A New Verb: Lapham-ed

ABC News:

CORAL GABLES, Fla. Sept. 30, 2004 — After a deluge of campaign speeches and hostile television ads, President Bush and challenger John Kerry got their chance to face each other directly Thursday night before an audience of tens of millions of voters in a high-stakes debate about terrorism, the Iraq war and the bloody aftermath.

The 90-minute encounter was particularly crucial for Kerry, trailing slightly in the polls and struggling for momentum less than five weeks before the election. The Democratic candidate faced the challenge of presenting himself as a credible commander in chief after a torrent of Republican criticism that he was prone to changing his positions.

It’s 1:45 pm Pacific time on Thursday as I post this….

Not as bad as Lapham’s column, but a bit embarassing, I’d think.

ABC News cut.JPG
(click to see full size)

Update: On reading the whole ABC article (it’s been taken down, but I still had it on a browser – full copy below), it’s pretty innocuous and fairly obviously a placeholder for the final article.

But just to keep them honest, here’s the full transcript – we can check after the debate to see what they really put up:

CORAL GABLES, Fla. Sept. 30, 2004 — After a deluge of campaign speeches and hostile television ads, President Bush and challenger John Kerry got their chance to face each other directly Thursday night before an audience of tens of millions of voters in a high-stakes debate about terrorism, the Iraq war and the bloody aftermath.

The 90-minute encounter was particularly crucial for Kerry, trailing slightly in the polls and struggling for momentum less than five weeks before the election. The Democratic candidate faced the challenge of presenting himself as a credible commander in chief after a torrent of Republican criticism that he was prone to changing his positions.

Bush was expected to confront questions about leading the nation into war on the still-unproven premise that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He also has faced accusations that he lacked a strategy to deal with the violence and chaos that have left more than 1,000 Americans dead and that the Iraq war has diverted U.S. attention from al-Qaida and other terrorists.

With a record of four years in office to defend, Bush had a debate strategy of being optimistic about Iraq but acknowledging that times were tough. His stance is that Americans know he is a decisive leader even if they don’t always agree with his decisions and that Kerry has taken conflicting positions on Iraq and can’t be trusted to lead the nation.

Although Kerry voted to give Bush authority to invade Iraq, he says he would not have followed Bush’s path to war a path that alienated allies and, the Democrat says, left Americans less secure. Kerry argues Bush is out of touch with reality, paints too rosy a picture about Iraq and lacks a strategy to end the crisis.

Kerry also says Bush has neglected other major problems like North Korea and Iran, two nations suspected of pursing nuclear weapons.

Kerry, in a taped interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday, said, “George Bush is scaring America. He’s talking terror every day, and people see terrible images of what’s happening in the world, and they’re real.”

Bush spent the morning comforting hurricane victims on his fifth survey of Florida areas hit by storms. At the Martin County, Fla., Red Cross center, Bush thanked volunteers for showing “the true heart of America. We long to help somebody when they’re hurting.”

The debate’s focus on Iraq was sharpened by bombings in Baghdad Thursday that killed three dozen children.

Ahead in the polls, Bush could afford to settle for a debate draw while Kerry needed something to break the status quo. Some Democrats saw the debates as the last chance for a Kerry breakout.

Thursday night’s meeting at the University of Miami was the first of three Bush-Kerry debates over a two-week period. Neither side was underestimating its importance with a TV audience of 30 million to 40 million expected. Almost a third of people surveyed say the debates will be a deciding factor in how they vote.

The first debate drew the nation’s attention to hurricane-battered Florida and its political importance. Florida swung the presidency to Bush in the disputed 2000 election and could determine whether he wins re-election.

The debates were staged under a rigid set of rules negotiated by the candidates’ representatives to limit spontaneity and opportunities for back-and-forth exchanges.

On the Net:

Transcript will be available at:

Kerr’s Iraq Challenge

Over at Volokh, Orin Kerr posts three challenges to hawks.

First, assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?

Yes I do, for exactly the same reasons that I gave before the invasion:

…a part of what I have realized is that as long as states – particularly wealthy states – are willing to explicitly house terrorists and their infrastructure, or implicitly turn a blind eye to their recruitment and funding, we can’t use the kind of ‘police’ tactics that worked against Baader-Meinhof or the Red Army Faction. The Soviet Union and it’s proxies offered limited support to these terrorist gangs, but they didn’t have a national population to recruit from and bases and infrastructure that only a state can provide.

So unless we shock the states supporting terrorism into stopping, the problem will get worse. Note that it will probably get somewhat worse if we do…but that’s weather, and I’m worried about climate.

I believe that a sufficiently aggressive terrorist action against the United States could well result in the simple end of the Islamic world as we know it. I believe that if nukes were detonated in San Pedro and Alameda and Red Hook that there’s a non-trivial chance that we would simply start vaporizing Arab cities until our rage was sated.

I’d rather that didn’t happen. I’d rather that San Pedro, Alameda, and Red Hook stayed whole and safe as well, and I believe the answer is to end the state support of terrorism and the state campaigns of hatred aimed at the U.S. I think that Iraq simply has drawn the lucky straw. They are weak, not liked, bluntly in violation of international law, and as our friends the French say, about to get hung pour l’ecourager les autres…to encourage the others.

You’ll note that the pattern of state behavior by Arab states over the last 18 months has been overall positive; from Libya to Lebanon, we are seeing baby steps away from the abyss. Pakistan is apparently allowing US experts to ‘safe’ their nukes against theft as it negotiates with India. The Palestinian Authority PM is questioning their strategy of terror.

Clearly there are nonstate actors who are fighting us with all their power, and will continue to do so until they run out of resources, people, or will. But they are not being and will not be fed at the rates that supported their growth in the last decades.

Second, what reaction do you have to the not-very-upbeat news coming of Iraq these days, such as the stories I link to above?

I expected it, since history happens in historic time – rather than according to the faster pace of television news cycles. It’s obviously tragic – and more so since I do believe that some severe missteps in the beginning of the occupation opened the door to wider unrest. But this is going to be a contest of sitzfleisch more than cleverness. I worried about that as well – also before the invasion:

How do we do this in a way that won’t mean that we’ll be back next year, and the year after, and the year after that?

Because otherwise, we’re playing King Canute, lashing the tide as a demonstration of the limits of our worldly power. We can push back our enemies. We can weaken them. We can even kill them all, if it comes down to that.

But can we stick this out long enough to make peace with them? Or rather, to fight them hard enough and long enough and still have the stomach and heart to offer the average person on the ground in Tikrit or Jakarta something worth living for? Because that’s what it will take to have a chance that they will make peace with us.

This is uncharted territory. I can’t think of an example in modern history where it has worked.

I think we’ll readily win the clash of arms. But as the Israelis have discovered, I believe that this is more a war of stomach, heart, and backbone than one of arms.

Third, what specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?

I doubt that there are very many indicators that will operate over a period of months that will be terribly fruitful in the overall strategic evaluation (as opposed to evaluating the tactics that make up the overall strategy). I think we need to set a timescale in increments of a decade; we’re still in Germany a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I think the macro indicators are three: the rise of a just civil society in Iraq (I think the democracy there is going to be damn imperfect, even by Florida standards); the commitment of the American people to that goal (just civil society in Iraq, by means that may change as circumstances unfold); and the commitment of the Iraqi people to that goal (i.e. what we’re seeing now is neither a mass uprising nor an attack by an organized skilled, well-equipped foe – which suggests that overall, the Iraqi people are – if not on our side, not violently opposed).

I think the short term metrics are the classic ones; electricity availability, kids in schools, hospital beds functioning, crime, the level of insurgent violence. But those will spike and ebb; we can’t be panicked by the spikes and we can’t get cocky because of the ebbs.

I think that most of all, a sense of realism about the scale – in effort and in time – of the project we are engaged in is necessary. Bush hasn’t done that, and that’s arguably his biggest vulnerability.

Tools for Iraqis

One of the neatest projects Spirit of America has done is the ‘tools project’ in which they provided tool belts to the graduates of the construction training program run by the Seabees.

Well, one of the graduating classes was covered by CNN, and it gives me a lot of pleasure to see that the tools mattered to the Iraqis who received them.

More Iraqi tradesmen are taking the classes, and more tools are needed. It doesn’t take much, and at the end of the day it will mean a lot.

Bloody Post-It Notes

Via Harry’s Place (where I seem to crib everything from these days…) a great article in the Guardian on ‘exhibition killers’ and the media’s complicity (that would include us in the blog universe) in their humiliation and killing.

Suppose, for a moment, that we in Britain faced a fascist insurgency, which kidnapped a few Jews and black people. Should we negotiate for their lives by releasing Neo-Nazi bombers and racist murderers? Or would we calculate how many more Jews and black people would, as a result, wind up in cellars with knives to their throats?

In my piece below, I called the victims ‘bloody Post-It notes‘ left for us by the terrorists. In many ways, the use of their lives in this way – as objects to draw media attention – makes their murders far worse because the murderer denies them even the small respect a killer can grant a victim; that of acknowledging the personal hate that is the basis for the killing.

Attention To Detail

This week, I’ve been working on two consulting projects (good news, because we need the money; bad news, because I’m too busy to blog or do much else) and Littlest Guy and Middle Guy are getting into the school groove, which makes our mornings kind of chaotic.

TG mentioned on Tuesday that her bike had a new rattle; I went out and confirmed that the chain was a bit loose, checked to make sure the brakes and suspension were all OK, and we agreed that we’d adjust the chain and go over the bike this weekend.Wednesday, she complained about the rattle again, and so I walked her bike up and down the driveway, and heard a slight rattle from the front end. Again, headstock, brakes, all felt OK, but I suggested she take the car to work. She disagreed, and rode to work all week.

I finally got some time today, after a quick lunch with Michael Totten and Roger Simon and a Long Beach Opera event. I put the bike up on front and rear stands, pulled the brake caliper off so I could get the front wheel off – and the brake pads just fell out of the caliper.

The locating pin that held them in the caliper had vibrated loose and fallen out.

The caliper is made so that it would be difficult – but not impossible – for the pads to just get shaken out while riding, leaving the brakes nonfunctional. Fortunately, they didn’t fall out as TG rode to or from work on the crowded Harbor Freeway all week.

The point here is simple – it’s worth checking things out if they feel wrong. And until you do, it might make sense to park whatever it is that feels bad. Don’t just assume everything is OK, as I did, and in so doing put my wife at risk.

We dodged a bullet this week. We might not next time, and you might not either.

On Tolerance

Cathy Seipp has a new column up at National Review Online about Dan Rather, the cultural divide, and her personal experiences in bridging it.

It’s hard to remember now how lily white great stretches of southern California used to be, but they really were in those days, and by white I mean really white. My dark-eyed, brunette mother often said she felt surrounded by the Burghers of Munich. Visitors would occasionally feel free to look at her and inquire: “So are you Spanish or Portuguese or what?”

Not that I was exactly a Tragic Mulatto, but we never quite fit in. We were liberal, upper-middle-class (in attitude, not income) Jews, from Canada, surrounded by people descended from Okies from Muskogee. My mother volunteered for the George McGovern campaign in 1972 and I helped stuff envelopes.

What I only realized after I grew up and moved away was how decent and tolerant these boring, suburban neighbors were. They were certainly puzzled by our family’s exotic ways; my divorced mother ran her own business out of the house, and installed three phone lines in each room, including each bathroom, by herself.

They were also occasionally shocked by notions like Jesus speaking a foreign language, and now and then there were attempts by concerned classmates to save me from an unpleasant future in hell. One evening, a movie about the Rapture was shown at the local (public) high-school as community entertainment. Still, I never heard that distinct gasp of disbelief and hostile, shocked amazement that I often hear now, when people discover that, yep, I’m voting for Bush.

Go read the whole thing, and then I’ll echo her comment and amplify it.

About fifteen years ago, I moved from Venice Beach to Torrance – politically, from deep-Blue to bright Red – and believed that I’d moved from the progressive, tolerant center of the world to a place where I was sure to be a neighborhood outcast for my liberal ways.

And, surprisingly, I wasn’t. Many of my neighbors disagreed with me, and we had some interesting debates at the PTA, but on a basic level I was more than tolerated, I was accepted.

Which is more than I often am at dinners in Brentwood or the Pacific Palisades when I explain that I supported the war in Iraq, or that I shoot for sport.

My real epiphany on the subject took place about four years ago, at a December dinner in Arizona with a group with whom I’d just finished a shooting class. This is a group that is – on average – politically so far to the right that they can barely tolerate the un-Christian, statist ways of the GOP. As we’ve emailed about the election, they point out that GW Bush is a bit of a wimp, but they’ll probably vote for him anyway.

This was during the Supreme Court debates over the 2000 elections, and the television before dinner was on the news, as a heated discussion on the election took place. As may be obvious, I was the only defender of Al Gore and the Democratic efforts to win the vote in Florida in a room full of armed men (handguns are never an inappropriate fashion statement in this group).

As we sat down to dinner, the host asked each of us to say a few words of Grace. Most were religious in nature, and then they finally came to me, and I said “Please God, let me survive this meal and get home safely. The property is so large and my unmarked grave would be so small…

People spilled their drinks laughing, and we went right back into the argument.

And I realized, amazingly, that these men and women – who disagree with almost everything I believe about government and politics – respected my right to take a stand and my opinions far more than people who agreed with me on the issues. They were in fact more tolerant of diversity than my Venice Beach neighbors.

I’m still digesting that.

Dead is Dead, Right?

In his incomprehensibly celebrated book “The Lessons of Terror“, Caleb Carr makes the critical error in the first sentence of Chapter One:

Long before the deliberate military targeting of civilians as a method of affecting the political behavior of nations and leaders came to be called terrorism, the tactic had a host of other names. From the time of the Roman Republic to the late eighteenth century, for example, the phrase most often used was destructive war. The Romans themselves often used the phrase punitive war, although strictly speaking punitive expeditions and raids were only a part of destructive war.

Terrorism is not “…the deliberate military targeting of civilians as a method of affecting the political behavior of nations and leaders…” and has never been. The key error is the use of the word military, which implies some level of identifiable centralized control.Total war – the kind of war practiced in tribal societies, in which (as an example) the city is sacked and burnt, the men and boys killed, and the women and children taken as slaves – is not terrorism. Strategic war, as threatened through my childhood and young adulthood, in which the possibility that cities would be vaporized, or as practiced in Hamburg and Tokyo and Dresden in World War II – is not terrorism.

Those may be war crimes, as we define them today (although I will point out the unique character of Western society in which we are willing to find our own troops, as well as those of the defeated forces, guilty of war crimes), but they are not terrorism.

They are not terrorism for two simple reasons.

They are carried out by identifiable agents of a power (tribe, city, state) who bears the moral and physical hazard of having carried them out. They are carried out against people who are at least given the sad dignity of being the objects of violence, not bloody Post-It notes left behind to send a message to some abstract ‘other’.

Terrorists do neither.

And that matters, for both practical and moral reasons.

Dead is dead, you may say. What possible difference can it make?

But there is a difference. And the difference is both moral and practical.

Let’s address practicality first. The hardest part about winning wars is managing them – simply deciding that you won’t ‘kill everyone and let God take his own’, but to stop the violence at some point and let some people live. Wars that don’t have rules are called massacres. The notion of tit-for-tat is as old as recorded history. Going to Thucidydes (via Kagen’s great retelling):

On a cloudy night early in March 431 over three hundred Thebans sneaked into Platea guided by Nauclided, a leader of the Platean oligarchic faction who, with his traitorous supporters, wanted to destroy the democrats who were in power and turn the town over to Thebes. The Thebans expected the unprepared Plataeans to surrender peacefully and, threatening no reprisals, invited all the townspeople to join them.

[The Plateans fought back, defeating the Thebans]

…the Platean woman and the town’s slaves, screaming for blood, climbed to the rooftops and threw stones and tiles at the invaders. The disoriented Thebans fled for their lives, pursued by the natives who knew Platea’s every feature. Many were caught and killed, and before long the survivors were forced to surrender.

[The Theban relief couldn’t get to the town and withdrew.]

Although the forced withdrew, the Plateans executed 180 of their captives regardless. By the traditional standards of Greek warfare this was an atrocity, the first of many that only grew in horror as the years of war went by. But a sneak attack at night in peacetime was also outside the code of honor of the hoplite warrior and seemed therefore to warrant no protection for its perpetrators.
(emphasis added)

In tit-for-tat, whose who abide by the rules in turn can expect to have the rules upheld for them. Recent neurobiology has suggested that this impulse – to ‘fairness’ or if treated unfairly, to revenge – is one that is deeply rooted in the brain.

Brian Knutson, a Stanford University psychologist who studies the neural basis of emotion, says the Swiss report is the first to make the neurological link between fairness and the striatum.

“Instead of cold calculated reason, it is passion that may plant the seeds of revenge,” he notes in a accompanying commentary.

The study also reveals that revenge seekers are completely blinded by passion, Fehr points out. As volunteers considered whether to pay up to get payback, researchers noted that the medial prefontal cortex became active. In previous studies, this area of the brain has been linked to weighing the costs and benefits of taking action. Even as scientists gain a better understanding of the biological underpinnings of fairness, others are trying to understand its origins.

Sarah Brosnan, an Emory University anthropologist, says an important question is whether a sense of fairness is something people pick up in school, home or church, or whether it’s a concept that has been hardwired into the human brain over the eons.

In continuing work with capuchin monkeys, Brosnan and her colleague Frans de Waal of Emory have found compelling evidence of an evolutionary origin. The monkeys, it turns out, know a raw deal when they see one.

We humans are also literally unable to think clearly when blinded by the desire for revenge or to redress perceived unfairness.

Military discipline exists to overcome this monkey rage, both to improve the odds of an army’s success and to ensure that the commanders of that army can remain in command once the emotions of battle – rage, fear – revenge – take hold.

The strength of anonymous terrorist attacks – that the weaker target will not use it’s superior strength to simply massacre those it believes are at fault – is a brittle one when confronted with those emotions if they mount too far. Russia has been unstintingly brutal in repressing the Chechen guerillas – and may be far more brutal in repressing Chechen terrorists.

But I don’t reject terrorism only out of fear that it will make us do bad things – although I worry about that. I reject terrorism, and believe it must be rejected rather than seen as ‘diplomacy by another means’ because I believe that the states that it would birth would be horror shows.

The existence of discipline over force is itself a key, I believe, to the recognition of a power as a state and the key to the foundation of a state based on political power, rather than terror and tyranny. I talked about Max Weber and the PA, but let me requote him here:

‘Every state is founded on force,’ said Trotsky at Brest-Litovsk. That is indeed right. If no social institutions existed which knew the use of violence, then the concept of ‘state’ would be eliminated, and a condition would emerge that could be designated as ‘anarchy,’ in the specific sense of this word. Of course, force is certainly not the normal or the only means of the state–nobody says that–but force is a means specific to the state. Today the relation between the state and violence is an especially intimate one. In the past, the most varied institutions–beginning with the sib–have known the use of physical force as quite normal. Today, however, we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory. Note that ‘territory’ is one of the characteristics of the state. Specifically, at the present time, the right to use physical force is ascribed to other institutions or to individuals only to the extent to which the state permits it. The state is considered the sole source of the “right” to use violence. Hence, “politics” for us means striving to share power, either among states or among groups within a state.

Because political movements that subscribe to terrorist tactics (and again, I’ll make a clear and significant distinction between terrorism and guerilla warfare) explicitly reject the notion that they are the source of the terrorist’s right to use violence, the key element needed to support a political state (as opposed to a tyranny) is missing.

Israel was founded in part by terrorists. But when they blew up the Altalena, the government of Ben-Gurion reclaimed its monopoly on violence, and claimed the State of Israel as a political state. Can you imagine a Palestine in which Arafat sunk the Karine A? Or in which the PA officials who he ‘arrested’ afterward actually spent time in jail?

Terrorism, even if successful, is not a path to liberation. It is instead a path to the kind of tyranny and madness we see today in the West Bank and Gaza, that we saw in Afghanistan’s soccer stadiums as crowds gathered to watch the executions.

Eugene Armstrong

I’m working on something about terrorism – the deep distinction between terrorist violence and equally deadly non-terrorist violence – in the form of a critique of Caleb Carr’s book.

But real life – weddings, work, kids – is keeping me away from the computer this week.

Meanwhile, go over to Harry’s Place and read “brownie” about the latest murder in Iraq…

That there are still people in the west who believe such groups would be susceptible to any realignment of US foreign policy in the Middle East, is nothing short of bewildering. At best, it’s unfathomable naivety. At worst, it’s 24-carat, cognitive dissonance.

UPDATE: More here about those who want us to “listen” to Osama, as well as links to pictures and video.

Israel and Terrorism

Very interesting article in the Jewish World review, by Yossi Klein Halevi & Michael Oren (via new media celebrities Power Line)

The article is called Israel’s unexpected victory over terrorism, and it highlights the positive impact that has come from Israel’s aggressive attacks on Hamas and the effects of their linkage of PA to terror through the Karine A.

But the politics of the effort – and the negative political fallout – are one of the key things they discuss.

The price Israel has paid for its victory has been sobering. Arafat may be a pariah, but Israel is becoming one, too. Increasingly, the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty is under attack. Former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard, for example, has called Israel’s creation a “mistake.” In Europe, an implicit “red-green-black” coalition of radical leftists, Islamists, and old-fashioned fascists has revived violent anti-Semitism.

Along with the desecration of Jewish cemeteries by neo-Nazis and the assaults on Jews by Arab youth, some European left-wingers now sense a sympathetic climate in which to publicly indulge their anti-Semitism. In a recent interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Greek composer and left-wing activist Mikis Theodorakis denounced “the Jews” for their dominance of banks, U.S. foreign policy, and even the world’s leading orchestras, adding that the Jews were “at the root of evil.” In the Arab world, a culture of denial that repudiates the most basic facts of Jewish history — from the existence of the Jerusalem Temple to the existence of the gas chambers — has become mainstream in intellectual discourse and the media. Government TV stations in Egypt and Syria have produced dramatizations based on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Boycotts of Israel are multiplying: The nonaligned states recently voted to bar “settlers” — including Israelis who live in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem — from their borders. Among young Israelis across the political spectrum, there’s growing doubt about the country’s future and widespread talk of emigration.

In its victories and its defeats, Israel is a test case of what happens to a democracy forced to confront nonstop terrorism. In their daily lives, Israelis must contend with the most pressing questions of the global war against terrorism: Can terrorism be defeated? And, in doing so, can basic democratic principles be maintained? Finally, does the moral necessity to defeat terrorism supersede the moral necessity to address the grievances of those in whose name terrorism is committed?

Read the whole thing.

…It’s What The Issues Say About You

Via Political Animal, a brilliant dissection of why Kerry isn’t connecting by smart liberal Mark Schmitt.

If I were running the issues department of the Kerry campaign, or any campaign, the sign above my desk would not be James Carville’s “It’s the Economy Stupid”: my sign would say, “It’s not what you say about the issues, it’s what the issues say about you.” That is, as a candidate, you must choose to emphasize issues not because they poll well or are objectively our biggest problems, but because they best show the kind of person you are, and not just how you would deal with that particular issue, but others yet to rear their heads.

I couldn’t agree more.When I hire someone for a project, I look at their resume, but what matters as much as the specific skills they bring to bear (in almost all cases) is who they are. This is illuminated by what they have done, what they can do, and what they want to do. But the reality is that in most cases, when I hire someone, the critical contribution they make will be the one I didn’t know I would need when I hired them.

This is multiplied a thousandfold in the case of someone with the kind of broad responsibilities a President bears.

I don’t know what the next four years holds, and neither do any of the rest of the voting public. So we have to choose someone based on a combination of what they believe and who they are.

Kerry’s personal history, persona, and policies have never gelled into anything consistent. Sadly, the thread that runs through it all is one of self-regard. that’s why minor incidents like “I don’t fall down!! The SOB knocked me over!” carry so much weight – because we’ve ‘framed’ Kerry with who we believe him to be, and so when he acts in a way that’s consistent with what we already believe, small facts reinforce big impressions.

I don’t think that Kerry’s reversals of position before, during, and after Vietnam or his brave – but not unquestionably so – record while there are the problem.

I think the problem is that Kerry has never offered up an explanation for what he did that ties the pieces together and gives a clear picture of who he is and what he believes. And because he has no consistent political philosophy – just a belief in a certain set of institutions and in a certain kind of fairness – we get a Lego candidate, assembled from blocks, incidents, and promises.

Back to Schmitt:

As much of a liberal policy wonk as I am, I don’t believe that issues should be the basis on which people base their votes. To rank character very high is not just a tactical necessity for candidates, it’s perfectly legitimate for voters. First, this is not a parliamentary system, and rational voters know that they are not really choosing a platform along with a president, but rather are choosing a particular stance or attitude in relation to the other centers of power in the political system. And, second, in a basically affluent and tranquil society — despite income inequality, despite 45 million uninsured, despite all that — the problems we don’t know about are still a bigger deal than the ones we do.

I’ll say it again: I couldn’t agree more…