September 2008 Archives

McCain's Decision and My Decision

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Before the ol’ Bloviator gets too cranked up here, let him say that he ain’t never been so proud of his own opinions that he has lost respect for those of others. I have tried on several occasions to set this site up to allow comments and every time thus far, the result has been a veritable flood of emails either informing me that I have won the lottery in Tanganyika (and need only to send $30,000 deposit to claim my bounty) or alerting me to the latest miracle product guaranteed to elongate my..uh…well, you know. Hopefully, I have now found a way to minimize spammery and allow comments from readers. Just click on the "comments" line below the post and proceed. Don't get your lips pooched out when you see a notice that your comments will have to be "approved" before they appear on the blog. This precaution is not to keep out those who give me “what for" for my ridiculous opinions and utter lack of respect for almost anything most decent people hold dear. It's to block "comments" like the following, which I just received today: "cfqxv ednx oaxp abgf supwrv xdkz qfax." (Apparently, I have a large following out there on Pluto.) Rest assured, I want to know what you think, and, what the heck, if you happen to have any suggestions about the somewhat delicate matter I alluded to above, you may as well send them along as well.
I generally try to avoid political arguments because politics is mostly a game to me, and like the most effective network commentators at sporting events, when I’m trying to figure out what’s goin’ on, I find it’s best to keep my own emotions out of it as much as possible. This hasn’t proven all that difficult in recent elections, where I either voted with one hand and held my nose (OK, I may have picked it once or twice) with the other or simply couldn’t tolerate either option and just sat it out. (Don’t give me that crap about non-voters having no right to criticize the performance of the person who’s elected. We don’t have to exercise every right we have in order to exercise any right we have. This is America. We can complain about anything, anytime, regardless of whether we know what we’re talking about or not. You don’t need to look it up in the Bill of Rights. The very existence of this blog is proof enough)
At about this time last fall, I thought it distinctly possible that, depending on what the Demos did, I might actually vote for John McCain, who is a genuine national hero of the sort we rarely see anymore. At that point, I also thought that even though I disagreed with McCain on a lot more things than not, I could at least take comfort in feeling that when he took a position, he did so thinking he was acting in our country’s best interest.
When I looked at what Dems had to offer, I knew immediately that I simply couldn’t stomach any more of the Billarys, and despite being a guilty white liberal of the most pathetic sort, I quickly developed a fairly stout resistance to Obama fever. Oby’s obviously plenty smart enough to be President, and in terms of general aims and priorities, and I’m certainly a lot more in agreement with him than with Johnny Mac. I realize that some white voters who complain about his lack of experience are simply self-rationalizing their reluctance to vote for a black person. However, BO’s inability to offer a concise, compelling, and reasonably specific sense of what he’d do as president and how he’d do it only compounds my own concerns about his rather thin record of accomplishment as a public servant.
On the other hand, he’s quite right that we can’t stand any more of the same old-same old, and I’m afraid that I have long since concluded that he’s also right in saying that’s all John McCain can give us. I’ve become increasingly convinced that all, and I mean absolutely all McCain really gives a damn about is keeping what he thinks we’re trying to do in Iraq from turning out like what he thinks we were trying to do in Vietnam. When it comes to any sense of the world of economic hurt that has come crashing down on millions of Americans, McCain’s perspective is that of a guy who’s married to a big-time player in an essentially recession-proof sector of the economy. “Layoffs ? Foreclosures? Financial meltdowns ? Don’t worry, everybody, the economy is fundamentally sound. Just ask Cindy how many cases of ‘Bud’ she sold today.”
Beyond that, however, and even more critical, is my sad sense that McCain has gone from being the guy who’d rather do what’s right than what’s politically expedient (and hence the kind of person who really should be president) to being a guy who wants to be president so badly that he’s abandoned the very principles that once made him so appealing, particularly his bottom-line devotion to the national interest.
McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin and the way he and his campaign have manipulated that decision tell me that I don’t want him in the White House. In fact, if he wins, let’s just save a lot of fuss and folderol and just leave ol’ “W” there. Why exchange one bunch of cynical, self-serving demagogic polarizers for another Choosing someone whose inadequacies and liabilities are so glaring and then assailing the press for reporting them was more Rovian than old Karl himself. With the National Enquirer (that bastion of the liberal media) about to blow the whistle on Bristol Palin’s delicate condition, the campaign makes an almost celebratory announcement that she’s preggers and then blames the press for passing the word along.
Predictably, the same gutless reporters and analysts who laid down while Fox News and the Bushies were hoodwinking us on why we had to invade Iraq were too intimidated at first even to question frozen-faced Republican claims that Alaska’s proximity to Russia made Gov. Palin a foreign affairs expert or their assertions that her eighteen months of titular authority over the nation’s smallest national guard contingent qualified her to be a first-rate commander-in-chief.
Sensing that the press was really on the run, the McCainiacs then floated a little piece of web puffery charging that Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” comment on McCain’s policies was actually his way of suggesting that Governor Palin had certain porcine qualities. Sure enough, the now-cowered media types reported this charge as if it actually had some semblance of legitimacy. The press corps had made no more secret of its preference for McCain among the GOP hopefuls than for Obama among the Demos and since the nominations were sewed up it has given Johnny Mac every bit as much benefit of the doubt as it has accorded Oby.
Finally, however, the members of the Fourth Estate had to face the fact that their old pal, the captain of the “Straight Talk Express” whom they had cut several miles of slack over the last eight months, was now using them as a punching bag. In response, even the McCain camp’s hand-picked dude, His Courtliness, Charlie Gibson, whom they had counted on to serve up nothing but softballs, somehow summoned the temerity to test the Gov’s knowledge and grasp of world affairs and the accuracy of some of her claims about abstinence from the public trough. Suddenly, it seemed, beloved ol’ Charlie had gone over to the condescending leftist media elite.
So now, thanks to better-late-than-never media scrutiny, we know a little more about Super Sarah, who had to hire an assistant to help her run a place that was then the same size as my hometown (which, by the way, has only a part-time mayor) and who, by virtue of her politics-as-personal vendetta style, has already stirred up considerable controversy after just eighteen months as governor of the nation’s emptiest state. No wonder that, although she’s supposedly ready to rip ol’ Putin another one, she can’t talk to a reporter unless she’s guaranteed “deference.”
Personally, I think that Sarah Palin is not only plenty tough but mean as a snake. The list of former benefactors whom she’s stabbed in the back is a yard long, and the fact that a group portrait of her appointees could be assembled by snipping through her high school year book affirms her affinity for the “W” model of leadership, which dictates surrounding yourself with people whose lips couldn’t be blasted from your butt cheeks with a pound of C-4. While we’re on the subject of her “’W’-ish” traits, how about promising a “transparent” administration as governor, then using private email to avoid legally mandated public scrutiny? She also seems to share W’s obvious preference for dogma over fact or analysis. Like W, she is certainly intelligent enough to be president, but like Karl Rove, her most valuable political assets by far are her sheer audacity and cunning. Likewise, Hillary and Sarah may seem a very unlikely pair on “Saturday Night Live,” but they definitely share the ruthless ambition gene. If the Repubs think they’re going to make her the centerpiece of the campaign and somehow render her purely ornamental thereafter they’re foolishly mistaken. She’s already shopping for new shoes that will look good against the Oval Office carpet and a hair tint that won’t clash with the drapes.
I realize that most of us seldom factor the V.P. choice into our decisions about who we want to be President, but this is a time when re really should. I’ve read everything about Sarah Palin that I could get my hands on—at least as much of it written by conservatives as liberals—and I’ve devoured the entire transcript of her ABC debut. Bending over backward to suppress my own biases and then arbitrarily tripling my estimate of her strengths, I still can’t come anywhere near convincing myself that this is someone who should be a governor, even of our least populous state, much less a Vice-President of the United States with way better than average prospects of advancement by natural causes.
Never mind the prospect of a Palin-Putin meeting that opens with “Hey, ¬¬¬Vlad, I can see your backyard from my backyard; so how about at least slipping on some boxers next time you walk the pooch?” Ponder, for example, the kind of Supreme Court appointments President Palin would offer. As her own daughter’s case demonstrates, Republican women get pregnant just as readily as Democratic ones, and I’m guessing that they’re also just as susceptible to rape or incest. You don’t have to denigrate the choice that Palin made about her own recent pregnancy to believe that the freedom to make such a choice is worth preserving. Frankly, I can’t believe that deep down, or even just a little below the surface, a great many Republicans anywhere to the left of James Dobson feel much differently.
I think that state-level polling is already showing Palin generally helps McCain most in the sure-fire Red states, where he needs it least. If anything, her selection has apparently brought a number of righteously insulted Hillaryites scurrying, albeit still a bit huffily, back to the fold, and so far, independents, undecideds, and various other habitual fence-sitters still seem noncommittal at best. I’m not about to pass judgment on whether McCain’s vice-presidential pick and the restructuring of his campaign around it will ultimately prove a help or a hindrance to his efforts overall. I can only say that in choosing Sarah Palin, Johnny Mac has given me at least as compelling a reason to vote for his opponent as, to date at least, anything that opponent himself has been able to provide.

Well, by my standards, at least, the Democratic Convention was a roaring success. The way I see it, any of these quadrennial affairs in which the Dems don’t come across as totally out of touch, not just with mainstream America, but with each other as well, is cause, if not for celebration at least for thanks that a potential disaster has been averted. It’s true enough that Barack Obama played second fiddle to the Billarys (or speculation pertaining thereto) for three-fourths of the affair, and what was supposed to be Senator C’s “get-on-board” speech on Tuesday seemed more of an invite to join her cruise than his. Her references to Oby were scant and when they came, they conveyed roughly the same level of enthusiasm that I typically feel for my annual prostate exam. Hillary did manage to sound almost convincing on Wednesday, however, when she entered a choreographed motion to have the guy who screwed up the Billary blueprint for eternal world domination nominated by acclamation. As for ol’ Bubba, well, his lips are still pooched out on account of not getting what he wanted and expected and knows he by-God deserved, but since he hates the folks who tried to impeach him almost as much as he hates Oby, he flung most of his sour grapes at the Repubs. It was no surprise that Oby came through with a stem-winder of an acceptance speech, although some people thought the idea of doing it in a football stadium with a backdrop of imposing Doric columns was a bit grandiose. (What happened to the billowing fog? Somebody forget the dry ice?)
Actually, I think it’s a good thing if the Dems are finally catching on to what the Repubs have understood for a long time. Conventions are not really held for the enjoyment or enlightenment of the party faithful. They are spectacles, ideally controlled ones, that represent the campaign’s greatest single opportunity to court those who are not committed to the party or sold on its candidates. The target audience, therefore, isn’t particularly interested in seeing a bunch of pimply, pencil-necked zealots arguing about the precise wording in a platform plank or about much of anything else, for that matter. I mean, if all the folks in the party can’t buy into the party line, what can they expect from a bunch of folks who just tuned in only because they couldn’t stand to watch another “CSI” rerun. The basic problem with Democratic Conventions in recent years has been that they’ve too darned democratic. The Republicans, on the other hand, understand that differences are not meant to be aired (especially in prime time) but played down, or better yet, put down if at all possible. When they strayed from this core principle back in 1992 and 1996 by allowing the lunatic fringe to take the podium in prime time, they scared the sovereign voters so badly that they wound up electing Bill Clinton.
I liked Oby’s choice of Joe Biden as his running mate, if for no other reason that Joltin’ Joe will not shrink from giving the GOP attack machine as good (or bad) as it dishes out. Joe’s also good for a gaffe or two sufficient to send the media into an absolute tizzy.
Meanwhile, Johnny Mac is grinning like the proverbial jackass eating briars after stealing Oby’s post-convention thunder by announcing Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his VP choice. I don't know John Boy, Palin may turn out to be an absolutely brilliant pick, but from a purely tactical standpoint, I have to confess I just can’t see it.
There’s really no need to rehash the downside here, but what the heck? Let’s do it anyway. In an effort to address concerns that he looks and acts like Methuselah’s older brother, McCain gave repeated assurances that he would take extraordinary care in selecting the best qualified person possible to step in if he happened to choke on a prune pit or go all apoplectic and blow out a major artery while trying to turn on his computer. So after the extensive vetting process he promised, he decides that the best possible person to succeed one of the oldest and certainly not one of the healthiest people to hold the most powerful position in the world is someone who built her political resume as the mayor of Mayberry North? My memory hardly serves much better than McCain’s these days, but hasn’t the primary Republican beef against Oby been his lack of experience?
Regardless of how things turn out eventually, don’t be surprised if, initially, at least, Palin’s greatest weakness actually affords her some buffering. Dems who are salivating over the prospect of a Biden-Palin debate might be a little frustrated when their guy questions her grasp of Pakistani politics and winds up coming across as a smug Inside-the-Beltway smartypants trying to embarrass a self-described small-town “hockey mom” who can hardly be expected to know or care about such things in the first place.
Anyone who thinks successful politicians have to be thoughtful and informed, is likely to be a Democrat anyway, and we all know how they’ve fared so far this century. There’s actually a lot to admire about Palin. She walks the way she talks on a variety of issues, and certainly her decision to bear a Down’s Syndrome child makes her opposition to abortion seem a matter of deep principle rather than mere political convenience . Palin’s primary religious affiliation has been with The Assembly of God, a Pentecostal outfit that affirms “Speaking in Tongues” as “The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.” I actually think it would be terrific to have a VP who talks in tongues. At the very worst, whatever Palin says in that mode will do the country a lot less harm than the utterances of the odious chicken hawk who currently holds the office to which she aspires.
I have read several reports suggesting that Palin’s selection has persuaded the "Religious Right" to finally hop aboard the Johnny Mac Express. I’d say that depends on who the religious right really is. A gushing Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religion Liberties Commission says Palin is "straight out of veep central casting." Land even claims he urged the McCainers to give her a look-see. This is interesting since the Assemblies of God ordain women as ministers while the SBC does not. In fact, when the group’s annual assembly declared in 2000 that "while both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture," it was Land himself who explained "We, as Baptists, are people of the Book. . . . Most Christian traditions, in most places, in most of the centuries of the Christian faith, have understood that the office of pastor is to be filled by a man."
Just in case you might be thinking that the SBC’s stance on women in the pulpit applies only to the affairs of the church and not the affairs of the world, take a gander at the more far-ranging 1984 resolution on which the 2000 statement is based: “While Paul commends women and men alike in other roles of ministry and service (Titus 2:1-10), he excludes women from pastoral leadership (1 Tim. 2:12) to preserve a submission God requires because the man was first in creation and the woman was first in the Edenic fall (1 Tim. 2:13ff).” If you require further evidence of how extensively some Southern Baptists use greedy ol’ Eve’s first bite of the apple to justify the proverbial glass ceiling, how about the response of Dr. Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Ft. Worth (and former Southern Baptist Convention president) to a lawsuit challenging his institution’s policy against women teaching theology to men? “ This,” Patterson insisted, “is not a question of occupation. It is a question of an assignment from God, in this case that a woman not be involved in a teaching or ruling capacity over men."
Richard Land’s professed eagerness to place someone whom he would not allow to take the pulpit in his own church only an uncertain heartbeat away from the most powerful position in the world is all too typical of the hypocritical and reckless political opportunism of the Religious Right’s main mouthpieces. But what about the rank and file of the SBC flock? Out of roughly seventeen million Southern Baptists, how many might really be inclined to think St. Paul trumps a not-so-saintly John the non-Baptist?
Palin’s stand against abortion may prove a mitigating factor here., but if I am to believe that Hillary’s gender undercut her effort to win her party’s nod, I don’t feel I am going too far out on a limb to suggest that whether it’s rooted in religious doctrine or simply in plain pure-tee ol’ meanness and ignorance, there’s probably at least as much sexism afoot among the Repubs as among the Demos. So far, it seems to me that the women who are genuinely enthusiastic about Palin are mostly GOP conservatives who had heretofore been lukewarm at best about Johnny Mac. Meanwhile, although the McCain camp obviously thought choosing Palin might win over some hard core Hillary women, this bunch generally seems madder now at McCain than Obama because they are insulted by the apparent presumption that their votes could be secured simply by picking a running mate—any running mate, even an anti-abortion one—of the female persuasion. It may be fitting if this week’s Republican convention is cut short by a hurricane, because this may well have more than its share of stormy weather in the next two months.

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