Monday, October 27, 2008

Another GOP Traitor

This blog was started in frustration from watching the talking heads and politicians lie and misstate the facts for whatever advantage they seemed to crave at the time, no matter how counterproductive a stand might be for the country or even themselves.

As we wind down to Election Day, such backbending has come to a head - but also will hopefully soon subside, at least for a while.

In honor of the upcoming respite from 24/7 political bullshit flying in my face, I have decided to come out of the voting closet and declare my intentions to vote for ABM - Anybody But McCain.

While I do, with reservation, endorse Sen. Barack Obama - it is only because the alternatives (from any party) are completely unpalatable.

Sen. John McCain built his reputation as a war hero and political maverick. He braved imprisonment and torture in Viet Nam, and earned the well exercised right to refer to VC's as "gooks" up through 2004. He sided, rightly, against President Reagan when he deployed US Marines to Lebanon, and celebrated their return after their barracks were destroyed in Beirut. He crossed the Senate aisle time and time again for efforts he championed, including the infamous McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act. And most recently, he supported President Bush and his horrible misadventure in Iraq when no one else would; notable especially given that antiwar sentiment made Rep. Ron Paul a serious GOP Primary rival and propelled Sen. Obama to his party's nomination.

However, the maverick has long since disappeared into the sunset. In his place is a man who fights for power and an ability to make war with anyone, anywhere. He supported the bailout when constituents across the country filled Congress' email boxes with opposition - even when he could have pointed to a record of supporting fiscal reform. He, along with much of the West, was on the wrong side of the short lived war in Georgia - waged by a man who dared to preemptively bomb his own citizens during the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. And in a classic Faustian/Tolkienic exchange for power, with the GOP nomination he accepted all that was bad about the right wing of the Republicans (xenophobia, exceptionalism, stratospheric naivete, batshit craziness) and none of the good (humility, morals, frugality).

While McCain may be a great candidate for the US Senate - as someone with enough ego and enough political capital to stop too much insanity from becoming law - he is obviously not a strong enough personality to bring the maverick to the White House. And unlike President Clinton, he has no GOP version of a Democratic Leadership Council to back him up. A moderate politician without a moderate base of support is simply an extremist who won't get much sleep.

As for third parties - this cycle they are a joke. Rep. Bob Barr of the Libertarian Party has gone the way of Ambassador Alan Keyes - he likes "being" a Presidential candidate, he just doesn't seem to like the idea of trying to actually win. Ralph Nader has some interesting things to say, but one wonders if he simply squanders funds with his quadrennial run for the White House. Personally, I have always felt that third parties belong in the grassroots... it's much cheaper to run for small city councils and county commissions than for the top jobs - and such positions have a lot more day to day influence.

Which leaves us with Sen. Obama. Had he been up to it, Republican and former coach Mike Ditka could have stopped Obama's candidacy back in Illinois during his first (and only) US Senate race. Obama's political fortunes have seemed destined to be carried on the back of GOP disfunction. While Obama has a definite lack of experience and not much legislation to his name (not necessarily a bad thing), his sense of timing is impeccable. And as celebrities go (Obama was the basis for Blair Underwood's character on L.A. Law) America has been lucky so far. Sen. Fred Thompson, Pres. Reagan, Gov. Ventura, and Gov. Schwartzenegger are all passable politicians who were elected more for who or what they were than for completing an American cursus honorum.

Thankfully, Sen. Obama is more than an articulate black man in a "throw the bums out" suit. While his ideas on the economy and capitalism in general are suspect, his ability to think through ideas and develop policy are not. When the Democrats took back the US Senate, Sen. Hillary Clinton declared that her failed and ridiculed 1990s plan for Universal Healthcare was back as well. Thanks to his butchering of a classic Beach Boys song, in a McCain administration Tehran is doomed - and to hell with the consequences. Everything available from Obama's background (unfortunately that includes his law review days) seems to indicate that he would facilitate decent policy, and not dictate bad policy. And in this cycle that's the best we've got.

The best advice I have received concerning choosing a candidate or a party was from a good friend and colleague of mine. He once said that he couldn't see himself voting for someone if he couldn't see himself associating with his supporters. For me, I couldn't see myself hanging out with the zealous halfwits that supported Vice President Al Gore in 2000 or Kerry in 2004. Now, thanks to the xenophobic frenzy that the McCain-Palin campaign has stirred up - I wouldn't be caught dead in a GOP rally.

Nothing is certain in politics, and the best know how to campaign one way and govern another. It's my opinion that Sen. Obama hasn't yet mastered those tricks, and he would generally willing to look beyond his leftist leanings and at least make an effort to govern in a way that reflects the facts and is best for the country. If that isn't audacious hope, I don't know what is.

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