Friday, August 29, 2008

Did Obama Underestimate McCain?

I meant to mention this in my earlier analysis of McCain's VP pick but isn't it curious that The Next Cheney website run by the Democrats didn't include Sarah Palin on the list of potential VP candidates? In fact, there's only one woman, Carly Fiorina, that was on the list.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

Hat tip: Jim Geraghty

McCain's Masterful Stroke In Selecting Palin

Senator John McCain not only hit a home run but a grand slam with his surprise selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential nominee. With his brilliant move, Senator McCain changed the dynamic of the presidential race. Rather than the press focusing on Senator Barack Obama's acceptance speech, all the talk today on the cable networks will be on McCain's decision.

Looking at both campaigns it's clear that McCain's campaign has Obama's campaign beat when it comes to competence. Obama's announcement was poorly handled. McCain's was a masterpiece.

But I was also reminded that McCain was once a Navy fighter pilot and that much of the strategy surrounding the pick reflects his military experience.

One of the keys to winning a war is to keep your enemy guessing what you're going to do next. In other words, misdirection and misinformation are among your best weapons. McCain pulled off one of the greatest media headfakes in recent political history. Even up until the announcement speculation was that either Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota or former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney would be the pick. Either would have been okay but not able to create the firestorm of support that Palin's selection has created. McCain also did a terrific job of keeping a lid on the choice until the news of the pick would have the maximum possible effect. McCain understands the saying "loose lips sink ships" applies to politics as well as the military.

Another key to winning a war is to exploit your opponent's weaknesses. Barack Obama's biggest weakness is among women. By not picking Hillary Clinton as his VP, he snubbed the 18 million plus voters that cast ballots for her. Many of her supporters are women, These voters are ripe to be picked off by McCain. By nominating a woman, McCain has put those voters in play.

Finally, to win a war you have to be willing to take risks. Governor Palin is largely unknown outside Alaska where she enjoys an 80% approval rating. The McCain campaign will have to work to get her story out to the public. However, the timing of the announcement right before the start of the Republican convention allows McCain to control the narrative and allow the focus to be on his running mate for the next few days and blunts any bounce Senator Obama will have been able to gain from his convention.

Senator McCain has shown himself capable of leading this country. He's willing to take risks and do what is right. With this decision, he has changed the course of the entire campagin.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Serious Coverage of the Democratic Convention

I was going to post something serious about the Democratic Convention but ran across this item instead.

Dave Barry and James Lileks covering the convention is much more fun than reading all that heady stuff about all the bloviating going on at the convention.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Does the VP choice matter?

For the past few weeks, the political press has been waiting breathlessly for the most anticipated announcement of the 2008 Election campaign: the vice-presidential nominations. But does the actual nomination matter as much as the media would have us believe? Does the actual nomination have any real influence on the vote?

Pundits will tell you that by selecting a particular candidate will all but guarantee delivery of a swing state for the ticket. Others will tell you that a VP nominee's experience will "balance the ticket" or counterbalance the presidential candidate's weaknesses by bringing expertise in a given area such as foreign policy or economic issues.

Personally, I don't believe a bit of it. In selecting a VP nominee, a candidate really only needs to think about one thing (besides the obvious question of whether their selection could step into the role of President under a worst-case scenario).

The main thing that the presidential candidate needs to guard against is destroying their chances at getting elected by making a lousy vice-presidential choice.

For the most part, vice-presidential candidates don't have a whole lot of influence over the success or failure of the ticket. Most voters aren't thinking about who is in the number two slot in decided where to cast their vote. If you don't believe me, try finding a poll that shows how much voters were influenced by the vice-presidential rather than presidential nominee. I doubt you'll find one because it's not a question that's asked.

So why does the media pay so much attention to this decision? Mostly because it gives pundits something to talk about in the slow months between the end of the primary season and the beginning of the conventions. It really isn't as much about the merits of the candidate selected.

Once each candidate has selected their respective running mate ask yourself this question: has your decision of who to vote for changed because of who would be the vice-president? I doubt that it will. While pundits will yammer on about what a big deal it is that this person or that person has been selected we'll all know better. It still comes down to who's on top of the ticket.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Baseball Quote of the Week

The job of arguing with the umpire belongs to the manager, because it won't hurt the team if he gets thrown out of the game.

- Earl Weaver

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Thoughts on the Saddleback Presidential Forum

I hadn't really intended to watch last night's presidential candidate forum hosted by Saddleback Church and thier celebrity pastor, Rick Warren. Part of the reason was that I was uncomfortable with the idea of a church being the host of a purely political event.

I'm still not sure how involved churches need to be involved in politics although I agree with those who believe that IRS regulations that restrict pastors from discussing politics should be

I'm not a big fan of Rick Warren, either. For all the good he has done, I disagree with his whole purpose-driven approach to church. I didn't care for his bestselling book as I thought it was too theologically shallow. I honestly wasn't sure that he would be willing to ask tough questions. I doubted Pastor Warren's motives thinking he was looking for a way to give Senator Barack Obama a chance to make an appeal to evangelical voters who could very much decide the outcome of the election.

The format of the forum with each candidate being asked the same questions separately and not knowing the other's answers seemed a bit unconventional. I wasn't sure it would work.

I was wrong.

Last night's forum was one of the biggest moments of the campaign and the best opportunity for voters to see the stark contrast between these two men. If you didn't get to see it, you should at least read the transcript.

Senator Obama was clearly uncomfortable in this format. His answers were often rambling and unclear. At times the viewer couldn't be certain whether he had actually answered the original question. Perhaps he would have been better off if he had heeded Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen's advice: “Instead of giving big speeches at big stadiums, he needs to give straight-up 10-word answers to people at Wal-Mart about how he would improve their lives.” (Hat tip: Hot Air)

Senator Obama is a great speaker and can make a speech like very few speakers I've ever heard before. But when you put him on the spot to answer questions in a debate or forum such as this, he can't articulate clear answers to questions and tends to commit serious verbal gaffes. Either he was unprepared for the questions he was asked (which is inexcusable, since the abortion question, which led to the aforementioned gaffe was bound to come up) or it is a sign of his total lack of experience that drives him to perform so poorly in debates.

Senator McCain, on the other hand, was succint and clear in his answers to the questions posed. He dealt with each issue honestly and knew exactly where he stood. Some Obama supporters (including his media cheerleaders) suggested that McCain cheated by listening to the questions. Senator McCain didn't need to cheat. He knows what he believes and says what he thinks without worrying about currying favor among potential voting groups. Such frankness is refreshing in a politician.

It's also clear that McCain has a huge advantage over Senator Obama in experience. So much so that when you compare the two candidates answers side-by-side it's clear that McCain is far more qualified than Obama. It's no wonder than many felt McCain had a much better night.

Pastor Rick Warren did this country a great service by providing the public an opportunity to see these two candidates respond to the same set of questions. We learned a great deal last night about both these men. Perhaps the debate organizers could learn a thing or two from the Saddleback event. Maybe, as one commentator suggested today, they could get Pastor Warren to moderate one of the debates. We could do a lot worse.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Quick Takes - 8-15-08

Been on the road this week and haven't had much time to blog but here are a couple of quick thoughts for the weekend:

Billboard seen during my travels: "Stop Talking. Start Drilling." Pretty much sums it up, doesn't it?

Making a deal with the devil? I don't see how this helps Obama. Oh well, at least all those reporters at the convention will have something to write about. By the way, I don't buy all the talk about the Democrats being a united party. Don't believe me? Pay attention to that roll call and see if I'm right.

Sure, the left wants to blame President Bush for everything. But now the Russians are joining in on the fun. Unbelievable.

Doing my daily glance at the baseball standings I noticed something interesting: the Chicago Cubs have the highest run differential in the majors scoring 155 more runs that their opponents as of this writing. They currently lead the NL Central by four games. The next closest team? The Boston Red Sox at 118. They trail their division by 3 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay but lead the AL Wild Card by 2 1/2.

Memo to the New York Times: do your math homework. This is just further proof (as if we needed it) that the old "mainstream" media aren't to be trusted any longer.

Finally, one of my favorite shows returns to the airwaves. Chuck is back on September 29. Here's a season two preview to get you ready:

Monday, August 11, 2008

Baseball Quote of the Week

Baseball is a lot like life. It's a day-to-day existence, full of ups and downs. You make the most of your opportunities in baseball as you do in life.

- Ernie Harwell

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Interview: Stephen Mansfield, Author of The Faith of Barack Obama

A person's faith is a window into their soul. For a politician, how he or she speaks about his or her faith will tell you something about how they will govern. Stephen Mansfield, author of the new book The Faith of Barack Obama, says that in examining the Senator's faith journey gave him insight not only into the Democratic presidential nominee but insight into larger cultural trends as well.

"Barack Obama's faith and his spiritual journey not only are shaping this election but also, as you tell the story and reflect on it, captures many of the trends that are most powerful and transforming in this age," said Mr. Mansfield in a recent interview.

One of those trends is one that Mr. Mansfield says has largely been missed by the mainstream media: a gradual shift of young evangelicals to the Democrats. Part of this trend is due to the recent loss of prominent national Religious Right leaders such as Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy as well as the prominent moral failure of former National Association of Evangelicals president Ted Haggard. But part of this trend is also due to younger voters that Senator Obama has energized through the campaign.

"The younger voters coming on line tend to be postmodern theologically to the extent they are theological at all and tend to lean leftward in their politics," said Mr. Mansfield.

Mr. Mansfield argues that Senator Obama is a person that these young, liberal evangelicals identify with because he shares their values. In order to make that argument, he had to address head-on the issue of Obama's true faith, as well as his church, both of which have been the subject of much controversy so far in this campaign. He deals with the issue by first dealing with one of the big unanswered questions of the campaign: why Obama chose to attend Trinity United Church of Christ whose pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, has infamously made anti-American and hate-filled statements from the pulpit.

"I think Obama is very clear that he first went to church to get connected to a church not so much out of a spiritual search but because people he was working with in the South side of Chicago challenged him that he would be more successful if he had some connections to church, some connection to faith. But I think in time he was captured by the Gospel," said Mr. Mansfield.
It is that Christian faith, that Senator Obama would bring into his administration should he be elected this fall. He has already signalled an intention to continue the faith-based initiatives begun by President George W. Bush. But an Obama election could also provide the impetus for a major shift in American politics.

"Obama is a unique creature because he is so deeply Christian who intends to bring his faith to bear on public policy and is very much on the left," said Mr. Mansfield. "I think what is diminishing is a secular approach to politics and what's arising is a faith-based approach to politics and now I think we have the opportunity in this country for the great debate between a right-leaning, limited government, low taxes, anti-abortion type of faith-based politics and then the more left-leaning version of that on the other side."

Already his book has garnered criticisms in some corners for not being critical enough of Senator Obama. In fact, many on the right have openly expressed anger at Mr. Mansfield, who is conservative and pro-life, for painting what they believe is a too flattering portrait of the Democratic nominee. By contrast, the author says his intention was simply to be fair and objective in examining the Senator's faith.

"As a Christian, I have written a book about another man's faith and I'm intrigued by his faith," said Mr. Mansfield. "I want to encourage his faith and I believe he is sincere about his faith. Now people who share my political vies are upset with me because I have written this book and basically what they are saying is 'you are too Christian, you should be more Republican than you are Christian'. What I have written is an honest, objective evaluation that celebrates Obama's faith to the extent it can be celebrated, questioned it where it had to be questioned and basically tries to explain it in terms of our times which is something we need, by the way, as we approach this election."

At the same time, Mr. Mansfield hopes that his approach in this book will serve as an example to politicians on how to deal with the pressing issues of our day that doesn't involve the bitter partisanship on both sides of the aisle that has become the norm in Washington.

"I have to say that one of my goals for this book besides just the content was to find the tone that I hope will be replicated a bit more in American politics," said Mr. Mansfield. "This vicious left/right fighting that is happening in America is paralyzing us. It is keeping up from accomplishing anything. And I have to say, as a Christian, it is ungodly. My hope was to write a book that would model a certain tone while communicating facts that people need to know."

Click here to listen to the entire interview with Stephen Mansfield.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Book Review: Lessons From The Road

Ever wondered what it would be like to tour with a rock band? Wonder what challenges a Christian band has to face out on the road?

Nigel James, founder of Ignite, a UK based youth discipleship minstry, has traveled extensively for Third Day for the past eight years. He brings unique insights into the hearts and minds of the band members in a new book entitled Lessons From The Road.

"Every tour since the Fall of 2000, every major tour in the U. S. and other places in the world I've joined Third Day on their tour bus as what they call their road pastor," said Mr. James in a recent interview, "basically doing church on the road with them making sure that we pray together, we read the Bible together, fellowship together, just using the time wisely that we have when we travelling."

His book takes the reader behind the scenes of lift on tour with the band. Fans will be pleasantly surprised at the things they learn about the band. For example, I found myself closely identifying with the feelings of different band members as they shared about the challenges they faced in licing out their faith in a very public way.

In fact, it is the contributions of the band members that makes this book so remarkable. Mr. James was able to each one of the guys contribute all throughout the book. In essence, you get an idea of how different band members reacted to different things that they have faced over the years.

Another wonderful aspect of the book is Mr. James sharing some of the devotions that he shared with band. As a result, we see how a road pastor encourages members of the group.

I came away from reading this book with a newfound appreciation of one of my favorite bands. Mr. James, by sharing his experiences, also shows fans that these men, both individually and collectively have dedicated themselves to serving God first and passionately pursue His will for them and their music. He also reveals their heart for world missions revealing their involvement in numerous projects around the globe. At the same time they are dedicated husbands and fathers committed to serving their local churches.

I highly recommend this book. It will give you a fresh perspective on one of the leading bands performing today. If you're like I am, you'll find yourself both encouraged and challenged by these lessons from the road.

Click here to listen to an interview with Nigel James.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Wake Up Call For The Church

In a post entitled Why I Walked Out of Church, writer/artist Julie Neidlinger assesses what's wrong with many of today's churches (hat tip: WorldMagBlog):

A recent cover story at World Magazine about "NextGen Worship" inspired a strong desire to smack the pastors depicted in the article and in the photos. The cover photo alone enraged me, with the pastor wearing baggy jeans and untucked button-up shirt with flip flops and an ear microphone. Later, the same guy is shown out front of a church holding a paper Starbucks-like cup of coffee. Could he try any harder to be lame?

I'd have liked to have taken that cup of coffee and dumped it on his head. But it's nothing personal against that guy or his beliefs or sincerity. It's an anger at something else.

I'm not going to be one of those starched-collar Christians who, based on personal preference, say that this is a sign we're going to hell in a handbasket and that all things are wrong unless they are done as they were with the Puritans. What I'm saying is that I can't stand the phoniness, or trendiness, or sameness -- or whatever I'm trying to say here -- that the church seems to catch onto at the tail end, not even aware of how lame it is. The fact that this is not only actually successful in appealing to people, but attracts them, also disgusts me.

It makes me want to throw up.

It's buying into some kind of lie or substitution of cool culture as being relevant when it isn't.

The entire article is worth reading very carefully as Julie has a lot to say. No doubt there are many other people that feel the same way.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Baseball Quote of the Week

Baseball gives every American boy a chance to excel, not just to be as good as someone else but to be better than someone else. This is the nature of man and the name of the game.

- Ted Williams

Friday, August 01, 2008

Friday Fun - Five Favorite Audiobooks

One of the ways we pass the time on our long roadtrips (besides the XM radio) is listening to audiobooks. These are our favorites:

Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce
A quirky and charming story inspired by a newspaper clipping the author ran across in a scrapbook. During World War II, paintings from Britain's National Gallery were stored in a slate mine for safekeeping. Boyce imagines what the impact that art would have on the citizens of a small town with absolutely hilarious results. This is one we never get tired of listening to and many of our own family's inside jokes have come from this book. It's a winner.

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
Kipling's stories are timeless in and of themselves. But their even better when read aloud. Although several editions exist, our favorite is performed by famed British actor Geoffrey Palmer. He brings a perfect performance to these wonderful stories.

Peter and the Starcatchers, Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
The first three installments of the "prequels" to Peter Pan are sheer fun and adventure. Both Pearson and Barry show themselves fully capable of handling the task of writing adventure novels that are geared towards kids. All three are performed by the wonderful Jim Dale who uses a variety of different voices to bring the characters to life. These are especially well-suited for longer road trips.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
These are wonderful books to read aloud as a family. Like many other classic tales, numerous versions of the Chronicles have been made with different narrators. However, the Focus on the Family Radio Theater production (linked above) is by far the best. This is an unabridged dramatization of all seven books and the production is absolutely top-notch. Each installment is also introduced by Lewis' stepson Douglas Gresham who provides some wonderful insights into the writing of each of the volumes. Each time we listen to the books we discover something new and wonderful about the land of Narnia.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
This thirteen-volume saga of the Bauderlaire children has something for both kids and parents alike. The books are both tragic and comic at the same time and like many other good audiobooks remain entertaining over repeated listening. Almost all of the books are narrated by Tim Curry (except for the third, fourth and fifth books which are narrated by the author). Curry's performance is absolutely wonderful and like other great audiobook performers knows how to create unique characters with his voice. Just to hear him bring the oft-coughing Mr. Poe to life is worth the listen.