On the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times of November 2, 2008, six contributors were asked to respond to the question "What Will I Miss About President Bush". As The Times said, "The Op-Ed editors asked six writers to reflect on what they have most admired about him." The comments were thus generally encomiums of one sort or another. Although I hate, just hate, bringing facts into situations such as this, especially when it involves right-wingers, who are so sensitive to the introduction of facts into any discussion, I thought that a few comments on the factual side might be in order.
Negative Advertising v. Negative Advertising
As we enter the last week of the presidential election campaign, much has been made and much continues to be made of "negative campaigning." The mainstream media makes much of the issue, even though it has a long-standing tradition in American politics going back to the early 19th century. But I'm confused. The MSM's usual take on what's going on is "a plague on both your houses," as if both campaigns were engaging in the same kind of campaigning that can described as "negative." So the McCain campaign says Sen. Obama is a "socialist" while the Obama campaign says that Sen. McCain voted for Bush policies 90% of the time. Sarah Palin says that Sen. Obama has been "pallin' around with terrorists," while Sen. Obama points out that Sen. McCain's proposed tax cuts benefit only the wealthy. A McCain Minnesota robo-call, which ends with the statement "this call as approved by the Republican National Committee and Sen. John McCain" says that Sen. Obama was a "close associate of the terrorist [Prof. William] Ayers," (demonstrably untrue) while Sen. Obama points out that Sen. McCain is on record as proposing to appoint Supreme Court justices who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The Significance of the Powell Endorsement
There are many reasons why the Colin Powell endorsement of Barack Obama is significant and will indeed be included in that fairly small category of "endorsements that do make a difference," Republican whining to the contrary notwithstanding. A number of those reasons have been discussed, at length. Two that have received less attention are as follows. President Clinton was perceived in the African-American community as the first "black" President, a "white black," if you will. Similarly, Sec./Gen. Powell is perceived in certain segments of the white community, especially among service members and veterans, segments that otherwise may well be tinged with racism, as an OK black, a "black white," if you will. Thus for these folks, the Powell endorsement gives Obama a very important imprimatur. "Well, if Gen. Powell says he's OK, then I guess he's OK, even if he is black." It's as if the Secretary is giving them permission to vote for Obama, even if he is (literally) an African-American.
Palin's Debate Performance: Where Was the Box?
Palin's debate performance has been much discussed. One element not noticed was the technological advances made by Republican debate managers since 2004. Bush's rectangular control box was clearly visible. (Too bad Kerry didn't ask him about it, but he was much too much of a "gentleman" to do so. Who was it who said "nice guys finish last?" [Actually is was the great Leo Durocher, who managed to manage both the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants in the glory days of New York baseball, 1941-1957, before they both deserted us for California.]) At any rate, they obviously are now masters of miniaturization. But still one wonders just where they hid the Palin control box.
Well the stock market is crashing, credit is freezing up, unemployment is rising precipitously. An institution called the "free market" bears a major responsibility for this state of affairs, perhaps the total responsibility. So how did this happen? Isn't the "free market" supposed to be self-regulatory? Isn't the "free market" supposed to be the best determinant of the best distribution of goods and services in society?
It has been becoming increasingly obvious that the reason The Times took on Kristol has nothing to do with "balance." They've got their resident right-winger, David Brooks (although admittedly somehow he does manage to say something sensible every now and then). And they are suppressive/censorial of certain types of real news such that the highly estimable Media Matters does go after them every now and again. So "balance" it ain't. Actually, with the publication of Kristol's latest column, "How McCain Wins" (The New York Times, Sept. 29, 2008) it has become clear that what The Times had in mind was nothing but exposure -- exposure of what a fatuous, outdated, head-in-the-sand "thinker" (if one can actually use that term to describe Kristol) the man is.
There has been much speculation both about the possibility of a Georgite "October Surprise" this year and if there is one, what it might be. Iran? Pakistan? A(nother) false flag attack on U.S. soil? Any of these could be used as an excuse to launch a military strike against another country (with what weaponry one is not sure, given the state of the U.S. armed forces, but that is another matter).
In going about figuring out what it might be, it is important to review the "Bush Doctrine." It was much in the news a couple of weeks ago. At that time, Charlie Gibson of ABC News inadvertently determined that Sarah Palin didn't have a clue, not only about its original meaning, but also about the various variants that have appeared over time. The doctrine has in fact had numerous variants, not just the original one that the U.S. can attack any other country at any time on the slightest suspicion that at some (indeterminate) time in the future that country might become a threat to the United States.
A variety of right-wing Republican commentators, such as Charles Krauthammer, tried to blunt the discussion by referring to just one of its several manifestations, the "spreading democracy" dictum. But in any discussion of the Doctrine and how it might be used in support of some October Surprise during this election season, before engaging in that discussion, it is useful to go to the horse's mouth to determine just what it really is. And so, let us turn to the estimable Dana Perino, the current White House Press Secretary.
As I noted recently in a BF Short Take, he who controls the agenda wins elections. From FDR through Lyndon Johnson before he got trapped in Vietnam, the Democrats knew this very well, and except for the Eisenhower years, they won consistently. They did so by for the most part focusing on the substantive issues. Goldwater was the first modern Republican who recognized that one could never win by going after programs. What was needed was going after what paid for the programs -- taxes, and then separating the two in the public's mind.
As a lifelong Secular Humanist of the Jewish persuasion, it is very difficult for me to admit to the title of this Commentary, but I have finally become convinced of its truth. The events of the last few days have been the culmination of a series of them that began with the election of George W. Bush. And so, there is simply no way around the recognition of the fact. I just want to briefly share my thought process and reasoning with you.
You Can't Tell the "Cut-and-Runners" Without a Scorecard
Even as Bush (wonder if Cheney went along with this one) announces an agreement "in principle" with the Iraqis to withdraw American forces by some given date (2010? 2011? 2012? it's not quite clear, but by some sure date, McCain proclaims over and over again that while the "surge has worked," unlike the policy of his lily-livered, politically opportunist, unpatriotic opponent, his approach will have the U.S. staying in Iraq until "victory is achieved." (Except that McCain too might order a withdrawal, of some sort, at some time not exactly certain but certainly not uncertain, but certainly in less than 100 years, too). The little details of how exactly "victory " is to be defined and how much it, whatever it is, will cost in American lives and borrowed money, is left unstated by the McCain campaign.