Gracious

An Argument for Nudism:

Given the attire of certain teenagers I've seen this Georgia summer, I had thought this law might have already passed. Apparently there is still some debate.

Isn't it, really, bigoted to insist that clothes are the normative standard for society, and that people who prefer nakedness ought to cover up in public? Plenty of ancient cultures didn't have the same attitude toward clothing that we do now, and wore very little. If we insist that clothes must be worn in public places, aren't we just imposing our morality on people who disagree?

It doesn't harm any dressed people for naked people to be walking down the streets, going to work, going shopping, or doing anything else the rest of us do. There's really no reason at all aside from personal, religious beliefs to insist that everyone wear clothes in public--and it's unconstitutional to impose our religious or moral beliefs on the rest of the public.
There is a nudist colony here in Dawson County, which goes to show just how diverse even rural America actually is. I've thankfully never encountered any of them wandering naked. Still, I suppose nakedness in the deep woods is just fine, as long as you're enough of a woodsman to recognize the poison oak.

That said, if some hunter should mistake you for a black bear or a sasquatch, don't come crying to me.

H/t: Dad29.

Fast Eddie Obama

"Fast Eddie Obama"

David Brooks proposes to resolve the question that we were discussing the other day: is Obama a Chicago Way politician, or a New Class liberal? Brooks says, both -- but the Chicago Way will win out in any conflict.

But as recent weeks have made clear, Barack Obama is the most split-personality politician in the country today. On the one hand, there is Dr. Barack, the high-minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier who spent this past winter thrilling the Scarlett Johansson set and feeling the fierce urgency of now. But then on the other side, there’s Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who’d throw you under the truck for votes.

...

Dr. Barack could have been a workhorse senator. But primary candidates don’t do tough votes, so Fast Eddie Obama threw the workhorse duties under the truck.

Dr. Barack could have changed the way presidential campaigning works. John McCain offered to have a series of extended town-hall meetings around the country. But favored candidates don’t go in for unscripted free-range conversations. Fast Eddie Obama threw the new-politics mantra under the truck.

And then on Thursday, Fast Eddie Obama had his finest hour. Barack Obama has worked on political reform more than any other issue. He aspires to be to political reform what Bono is to fighting disease in Africa. He’s spent much of his career talking about how much he believes in public financing. In January 2007, he told Larry King that the public-financing system works. In February 2007, he challenged Republicans to limit their spending and vowed to do so along with them if he were the nominee. In February 2008, he said he would aggressively pursue spending limits. He answered a Midwest Democracy Network questionnaire by reminding everyone that he has been a longtime advocate of the public-financing system.

But Thursday, at the first breath of political inconvenience, Fast Eddie Obama threw public financing under the truck. In so doing, he probably dealt a death-blow to the cause of campaign-finance reform. And the only thing that changed between Thursday and when he lauded the system is that Obama’s got more money now.

And Fast Eddie Obama didn’t just sell out the primary cause of his life. He did it with style. He did it with a video so risibly insincere that somewhere down in the shadow world, Lee Atwater is gaping and applauding.
It's interesting, in terms of how disconnected this election is from reality. If you want campaign finance reform, McCain is your candidate: he's really done things for you, hard things. Yet Obama has been running as the campaign finance reform candidate -- though he has no actual commitment to the issue, has done nothing but talk about it in terms of advancing it, and undercut the project at the first sign of advantage.

Similarly, if you are concerned about "change" in Iraq, McCain is your candidate. He stood up to the Bush administration and forced them to undertake the Surge, which Rumsfeld and others did not wish to do. The current successes are in many ways his progeny. He can honestly claim to be the candidate of a very positive change: the chance to wind up the Iraq war on a positive note, with relative stability and upcoming provincial elections, and a status of forces agreement of some sort rather than a withdrawal and collapse of the state of Iraq.

Obama has done nothing but talk, and hasn't updated his concepts on Iraq since 2006. He only updated them then because he pivoted to a self-described 'just like Bush' position in 2005, when Tony Rezko had some business interests over there. Once again, nothing but talk versus a guy who has really effected serious change: but Obama has talked the public into giving him the credit.

On a similar topic, Obama has just sold out the progressives on FISA. I guess he didn't mean any of that talk, either.

Meanwhile, the man who has proposed an explicity race-based "Southern Strategy" to put the South in play is charging Republicans with telling voters that he's black.

Fast Eddie, indeed.

Joe Writes

Happy 20 June:

The holidays are upon us here at Grim's Hall, so I won't have much to say today. However, our friend and co-author Joe -- currently resident in Iraq -- writes to notice The Wall Street Journal channeling Johnny Cash. (Scroll to "Sioux.")

In honor of which:



Also, for anyone who liked the Big Moccasin Gap picture below:



I got the wife a scroll saw for her anniversary gift. She danced like Snoopy. Good woman.

UPDATE: Bthun writes to tell me that this is also Chet Atkins' birthday. Here's Chet doing a number with a fine country musician from the Great State of Georgia, Mr. Jerry Reed:



If you liked that, you'll probably like this too. It's a bit more jazzy, with less bluegrass:

Dangerous

These People Are Dangerous:

So there's this video:

Link: sevenload.com

(H/t: Cassidy).

And also this article:
Americans drove 1.4 billion fewer highway miles in April than they did in April 2007, the Department of Transportation said Wednesday.

Americans have driven 20 billion fewer miles overall this year, the Transportation Department says.

That marks the sixth consecutive monthly drop and coincides with record gas prices and an increase in transit ridership, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said.

April's drop is more than three times larger than the drop from March 2007 to March of this year, which was 400 million fewer highway miles.
So: the lady says that "when Congress can set prices, Congress can set prices."

Let's say they set the price at $2.00 a gallon.

Americans don't drive 1.4 billion fewer miles in a given month.

What happens to the gasoline?

Answer: Americans consume more of it. What does that do to fuel prices worldwide? It drives them way, way up.

Who does that hurt? The poorest people in the world, whose governments aren't wealthy enough to deficit spend to buy them gas and sell it below market rates. These are the people -- in places like Africa and the Southern Philippines -- for whom extra fuel prices isn't an inconvenience, but associated with things like famine and death.

Why is that the "progressive" answer? This is the kind of thing people die over: not here, but in the poorest parts of the world.

If you can't swing the gas as a relatively rich American, try riding livestock. I can grab a horse; but some of you progressives might want to try riding a camel. Through the eye of a needle.

Memeage

A Challenge:

I had thought we'd escaped this when Cassidy didn't pass it to us, but Jeff has issued a challenge to do the "seven random things" meme. I'll be a good sport, just for the excuse to post 'images of martial discord,' celebrating that great American artist, N. C. Wyeth. The challenge only calls for one, but Wyeth's art is too good for only one.

Jeff tags the Hall.


1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
5. Present an image of martial discord from whatever period or situation you’d like.

So here we go:

Grim's Hall, 2008 summer picnic.


1. As is surprisingly common, I was born choked to death by my umbilical cord. Fast action by an alert medical staff meant that I was restored to life without loss of health, as is not always as common -- I have known people who had lifelong difficulties because of just that thing, and I have heard of children who did not survive. I was greatly blessed to come through that fire in one piece: early luck.

Grim enjoys a quiet morning.


2. In spite of a fairly active life, I never broke a bone until a certain misbegotten gelding freaked out and reared over backwards while I was riding him, two years ago. That broke two ribs (@$#%! horse).

The wife gets me something nice for my birthday.


3. Those same ribs didn't heal correctly, and rebroke during a mixed martial arts match with an Army Ranger bird-colonel in Iraq this fall. I finished both falls with him in a headlock, but paid for it for two full weeks afterwards. Because of the endorphins (and the joy of having acquitted myself honorably against a genuinely powerful fighting man), I felt no pain at all until I laid down for bed that night. I could barely breathe the next day.

This has caused me to decide to take up gentler sports, like maybe kendo.

Cousins from the Tennessee branch of the family, near Big Moccasin Gap.


4. This week is my anniversary, so you'll have to endure a few marriage-related facts. On my wedding day, it was also Father's Day, and the summer solstice. A few years later, my son was born on the same day. Thus, 20 June is like a second Christmas around here: everyone has at least one good reason to celebrate.

Some of the cousins from the Old Country.


5. I was married in a kilt -- I believe I mentioned that recently. It was a remarkable wedding. My best man was a US Marine sergeant, in dress blues and NCO sword, a devout Methodist. He was less devout when used to run together, but he met a fine woman. They came to our wedding as a couple; he caught the garter (right on the skull) and she caught the bouquet. They were married the next year.

The morning workout session at Grim's Hall.


6. At that same wedding, my other two groomsmen were a sergeant from one of the Highland regiments, in his military kilt and dirk, who was a Muslim as well as a Scot; and a former Quaker friend of mine, converted to Judaism, who was carrying my sword. This, plus the kilt, got us a lot of attention. At the end of the ceremony, when I kissed the bride and then scooped her up to carry out of the place, a huge crowd of strangers I didn't know were there suddenly burst into applause.

Debating with my brother-in-law his choice of descriptive terms for my wife.


7. I really enjoy a beer, but have no real interest in any other form of alcohol. In fact, I learned in Iraq that I like even nonalcoholic beer. I do take a sip of Scotch at the Highland Games, and sometimes I've carried a small flask of bourbon for camping/hiking trips when I'll be sleeping several nights on the ground. The one use is ceremonial, and the other medicinal; the only thing I ever drink for pleasure is beer.

Pabst Blue Ribbon is my favorite large-production American beer. My favorite beer of all is Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale, produced only for the Yuletide.

Now: I'm to tag seven people. My usual system for these memes is simply to allow readers who want to do so to jump in, in the comments; or coauthors, to consider themselves challenged if they wish to be.

AP

On the AP Mess:

I imagine you've all heard that the AP wants bloggers to pay by the word if we link to their stories and quote any of the text. All of this reminds me of a story.

I believe I've mentioned that -- in addition to being a captain of the volunteer fire department -- my father has spent many years as a telephone man. In the early part of that career, he served AT&T (the old giant megacorporation) in rural Tennessee.

One day they had an inexplicable service outage, so they sent him to see if he could figure out the cause. He was driving along the cable route when he saw a farmer standing by the side of the road, in a hole, swinging an axe into the ground.

He stopped and looked, and sure enough the farmer was chopping up the copper cable. "Excuse me," my father asked him, "What are you doing?"

"Hey there," the farmer replied. "You know, I was plowing this morning and I hit the damndest root I ever saw."

Well, my father explained the situation and summoned a team to repair the damage. The farmer, realizing his mistake, was highly apologetic and got his tractor-backhoe out to dig around the cable so that the repairmen could fix it.

A few days later, the farmer got the bill for the cable repair -- a very expensive bill. He called in to the phone company, and happened to get my father on the phone.

They talked it over for a while, and finally the farmer had to admit that he probably did owe the money. "But," he says, "I haven't sent you my bill for the backhoe service."

Laughing, my father asked him how much he was thinking he'd charge. The farmer named a figure that was precisely the same as the cable repair service charge.

"Send the bill," my father said.

The AP is in the position of deriving traffic, attention and credibility from blogger links. They can, in theory, bill people for using their stuff; but if I were a blogger who received such a bill, I'd think they might also get a bill for the heretofore-free advertising they've been receiving.

I notice Ms. Malkin has had a similar thought.

A Peace Between the Sexes:

Cassidy picked up on the Indiana Jones post, and confessed a desire to be: Valeria, from the Conan story "Red Nails."

What's interesting about Valeria is that she is a male fantasy: a beautiful, strong woman, skilled in arms, who has to be won through a combination of competence and respect. Yet it turns out she's also a female fantasy: by being that kind of woman, she is able to enjoy the opportunity to do a number of things (like fight among a band of mercenaries and pirates) that are normally the outpost of men.

So: Maybe we can resolve the postfeminist debate after all. Here's a model that is not only acceptable, but highly desirable, to both men and women. Certainly Valeria meets the qualifications I was looking for in a wife and partner.

Robbin' banks

I Think I'll Rob A Bank Today:

What could possibly go wrong?

Another teller saw the situation unfolding and alerted Nabil Fawzi, 39, a long-time customer.

Fawzi, who spent six years in the Lebanese army, took matters into his own hands.

He tells WXYZ.com he pulled out a .9 mm handgun (for which he had a CCW permit), racked a bullet in the chamber, pointed it at Webster and announced, "You are not robbing this bank!"

The startled Webster countered with, "but, I have a bomb" -- but Fawzi wasn't impressed. "I don't care. You are not robbing this bank!" was the reply from the other side of the gun. He then forced the Webster into a chair and held him at gunpoint until police arrived.
"A .9mm handgun"???

And hey -- thanks, Lebanon.
A Few Links:

Some items I'd like to suggest you read.

An extraordinary piece on classical education, by VDH.

"There is Much to be Won in Iraq", by myself.

A short article on the debate between McCain and Obama today. "Democrat Barack Obama says he'll take no lectures from Republicans on who will keep America safer."

Another article on that topic, involving a discussion with one of Obama's chief advisors on security:

Mr Danzig told the Centre for New American Security: “Winnie the Pooh seems to me to be a fundamental text on national security.”
Duly noted.

Against Terrorists as Criminals

Against Treating Terrorists as Criminals:

Bob Owens reminds us of the story of the first World Trade Center bombing:

Somebody get a history book for the clueless freshman Senator from Illinois (my bold):
And, you know, let's take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks -- for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.
...

It's quite simple: where is the 1993 World Trade Center bomb-builder? Is he in a U.S prison, as Obama claims? Not even close.

Though grossly neglected in the media, Abdul Rahman Yasin conducted the first attempted chemical weapons attack on U.S. soil by terrorists with the 1993 World Trade Center bomb. The bomb that detonated in the WTC garage in 1993 was built by Yasin to create smoke filled with sodium cyanide, which he hoped would rise through elevator shafts, ventilation ducts, and stairwells to suffocate 50,000 people.

Fortunately for those in the Trade Center that day, the bomb burned hotter than Yasin expected, and incinerated up the cyanide as it detonated instead of spreading it in toxic smoke.

Yasin fled the United States after the bombing to Iraq, and lived as Saddam Hussein's guest in Baghdad until the invasion. He is still free, and wanted by the FBI.
Also, I imagine, by the CJSOTF.

Undistinguished Obama

The Undistinguished Obama:

Protein Wisdom fills in the story. It's hard to call Senator Obama a failure, having reached at a young age the Senate and a reasonable shot at becoming President of the United States. How many people are asked to write memoirs as college students? (Or paid forty grand advances on the memoir, as a reward for missing their deadline?) In that one regard -- self promotion -- he has been a remarkable success.

In every other regard, however, his undertakings have not been impressive. Nothing he has attempted has really ever come off: yet he has run for higher office every three years, and often succeeded using the machine politics of the Chicago system.

We are starting to learn a bit more about Obama's work in Chicago -- thanks, by the way, to the Chicago area commenters who've written here. It's not an impressive story in any good way.

Meanwhile, speaking of The Chicago Way, the trial of Tony Rezko, fundraiser and land-deal maker for the Senator from Chicago, continues:

Rezko and Odinga are important persons in their own right, but it is their connection to Barack Obama that has the press interested.
He's right -- they are, and especially Rezko is, interesting quite on their own. We do owe the Senator that much: I would never have been aware of the fascinating story of Middle Eastern money in Chicago politics if Sen. Obama hadn't been so tied to Rezko over the years. That's garnered a lot of press attention, and has shone light where it otherwise might not have shone.
Rezko's apple pie had strange and persistent Middle Eastern spices. The Sun-Times wrote: "Rezko was indicted in October 2006 while on a trip to Syria, and he had returned to face the case. He remained free on bail until Jan. 28, after prosecutors raised an alarm with the judge that Rezko had received a $3.5 million wire transfer from Lebanon. [Judge] St. Eve jailed him until April, when family and friends put up $8.5 million to secure his release."

The $3.5 million was sent by Nahdmi Auchi of all people. The Sun-Times continues.
Rezko opened his letter by apologizing to St. Eve for not informing her of the $3.5 million, which had come to Rezko through Beirut from General Mediterranean Holding SA, a company led by Auchi. He said he took the money in because he was under "tremendous pressure" to pay his legal bills.
Even the $8.5 million bond raised by his Chicago friends had a connection with Iraq. It included $1.9 million put up by Rezko's old classmate and onetime fugitive Aiham Alsammarae. Alsammarae was a former "Iraqi Electricity Minister ... who in 2006 fled from Iraqi prison. Alsammarae's $1.9 million equity in his Oak Brook home and two other properties made up more than one-third of the $8 million in properties postes to ensure Rezko's bond. Rezko was ... arrested Jan. 28 after failing to disclose an overseas wire transfer."
That's remarkable. Rezko insists, of course, that he never intended to use that money to skip the country for Syria.

Bond

Bond, James Bond.

If you could be a character from literature, why not this one? (H/t: Arts & Letters Daily)

What, after all, is a man's deepest wish? Freud talked about "honor, power, riches, fame, and the love of women" — and Bond certainly encompasses all those. Still, that libidinal litany can be boiled down to a single desire, half hidden in the shadowy reaches of the male psyche and more clearly delineated in world mythology: As Joseph Campbell would say, men long to be heroes. No doubt about it. And yet I think the masculine ego also hungers for something a bit more noirish, if you will. At least some of the time, guys want to be thought of as … dangerous. While it's gratifying to be called a hard-working professional or a good provider, those admirable traits don't make our hearts beat quicker. By contrast, to overhear oneself described as "a man not to be trifled with" — that's quite another matter.
There is nothing quite like it, to be sure.

Though, I might choose Indiana Jones, given all options. I do envy his capacity to speak every ancient language he encounters. I can pretty much do the rest of the stuff, but I mostly "get along" with languages. I can handle written Modern and Middle English, French, Spanish, and can work in German, Dutch and Italian (Latin, Old Norse, and Old English), but I can't really speak any of them except Modern English.

That's an annoyance. I never seem to get any better. Indiana Jones doesn't have this trouble: wherever he goes, he can speak and read whatever it is. Hieroglyphs? Spoken Hindi dialects? Ancient Mayan? No problem.

I've got a good hat, a .45 and a few knives. I could learn the bullwhip. It's really the languages I wish I had. Bond can keep his toys.

Uh-huh

A Sign:

It is probably a sign of things to come that the Obama campaign is talking about winning without Ohio or Florida. I'm sure they intended that as a sign of confidence, but it's a remarkable formula -- 'We don't necessarily need to win battleground states, because we'll win red states.'

Consider the conceit that Georgia is 'in play,' for example. I live in Georgia. I've spent most of my life in Georgia. The suggestion that Obama will win Georgia is just whistling past the graveyard. It's never going to happen.

The argument is that he will do it with "record turnout" among "unregistered black voters." Well, Georgia does have a lot of unregistered potential voters. Obama does have special appeal to black voters, and might energize them more than others have in the past. He also has a lot more money than McCain, some of which can be used for GOTV efforts in Georgia.

Furthermore, Georgia has gone to Democratic candidates more often than Southern states generally: Clinton in 1992, Carter in 1976.

Nevertheless, Georgia isn't competitive this year. Carter was a former Georgia governor, and was a 'favorite son' who had been a fairly decent governor (and was therefore a deep disappointment as President). Clinton had the benefit of the Ross Perot candidacy, and the personal endorsement of Zell Miller, the current governor at the time, a hugely popular man whose opinion was widely trusted. There is no figure in Georgia politics as popular today, not even close.

Lacking that kind of personal appeal, Georgia voters have a very strong conservative preference. In 2004, Bush carried the state 58-41. In 2000, 55-43. In 1996, Dole beat Clinton 47-45 -- a year when Dole did horribly at the polls, in a state Clinton had won in 1992. Clinton won in 1992, by the way, 43-42, with Ross Perot carrying 13 percent of the vote. It's highly likely that almost all of Perot's vote came out of Bush's column.

Meanwhile, the last governor's race had the Republican winning 58-38. That was in 2006, a wave Democratic year; and the Republican governor isn't even terribly popular.

So, Democrats in Georgia get between 38-45% of the vote. In a big year, with a popular Democratic candidate and an opposing candidate who doesn't really inspire, 45%.

It's possible Senator Obama can top the high water mark. To win, however, he would have to improve his standing by six full points over the high water mark. Being black isn't enough to do that -- I say, "being black," because his campaign predicates its ability to make Georgia competitive on high black turnout and support, which is supposed to be possible among unregistered black voters because they are excited about Sen. Obama being black.

Being a conservative Democrat might be enough -- I would say, this year, it would be enough -- but it's plain that he isn't any such thing.

The Chicago Way

The Chicago Way:

Senator Obama, as quoted at the top of his anti-smear website:

What you won't hear from this campaign or this party is the kind of politics... that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge, but enemies to demonize.
The New Republic, arguing against a potential Jim Webb vice-presidency on the grounds that he was a "reactionary":
Then there is his glorification of violence. It is one thing to accept a certain level of state-sanctioned violence as necessary to the preservation of a just order--to endorse certain wars abroad or certain police strategies at home. But it is quite another thing to glorify violence, to celebrate it, to elevate its practice into a virtue--which is exactly what Webb seems to do in his books....

For a liberal, violence may sometimes be a necessary thing. It may even lead to good outcomes. But while those outcomes may be worth celebrating--and while the people who do the fighting may be correctly labeled courageous or even heroic--the violence itself is never worth celebrating. Webb's outlook flies in the face of this liberal ideal. He seems to be very much in love with violence.

Senator Obama, on the upcoming contest:
"If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun," Obama said at a fundraiser in Philadelphia Friday, according to pool reports.
Taylor Mars, celebrating that stance:
So when I read this quote it made me smile. "New kind of politics" has nothing to do with it. It's the Chicago way, baby. I just want us to win.
Proposition: The kind of liberal that agrees with TNR are fools who have never won an election -- let alone a war, success in which is what allows a government to form and hold elections in the first place. Jim Webb is absolutely right to glorify, not violence, but a capacity to perform it when called upon by honor or self-defense. He is right to celebrate that capacity being located in the individual citizen, and not only in the machinery of "state-sanctioned violence." That has produced the United States Army (happy birthday) and the Black Watch, but it has also produced every kind of tyranny. The citizen's capacity is a useful counterweight, the thing that makes the US Army what it is.

A good liberal ought to know that, in fact: the US Army's principal business from the end of the Indian Wars to 1900 was breaking strikes by early unions. If it doesn't do that now, it is chiefly because citizens fought back both through politics and in fact. These violent citizens -- perhaps they would be more sympathetic to TNR if we called them "the workers" -- are owed something better from the modern liberal than a refusal to glorify them, or to scorn them as "violent," though they certainly were violent. Every political power the liberal has to exercise is founded on that resistance, the organizations and machines it built. Every subsequent success came from that, and rests on it.

That said, TNR was right in their basic concept:
To explain just what it is about Webb that bothers me, I need to distinguish between philosophy and policy. It's hard to know what any candidate will do on any particular issue once in office. This is not to say that the stands a candidate takes on specific policy questions are meaningless. But the political world is unpredictable--alliances shift, circumstances change, things turn out to be more complicated than expected. This is why the best voters can hope for is a candidate whose underlying instincts about the world we basically trust. At this point, I am confident that Obama's underlying worldview is that of a liberal. Of course, there is plenty of room for disagreement about what it means to be a liberal--on foreign policy, on economics, on social issues. But, whatever your views on humanitarian intervention or health care mandates or gay marriage, if you call yourself a liberal then chances are that you recognize clear similarities between Obama's basic instincts about the world and your own.
If Obama is a liberal -- which he absolutely is, given the evidence of his life, the few pieces of legislation he has pursued, and his stated plans for the future if elected -- then what kind of liberal is he? This is the problem that is so difficult to sort out given his conflicting statements.

Is he a Chicago Way liberal? If so, he'll be dangerous and tough, and any gentle words are only a veneer. Those are the old union machines. They are corrupt to the core, power-centered, willing to bend or break any rule to get their way, ruthless, and violent. The Rev. Mr. Wright is one of that stripe -- a former Marine and Navy Sailor. He's a hard-swinging character, who views himself as the advocate of a part of America against the rest of it. Nevertheless, he's a fighter, and I know that if a man like him were President, he'd fight for the thing he led.

Arguing in favor of this proposition: His attachment to the Chicago machine, including the Daley family and the Rev. Mr. Wright. His connections with Tony Rezko.

He tells us these things are not important, but if he is a man of the Chicago machine, we cannot trust his word.

On the other hand, if he is the well-meaning idealist he presents himself as being, he really could be telling the truth. It could be he went along with the Rev. Mr. Wright because his wife wanted him to do so. He took a land deal with Rezko because it seemed handy, and he didn't look too closely at it. He worked with the Daley family (and Wright, to some degree) because they were the powers that be, and he had no choice.

Is Senator Obama a TNR liberal? If so, his real instinct is to try to talk his way around problems, and the "knife/gun" comment is just an attempt to sound tough to reassure people like Taylor Marsh. He doesn't mean it as anything more than a symbol. He has faith that he'll be able to float through the McCain fight like he did the Clinton one, never really getting himself dirty, standing on the power of his rhetoric.

Arguing in favor of this proposition: his memoir, which is reflexively idealistic. His arc through life: the Ivy Leagues often produce this kind of liberal. He has sought power through the legislature, but hasn't gotten his hands dirty with it -- he has accomplished very little except to run for higher office, making an attempt for another rank every three years.

Also arguing in favor: his reaction to the Rev. Mr. Wright's appearance at the National Press Club. He turned his back on the man who gave him his start and supported him every step of the way, scorning him as a sort of lesser creature. This is precisely how TNR treats the men who actually made their sort of liberalism possible and practical. He and they seem to have the same basic attitude about the fighting men on whose shoulders they stand.

In this case, he believes his own rhetoric about "not demonizing" people (the "gun" he will bring is merely a symbol of a metaphor). People who want to see him succeed for their own reasons often do rough stuff to help him. He doesn't see this, and so his frequent refrain about associates, even longtime ones -- "he is not the man I thought I knew" -- is genuine also. He hasn't really paid attention to who they are.

The problem before us is that there really is no way of being sure which of these types is closer to the real Senator Obama. Is he a hard-hitting machine politician who has simply managed to keep an easy, bright face on for the public? Or is he an idealistic, ambitious man who has managed to look away from much of the ugliness of modern politics, and sincerely wishes to change it?

I can't say I know. I know my instinct is that he isn't a fighter, but a talker. I think he's the TNR-style liberal, who is being put forward by the men of the machine for reasons of their own.

In my opinion, that's the worse of the two for the job he's after. If I'm right, he's a somewhat better man -- weak and lacking the virtue of courage, but having other virtues that machine men do not.

He is still the less fit for a deadly and perilous duty.