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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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So I’m waiting for someone to come up wth a convincing reason for me to care that not one House Republican voted for the economic stimulus bill this week.

Given the circumstances, it was practically a free vote and serves mostly as a Clinton-like refrain circa 1994: We’re still relevant. Take us seriously

The Senate is going to work its magic on the bill. It probably will look very little like the one that passed the House. So House members will have another chance to squawk — and another few weeks of doom-and-gloom economic news to condition them.

Barack Obama is  most likely not quaking in his boots over the power of the House GOP to stifle his agenda. They obviously can’t. It’s big of him to make nice, but I’m sure he or his advisers understand the politics driving House members. It’s the Senate they have to worry about.

They may even have anticipated a party-line “no.” I haven’ t heard anyone in the White House complaining (not that I have an ear anywhere near that hallowed ground).

How can we forget the many token “no”votes cast against the bank bailout? It died, then it came back to life so we could beat it up again over how ineffective it’s been. If you wanted to conjure up fresh proof that government spending doesn’t seem to work, you would have done the same.

Republicans normally embrace calls for personal responsibility. But that doesn’t seem to be happening in the debate over gas prices and what to do about them. That’s the irony in the recent mockery of Barack Obama’s mention of properly inflating tires.

Set aside all the studies showing savings from adequate inflation versus gains from domestic drilling. It’s also a moral issue, the kind Republicans would embrace in most other arenas. Why shouldn’t people be encouraged to take charge of their own lives and curb energy use wherever they can? The market may set an outrageous price for a gallon of gas. But we don’t have to sit back, play the victim and demand government action.

We can use fewer gallons. Or, at least when it comes to political debate, we can just move on to the next brouhaha. But not before I share with you the lead on this real-life press release (written by someone who clearly deserves a raise):

BETHESDA, Md., Aug. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — No matter where the presidential candidates are on the campaign trail, the issue of skyrocketing gas prices is always a top concern. The Car Care Council applauds both candidates who have recently discussed vehicle maintenance as a way to save energy, citing proper tire inflation and regular tune-ups. In fact, according to the survey by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), 75 percent of drivers said they are better maintaining their vehicles because of rising gas prices.

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…

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.

All this talk about Bush and his daddy is hogwash. The man he really wants to outdo is John McCain. How else do you explain Bush’s belated admission that global warming is real, following so closely a big speech by McCain on the same subject?

McCain won kudos for breaking with Bush and his own party way back on Monday. But it seems that Bush doesn’t want McCain to top him in the history books any more now than he did during the South Carolina primary in 2000. The pair have walked hand in hand on Iraq, with McCain lending an air of authority to Bush’s decisions. Maybe Bush is a little hurt that McCain is seen as abandoning him on global warming.

Why would Bush be more obsessed with McCain than with his own dad? Consider first that the elder Bush probably wasn’t around much during the younger’s childhood. It would have been natural for W. to look outside for a father-figure. McCain probably isn’t the first to fill that role.

Much has been made of Bush the son following in his dad’s Air Force footsteps. But McCain also was a pilot — who made a name for himself in the very war Bush avoided.

Maybe it’s all just psychobabble, but I can’t help scratching my head about these two Republican leaders both acknowledging the reality of global warming in the same week. It has to be more than coincidence. I can understand why McCain did it — he’s been a consistent supporter of climate-change legislation. Bush has had seven years to think about it. Why now?

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.