Joy in The Morning

The title of today’s sermon, dear readers, is taken only indirectly from a Bible verse; more proximately, it copies the title of a book by P.G. Wodehouse. The Bible verse goes something like, “there is weeping at night, but joy comes in the morning.” Wodehouse removed the verb from his title, crediting his readers with the literacy to remember and reinsert it.

From all of which you can infer that I’m feeling more chipper, and today’s report will be upbeat. When I left Larchmont on Wednesday afternoon I still had the lingering effects of a cold, with sniffles and coughing and so forth. I even considered ditching the whole trip – but it’s only once every four years, so better do it. I arrived in Manchester NH in the dark and could not at first work the number-pad on the front door of the airbnb – had to text the host – she was most helpful informing me of a backup system – and I was inside less than five minutes later.  That began the recovery;  that night I booked a ticket online for a Nikki Haley event the next morning.

The one drawback was that this was a bit early for me. Her appearance was scheduled for 9 a.m., at a conference center outside of Nashua, about 30 minutes from me: “Doors open at 8.” Candidates want big crowds; anyone can book a free ticket – I doubt they close the online reservations when capacity is reached: who knows how many will actually show up? So I decided to be there when the doors opened, which required getting up at 6:30. I was on the road at 7:15, in 14 degrees, feeling virtuous.  Even healthy! – cold sunshine (and a good night’s sleep) works wonders.

I walked in with the first wave. A large pine-panelled room with many, many rows of chairs set up, and room for press, cameras, etc. at the back. At first I chose a seat in the second row, but after a minute, I went for a front-row seat; there was one between two pairs of people. All young. The guy on my left – bearded, baseball-capped, friendly, — was Jacob Gelb, from Brooklyn, age 25. Took the day off from his property management job to be here. Eager to support “anybody but Trump or Biden.” What will he do in November if that’s the choice? Said he’d probably write in his grandfather or someone – as he did in 2020. 

New Hampshire’s governor, Chris Sununu, who has endorsed Haley, was chatting with some folks in the crowd as it filled in.

Gov. Sununu chats with a voter. Note classic Northern Loon mating posture of both, with wings pulled back behind shoulder blades and head cocked forward

Sununu spoke first to warm us up.  He must have “genuine,” “open,” “nice guy,” trademarked; he is instantly likable and believable.  He said we couldn’t let 56 thousand people in Iowa determine our fate: that’s how many votes Trump actually got in the caucuses there (out of 3 million people in Iowa).  Turnout is everything – each of us needs to get ten friends, your neighbors, your crazy uncle – out to vote next Tuesday.

Nikki came out next. No fanfare; thanks us for being here, and right into her speech. Good delivery, eye contact, smiling, emphatic, knows what she wants to tell us. My notes do no justice to her presentation and don’t capture the interruptions for applause.

She said it’s time to put an accountant in the White House (I didn’t know she was an accountant), that the deficit is not a one-party problem. Small-business tax cuts need to be made permanent, as the big-business ones were. Small businesses are the heartbeat of America. We’re failing at education: only 31% of 8th-graders are proficient in reading; 27% in math. Parents need to decide where their kids go to school. We need vocational classes in high school. And transparency in curriculum so parents know what their kids are being taught.

Trump lied when he said I’m not in favor of a border wall. But it’s not just a border wall we need, it’s much more than that. And putting border security against helping our friends and allies – Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan – is a false choice. We have to do both. The world is on fire now, and a lot of it stems from that debacle in Afghanistan, when we abandoned those who had supported us. Our friends saw that, and worse, our enemies like Putin and China, saw that too.

We need to be not just energy independent, but energy dominant. That means producing oil and gas, and it means nuclear, and it means wind and solar.

Haley speaking on Jan. 18, 2024

“We face a choice in five days. Over 70% of Americans don’t want a Trump-Biden rematch. Do we want more of the same?”

She ends with, “We can do this.” And we all rise to our feet, whooping and hollering. New Hampshire is political Disneyland, a magic kingdom where dreams come true. We’re here for five more days and don’t want to go home yet.

She takes questions: first, about Social Security; changes have to be made or it won’t survive; Trump’s saying he won’t change it is irresponsible, just kicking the can down the road to its bankruptcy. If you’re already paid in, you’ll be protected, but we need to raise the retirement age for those in their 20s, based on longer life expectancies. A question on war – under what circumstances would she seek a declaration of war from Congress? She declines to specify but says peace is kept through strength; her goal is to never have to go to war. She notes her husband is deployed abroad now. But Trump’s telling China he stands with them, when they flex their muscles over Hong Kong, sends a terrible signal to Taiwan. And we need to place sanctions back on Iran; there is no Hamas or Houthis or Hezbollah without Iran supporting them. A question on how to cut spending, as it’s ‘politically hard.’ Go back to the mission of each agency, not to be all things to all people. 90-day benchmarks on progress. In South Carolina, we incentivized agencies to give money back to taxpayers. And 70% of federal workers are still working from home, three years after Covid.

She meets all of us who want to say hello, and get a picture. Even extremely elderly tourists:

Candidate with visiting dork

After the fan photos, the press forms a scrum around her and pepper her with questions. Would she support a convicted felon for president? She slides off this as if she’s been asked it twenty times before, which she has: the voters have to choose, and she can’t imagine American voting for a convicted felon. “Chaos follows Trump” everywhere, “rightly or wrongly.” As if ‘chaos’ were a pet dog with a mind of its own.

Yes these are weasel words and evasions; no moral clarity of Chris Christie here – but he was running to get Trump out; she is running to win the nomination, in a party where half the people remain committed to Orange Julius. She is a politician making political calculations. And so far, she’s done alright – she actually does have a chance of winning New Hampshire, and who knows what might happen then? People under stress can make mistakes, and spoil an otherwise winning hand. Donald needs to be dealt a loss; maybe he’ll overreact and misplay what otherwise looks like a cakewalk to the nomination.

There is a line between mere wishful thinking and taking a calculated chance to fill an inside straight, and Nikki is on the reality side of that line. And I am willing to clap my hands all day to make sure Tinker Bell does not die.

Greetings from Disneyland, a real place.

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