The Election Goes On and On and On
Obama vs. Hillary vs. McCain, Part II
Like most outside observers who would not vote for either Obama or Clinton, I have mixed emotions about their current contested race. On the one hand, he has waged the more optimistic campaign, outsourcing the hit attacks to surrogates in the media and America hell-in-a-handbasket themes to his wife. Hillary is the tougher, more duplicitous candidate who understands politics far better—and the irony that the past divisive Clinton methods of identity politics and manipulation of the press by surrogates have come back to haunt her.
Surely, this was to be the year of the woman, with a bite-the-lip Bill talking about humanitarianism in teary-eyed encomia to his wife—not the upstaging by a charismatic African-American sensation, who pet-rocked them in a fad of popular hysteria.
He makes the case that he won the most delegates, leads in the recognized popular vote, and polls stronger against McCain. She replies that the big in-play states are hers, she is surging, and that his lead is based on caucuses that don’t reflect her grass-root delegates won by plebiscites in large swing states. Both are nearing the point of no-return in their stand-off. Either one caves by early April, or the acrimony will devolve into something we haven’t seen in Democratic politics since 1968.
Hillary’s message about foreign policy experience is dubious, but her charge that he has none is accurate and fair. So far, examine his advisors: academics like Ms. Power who chose to do a self-indulgent interview that nearly wrecked his campaign; Ms. Rice who just admitted that neither Obama or Clinton could be trusted to answer the call in the night; the anonymous free lancers who reassured the Canadians that the NAFTA trashing was just politics; and the ever ubiquitous Zbigniew Brezinski of Jimmy Carter fame, who spent most of the 2000s trashing his government, insisting that Iraq was lost, that we would be hit again, that we lost our liberties, that Israel was our problem, and that his stellar record gave him such insight (remember the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the US boycott of the Olympics, the Iranian hostage crisis, the Cambodian holocaust, the Central American communist insurgencies, the arms sales of planes to the Saudis without bomb racks, the failed hostage rescue attempt, the dispatch of Ramsey Clark to Teheran, and on and on).
Otherwise, their joint message is about the same: radically jack up estate, income, and payroll taxes to fund new programs that shift responsibility from the individual to the government—as payback for those who make too much money that they haven’t earned. Note again, the populist message doesn’t really apply to the really rich who support both Obama and Hillary, and find ways of counting income as capital gains or use corporate or trust perks in lieu of spending taxable income on daily needs. I would be for the estate tax if one could convince me that Ted Kennedy and his clan ever paid the full rates when their fortunate was passed on to them, and they did not employ Byzantine trusts, sophisticated probate schemes, offshore holdings, and all the other mechanism the mega-rich use to avoid the inheritance laws. Until then, it is twice-taxed income that goes to a government that does its best to punish those who tried to pass something more to their children than what they received.
Instead, the ax falls on the American family who makes between $150,000 and 300,000 mostly through salaries—which sound like a lot of money until one remembers that many of those who make that good living reside in high-income tax states like Connecticut, New Jersey, New York or California where $500,000-$700,000 for a modest track home is not unusual, and a child at a private liberal arts college can easily cost $150,000 for a four year education, especially with ineligibility for financial aid.
Abroad, both would play reactive international politics, and of not getting ahead of the UN or the EU on much of anything. Both favor the European system of culture and government and are deeply at odds with the exceptional American variant of a gun-owning, Christianized, confident, low-taxed, small-government, and highly individualistic society.
Equality of result, not of opportunity, is their creed. It is not how you start, but how you end up that is their concern, government being the final arbiter that must continually level the playing field. The subtext of both campaigns is that the individual is rarely if ever culpable. Failure, set-back, poverty—all these lapses are attributable either to race/class/gender prejudices; or cruel chance; or the stacked-deck of American capitalism.
To suggest that some people indulge in drugs, drink, gamble, have mental problems, have out of wedlock children, experience multiple divorces, quit jobs, make unwise investments, spend unwisely what they don’t make, drop out of high school is to reveal one’s own biases and innate meanness. My 86-year-old grandfather (born in my farmhouse in 1890 and died here in 1976) warned me before he died that no matter how bad things had become, one could at least still get by—if you didn’t quit your job, didn’t move, and made sure you spent more money on what makes you money (e.g., in his case, a tractor or barn or irrigation pipe) than on what you don’t need (e.g., periodic new car, clothes, jewelry, etc.)
What Have We Done?
Sometime in September Democrats may ask themselves just that as candidate Obama sticks to his "Iraq has failed" message as it continues to get better, to 'I'm above partisanship' as he does negative hit ads, as yet another Power, Rice, Michelle ("cynics, sloths, etc.") etc. says something inane, and the "hope and change" message runs out of steam and is replaced by a more taxes/more social programs 1960s boilerplate tired agenda. Michelle is not an albatross yet, but she will be by summer; she is the type that liberals fawn over but her rhetoric proves deeply offensive to the working classes, who can't see why the bitterness?
Meanwhile McCain II
I like McCain for two reasons and am willing to give him a pass on other past bothersome positions on campaign financing, global warming, and Anwar (no need to go on). First, he understands that we can defeat the jihadists in Afghanistan and Iraq, discredit radical Islam, and win the so-called war on terror, which is most definitely not a construct, a bogey-man, or an overreaction. Second, he has always railed about fiscal restraint. The government is over 30% larger than when Bush took office, and we are losing productive jobs while creating bureaucratic ones. More important, he realized that annual federal deficits, growing national debt, trade red-ink, and a weak dollar are more than economic indicators of a sick nation, but also terribly damaging to a nation’s sense of self and pride. When Greece has a far stronger currency than we do (I lived in the country for over two years and can assure readers that it does almost everything in a manner far less efficiently than do we), when Dubai must lend us capital, when a communist Chinese apparat holds over $1 trillion of our currency, and a corrupt Middle East rakes in billions of petrol dollars due to our lion’s bite of the daily global consumption of oil, then there is cause for collective doubt at home.
In one sense, our current problem is that our youth learned from us (I speak as someone who was born in 1953), not our own parents (mine were born in 1921 and 1922) who to be candid were shaped by depression, war, and the threat of war, and who made terrible sacrifices to indulge us. I don’t wish to enter in the greatest generation quagmire, but note only that those who came of age in the 1960s are of a sort I hope the nation does not see again this century.
The Clintons are the best examples I know—self-referential, always victims of some unfair conspiracy, able to wing it by blaming someone other than themselves, full of self-righteous pride in their liberalism, critical of their betters of the past, indulgent to their own children, and always unembarrassed about the vast abyss from their utopian rhetoric and their own enormous tastes and appetites that are never quite muzzled. The Clinton way was to shake-down corporations for suitable lodging for Hillary, for Bill to garner obscene speaking, for Chelsea to be ensconced on Wall Street at a Hedge Fund—and then to stump on the John Edwards two-Americas theme. The signature of the generation was always the confidence that they could so well articulate, whine, or hedge a issue that they could avoid responsibility for failure while taking sole credit for success.
Stories Not Reported By the Media
The continual targeted killings of African-Americans by Latino gangs in Los Angeles
The culpability of a politicized CIA in dismissing Iran’s nuclear weapons procurement programs that have led to the near collapse of international efforts to stop them.
The Chinese war again separatist Uighurs in Xinjiang Province. (Why does the world ignore that Chinese, Indians, and Russians all wage war against radical Muslims with a savagery unimaginable by Israel?)
Liberal pressures on the federal government and lending agencies to relax standards to expand home ownership to first-time, non-traditional buyers through zero-down payments, interest only loans, and balloon mortgages—all of which are now blamed as illiberal catalysts for the current crisis.