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No newsletter last week because I was off in the wilds of Alaska with the Weekly Standard's cruise. I'll tell you all about it in a minute. But first let's check in with the big 2016 news from last week: Jim Gilmore? He gone. From the CNN debate, that is. I expect he'll be formally gone from the race soon and whoever manages to scoop up his support will be in the driver's seat to Cleveland.
I kid, obviously. I'm dead serious, however, when I say that the next few weeks will likely determine the outcome of the Democratic nomination. Because Hillary Clinton is now in the zone of maximum danger.
It's never good when a candidate is being linked to an ongoing FBI investigation, as Clinton is with her private State Department email system. And you can see this in Clinton's poll numbers with Democratic primary voters: She's gone from 63 percent in late July to 49 percent today. She's not just sub-50 percent right now, but at her lowest ebb since a year ago and with a surging Bernie Sanders, who's at 25 percent and climbing. (Remember Barnes' First Law of Politics: All races tighten.)
All of which has, quite predictably, lured some other big Democratic fish into looking at the race. Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, the two most obvious heavyweights, are talking. There was even a moment when Al Gore was rumored to be thinking about getting in. (Pause, for a moment, to imagine a world in which Gore did run and how awesome it would have been to see Tipper come onstage at a Hillary rally.) I would be very surprised if Deval Patrick and John Kerry hadn't at least done some back-of-the-envelope math on possible campaigns.
And so now one of two things will happen. First, Clinton could keep the FBI at bay and sell the idea that this is all another partisan witch hunt. In this scenario, she scares off additional contestants for a short period of time-say, five weeks-at which point it becomes logistically impossible for someone to wage a serious campaign designed to beat her. If it's just her, O'Malley, and Sanders in the ring by the end of September, then she'll slug it out and probably win the nomination in a closer-than-expected fight. That's one possibility.
The other is that one of the aforementioned big guns does get in, at which point things get interesting. Republican races always pit two basic political factions against one another: the GOP establishment against actual conservatives. Democratic races have three factions: the party's establishment machine, ideological liberals, and people obsessed with identity politics.
The Democratic establishment isn't as powerful as its Republican counterpart, but it's plenty formidable. Howard Dean couldn't beat it with his ideological liberalism. Barack Obama was able to merge liberalism with identity politics, and he still nearly lost to the establishment machine, winning only because of Clinton's massive strategic error of not focusing resources on caucus states.
If Biden or Warren or Patrick gets in, then we could have a three-way face off between each faction of the Democratic party-an epic, asymmetric showdown, like shark versus crocodile versus giant squid. At which point Clinton would step into the octagon with the outcome very much uncertain. And if Obama decides to weigh in and back one of the new challengers, things get even tougher for her.
"What's the worst place in the world? If one were to judge strictly by media hype, Zimbabwe, Somalia, and Sudan would seem to be the prime contenders. Some pieces of terra firma, however, are so Godforsaken and blood-soaked that they are ignored by the media lest they be allowed to trouble the Western world's already guilt-ridden conscience. This is why you never read anything about Equatorial Guinea, a country of such Dantesque absurdity as to scarcely be believed."
"Amy Kass, who died yesterday after a long and courageous struggle with cancer, was without a doubt the best teacher I ever saw in action. What she did so masterfully was, in a sense, simple: She would throw a great work of fiction in front of a group of eager, overconfident students, invite them to open it up and turn it over and over together, and then gradually help them discover that it had actually opened them instead. What resulted were some of the most remarkable conversations I've ever witnessed-not just among students at the University of Chicago, where she taught for decades, but also among the reading groups of (even more overconfident) adult Washingtonians she led occasionally at the Hudson Institute, where she worked for the last decade of her life.
"Amy's teaching and writing were driven by the conviction that the stories we tell shape our souls and bind us together, and by the worry that we too often now fail to take care about how our souls are shaped and how (or whether at all) we are bound together in community. She tried to help her students realize that what they longed for-intellectually, spiritually, even romantically-but too often felt they were denied by modern life was only denied to them as long as they failed to really understand their longings. They could come to better understand them through the study of great works of literature."
So the Standard's cruise to Alaska was amazing-easily the best one I've been on. We had stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Victoria, with a long passage through the magnificent Tracy Arm Fjord, which was a lot like visiting Middle Earth. There were plenty of interesting discussions, both formally at the daily panels and informally, at lunches and dinners with TWS cruisers. But since I'm the resident hippie, for me the highlight was the whales.
In Victoria, we went out on a whale watch and saw a pod of three transient orcas, which was a special treat because, as you may recall, I have a thingabout orcas.
In Juneau we did another whale watch, looking for humpback whales, which are less exotic, but just as magnificent. And boy, howdy, did we see them. I was sitting in the boat with a bunch of TWS colleagues (and some cruisers) watching a group of five or six humpbacks bubble-feeding about 250 yards away. Then they dove under. And then this happened. While the rest of us were shooting away with cameras, Steve Hayes got the video. Really-go watch it. It's incredible.
As was the entire trip. We'll be announcing the date and destination for the next cruise in the coming weeks and if you've ever thought about coming on one of these outings with the magazine, I hope you'll join us next time around.
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