Barack Obama Has A Way With B-O-L-O-G-N-A


"Deli Platter" from The Ryskind Sketchbook

Meanwhile, a friend who unaccountably has defied my orders to treat the Gray Lady as a pariah, sent me this.

From a NY Times magazine profile of Obama campaign manager David Axelrod:

Axelrod, who is 52, is lumbering, sardonic and self-deprecating, and he still has the old Chicago street-fighter belief that you can see what matters about politics most clearly when you’re slumming in the wards. His bookshelves are filled with Abe Lincoln biographies, but what he says he admires about Lincoln isn’t just his philosophy but his political effectiveness, the Great Emancipator’s secret shiv. Professional opinions of Axelrod in this pitted, rivalrous field vary, but Axelrod, working from Chicago, has become perhaps the consultant with the tightest grip on his party’s future. “So many consultants are fighting the last war, but David is fighting the next one, and that makes him very, very dangerous,” the Republican consultant Mike Murphy told me.

So if he's not the Messiah, He's another Lincoln, I guess. Axelrod's comment --it's not his philosophy, it's his political effectiveness-- is a variation on the idea that Reagan was a "Great Communicator." He was, but his political skills would have meant little if there were not a power and greatness to the principles he was communicating. I suggest to Mr. Axelrod that you can't have Lincoln's political effectiveness without his philosophy. He believed utterly in the Declaration's principle that all men are created equal, and what brought him into politics was the belief the country was on a path to undo its commitment to that principle --to the detriment not only of those in slavery, but to us all, because to abandon that principle was to abandon self-government itself. Lincoln's effectiveness lay in finding every way he could to defend the Founders' understanding of self-government. His effectiveness lay precisely in caring about the principle --and therefore he had a compass for when to compromise and when to brook no compromise --because the result mattered, irrespective of his popularity. You cannot be politically effective in defense of no principle whatever; it is possible, however, to be politically effective in defense of rotten principles.

As Obama repeatedly opposed the Born-Alive Infants Protect Act (or whatever they called it when he was in the state senate), it's obviously not Lincoln's commitment to the equal dignity of persons that animates him. When are we going to hear what principles he will defend with all his talents?