Monday, July 28, 2008

John Quixote and the McCainocrats

Poor reasoning is hardly unusual in political arguments, but among the poorest is the ire expressed by some of Hillary Clinton’s disappointed supporters.

The argument, such as it is, runs that since the media treated Senator Clinton poorly, her supporters will vote for McCain instead of Obama.

No, seriously—they say this with straight faces and pious intensity.

Apparently this must be made explicit—Obama is not a media mogul. He does not control it, and to blame him (or attempt to punish him) for the media’s actions is ridiculous. Also bizarre about this claim is that these Sen. Clinton supporters apparently feel she’s a helpless girl at the mercy of the big bad powers that be—and that somehow these powers are the media. Come on, Sen. Clinton is a strong and politically astute politician—hardly a victim. And reporters’ lackluster performance as the Bush administration has run roughshod over the Constitution and blatantly lied to the U.S. people is not exactly an indication of the media’s power—dupes would be closer to truth. Or perhaps spineless.

Meanwhile Obama has assiduously avoided presenting himself as the “black candidate,” running instead on his appeal and ideas. Imagine that.

The simple truth is that Clinton lost the primary because she came up against a superior candidate, one the voters preferred. (Yes, she’s claimed she won the “popular vote,” but no one has been able to see how she came up with that conclusion, as Obama won more votes and more delegates.)

But she has more experience? Not much. She’s a second term senator, but presents herself having decades of national politics experience—when she spent most of it in private practice. (And if First Lady counts, then does anyone find Laura Bush a prime presidential candidate?)

Let’s be honest---if these voters wanted the most experienced candidate, they’d have voted for Bill Richardson—long experience, popular, and Hispanic, so still historic (if that’s the point for these voters).

These voters are at least well matched with their preferred candidate—her performance refusing to admit obvious defeat in the primary and her ungracious speech “backing” Obama was shameful.

In short, this comes down to “sore loser.” OK, human---but at what cost? I’d have considered McCain at one point, eight years ago, and I don’t doubt that he’s a good man, but his record and views during the Bush administration have evolved to present a poor candidate.

Military operations seemed to have tipped the balance. McCain maintains that we could have won Vietnam if we’d only have stayed. Perhaps true, but what he misses is at what cost in both funding and lives, without considering everything we’d have to sacrifice just for the sake of winning. This same blind egoism drives his take on Iraq--above all else, he wants to win, no matter the cost, ignoring several other serious problems.

This irrational machoism pops up again in his insistence that we should never talk to countries with which we have conflicts, specifically Iran, which McCain ridicules as “making nice to our enemies.” But since when did talks equal “making nice”? If you get a “talking-to,” for example, it’s not a pleasant experience. We talked to the Soviet Union all during the Cold War--and more than once prevented nuclear war by doing so. And talking doesn’t mean we agree or concede. It means we attempt to find acceptable middle ground, or perhaps even persuade the Iranians to follow a preferable course.

The distortions aren’t limited to foreign policy. McCain has attacked Obama’s plan to help poorer families with a tax bracket occurring at $200,000, claiming this will hurt small businesses and cost jobs. McCain, however, ignores that those small business costs are already legitimate business liabilities, and so are deducted before counting as earned income--the $200,000 would be net income earned AFTER those employment expenses are already paid.

McCain also repeats the tax cut mantra--we must cut taxes to stimulate the economy. This, of course, ignores that the previous tax cuts haven’t accomplish that; to the contrary, they’ve contributed to a soaring national debt that has devalued the dollar and helped tighten credit markets. Further, just as in the Reagan years, when the U.S. went from being the largest creditor nation to being the largest debtor nation, with 25% of our assets moving into foreign hands, our current spending habit is being financed primarily by China. Hardly contributes to the independence from foreign interests. Plus, all during the economic boom of the 1990s, the mantra was that we have to cut taxes to give the money back to the American taxpayers. So which is it? Cut taxes in good times. Cut taxes in bad times. Anybody suspect they don’t particularly care about the economy (or just about the economic welfare of their wealthy campaign contributors)? McCain has admitted it’s not his strong suit. He’s right on that point, at least. But certainly not a “maverick.”

Then there’s McCain’s famed claim of reaching across the aisle. It’s true! Trouble is, he hasn’t accomplished anything meaningful. When George McGovern and Bob Dole reached across the isle, they created the school lunch program, ensuring that every school child in America got at least one nutritious hot meal a day. McCain reached out for immigration reform that doesn’t work.

His bipartisan attempts at campaign finance reform have been equally unrealistic. Reality is, stakes are high in national politics, and since people (and groups) have the right to support candidates of their choice, all new regulations will ever accomplish is moving the money from one avenue to another. Further, his position is disingenuous. Barack Obama offered to rely on public financing if McCain would do--and McCain is the one who refused (and foolishly at that, since the Obama campaign has much, much more cash). Is it time for the silly flip-flop chant?

And speaking of flip-flops, how about McCain’s flat claim that we should not bail out banks or consumers who make poor economic decisions. Two days later, after a popular Obama speech about not bailouts but sensible refinancing, McCain suddenly argued that we had to help people in trouble.

But perhaps at the top of my befuddlement is why any strong supporter of women’s rights would vote for a candidate who has repeatedly made clear that he would appoint Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade. Let alone the point that packing the court to force it do one’s will instead of pursuing justice undermines the system.

Speaking of the Supreme Court, McCain made the ridiculous claim that a President Obama would mean more Justices like the ones who ruled out the death penalty for the rape of a child--and this was AFTER Obama said he strongly disagreed with the decision (a decision reached, incidentally, by an already Conservative court).

The Straight-Talk Express has pulled into Bullshit Central, and it’s dropping load after load after load. McCain likes to label Obama as “elitist.” If by “elite” he means “smart,” I say we go with it.


Updating my Blog

Thanks to all of you who asked about blog updates. Nice to know there are so many readers!

Yes, I will still be regularly updating my blog--though probably not as frequently in the past (lots of things going on).