Don’t be a sourpuss! The Iowa lead-up caucus has been fun and informative-despite the often non-lofty quality of the discussion. When “I knew Benazir Bhutto; Benazir Bhutto was my friend” becomes the standard of conversation, you know you aren’t on the Acropolis. (Christopher Hitchens doesn’t share my enthusiasm, regarding the Iowa caucuses as “a scam” and an “undemocratic” way to pick a president.)
But we’ve learned a lot about the candidates, and I feel certain that some of you (like me) have switched several times. I want low taxes and strong defense, and I’d like it if the candidates answer questions in a way that doesn’t sound focus-grouped. I’m convinced that part of the appeal of Mike Huckabee, in addition to his home school and evangelical networks, is that he doesn’t sound like he’s put his remarks though a consultant sieve. This doesn’t mean he’d lower taxes or understand the perils of a dangerous world. (The Iraq war has retreated as an issue. This is too bad. “No candidate,” notes Victor Davis Hanson, in a piece on voting and the war, “apparently argues that someone did something right to have prevented another 9/11-like attack for over six years, removed two dictatorships, fostered the continued, stubborn presence of democratic governments in Afghanistan and Iraq, helped change the Middle East dynamic from Lebanon to Libya, and at present won friendship and support from key countries as diverse as France, Germany, and India.”)
Some of the voters will vote for dumb reasons. Somebody on TV last night said she was rejecting Fred Thompson because he didn’t seem to want her vote enough-in other words, he’s not as maniacally committed to the process as some of the candidates. That could actually be an appealing characteristic, and Thompson has put forward some attractive proposals, especially on taxes. Iowa may be the end of the road for Thompson, but as Politico points out, he could have a lot of impact by getting out and endorsing another candidate (probably the now-surging John McCain).
Like most people, I am fixated on the Hillary vs. Obama angle. For my money, the best column on Obama was George Will’s comparing the Illinois senator to Fred Astaire:
“So far, Obama is the Fred Astaire of politics — graceful and elegant, with a surface so pleasing to the eye that it seems mistaken, even greedy, to demand depth. No one, however, would have given Astaire control of nuclear weapons, so attention must be paid to Obama’s political as well as aesthetic qualities.
“[Shelby] Steele notes that Obama ‘seems to have little talent for anger.’ But that is because Obama has opted out of the transaction Steele vigorously deplores. The political implications of this transcendence of confining categories are many, profound and encouraging.”
Dan Henninger has the best piece on the paradoxical mood of the voter going into the national election–happy with their lots in life but believing that the country is “headed in the wrong direction.”
I can’t resist adding: Don’t trust the media’s interpretation of the results. They have to write/say something, but there’s no reason for us to buy it. Remember when they buried John McCain? Unfortunately, the press does have vast influence. Ignore them, and it’s reduced. With the Iowa caucus, flawed but important, we move closer to the day when we, not the media, will cast our votes.