Joe the Plumber

Me, writing political commentary?! Stranger things have happened, like, for instance, having a candidate for president who is intelligent and articulate and able to put issues before what the other candidate's campaign is saying about him personally. So, I watched the debate Wednesday night with increasing hope and concern: is it possible that America might go so far as to elect a president who, while rich*, was also at the top of his class in school? Or are we going to fall yet again for the dumbing down of our politics to the level of personal grievance and feelings? It all hinges on Joe the Plumber. But who is he?

I don't mean in real life; everyone knows that now. Even on Wednesday, Senator McCain didn't really care about who "Joe" was or his staff would have bothered to find out, for example, that "Joe's" full name is Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher and that he isn't even licensed by the Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters and Service Mechanics. As much as Senator McCain used Joe's question to Senator Obama about his tax plan as a way to try to demonstrate that Senator Obama was out to "get" the common man, for Senator McCain, "Joe" was more important as a symbol than as a person. While Senator Obama answered Joe in person with detailed statistics about how his tax plan would affect 95% of Americans--i.e. all those of us making less than $250,000 a year--all Senator McCain wanted to do was make Senator Obama's answer proof of an ideological position that Senator Obama doesn't even hold. And so I held my breath, because I could see that Senator McCain was here gaining the upper hand, not because he was accurately contesting the facts, but because he was so adeptly manipulating the symbol.

Senator Obama promises to implement a tax plan that will benefit the vast majority of the American population, on the one hand by easing the tax burden on everyone other than the richest 5% (which has, to be fair, included certain members of my family, just nobody in my generation); on the other by using the taxes collected to make health care and education even to the college level affordable for all. How could this possibly be a bad thing? Ah, but then there is the American dream: not just to have a house and money for food and clothes and an opportunity to work and raise one's children, but to achieve what Senator Obama himself has, to be born ordinary (socio-economically speaking) and rise, by way of hard work and luck, into that top 5%. This is what Joe the Plumber symbolizes: not just the Common Man, but the Common Man On His Way To Becoming a Millionaire, as every American (apparently) believes, contrary to all probability, he is. Senator McCain is, like Senator Obama, rich (or his wife is). He is making common cause with "Joe" by promising him that if Joe ever wins the lottery, he (Senator McCain) won't take the money away. Senator Obama, on the other hand, is promising that now that he (Senator Obama) is rich, he is willing to share his money with others by way of a slight (from 36% to 39%) increase on the taxes that he pays above the first $250,000 a year of his income.

Which of the two will America vote for: the pie-in-the-sky of proverbial riches-to-come or the plan to extend health care and education to all? I wish I could believe that we will vote for the latter, but I fear that we are greedy enough to hold onto the dream of the former, even when it is impossible to realize (95% of the population will never be as rich as the top 5%, no matter what Senator McCain promises**). What I find even harder to accept is that we will do so on the basis of the fact that the man who is proposing to change our tax structure such that it is more progressive is "too smart" to understand the needs of the "common man," as Senator McCain insinuated more than once, commenting on Senator Obama's eloquence. Which brings me to the real concern that I had watching the debate: whether we actually want what Senator Obama is promising, most particularly, a college-level education for all.

Colleges are not famous for teaching students to be plumbers. Nor do they teach students to be factory workers or mechanics or engineers (except theoretically). Unless they are vocational colleges, they do not teach one how to be a chef or a nurse or a carpenter or a construction worker or a garbage collector or a shop assistant. For the majority of occupations, most training occurs on the job or in particular technical courses. The number of things that most colleges (at least like the one where I teach and where, yes, Senator Obama taught for some years) can train one for is fairly limited: professor, doctor, lawyer, theologian, scientist. And no, not all of these jobs make one rich (the first one certainly doesn't, unless one writes a best-selling book). Rather, a "college education," like "Joe the Plumber," is a symbol--of opportunity, of social mobility, of entry into the middle class (which still does not make one rich, mind you; middle≠top 5%). What it does not seem to be a symbol of, and therefore what worries me, is the capacity for understanding, not to mention intellectual and spiritual growth.

Why not? Well, just listen to the way Senator McCain attacks Senator Obama. "You," Senator McCain seems to be saying, "may talk pretty, but we don't have to believe you. Just because you can put fancy words to your policies doesn't mean you are actually in favor of the ordinary person"--who, by implication, is nowhere near as intelligent as Senator Obama, otherwise he (Joe the Plumber) would be able to understand the "big words" that Senator Obama is using. Now, Senator Obama is promising to make a college education affordable even for the children of all the Joe the Plumbers who make less than $250,000 a year, so that, conceivably, those children, once college-educated, could understand what Senator Obama is saying. But it is not clear to me that Joe the Plumber wants more intelligent children; he wants his money--at least, this seems to be what Senator McCain is saying.

I'm not sure what to do with this, being a college-educated intellectual myself. Can I understand the "common man"? Do I have sympathy with Joe the Plumber? I actually think Senator Obama does; after all, he's met thousands of Joe the Plumbers over the course of the campaign, and he's smart enough to realize that most of them want to keep their money. That's, after all, what he's promised. But he is also idealistic enough to believe that they want something more, a chance at a life that includes not only plumbing, but also literature and history and art and mathematics and biology and physics and chemistry; perhaps even (God forbid) a little theology. The thing is, I believe this, too. No, I don't believe everyone is naturally as intelligent (in the sense of the capacity for "book-learning") as everyone else, anymore than I believe everyone is as athletically intelligent as everyone else; I've got my fencing results to prove it. But I do believe that everyone--everyone--is creative enough to want to make beautiful things, some out of language, some out of matter, and that it enriches one's life to be able to think about why.

Perhaps this is not what Senator Obama meant when he promised to make college education affordable as a matter of national urgency; perhaps he was thinking rather in terms of education in technical disciplines such as engineering so that we can make more fuel-efficient cars. But it is important, I think, that it is on the level of linguistic competence (eloquence) that Senator McCain felt it symbolically appropriate to attack his opponent. For Senator McCain, "college-educated" clearly means "beyond the intellectual capacity of the common man". Is this fair? As I've said, I don't know many plumbers, but I have met the men and women who worked on the cars my father used to race. It was always somewhat irritating when my father would insist, particularly after a few beers, that they were smarter than I was, but then, he's right, what do I know about cars? What I saw when we visited their homes was even more striking. Artwork everywhere; beautifully painted models of cars; exquisite craftsmanship in carpentry and metal. Real things that they had made. These were not dummies, howevermuch they might have struggled in school. Nor, when they learned what I do, were they uninterested in history; quite the reverse. Usually they had questions that even I couldn't answer, but invariably they were curious and wanted to know more.

So who is right about Joe the Plumber: Senator Obama or Senator McCain? Is the average American more interested in money than understanding? In riches than in science and art? Will a promise of education override their sense that they are only a few lottery tickets away from vast wealth? I think it could if only it were put the right way. It may be impossible for all of us to be financially rich, but it is more than possible for all of us to be intellectually and, yes, spiritually rich. I am heartened above all by the bookstands that I see in the truck stops, where, I assume, the Joe the Plumbers of America occasionally shop. Yes, they are stocked mainly with bestsellers, but this to me signals not the degeneration of mass culture, but rather, and more importantly, an overwhelming urge to read. And what are these bestsellers? Not only romance novels and thrillers or magazines about cars. There are works of theology and spiritual discipline, much as, if this were the fifteenth century, there would be books of Hours. People want education for the same reason they have always wanted education, at least at the college or university level; remember that it was the clergy who started these schools, and not only Oxford and Cambridge or Harvard, Princeton and Yale, but also (as Marilynn Robinson has shown) many of the oldest colleges that Joe the Plumber and his fellow mid-westerners would most likely attend. People want education in order to be able to read and think about what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God and, therefore, to be makers of things like books and cultures and plumbing and cars. This, to my mind, is what Senator Obama is promising. I think you know who I am voting for.

*Thanks to the royalties on a book he published.
**Unless, that is, the richest 5% actually were taxed in such a way as to "spread the wealth around" as per communist ideals, which is not at all what Senator Obama is proposing, pace Senator McCain.

Comments

  1. I was very disappointed to learn that you are a liberal who supports Obama.

    I used to be a liberal Democrat when I was younger. But as I aged, I matured, and as I matured, I became more conservative. Now I am a Republican.

    I find the Republican party to be the natural home of Christians. In fact, I would say the heart of the Republican party is the Christian church. (And the heart of the Christian church are the evangelical Christians.)

    There are many non-Christians in the Republican party, but virtually all of them are friendly with Christians.

    The Democrat party is not like this. The Christian Democrats are in the minority. And the natural home of atheists is the Democrat party. When I was in the Democrat party, I always found some hostility toward Christianity. Now that I'm in the Republican party, I almost never find hostility toward Christians or Christianity.

    sincerely,
    Sean

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  2. Sean,

    Isn't it better for Christians to stay where they are needed, e.g. the Democratic party, than simply go where they are comfortable? It is easy to wear a cross when everyone else is wearing one. It takes courage (and humility) to wear one where fewer are.

    Fencing Bear

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  3. "Stranger things have happened, like, for instance, having a candidate for president who is intelligent and articulate"
    Every presidential candidate has been intelligent and articulate. More important questions are: "Does he have good values?" and "Is he of good character?"

    "possible that America might go so far as to elect a president who, while rich*.."
    You are implying that being rich is a bad thing.
    But I say there is nothing intrinsically wrong with being rich.

    "..was also at the top of his class in school?"
    Being academically smart is not the distinguishing factor in choosing a leader. As I alluded to earlier, it's values and character. With regard to the former (values), even those with vastly differing ideologies may agree on the values of a candidate. For example, I am conservative and you are liberal. We both can agree that McCain has conservative values and Obama has liberal values.

    With regard to the latter, "character," and other characteristics other than values, it's always more difficult to assess. A conservative is continuously tempted to give another conservative higher marks than he deserves. Same for a liberal with regard to other liberals.

    "McCain didn't really care about who "Joe" was"
    Here you are making a mistaken assessment. You don't have the same values as McCain and are thus judging him too harshly.

    "as a way to try to demonstrate that Senator Obama was out to "get" the common man"

    Again, you are mistaken. McCain was attempting to demonstrate that Obama's ideology ("spread the wealth around") is not a good one. Never has McCain stated or implied that Obama has ever been "out to get the common man." You are imputing to McCain bad motives. McCain doesn't believe Obama has bad intentions; McCain believes Obama is seriously mistaken.

    Instead of accurately describing McCain, you are in fact describing yourself.
    I don't mean that you are conservative.
    I mean that you are attributing to McCain motives he doesn't have.
    ----
    With regard to my previous comment (in which I said the Republican party is the natural home of Christians), you replied:
    "Isn't it better for Christians to stay where they are needed, e.g. the Democratic party, than simply go where they are comfortable? It is easy to wear a cross when everyone else is wearing one. It takes courage (and humility) to wear one where fewer are."

    My answer to this is: There is the church and there is the world. The church is the Christian community that provides fellowship, support, and nurturing. The world is where Christians venture out into to spread the Gospel. Those who go out into the secular world are often called missionaries.

    To bring this back to my perception of the political parties: The Republican party is at home with the church; it is analogous to the church. The Democrat party is analogous to the secular world; it is at odds with the church.

    My question to you is: Are you a missionary for the Republican party? If not, then your response to me is clever but disingenous.

    Sean

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  4. I was thinking the same thing,Fb@P, until I scrolled down and read you had the same comment. Now my 'original' thought is why wouldn't a Christian support, for example, universal health care -- do people who can't afford health care not deserve it?
    I'm not sure why evangelistic Christians don't support this point, or support a fairer distribution of wealth, just as examples.
    What is Christianity to them?
    A soapbox for preaching to the converted?
    As you know, I got to the point I felt I was just preaching to the converted (ie to other liked minded people about my support for Obama) while easiest, certainly not interesting democracy. So I put a "Republicans for Obama" sticker on my car and started making a point of talking to people who didn't share my political views. I have found several, especially in my horse crowd, and we're discovering yes, there's animosity on both sides, but also we're finding (on both sides) that we can agree to have a calm talk about it as long as you listen to the other person.
    I'm not religious, but I do think one can 'engage the enemy' without bonking them on the head.
    This is why I'm excited to vote for Obama. I think he's knows this as well.
    WWfP

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  5. signed previous comment
    Will Work For Play

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  6. Sean,

    All American political parties are secular. That’s rather the point of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Churches that act like political parties, e.g. by involving themselves in arguments over the payment of taxes, are also secular, at least according to what Jesus said (Matthew 22:15-22).

    I think you and I have a rather different definition of church if you can claim that there is any political party that is its analog. Or perhaps you are arguing for an established, i.e. governmentally-supported church, as, for example, in England. In which case, I would still disagree with you. As Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

    Senator McCain has accused Senator Obama of wanting to “spread the wealth around.” Again, I rather thought this is what Christians were supposed to do. I also rather distinctly remember Jesus saying that it is somewhat difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven and that if they wished to be perfect, they should “sell [their] possessions, and give the money to the poor” (Matthew 19:21-24).

    It is not a crime (in the secular sense) to be rich. Many of our political leaders are. But Senator Obama is the only one whom I have heard say that he is willing to share his wealth with the country by paying more in taxes.

    No, I am not a missionary for the Republican party. I am (if I may be so presumptuous) a follower of Christ, if a very imperfect one. From your description, the Republicans, in their perfection, sound rather like the Pharisees of Jesus’s own day: more concerned with keeping themselves pure than with caring for the sick, the hungry, the poor, the imprisoned, the naked, and the stranger (Matthew 25:37-40).

    I have no questions about Senator McCain’s character. I know he is impassioned and sincere and that he will never give up on something that he believes in. But I still disagree with him on the way in which he has characterized Senator Obama’s tax plan.

    Fencing Bear

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  7. Funny... I actually thought the point of this posting was about the crucial importance of liberal education in universities and to society as a whole. --RNS

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  8. When I was growing up, my family's plumber actually was a man named Joe--Joe Zachach. He was from a Polish immigrant family, and one of the best educated, most widely read and articulate men I have met. I remember listening to long, discursive conversations between him and my mother, who had been an English major at Radcliffe College. He was also, notably, an ardent liberal democrat. Common man indeed.

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  9. Both sides (Republicans and Democrats) believe that their ideology is best for society. If we don't agree on which ideology is best, at least we can agree on the differences between ideologies.

    "all Senator McCain wanted to do was make Senator Obama's answer proof of an ideological position that Senator Obama doesn't even hold"
    What position would you say McCain is falsely attributing to Obama?

    Obama explicitly said he wants to spread the wealth around. Those were his words.

    Here's where we run into the ideological divide between left and right.

    To the left, "spread the wealth around" are good words.
    To the right, they are bad words.

    "McCain was here gaining the upper hand, not because he was accurately contesting the facts.."
    How was McCain not being factual?

    "..but because he was so adeptly manipulating the symbol"
    Both candidates are adept at symbolism, Obama moreso than McCain.

    "Obama promises to implement a tax plan that will benefit the vast majority of the American population"

    A fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals are for high taxes and a lot of govt welfare; conservatives are for low taxes and little govt welfare.

    Going by his voting record in congress (a reliable indicator), Obama is the most left, the most liberal congressman in the nation.
    The more liberal one is, the more this is a good thing; the more conservative one is, the more this is a bad thing.

    Whitehouse is the second most liberal congressman.

    Biden (Obama's runningmate) is the third most liberal congressman.

    Therefore, the Obama ticket is the most left, the most liberal in American history.
    Again, the more liberal one is, the more this is a good thing.

    Going back to your statement, "Obama promises to implement a tax plan that will benefit the vast majority of the American population," a liberal would be very happy with Obama, as Obama would implement the largest tax increase in American history, and he would increase govt programs.

    A conservative, on the other hand, would be unhappy with Obama.

    "easing the tax burden on everyone other than the richest 5% (which has, to be fair, included certain members of my family, just nobody in my generation); on the other by using the taxes collected to make health care and education even to the college level affordable for all. How could this possibly be a bad thing?"

    I'll tell you: Conservatives believe that taxes should be "flat," that is everyone should pay the same percentage - and that that percentage should be low.

    This is the reason: Taxing the rich more hurts society in general because:

    1. It makes the rich less rich:
    -the rich employ people; if the rich are less rich, they will terminate some of their employees; this will increase unemployement
    -the rich spend money; if the rich are less rich, they will spend less; this will hurt the economy
    -the rich invest; if the rich are less rich, they will invest less; this will hurt the economy

    2. It takes away some of the incentive to become rich.
    One of the reasons America is great is that, by comparison with other nations, it's easier to become rich here.

    As you say, "rise, by way of hard work and luck"
    Though some would say, "not luck, but providence."

    "the Common Man On His Way To Becoming a Millionaire, as every American (apparently) believes"
    I wouldn't say every American believes this; not even the majority. But I would say that most Americans believe (correctly) that they have a better chance to improve their lot here than in other countries.

    "He is making common cause with "Joe" by promising him that if Joe ever wins the lottery, he (Senator McCain) won't take the money away"
    By introducing the word "lottery," you're changing the argument. Conservatives, by and large, are against lotteries, which have been accurately called a tax on the poor and the mathematically-challenged.
    Conservatives are for hard work. Hard work, brains, and providence (or luck) will result in rewards - especially in America.
    Buying lottery tickets is for the birds, as they say.

    "the plan to extend health care and education to all?"
    Health care is already available to all: It is illegal for emergency rooms to turn away needful patients.
    What liberals want is govt-controlled health care and universally guaranteed health insurance.
    You probably know people in Canada. I do. Canada has a govt-controlled health care system. Govt-controlled healthcare leads inevitably to less health care due to bureacracy, waste, corruption, and a lack of economic competition.

    "For Senator McCain, "college-educated" clearly means "beyond the intellectual capacity of the common man" "
    What evidence is there that for that statement?

    "who is right about Joe the Plumber: Senator Obama or Senator McCain? Is the average American more interested in money than understanding?"
    This is a false dichotomy. Obama supporters may phrase it that way, but McCain supporters would not. We must strive to frame the argument in a way that both sides agree on, else we never get out of the debate's starting gate.

    I'll end with a quote I like:

    Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
    --John Adams

    respectfully,
    Sean

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  10. See "Family Matters" (post for October 22, 2008).

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  11. "the point of this posting was about the crucial importance of liberal education in universities and to society"

    Sadly (for conservatives), the American university system has been taken over by liberalism, so that now the term "liberal education" is a double entendre.

    The two well-known conservative colleges are Hillsdale and Grove City. Most of the rest are overwhelminginly politically liberal.

    Thus in terms of politics, academia is monolithic and homogenous.

    Other strongholds of liberalism: the mainstream media, the arts, and big cities.

    Conservastism doesn't have the "strongholds" liberalism does.

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  12. "Thus in terms of politics, academia is monolithic and homogenous."

    Tell that to my colleagues here at the University of Chicago in the economics department and business school. I think they would rather disagree with you. Oh, and many of them (or so I understand from our alumni magazine) are voting for McCain.

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  13. "many of them (or so I understand from our alumni magazine) are voting for McCain"

    How many is "many"?
    Tell me the majority of your colleagues are voting for McCain and THAT will be news.

    Colleges and universities are mostly liberal.
    The exceptions are Christian schools.
    Because Christianity is conservative.

    Oops. Going to be late for class...

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  14. "How many is 'many'?" I don't have figures, but I know that one of them (the father of one of my son's best friends) is cited as acting as an adviser to McCain. I would say a majority judging from the support that both the economics department and the business school have given for the foundation of a Milton Friedman Institute for the study of economics and society. At the moment, they are doing much better than we liberals at convincing the administration to go ahead with the Institute under that name, despite our protests at the image that Milton Friedman has in the world at large as a political adviser, e.g. to Pinochet's Chile. These are the Chicago Boys, after all; the architects of our present market ideology and (on the current faculty) the holders of some five Nobel prizes in Economics. Perhaps you mean most Arts and Humanities divisions are liberal. Most business schools, as far as I know, are conservative. I don't know about the scientists; many of them depend on government funding for their research.

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  15. LIBERALS ATTACK ON A PERSONAL LEVEL MORE OFTEN THAN CONSERVATIVES
    Here you say that the conservative candidate is making personal attacks:
    "what the other candidate's campaign is saying about him personally"
    But the fact is that liberals attack on a personal level more often than conservatives.

    "are we going to fall yet again for the dumbing down of our politics [and elect McCain?]"
    Are you calling conservatism dumb?
    As an example that liberals attack on a personal level more often, note how many times George Bush has been called stupid because he is a conservative and a Republican.
    We remember the Reagan administration (don't we?); during that time, I recall that Reagan was continuously called stupid.

    THE DEMOCRAT PARTY IS THE PARTY OF "FEELINGS" & EMOTION
    Here you think you are describing conservatives:
    "to the level of personal grievance and feelings?"
    Feelings? If there's a party that's the party of "feelings," it's the Democrat party.
    Examples:
    Most young people are Democrat (if not apolitical), and the young are emotional.
    Artists are more emotional than the typical person; and most artists are Democrat.

    CONSERVATIVES THINK LIBERALS ARE WRONG; BUT LIBERALS THINK CONSERVATIVES ARE BAD
    "McCain didn't really care about who "Joe" was"
    This is an example of imputing lack of compassion to a conservative.

    "for Senator McCain, "Joe" was more important as a symbol than as a person"
    This is another example of imputing lack of compassion to a conservative

    "McCain used Joe's question to Senator Obama about his tax plan as a way to try to demonstrate that Senator Obama was out to "get" the common man"
    This is an example of imputing bad intentions to a conservative

    "I fear that we are greedy enough to hold onto the dream of the former"
    This is an example of imputing bad intentions (greed) to a conservatism

    "Can I understand the "common man"?"
    Perhaps a more important question is: Can you understand the conservative man?
    Realizing that the typical conservative votes out of good intentions would be a good start.

    CAPITALISM VS SOCIALISM
    "Obama, on the other hand, is promising that now that he (Senator Obama) is rich, he is willing to share his money with others by way of a slight (from 36% to 39%) increase on the taxes"
    It's not so much that Obama wants to share his own money, but that he wants to share money taken from us through taxes.
    Obama's own personal wealth is a drop in the bucket compared to the trillions he plans to raise through taxes, and then spend on govt programs.
    Obama and every other citizen can share his money at any time through charity.
    Christians have the tithing tradition, in which they give ten percent of their income to charity.

    UNDERSTANDING THE AMERICAN DREAM
    Here you describe what you think is the conservative message:
    "Which of the two will America vote for: the pie-in-the-sky of proverbial riches-to-come"
    It seems like you don't believe in American capitalism.
    It seems like you believe that Americans who do believe in it have been sold a bill of goods.

    The American dream is that everyone here has equal opportunity and that through hard work we all can improve our lot.
    People don't have to become millionaires to be happy; they just have to have the opportunity to improve their lot.

    "95% of the population will never be as rich as the top 5%, no matter what Senator McCain promises"
    McCain doesn't promise this. If you think he does, no wonder you're against him. If he really did promise this, I would be against him as well.
    You're using the straw man argument.

    OBAMA'S "CHARMING AMBIGUITY"
    "[McCain] commenting on Senator Obama's eloquence"
    An example of Obama's "eloquence" - He said he will look at offshore drilling. Look at.
    That's politician-speak that makes it sound like he may authorize offshore drilling. But those in the know don't believe that; his record shows he has always been against it.
    McCain sarcastically called that "eloquence." While Obama is capable of eloquence, that's not eloquence; it's, as I said, politician-speak; it's being clever. It's being charmingly ambiguous.

    COLLEGE EDUCATION FOR ALL?
    "whether we actually want what Senator Obama is promising, most particularly, a college-level education for all"
    Not everyone should go to college. Some should apprentice to someone, go to vocational school, or go straight into the work force.
    I have attended a few private exclusive colleges, and there found a few students who had no business there. For example, the child of a rich donor to the school.
    I have also attended three community colleges in three different states and there I have met many more students who also had no business in college.
    It's a lose-lose situation - frustrating for the student as well as his classmates. If you put someone in a situation for which they are ill-equipped you make them feel like a loser.

    Here you describe college:
    "capacity for understanding, not to mention intellectual and spiritual growth"
    College has the potential to be a wonderful place, but liberalism's take-over has greatly hurt academia. In some ways, college and grad school still do expand the mind. In other ways, it (to use your phrase) dumbs down its students. On balance, college makes a person dumber than he was when he entered. More clever maybe, but less wise.
    And yes, I'm implying that conservatism is wisdom and liberalism is foolishness.

    MISUNDERSTANDING MCCAIN
    "the man who is proposing to change our tax structure such that it is more progressive is "too smart" to understand the needs of the "common man," as Senator McCain insinuated more than once"
    McCain has (correctly) called Obama an elitist.

    ""You," Senator McCain seems to be saying, "may talk pretty, but we don't have to believe you. Just because you can put fancy words to your policies doesn't mean you are actually in favor of the ordinary person""
    He seems to be saying that because you are hearing him through a liberal filter.
    "You," Senator McCain seems to be saying, "may talk pretty"
    Again, what McCain says is that Obama uses politician-speak, i.e. he has the ability to seem to be agreeing with your position, no matter what that position is.

    ""Just because you can put fancy words to your policies doesn't mean you are actually in favor of the ordinary person""
    Conservatism's strongest argument against Obama's proposed policies is that they don't work. They hurt economic growth.
    A much weaker (though I think equally true) argument against Obama is that he in fact does not have much regard for the ordinary person.

    "ordinary person"--who, by implication, is nowhere near as intelligent as Senator Obama"
    If you're saying that conservatives think that Obama is an elitist, that is true. They do think that. And they are correct.

    THE RISK OF STUDYING THEOLOGY
    "perhaps even (God forbid) a little theology"
    Theology is a wonderful field, but every field has its risks.
    Just as sometimes lawyers lose track of justice under all the laws they have to study, the risk of studying theology is that one will miss God's message.

    In this case, God's message is that he wants us to be conservative, and to register and vote Republican.

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  16. Sean,

    You need your own blog. Nobody but me is scrolling down through these incredibly long comments. I understand; you disagree with pretty much everything I wrote in this post. That's fine. We both know how each other is voting. If you want to reach more readers with your own opinions, you need to give yourself your own platform. Mine is now closed for political discussion, at least for the time being.

    It's been fun, and I'll keep reading the WSJ. I hope you enjoy Augustine.

    F.B.

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Thank you for taking the time to respond to my blog post. I look forward to hearing what you think!

F.B.

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