Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Obama-Biden vs. McCain-Palin '08

Now that the major party conventions are over, and I've listened to the speeches, and I've listened to the responses to the speeches, I wanted to outline the reasons I have decided to vote for Barack Obama for President. This will not surprise anyone, I'm sure, but I believe the exercise of explaining one's choice strengthens our democracy. Citizens of other free nations tend to be much more elaborate about why they're choosing candidate X over Y in my experience. Here we watch a few ads, plaster a bumper sticker on our car, and call it a day. Personally, I feel that if you can't tell someone else why you're voting the way you are, perhaps you haven't given the decision-making process the time it deserves. So here goes.

There is one criterion on which someone could sincerely, nonpartisanly argue that McCain is a better choice for working- and middle-class Americans (i.e., the majority of us), and that is in foreign policy experience. Experience, though, as Governor Mitt Romney could be read to suggest recently, is only the means to an end, not the end itself:
Mitt Romney promoted Sen. John McCain's foreign policy experience Sunday, arguing that "judgment comes from experience."
Indeed, it is judgment that counts in a president.

The judgment we could expect from Obama or McCain as president is something we can only truly gauge so far from their first presidential decision: their running mate choices. Anticlimactic as it may have been in comparison, Obama's choice of Senator Joe Biden strongly demonstrates that he took seriously the obligation to choose a running mate who could step in immediately as President should he die in office. Choosing Biden didn't hurt his campaign in any way, but Joe didn't bring in any specific, politically advantageous demographic that Obama needed to court either (scrappy kids from Scranton notwithstanding), so there's no way to argue that Biden was an overtly political choice. He was a mature and responsible choice.

Then we come to McCain's choice. Arguing, as NYTimes columnist William Kristol did yesterday, that "
Character, judgment and the ability to learn seem to matter more to success as president than the number of years one’s been in Washington" as a defense of selecting a running mate without experience, might indeed justify choosing Teddy Roosevelt or Harry Truman, but to extrapolate their success in rising to the challenge to justify McCain's choice opens up an entirely new debate on Palin's character, judgment and ability to learn, and perhaps McCain's as well.

Of those three, character is the only one you can even remotely garner from watching someone make a few prepared speeches. Based on that limited exposure and examining the information it provided, I would say Governor Palin's character is defined by an appealing life story, an impressive ability to balance career and family, an irresistible optimism, a firm belief in Pentecostal teachings, a firmer belief that those same teachings are indistinguishable from what makes for a sound government (even when serving a pluralistic society), and the ability to tell an outright lie into a camera without flinching. All in all, I'd conclude that puts her, character-wise, among the politians I would I would happily exchange pleasantries with about the weather or sports and perhaps buy cookies to support her children's camping group, but would, as a courtesy, avoid discussing religion with and wouldn't trust with a spare key to my house.

As for her judgment, not having seen her answer any tough questions about important issues yet, I'll defer to Senator McCain's opinion of it. But before that, though, let me note what this choice says of his judgment. From what I can tell, his choice of Governor Sarah Palin strongly demonstrates he's willing to take a serious risk, potentially at our expense, and simply hope (because he doesn't have much else to go on) that the Governor will come up to speed on the national economy and international relations in time to lead effectively should he die in office. Palin's record is undeniably thin on such matters, and she hasn't been through a tough national primary in which she was asked to explain her positions on them, and so McCain seems to be asking us to rely on what he ascertained in the relatively short vetting process to be her sound ability to make life-and-death decisions for 350,000,000 Americans. That would be asking a lot, in my opinion.

There is another explanation here, of course, and that is that McCain wasn't concerned with Palin's experience or readiness to step in and be President should he die in office. Rather, he was concerned with bringing in a specific, politically advantageous demographic that he needed to court (specifically, the Right's Evangelical base), making Palin an entirely, overtly political choice. If that's the case, then he is lying to us when he says "She's exactly who this country needs." Sarah Palin is merely exactly who John McCain needs.

The "ability to learn" (Kristol's final criterion) is a booby trap. Compare the education of the one candidate who has arguably less experience than his counterpart (Senator Obama has a law degree from Harvard) with that of the other (Governor Palin has a bachelor of science degree in communications-journalism from the University of Idaho) and even before you come to any conclusions about what that says about their ability to learn you will have mobs of angry faux-populists wielding pitchforks and chanting "Elitism is Un-American." It would be nice if we could honestly discuss whether a J.D. vs. a bachelors in journalism reflected a stronger ability to learn, but alas, in a campaign where race and gender are finally, finally much less relevant, the pseudo-folksy anti-intellectual pose adopted by both cynical political operatives and lazy-ass underachievers who relish in the license that lends them to feel superior without having to work for it still...remarkably...inconceivably...remains a hot-potato issue in this country. Let me say, for the record, that being incurious is not a virtue. It only helps the people eager to take advantage of you convince you that it is.

So back to what we can tell about the candidates' judgment based on their VP picks. It's clear to me that Obama has exercised more maturity and seriousness, more concern for the nation rather than his chances in November, and in that way more respect for "we the people" in his running mate choice than McCain has. As that is the only truly presidential decision they have made thus far, that is a significant factor in my decision.

But there are some other important issues to consider here. The country as a whole is clearly seen as heading in the wrong direction, as shown by the response to this question in a recent poll:

"How well are things going in the country today: very well, fairly well, pretty badly or very badly?"

DATEVery Well (%)Fairly Well (%)Pretty Badly (%)Very Badly (%)Unsure (%)

While I appreciate that McCain and Palin intend to shake things up in Washington, you do have to wonder why the same Republicans who cheered at their national conventions in 2000 and 2004 weren't insulted by what they heard from their candidates in 2008. Seriously, it was as if they thought McCain and Palin were talking about some other party. Someone clearly needs to help them connect the dots here. Let me try:
Dear Republicans, YOU are the ones who have held the White House for the past 8 years. YOU are the ones who have controlled Congress all but two of those years. YOU are the ones who voted more than 90% of the time with President Bush. YOU are the ones whose policies are now seen as needing to be shaken up. YOU...YOU...YOU are responsible for the poll results above. YOU!

And yet, there you were, wildly, giddily, deliriously cheering the promise that these self-labeled mavericks were going to make you change your ways. Uh...why not just change your ways yourselves, if you're that much in favor of it?
The other thing a McCain-Palin administration would bring of course is even more discouragement and mistrust among the world's other nations with regard to how much we've learned about the abuse of power over the past 8 years. Palin, who doesn't have much of a position on Iraq to speak of, other than disagreeing with her running mate about the need for an "exit plan," did offer the following indication of how seriously she would approach the task of restoring America's reputation as a country of ideals and moral principles:
Al Qaida terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America, and he's worried that someone won't read them their rights.
As Newsweek's fact-checker pointed out, however:
Obama isn't worried, as Palin said, "that someone won't read them their rights" when it comes to suspected terrorists who are detained by the U.S. He does, however, support the right of detainees to challenge their imprisonment in federal court. That's the same position the Supreme Court took in June in a case called Boumediene v. Bush.
So whereas Obama's stated concern is that, as a nation, we need to comply with our own Constitution (as interpreted by the Roberts Supreme Court, no less), Palin apparently feels that that court decision isn't quite right. Or at least it's wrong enough to be worthy of mockery. (Personally, I would be rather surprised to learn she knows anything at all about what was at stake in Boumedien v. Bush, but who knows...maybe some day a reporter can ask her.)

But more of the same bellicose, anti-human-rights rhetoric and moral ambiguity is apparently what McCain feels we need. Never mind that even our BFF, Britain, is having doubts about our trustworthiness...
Given the clear differences in definition, the UK can no longer rely on US assurances that it does not use torture, and we recommend that the Government does not rely on such assurances in the future.

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committe, United Kingdom, July 19, 2008
...so long as these mavericks are calling the shots in the war on terror, we can sleep well at night, can't we? I mean McCain was right about the surge and all that, wasn't he?
McCain's record on Iraq is decidedly mixed. If the Arizona Republican proved prescient in his calls for a military buildup, many of his other predictions and prescriptions turned out wrong.

Before the war, McCain predicted a quick and easy victory, not a vicious insurgency. He issued dire warnings about Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction but didn't read the full 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that showed gaps in the intelligence.
Well, one out of four ain't bad, I suppose. At least McCain's lifetime in the Senate has made him a good judge of the big picture, of who the players are on the world stage. We know because of his own history in Vietnam that he would base decisions such as whether to send our young men and women into harm's way on rigorously informed analysis of what's really going on in the world, right? He's seen war, and hates war as only a soldier can, right? He wouldn't just gobble down the talking points from some neo-conservative think tank when the lives of our fellow citizens in uniform, and the rest of us, were at stake. He'd find out the truth first, right?
MCCAIN: Saddam Hussein is developing weapons of mass destruction as quickly as he can. The Czech government has revealed meetings, contacts between Iraqi intelligence and Mohamed Atta. The evidence is very clear. (October 29, 2001 to Larry King)
There's no question in my mind that the Republicans could use some quiet time to rethink their political strategies, not to mention their brand. When Hillary and Bill Clinton are approvingly mentioned more times at their convention than George W. Bush is; when the ticket runs on a theme of "change" from their own party's policies; when the only sincere excitement in the arena came from a mostly unknown politician and proven bold-faced liar; it's worse than bad judgment to ask for our votes, it's downright unpatriotic.

The choice is really very clear to me. Obama has demonstrated that he understands what the country needs in a president at this point in history. He has weathered a grueling primary season and still manages to be civil, smart, and true to his values. He chose a perfectly qualified running mate. His very candidacy has already worked to help change anti-American sentiments around the world. And he surrounds himself with talented, compassionate people. He is so much more the right choice for President in 2008 than John McCain.

PS: Anyone thinking I'm overselling the bold-faced liar bit, please watch this:

Labels: politics


Blogger Mark said...

As always, thank you Ed for respectfully laying it all out. For me there is no choice but Obama. I'm disgusted by the Christian-ist hypocrisy and underlying, for now, racism. If we ever do get to a debate of the issues, we will win. I'm not surprised by the McCain-Palin supporters, there's a trailer park mentality out there that is ready to eat it all - literally.

9/09/2008 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger Brandon Juhasz said...

Thanks for the non-vitriolic argument. What concerns me most about this and last political seasons is the increased level of anger and hate involved in the political discourse. It's alarming on so many levels, one because politics has become a SMACK-fest of likes of Piper's Corner (the WWF 's Rowdy Rodey Piper wrestling forum of course) Politics really are not about anything but a race to get inside the White House and lock the door so no one else can come in, like capture the flag. Not sure if it is the anonymous nature of internet debates that people can feel free to let loose hate filled and baseless attacks, but lies have become facts and anything goes. If this extreme hate and anger continues I am afraid people are going to start blowing stuff up here much like middle eastern fighting tribes or the Catholics and Protestants...just a thought, either way something needs to change with this Us and Them attitude.

9/09/2008 08:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Ellen said...

Remember high school? Where the football players, prom queens, bullies and gym teachers ruled the world. Where nothing was fair. And your mom told you that you'd win in the end. That math club, band, good manners and kindness would serve you better than being rich and pretty and popular. And all the mean things they said to you would make you stronger and smarter, and they'd all end up pumping gas anyway.

I hope we don't all end up at McCain-Palin High. I really don't wanna go.

9/09/2008 09:52:00 AM  
Anonymous nic said...

Great post. I love politics, but my mind is continuously boggled about how insane this one has become. Some of the ads coming out of the right are outright lying on things that everyone knows are lies and they put on a confident face as if no one will know the difference. It's like they took a cue from the Iraqi Information Minister - Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf. Remember him? That is what comes to mind whenever someone from the republican campaign speaks. If I try to understand how people are supposedly eating this stuff up i might give myself an aneurism.

Anyway. McCain's main trump card was experience. He gave that up with the choice of Palin. How they're trying to spin that she has more "executive" experience that Obama, Biden, and even McCain combined is beyond laughable. That the party is towing such a line is really beyond the pale at this point. Anyway - back to experience. I really wish I had a link to it but I remember sometime over the summer Time magazine did a big story about Presidential experience and it's importance to the presidency and they had a pretty clear chart that showed that often the most experienced Presidents were often not regarded well by history or even their own times. And those who have remained the most popular throughout the times are often "inexperienced" by the criteria used by today's candidates. It clearly showed that "experience" was moot in terms presidential success. At least in the ways that we're speaking about it in this election.

Anyone remember President Grant fondly? No? Well history doesn't either. He was the returning war hero voted into office and did a disastrous job. One of the least liked presidents in history. Although perhaps we're now breaking new ground in that category.


9/09/2008 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Ian Aleksander Adams said...

Brandon, it's true. People are really angry.

I can understand why - the progressives are frustrated because our country seems to be going backwards and they can see oil shortages and global warming creeping up on the world, issues that need international cooperation.

The right is angry because they're worked up into a fervor about issues (such as gay marriage in recent reelections) that have relatively small impact on the rest of the world or human race, but seem large when they're told to consider their personal religious beliefs, for example.

Blogs are great because everyone can talk about their opinion and do their own research. But they're bad because we're more segregated than ever before. I can't stand to read some blogs because they're just yelling and lies and more yelling and lies from the commenters. It's like everyone is patting themselves on the back for how great it is without ever once stepping outside the bubble.

This was one of the best political posts I've seen. Calmly discussing a personal view on issues and citing along the way. Thanks Ed.

9/09/2008 10:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

check out the podcast of Fresh Air from yesterday where Terry Gross interviews Thomas Friedman about his new book on the global environmental crisis. It's just more fuel to your eloquent fire. in the interview he calls out McCain et al. for the ridiculous chants at the convention "Drill, Drill, Drill" and his blatant lying to the uninformed American public about the 'benefits' of drilling. scary stuff.

9/09/2008 12:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will be voting against McCain and continuing the policies of the last eight years. I won't be voting for Obama, though, since I have no clue about what he'll do in office. I've read a few of his position papers and they sound good. But he said he would filibuster FISA and ended up voting for it. Hard to know what he will do beyond not doing anything risky or left leaning. Guess that will have to be enough.

9/09/2008 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

"I will be voting against McCain and continuing the policies of the last eight years. I won't be voting for Obama, though"

ml, I don't totally disagree, and we've been through this before, but this time it's more crucial than ever to "at least prevent a McCain win", it's a start.

"chants at the convention "Drill, Drill, Drill" and his blatant lying to the uninformed American public"

Annon, there can no longer be such a thing as an uninformed public--oblivious public, glutinous public, maybe.

9/09/2008 01:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

USA are in GREAT need to have a sympathetic face to relate to the rest of the world. Vote Obama.

In fact it took me less than 2 minutes in watching McCain speak and know that it would be very stupid to vote for him. It's all synergological. Stop failing to yourself, America.

Cedric C

9/09/2008 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

Thanks for such a measured analysis. I don't have a problem with you calling Palin out as a liar; her much-praised convention speech was a tissue of lie after lie after stinking filthy lie, sprinkled with a generous helping of petty, snide, illiberal pot-shots. She gives me the screaming horrors.

Obviously I am unable to attain your level of cool-headed balance when writing about this.

9/09/2008 01:31:00 PM  
Anonymous sarahpalinfan said...

I think its funny that Moms with one kids are the ones freaking out about her being overworked but the moms with 3+ are like go get em'. And I also think its funny they make up
sarah palin scandal.

9/09/2008 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

While I agree that it's unfortunate there are so many unsubstantiated and unkind rumors about Sarah Palin on the internet, that, as they say, is politics. If Governor Palin can't brush off the mean things her fellow Americans are willing to believe about her, how on earth will she handle the things our enemies abroad will say and do? Besides, there's nothing I've read about Palin that comes close to the outrageous things said about Obama, and he doesn't need to hide from the press because of them.

As for the Bridge to Nowhere story, though, I've seen nothing other than the insistence of disgraced Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens to suggest she hasn't been caught in a blatant lie that she keeps repeating. That displays a serious character flaw in my opinion that no amount of juggling work and family will buy her a free pass out of. If she supported the Bridge initially (and the video shows she did), then she should come clean and explain when and why she had her epiphany. Otherwise, she is untrustworthy.

9/09/2008 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...


Your laying out of the facts is much more measured than my response, which is that McCain is pimping Palin to get the women's vote (and good luck with that, John) while Palin is pimping her kids for the mom vote, and the infant for the special needs vote. McCain is so hungry for the presidency that he caved to the christian right. She's Cheney with lipstick instead of the sneer.

Say NO to a McPain presidency.

9/09/2008 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

I won't be voting for Obama, though, since I have no clue about what he'll do in office.

Whenever i encounter this meme among dems or liberals I am mystified: if ever there was a candidate who puts his vision and policies out there in accessible terms, it's Obama: one need only listen to what he actually says. you can read his books, or watch his speeches and countless interviews, which are substantive, not the usual airy-scary bullshit. I can only say that this idea that he's "an unknown" is one powerful meme. Since when has anyone "known" more about any one candidate?

I am voting FOR Obama. He's a pragmatic visionary -- that's inspiring on a practical level. perhaps he's the hero we don't deserve....

(btw: the entry above with the bad grammar by sarahpalinfan is replicating on various blogs; I smell a bot/troll and a link baiter - I deleted the very same comment from newsgrist).

9/09/2008 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger jeff f said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9/09/2008 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger jeff f said...

Nice post Ed.
Your preaching to the choir though.

Palin is a Zealot and McCain is unstable, those are two very good reasons not to vote for them.

The economy! We are in a free fall here folks, and if we don't watch out we could find ourselves in deeper pig poo than we are in now.

On global warming how is that the governor of the first state in this country to feel the effects of it still thinks it's not happening and if shes does that it's not caused mostly by us.

How is that? While Alaska sinks and melts Sarah Palin is out dressing moose and snowmobiling.

9/09/2008 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger ryan said...

Of all the attacks launched at Obama and the Democrats last week at the RNC, the only one that got my blood boiling was Palin and Guiliani's mocking of Obama's work as a community organizer.

The fact that someone running for the second highest elected office in the country would mock community activism is disgraceful and elitist. It's not just fake arugula-elitist, it's REALLY ELITIST!

Can you imagine the outrage if a Democrat mocked someone's missionary work?

If I were the Obama campaign I'd throw her catch phrase right back at her:

In politics, there are some candidates who began their careers by working to improve the lives of the least fortunate members of their communities. And then there are those, like Sarah Palin, who worked as a television sports reporter and aspired to be a beauty queen.

9/09/2008 09:20:00 PM  
Blogger Brandon Juhasz said...

You know what, I think McCain should change his name to McBain, the crazed Commando from the Simpsons. Just a thought...

Although an all time low blow I read on a certain Dem leaning blog-site was a reference to beauty and the beast. Oofaa...

Sorry to go shallow but I thought it was a little funny, now back to the issues

9/10/2008 07:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Simon K. said...

Thank you for this. It is refreshing to hear a measured tone of voice.

People are definitely starting to get angry, though, and rightly so. McCain's latest attack ad has portrayed Obama as wanted to teach sex to kindergartners--completely distorting a bill he supported back in the Illinois senate, a bill designed to teach children to avoid sexual predators. It really is the most shameless political ad I've ever seen--it's McCain's Willie Horton moment.

There's a lot of debate about how to push back against that sort of thing.

This video has started making the rounds:


Worth taking a look at.

9/10/2008 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Personally, I think the fact that folks are getting angry is mostly Obama's fault.

Don't get me wrong. I know how low the McPain (love that) campaign has sunk with ads like the one you point to, but in this time and place, the Obama team should be able to communicate more clearly just how obviously superior their vision is for the country. I can understand the angry-right base not listening, but if Obama loses the independents to McCain, it will be because he didn't communicate clearly enough the difference.

Or Americans are just stupid.

One or the other.

9/10/2008 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

"because he didn't communicate clearly enough the difference.

Or Americans are just stupid."

It's a little of both, I think they've been thrown off balance by the Palin love fest and Obama is a genuinely nice guy, so refreshing. As we found out with Bush, the public loves the average joe/jane shtick, why even Bobby Jean can be Pezident!

It's fu*king insane out there... people haven't you seen what the Taliban is capable of???

9/10/2008 11:42:00 AM  
Anonymous jason said...

Coming from a position of neutrality on the issue of McCain v. Obama (I choose not to participate in electoral politics, opting instead for direct action and egalitarian forms of social organizing), it's much easier to see why at least half of the American population is much less enamored with Obama than the readers here.

It's even more apparent why at least half of voting-eligible Americans won't bother to vote at all this upcoming election, as both candidates for President increasingly come across as slimy, deceptive assholes (from a long, long line of slimy, deceptive assholes).

Yes, McCain says shit that is totally repugnant, but do you really think that Obama is that different? Like when he recently said that "You can put lipstick on a pig ... it's still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still going to stink after eight years." Are we really supposed to believe that he didn't mean "lipstick" to represent Palin and "old fish" to represent McCain?

But more importantly, McCain's appeals to "change" are just as laughable as Obama's, even though yes, Obama laid claim to the word first by slapping it all over his shiny campaign posters.

Obama's favorite tactic for emphasizing his "change" theme is to compare himself to Bush, especially by stressing his different plans for foreign policy. And yet, while Obama may disagree with Bush on how quickly to remove troops from Iraq, his plans for Afghanistan are in fact more militarily aggressive than Bush's -- so much so that he recently criticized Bush for not sending enough troops, with sufficient urgency, to that country.

So it would seem that, in terms of foreign policy, Obama would indeed be different than Bush, in that instead of leaving troops in Iraq, or eventually bringing them home, Obama instead wants to move them to help occupy a different nation -- a nation that is becoming increasingly frustrated with American military intervention there because civilian deaths are increasing as U.S. bombing raids increase.

Has anyone actually read Obama's campaign website? His defense policy is just as fear-baiting as Bush or McCain's. His argument is not that terrorism is largely a boogeyman used to justify American military expansionism, but that instead Bush is not doing a good job of keeping us safe from those horrible baddies because he's fighting the wrong war, in the wrong way.

Obama's main 'defense' goals are to instead increase the capacity of the military, and increase spending on military technology, which will "provide the backbone of our ability to extend global power." So Obama wants to expand the military in order to expand our global domination -- hmmm, sounds real fucking different, doesn't it?

As an outsider watching the speeches at the recent party conventions, I'm dumbfounded how anti-war activists can cheer on Obama as he promises war and more war. Are they not listening? Have they not been paying attention?

The only thing way I can begin to understand this kind of blind party loyalty is to equate it to a kind of religious faith -- religious faith in one's political party. Or, maybe it's because people don't think there's any other option than picking the militaristic, corporate ass-licking jingoist on the right, or the militaristic, corporate ass-licking jingoist on the left. In that context, those 100,000,000 Americans or more who won't vote at all this November look a whole lot less stupid than you may think.

9/10/2008 11:58:00 AM  
Anonymous James said...

Ed, you mentioned, almost in passing, that the one area in which McCain is a better choice is his "foreign policy experience"?

But this is The Big Lie thing which we were warned about sometime early in the last century. It's repeated everywhere these days, but that doesn't make it so.

Apart from his experience in a job which involved flying over and either bombing or photographing people on the other side of the world, a subsequent stay in a foreign prison and his presence on some military appropriations committees ("yes, of course you can have more money"), McCain has absolutely no foreign policy experience.

He has served on the Senate Armed Services Committe (oversees our military) and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (noting to do with anything foreign),. His attendance record in the Senate is generally abominable, so I seriously doubt whether anything he heard there ever rubbed off.

Above all, nothing gives someone the experience which counts for anything in the conduct of foreign policy but the very job for which McCain's been offered as a candidate. Where he has said anything about the central issue of American foreign policy today, we've seen he's been wrong. I think we would both agree that the record shows that he's not up to it either personally or professionally.

9/10/2008 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Jason, I'm having a bit of trouble believing you're as neutral as you claim to be.

Obama's statement in context:

“John McCain says he’s about change, too — except for economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy and Karl Rove-style politics. That’s just calling the same thing something different.”

With a laugh, he added: “You can put lipstick on a pig; it’s still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change; it’s still going to stink after eight years.”

If it's possible to discern a pun in that, so what? He's clearly talking about their policies not being any different from Bush's. McCain himself has used the phrase "put lipstick on a pig" three times in this campaign, and it's an entirely common expression.

Did he know it would pun in people's minds. Yes, I would bet he did. Was it truly so offensive (as opposed to, as puns tend to be, merely humorous)? Does a pun really warrant this much time when we don't know how McCain will help us get through the economic crisis we're facing, other than to give us more of the same policies that led us here? I don't think so.

And besides, Obama clearly wasn't calling either of them a pig or fish, but if he were it wouldn't come even remotely close, by any measure that reasonable people use, to what McCain implied in this ad.

So don't tell me they're more or less the same. McCain is light year's worse and you know it.

As for Obama's warmonging, with tomorrow the 7th anniversary of the attacks on New York and DC, and the man responsible for it still at large, despite Bush's promise to get him dead or alive 7 freaking years ago, can you really tell me you want a president who doesn't take the threat seriously?

I certainly don't.

In the end, though, you may have a point about blind party faith.

I would hope that observation wouldn't lead you to vote for McCain, though. Cutting off your nose to spite your face.

9/10/2008 12:12:00 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

can you really tell me you want a president who doesn't take the threat seriously?

Aside from any moral concerns about invading countries and killing women and children, I guess that depends on whether you believe that sending massive amounts of troops into Afghanistan, which will cause even more civilian casualties from even more U.S. bombing raids, won't create America-hating terrorists faster than it destroys them, much in the same way this has occurred in Iraq (and much in the same way the 9/11 terrorists were inspired by previous U.S. foreign policy in that region).

9/10/2008 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

sending massive amounts of troops into Afghanistan

That's a rather selective distortion of Obama's stance, though. Here's what he's calling for:

Redeploy American Troops to Afghanistan. Barack Obama will deploy at least an additional two brigades (7,000 personnel) of rested, trained American troops to
Afghanistan to reinforce our counter-terrorism operations and support NATO’s efforts to fight the Taliban.

Strengthen NATO’s Hand in Afghanistan. NATO currently has 39,000 troops in Afghanistan. However, the force is short-staffed according to requirements laid down by NATO commanders. At the same time, some countries contributing forces are
imposing restrictions on where their troops can operate, tying the hands of commanders on the ground. In particular, France and Germany have been unwilling
to commit troops to areas where the fighting is heaviest. As president, Obama will work with European allies to end these burdensome restrictions and strengthen NATO as a fighting force. An increased U.S. commitment to the NATO mission will substantially strengthen our hand in asking for more from our European friends.

• Train and Equip the Afghan Army and Police. American Major General Robert Durbin, who oversees the training of Afghan security forces, recently said only 40 percent of the 70,000-strong police force is properly equipped with weapons,
communication equipment and vehicles. The outgoing head of Canada’s force in Afghanistan estimated it will take at least three years before Afghanistan's corruptionplagued police can stand on its own. Barack Obama will strengthen the training and
equipping of the Afghan army and police and increase Afghan participation in U.S.
and NATO missions, so that there is more of an Afghan face on security.

Increase Non-Military Aid to Afghanistan by $1 billion. Before the American invasion, Afghanistan was a failed state whose government did not provide for the security and needs of its people. It was the perfect environment in which al Qaeda
could flourish. Today, Afghan security is undercut by lack of development, corruption, and drug trafficking. To prevent the country’s backsliding into chaos,
Barack Obama would increase U.S. non-military aid to Afghanistan to $3 billion. This aid would fund reconstruction, police and army training, embassy operations,
and local projects including efforts to impact the lives of ordinary Afghans and to
give farmers alternatives to growing opium poppies. The aid would also be tied to
better performance by the Afghan national government, including anti-corruption initiatives and efforts to extend the rule of law across the country.

Demand More from Pakistan. As was made clear in the recent National
Intelligence Estimate, al Qaeda has successfully made the tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan a base to launch attacks into Afghanistan and beyond. As president, Barack Obama would condition U.S. military aid to Pakistan on their making progress to close down the training camps, evict foreign fighters, and prevent the Taliban from
using Pakistan as a base to strike inside of Afghanistan. In addition, if the United
States has actionable intelligence about high value terrorist targets and Pakistani
President Pervez Musharraf will not act on it, an Obama Administration will. Obama
also will increase aid to Pakistan for development and secular education to counter

Important to keep in mind as to why he's asking to send more troops, though is the fact that under Bush's mismanagement, Afghanistan has destabilized. Unlike in Iraq, though, where the conflict is between sects that we have no business saying one way or the other who should rule, in Afghanistan the conflict is between the people and a paramilitary force that not only kills them mercilessly for extremist ends but also willingly supported the very terrorists who attacked us. I'd say we have every right to help Afghanistan defeat the Taliban once and for all.

9/10/2008 12:49:00 PM  
Anonymous James said...

I'm not as put off by Obama's employment of the word "lipstick" as Jason is, but as I'm not unacquainted with the occasional use of a little hyperbole myself, I'll go on record as saying that he's talking a lot of good sense.

And I add that I'm as "dumbfounded" as he is about "how anti-war activists can cheer on Obama as he promises war and more war. Are they not listening? Have they not been paying attention?" I think the same might be said about any number of other very important issues about which we have heard from Obama, and the Democratic Party generally. I'd like to suggest another (ironic?) reason for our national blindness: Hope, misplaced, once again I'm afraid.

9/10/2008 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


I've heard Obama state that he would expect every diplomatic option to be exhausted before he would go to war.

In the case of Afghanistan, though, it's actually a matter of simply completing the job of rooting out the Taliban, doing what we reasonably can there to dismantle al Qaeda (hopefully stumbling upon some intel that will lead to bin Laden), and stabilizing the country enough for the new government to take over. It's certainly not war for war's sake or war for oil's sake.

To me that's a significant difference.

9/10/2008 01:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

It's war for God's sake. These people believe in a Sharia that says you are evil and must be exterminated. How do you respond to that? They will fight til the end.

Abraham, you son of a bitch, it's all your goddamn fault!

Cedric Caspesyan

9/10/2008 04:14:00 PM  
Anonymous James said...

I can't believe you're saying that, Ed. Have you read it back to yourself?

Obama's position, and your own position is hardly distinguishable from that of our current regime: Pull some troops out of one war in order to build up our troop presence in another. I assume you're just as close to his plan for a continued American bully presence in Iraq (including an "embassy" staffed with 5000 people) and the American bully domination of the entire region, and that's exactly how, where and why the current cycle of war began (the only question is "when" it began, since at some time we assumed the leadership of the crusade begun by the British and the French and the Israelis).

The Afghanistan War was a mistake in the first place, as I have argued, mostly in the wilderness, for seven years. If that weren't the case we wouldn't be where we are at the end of those seven years. In spite of having originally had virtually the entire world on our side and with NATO troops and those of many other nations assisting us, we've accomplished virtually nothing. In fact it's a net loss, for in this campaign we've surrendered many of our freedoms and squandered our wealth, all the while diminishing our real security and undermining our real interests around the world. And at the moment I'm only talking about the damage we've done to Americans, and not to those we clearly regard as the expendable "other". We went into that war in a rage, reacting like an injured tribe or some stupid kid who wanted to get back at the guy what hit him.

So the "reasonable" American may argue: No, let's have just one more war, and I'm sure it won't take a hundred years; . . . no, really, this time it will work - I promise! We will then be secure.

"Foreign policy experience" must not become an American euphemism for military adventurism. We need a better, more creative and intelligent sort of leadership than the crude and rotten sort provided by goons and thugs, the kind with which we have sadly become accustomed.

9/10/2008 06:12:00 PM  

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