Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Sometimes I wonder whether John McCain isn’t playing with a full deck. Other times, I wonder whether McCain isn’t just playing rope a dope. Either way, it’s a scary prospect.

Five days have now elapsed since McCain whisked Barack Obama off the front pages of the news. With each day, this election spirals further and further out of control. No, I’m not talking about the competitiveness of the race; that remains in the balance and probably will continue to do so until election night, particularly after Sara Palin gave such a well-received speech. I’m referring instead to the level of elevation in the discourse – in other words, I’m referring to the importance of the ideas that will likely decide the outcome. Or, in this case, the lack thereof.

We have two men who present a study of contrasts on virtually all the major issues of public policy. One guy wants to be the world’s policeman, the other the world’s diplomat. One guy wants to cut taxes on the rich, the other wants to raise them. One guy wants to “drill, drill, drill,” the other wants to “save, save, save” when it comes to the use of fossil fuels. One guy likes our health care system pretty much the way it is, the other actually wants to make health care available to people who are poor. One guy wants to compromise on the propriety of torture (after having been tortured), the other wants to see torture outlawed.

These are pretty significant issues. But instead, we find ourselves talking about sex, guns, the unborn, and … proper names for children (what’s your preference, Dweezil or Track?). Anyway, I’m beginning to think that this election is going to be decided based on what Benedict Joe Lieberman would call “michegas.” This moment in history is too important to let us see that happen.

So here’s the deal, my fellow Democrats, and all others who think that John McCain is off his rocker: let’s focus everyone’s attention on where it needs to be focused, and not on the circus known as the candidacy of Sara Palin. There are still only two candidates for President. One gave a profoundly inspired speech in Denver, which is but one of many profoundly inspired speeches he has given in the past year. We need to talk about Barack Obama, and why he was able to defeat arguably the most powerful political machine in modern American history. We need people to know that finally, we aren’t simply supporting the “lesser of two evils,” we’re supporting someone who has a chance to become one of our greatest Presidents. He displayed his class yet again this week when he threatened to fire any staffer whom he catches making an issue of his opponent’s children. This guy is a keeper, and we need to make sure he’s elected.

The other object of our attention should be the man formerly known as Senator John McCain. He’s the man responsible for playing eeny, meeny, miny, moe with the office of the Vice Presidency, and quite possibly the Presidency. He wasn’t getting any younger prior to this week, and I can’t believe he hasn’t aged five months in the last five days.

Seriously, the pick of Sarah Palin seemed nutty on Friday. Some would say that, after tonight’s speech, it looks pretty craft. But personally, it just pisses me off – not because I think it will (or will not) prove effective for McCain’s chances of victory, but because of what it says about John McCain.

Where did McCain get off selecting an unknown who he didn’t bother to vet? Where did get off ripping into Barack Obama’s experience all summer, only to select someone with even less experience to mar our collective fall? Where did McCain get the chutzpah to select a “reformer” who supported the Bridge to Nowhere just two years ago, or a “lover of nature” who supports drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve and doesn’t believe that people have had a hand in global warming? Where did McCain get the gall to call himself a maverick Republican, and then select a running mate who is as far right as Dennis Kucinich is left? And where did McCain get the bright idea to select a potential “Commander in Chief” who not only has no foreign policy experience, but hasn’t even given much thought to the issues underlying the Iraq War?

Yeah, I know, it sounds like I’m coming down on Palin more than McCain. But truly, I’m not. I have very little against Palin. She may not be qualified for VP or President, but few people are. She may be far to the right, but that’s every bit her right, just as it is Kucinich’s right to be so far left. I don’t come down on sincere people who happen to be at a difference place on the ideological spectrum than I am.

In accepting the nomination, didn’t she simply answer a call to duty from the leader of her Party? If anything, she’s had a raw deal herself this week, having to put up with all this National Enquirer crap about her daughter’s sex life, her own unsubstantiated “extra marital” affairs, and her husband’s DWI from two full decades back. Seriously, people should leave that junk out of the equation. Some of it is sexist, and much of it is hypocritical: the last I checked, none of us come from perfect families or have perfect pasts.

Part of Palin’s problem is that none other than Barack Obama has come to her defense. For yet another week, he’s had perfect pitch. So Palin comes across as petty when she attacks Barack, particularly given that the American public agrees more with him on the issues than with either McCain or Palin.

So how then does the GOP compete with Barack Obama? It seems that the only way McCain gains on him is by running attack adds that are more ruthless, more mocking, than Obama’s. Even now, McCain is on TV, yet again, lambasting Obama for being all talk and no action – in contrast to Sarah, the superhero. Spare me, McCain. Just spare me. You had your chance to run a dignified campaign, in which you could legitimately toast your honorable service in the Senate and in the Vietnam War and point out how Obama’s experience pales in comparison. But that wasn’t good enough for you. You had to question Obama’s patriotism, suggesting that he’d rather win an election than a war. Then, you had to question his substance, by comparing him to Britany and Paris, and later had to mock him as uppity, by comparing him to Moses. (A comparison Palin repeated yet again tonight.) Tonight, after Barack gratuitously came to the defense of your VP selection when she was being roasted by the media, your speechwriters had the temerity to put in Palin’s mouth the idea that Barack doesn’t really care about changing the world, he only wants to improve his career.

You’ve done it now, “my friend.” You’ve turned into Karl Rove with POW stories.

My fellow Democrats, when you consider the kind of campaign that John McCain has run, please don’t let him off the hook. Turn your heads away from Track, Willow, Piper, Twig and even Bristol (as well as that self-proclaimed “redneck” boyfriend of hers). Try to resist your fascination with the latest “celebrity” politician, aka The Sexy Librarian. Look squarely at John McCain. He is the man responsible for turning our politics into a horrid soap opera. He did it because he was desperate – not desperate to serve, just desperate to win.

It’s a state of mind that has never characterized Barack Obama, who even now won’t go for the jugular. He prefers instead to serve as a model of class. Some Republicans think that’s what makes McCain the better man -- they value ruthlessness in a “man’s sport” like politics. But just you wait. When this election is over, and Barack has likely emerged the victor, he will be able to unify this country. If, by contrast, McCain were somehow able to pull a rabbit out of Palin’s hat based on debates about sex, guns, and fetuses … and the relentless mockery of a distinguished statesman and a truly historic candidate … I suspect this country will be even more divided and paralyzed than it is today.

We can’t afford that. Not with the real threats out there that Sarah hasn’t bothered to think much about until now, but you and I know exist.


Betty C. said...

Absolutely a stunning post, Dan -- worthy of publication, really (elsewhere than on your blog!)

Sorry I haven't been keeping up but I am following the political scene closely.

I too have wondered if McCain hasn't lost his mind...or at least much of it.

Daniel Spiro said...

Thanks, Betty.

I have no idea who the true McCain is -- are we seeing it now? Or did we see it in 2000? Got me.