Work and Days

Reflections of a Campaign Now Past (Almost)

Here are ten random thoughts on this depressing campaign that I have not see discussed much in the media.

1. Advice on McCain: stay focused on the economy; on socialism; on the effort to redistribute income by taxing some at rates (aggregate federal, state, payroll, and Medicare taxes) at 65% while half the taxpayers are to be excused from federal income taxes. Reiterate Obama’s own past support for redistribution and spreading the wealth, and why such a worldview is the touchstone that explains all the creepy associations from Chicago, the boards and foundations, and the church. What they all have in common is a belief that the United States is an unjust country and that a powerful state must intervene to take from some to give to others in a way that transcends the progressive income tax. That was the theme of Rev. Wright’s sermons on the evil on black middle-classness that won him a 10,000 sq. ft mansion and the subtext of Dreams From My Father and Audacity of Hope that likewise earned the Obamas a stately mansion. Socialism pays!

2. Throughout this campaign one has wondered why McCain did not rhetorically offer up scenarios in which he asked what would have been the media reaction had he had friends like Ayers, Khalidi, Wright, or Pfleger?

He did that yesterday in connection to Khalidi, not elegantly, but nonetheless in a way that made one think that the media would have gone ballistic—e.g., envision McCain going to a dinner honoring some right-wing anti-Semitic activist, who was an associate of Yasser Arafat, damning the United States and Israel?  And imagine as well an associate of McCain, who was a former abortion clinic bomber, emailing and phoning the senator until 2005? And imagine McCain sitting in a church for twenty years, as his white racist pastor deplored the growing multiracial nature of the United States, and McCain fending off charges that he could not remember such sermons—despite being married in the church, having his children baptized there, and using such a pastor’s clichés for the title of his book—and assuring the Chicago Sun-Times that he attended services promptly at 11 AM each Sunday.

3. The real issue of the campaign: The $600 million that Obama amassed and abject rejection of public campaign financing. There are three problems: (1) the breaking of one’s word; (2) the creation of such a vast treasure chest; (3) and the complete destruction of the principle of public financing. Never again, will one on the Left make the credible argument either that there is a poisonous nexus between big money and big politics, or that the government should step in to ensure that special interests do not exercise an inordinate influence. So Obama essentially destroyed the idea of public campaign financing of national elections. It’s dead, kaput—over with for good. And the media simply skipped that latter story. (Again, imagine the media’s reaction should McCain have flipped on the issue, rejected public financing, raised a $600 million war-chest, outspent Obama 4-1, and now was airing 30-minute infomercials unanswered by the poorer, and public financed Obama.)

4. What I was most surprised at watching the clips of Wright and Pfleger these past months was not their extremist rhetoric, but the standing ovation given to both as they voiced truly racist and venomous sentiments. Wasn’t that the more disturbing development—that these firebrands voiced such hatred to obvious sympathetic audiences who stood up and roared their approval of the hateful diatribes? Scary.

5. While listening to the 2001 Chicago Public Radio interview with Barack Obama I was at once struck with the strange feeling, “Who is this?”

By that I mean the accent and cadence were not those of the Obama I have heard the last six months. He sounded just a few years ago like a normal nerdy Harvard Law School lawyer. Has he, as he wrote in his memoirs, so embraced the cadences, accent, and dropping the g’s of Rev. Wright that his past voice is not almost unrecognizable in comparison to how he presently speaks?

I think the metamorphosis transcends the differences between the genres of the interview and the stump speech; at least I noticed no such wide variance with other candidates. The same old question: who really is Barack Obama?

6. Such a strange campaign: former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell had much more positive things to say about the now convicted felon Sen. Ted Stevens than he did a week earlier about presidential candidate John McCain.

7. The most outrageous statement that arose during the campaign? This “snippet” from Obama:

“…just to take a, sort of a realist perspective…there’s a lot of change going on outside of the Court, um, that, that judges essentially have to take judicial notice of. I mean you’ve got World War II, you’ve got uh, uh, uh, the doctrines of Nazism, that, that we are fighting against, that start looking uncomfortably similar to what we have going on, back here at home.”

National socialism led to the industrialized murder of 6 million innocents, and began a war that took 50 million lives and destroyed Western Europe. At the time of the war, a democratic United States was fighting to preserve democracy when it had been destroyed in all of Europe, while struggling at home with racial segregation in the South and discrimination elsewhere.

The Civil Rights movement that began in the 1940s and ended in the 1960s and 1970s with equal rights for all citizens in the southern United States is in no way an argument that  America was analogous to Nazi Germany. As we survey the world today, we see slavery in the Sudan, religious oppression in much of the Arab world (as well indentured servitude), tribal hatred among Muslim sects, genocide in many countries of Africa—but nothing quite like the death camps of Nazi Germany. Again, this is the same old Obama evocation of “tragic”, an adjective he frequently uses in connection with the history of the United States, and the inability of courts to legislate by fiat a redistribution of resources and an equality of result.

8. Greatest farce of the campaign? The good old McCain, bad new McCain nonsense. We know now that the media in 2000 liked McCain only because he worked with Democrats, opposed the hated and more conservative George Bush, and was going to lose. In 2008 they demonized him, despite his continued bipartisanship, and his frequent opposition to George Bush—solely because he became the last obstacle in the way of the ascension of the anointed Barack Obama.

9. I don’t think after this campaign anyone, of either party, can ever again read the New York Times, watch NBC, or browse Newsweek and not know that these are simply op-ed venues, opinion journalism rather than objective news sources. They ensured that we knew about every Palin pregnancy and change of clothing, and almost nothing why Joe Biden was under wraps, isolated from the press, forbidden to wander from the teleprompter—and still continued to say the most astounding things. We are about to elect Barack Obama and yet have no idea what he really feels about FISA, NAFTA, nuclear power, oil drilling, coal use, Iraq, Iran, Jerusalem, campaign finance reform and a host of other issues. And the media completely failed to explain why exactly there is always a new Ayers, Khalidi,  Pfleger, or Wright quote. Why not just one such odious figure in one’s past rather than so many? And why always a “I was only 8 years old”, “Not the (fill in the blanks) I used to know”, “Just a casual neighborhood acquaintance”, etc.

10. Why can’t just once Barack Obama speak out and say something like, “Come on, guys, please cool it. No more photoshopping of Sen. McCain’s portrait with feces on his face; no more allegations that Mrs. Palin did not deliver her own child; no more Sarah Palin effigies in a noose; no more outbursts from comedians about raping Sarah Palin; no more supporters like Congressman Lewis comparing McCain to George Wallace; no more zealots tapping into Palin’s email”?

Given his vaunted “there are no red/blue states”, he really could play Zeus on Olympus. I can’t remember a  campaign in which a candidate preached ad nauseam about the sleazy tactics of an opponent while his supporters waged a vicious attack designed to smear opponents and provide a deniability of culpability for the candidate. The Bushes and Clintons waged tough campaigns, but none of them had pretensions that they did not, or were so successful in distancing themselves from footsoldiers who waged a quite different war.


Postscript: McCain’s problem is no longer Obama (the hope and change hypnotic fit is wearing off, as the reality of the radical Chicago activist begins to replace it), but time. McCain’s campaign is starting to hit stride, but there are five full days left, not five weeks. The public is acclimatized now to Wall Street frenzy, pleased with falling gas prices, a stronger dollar, and the quiet in Iraq (four times fewer Americans were lost in Iraq in October than were murdered over the same time in the single city of Chicago), and not sure that Obama’s European solutions are the antidote to the Bush years or the present growing economic uncertainty–and not sure still they have any idea who Obama is or what he intends.