The Real Culture War

The wise and witty Dorothy Rabinowitz cuts through all the nonsense and reminds us of the crucial difference between McCain and Obama:

Both time and events have dimmed those defining moments that early on revealed the difference between the two presidential aspirants. Not only did the financial crisis arrive but so, in her uproarious way, did Sarah Palin. Tuesday’s debate between two candidates paralyzed by caution altered nothing…

[Obama] is the leading exponent of the idea that our lost nation requires rehabilitation in the eyes of the world — and it is the most telling difference between him and Mr. McCain. When asked, in one of the earliest debates of the primary, his first priority should he become president, his answer was clear. He would go abroad immediately to make amends, and assure allies and others in the world America had alienated, that we were prepared to do all necessary to gain back their respect.

It is impossible to imagine those words coming from Mr. McCain. Mr. Obama has uttered them repeatedly one way or another and no wonder. They are in his bones, this impossible-to-conceal belief that we’ve lost face among the nations of the world — presumably our moral superiors. He is here to reform the fallen America and make us worthy again of respect. It is not in him, this thoughtful, civilized academic, to grasp the identification with country that Mr. McCain has in his bones — his knowledge that we are far from perfect, but not ready, never ready, to take up the vision of us advanced by our enemies. That identification, the understanding of its importance and of the dangers in its absence — is the magnet that has above all else drawn voters to Mr. McCain.

Sen. Obama is not responsible for the political culture, but he is in good part its product. Which is perhaps how it happened that in his 20 years in the church of Rev. Jeremiah Wright — passionate proponent of the view of America as the world’s leading agent of evil and injustice — he found nothing strange or alienating. To the contrary, when Rev. Wright’s screeds began rolling out on televisions all over the country, Mr. Obama’s first response was to mount a militant defense and charge that Rev. Wright had been taken out of context, “cut into snippets.” This he continued to do until it became untenable. Then came the subject-changing speech on race. Such defining moments tell more than all the talk of Sen. Obama’s association with the bomb-planting humanist, William Ayers.

These sharp differences between the candidates as to who we are as a nation may not seem, now, as potent an issue for voters as the economy, but they should not be underestimated. This clash — not the ones on abortion or gay marriage — are the root of the real culture war to play out in November.

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