mccain

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Slept between the last post and this. Just took a shower and sat down at the computer. Here’s my brain dump before I move on to projects where I can make more of a difference.

1) Both these guys are dull. The McCain of the Straight Talk Express and Dunkin’ Donuts with press buddies is gone, replaced by a cranky old bastard. Obama is Kerry with better speechwriters. The difference is in vector. Obama is young and can learn on the job. He also has a managerial hauteur, substantiated by a campaign that is amazingly well-organized and effective at every level. I don’t doubt that he’ll manage the country well. Not so sure about leading the country, though. He’s no Reagan, but he’s a bit of a Clinton, in the sense that he’s smart, articulate and at least kinda warm up close. To me the most important fact about the debate was that Barack and Michelle stayed and worked the crowd. John and Cindy split. It’s not smart for Elvis to leave the building while the Beatles are still on stage. Not when the audience is voting on both.
2) Clinton excepted, Republicans since Nixon have been better at connecting with ordinary folks. Nixon’s “moral majority” resonated with the voting majority, and helped create the red state base that still stands. McCain should have been connecting last night, but didn’t do very well at it. Not as well as he should have, anyway. Obama, dry as he is, does come across as empathetic. And he talks empathy better than anybody since Lyndon Johnson.
3) McCain’s “that one” line was peevish and nasty, and will become a grass roots slogan for Obama. Forgotten will be the point that McCain made, about how the two voted on something. (What was it? I don’t remember, and on that rest my case.)
4) I cringed every time I heard McCain say “my friends”. It should create warmth, but sounds insincere.
5) Obama needs to work on his brain cramps. It seemed like there was a moment in every one of his answers when his mind siezed and he lost his flow. I suspect he’s been working on not saying “um” all the time, and not saying “and” when he means “um.” Whatever it is, he needs to get past it. I’m guessing Obama’s younger than Jimmy Carter was when Carter took lessons to overcome a lifelong mumbling problem.
6) The pandering was predictable, but the gratuitous and misleading simplifications got to me. When Obama talked about “borrowing money from China and giving it to Saudi Arabia,” I wanted to throw something at him. Likewise when McCain talked about “victory” in Iraq when misapplication of that very concept is one reason we got into the mess in the first place. And Obama’s stuff about going after Bin Laden is wacky. Listen to this edition of Fresh Air. It’s an interview with Robert Baer, author of The Devil We Know. In it Baer lays out a calm, rational and constructive approach to Iran and Middle East powers and politics. The reason I bring it up is that it makes sense — yet it fits into neither candidate’s narratives (although it’s in better alignment with Obama’s willingness to “negotiate with enemies”). Also because Baer, a CIA operative for two decades, says Bin Ladin is dead. If tha’s true, it inconveniences both candidates’ narratives.
7) The best question from Brokaw was about health care: Is it a right, a privilege or a responsibility? McCain said it was a responsibility (of individuals, not government), and talked up free market economics. Obama said it was a right, and talked essentially (seemed to me) about socializing the system. Neither made me feel better, but both revealed extreme differences in where the two come from.

Obama won, but not by a huge margin. The difference is between future and past. McCain looks like Bush, cont’d. I don’t think he will be, unless he vacates the office and Palin takes over, which is a frightening prospect. Still, that’s what he represents. Obama does represent Change, and something more: purge — the need to flush out the last administration and bring in a new one. I think more people want that than don’t.

If Obama wins, the best thing he can do is bring in Bill & Hillary as transition team advisors. They learned a lot of stuff the hard way, and Obama’s gonna need all the help he can get.

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Sarah Palin said yes, thanks, to a road to nowhere in Alaska, a story in Thursday’s LATimes, is one among countless gotcha!s which in sum comprise a sea of bad news across which Alaska’s governor is obliged to walk like Jesus. So here’s a thought. What if the Gravina Island Bridge, the $398 million “bridge to nowhere”, was not much worse than any other piece of pork — just easier for hand-wringers to target?

I mean, hey, if you were a citizen of Ketchikan, where your whole town depends on tourism for its existence, and where your airport is on an island that can only be reached by sea — and where your whole state has always depended on large sums of federal largesse and involvement — this bridge may not have been pork. It was business as usual, and just your town’s turn to score.

Could it be that Senator Stevens was doing his job, and doing it well? Looks to me like the bridge would have gone forward, and never would have been a Big Issue, had Katrina not wiped out New Orleans and required large efforts to rebuild infrastructure there, highlighting porky projects elsewhere in the country.

In other words, what we’re looking at here is Politics as Usual. That is more than enough to explain Sarah Palin’s initial support for the bridge, her change of position after the winds of popular opinion shifted, and her truth-shading after the fact. More importantly, the whole thing says little about her ability to serve the country as Vice President, or as President in the not-unlikely chance that John McCain will fail to serve out his first term.

I won’t be voting for McCain/Palin. But the governor’s porky political past is not one of the reasons.

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In response to my last political post, the subject of High Road vs. Low Road was brought up. One comment suggested that I thought Obama’s was the former while McCain’s was the latter. In fact I was suggesting that both roads were tactics used by both candidates, and that I feared the election would be won and lost, as it usually is, by fighting along the low road to election day.

My current favorite reporting about road-taking comes from the St. Petersburg Times, which keeps up with both campaigns via the Politifact.com Truth-o-Meter. To each statement by each candidate and their campaigns (including emailings by candidates and parties), they sort statements into True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True, False and Pants on Fire. Currently those3 sort out this way :

Obama Biden McCain Palin
True 39 7 25 4
Mostly True 23 4 19 0
Half-True 20 4 19 3
Barely True 12 3 19 0
False 18 4 22 0
Pants on Fire 0 2 4 0

Some of the rulings are generous. For example, they found Sarah Palin’s claim that she put the state’s jet up for sale on eBay is true, even though it wasn’t sold on eBay.

As H.L. Mencken said, Looking for an honest politician is like looking for an ethical burglar. (More good quotes — all correct — here.*)

For what it’s worth, I favor Obama for two main reasons. One is that I’d rather see the country run on the ethics of empathy rather than those of fear. The other is that McCain and Palin are both warriors at heart (McCain was ready for war with Iraq right after 9/11, and Palin preached that the Iraq war was part of God’s “plan”) — and we’ve had eight bad years of that already.

I also think Obama is more likely to nominate top-notch non-ideological judges and to reform government in general. Also that he is less likely to screw up the Internet, which is the single best thing the world has going for itself. Finally, that he’ll restore the faith of the rest of the world in the sanity of the U.S. electorate and its government.

As for the economy, I think McCain understands the private sector — and the good it does — far better than Obama. If I were voting by my economically consevative and Libertarian sympathies alone, I’d favor McCain. But this election isn’t about that. This election is about throwing the old bums out and trying some new ones.

Back to the War Issue.

A few decades back Penelope Maunsell said of a former employer that “His management style was to find a problem and intensify it”. Same goes for politicians. There are exceptions, but that’s close to a rule.

I don’t doubt that John McCain is a first-rate military man. His experiences as a prisoner of war obviously strenghtened his character and equipped him with a high degree of sympathy for those suffering injustice, as well as for members of the armed forces. But John McCain shared with George W. Bush the urge to solve the problem of terrorism with the use of force, and lots of it. I don’t doubt that this response was exactly what Osama Bin Laden and other terrorist leaders were looking for.

Even if the Surge is working (and I’m inclined to agree that, on the whole, it is), that does not excuse McCain from having supported the Iraq War in the first place. That war has not only killed countless thousands (beyond the counted thousands of our own casualties), but put the country terribly in debt, weakened our military positions elsewhere, and diminished our reputation throughout the world. It was strategically wrong, in a huge way. McCain’s bad judgement on this count alone is reason enough not to elect him.

[Later…] Calvin Dodge points to RedState’s take on FactCheck.org’s take on Palin’s acceptance address.

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