to interpret the occasion. It means much more than the mere success of a party. The success of a party means little except when the Nation is using that party for a large and definite purpose. No one can mistake the purpose for which the Nation now seeks to use the Democratic Party. It seeks to use it to interpret a change in its own plans and point of view. Some old things with which we had grown familiar, and which had begun to creep into the very habit of our thought and of our lives, have altered their aspect as we have latterly looked critically upon them, with fresh, awakened eyes.”
- Woodrow Wilson

“Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.”
- Franklin D Roosevelt

“It is because we, all of us, hold to these principles that the political changes accomplished this day do not imply turbulence, upheaval or disorder. Rather this change expresses a purpose of strengthening our dedication and devotion to the precepts of our founding documents, a conscious renewal of faith in our country and in the watchfulness of a Divine Providence.”
- Dwight Eisenhower

“I do not believe that the Great Society is the ordered, changeless, and sterile battalion of the ants. It is the excitement of becoming--always becoming, trying, probing, falling, resting, and trying again--but always trying and always gaining.”
- Lyndon Johnson

“My fellow citizens, today we celebrate the mystery of American renewal. This ceremony is held in the depth of winter, but by the words we speak and the faces we show the world, we force the spring. A spring reborn in the world's oldest democracy, that brings forth the vision and courage to reinvent America. When our founders boldly declared America's independence to the world, and our purposes to the Almighty, they knew that America, to endure, would have to change. Not change for change sake, but change to preserve America's ideals: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.”
- Bill Clinton

So, the time for change has come. The time for dreams to once again become the currency of American life has dawned. That’s why I believe that change is the paramount issue in this election.

Monday, February 04, 2008

American Education and Globalization - Blessing or Curse?

“No generation has had the opportunity, as we now have, to build a global economy that leaves no-one behind. It is a wonderful opportunity, but also a profound responsibility.”
- Bill Clinton

“In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”
- Eric Hoffer

Since my retirement four years ago I’ve had the opportunity to see the world from the outside in rather than from the inside out, as I had during my career with FedEx. In my sixteen professional years I was privileged to be part of a corporation that was one of the tips of the spear of globalization. There were three valuable lessons I took from that experience. First, information is fast becoming the most valuable economic commodity in the developed world. Second, in order to thrive in the world of globalization, people must be the first priority. Third, the strategic challenge for those who intend to be successful in the global economy lies in developing the skills global companies are crying out for.

One of the sad realities I’ve seen since my retirement is that far too many American politicians, educators, and communities seem hell bent on clinging to the old ways. Nothing better illustrates this than the town I live in. I’ve said for years that in order for Emporia, Kansas to thrive once more it’s necessary for us to change our ways, to begin the process of reeducating our current workforce, students, and entrepreneurs to be so that we can take advantage of the enormous economic and cultural potential globalization has opened for us. Here in the Heartland too many in positions of power keep insisting that the key to our success is low wage manufacturing that is highly dependent on unskilled, uneducated labor. The bitter fruits of that neglect here have been high poverty rates, exacerbated by the movements of large corporations from cities like Emporia to communities where there is a pool of low skilled labor willing to do more for less. It's a toxic treadmill.

As the corporations move and the workforce packs up to follow, communities are being left in the backwash. The story of Emporia is being repeated all across rural America. Jobs are lost, the devastating economic toll continues to mount, and leaders lament. Until that deadly cycle is broken the downward trends will continue. Something must change, and it is clear to me that it’s time for leaders to stop lamenting and start doing the things necessary to reverse course.

The key to America’s ability to succeed economically in this globalized world is education. We must develop and nurture the skills that are, and will continue to be, the backbone of this new world. The time for lamenting and trying to turn back the clock has passed.

I’ve read what the Republican candidates have to say about this. While all support education, none other than Mike Huckabee has a firm grasp on where we need to go and how we as a nation need to proceed in this area. His policy position on education is clear, eight on target:

“I believe that every child should have the opportunity for a quality education that teaches the fundamental skills needed to compete in a global economy. As I traveled the country and the world over the last decade bringing jobs to Arkansas, the business leaders I met weren't worried about creating jobs, they were worried about finding skilled and professional workers to fill those jobs.”

Take a few minutes and view the video embedded in the introduction to this post. It presents, in vivid terms, the enormous changes taking place in the world and the inability, to this point, of American educational and political leadership to prepare this generation, and the next, to take advantage of the promise globalization offers.

We need to elect leaders who will not only promise to chart a new course, but also produce the results. Mike Huckabee has demonstrated to me that he is the only candidate who embodies both needs. That’s one of the many reasons I support him. It’s why I will continue to support him.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Hucklemania Rules

“The art of living is more like that of wrestling than of dancing; the main thing is to stand firm and be ready for an unseen attack.”
- Marcus Aurelius

Like all Americans I remember the righteous rage that welled up in me on September 11th, 2001. Not long after the attack our local newspaper published an editorial citing the things we’d done in the international arena that had brought the attack on. I remember my feeling of rage then, as well.

I don’t know where Usama bin Laden is right now, but I sure would like a piece of him. Wouldn't you?
Mike Huckabee has published a thirteen point platform on national security and the war on terror. At the root of the policy is the same tenacity that Mike has displayed in his grass roots campaign for the presidency. Read what he has to say about the War on Terror and I think you’ll agree with me:

“I believe that we are currently engaged in a world war. Radical Islamic fascists have declared war on our country and our way of life. They have sworn to annihilate each of us who believe in a free society, all in the name of a perversion of religion and an impersonal god. We go to great extremes to save lives, they go to great extremes to take them. This war is not a conventional war, and these terrorists are not a conventional enemy. I will fight the war on terror with the intensity and single-mindedness that it deserves.”

Erich Maria Remarque’s classic “All Quiet on the Western Front” the story of war is told from the point of view of the ordinary soldier. At one point in the novel the soldiers all decide that the best way to settle the war is for the leaders to fight it out, one on one.

As I think about the Republican race for president, there is no man I would rather have going one on one with Usama is Mike Huckabee. I realize that John McCain is a war hero. We’re deeply indebted to him for his service. It’s now time for someone to step from the ranks and go at it. So, to that end, we Huckabee supporters throw down the following gauntlet to Usama and his followers. Come out of the cave. Come out into the open. Mike is waiting for you, like David with his sling and five smooth stones.

Money, Money, Money!

“Money changes everything
Money changes everything
We think we know what we're doin’
We don't pull the strings
It's all in the past now
Money changes everything”
- Cyndi Lauper – “Money Changes Everything” (1984)

Super Tuesday is just a few days away; the campaign spending is ready to skyrocket from the stratosphere to the rings of Saturn. It seems that all the legislation in the world can’t curb the influence mammon has on American politics.

I just read some eye popping statistics on campaign spending to this point in the election cycle. Since this cycle started Republican and Democratic candidates have spent and average of $1.7 million for every delegate secured. Hillary Clinton has spent $77 million, or $3.7 million per delegate. Barack Obama totals are just about as astounding - $83.5 million spent, adding up to $2.5 million per delegate. John Edwards, who just dropped out of the race, spent $36 million at a rate of $3 million for each measure of committed support.

On the Republican side, Mitt Romney has spent over $86 million, including $35 million of his personal bankroll. That amounts to $3.2 million per delegate. John McCain, the co-author of McCain-Feingold, has spent over $36 million, or half a million bucks per delegate secured.

That’s the way it all seems at first blush. Money buys influence. Money buys power. Money does change things.

Or does it? Is it necessarily true that, as Donald Trump once said, that he who has the most toys (or money) wins?

Mike Huckabee, whose base of support has been scorned by the powerful as a rag-tag band of populists, Evangelicals, and Reagan Democrats. While Clinton, Obama, Romney, and McCain have spent huge sums wooing prospective delegates, Mike Huckabee has spent $57 per delegate. That’s not a misprint – it’s fifty-seven smackers per delegate!

The hallmarks of Mike Huckabee’s economic platform are:
1. A tax system that no longer penalizes productivity and labor.
2. Spending sanity (the line item veto)
3. Reducing America’s tax burden
4. Free/fair trade

While the other candidates spend millions upon millions, proving they don’t really understand how to change Washington’s spendthrift ways, Mike has been toting his own suitcase from the hotel to the airport. There aren’t multitudes of analysts and gurus following him around. He’s just quietly plugging away, at fifty-seven bucks per delegate, bringing his message of hope, reform, and vertical politics.

The Book says we shouldn’t despise small things. I see this principle of small things being played out day to day in the Huckabee campaign. I can’t say that it will win out in the end, but I can say that the battle is worth it. Fifty-seven dollars per delegate speaks more persuasively to me than the millions spent by others. It tells me that Mike Huckabee is a man of, and from, the people. It tells me that under his leadership there would be a clear understanding that the role of a leader is to do the people's business, not spend millions to secure power.

Friday, February 01, 2008


“NUTS!”- General Anthony McAuliffe (1944) – In response to the German demand for American surrender at the Battle of Bastogne.

For the last day or so I’ve been getting comments from a few Mitt Romney supporters asking why Mike Huckabee doesn’t drop out of the race. As they see it, a vote for Mike Huckabee is actually a vote for John McCain. That vote, in turn, dilutes the vote I assume they believe is rightly due Mitt Romney as the true conservative in this race.

I look at it differently. I think a vote for Mitt Romney is actually a vote for John McCain, diluting votes from Mike Huckabee. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

When Mike Huckabee got into this race, his support levels were about two percent. That number never seemed to move at all for months, but Governor Huckabee kept plugging away, staying on message. With little money, a skeleton staff, and scant media exposure he built a coalition that has propelled him into a viable position in what is now a three man race.

The governor has never harbored any illusions, nor do his supporters. We’ve known all along this was, and is, a difficult undertaking, made all the more difficult by the strident anti-Huckabee rhetoric emanating from the conservative airwaves. But Mike has maintained that he is in this race to win. If his intent wasn’t clear to the Romney campaign before, his response to the call for surrender ought to make things crystal clear now:

“We are in this race to win despite the desperate efforts by the Romney campaign to try and say that “a vote for me is a vote for McCain”. Actually, a vote for me is a vote for me! And it's a vote to say no to the underhanded efforts of the Romney campaign and his wholly-owned talk radio backers who are repeating that nonsense. We have outlasted Rudy, Fred, and others who were supposed to be the winners. Only 8% of the Republican delegates have been selected, and we have about the same number of delegates as McCain or Romney. We are in it to win.”

The Republican Party is in desperate need of leadership. I believe that Mike Huckabee is that leader. He’s demonstrated it by fighting against long odds and entrenched interests to come this far. He started from the bottom and has worked his way up, knowing that there would be good and bad times along the way. So, he’ll keep fighting the good fight. That’s what leaders do! That’s what leadership is all about!

So, to those calling for surrender, I, and millions of Huckabee supporters have one word for you – NUTS!