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I can’t believe this became news to me only this morning: Obama is a heretic. His alleged sin? Failure to believe in American exceptionalism.

The irony, already pointed out, is that he is no such thing. He just expresses his beliefs differently. Pity.

Dude, where's my country?

What this country needs is someone to point out the absurdity of the belief. Hello! People in every country believe their homeland has some special quality or mission.

For us, it happens to be our political system, which is increasingly indistinct from our economic system. Other countries are proud of their social safety nets, their excellent taste in wine, their clean, roomy prison systems, etc. No one is sitting around thinking, “Why can’t we merge our garden-variety nation with our cooler, more exceptional neighbor to the north/south/east/west?”

It takes courage to see the world as it is, not the way we imagine it to be. But it’s not the kind of courage we expect from a politician, liberal or conservative. But why shouldn’t we?

 

 

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A long absence — i had to let the election and the last month of campaigning speak for itself. A nice rationalization, eh?

At any rate, I was recently at a panel looking back at the Web component of the 2008 election. Much of the discussion centered on how Obama could transition his use of Youtube, social networking, etc, from campaigning to governing. Hey look! It’s a presidential radio address on Youtube! [media swoons, populace  yawns]

It’s taken me a while to figure out exactly what I think about this, but here it goes. I think the transition from campaigning to governing, whatever form it takes, will be a big disappointment. Leave aside the difference between a focus on one goal, the election, and the more diffuse tasks facing a government, and chew on these:

First off, the people pushing for more electronic government rely too heavily on technology as a force for change. Culture always has and always will play a bigger role, and it is much harder to identify cultural forces than it is to hold up the latest shiny gadget. I’m not sure the culture of governing is apt to change just because of online videos and twitter. Never underestimate the power of bureaucratic inertia. If and when bureaucrats do change, it won’t be in any way that we can easily identify.

And it might not be for the better. One participant on my panel claimed the full potential of the Internet would have the same effect on government as the discovery that the world was round. Sounds nice, but I should have pointed this out then (what can I say, I’m a slow thinker): what mattered wasn’t the roundness of the world but Galileo’s discovery that it revolved around the sun, pushing the earth and its inhabitants out of the center of the universe. The internet seems to put us right back in that un-humbling spot.

Let’s say a bunch of people Twitter angrily about a long line at the DMV. What’s the state supposed to do? Rush over untrained workers from some other office to handle the crush? Or make a case for higher taxes so that the DMV can be fully staffed or stay open for more hours? You decide.

Second, Obama adapted Web tools to fuel an insurgent campaign against an institution, the Democratic Party, that had already anointed Hillary Clinton. It’s unclear how you adapt those tools to running an institution, whether party or government. Unless you are prepared to radically change the institution.

Third, too often  the assumption behind publishing reams of gov’t information online and fostering discussion seems to be that people will arrive at a rational consensus on where the country should go. For example, I saw a comment here asking how people can use a bunch of congressional info for the public good. When you come across a definition of the public good that every voting American can agree on — and a set of policies designed to get there — get back to me. If I’m still alive, I’ll gladly entertain debate on the use of this particular info.

Fourth, the debate simply overlooks how much our forebears were able to do without the Internet. Adopt the reforms of the New Deal and the Progressive Era? Populate a continent and build the world’s largest economy? It should be obvious, but no one appears to appreciate it. Technology alone does not guarantee sweeping political change. It could even hinder it.

Electronic mediums seem to inflame differences rather than bridge them. It’s why testy email exchanges degenerate so quickly. They take away as much of our common humanity (our physical presence being a big part of it) as they let us share.

It appears that Democrats in Adams and Franklin county have an online edge. They’re pushing Dem Bruce Tushingham out in front of Republican Rich Alloway in this Internet poll I set up many moons ago. I don’t quite understand the results, but it seems Tushingham has support of 65% versus 10.3% for Alloway. Both are running for a state Senate seat, to replace retiring Terry Punt, a Republican.

I haven’t seen many yard signs yet, but then again, I’m not driving regularly on Route 30 between York and Gettysburg. That, after all, is the other important metric in this race. Oh, and so is the overwhelming advantage in voter registration enjoyed by the GOP. I wonder if that will make a difference in the fall…

Say what you will about the contest to see which presidential candidate (and which presidential candidate’s wife) is more patriotic. At least it managed to knock Bill Clinton back out of the headlines. The economy, the war, fuel prices, none of that stands much of a chance of seeing much airtime anyway between now and November.

I nearly fell down laughing when I heard someone on CNN talk about how the patriotism debate switched the topic of most news away from the economy, etc., an alleged switch that apparently benefits John McCain. I just don’t remember hearing much about those other issues. But I do recall heated exchanges over the motives and whereabouts of Bill Clinton in the aftermath of the Democratic primary.

I can’t quite understand the media’s fascination with the Clinton-Obama story line. Well, no. I can, given the obvious drama. But it seems that health care, the housing crisis, the war in Iraq all offer plenty of drama, too. They’re just more complicated and require a little more digging outside the beltway. Just don’t expect anyone to pick up a shovel.

In the meantime, I suspect Barack Obama is going to start taking a real beating from the netroots, given his penchant for announcements like this and this. But I suspect the campaign must believe it will help Obama appear more centrist if he is consistently under attack from the left. After all, the same strategy works for McCain, only with attacks coming from the right.

Obama’s decision to spurn public financing and the resulting storm, I first put down as some inside-the-beltway issue that wouldn’t much resonate. But the more I think about it, the more I think he made a mistake there. You don’t jettison systems or principles you supposedly believe in just because they’re inconvenient. Isn’t that the lesson of the last seven-plus years?

I’ve solved the energy crisis, at least the political one. Republicans want more drilling and refineries and Dems want more conservation and cars with better fuel efficiency. Why not have both?

If cars and SUVs and pickups really do end up traveling more miles per gallon, we won’t need more refineries or more drilling — but at least oil companies will have the option. Everyone gets what they want and gas can fall back to $1.30/gallon (I remember one colleague complaining when it hit that mark nine short years ago),

But, of course, Washington doesn’t work that way, at least for the moment. It’s more fun to yell and scream and block the other side from getting what it wants than it is taking a risk and figuring out how to satisfy everyone. And it is a risk.

But some country singer appearing on Glenn Beck’s show had a good metaphor for why we need more domestic drilling — he compared it to surgery (and no, I don’t think this particular singer had much background in energy policy, but so what?). Sure it might hurt, but you gotta do it.

The analogy worked for me, and then I figured it was worth approaching conservation and fuel efficiency in a similar vein. That’s like the special diet you have to go on after, say, a gastric bypass operation. In many cases, surgery alone won’t cure you. It just postpones the agony.

Once Barack Obama lays claim to the nomination, expect a flood of stories on how the Internet fueled his victory. The narrative already is taking shape. But the real story is likely to be more complicated.

A big part of the Democratic electorate wanted to stop Hillary Clinton as much as anyone on the right. They coalesced around Obama in a way they couldn’t have coalesced around any of the other candidates that stood in her path a year ago. Most of these people already were/still are active online and set their sights on stopping Hillary (just like maker of the Vote Different ad suggested they should).

The progressive wing of the Dem party never much cottoned to either Clinton. They’ve been more than happy, I imagine, to beat her. The Internet was simply their hammer. It’s ironic that Clinton’s Senate career has been spent girding for attacks from the right, but she fell to an unlikely attack from the center.

At the risk of sounding like Geraldine Ferraro, I think Obama is probably the only candidate who could’ve stopped Clinton. John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, even Bill Richardson didn’t stand a chance. You can only trump a historic run with another historic run.

It’s still up in the air whether the American electorate as a whole is in the same historical mood as the Democratic slice of it. I’d be more optimistic if I didn’t read regular letters to the editor of my local paper warning me about the socialistic left and the fraudulent hoax known as global warming.

Lawyers for David Archuleta are filing a motion in federal court today to overturn the American Idol victory of David Cook, who was crowned victor in a stunning finale of the musical competition’s seventh season last night.

Archuleta’s attorneys rest their case on the fact that Cook has failed to win over the crucial bloc of white girls aged 10 to 13, who make up a significant portion of the music-buying audience. Cook’s inability to dazzle this demographic threatens his ability to cook up a hit single this fall as a follow-up to his victory in the TV contest, the attorneys allege.

“Without getting into names, other Idol winners have clearly failed in the wider marketplace,” said Stu Ing, lead attorney for the teen sensation Archuleta. “We think it’s time the show reflected the broader, music-buying public rather than a narrow elite of people who have phones.”

Ing and his colleagues also contend that the finale should be redone as many tweens were asleep in bed during the crucial final phase of voting. Had these girls been able to vote, the results might have been different and Archuleta would have been the one weepily crooning at the end.

Wait a sec. Are we talking about American Idol or the Democratic primary season? Who knows anymore. But it’s tempting to consider what Cook’s win portends for the second-biggest election this year.

Is Cook a stand-in for Barack Obama, the outsider who wasn’t even expected to enter the contest? And is Archuleta Hillary Clinton, with a troublesome stage father in place of an intrusive stage husband?

Or is Cook John McCain, the grizzled veteran, while Archuleta represents a new face, i.e. Obama, who was buoyed by a youth vote that failed to materialize when it really mattered?

We can only wait and see. And hope that tween girls aren’t so disillusioned that they give up on American Idol entirely.

If polls show that Barack Obama has trouble winning over working-class, less-educated whites, that’s science. But if Hillary Clinton mentions it, that’s playing the race card.

I managed to convince myself at one point that the dragging Democratic primary wouldn’t be harmful. Now I’m not so sure, but don’t blame Clinton. As was pointed out last weekend, the Democratic party is an odd mishmash. Republicans are, too, I suppose. That’s what happens when you try to cram tens of millions of political views into two opposing camps.

The continuing battle seems worse for Obama, in that it diminishes his ability to attract swing voters if he’s defined as the candidate of young people, African Americans and the college-educated (who, contrary to their own self-image, are a minority).

Sure, Obama is popular online, the Web somehow predicted his victory and he has won more votes in the Democratic primaries. But anyone who thinks the Democratic primary process — or the Internet — is the best way to pick a general-election winner should think again. The Internet may simply be replicating the losing touch of the primary electorate itself.

At any rate, it’s no accident that the only Democrat to win a presidential election since 1968 is Bill Clinton, and he was anything but a front-runner in the beginning. He lost Iowa in ’92, if anyone cares to remember. And he probably wouldn’t have been too popular among the netroots, what with all his compromises, political and otherwise. OK, Gore won in 2000 — but he was vice president to a popular two-term candidate who couldn’t run again and probably would have been disowned by the party even if he had been able. (A friendly reader reminded me I left out Jimmy Carter, but pointed out that he was a long shot, too.)

The chief talking point against McCain is that he represents a third Bush term. Given Bush’s poor standing, that line of attack makes sense. But I don’t see it sticking. It just doesn’t ring true, certainly not as true as Obama’s supposed elitism. That bowling score (37, but in seven frames. So be fair: he could have rolled a 127 if every other ball were a strike) — and this picture — is going to come back to haunt him. Couldn’t he at least have unbuttoned his collar and loosened the tie? He must have been pretty uncomfortable with all that fabric tugging at his neck.

Plus, the far right will be contradicting the Dem’s attack on McCain’s behalf. Could it be the ultimate sucker punch? Conservatives hound McCain from the right knowing it will help him with independents and thereby paving his way to the White House? But let’s face it. Bush and McCain are very different men, have lived very different lives and have occasionally disagreed. Bush also won TWO TERMS. Let me go out on a limb and suggest that the polls showing low approval ratings have less to do with Bush and more to do with the way we expect people to perceive him, and the answers people believe they should be giving to the pollsters.

It’s also a tidy way to sweep him off the stage so the cameras can focus on the sequel rather than the pressing issues facing this country. Who wouldn’t want to watch a beauty contest — however ugly it gets — rather than a food shortage or a housing crisis?

We have a winner in the 33rd Senate district’s write-in campaign on the Democratic side: It’s Bruce Tushingham, a retired teacher from New Oxford. According to the Chambersburg Public Opinion and other sources, Tushingham collected more than 1.600 votes. Rich Alloway, who won the Republican primary, came in second with 1,200 votes. Bob Curley, Jim Taylor and Cathy Cresswell, the three other candidates in the GOP primary, each took about 600 votes.

Alloway and Tushingham will have some company in Green Party candidate Andy Johnson. I hesitate to make a prediction in this race, but something tells me Alloway has a pretty good shot.

The conventional wisdom suggests John McCain is the winner of the continuing fight between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. But is all this downtime really such a good thing? Sure McCain’ll be able to raise tons of money, but if money voted, Mitt Romney would be the GOP nominee and Obama would have swept Clinton offstage a long time ago.

We hear a lot about Obama’s seeming inability to connect with the white working class. I wonder if McCain will have the same problem. I don’t think his primary victories really healed the rift over immigration and other issues between him and more conservative Republicans. Those disagreements have been lost in the media’s focus on the Obama-Clinton fight, but they’re likely to return, especially if a conservative third party mounts a challenge.

The numbers from yesterday’s primary bear out the potential for an independent candidate to make inroads among disaffected Republicans (and perhaps among Democrats disaffected by whomever they ultimately choose).

I suspected Ron Paul, though fighting a hopeless cause, would do pretty well in PA.  Alas, my prediction that he could win fell flat. But he did pull down nearly 16 percent of the vote statewide. Paul did even better in York and Adams counties, winning nearly 19 percent and 18 percent of the vote, respectively. With Mike Huckabee also in the mix, McCain didn’t reach 70 percent in either county. Huckabee — who isn’t even pretending to run — came in third, with 11.6 percent in York and 12.9 percent in Adams

McCain got about 73 percent in Franklin County, but Huckabee got nearly 16 percent. Paul came in third with 11.2 percent.

In short, more than one in four Republican voters in PA cast a ballot for someone other than McCain. Maybe they’ll close ranks in November and they were all just exercising their right to disagree. But if general-election unity is so in doubt for Democrats, why doesn’t the same question hang over Republicans? The answer may be different, but it’s still worth asking.