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Pessimism concerning our woeful predicament in Iraq and Iran and the greater Middle East permeates all points on the political compass. I confess that even my prodigious evangelical optimism is waning a bit in favor of a more traditional conservative and Calvinistic realism.

In that vein, I ask you to consider these private thoughts of Abraham Lincoln. In this untitled reflection, penned in September 1862, which has come to be known as the "Meditation on the Divine Will," Lincoln struggled to discern God's role in the Civil War. Lincoln served during a period in which Protestant Evangelicals, making up America's "most powerful political subculture," believed that a reign of Heaven on Earth could be achieved through human initiative. On both sides of the sectional conflict, great men of God reassured their national congregations that they were blessed uniquely with God's favor and doing the Lord's work. Lincoln took a slightly different perspective, envisioning a sovereign God in complete control and using human agency to achieve His own purposes. Lincoln, unlike so many of his contemporaries, saw the ways of God as mysterious and often beyond human understanding.

Lincoln:

"The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party -- and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true -- that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds."
Mitt Romney, who probably wants to be the Republican presidential candidate, would be the first major party Mormon candidate if he gets the nomination. I've discussed his candidacy here and here. He has some hurdles to face. Some polls have shown a sizable minority of Americans say that they would not vote for a Mormon; Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals label Mormonism a "cult." This includes the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.

An article this week in the Salt Lake City Tribune raises the question as to whether Mitt Romney's ancestry would hurt him in a national election--he has ancestors who were polygamous, including a great-grandfather who moved to Mexico in 1885 to continue his polygamy. The article concludes that the actions of Romney's ancestors will not hurt him in today's politics. An answer I agree with. And, while many conservative Christian voters will be uncomfortable voting for a Mormon, I cannot see large numbers of southern fundamentalists and evangelicals voting Democrat in 08. Romney may have some anti-Mormon problems in primaries, but probably none in the general election.

We are having an election today in Oklahoma. Brief Article. Among other things voters will choose between two candidates to determine the Democrat nominee for Lt. Governor this fall.

The ads these two men are running tell a lot about being Democrat in a Red State. Both candidates are running ads that do not mention the word "Democrat." Instead, we get soft ads touting deep roots in Oklahoma, strong faith, responsibility, and commitment to low taxes. Neither one is running ads that I have seen proclaiming himself the "true" Democrat in the race. Doing so might jeopardize chances of election in the fall. What future does the Democratic party have in the Heartland?
One of the key Senate races this fall is taking place in Missouri. See my earlier post. Republican incumbant Jim Talent is now stressing border security, including no amnesty for illegals and making the southern border actually secure. See article. Talent maintains that the few billions that actual border security would cost could be saved as we have fewer and fewer illegals using American hospital emergency rooms.

As politics, it will be interesting to see how illegal immigration works as a campaign issue this fall and in 08. As a national issue it seems to me that we must have actual border security for several reasons: first, in an age of Islamic terrorism we cannot have foks just walking into the USA; second, I think there is a rate of assimilation we can maintain and still keep what is good in US life, if we take in more immigrants than we can assimilate we are flushing ourselves down the crapper of history; third, we need to screen for criminals attempting to immigrate into the US, a large number of crimes are committed each year by illegals many of whom flee back into Mexico. I am pro-immigration and anti-illegal-immigration.
This article covers a "mutiny" by British airline passengers who refused to allow the plane to take-off until two suspicious passengers were not allowed to board. I think the American public is not too far away itself from demanding profiling of passengers. Really, who stands in line at the airport these days and does not eye their fellow passengers, giving some more attention than others? I do. Who stands in line at the airport these days and feels safer when the 70 year-old Midwestern grandmother is asked to step aside for a more intensive search. I don't. No one has a constitutional right to fly. If the IRA begins bombing American planes I'll understand if I am searched more thoroughly (I am not Irish but could pass if I don't open my mouth). And, I'll be angry at the IRA and ask what I can do to destroy them.
Will the Republicans or the Democrats control the House of Representatives following this fall's elections? Many seem to think that the race in the 1st Congressional District in Iowa will be a key contest. For a Foxnews story see here. For a Des Moines Register story see here. Map of the Iowa 1st Congressional District here. Braley (Dem candidate) campaign web site here. Whalen (Rep candidate) campaign website here.

Interesting tidbits about the campaign: Whalen, a business owner, has a picture of Ronald Reagan along with a Reagan quote on the frontpage of his website. Braley, a lawyer, on the frontpage of his website asserts that a lot in Washington needs fixed, and he has language links for Spanish and Bosnian.
Please consider these musings from a few summers ago, which I composed around the release time of President Bill Clinton's memoir, My LIfe, and in response to a review by David Maraniss:

A lot of post-sixties hip guys and gals found great wisdom and joy in the work of Billy Joel during the 1970s. There was always the notion that Joel was one of the great philosopher-song writers, who offered deeper and more nuanced understandings of culture than your run of the mill pop-singer (and I think that latter clause is undoubtedly correct). He resonated with a certain segment of the young upwardly mobile intelligentsia in America. I do not know if President Clinton was a Billy Joel fan, but I think certainly he was exposed to his music, and "My Life" was a huge hit in 1978.

I am not one who buys into the Clinton mythology of his unparalleled intellect and his reputation as a deep thinker or master strategist, but I do think of him as an intelligent, incredibly talented and charismatic guy; he also has a keen ability to blend classic culture with pop culture (for example: he is reputedly an expert crossword-puzzler). I think "My Life," as the title for the memoir, was not chosen without some consideration of "My Life," the Billy Joel single.

If so, some ironies:

"I never said you had to offer me a second chance
(I never said you had to)
I never said I was a victim of circumstance
(I never said)"


Irony I: that is exactly what the former president says and wants.

"I don't need you to worry for me cause I'm alright
I don't want you to tell me it's time to come home
I don't care what you say anymore, this is my life
Go ahead with your own life, and leave me alone"


Irony II: The sentiment of "this is my life" (and you have no right to judge me by your standards) is what I think appealed most to the former president (either consciously or sub-consciously). This is/was the Clinton defense to so many questions of character and propriety. However, the irony is that the former president is completely captive to his public perception. He does care deeply what we think of him. His worst punishment would be if we did actually "leave him alone." He must have attention and adoration to function. Those are his addictions, and they do drive his great successes as well as his great failures.

There is more here (especially the role of contradictions)--but you get the point.

Is the Clinton memoir just another installment in the "permanent campaign"? David Maraniss speaks to this, noting "that a memoir is by its very nature manipulative." However, he seems to take the work at face value from that point on. Stan Campbell (quoting Fletcher Green) used to tell us to ask this question: "Why is this SOB lying to me?" If you ask that with the former president--you have myriad motivations as well as a pattern of dissembling and disingenuousness. Old joke: "How can you tell when Bill Clinton is lying? His lips are moving." President Clinton has no reason to be perfectly honest--and a whole host of reasons to continue to argue his case (and his wife's) before the bar of public opinion. This is not history--it is contemporary politics.

Having said that, the former president is often so transparent that his lies tell great truths.

I think the statement "because I could," in response to the question of "why Monica?" is a telling one. He subsequently attempted to explain that answer by saying that he meant "he could" with Monica because the dastardly Republicans had shut down the government, and only volunteers were allowed to work at the White House, and there were not many people around, and he was really stressed-out about saving the American people from the evil designs of Newt Gingrich and the cabal to turn back the clock on compassionate governance. He actually said on Oprah: "I won the fight for you [looking out at the audience] the American people, but I lost the fight against my old personal demons." (Applause) That was silly (and it reminded me of the old Tammy Faye Bakker song, sung to the tune of "Harper Valley PTA," that explained the fall of the Bakkers as a result of a Jimmy Swaggart-Jerry Falwell conspiracy). Oh yeah, did I mention Ken Starr yet?

Okay, but the point on "because I could" is this: Monica did, in fact, happen because he could. But I think it went like this: Monica was not very attractive, not very smart and not very well-connected, which made her perfect. She was perfect because she was "there" (available), and she was perfect because she was expendable. She could be manipulated easily and exploited without risk. Ironically, she found a series of advocates (albeit without her interests at heart) who demanded that President Clinton answer for the relationship, but that was not his original calculation. And there is some evidence that indicates this was a pattern of behavior for Clinton; therefore, if true, he had every reason to believe that there would be no grave political consequences to this dalliance. The "because I could" reveals his deepest character flaw--not that he was an adulterer--but that he was so willing to take advantage of this "lesser" person to gratify personal psychological and physical needs. I think the answer ("because I could") demonstrates the self-centeredness of his life and presidency.

for lyrics to MY LIFE, by Billy Joel:

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The Iowa State Fair: carnival rides, livestock shows, grandstand entertainment, corn dogs, and presidential candidates. This and other articles from the Des Moines Register. link here
One of the Senate seats Democrats hope to capture in November is the Missouri seat currently occupied by Jim Talent. He will face Democrat Claire McCaskill, state auditor and former Jackson County (Kansas City) prosecutor. Some of the issues in this race will be Supreme Court nominees, funding for stem-cell research, and the war in Iraq. For information on Talent, here is his page from the Library of Congress Thomas site. For information of McCaskill here is her campaign website.

As a Show-Me State native, let me explain a few things about Missouri politics. For decades the state was heavily Democrat. In the 70s a resurgence of the Republican party was led by Kit Bond and Jack Danforth, moderate Republicans. Some years ago the Religious Right took control of the state Republican party--think John Ashcroft (major blame or credit should go to Pat Roberson and his run for the Republican presidential nomination). The Democrats remain strong enough to prevent Missouri from becoming a safe Republican state. Democrat bases include the urban population of St. Louis and Kansas City, plus older citizens who still are instinctively Democrat, but will not vote for a candidate perceived to be "liberal." (There are Dems in Missouri who still pine for the days of Harry Truman/Scoop Jackson Democrats.)

For a thorough summary of this fall election, read Steve Kraske's article in the Kansas City Star newspaper. Link here.
A Waco Farmer has weighed in before on Executive Signing Statements and the ABA document. Here. The lawyers at Powerline have this to say this evening.
In a Washington Post op-ed today, "Stop the Band-Aid Treatment:
We Need Policies for a Real, Lasting Middle East Peace,"
Former-President Jimmy Carter asserts:

"Tragically, the current conflict is part of the inevitably repetitive cycle of violence that results from the absence of a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East, exacerbated by the almost unprecedented six-year absence of any real effort to achieve such a goal."

Why this statement? Why now?

Former-President Carter believes that he is uniquely qualified to speak on this issue. In addition to his success in forging a lasting peace between Israel and Egypt during his administration in the late-1970s, he remains convinced that he alone among American statesmen possessed the vision to bring about peace in the Middle East. A few years ago, he famously bragged: "Had I been elected to a second term, with the prestige and authority and influence and reputation I had in the region, we could have moved to a final solution."

Moreover, Former-President Carter has never retired from politics, and he rarely passes up an opportunity to tweak a Republican president. And while we often hear that former presidents, traditionally, have supported rather than attacked active administrations, that general assertion is simply inaccurate.

In fact, there is a strong tradition of ex-presidents, especially one-term chief executives who suffered humiliating defeats for re-election, throwing rocks at their successors. For twenty years after his electoral loss, John Quincy Adams railed against the party of Andrew Jackson. After his national defeat in 1840, and his intra-party defeat in 1844, Martin Van Buren declared war on both sides and ran as a third party candidate in 1848. After his degradation in 1932, Herbert Hoover proved a strident and consistent critic of FDR.

Former presidents enjoy many of the residual benefits of the office, including the bully pulpit. Jimmy Carter, not unlike his aforementioned predecessors, believes he drew a raw deal from the American people, who lacked the vision to recognize his superiority. Combined with his evangelical sense of obligation to share his wisdom with a less-enlightened and mostly unappreciative American public, Carterís need for vindication propels him into the arena time after time. Waiting for the day that Americans will come to see him (as his friends in the international community do) for the great man that he really is, Jimmy Carter takes every opportunity to remind us of his discernment.