Email From Iowa

A reader writes:

I just returned from a few days volunteering with the Obama campaign in Iowa.  To hear Dean Barnett characterize it as inept and ineffective shows you how skewed armchair analysis can really be.  The people on whose doors I knocked on universally described the candidate as thrilling, and the campaign as overpoweringly energized and effective. (I actually got one woman who admitted she felt like the last one on the bus since all her neighbors were now leaning Obama). While Obama may have been a hot topic among the political literati for a couple of years, he was to all purposes a complete unknown to the average Iowa voter until announcing his Presidential run in February. For him to now be tied in polls with a former first lady (a woman who has a fifteen year head-start in name recognition and is perhaps the most well-known senator in the country) and leading the former VP candidate who has campaigned basically nonstop in Iowa since 2004, is nothing short of phenomenal.

What really shines through in Barnett's piece is the poverty of his worldview. For him and the rest of the knuckle-draggers over at, the concept of quiet strength is an oxymoron.  Strange, given the prevalence of swaggering cowboy iconography from George "Dead or Alive" Bush and his posse, that they have forgotten all the lessons of manly restraint that I remember being repeated endlessly by Western "alpha dogs" like Marshal Dillon and the Rifleman. Speak quietly but carry a big stick.

It is the man who doesn't fight when he doesn't have to that is truly strong. Self-control and kindness towards the weak are the hallmark of real power. Instead, their icons are now the town bully who keeps saying he is going to kick some ass, but always loses to the quiet stranger in the gunfight at the end.

The voters in Iowa certainly don't seem to have forgotten these lessons. As the caucuses draw closer, more and more of them are gravitating back towards the character traits that we used to use to describe manhood - integrity, honor, truthfulness, courage. They see chest-thumping as a transparent failure of imagination. And more and more of them are beginning to think that a great American party that now supports torturing people to death without trial is evidence of our terrible, inexcusable descent into weakness.