Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The McCain Illusion

Like many people back in 2000, I bought somewhat into the notion that Senator John McCain was a maverick Republican and an independent voice. Until early 2004, McCain somewhat maintained that reputation by criticizing various aspects of Bush's Iraq policy. Of course, given the acrimony of the 2000 campaign, there was no love lost between McCain and Bush.

But a funny thing happened in 2004. The details are still somewhat fuzzy and there are variations on the story but there were rumors and stories in 2004 that John Kerry had approached McCain about a bipartisan ticket with McCain as the vice president. Some say that it was McCain who approached Kerry but that doesn't make too much sense unless it was a cold calculation on McCain's part that was really directed at Bush. However, if it was McCain that was asked, Kerry may have unintentionally called McCain's bluff. In reality, McCain is no bipartisan maverick and perhaps never was even if he crossed the aisle now and then to work with others on joint bills as he did on accounting for Americans left behind in Vietnam.

In an era where Republicans drifted as far right as imaginable, a seemingly ordinary conservative Republican who's an easy story may seem moderate in the eyes of the media. Still, something reporters may have overlooked is that in the collegial slow-moving atmosphere of the Senate, it's possible to cajole somebody like McCain on a personal level, even if the man has a temper. In the fast-paced pressure-cooker of the White House, however, I doubt McCain could quickly come to the right decisions or at least change his mind later when it's important. Not with that temper of his. Not with his age becoming a factor. For almost eight years, we have seen how Bush stumbles over his ego and stubbornness rather think a policy through—or at least learn the facts. We don't need more stumbles on an almost daily basis.

Here's the latest stumble from McCain as mentioned in Newsday:
John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee and a supporter of the war, was considerably more gentle in his questioning of Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, during their testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Arizona senator, who recently confused the two main Muslim sects -- Shia and Sunni -- nearly repeated the gaffe, calling Sunni-led al-Qaida "an obscure sect of the Shias" before quickly correcting himself.

Even if McCain could keep pace with any numbers of events that are quickening, he is after all a conservative and he has been far too frequently wrong on Iraq and abyssmally wrong on the economy. Like Bush, the Senator from Arizona is attached to failed conservative policies and doesn't seem to learn from his mistakes.

With McCain, there's the added problem that he tends to tell members of the media what they want to hear. The ability to tell the media what they want to hear is not the same as the ability to make the right decisions. And too many on the cable news networks failed to see McCain's many contradictions and inconsistencies, such as when he suddenly embraced Bush four years ago. Here's a story in The Washington Post that covers some of what happened in the spring of 2004 before McCain joined a campaign trip in June for President Bush:
... McCain's trip with Bush grew out of a meeting this spring between White House senior adviser Karl Rove and John Weaver, a top adviser to McCain, who became a Democratic consultant after the bitter campaign between Bush and McCain.


The meeting represented the beginning of a rapprochement between the two men and in a symbolic sense between the Bush and McCain camps. "There had to be a breaking of the ice and a breaking of the logjam," said one source familiar with the meeting. "What better way for that to occur than to have the two main antagonists in the drama doing it?"

The Bush team's outreach to McCain occurred at the same time Kerry was trying to entice the Arizonan to join him on what some Democrats fantasized could be a unity ticket that could attract moderate Republicans.

It may have been important for Bush to neutralize McCain's VP chances in order to enhance his own chances of reelection. But McCain took the new relationship very seriously, so seriously that one has to wonder what was promised? Help in 2008?

Here's an example a couple of days later from the San Francisco Chronicle of McCain jumping wholeheartedly on the Bush bandwagon:

... McCain's political relationship with Bush has been so frosty that Kerry reportedly talked recently to the Arizona senator about running for vice president on the Democratic ticket.

McCain put an end to those suggestions Friday, joining the president in a morning visit with troops at Fort Lewis in Washington state, then flying to Reno to give Bush a ringing endorsement for his work in Iraq, calling it "noble, achievable and necessary.''

Leaving Saddam Hussein in charge in Iraq was a risk the country could not take, McCain said. While the war "has surely had its ups and downs,'' Bush's efforts "deserve not only support, but admiration. He has led with great moral clarity and resolve.''

If the reader can stop gagging on McCain's fawning hyperbole for a moment, it might be worth asking if this is the moment McCain's 2008 presidential bid began? This kind of brazen about face, flip flop as some call it, requires enormous ambition. There is no integrity in being a consistent Bush critic for four years (at least when McCain wasn't voting) and suddenly fawning on the man. For the those of us paying attention, 2004 is when it became obvious that McCain was an illusion.

We have learned a great deal more since then. A new book is out called The Real McCain by Cliff Schecter; here's more on it in the Huffington Post. McCain's temper and many contradictions and inconsistencies are going to become more of an issue as time goes by. We simply cannot afford another president like George W. Bush. The media, unfortunately, is still in love with John McCain. These are the same guys that talked endlessly about George W. Bush in his flight suit as he embarrassed his presidency with his Mission Accomplished speech on Iraq. There's more on the media/McCain love affair in Daily Kos.

The Democrats have their work cut out for them. If the Democratic nominee can run against John McCain, the Democrats may be able to change a few things in Washington and bring about some measure of badly needed reform. If the Democratic nominee is forced to run against the Illusion, George W. Bush may have his successor and third term by proxy. And the same failed policies will continue.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Greenspan Endorses Man Who Knows Nothing About the Economy

Andrea Mitchell's husband, Alan Greenspan, whose lack of integrity on tax policy has given us mounting debt as far as the eye can see, is endorsing John McCain. The Huffington Post has the story from Reuters and includes Greenspan's growing obliviousness to cause and effect:
There is more than a 50 percent chance the United States could go into recession, former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan told El Pais newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.

Greenspan, the U.S. Fed chairman from 1987 to 2006, endorsed the Republican presidential candidate....

Republican economics is a failure. The presidency of George W. Bush is a failure. And yet, John McCain, who wishes to continue many of Bush's policies, including more war in Iraq and elsewhere, and who admits he knows nothing about economics, is getting a growing number of endorsements. Our nation is on *TILT* and there is a chance the idiocy will continue.

I mention Andrea Mitchell, a reporter I once respected maybe ten to fifteen years ago, because of a post today by Digby. I'm not a great fan these days of Hillary Clinton but she may have gotten a bum rap this time around on the hospital story. The real story on Hillary is not that she hung on to Mark Penn too long but that she could have easily won the nomination with a more realistic and updated campaign (see this post in Talking Points Memo).

But there were major signs over the last two years that Hillary Clinton was falling behind in her awareness of a number of issues, including in particular Iraq and energy. No doubt political triangulation played a role, but I'm still surprised at how hard she fought for ethanol despite the many obvious problems (there may still be a small role for ethanol in our need for new energy but a small role is all it can be) and despite the need for a more comprehensive energy plan.

The people over at The Oil Drum are working hard on a variety of energy issues. I spent some time going over this article and this article today. They're abstract to some degree but essential reading for those who need to catch up on energy issues. One of the points made was that we have known we had an energy problem for more than thirty years and have blindly insisted on doing little. We cannot afford that any longer.

We're heading for hard times. How it's all going to unfold is hard to say. In fact, if we're very lucky and get some competent leadership in Washington, the current recession might be mitigated sooner than later and the hard times I'm talking about will come later. If we're lucky. If we can wait a year for competent leadership to show up. Assuming it does show up. Which it won't if McSame is elected.

I'm optimistic by temperament but I'm capable of looking at brutally hard facts. Here's something to think about. Anyone willing to pay attention has known for centuries that wars cause shortages, particularly shortages of food. At the end of World War I, there were major food shortages in Europe. Without computers we, meaning the United States, figured out how much food was needed, where to get it and where to send it. We understood the problems very well. And that was almost a hundred years ago.

One of the dirtiest secrets of World War II was that German army knew that if Hitler insisted on a war with Russia, there was a reasonable chance, if the war lasted two or three years, that 20 million people would die in Eastern Europe from famine. The logistics people in the German army had calculated the numbers. The army knew.

I'm not talking about the Nazis or the SS. I'm talking about Germany's military professionals. They pointed to the Nazis and the SS for the crimes that followed but they knew what was likely to come before they ever crossed the Russian frontier. The point? I have no doubt any number of people know what problems we're facing worldwide and too many of them are sitting on the numbers. If Americans and people everywhere want a halfway decent future, they better start doing a better job of digging out the facts. They can't keep relying on the know nothings like George W. Bush and John McCain.

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