Sorry we're out of the Dark Ages

Daniel Henniger wrote an column for the Wall Street Journal yesterday complaining about all the nuanced answers Obama gave at the Saddleback forum. Henniger longs for a simpler time when he didn’t have to learn how a candidate thought, because he could know without asking:

There was a time before the multitude of world views fell from the sky — let’s say every presidential election from 1789 to 1964 — when one could assume that all the candidates shared a basic set of moral precepts, now called “values.” They were Judeo-Christian precepts. Old Testament-New Testament. It was pretty simple. Some past presidents may have been closet agnostics, but when they were growing up, someone “wise” told them what the common rules were. Most people in public life felt no need to challenge this world view.

That’s gone.

Two things. First, the implication here is that Obama doesn’t believe in Judeo-Christian precepts. This sounds like another twist on the Obama Is A Secret Muslim message that Republicans seem fond of. Henniger is being more subtle but the effect is the same.

Second, I would challenge the value of being presented with ideologically identical candidates. Aren’t elections supposed to be about choices? Here, Henniger is painting ideological and theological diversity as wrong. Don’t we all wish that every candidate believed exactly what we wanted them to, and all we had to do was pick which candidate’s name sounded better?

How we got where we are today was Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision wherein the nation’s highest Court decided when a fetus became “viable,” along the way discussing “mediate animation” and “ensoulment.” In any event, it became the law.

How we got here as well was because science discovered it could manipulate embryonic stem cells.

How we got here was through a politics able to place on California’s November ballot a Proposition H, which would amend the state’s constitution to define as valid only a marriage between a man and a woman.

These, with much else, are contested matters now. Absent the settled mores that held sway in 1916 when Woodrow Wilson defeated Charles Evans Hughes, you get Rick Warren trying to open up the inner candidate. One has to ask if evil exists because even that is up for grabs.

Henniger seems to long for the time of back-alley abortions, a time without science, and a time when homosexuals weren’t demanding pesky things like equal rights. And as far as I know, the presence of evil seems to be uncontroversial. Both candidates – and, for what it’s worth, everyone I know – thinks it exists.

If as at Saddleback the contest is the inner game of politics, one would bet that the young guy would take down the old guy. By consensus, John McCain won. What happened?

Barack Obama clearly has spent more time than is healthy around places like the law schools of Harvard and Chicago, where one learns that a short answer cannot exist.

This doesn’t even fit in with Henniger’s longing for the Good Ol’ Days. I thought that the terse soundbite was a product of the modern television era. So shouldn’t Henniger want the insight into the candidates thinking that longer nuanced answers provide?

Also, notice how Henniger, a product of Georgetown University, wants us to fear the premier educational institutions in our country. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I want the president to be well educated and intellectually curious.

Fun Fact: McCain finished 894th out of 899 students in his class at the Naval Academy.

John McCain benefited because by generation and background, taking his private thoughts public wouldn’t be his first option.

Uh. Daniel, you’re wrong about that one too.

Reading the Wall Murdoch Street Journal opinion page is so trying.

One Comment

  1. Ian

    Sounds like the typical Rove-ish Republican talking points from the last decade. “Obama spends too much time at Harvard” = “Obama is elitist!”

    I also find the guys conjecture that Judeo-Christian “values” are the source of morality in this country pretty damn offensive. Also that “wisdom” comes from being religious. F this guy.