- The Washington Times - Monday, November 15, 2004

Carson’s insights

“As a defeated Senate candidate in the most red of red states, many people have asked me for insights into the Democratic Party’s failure to connect with culturally conservative voters,” Rep. Brad Carson, Oklahoma Democrat, writes in the New Republic.

“Much has already been written on this topic, and scholars will add more. But I do know this: The culture war is real, and it is a conflict not merely about some particular policy or legislative item, but about modernity itself. Banning gay marriage or abortion would not be sufficient to heal the cultural gulf that exists in this nation,” Mr. Carson said.

“The culture war is about matters more fundamental still: whether nationality is, in a globalized world, a random fact of no more significance than what hospital one was born in or whether it is the source of identity and even political legitimacy; whether one’s self is a matter of choice or whether it is predetermined, before birth, by the cultural membership of one’s family; whether an individual is just that — a free-floating atom — or whether the individual is part of a long chain that both predates and continues long after any particular person; whether concepts like honor and shame, which seem so quaint, are still relevant in a world that values only ‘tolerance.’ These are questions not for politicians, but for philosophers, and, in the end, it is the failure of liberal philosophy that we saw on Nov. 2.

“For the vast majority of Oklahomans — and, I would suspect, voters in other red states — these transcendent cultural concerns are more important than universal health care or raising the minimum wage or preserving farm subsidies. … They simply reject the notion that material concerns are more real than spiritual or cultural ones.

“The political left has always had a hard time understanding this, preferring to believe that the masses are enthralled by a ‘false consciousness’ or Fox News or whatever today’s excuse might be. But the truth is quite simple: Most voters in a state like Oklahoma — and, I venture to say, most other Southern and Midwestern states — reject the general direction of American culture and celebrate the political party that promises to reform or revise it.”

“That is what Antonin Scalia famously called the Kulturkampf. And there can be no doubt either that this is a fundamental dynamic in American politics or on which side of this conflict the electorate rests. [On Nov. 2], I ran 7 percent ahead of John Kerry, and my opponent ran a full 13 percent behind President Bush. In most states, this would have been more than sufficient to ensure my victory. But not in Oklahoma. At least not [Nov. 2]. And, while the defeat was all my own, the failure was of the party to which I swear allegiance, which uncritically embraces a modernity that so many others reject.”

Media abdication

“It is often said that the only sure winner in American politics is the media. Amid GOP victory parties or the ruined dreams of the Kerry candidacy, the one constant is that the media marches on,” The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger writes.

“Maybe not this time. Big Media lost big. But it was more than a loss. It was an abdication of authority,” Mr. Henninger said.

“Large media institutions, such as CBS or the New York Times, have been regarded as nothing if not authoritative. In the Information Age, authority is a priceless franchise. But it is this franchise that Big Media, incredibly, has just thrown away. It did so by choosing to go into overt opposition to one party’s candidate, a sitting president. It stooped to conquer.

“The prominent case studies here are Dan Rather’s failed National Guard story on CBS and the front page the past year of the New York Times (a proxy for many large dailies). Add in as well Big Media’s handling of Abu Ghraib, a real story that got blown into a monthlong bonfire that obviously was intended to burn down the legitimacy of the war in Iraq. I think many people thought the over-the-top Abu Ghraib coverage, amid a war, was the media shouting fire in a crowded theater.”

Under fire

“One of the more interesting journalistic ventures is how Newsweek embeds reporters in presidential campaigns every four years to produce an insider account of how it all went down,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“They call it ‘the Project.’ But this year’s try is under fire. Bush campaign officials say they gave little access and did so only after Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas ‘begged’ for it. The result: ‘The story reads like a dimestore novel. It’s fiction,’ says a Bushie. And Democrat James Carville tells us that despite Newsweek’s account, he didn’t leak former President Bill Clinton’s hospital-bed phone call to Sen. John Kerry. ‘I can assure you I did not,’ Carville says.

“Mag spokesman Ken Weine says, ‘We stand behind the reporting, and we’ll let readers decide how much access our team was able to gain.’”

Arnold’s amendment

Californians soon will see advertisements urging them to help give Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other foreign-born citizens the chance to run for president.

The cable television ads, set to being running Monday, are from a Silicon Valley-based group that wants to amend the U.S. Constitution, which limits the presidency to people born in the United States. Mr. Schwarzenegger was born in Austria, but became a U.S. citizen in 1983.

“You cannot choose the land of your birth. You can choose the land you love,” Lissa Morgenthaler-Jones says in the ads.

She is a San Francisco Bay area mutual fund manager and major Schwarzenegger campaign donor who is helping pay for the ads and created a companion Web site, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, 57, has said he would consider running for president if the Constitution allowed, but hasn’t pushed for a constitutional change.

The TV ads mark the first significant attempt to build public support for an amendment. While polls show Mr. Schwarzenegger remains popular with voters, the idea of a constitutional change is not.

Four proposed amendments are circulating in Congress, but none has advanced. Constitutional amendments require congressional approval and ratification by 38 states.

Going underground

“We don’t have the internals on this poll, but the significance seems pretty plain,” National Review says in an editorial.

“Democratic Underground, a left-wing online forum, asked its readers, ‘What is more depressing: 9/11/01 or 11/3/04?’ Two hundred forty-five voted, of whom 73 percent picked the presidential election. Some Democratic Undergrounders were as disgusted by this result as normal American would be,” the magazine said.

“‘I’m about to bail on this forum after reading garbage like this,’ wrote one. ‘I’m starting to think many of you are way out of touch.’ Hold on to that thought.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected].

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