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A seismic event.

David Brooks'scolumnon the Iowa results is well worth reading--and discussing, so have at it in the comboxes.

Obama has achieved something remarkable. At first blush, his speeches are abstract, secular sermons of personal uplift filled with disquisitions on the nature of hope and the contours of change.He talks about erasing old categories like red and blue (and implicitly, black and white) and replacing them with new categories, of which the most important are new and old. He seems at first more preoccupied with changing thinking than changing legislation.Yet over the course of his speeches and over the course of this campaign, he has persuaded many Iowans that there is substance here as well. He built a great organization and produced a tangible victory.Hes made Hillary Clinton, with her wonkish, pragmatic approach to politics, seem uninspired. Hes made John Edwards, with his angry cries that corporate greed is killing your childrens future, seem old-fashioned. Edwardss political career is probably over.Obama is changing the tone of American liberalism, and maybe American politics, too.

Maybe. I have a feeling Clinton isn't going to make that very easy. Who saw the speeches last night? I saw Huck's, Clinton's, and part of Obama's. What struck me: Huck's preacher routine got old quick, but his tone (in public at least) certainly differentiates him from the rest of the pack. Hillary's positivity was impressive, but her "change" schtick was strained (and backward-looking). But the look on Bill's face near the end of her speech must have sent chills down the spines of Clinton supporters everywhere. He looked like he was at a funeral.What did you think?

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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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I heard most of the speeches in full on CNN right as results were being finalized.On Huckabee, I thought his audience loked uncomfortable at times when he wasn't pushing their mainly evangelical message ahead.I think Romney thinks he can still buy it - a lesson Michael Blomberg knows better of.Watch out for McCain!The Obama win was important to understand as the kind of hope thoday's younger folk want - an end to bitter partisanship and work on problems from (the lost) common good perspective.Barak has a hard time to do this since we're so enured to thinking about things in partisan fashion.(There's a lesson for our Church leaders here too as far as the young adults of our world, They are loking for inspiration and recognition that they are adults, not the same old top down message.)There was a lot of the black ministerial cadence in Obama's speech which gave it a special power.I deeply disagree with Brooks on Edwards' speech. I thought it was powerful - an indictment of the lost common good with neat specificity of examples. I was reminded of Fr. Bryan Hehir's book on the Common Good and his chapte on poverty in America that many Catholics seem to think little about.But our young adults seem strongly comitted to social justice and Edwards, while not winning the nomination, may well still be a major influence in the Country's future - ala Gore on climate change.I thought Hilary kept a stiff upper lip, but her spech was about I (so ready to lead.)Obama spoke about us and that also resonated more than policy issues!

First, some disclosure. Among the Democratic candidates, Obama has been my favorite for some time and I've thrown some small change in his direction. But I'll try to be as objective as I can.When I listed to the speeches of the three major Democratic candidates last night, I heard two that I would characterize as looking to the past.With respect to Edwards, I find myself agreeing with many of his assertions, but the overall tone of his speech evokes a certain wistfulness for a time when well-compensated, unionized jobs in manufacturing plants were readily available. That time is gone and it is not coming back. When Edwards speaks about his father being a mill-worker, I doubt that anyone under the age of 40 actually knows what, exactly, a mill is. Edwards economic populism resonates with a significant sector of the electorate, but it has never--in the last half century at least--propelled a Democrat to the White House. It's true that Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign struck populist themes, but Clinton's defense of the "forgotten middle class" who "work hard and play by the rules" also had a strong subtext of cultural conservatism. His message and Edwards are not the same.With respect to Clinton, I was struck by the fact that her concession speech simply reiterated the same themes that had led her to be soundly beaten by Obama, i.e. that she is the experienced and tested candidate. That message has proved to be extraordinarily brittle. The fact that Clinton thought it was a good idea to have Madeleine Albright up there next to her is a symptom of her problem. Albright was a reasonably competent Secretary of State and, as the first woman to hold the position, a breakthrough figure. But I would be surprised if 1 American voter in 10 could identify her. The fact that Clinton has the support of the Democratic establishment is clearly not going to be the asset she thought it was. The fact that she is sending Bill to campaign for her in New Hampshire is also a warning sign. Hillary Clinton needs to come up with a better rationale for her candidacy than a restoration of the peace and prosperity of the Bill Clinton years. That brings us to Obama. I, too, was moved by the speech and by the moment. I will also say that I resonate strongly with his call to move beyond the Red State/Blue State divisions and partisan excess that have characterized the Bush years. The fact that Obama appeals to Independents and even some Republicans is also part of his appeal for me. But at some point, Obama is going to have to provide some real content to his call for "change." Perhaps that will come in the General Election, as the differences between the Democrats have generally been too minor to draw those kinds of contrasts. That's probably enough "insta-analysis" for now. I will say that I think Huckabee may surprise people in New Hampshire.

Brooks is one great smoothie, as I see it. He is that rare person who contradicts himself and looks good doing it. He really can take credit for every outcome as they are all there in his essay. The monday morning quarterbacks are ubiquitous and the season has barely started. It should at least be acknowldedged that Barack and Edwards ran against Hillary. It is certainly a positive that Obama appeals to younger voters. And if ever a black person looked 80% white, he is the one. He has that Jack Kennedy style. But as Peter admits above there is little or no content which should tell us something.Huckabee filled a vacuum because the Republicans have no viable candidate. Giuliani was the one but his contradictions and his insistence on stonewalling on certain positions (like keeping the dubious Monsignor on his staff) is repulsive.Yogi doesn't have to tell us that it is not over yet. Barack has the momentum and the question will be how he does when all start ganging up on the frontrunner.

to be transparent ...I too sent some money to Obama. He won big. I predict he will go all the way to Pa Ave..[I hope the Sec. Service guys for the drop out candidates are added to assignment on Obama]The religiously uninformed media kept saying over and over Huckabee's born again schtick will not go over in NH.. Watch for family values Rep. Catholics, Main line Protestants and even Jews voting for him on values not theology/liturgy. Huckabee even quoted Chesterson in his speech last night, [missed by the 'Media' ] Watch for his appeal in NH to be bigger than predicted..his line that he looks more like the guy you work with rather then the guy who laid you off, stomped all over Romney.

Thanks for the teasers! I'm looking forward to hearing the speeches on the news tonight.I'm still in the Dodd/Richardson corner, though I realize I will need to vacate the premises sometime soon. Shields and Brooks said last night on "The News Hour" that the electorate doesn't want experience, but something new. I feel so out of it. Like an eight-track-tape deck.

Grant-What about Huck's speech "got old"? Did you find him personally inauthentic? Or was it the content of what he said? Just wondering as you seem to imply it's he's putting on an act when you use the phrase "routine" and you imply that his tone in private is different than that in public.

Why does anyone take David Brooks seriously? He's a twaddle-meister with one neologism -- "Bobo" -- to his credit. Not long ago, he advised us to put Iraq to bed as an issue. Clinton's speech was her usual robotic, demographically-tailored oration. Obama was impressive, but I'm still wondering if there's more sizzle than steak in his campaign. As for Edwards' career being over, that's a classic case of wishful thinking. Maybe Brooks wants Edwards out of the race, but that only indicates that Brooks is a pro-corporate shill. And despite what Brooks wrote elsewhere in his column, Huckabee is a creationist crusader. It should bother everyone that a believer in a six-day creation wants to be our president.

Eugene-I did not realize Governor Huckabee endorses a federal law to have Creationism taught in public school science classes. For full disclosure, I have been a Huckabee supporter for about a year who is leaning towards switching McCain (if I can get more comfortable with his views on embryonic stem cell research). This is quite disturbing to me, and not just on subsidiarity grounds. Did he say "Creationism" or "Intelligent Design"? Could you post some links to his proposals on these laws?

I was, and still am, a fan of John Edwards. I love underdogs! I thought his speech was truly edifying, but can see how it won't resonate with the new kingmakers: youuuuuuuth! I still think that, with them, there is too much "me" and not enough "we", but, then I'm one of those old fahts, so what do I know?Obama is a natural speaker. White folks just can't match the cadence, inflection and sense of timing.Hillary was about as gracious as she could be, considering that she was #3 and that her campaign was about to catch hell from her bubby. You don't have to like Bubba to appreciate that he was a very successful candidate. Of course, he was and is of the old school of consensus Democrat.I'm not sure if the overall electorate is ready for the type of campaign that Obama will run. The wingnuts will crucify him as being a liburrrrrrall! But I'm not so sure that is the big swear word that it was.We have a week to find out if Obama and Huckabee are signs of change or just pan flashes.Let the games continue.

Very few have noted that no one who has won Iowa caucases has ever won the White House. Then why does everyone get so excited about it? At any rate it is refreshing that in a State that is 2% black would elect a person of color.

Gene McCarraher is dead on with the Brooks critique. What exactly was Brooks saying, anyway? Obama is wonderful, though I'd never vote for him in a million years? And Republican Reformation? How about an Enlightenment. I am torn between Hillary's experience and chops and Barry's charm and unbearable lightness of being. I want someone who can win. There's a lot of work to be done. As for "seismic"--it'll be acid reflux at most after the next primary. Iowa is cute. But it is what it is. Signing off from the Brooklyn arrondissment.

I don't often read David Brooks because I am a confirmed Democrat. However, I did read it this morning and found it interesting. I think the important point of the column was his advice to his fellow Republicans. Unless they start to pay attention to people who make less than $50,000 a year there is no hope for them. It isn't that he is a liberal conservative, as someone said. He is a conservative Republican. He wants his party to win, but he knows they need to change or it it hopeless, so he tries to tell them how to change. If they would listen to him, the Republicans might actually win in 2008.

David Gibson once again displays his impeccable judgment, at least regarding my posts. (I also like the identification of Brooklyn as an "arrondissement." Revolutionary Jacobin in disguise, David?) MAT: I never suggested that the Huckster was calling for any such amendment as the one to which you refer. What's worrisome in the Huckster -- as in the current Nitwit-in-Chief -- is the breezy disregard for science in the early 21st century. That's why David is right to say that the GOP needs an Enlightenment, not just a Reformation.

As idiosyncratic as the Iowa process is, Obama's victory is a major event--he not only won more "votes" than any of the other Dems, he got out the vote. I suspect Michelle Obama is correct in saying that this will wake up black Americans to the legitimacy of her husband's campaign. And maybe we'll start to see more stories about his legislative record--like this one: for Huckabee: his speech was meandering and repetitive (as was Hillary's), and his puppy-dog-eyes don't work for me. (Is he going to choose Chuck Norris as his running mate? Or his wife?) Several of his former staffers and folks who have worked with him have gone on the record saying that he had a habit of lashing out angrily when confronted by disagreement. That said, I'm impressed by his resistance to Grover Norquist's minions who seem to believe cutting taxes will solve all our problems. But I seriously doubt he can get the nomination.

Eugene-But why is the level of science knowledge of a president worrisome if she will not be enacting laws based upon that? Does your worry apply to other academic areas as well? E.g. do you require a minimum level of multivariate calculus proficiency from politicians you support? Or perhaps constitutional law or military history? And would belief in other things that run contrary to modern science worry you as well? Let's say transubstantiation?

The results in Iowa seem to me to suggest a focus on style over content. This is bewildering to those for whom 'issues' are...or ought to be...the driving force, but envigorating to those of us exhausted by polarizing rhetoric. Both of the winners engage in unpredictable and fresh discourse; in that sense both are disarming. Brooks is an 'acquired taste.' The issues crowd have their columnists, Kristol and Krugman for example, for whom political orthodoxy is paramount and tone is suitably strident. For cultural commentary, at least, I'll take Kristof or Brooks any day.

Having a few days to reflect on Iowa, I think in the case of Senator Obama, it is indeed his style (read: electability) which makes his victory "seismic." However, in the case of Gov. Huckabee, something much more monumental has taken place. I think many people of good will would agree that Senator Obama's policies are well within the mainstream of various influential intellectual schools of the Democratic party. However, Gov. Huckabee, in my opinion represents something unseen this side of the Atlantic. If you agree that the macro clash between the DNC and GOP over the last two decades is really between bringing progress to the USA via a certain interpretation of the European worldview (secularism, statism, pacificism, etc) v. stubborn clinging to the archaic view of governance of the Founders' (Federalism, American exceptionalism, etc.), Huckabee's victory has changed this completely. His movement is really that of the Continental Christian Democrats and it will be very interesting to see how it plays out.

Grant linked to a Washington Post column on Obamas legislative record. I just read it, and its very good.Its noteworthy that the author, Charles Peters (founding editor of the Washington Monthly), was, earlier in his career, a state legislator. He writes,

I know from my time in the West Virginia legislature that the challenges faced by reform-minded state representatives are no less, if indeed not more, formidable than those encountered in Congress. For me, at least, trying to deal with those challenges involved as much drama as any election. And the "heart and soul" bill, the one for which a legislator gives everything he or she has to get passed, has long told me more than anything else about a person's character and ability.Consider a bill into which Obama clearly put his heart and soul. The problem he wanted to address was that too many confessions, rather than being voluntary, were coerced -- by beating the daylights out of the accused.Obama proposed requiring that interrogations and confessions be videotaped.This seemed likely to stop the beatings, but the bill itself aroused immediate opposition.

After explaining what Obama did to overcome that opposition and get the bill passed, Peters concludes:

Obama didn't stop there. He played a major role in passing many other bills, including the state's first earned-income tax credit to help the working poor and the first ethics and campaign finance law in 25 years (a law a Post story said made Illinois "one of the best in the nation on campaign finance disclosure"). Obama's commitment to ethics continued in the U.S. Senate, where he co-authored the new lobbying reform law that, among its hard-to-sell provisions, requires lawmakers to disclose the names of lobbyists who "bundle" contributions for them.Taken together, these accomplishments demonstrate that Obama has what Dillard, the Republican state senator, calls a "unique" ability "to deal with extremely complex issues, to reach across the aisle and to deal with diverse people." In other words, Obama's campaign claim that he can persuade us to rise above what divides us is not just rhetoric.I do not think that a candidate's legislative record is the only measure of presidential potential, simply that Obama's is revealing enough to merit far more attention than it has received. Indeed, the media have been equally delinquent in reporting the legislative achievements of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, both of whom spent years in the U.S. Senate. The media should compare their legislative records to Obama's, devoting special attention to their heart-and-soul bills and how effective each was in actually making law.

If anyone has a response to/critique of this column, please send it in.Finally: along the lines of what Peters calls for in the last paragraph, might it be a good idea to start a separate post here on what we know about the candidates legislative records?

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