Gary Hart: Afghanistan election observer, blogger

Last Sunday, U.S. Senator-turned author and university department chair Gary Hart began blogging his experience as an international observer for the Afghanistan elections at the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs website Hart is an informed optimist, who gains insights on U.S. politics from Afghan events.

On election turnout:

The skeptics concluded that the turnout was low, especially in the hostile south and east, too many women stayed away out of fear, and as many as 50 or more were killed on election day. For the smaller group of us who saw the glass half full, however, it was an inspiring experience. Despite ancient cultural and religious traditions of misogyny, a surprising number of candidates of provincial councils were women, and women voted in appreciable numbers in the safer regions. Unlike the only previous national presidential election in 2004, this election was managed by the Afghan government and included an independent election commission. The candidates spoke to issues of great public concern and avoided attacks and acrimony much more, it must be said, than in American elections. No one called any of the candidates “socialists” or “communists.”

Some of the new blog reads like a State of the Union speech Hart never got the chance to deliver. But he seems to know what he wants to do and how the Web works, which means Matters of Principle might be a pretty good blog. His inaugural post was picked up and run as an op-ed by the the Denver Post.

Here’s a taste of the stilted style:

The Founders of the United States not only designed a system of government, they also established principles which bind and guide their successors at home and abroad. To the degree we, their heirs, abide by these national principles we remain true to the vision of the republic they intended us to be and we earn the respect of those around the world who believe us to be a principled nation.

It is worthwhile periodically to remind ourselves what our guiding principles are…

Prof. Hart, will any of this be on the test? He’s better when he mixes in observation:

“We believe that our government is weak, stupid, overbearing, dishonest, and inefficient, and also believe it to be the best in the world and would like to offer it to others.” This insight of Professor Michael Kammen came to mind as I drove around the teeming, dusty streets of Kabul last week.

Here are the rules of the blog, which demonstrate Hart surfs the Web:

It is my hope to keep most of my observations to somewhere between 100 and 300 words, though the philosophical, perhaps ponderous, nature of topics selected will make this difficult. Therefore, responses that begin “I notice you didn’t mention….” will be duly noted but already precluded. Let’s all agree that every comment by me or others will necessarily leave a few things out.


The blog world has become accustomed to the participation of those for whom anonymity provides courage, that is those who find the blog an instrument of vituperation, anger, and bitter ad hominem revenge on the world. No one has yet devised a proper method of shunting anger into a more productive project. For those who are bitter, we must have sympathy but no respect.

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