And as far as the West Point story, it seems perfectly reasonable that, in an era when the army was looking for promising black candidates, that a high-achieving black teenager who was doing so well in ROTC might have spoken to Carson and indicated that, if he applied, he would get in. And it could be that a Detroit youth from Carson's background would interpret that as an offer of a scholarship. I've had several students talk to recruiters about applying to one of the military academies and tell me that they were told that, if they applied, they would most likely get in. How much more likely was it that a young black man would be told that during the Vietnam War? Politico's inept reporting of the story and their having to change the headline was almost a gift to Carson as it helped set up the storyline as Carson versus the liberal media. It will make him even more popular among a lot of people in the Republican base. He should send them a thank-you card. And he will be inoculated against further findings of discrepancies in his autobiography.
For example, I find his clear prevarication about his work for Mannatech much more troubling than anything he said about when he was teenager since that is in his recent past and he clearly didn't tell the truth when asked about it in the debate. And his comments about the pyramids are just weird. Though, as Jim Geraghty writes, on the scale of weird beliefs, believing that the pyramids were used for grain storage doesn't rate all that high.
There are a ton of insane beliefs out there. Back in 2006, more than half of all Democrats said they felt it was either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that “people in the federal government either assisted in the 9/11 attacks or took no action to stop the attacks because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East?” In other words, not too long ago, half of the Democratic party were 9/11 Truthers. We heard similar thoughts from Jesse Ventura, Cynthia McKinney, Mike Gravel, and Ron Paul.
I’d much rather have a president with farfetched beliefs about the construction of the pyramids thousands of years ago than the destruction of the Twin Towers 14 years ago.
Is believing the Pyramids were giant grain silos any stranger than, say, sitting in Jeremiah Wright’s church for years? Or talking to Eleanor Roosevelt’s ghost, as Ben Shapiro reminds us? Is it any stranger than the persistent messianic portrayals of Barack Obama in 2007-2011 or so?
Just about everybody has some belief about how the world works that others would deem strange. ( “Can you believe that guy? He actually thinks that the little cracker becomes the body of Christ during mass!” )
Walter Cronkite contended that Karl Rove helped organize an Osama bin Laden video. Novelist Alice Walker praised a conspiracy theorist’s contentions about reptile people walking among us. President Kennedy’s press secretary, Pierre Salinger, spent the last years of his life promoting increasingly far-reaching conspiracy theories about the destruction of TWA Flight 800.
David French makes that point as he advises the media that they're not going to be able to destroy Carson.
At the same time, CNN’s effort to call into question Carson’s story about his childhood anger issues is both weak and malicious. The network interviewed ten people from his neighborhood about 50-year-old incidents that Carson claims they never witnessed, and now peddle a story raising doubts about claims in Carson’s biography. What? Is it now the case that CNN can interview ten people about decades-old life events that didn’t happen to them and now breathlessly proclaim a “scoop.”
Hovering over the feeding frenzy is the absurd media spectacle of mainstream reporters claiming they’re merely “doing their job” by diving into 50-year-old details of Ben Carson’s childhood. The same reporters who were not just incurious about the details of Barack Obama’s background in 2008 but actively hostile to those who asked reasonable questions about his relationship with admitted domestic terrorist Bill Ayers and his years of religious instruction from Jeremiah “God Damn America” Wright.
At the end of the day, what are we left with? An admirable though imperfect man who rose from abject poverty to the pinnacle of one of the most challenging professions in the nation — all while never forgetting his roots, maintaining grace and humility even as he earned riches and honors. In fact, his life story — and his character — would make him one of the most inspiring Americans ever to occupy the Oval Office. But he’s a direct threat not just to leftist narratives regarding race and class but also to the leftist stranglehold on the black vote. And for that reason alone he must be destroyed.
And of course, Republicans can point to the contrast between how Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's personal histories were treated to how Republicans are treated. For example, the Daily Caller points to this story from Hillary that was totally unbelievable.
Hillary Clinton once claimed that she tried to join the Marines in 1975, shortly before marrying her draft-dodging boyfriend, future president Bill Clinton. Or did Hillary Diane Rodham attempt to join the Army, as Clinton suggested in 2008? Or did she indeed try to sign up for the Marine Corps as part of an experiment to see how receptive the military was to female volunteers, as her friends have suggested?As the Daily Caller points out, many doubted that story. How likely was it that a rising star, just out of law school and just about to get married to Bill Clinton who was ready to run for Arkansas Attorney General would suddenly decide to join the Marines? And that is not the only story she's told that seemed to be self-aggrandizing fabrications.
.....But Clinton has a military story of her own that once came under question but has since taken a back seat to numerous other Clintonworld scandals. In June 1994, the then-first lady spoke at a luncheon for female military veterans where she told a story about her attempt to sign up for the Marines in 1975.
“You’re too old, you can’t see and you’re a woman,” Clinton recalled a young military recruiter telling her. “Maybe the dogs would take you,” he added, referring to the Army.
“It was not a very encouraging conversation,” Clinton added. “I decided maybe I’ll look for another way to serve my country.”
Clinton has told image-bolstering stories in the past that have turned out to be fabrications. In March 2008 then-Sen. Clinton claimed that she had come under sniper fire during a 1996 visit to Bosnia. She was forced to retract that claim when video emerged showing her on an airport tarmac during that visit. And as The Daily Caller reported last month, Clinton has told competing tales about a job she had at an Alaskan fishery in 1969. She has claimed in the past that she was fired from the job after she complained about the state of the fish she was hired to clean. But in a more recent interview, she said that her job with the fishery came to an end after she showed up to work one day to find that the manager of the operation had closed up shop.If we're going to be revisiting possible lies that candidates tell about themselves, let's revisit Hillary's lies.
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And while Donald Trump has been Teflon when he's attacked other candidates, I don't think attacking Ben Carson will result in the same benefits for Trump. Especially, when he goes after Carson's temperament.
Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump went after his rival Dr. Ben Carson for the recent media criticisms about his past life stories.Apparently, this pathological disease accusation from Carson's autobiography in which he talks about his temper when he was a kid. Carson uses that story as part of his story about how his religious beliefs helped him to be come a changed man. I'm sure that the evangelicals who are attracted to Ben Carson will be totally ready to accept that a young man could have a conversion experience that changed his ability to deal with his temper.
Trump said, “It’s a lot of scrutiny, frankly, it’s a lot of statements that are under fire. I hope Ben is going to be okay with that. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. Time will tell. But it is certainly a lot of people are asking a lot of questions all of a sudden, and, you know, it’s a little bit tough. I would say it’s not so easy on Ben. I hope frankly, it comes out great for him”
When asked if he felt Carson had been honest Trump said, “I just don’t know. I’m not involved. I don’t know. It’s a lot of things. When you say hitting your mom over the head with a hammer and hitting your friend in the face with a lock — padlock. And you talk about stabbing someone and got stopped by a belt buckle. They pretty much don’t stop stabbing. They turn, twist, and things slide off them. It’s pretty lucky if that happened. Ben wrote a book and the book is a tough book. He talked about he has pathological disease. It’s a serious thing. But when you say you have pathological disease, you can’t really cure it. But he said he had pathological disease. I would assume the book was written prior to him deciding to run for office. They had pretty tough statements in the book.”
And seriously, Donald Trump is going to go after Ben Carson for his temperament? Please.
George Will just destroys Bill O'Reilly's book on Ronald Reagan first in his column and then on his TV show.
If a congressman came out in defense of oil or tobacco companies, reporters would be interested to see how much money those companies had contributed to his campaign. They don't seem so interested to report how much Planned Parenthood has donated to the Democrats on the committee investigating them.
The University of Missouri School of Law thinks that it can control what their students post on social media. They are warning students that they should basically be nice and not say anything that is not "meaningful, encouraging, informative, or respectful." Oh, if only it were possible to make rules like that for the internet.
Megan McArdle explains why the stories about "the GOP's demise are exaggerated." Democrats can thank Obamacare.
Whatever your opinion on the merits of Barack Obama as a president, his tenure has been rough for his party. As Republican strategist Rory Cooper tweeted last night, “Under President Obama, Democrats have lost 900+ state legislature seats, 12 governors, 69 House seats, 13 Senate seats.” And while this may be coincidence, unrelated to anything Obama has done, I suspect that these two things may be connected — that parties are most vulnerable at precisely the moment when they feel themselves strongest.Molly Ball makes a similar argument in The Atlantic, except her point is that Republicans have recovered in the culture wars.
The passage of Obamacare despite the fact that it was unpopular, despite the fact that no one in the opposition party wanted to touch it, despite the fact that the voters of Massachusetts sent a Republican to the Senate to vote against it, was hubris. Did Democrats just accept that their goal of national health care was worth alienating voters and losing control of lower offices? I don’t think it was a conscious decision, but they did sacrifice a lot of down-ticket Democrats in the House and Senate, who, it turns out, were actually pretty necessary to get anything further done.
Many of the law’s subsequent struggles have stemmed from the apparent belief that they didn’t need down-ticket races, or public opinion; all they needed was Barack Obama sitting in the Oval Office.
Kentucky illustrates the dangers of this strategy. Most policy happens at the state and local level, not federal, something that’s easy to forget as local media outlets fail and news coverage becomes increasingly focused on national elections. Under outgoing Democratic governor Steve Beshear, Kentucky was a poster child for the success of Obamacare; under incoming Gov. Matt Bevin, it may well become a poster child for its failure.
Democrats have become increasingly assertive in taking liberal social positions in recent years, believing that they enjoy majority support and even seeking to turn abortion and gay rights into electoral wedges against Republicans. But Tuesday’s results—and the broader trend of recent elections that have been generally disastrous for Democrats not named Barack Obama—call that view into question. Indeed, they suggest that the left has misread the electorate’s enthusiasm for social change, inviting a backlash from mainstream voters invested in the status quo.
Consider these results:
-Ohio voters rejected a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana by a 30-point margin.
-Voters in Houston—a strongly Democratic city—rejected by a 20-point margin a nondiscrimination ordinance that opponents said would lead to “men in women’s bathrooms.”
-The San Francisco sheriff who had defended the city’s sanctuary policy after a sensational murder by an illegal immigrant was voted out.
-Two Republican state senate candidates in Virginia were targeted by Everytown for Gun Safety, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s gun-control group. One won and one lost, leaving the chamber in GOP hands.
-Matt Bevin, the Republican gubernatorial nominee in Kentucky, pulled out a resounding victory that defied the polls after emphasizing social issues and championing Kim Davis, the county clerk who went to jail rather than issue same-sex marriage licenses. Bevin told the Washington Post on the eve of the vote that he’d initially planned to stress economic issues, but found that “this is what moves people.”
There were particular factors in all of these races: The San Francisco sheriff was scandal-ridden, for example, and the Ohio initiative’s unique provisions divided pro-pot activists. But taken together these results ought to inspire caution among liberals who believe their cultural views are widely shared and a recipe for electoral victory....
Liberals love to point out the fractiousness of the GOP, whose dramatic fissures have racked the House of Representatives and tormented party leaders. But as Matt Yglesias recently pointed out, Republican divisions are actually signs of an ideologically flexible big-tent party, while Democrats are in lockstep around an agenda whose popularity they too often fail to question. Democrats want to believe Americans are on board with their vision of social change—but they might win more elections if they meet voters where they really are.
I never bought into the storyline that the Republican Party was on its last legs any more than I thought that the Democratic Party was dying out during Reagan's presidency. Our nation's political history is testimony that one party may be up, but eventually the situation changes and the other party rises. Mostly, I believe that is because, if a party is in power for long enough, they'll make mistakes and end up ticking off enough people that the other party will make a comeback. So don't count either party out.
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One issue on which the left might have gone too far is their push on "transgender rights." A lot of people may support gay rights, but are ready to draw the line when it comes to mandating that a boy be allowed to use the girls' bathroom and showers because he identifies as a girl. I can remember my school showers and I would have been very uncomfortable if a boy, no matter his gender identification, had been in there when I was showering. And I wouldn't have wanted him in there with my daughters. Heck, I didn't even like going in the public showers with other girls. And probably a whole lot of people feel that way, but that is not what the Obama Education Department says. This is just the sort of wedge issue that, if it involved a conservative position, would be asked of every Republican candidate. As Jonathan Last writes, let's see Hillary Clinton have to answer if a Clinton Education Department would demand, as Obama's had in Palatine Illinois, that schools allow transgendered students to share the bathrooms and showers of the gender they identify with and that providing a separate facility would be unacceptable.
So it is now a “basic civil right” for any boy to be granted equal access to girls’ locker rooms. And if any of the girls, or their parents, are made uncomfortable by this new right? Tough, says the Department of Education.
We have reached a bizarre moment in our politics, where the “progressive” left resists having conservative speakers on a college campus because they make students feel “unsafe,” but insists that boys who identify as girls be allowed to shower with girls in the public schools, and misgivings must be educated away, or litigated into submission.
We have also reached a moment where, whatever the majority of its voters may think, the Democratic party may be unable, as a practical political matter, to do anything but trumpet “transgender rights.” Have you seen Hillary Clinton’s denunciation of overreach by the Obama Education Department? We didn’t think so.
Republican candidates ought to grab this issue with both hands. They should tell voters what the federal government is doing with regard to transgenderism in the public schools. They should promise to stop and reverse it. And they should dare Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to join them in proclaiming: “No men in women’s bathrooms.”
As Ed Whelan points out, the Obama administration has been quite aggressive in folding transgender rights into basic civil rights. In addition to its interpretation that denying a boy who identifies as a girl from using public-school bathrooms and showers is a violation of civil rights worthy of denying that school federal funds, they are now spreading that interpretation to the EEOC.
Similarly, by a 3-2 vote—with, surprise, the three members in the majority all being Obama appointees—the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in April that an employer engages in discrimination on the basis of sex when it bars a man who thinks he’s a woman from using female restroom facilities. Further, the EEOC majority went out of its way in a footnote to make clear its view that the employer unlawfully deprived the man of the “use of common locker and shower facilities that non-transgender employees could use.” In other words, according to the EEOC majority, it’s unlawful sex discrimination for an employer to bar a man who thinks he’s a woman from sharing locker and shower facilities with women.This makes such questions about support for such interpretations totally reasonable to ask of Hillary Clinton. But what are the chances that any reporter or debate moderator would ask that question?
It’s worth emphasizing that the Obama administration’s transgender ideology won’t accept any sort of accommodations that fall short of providing self-identified transgender individuals with full and equal access to the opposing sex’s facilities. In the case in which the Obama administration filed the brief last week, for example, the public high school had initially made an existing separate restroom available to the student and then had installed three unisex single-stall restrooms that he (and others) could use. And in the EEOC case the employee had been allowed to use a single-user “executive” restroom.
I tend to be rather libertarian on social issues, but I suspect that there are a lot more voters out there who would agree with me that this is just a step too far, especially when we're dealing with children and teenagers whose sense of identity might well be in flux. There should be some way to be sensitive to the student's self-identification without making a shower room of teenage girls so uncomfortable.
And while backers of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) decry its defeat last week, they should look to the ordinance's supporter, Mayor Annise Parker, for such an overreach of power for one reason why people reacted so negatively against it.Somehow, a city that elects and reelects an openly gay mayor doesn't seem make it an outpost of intolerance.
It is worth recalling that, had Parker had her way, HERO would never have gone up for a vote. When Houston’s city council passed HERO in 2014, residents launched a referendum petition that, with the requisite 17,269 signatures, would require the city council to either repeal HERO or put the measure up for a vote. They obtained 55,000 signatures. The city secretary, who has sole responsibility for certifying such petitions, signed off. But, with no legal authority to do so, Houston city attorney David Feldman took it upon himself to reassess the petition — and subsequently disqualified 38,000 signatures, just enough to get below the 17,000-signature threshold. The city council and Parker rejected the petition as invalid, and were promptly sued. A court eventually ordered the council to repeal HERO or to put it on the ballot, as required by the city’s charter — but not before the city’s legal team abandoned all pretense of lawfulness, subpoenaing from the five pastors who had helped organize the referendum petition “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”
Perhaps HERO would have been a less alarming proposition if Parker had not tried to impose it by petty, lawless displays of executive might. But its defeat surely had much to do with the fact that it was simply unnecessary. There was no discriminatory-public-accommodations crisis threatening municipal order, and Houston is no hotbed of anti-LGBT bigotry. Houston has elected Parker mayor three times. That does not mean the city is free of discrimination, but it contravenes the notion that voters’ rejection of this law is a sign of widespread hostility to gays and lesbians.
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John Fund reminds us of the contrast in how the media treated Obama's biographical details in 2007-2008 to the feeding frenzy that they're indulging in now with Ben Carson.
It’s worth revisiting just how much the media gave Obama a pass in 2008. Take the infamous videos of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s Chicago pastor. Brian Ross’s ABC News report on Wright didn’t air until March 13, 2008, after more than 40 states had voted in the Democratic nomination contest and Obama needed only 225 delegates to wrap up the race against Hillary Clinton. Ironically, the videos of Wright’s speeches had been hiding in plain sight, easily obtainable in the gift store of Wright’s church. “After the videos hit, Obama narrowly limped home to the nomination as Hillary outperformed him badly, 302 to 171 in delegates in the final three months,” noted media critic Dan Curry earlier this year on his blog, Reverse Spin. If the Wright videos had hit prior to the Iowa caucuses, he says they “would undoubtedly have been devastating and fatal to a largely undefined Barack Obama.”
Ironically, the Wright videos had in fact emerged earlier, in February 2007, when Rolling Stone ran a piece called “The Radical Roots of Barack Obama” right before Obama announced his bid for the presidency. The story so rattled the Obama team that they pulled Wright from the speaking roster less than 24 hours before the campaign announcement. But as former CBS News reporter Bernie Goldberg noted, the follow-up coverage on the Wright story was scant and notably apologetic. The story should have prompted full explorations of the Obama-Wright connections. Instead, there was media malpractice.
The media malpractice extended to many other areas of Obama’s life.
In October 2007, the New York Times ran an article headlined “Obama’s Account of New York Years Often Differs from What Others Say.” It reported that Obama resisted any attempts to reconcile his account in his 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father with the recollections and records of those who knew him. The Times reported:
Yet he declined repeated requests to talk about his New York years, release his Columbia transcript, or identify even a single fellow student, co-worker, roommate, or friend from those years.
A campaign spokesman, Ben LaBolt, had this explanation for the candidate’s silence: “He doesn’t remember the names of a lot of people in his life.”
Obama was also not willing to part with many of the names of people he knew and did remember, even those of whom he would have had records. His campaign declined to release a list of the approximately 30 clients for whom he worked personally while he was a lawyer with a law firm with close ties to the Daley machine in Chicago. His campaign also concealed and obfuscated relevant facts about Obama’s ties to the radical group ACORN — in the 1990s, he had served as a top trainer and lawyer for ACORN.
Jack Cashill, the author of Deconstructing Obama, noted this weekend that Carson was right to point out the media’s lack of interest in Frank Marshall Davis, a well-known Communist who was Obama’s mentor in Hawaii. Davis wasn’t someone whose membership in the Communist party was a youthful indiscretion. He was a member of the party during the Stalin era until he was well into his 40s, and in 1956, Davis even took the Fifth Amendment in front of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee.
Obama spent 2,500 words in Dreams from My Father describing Davis’s influence on his life, but, before the 2008 election, no mainstream media outlet examined the connection.
But Obama was clearly worried that Marshall’s past might haunt Obama in the run-up to this presidential campaign. His publisher said he “personally approved” the audio version of his memoir when it was released in 2005. That version removed all 22 of the book’s references to his mentor “Frank.”
In 2012, David Maraniss of the Washington Post published a biography of Obama that belatedly discussed Davis as well as the many discrepancies in Obama’s account of his life. In his review of the Maraniss book, Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith wrote, “I counted 38 instances in which the biographer convincingly disputes significant elements of Obama’s own story of his life and his family history.” But reporters investigated very few of those discrepancies before the 2008 election.
No one is suggesting that Ben Carson be given a pass on statements he made in his autobiography. Those are fair game. Carson has also at times unfairly lashed out at reporters — he criticized NRO’s Jim Geraghty for investigating Carson’s speeches and appearance for Mannatech. We should call out Carson for these unfair assaults.
But let’s stop pretending that there isn’t a glaring double standard in how presidential candidates are treated if they depart from the mainstream media’s ideological premises.(Links in the original)
Oh, and here is a list of nine things that Obama said in his autobiography that were false and didn't cause a feeding frenzy. And David Maraniss's biography of Obama found 38 false statements in Obama's autobiography.
Maraniss’s Barack Obama: The Story punctures two sets of falsehoods: The family tales Obama passed on, unknowing; and the stories Obama made up. The 672-page book closes before Obama enters law school, and Maraniss has promised another volume, but by its conclusion I counted 38 instances in which the biographer convincingly disputes significant elements of Obama’s own story of his life and his family history.Hmmmm, an aspiring politician telling stories to make his younger self more interesting and dramatic. Now, where have we heard that accusation recently?
The two strands of falsehood run together, in that they often serve the same narrative goal: To tell a familiar, simple, and ultimately optimistic story about race and identity in the 20th Century. The false notes in Obama’s family lore include his mother’s claimed experience of racism in Kansas, and incidents of colonial brutality toward his Kenyan grandfather and Indonesian step-grandfather. Obama’s deliberate distortions more clearly serve a single narrative: Race. Obama presents himself through the book as “blacker and more disaffected” than he really was, Maraniss writes, and the narrative “accentuates characters drawn from black acquaintances who played lesser roles his real life but could be used to advance a line of thought, while leaving out or distorting the actions of friends who happened to be white.”
That the core narrative of Dreams could have survived this long into Obama’s public life is the product in part of an inadvertent conspiracy between the president and his enemies. His memoir evokes an angry, misspent youth; a deep and lifelong obsession with race; foreign and strongly Muslim heritage; and roots in the 20th Century’s self-consciously leftist anti-colonial struggle. Obama’s conservative critics have, since the beginnings of his time on the national scene, taken the self-portrait at face value, and sought to deepen it to portray him as a leftist and a foreigner.
Reporters who have sought to chase some of the memoir’s tantalizing yarns have, however, long suspected that Obama might not be as interesting as his fictional doppelganger. “Mr. Obama’s account of his younger self and drugs…significantly differs from the recollections of others who do not recall his drug use,” the New York Times’s Serge Kovaleski reported dryly in February of 2008, speculating that Obama had “added some writerly touches in his memoir to make the challenges he overcame seem more dramatic.”
After Bevin won in Kentucky despite trailing in the polls leading up to the vote, Jonah Goldberg reflects on how poorly polls have been doing in recent elections.
It’s a national — and international — trend. The polls underestimated the scope of the 2014 midterm elections. Elections and referenda in Greece, Poland, Britain, Israel, and Scotland embarrassed the pollsters who thought they knew what was going on.Goldberg ponders what politics would be like if we didn't have polls.
My colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, Karlyn Bowman, has been studying polling for decades. She says this may be “the end of polling as we know it.” Already, the venerable pollster Gallup has gotten out of the business of polling the presidential primaries and may not track the general election either. Pew, another polling titan, is fairly gun-shy about covering the presidential horse race as well.
There are many reasons that polling is going haywire and getting more difficult. Response rates have plummeted. Landlines are disappearing. We’re getting fed up with surveys to the point where many would side with Hannibal Lecter in his confrontation with that census taker.
Similarly, I don’t want to ban polls, but they have their downside. They encourage leaders to become followers. When staring at polling data, too many politicians become afraid to voice their convictions or make the effort to convince the public to go a better way.I remember the midterm election in 2002 when the exit polling failed and the anchors had to report the election news without having exit polls and without being able to project the winner a few seconds after the voting polls closed. They had to wait for the actual votes to, you know, be counted. It made for a much longer night and it was rather amusing to watch the anchors have to vamp until they had actual counts to report We survived and it was rather interesting.
You can argue that following the polls is democratic, but it’s a cheap and shallow form of democracy. We are also a republic, and in republics, leaders are expected to do what they think is right, not just popular. Toppling the tyranny of polls would put arguments back at the center of politics. And that’s as it should be.
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Reuters has an article stemming from the popularity of the musical, Hamilton, to claim that "We are in an Alexander Hamilton moment." Well, it's about time. I've always found Hamilton to be one of the most intriguing and impressive of the Founders. As much as Benjamin Franklin, he epitomized the self-made man. And I've also found Thomas Jefferson to be one of the more overrated of our Founders. Aside from the Declaration of Independence, he was a failed governor of Virginia, and a hypocritical member of Washington's cabinet as he schemed behind the President's back to establish his own political party while sanctimoniously claiming that he despised parties. He refused John Adams' offer to collaborate in Adams' presidency because he preferred to have political deniability in order to run against Adams in 1800. And while his actions to purchase Louisiana (which I think any president might have done at the time) and his actions against the Barbary Pirates are quite admirable, his support of the Embargo Act in order to combat British and French depredations against American shipping was one of the most self-destructive laws in American history. So I've always been ambivalent about Jefferson and I can understand the see-sawing nature of the reputations of Hamilton and Jefferson in history. As Thomas Bender writes,
It was not always that way. Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, had his moments as the nation’s favorite founder. In Washington, for example, there is an impressive memorial to Jefferson, but no memorial to Hamilton. Jefferson’s profile was carved into Mount Rushmore in the 1930s, but Hamilton’s was not.My husband pointed this article out to me and how the author, a professor of history at NYU just accepts as fact that Jefferson fathered Hemings' children. First of all, the DNA analysis demonstrated only that he might have fathered just one of her children. And it was not definitive that he was the father, just that a Jefferson male at some time in the past 200 years has entered the genetic make-up of her youngest child, Eston. There were more than two dozen Jefferson men in Virginia at the time of Eston's birth so it is not "definitive" that Thomas Jefferson was the father. There is still doubt and some historians point to his younger brother, Randolph, as a more likely father since he was known to go to the slave cabins and dance. We just don't know who the father of Eston was. All we know is who it could have been. Perhaps, at some point the science will be able to be more specific. But it is striking how a carefully worded scientific finding has now become accepted by respected historians as a definitive statement when it was no such thing. That is rather troubling and echoes a lot of our politics today.
Throughout U.S. history, Jefferson and Hamilton have represented opposite poles of American political culture: agrarian democracy for Jefferson, empowering wealth for Hamilton. Over time they have risen and fallen, alternating in public favor. There almost seems to be a hydraulic law affecting their reputations. When one is up, the other is down. As the historian David Muzzey noted in 1918, their reputations varied like “buckets in a well, alternatively elevated and depressed.”
Jefferson’s eloquence about freedom and every man’s right to the “pursuit of happiness” earned him an honored place among the founding fathers. But as historians, particularly over the past 40 years, increasingly focused on how Jefferson built his life and career on the enslavement of others, public attitudes have shifted. Jefferson’s association with freedom has been further diminished by definitive DNA evidence that Sally Hemings, a slave he owned, was his mistress and bore his children, whom he kept enslaved as long as he lived.