Election catch-all: Abortion, national maps, Clinton the Orator

Mid-day political notes.

1  I noticed an essay in the Wall Street Journal, written by one of the most intelligent “establishment” pundits on the right, Peggy Noonan, and it made me blink.

She describes the Democratic Party as a party that operates under “a shadow of weirdness” because of it support for legal abortion, which she concludes “involves the killing of children.”

Noonan then makes this point:

When Kathleen Sibelius walked out to speak I did not think, “There’s the HHS Secretary,” I literally thought, “There’s abortion enthusiast Kathleen Sibelius, who decided to make the Catholic church bow to her need to spread abortion-inducing drugs.”

It gets at just how polarized our political culture is.  Sibelius, the former governor of Kansas, is a fairly centrist Democrat.  Noonan is a fairly centrist Republican. Yet the divide between them is vast and deep.

2.  USA Today is reporting that Mitt Romney and his conservative allies are not airing political ads in Michigan or Pennsylvania.  If the Republican has conceded those blue-leaning states, then we head into the fall with Barack Obama holding a 243-191 lead in the electoral college standings.

That will have huge implications for Romney and his team, whose margin for error will be reduced effectively to zero. Romney could win Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia and still not capture the White House.

This would mean that Romney can’t afford to see even one more big state slip out of reach.  He also desperately needs to prove that a win in Wisconsin, with Paul Ryan on the ticket, is really achievable.

3.  In a previous post, I threw out a comment about Bill Clinton’s substantive contribution to the debate over Barack Obama’s bid for a second term. But I want to also nod quickly at the tradition of political oratory that we saw on display last night.

There was a time in American history when people listened for hours to political speeches.  Good politicians drew crowds that rivaled actors and singers — not just because they were famous or powerful, but because they practiced a kind of rhetoric that is almost lost today.

I used to get a sense of this kind of mastery from Ronald Reagan, who used many of the same oratorical techniques as Clinton.  And Obama has occasionally risen close to their league. Barry Goldwater also mined this vein.

But more apt comparisons might be Abraham Lincoln or William Jennings Bryan, whose “cross of gold” speech triggered a kind of “bedlam” in his audience that lasted 25 minutes.

As a big fan of the culture of politics, I felt like I was seeing an old and real cool American folk tradition on display last night.  In that vein, of course, Clinton was actually pretty short-winded.  Some of the old speechifyers went on for five, six, seven hours.

Of course this kind of thing doesn’t always end well.  In 1841, William Henry Harrison delivered a two-hour speech at his inauguration, going on and on despite the cold and rain.  He died of pneumonia a few weeks later.


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36 Comments on “Election catch-all: Abortion, national maps, Clinton the Orator”

  1. Kathy says:

    Clinton had me the first 15 minutes. After that, I got lost in the details. Blame it on being tired.

    It seemed to me once he had the audience, he relaxed more and for me, he lost his orator flair.

  2. Will Doolittle says:

    It’s great to see a master at work, and when it comes political speechifying, Clinton is a master.

  3. Paul says:

    He is very persuasive for sure.

    I much prefer that tone to the (what I would call snide) tone that both the current president and Mitt Romeny use when speaking at each other or at each others party. I hope the president doesn’t use that annoying tone tonight. I think that would be a mistake.

  4. Larry says:

    He was slick, I’ll give him that. He didn’t come by his nickname for nothing.

  5. jeff says:

    But at Gettysburg it was Edward Everett who speechified for two hours who afterward complimented Lincoln as having made far superior remarks. Lincoln didn’t wow the crowd then but we are stirred yet today. A roaring crowd is good for TV. Clinton said a lot (short for him) but, for him, was concise.

  6. TomL says:

    It is interesting listening to old – really old – political speeches on youtube. It is not only fascinating what they say, but also how they say it. For example, here is Theodore Roosevelt speaking on regulating industrial labor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ch5XlY4nKJI&feature=related

  7. Wow. Every so often I hear someone whose photo I’ve seen or see someone I’ve previously heard on radio and am struck by the contrast between what I thought they’d look or sound like and what they actually did look or sound like. TR’s voice did not match how I thought he’d sound at all.

  8. Meh, I don’t put much stock in the “pro-life” pontifications of militarists. The hypocrisy never fails to sicken me.

  9. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I didn’t hear Clinton but Obama is pretty darned good.

  10. Paul says:

    Knuck, I agree. The president did a nice job. Still short on specifics which they criticized the GOP for, but that is standard fare. These are mostly preaching to the choir. There was some of the sarcastic tone I don’t like but not much.

  11. Will Doolittle says:

    I thought John Kerry had the best speech of the night. Best line: “Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off now than he was four years ago.”

  12. Paul says:

    Yes, even Mr. bin Laden is unsatisfied with where we are after the past 4 years! I am kidding. That was a good line.

  13. It's Still All Bush's Fault says:

    I overheard some folks talking last night.

    “I feel bad for Obama if he gets re-elected. He’s going to inherit such a mess.”

  14. George Nagle says:

    I expected more from Obama last night then I got. Perhaps that’s one reason I had trouble staying awake.

    For example, no mention of climate change or of poverty.

    David Brooks’ column this morning articulates my discomfort: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/07/opinion/brooks-why-democrats-lead.html?hp

  15. oa says:

    He mentioned climate change. Got a big ovation.

  16. Paul says:

    oa, glad to see you are back in the mix!

  17. oa says:

    Nah, Paul, that was just a momentary lapse into judgment. But I actually heard him say the words “climate change” and nearly fell out of my chair.
    Otherwise, my new motto holds: What Larry and JDM said.

  18. mervel says:

    Well I liked his speech as he sounded like a leader not a speech maker, he knows how tough it is and I think that tempered all of the false promises and hope and so forth from his previous campaign. I know some people didn’t like that as they wanted the old magic, but I liked it better.

  19. George Nagle says:

    So Obama did mention climate change. Good. Thank you, oa, for correcting me. I missed it.

    I hope that this was more then a passing reference, some catnip for the greens, and instead a genuine commitment to shape policy in response to it.

  20. Paul says:

    The key to solving climate change (a major issue) is not what even the DNC has in mind. We are producing more carbon than the earth can deal with. Like Romeny said recently this a global issue and not ant American issue. How to fix it? Radical change is in order. Carbon sequestration is the only realistic option. Why? because like Romney says this a global issue and no matter what we do to decrease emissions (and we will continue to work on this) populations will grow and countries like China will evolve and start to produce more carbon emissions per capita. No matter what you do with emissions you will lose the battle and lose all your capital to fix the problem at the same time if you are not smart. Incraesing cafe standards is cool but if you add many cars to the road at the same time (qlike we will see) you don’t move forward. It sounds good in a speech but is silly in practical terms.

  21. Walker says:

    “No matter what you do with emissions you will lose the battle and lose all your capital to fix the problem at the same time if you are not smart.”

    Paul, once again you make it sound as if any incomplete solution is just not worthwhile pursuing. If you add several incomplete solutions together, you just might come up with a complete solution. We can’t afford not to pursue any and all measures.

    And seem to have a faith in branny-new carbon sequestration technologies that I have seen no one take very seriously. Right now, to the best of my knowledge, trees and other green things are the only effective carbon sequestering devices we have. We have some smokestack scrubbers; some sequestration techniques consume 25% of the energy produced by the power plant they’re used on.

    “Increasing cafe standards is cool but if you add many cars to the road at the same time you don’t move forward.” Well, OK, but increasing CAFE standards makes cars more expensive, so it should also slow slightly the addition of new cars. But mostly, we MUST increase CAFE standards because it simply doesn’t make sense not to do everything we can to make our energy use more efficient.

  22. mervel says:

    Obama gave climate change a little nod, but he is smart politically not to delve into that as some sort of priority for his Presidency. The fact is it is not a major US political issue, it is a world wide issue that will take a global solution. The US needs jobs more than it needs to worry about making a tiny dent in our global carbon output. Yes we need to do it, but we need to do a lot of things, feed the hungry in our country, fix our education system, quite fighting wars, get our economy running, these would all come before investing political capital in the climate change morass.

  23. Walker says:

    Global climate change stands a good change of making all of our other problems look like small potatoes, long term. What’s the point of feeding the hungry now if world-wide famine is coming. And those who know the most about it seem to feel that we cannot wait– it may already be too late to avoid catastrophe.

  24. mervel says:

    The point is that it is going to take many decades if not centuries to reverse the trend we are on now. It will not be up to the US president or the US, it will be up to the Global community likely led by China the largest producer of Carbon. The US election cycle is four years for a President. Global food issues are not caused by climate issues right now, they are caused by inequality, war, totalitarianism and a broken global system. Hungry children in the US are also not the cause of climate issues or drought. The president and elected officials can make an immediate difference on those issues, they can start the long term conversation with the global community about climate change, but that is about it. It is largely out of our hands beyond a supporting role.

  25. Walker says:

    “It will not be up to the US president or the US, it will be up to the Global community likely led by China the largest producer of Carbon.”

    Well, yeah, maybe. But we are right behind China– we’re the second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses. We produce 18% of the world’s greenhouse gasses, though we have less than 4.5% of the world’s population. In other words, we could do a whole lot better than we are doing, and it would help.

    The last thing we should be doing is saying “Well, until we can get everyone else on board, there’s no point in us doing anything.” The Chinese are already way ahead of us in solar technology.

    And our obsession with giant SUVs is absurd: people drive them because they’re supposed to be safer? What about the long term safety of your children and grandchildren? Ah, well, maybe it won’t happen… A great approach to life!

  26. Walker says:

    “The point is that it is going to take many decades if not centuries to reverse the trend we are on now.”

    Mervel, we probably don’t have centuries, certainly not “many centuries.” Have you noticed that almost all the news about global climate change is that it seems to be happening faster than anyone thought it would?

  27. Larry says:

    Walker: finally something we agree on! We’ve got to get those freakin’ SUVs off the roads. They suck gas, drivers can’t control them and they give aggressive drivers an obnoxious “I own the road” mentality. They’re good for nothing except inflating tiny little egos.

  28. mervel says:

    The point of freedom is that people have the right to have inflated ego’s or no ego and to drive whatever they want including little cars and electric cars.

    I think we could look at a gas tax as the best way to reduce carbon output right away and raise some revenue. However, how popular is that? I mean talk about a plank no one is going to get elected on that would be it.

    Which is why I think Obama is not really hitting climate change hard as an election issue.

    Walker I agree we could do somethings now to help reduce some of our 18%. But its kind of a catch 22 politically. All the things we are going to have to do are painful at some level, thus people don’t like them and thus politicians may not push them. Its just not going to be someone’s political centerpiece except as hyperbole, meaning they talk about it but offer no specific solutions. I guess it is kind of like the Debt.

  29. Larry says:

    A gas tax (in addition to the ones we already have) would hurt most those who can least afford it. Forget about gas taxes; we need to get those ridiculously bloated, gas sucking SUV whales off our roads. Why not hit those who manufacture, sell and operate them with use taxes and penalties?

  30. mervel says:

    Because it makes no sense beyond some sort of strange personal I don’t like you so I will tax you ideology. I mean a better case could be made to hit people who live or manufacture any home over 2000 sq feet with use taxes and penalties? I mean they are just as big of resource pigs as those SUV people right?

    I mean America is about freedom not about envy and hurting people with the government who we don’t like. A general tax on carbon would be the best, which would be a gas tax, people in Europe pay close to 5 dollars a gallon or more per gallon and their middle class is wealthier than ours and they have fewer poor people, so certainly a gas tax is not that bad.

  31. mervel says:

    The whole point of his country is individual liberty, not forced conformity.

  32. Larry says:

    So, if they tax themselves to death in Europe, we should do the same? We don’t need more regressive taxes, we have enough already. For people who always want to tax the rich, liberals don’t seem to be able to actually come up with ways to effectively do that. Instead,you continue to propose ruinous taxation of the very people you say you’re trying to save.

  33. mervel says:

    Naah, I am not a liberal to start with. Secondly Europe is wealthier than we are so they are certainly not doing some sort of taxing to death scenario. Outlawing particular things or taxing particular products because you don’t “like” them is against most of what America is about.

    The problem is not SUV’s, the problem is too much carbon, people will drive less if gas is more expensive and they will buy less gas guzzling vehicles, its pretty simple really.

  34. mervel says:

    And if rich people want to continue to buy crazy gas guzzling vehicles with money they have earned, well that is their right and it is an American right to do as you please, it is called liberty.

  35. Larry says:

    Just for once, I would like to hear a liberal say that raising taxes isn’t the answer to any problem. Just once.

  36. Walker says:

    Just once, I would like to hear a conservative say that lowering taxes isn’t the answer to any problem. Just once.

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