Thursday, September 4, 2008


An Assessment for The Wanderer, the Nation’s Oldest National Catholic Newspaper.

By Thomas F. Roeser

CHICAGO—Remember the story I told you about British Prime Minister Harold Mcmillan? He said politics was less a chess game than a series of “events, my dear boy, events.” Well, the last two weeks where I have been absent from The Wanderer, have been filled with highly determinative events to produce what will surely be regarded as one of the century’s most exciting contests in presidential history.

Two weeks ago to his dismay, David Axelrod of Chicago, Barack Obama’s top strategist and a man whom I have known for 30 years, discovered that while his client’s Iraq trip was a roaring success, his European speech was a failure—so much so that it was ridiculed as being eloquent but shallow despite all the media pazzaz. Why? Because his client seemed too simplistic, too innocent, too guileless, too idealistic. As one habitué of Manny’s Jewish deli here told Axelrod, “I get the idea that Putin would pat him on the head and say `there-there young man; go play with your ideals while we adults play politics the old fashioned way.”

Then came the first event which convinced Axelrod that his client needed a grown-up realist on the ticket with him—not first term Virginia Governor Tim Kaine or the youthful Indiana senator Evan Bayh, two nice young boys with no wrinkles in their cheeks so indecisive that between them they would have difficulty deciding where to have lunch. The event:

1. The Saddleback Back-to-Back TV Interview on Moral Issues. Axelrod’s client drew the first appearance before an evangelical audience with Rev. Rick Warren. The subjects included social issues and world problems cast in moral perspectives. Axelrod, a pro-abort, was appalled (a close associate told me) at how badly his client did on one central question: when does life begin? That was a question everyone could assume would be asked of a presidential candidate but Obama looked like a deer caught in the headlights. The answer Axelrod had given him was standard operating procedure for a pro-abort: viz through the centuries philosophers, even Augustine, disagreed, Augustine believing it came at “quickening” i.e. when the unborn child stirs in the womb. Augustine was hobbled by ancient biology but Axelrod had trained his pro-abort candidates to start with this absurd antiquity and move quickly to weave an aura of doubt to be resolved by support for greater federal expenditures in pre-natal and post natal care winding up with universal health care, a smooth formulation.

Instead, Axelrod was jarred out of his wits to see his client stumble around on the question as if he and Warren were engaged in casual Harvard faculty lounge banter and wind up by confessing that the solution as to when life begins “is beyond my pay grade.” Axelrod slammed his hand down on the TV table when he saw his client fumble it and decided that Obama needed someone by his side to give some old-fashioned moxie to issues like this. For example, someone who has been around the track a long time. Delaware’s Joe Biden, a pro-abort Catholic, had learned to finesse a question like this. And certainly on foreign policy and defense issues Biden could rattle off the lexicon with the best of the Republicans. At that point Axelrod made a phone call and immediately Joe Biden was sent overseas to Georgia to get a first-hand feel of the dispute between it and Russia. This led to

Event No.2, the picking of Joe Biden for vice president. The liberal media love the 65-year-old Delaware senator and has long forgiven him his almost terminal faults. Raconteur, first-rate wit and nice guy who has invested much in appearance improvement (heavy duty teeth whitening so when he flashes a smile it looks incandescent and painful hair plugs to take a nearly bald pate and make it cluster with grey locks), Biden has lived and laughed down his past but he is nevertheless a walking time-bomb of political gaffes and judgment blunders. It started when he copied someone else’s final paper in law school at the University of Delaware, put his own name on it and was discovered as a plagiarist. He was given an “F” in the course but was allowed to take it over the next year after he begged. Even then he passed with a gentlemanly “C”—graduating 76th out of 85.

Dogged with the idea that for all his charm he is dumb, Biden began a campaign of bragging about his intellect. It has continued throughout his career even after being found-out. He began telling audiences in Delaware and elsewhere that he graduated high in his law class. Then when discovered, he would say he graduated “in the top half.” Not so. He was regularly embarrassed through the years when the facts came out. Interrogating Robert Bork before Senate Judiciary, he tried to challenge the jurist on an item of natural law, a study Bork has made part of his life’s special work…but it was Biden who was humiliated. But his attempts to make himself an intellectual have never stopped. The fudging over his resume came to a dismal end one day in 1988 when Joe Biden was running for the presidency in the Iowa caucuses. He set himself up as a blue-collar working man who zoomed into the intellectual class. He began quoting Neil Kinnock who overcoming poverty became a brilliant expositor of the British Labour party. Kinnock rose from grinding poverty in Tredegar, Wales. His father was a miner who lost his job because of black lung and had to settle for common laborer. Kinnock was running against an ultra-leftist who insulted Kinnock’s working class accent. This spurred Kinnock to deliver a brilliant oration that won for him the election and which helped him become prime minister of England.

The speech Kinnock delivered to justify his lowly origins went like this—and it was video-taped: “Why is it that Neil Kinnock is the first in his family ever to go to a university? Why is it that my wife is the first in her family ever to go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because they didn’t work hard? My ancestors, who worked in the coal mines of Wales and would come home after 12 hours to play football for four hours?” For a few times, Biden used that speech with attribution but in one grand climatic speech he did not and appropriated Kinnock’s speech to himself. He even changed the locale. Where Kinnock referred to his ancestors who worked in the coal mines of Wales, Biden said “my ancestors who worked in the coal mines of northern Pennsylvania.”

Unlike Kinnock’s ancestors, Biden’s were well-to-do. His father was a polo playing dilettante and his parents went to comfortable colleges (his father squandered his money and turned to selling used cars for a time but that had no resemblance to Kinnock’s grinding poverty). Biden’s spectacular dishonesty came when he was in midlife. Still the almost psychological references to his attainments have continued. Early this year in the primaries, he was confronted by a man in an audience who questioned his facts. Biden wheeled about, cited his own intelligence and raged that his IQ was bound to be higher than his questioner’s. The crowd fell silent, embarrassed for Biden.

Yet on the stump Biden is both impressive and a superb attack dog. Axelrod has decided to take a chance that Biden’s old weaknesses will not surface. Also to take the chance to mar his client’s claim that his administration will be free of the old barnacles of party hackdom. Biden said (in this Spring’s primaries) that Obama is not ready for the presidency, that he—Biden—would be pleased to run with John McCain. Notwithstanding, Axelrod (in football terms) hurled a pass on spec a long way down the field. Whether it will pay off is unknown—but my feeling is Biden was a bad choice. The logical way to bind up the Democrats’ wounds would be to hold one’s nose and nominate Hillary Clinton. For two reasons: (1) The Clintons would thus be invested in seeing the Obama-Clinton ticket win and (2) to clean up an LBJ analogy, it is far better having a rival inside the tent spitting out than outside the tent spitting in. But Axelrod has been ill-treated by the Clintons and he could not abide another Democratic administration where he would be treated as an outsider.

Now however the Clintons are free to roam like two cancer cells in the Democratic body politick to subtly encourage the defeat of Barack Obama so that in four years Hillary can run unchallenged for the presidency at age 64. So I see the choice of Joe Biden as a grave error.

Event No. 3: the pick of Sarah Palin. All the while, John McCain who unlike Obama does his strategizing himself, was cognizant of his own weaknesses. The normal thing to do for one who is remarkably close in polling to a projected victor…when one’s party’s president is heavily unpopular and when one himself is 72 years old…is to play it exceedingly cautious: pick a running-mate who embodies what you don’t have (in McCain’s case a thorough knowledge of economics) and who stands to carry some battleground states. That would normally warrant Mitt Romney who is himself a wunderkind on the economy and who could easily help the ticket carry Michigan where his late father George is still revered. But McCain wasn’t buying.

He noticed the coolness of the Republican right to him. He decided the election would be lost by caution…so he chose—as we all know by now—an unknown governor, but a woman governor of 44, mother of five who is an indissoluble pro-lifer and social conservative, who not only talks the talk on abortion but when informed her unborn was a Down syndrome child, had the baby and welcomed him with great joy. Evangelical Sarah Palin is a perfect 10 where social conservatives are concerned…on all the grassroots movement issues, gun ownership, drilling in ANWR. But she still was unknown. But the Democrats helped McCain to get her known. They attacked her while Axelrod winced—attacked her implying she is a hypocrite because she promotes abstinence programs in the Alaska schools while her unmarried 17-year-old daughter was made pregnant by her boyfriend (whom she will marry and with whom she will have her baby).

The spectacle of Democrats attacking a young pro-life mother-governor and abstinence supporter whose daughter fell into sin is, without cynicism, the best thing that could happen to a Republican ticket that until recently was regarded as ho-hum. The spectacle of Democrats doubting that a woman governor has the ability of succeeding to the presidency when they themselves have ditched a veteran woman senator to nominate a man not yet through his first Senate term is rich irony. I see the nomination of Sarah Palin as brilliant, although with a very young candidate open to a vast liberal media assault there are very real dangers.

Event No.4, Hurricane Gustav. Michael Moore, the left-wing Catholic who made millions as a film documentarian, cheered with all his 320 lbs. quivering with happiness when weather forecasters announced that a massive hurricane was racing to decimate New Orleans at exactly the hour the Republican convention would open in St. Paul. I could see what Moore meant. It would (a) spotlight the alleged ineptitude of the Bush administration vis-à-vis Hurricane Katrina; it would (b) take the media focus off the Republicans and substitute human interest agonies instead of political speakers and (c) it would be a great device for the Democrats to criticize anything short of perfection in rescue operations.

Instead, Gustav was a decided plus because (a) it provided an excellent reason for the party to eschew its highly unpopular president and vice president (Bush and Cheney are popular with the GOP rank and file but their being on view in St. Paul would trump McCain and Palen); (b) it provided a showcase for five Republican governors to work smoothly with the Republican national administration, a difference from 2005; and (c) gave a decided thrust to the career of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, 36, brightest of all the new governors to work his weal in behalf of his state.

What Can Go Wrong?

Lots. The mainstream media have redoubled their energies to elect Obama. Example: Andrea Mitchell, NBC-TV political correspondent, an agnostic as is her foxy husband Alan Greenspan but far-far more liberal and a Democrat-rooter, gasped when she saw Obama’s 6-minute-long rambling answers in contrast to McCain’s staccato ones on Rick Warren’s Saddleback program and immediately used a baseless filmy rumor to charge that somehow McCain had advance knowledge of the questions…as if “when do you believe life begins” was not to be deduced for a program for evangelicals. First, the media will zero in on Palin and try to transform her into a Dan Quayle, especially in the Oct. 1 debate with Joe Biden. Mitchell will be enlisted in that effort.

Second the media will reemphasize its campaign that at 72 McCain is a doddering old man who will turn the country over, either by death or senility, to a brash young woman who is likely to be intemperate and plunge us into war. Third will emphasize that neither McCain or Palin have a clue on how to resurrect the economy, having succeeded in driving Phil Gramm out of McCain’s camp by insisting Gramm’s statement that we have become a nation of economic whiners….correct in my view…was hideously insensitive.

Fourth, the hope that Palin’s nomination would automatically draw Hillary Clinton Democrats to the GOP is far less likely than McCain initially surmised. Hillary Clinton women…and there are a great many of them in my suburb where she was a neighbor a few blocks away…are definitely pro-abort…not gun rights enthusiasts or share any of the values of Sarah Palin. Morever these women sorely want the presidency to be Hillary’s, not anyone else’s and may feel the election of the first woman vice president being a Republican as a no-no. Yet Palin might just bring home one trophy. Geraldine Ferraro has said she has not yet decided whom she will vote for and cited McCain’s pick of Palin as one good reason.

Finally, the sleepy eye of the electorate has remained open longer than anyone expected…noticing favorably Obama’s acceptance speech before a pillared set that on close examination was designed to resemble the Lincoln Memorial before which Martin Luther King gave his smashing speech—an example of Axelrod’s subliminal genius at its best. It blinked in disbelief when Obama punted in inept cowardice on the issue of when life begins and contrasted this with McCain’s punchy responses. It initially liked the selection of Biden and can see him in the presidency which it still has difficulty with Obama. It doesn’t know what to make of Palin as yet…cannot visualize her as president (no matter how enthused the GOP base is about her) and can easily be convinced by the duplicitous media that she should be home with her kids and her daughter who will make her a young grandmother.

The answers to all these and issues I have not foreseen will come soon.


  1. One slight error in a fascinating writeup: Neil Kinnock never became prime minister.

  2. Great to see you back in the saddle feeling better.

    Palin was a wise choice. The real test will be her debate with Biden--which will be more interesting than the MCCain Obama debates.

    The field is tilted toward McCain, but it is a long way from done.

  3. If Palin can weather scrutiny from the press, then she will be a big help to the McCain campaign. However, if the Enquirer can back up its claims, then she's going to be bounced off the ticket.

  4. From McLean County Pundit:


    Last Thursday morning Obama woke up with a moosehead in his bed.