The New York Times

John ArmstrongPolitics

The New York Times
was a great newspaper at one time. It still includes some great writers and reportage. It is now, of course, a national newspaper competing with the breezy modern style of USA Today. I do not think the Times is always the "tool of the left" but it comes very close. I picked up a copy in my hotel on Saturday morning, while I was in New York, and read it over breakfast. In reading the various columnists, and these columns are partisan by design, the coverage of Sarah Palin dominated the paper, besides the storms in Texas over the weekend. If you believe the columnists in the Times, this "hockey mom" is not up to high office in any way at all. That is an "opinion," and time will tell.

I found their approach Saturday morning all too typical. The writers have now taken to praising Palin for being a real reformer in Alaska. (I guess her record speaks for itself and some have given up on attacking on that front!) What they now attack is her lack of bona fides in terms of foreign policy, which is obviously her weakest spot. The Charlie Gibson interview is the source for these new rounds of debate. The Times writers picked her apart. I then read several of the online conservative writers and they had a totally different take on the Gibson interviews. Surprise, surprise, they thought she was brilliant. I have not seen the interview yet but I have read it and read many of the responses. I have to believe the truth lies somewhere between these two partisan responses. The right loves her and the left hates her, that seems obvious. (Dick Morris writes that the left hates her because she is an entirely new type of "threat" to their plans for political control, being an outsider who is a fresh face for true reform who will even take on corruption within her own party. Could be. Again, the one fact we can know for sure is that she took on her own party and defeated it on ethics.) Hardly anyone is without an opinion about Sarah Palin at this point. And we’ve only known about her for a less than three weeks. Republicans only have about fifty more days of this so it is now almost like a basketball team stalling and protecting a lead. Meanwhile the left howls about exposing her and so far can find nothing that sticks. I will make a prediction: They will find nothing substantive to hit her with between now and November 4. The "October Surprise" will likely come but I am dubious about it being credible, and think it will be seen as nothing more than a partisan attack. One thing you must agree on: Sarah Palin changed the whole discussion and energized this race. If McCain wins she must get a good bit of credit. If Obama wins Biden will get none. Biden can hurt Obama and in some ways already has hurt him by his candor and undisciplined speech.

I hear that Governor Palin called Pastor Rick Warren last week to seek counsel about how to handle personal attacks on her character. I feel sure that he gave her some very good counsel since he knows what it is liked to be despised and attacked. Sarah Palin clearly is a serious Christian. Any fair-minded study of her life reveals this to be the case. Now the media is seizing on her background to make "Pentecostalism" an enemy. Anyone who is charismatic could now become the new target for the media-bashing machine. What this reveals is the complete ignorance of most journalists about religion. If you have ever dealt with the press, and I have, you know how true this statement is. Most of the press are not only non-churched but quite anti-religious altogether.

I pray for Sarah Palin. (I also pray for Barack Obama who has been unfairly attacked about his faith.) I am presently reading a simple, short biography about Sarah Palin. The book, Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska’s Political Establishment Upside Down (Kaylene Johnson),
reveals very little serious analysis of her views or politics. What it does show is an incredible courage to face power and do what is right. I am sure Palin does not have enough experience in foreign policy at this point. How could she? She only recently got a passport. But then Barack Obama has very little foreign policy experience himself and he is at the top of the Democrat ticket. Biden and McCain have a lot of foreign policy experience between them but clearly hold very different views on the subject. I think "experience" in some areas, especially in making and developing policy, is vastly overrated. (What experience in this area did Harry Truman have, or John Kennedy, or Ronald Reagan, or Bill Clinton? Come to think of it some of our better presidents had less experience than some of these candidates before they entered office.) Obama’s lack of experience does not mean that he could not lead the nation and handle foreign policy. Personally, I am much more interested in how a candidate "sees" the world, what kind of worldview they hold and how they might actually make decisions under pressure. The media has missed this concern almost entirely. It doesn’t even seem to interest them to explore these things. I suggest the reason is they do not think character is all that important but rather agreement with certain positions on issues. This is how their worldview works. Mine doesn’t.

Truthfully I think this is one of the most interesting elections in decades, maybe since 1960. I want to hear these four candidates talk about decision-making and worldview and not read what the left and the right are telling me is wrong with the other side. There are things to not like in every candidate. My goodness, these four people are humans. No one connects with me perfectly but I must make a choice and so must you.

All of this was underscored for me last weekend when I shared dinner with my friends Craig and Ann Higgins in Rye, New York. We are all three on the same page as serious Christians who read a great deal and try to think pretty deeply about character and leadership. I am a little bit older, by maybe 12-14 years, I would guess. We discussed a number of issues and interests, and finally we discussed our "impressions" of the Rick Warren Civic Forum with Obama and McCain. What interested me was how much we agreed on certain issues but did not "perceive" the answers that the two candidates gave that evening in exactly the same way. We each had a different take on the men and how they answered even though we had little difference on actual policy. What I saw as tentativeness in one man was seen as thoughtfulness by Ann, and vice versa. I thought McCain was decisive but Ann thought he was a little too filled with certitude. When our evening ended I said, "You guys really helped me to think and listen this evening. We all learn by respectfully asking questions and listening more carefully to different opinions and thus you helped me do that. Thank you.  I wish the church worked more like this in America."

The difference between "how" McCain and Obama responded to many questions is one of the differences I see in our several generations. The cynic will say that one man is lying and one is telling the truth. I do not see it as that black and white in most instances. There are ways in which Obama has changed his stance within this campaign that raise real questions for me. There are other ways that he seems to have grown in how he answers questions as he has gone along. I still hope the "hockey mom" convinces McCain to change his mind about drilling in ANWAR. But then that is my political opinion. Changing views is fine. What I admire is when someone admits it, which is all too rare.

If you don’t love this opportunity to debate and respond then you do not appreciate the freedom we have in the United States. As much as hyper-partisanship stinks you should enjoy the good parts and still vote.