OpinionJournal – Best of the Web Today – December 7, 2007

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Best of the Web Today – December 7, 2007

    By JAMES TARANTO

    Wasted on the Young–I
    The other day, we entertained the notion that Hillary Clinton’s selection as the Democratic presidential nominee may not be inevitable after all–that her challenger, Barack Obama, may have a real chance of scoring an upset. But the Chicago Sun-Times suggests that things look grim for Obama:

    For two days this week Democratic presidential wannabe Obama has quickly bused through eastern Iowa, visiting as many colleges as he can: Grinnell, the University of Iowa, Cornell, the University of Northern Iowa and Wartburg College.

    He wants to catch students before they head off for winter break; he implores them to caucus for him–a nettlesome issue since many of them, like McMaster, will be out of town. Obama’s campaign has gotten into a little hot water for offering to bus Iowa students–who go to school here but may live out of state–to the Iowa caucuses on Jan 3.

    Ah yes, the youth vote! Just one wee problem:

    Student turnout, however, in past caucuses has been abysmal. According to the Iowa Democratic Party, only about 4 percent of caucus attendees were between 18 and 24 in 2004. Most are over 50.

    It doesn’t help that the caucus is over Christmas–sorry, make that “winter break.” But wait! According to the Sun-Times, “Obama could be different”:

    His overtures to the young already helped him win the endorsement of the Iowa State Daily this week, which noted “we appreciate Obama’s commitment to the generation who will inherit the country.”

    And in a dig at Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and President Bush, the university newspaper argued that two families have dominated the White House for 20 years and “an election for Hillary would make that 24 at a minimum–longer than most college students have been alive.”

    Obama’s advisers say they aren’t counting on the youth vote by any means, but Obama told Cornell students “this is one of the elections where I hope we prove the cynics wrong.”

    Sorry, but if there’s one subject about which the cynics are always right, it’s the “youth vote.” It is a myth. Young people, by and large, simply do not vote, and there is no reason to think that will ever change. Candidates pursuing the “youth vote” are like Charlie Brown kicking that football–this time, every time, they’re sure it will be different. But it always ends with a WHAM!

    The myth of the youth vote is a product of baby-boom liberalism, an extension of the urban legend that the “1960s generation” were a bunch of idealistic activists who vanquished racism and war. The truth is that the civil rights movement had already won by the time the first baby boomer came of age, in 1964; and while there was something of a youth movement against the Vietnam War, it was motivated principally by selfishness–i.e., fear of the draft–not idealism.

    The “youth vote” failed to materialize even when the boomers were still young. As the Information Please Almanac notes, nationwide voter turnout plummeted to 55.2% of the voting-age population in 1972–the first presidential election in which 18- to 20-year-olds had the franchise–from 60.8% in 1968. The number of voters actually rose by more than 4.5 million between 1968 and 1972, but the denominator–the voting-age population–skyrocketed by more than 20 million, thanks in large part to the 26th Amendment.

    Some have touted Barack Obama, born in 1961, as the man who can help America put baby-boomer politics behind us. More likely he will turn out to be the latest candidate snookered by a central myth of baby-boom liberalism.

    Political Hypochondria
    “Could this be the worst newspaper column ever written?” asks Commentary’s John Podhoretz about Roger Cohen’s dispatch from Caracas, Venezuela, in yesterday’s New York Times. He answers: “It could.” Well, we suppose it could, but the competition is so strong–with the Times op-ed page alone producing several strong contenders each week–that we’d be reluctant to apply the superlative.

    Still, it is bad, though bad in an interesting way. Cohen compares democracy in Venezuela, where the voters narrowly turned back Hugo Chavez’s latest move toward dictatorship, with the American version and finds the latter lacking: “Democracy was alive and vital in Venezuela on Sunday in a way foreign to President Bush’s America.” Cohen doesn’t spell out exactly what he means by that. Podhoretz seems to think he’s calling America undemocratic:

    Foreign to Bush’s America? You mean Bush’s America where out-of-power Democrats won 32 seats in the House and seven seats in the Senate only 13 months ago?

    But when you read Cohen’s column, it’s clear that he has something else in mind. He’s saying American democracy isn’t serious enough for his liking:

    There was a directness, meaningfulness and civic responsibility about the [Venezuelan] proceedings that make the early running in the American election look pitiful.

    Bill Clinton’s latest whining about press coverage of his wife, Mitt Romney’s latest broadside on immigration, the various spins of the Iran intelligence volte-face, and the sterile who’s-got-more-God competition between candidates, look like the machinations of a disoriented power.

    The United States needs a new beginning. It cannot lie in the Tudor-Stuart-like alternation of the Bush-Clinton dynasties, nor in the macho militarism of Republicans who see war without end. It has to involve a fresh face that will reconcile the country with itself and the world, get over divisions–internal and external–and speak with honesty about American glory and shame.

    The truth is that American democracy’s preoccupation with the silly and the mundane is a sign of political health–an indication that our democracy is not under fundamental threat the way Venezuela’s is. Venezuala’s situation is enviable only to those who seek danger and drama in politics, such as humorless newspaper columnists. American democracy is much better if you’re an ordinary person–or, for that matter, if you’re a columnist who can do comedy.

    What’s the Matter With Kansas?
    What a tragedy it is that John Kerry* was not elected president! The Boston Globe reports on a pressing issue of the day that the Bush administration is neglecting:

    With the [New England] Patriots’ game against the [New York] Giants Dec. 29 scheduled to be broadcast on the NFL Network, Kerry expressed concern yesterday that not all fans will be able to view the game.

    Kerry sent a letter to commissioner Roger Goodell and Kyle McSlarrow, president and CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, regarding the situation. He asked them to break the deadlock in negotiations between the NFL and some major cable companies over how games on the NFL Network are broadcast.

    “In light of the unique circumstances surrounding the 2007 New England Patriots, I urge you to reach an agreement as soon as possible, so that football fans across the country are not prevented from viewing what could be a historic sporting event,” Kerry wrote in the letter.

    Actually, there’s a good chance the game will be a dud. The Patriots are 12-0, and if they win two of their next three games, they will have clinched the top seed in the American Football Conference, giving them nothing to play for on Dec. 29. (It is more likely that the game will have playoff implications for the Giants.)

    What’s more, Thursday night games appear on local TV in their home markets, which means most viewers in New England and greater New York will be able to see the Pats-Giants game even if their cable companies don’t carry the NFL Network–even, for that matter, if they don’t have cable! Here is Kerry championing the interests of mostly red-state voters, the same people who elected George W. Bush. How could they be so foolish as to vote against their own interests? Apparently the GOP fooled them into voting on the basis of social, economic and foreign policy and ignoring what really matters.

    * John who?

    Throw the Book at Him
    “Bernie Ward, a popular liberal San Francisco radio talk show host and former Catholic priest, has been indicted on federal child pornography charges, authorities said today,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports:

    “As everybody knows, Bernie, for over 20 years, has been a progressive, opposed to insensitive authority – he has been a champion of charities, nonprofits for the homeless,” said Doron Weinberg, who appeared in federal court today as Ward’s lawyer.

    “More than three years ago, Bernie was doing research for a book he was doing on hypocrisy in America,” Weinberg said.

    As part of the research, Ward downloaded “a few images” of child pornography, and, Weinberg said, “it came to the attention of the government in late 2004.”

    “Research for a book”? The O.J. Simpson case continues to ramify.

    Another ‘Gun-Free Zone’
    This week saw another horrific massacre by an apparently disturbed teenager, this time at a shopping mall in Omaha, Neb. The 19-year-old gunman took eight lives before killing himself. In a column for FoxNews.com, John Lott, an economist and gun-rights advocate, notes that the mall where this happened was, like Virginia Tech, a “gun-free zone”:

    But despite the massive news coverage, none of the media coverage, at least by 10 a.m. Thursday, mentioned this central fact. . . .

    Surely, with all the reporters who appear at these crime scenes and seemingly interview virtually everyone there, why didn’t one simply mention the signs that ban guns from the premises?

    Nebraska allows people to carry permitted concealed handguns, but it allows property owners, such as the Westroads Mall, to post signs banning permit holders from legally carrying guns on their property.

    Lott notes that at another “gun-free zone,” the Trolley Square Mall in Utah, an off-duty policeman who happened to have violated the ban stopped another shooting in progress in February. But “gun control” is a liberal and media shibboleth, so the vulnerability of these “gun-free zones” to gunmen who ignore the prohibition gets ignored.

    Of course there are trade-offs here. Obviously there would be no shootings in shopping malls if they really were gun-free zones–that is, if they installed metal detectors at all entrances to make sure no one violated the ban. But in that event, can there be any doubt we’d hear wails about violations of civil liberties?

    Homer Nods
    We did it again! We must be getting old. (Then again, no one ever gets young.) An item yesterday (since corrected) referred to Persia as “Iraq,” which is the U.S. military’s name for Mesopotamia, rather than as “Iran,” which is the U.S. government’s name for Persia.

    That Laura Sure Can Throw
    “Bush Hit With Book”–headline, Yahoo! Sports, Dec. 6

    Highly Skilled Novelty Seekers
    “Mount Airy Pursuing New Well”–headline, Frederick (Md.) News-Post, Dec. 6

    It’s a Jungle Out There

  • “Group Selling Rhino Poop to Fund Conservation Efforts”–headline, Associated Press, Dec. 6
  • “Dwarf Hippo Graveyard Could Alter Human History”–headline, FoxNews.com, Dec. 6

We Blame Global Warming
“Candle Blamed on Fire in Apartment on Dayton”–headline, WAFB-TV Web site (Baton Rouge, La.), Dec. 6

Breaking News From 1992
“Gennifer Flowers Mulls Vote for Clinton”–headline, Associated Press, Dec. 6

News You Can Use

  • “Our Hotel Staff Are Surly, Admit French”–headline, Daily Telegraph (London), Dec. 7
  • “Give to Charity–but Don’t Be a Sucker”–headline, MSNBC.com, Dec. 5
  • “Study: Calls Help Couch Potatoes Walk”–headline, Associated Press, Dec. 6
  • “Think Ugly When Buying Winter Plants”–headline, CNN.com, Dec. 6

Bottom Stories of the Day

  • “Humane Society’s Puppy Population Boom Expected to Be Short-Lived”–headline, Green Bay (Wis.) Press-Gazette, Dec. 7
  • “Emissions Cap for Poor Unlikely at Bali Talks”–headline, Reuters, Dec. 7
  • “Barbara Walters Tired of Celebrity Interviews”–headline, omg.yahoo.com, Dec. 6
  • “Driver Misses Hitting Several Trees”–headline, KREM-TV Web site (Spokane, Wash.), Dec. 7
  • “No Playboy for Plame”–headline, Examiner.com, Dec. 7
  • “Report: Penn to Endorse Kucinich in SF”–headline, KNTV Web site (San Jose, Calif.), Dec. 7

Wasted on the Young–II
On Monday we noted that Hillary Clinton was attacking Barack Obama for an “essay” he wrote in kindergarten. On Tuesday and Wednesday we pondered the question whether a kindergarten-age child really is capable of writing anything that would be recognizable as an essay. Now reader John Light has provided us with an actual example of kindergarten writing.

Attached is a genuine letter to me from my 5-year-old son Gunnar, who is in kindergarten. At his school they encourage him just to write and not worry about the spelling. I had him write the last word because I like to expand his vocabulary whenever possible:

A direct translation is:

I love you dad.
I like when you ride with me.
Love, Gunnar

I’ll leave it up to Chelsea to find a way of making this document incriminating.

Is it possible that Gunnar Light poses a real challenge, that Chelsea Clinton isn’t the inevitable 2040 Democratic presidential nominee? Color us skeptical, but we’ll offer one word of advice to young Gunnar: Don’t count on the “youth vote” to beat the Clinton machine.

(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Ed Lasky, Dagny Billings, Ron Ackert, Jim Swift, Evan Slatis, Sue Ostrenga, Gregory Meade, Paul Sepe, Bill Mitchell, John Williamson, Bruce Goldman, Stewart Seman, John Nernoff, Mary Stagg, David Cooper, Michael Britton, Mike Zimmerman, Steve Karass, Janet Riordan, Daniel Goldstein, Thomas Sattler, Dean Vigliano, Scott Munro, Dan O’Shea, Aaron Zalewski and Scott Hill. If you have a tip, write us at opinionjournal@wsj.com, and please include the URL.)

URL for this article: http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110010963

Today on OpinionJournal:

  • Review & Outlook: The Book of Romney: The debate over his convictions–religious, and political.
  • Peggy Noonan: How Mitt Romney came to give The Speech–and how he did.
  • Kim Strassel: Mike Huckabee is far from being Reagan’s heir.
  • Brendan Miniter: Hollywood gets shown up by pro-war YouTube videos and a didactic antiwar cat.
  • The Journal Editorial Report: Tune in this weekend for an interview with Garry Kasparov and a discussion of the GOP candidates’ tax plans.

And on the Taste page:

  • Lucette Lagnado: An immigrant comes to America–through the library.
  • Todd Buchholz: When wealthy universities ask for money, why do we say yes?
  • Naomi Riley: Mitt Romney’s speech and American tolerance.

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