Friday, June 13, 2008

The Idiot's Guide to Elections.

A lot of people seemed pretty upset that Barack Obama and his wife knocked knuckles before he delivered his post primary speech. OK. To an almost 40 guy who grew up in Cleveland it didn't seem like a big deal and I suspect to the pundits its not either. It is, however, a very easy thing to focus on.

When I listen to or read the opinions of conservative pundits I get the distinct impression that they think their audience is stupid. So instead of intelligently discussing the differences between McCain and Obama they reduce the argument to hateful diatribes. Before McCain became the front runner people like Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck were denouncing him as a RINO, which is a clever tag neo-conservatives hung on moderate Republicans in 200 and 2004 in order to push forceful social conservative legislation.

So now that McCain is the only option for them they have thrown their support behind him by attacking Obama. Which is fine. That's the way the game is played. The problem is that they are attacking him with ridiculous assertions. They're using his name as a link to terrorism and his connection to Jeremiah Wright makes him a racist. Of course John McCain hails from a state that doesn't recognize Martin Luther King Day and there's a possibility that he was brainwashed when he was held as a POW. I've seen the Manchurian Candidate.

Yes, it's silly. McCain's not a hypnotized sleeper waiting to destroy this country any more than Obama is a socialist. The fact is these men differ on some key issues but when you get down to it they are very similar. McCain and Obama share a desire to address Global Warming and conservation. Where they differ is in economics, taxes and the war in Iraq.

Obama believes that we need to put existing trade agreements on hold until we find out why the US seems to be getting the short end of the deal. NAFTA and GAFTA are great ideas on paper but when other countries are cheating on the pacts they stop working. Obama wants to make sure the US is getting a fair return on its investments. McCain doesn't support dismantling NAFTA. Instead he wants to train out of work laborers hit hard by free trade to find work in science and technology. The problem is that those jobs are being outsourced to places like India. McCain didn't mention what he would do to stop outsourcing.

In reference to taxes, Obama wants to eliminate tax breaks and subsidies for corporations, particularly the big oil companies. McCain feels that this would put a financial burden on the people who make jobs and that playing hardball with oil companies will only force gas prices to rise. It'sa great argument except for the fact that we've had a very business friendly administration for 8 years. Gas prices have more than doubled, wages have gone down and people are facing the hardest economic times since the mid 80s. Shifting the tax burden back to corporations and the exceedingly wealthy makes sense.

As far as Iraq goes, that's a disaster. Our military is overstressed. Nation Guard and Reserve troops have been on active status far too long and stop loss initiatives have delayed discharges for years. People aren't volunteering. The war on terror has a lot of vocal support but nobody seems interested in going beyond lip service. Everybody is willing to stick a magnetic ribbon on their car but nobody is signing up for a stint in the Army.

McCain wants to win. Obama wants to put the onus on Iraqi officials and bring our troops and our money back home. The question is which plan is better. Will Obama's plan allow fundamentalist Islam to thrive? Will McCain's commitment to seeing Iraq through weaken the US as Russia and China are building their Armies? This is what we should be arguing about.

But nobody wants to talk about the issues. Instead they want to make issues out of soundbites and knuckle knocks. Are Americans really that stupid? Or is the average voter too lazy to think?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Hillary's Army

A number of women who support Hillary Clinton have expressed a lot of outrage over the way Hillary has been treated. Apparently they feel that she has been undermined by the Old Boy Network. Issues such as debate moderators referring to her as Mrs. Clinton rather than Senator Clinton and a scant smattering of jerks in the crowd who opted to express sexist comments have fueled this speculation that Hillary is being held back by a glass ceiling. Some of her supporters insist that they’ll vote for McCain to spite Obama even though Obama has conveyed nothing but the utmost respect for Hillary.

One supporter asked if not for sexism how else can one explain the hatred so many people express toward Hillary. That’s easy: She’s a Clinton. For eight years the Republican Party and all of their conservative pundits waged an all out war on the Clintons. Unfortunately for Hillary much of the dirt thrown at Bill ended up on her. She was often characterized as the brains behind the operation which is a point Hillary’s supporters never argued. Blame the venom on partisan politics not a gender bias.

Hillary’s run for the Senate was transparent. It was a poorly kept secret that Hillary had her eyes on the White House and that’s why, at least in the minds of most voters, Hillary never took Bill to task on his philandering. Her marriage was one of political convenience. Hillary could have disputed this notion but she simply refused to discuss the details of how she opted to hold Bill accountable for cheating on her. If she can’t take her husband to task for his very public affairs how can she be expected to confront world leaders?

Hillary and her supporters take a lot of pride in how many votes they secured but Hillary’s campaign seemed to pick up steam after the Mitt Romney stepped down and McCain became the Republican front runner. It’s na├»ve to think that the registered Republicans who voted in the Democratic primary were playing fair. A significant number of Hillary’s votes came from people who wanted to inflict harm on the Democrats by extending the battle.

The clandestine conspiracy Hillary’s supporters insist is designed to keep a woman out of the Oval Office is really just good sense on the part of party leaders who realize that there’s something fishy with this primary. Would Hillary be as popular with the rank and file Democrats if Republicans had been fighting to the bitter end?

Hillary wasn’t the victim of sexism. She was the victim of politics. Most of that was her own doing. She ran for a Senate seat in a tradition Democratic stronghold and beat a weak Republican rival. Hillary had no genuine connection to New York so her political career started off as a ploy. Then she led a very undistinguished life as a Senator. She didn’t make any waves or take any real stands. It was all about photo ops and sound bites.

It’s remarkable that Hillary was able to capture as much support as she did which is a great sign for women. If somebody as unlikeable and suspicious as Hillary can put her self in such high standing within her party you have to wonder what a truly inspirational woman could accomplish.

Shame on Hillary’s supporters who claim they won’t back Obama. That sort of rhetoric undermines everything Hillary accomplished. If her supporters are willing to spite her party that only proves that the sexists in this argument are the bitter old harpies who only supported Hillary because she was a woman.