Saturday, February 09, 2008

My Fellow Democrats: Avoid Calamity and Nominate Obama

In 1996, Republican World War Two hero Senator Bob Dole challenged President Bill Clinton who sought a second term. While the political climate in 1996 was obviously quite different then it is today, like John McCain this year, Bob Dole was a heroic anachronism. Thinking about John McCain, these words from Vice President Al Gore’s speech at the 1996 Democratic National Convention come to mind:
“The president's opponent, Senator Bob Dole, is a good and decent man. We honor his service to America, and his personal courage in fighting back from injuries sustained in battle. Though we disagree with his ideas, only the unknowing would deny him the respect he deserves."
Similarly, I also give John McCain his due. How many of us would have willfully remained a prisoner of war in Vietnam rather than abandon our comrades? Furthermore, how many of us would have overcome the traumatic physical and psychological wounds inflicted upon McCain during Vietnam to achieve the stature he has? I’m not too proud to admit I likely would have accepted my captors offer to go home and become an embittered basket case afterwards. Yet this man raised seven well-adjusted children and overcame Herculean odds to emerge as the Republican nominee. There can be no denying John McCain’s intestinal fortitude.

McCain’s judgment and record however illustrate he is ill suited for the presidency. Just consider these facts recently compiled by about McCain’s record:

Before the War
  • McCain co-sponsored the Use of Force Authorization that gave President George W. Bush the green light – and a blank check - for going to war with Iraq. [SJ Res 46, 10/3/02]
  • McCain argued Saddam was “a threat of the first order.” Senator McCain said that a policy of containing Iraq to blunt its weapons of mass destruction program is "unsustainable, ineffective, unworkable and dangerous." McCain: "I believe Iraq is a threat of the first order, and only a change of regime will make Iraq a state that does not threaten us and others, and where liberated people assume the rights and responsibilities of freedom.” [Speech to the Center for Strategic & International Studies, 2/13/03]
  • McCain echoed Bush and Cheney’s rationale for going to war. McCain: “It’s going to send the message throughout the Middle East that democracy can take hold in the Middle East.” [Fox, Hannity & Colmes, 2/21/03]
  • McCain echoed Bush and Cheney’s talking points that the U.S. would only be in Iraq for a short time. McCain: “It’s clear that the end is very much in sight. … It won’t be long…it’ll be a fairly short period of time.” [ABC, 4/9/03]
  • McCain said winning the war would be “easy.” “I know that as successful as I believe we will be, and I believe that the success will be fairly easy, we will still lose some American young men or women.” [CNN, 9/24/02]
During The War
  • Senator McCain praised Donald Rumsfeld as late as May 12, 2004, after the Abu Ghraib scandal.
  • Asked if Donald Rumsfeld can continue to be an effective secretary of defense, McCain: “Yes, today I do and I believe he's done a fine job. He's an honorable man.” [Hannity and Colmes, 5/12/04]
  • Senator McCain repeatedly supported President Bush on the Iraq War – voting with him in the Senate, defending his actions and publicly praising his leadership.
McCain Maintains the War Was A Good Idea
  • At the 2004 Republican National Convention, McCain, focusing on the war in Iraq, said that while weapons of mass destruction were not found, Saddam once had them and “he would have acquired them again.” McCain said the mission in Iraq “gave hope to people long oppressed” and it was “necessary, achievable and noble.” McCain: “For his determination to undertake it, and for his unflagging resolve to see it through to a just end, President Bush deserves not only our support, but our admiration.” [Plain Dealer, 8/31/04]
  • Senator McCain: “The war, the invasion was not a mistake. [Meet the Press, 1/6/08]
  • Asked if the war was a good idea worth the price in blood and treasure, McCain: “It was worth getting rid of Saddam Hussein. He had used weapons of mass destruction, and it's clear that he was hell-bent on acquiring them.” [Republican Debate, 1/24/08]
  • McCain defended Bush’s rationale for war. Asked if he thought the president exaggerated the case for war, McCain said, “I don’t think so.” [Fox News, 7/31/03]
  • McCain has been President Bush’s most ardent Senate supporter on Iraq. According to Michael Shank of the Foreign Policy in Focus think tank, McCain was at times Bush’s “most solid support in the Senate” on Iraq. [Foreign Policy in Focus, 1/15/08]
  • McCain voted against holding Bush accountable for his actions in the war. McCain opposed the creation of an independent commission to investigate the development and use of intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq. [S. Amdt. 1275 to H.R. 2658, Vote # 284, 7/16/03]
  • McCain praised Bush’s leadership on the war. McCain: “I think the president has led with great clarity and I think he’s done a great job leading the country…” [MSNBC, Hardball, 4/23/03]
  • Senator McCain Has Constantly Moved the Goal Posts of Progress For the War – Repeatedly Saying It Would Be Over Soon:
  • January 2003: “But the point is that, one, we will win this conflict. We will win it easily.” [MSNBC, 1/22/03]
  • March 2003: “I believe that this conflict is still going to be relatively short.” [NBC, Meet the Press, 3/30/03]
  • June 2004: “The terrorists know that this is a very critical time.” [CNN, 6/23/04]
  • December 2005: "Overall, I think a year from now, we will have a fair amount of progress [in Iraq] if we stay the course.” [The Hill, 12/8/05]
  • November 2006: “We’re either going to lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months." [NBC, Meet the Press, 11/12/06]
Senator McCain Opposed Efforts To End the Overextension of the Military That Is Having A Devastating Impact On Our Troops
  • McCain voted against requiring mandatory minimum downtime between tours of duty for troops serving in Iraq. [S. Amdt.. 2909 to S Amdt. 2011 to HR 1585, Vote 341, 9/19/07; S Amdt. 2012 to S Amdt. 2011 to HR 1585, Vote #241, 7/11/07]
  • McCain was one of only 13 senators to vote against adding $430 million for inpatient and outpatient care for veterans. [S Amdt. 3642 to HR 4939, Vote 98, 4/26/06]
  • Senator McCain has consistently opposed any plan to withdraw troops from Iraq
  • Senator McCain repeatedly voted against a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq. [S. Amdt. 3876 to S.Amdt. 3874 to H.R. 2764, Vote #438, 12/18/07; S.Amdt.. 3875 to S.Amdt.. 3874 to H.R. 2764, Vote # 437, 12/18/07; S.Amdt.3164 to H.R. 3222, Vote # 362, 10/3/07; S.Amdt. 2898 to S.Amdt. 2011 to H.R. 1585, Vote #346, 9/21/07; S.Amdt. 2924 to S.Amdt.. 2011 to H.R.1585, Vote #345, 9/21/07; S.Amdt.2 087 to S.Amdt. 2011 to H.R. 1585, Vote #252, 7/18/07; S.Amdt. 643 to H.R. 1591, Vote #116, 3/27/07; S.Amdt. 4320 to S. 2766, Vote #182, 6/22/06; S.Amdt. 4442 to S. 2766, Vote #181, 6/22/06; S.Amdt.. 2519 to S.1042, Vote # 322, 11/15/05]
McCain Opposes Ending the Iraqi Occupation
  • McCain: "I believe to set a date for withdrawal is to set a date for surrender.” [Charlotte Observer, 9/16/07]
  • McCain called proponents of a congressional resolution opposing the troop surge in Iraq intellectually dishonest. [Associated Press. 2/4/07]
  • Senator McCain now says he sees no end to the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. McCain: "[M]ake it a hundred" years in Iraq and "that would be fine with me." [Derry, New Hampshire Town Hall meeting, 1/3/08]
  • McCain on how long troops may remain in Iraq: “A thousand years. A million years. Ten million years. It depends on the arrangement we have with the Iraqi government.” [Associated Press, 1/04/08]
In spite of McCain’s record of poor judgment and dangerous leadership, the corporatist media unceasingly praises him as a “maverick” while his credentials as commander and chief are deemed sacrosanct. Senator Hillary Clinton is ill equipped to challenge McCain’s credentials because her record, at least through 2005, is just as horrible as McCain’s.

Furthermore, Clinton’s lame efforts to invoke her “thirty-five” years of experience is at best a laughable contrast to McCain’s biography. McCain will easily deflect Clinton’s critique of his record as rhetoric from a disingenuous flip flopper.

Finally, Republicans are laying in the high weeds for former President Bill Clinton. Questions are sure to be raised about how Bill Clinton’s library was partly financed by Saudi Arabian money as well as the deals he’s made with Kazakhstan’s corrupt leadership. Yes it’s hypocritical for Republicans to criticize anyone about treacherous deal making that undermines America’s interests but McCain will get away with it.

Senator Barack Obama is not a perfect candidate either. The treatment he’s received from the Clintons is far gentler then the onslaught of coded racism, character assassination and Islamophobia that Republicans are certain to hit him with.

However, Obama at least offers the contrast of foresight regarding the Iraq War as well as the promise of a new direction that replaces America’s ill advised neocon delusions.

McCain vs. Clinton is yesterday vs. yesterday. Perhaps Clinton can prevail in such a campaign but she won’t earn a mandate for change. Indeed, the paradigm of America’s empire centric foreign policy will likely remain the same under another Clinton Administration only without the bellicose saber rattling George W. Bush bombast.

I therefore continue to urge my fellow Democrats to support Barack Obama for our party’s nomination. For me the slogan isn’t “yes we can” but “win we must.” Anything less will be a calamity for our country and the world.


libhom said...

John "Keating Five" McCain is one of the most corrupt politicians to ever serve in the Senate. He should be prosecuted, not elected.

christian_left said...

Yes, I agree with you: defeating McCain should be a top priority. What really bugs me is how many Obama supporters (not you, I gather) say they will either not vote or vote Republican if Clinton is the nominee. Come on, let's get real--the differences between C & O are miniscule compared to the horrors of McCain.

Based on national match-ups, I do agree that Obama may stand the best chance to achieve a sweeping Democratic victory over McCain (though it is worth noting that Clinton is relatively strong in the demographics of most key swing states, such as Ohio, Florida, New Mexico, and New Hampshire, so she may be more likely to prevail in a tight contest).

My own hesitation to support Obama as a strategic choice (I find it increasingly hard to distinguish Obama or Clinton on the basis of issues at this point: he seems slightly better on foreign policy, she seems slightly better on domestic) revolves around two interrelated things--Message and Class.

Exit polls have consistently shown that working class Democrats--defined most usefully in my view as those without college degrees--of varying backgrounds (white, Latino, Asian-Am), with the obvious exception of African Americans, support Clinton considerably more than Obama. This effect has persisted even as Obama has become better known and achieved greater exposure. As a class issue, this suggests to me that something important is going on. I have tried hard over the past few days to understand what this might be. I have to admit that I can see how Obama's speeches and writings might occasionally come off as condescending (though nowhere near as bad as Kerry in '04), in an "I know more than you" kind of way. (He has acted that way towards Clinton in some of the debates, though both are Ivy Leaguers.) Moreover, if you look at the issues pages related to the Economy on the candidates' websites, while Clinton starts off with the struggles of ordinary working people and what she will do about them, Obama starts off with an annoying, vacuous quotation about the wonders of free enterprise and high tech, and how everyone from CEOs to ordinary workers will come together. Perhaps I am starting to understand why Clinton appeals to many working people more than Obama?

If Obama succeeds in luring over middle and upper class independents and Republicans, while losing or turning off many working-class folks without college degrees, will we really have gained that much? I suspect we can probably win more of the former than we lose of the latter, but it does bother me, especially as someone who believes that the Democratic party should be built on a working-class base. (White, Latino, and Asian-Am people without college degrees make up over half of the electorate, don't they?)

To sum up, I'm an Edwards supporter sitting on the fence between Obama and Clinton--a place I never thought I'd be. Like you, I have no desire to return to the failed triangulation and corporate Democracy of the 90s. However, Obama's conciliation with powerful moneyed interests and his recurring message of muddying the waters to attract yuppie independents and Republicans, makes me hesitate. I still suspect that by late April, if the contest continues into Pennsylvania (where I live), I'll probably end up voting for Obama. But who knows.

Robert Ellman said...

Hi Christian Left -

I largely agree with your thoughtful analysis and believe Obama must integrate more Edwards style populism into his message. Edwards was my top choice before he dropped out and cultish behavior of Obama supporters doesn't do the candidate any good.

Ultimately though what I look at is who influences these candidates. Clinton talks a better game than Obama on domestic issues yet it still corporatists such as Mark Penn who will influence policy in her administration.

Historically, the intelligentsia often prefers inspirational high minded rhetoric while the working class responds to language that touches their daily experience. Even Marxism and socialism had greater appeal to the intelligentsia historically then the proteleriat. Hence, Republicans decades long success at persuading working class voters to undermine their own economic interests through fear mongering and race baiting that appealed to their everyday living experience on a gut level.

In my un-scientific and largely visceral opinion though (because how can I really know?), Obama has a better chance of stitching together a coalition of down scale working class voters, highly educated reform minded progressives, independents and recruiting newer voters than Clinton does. Clinton on the other hand will never grow beyond her current core supporters and that won't do against a candidate like John McCain.

It does no good to be a "fighter" without a true mandate to lead or a large enough majority to carry you through. At least not for liberals. Liberals need numbers.

Progressives will never pull off what the neocons accomplished with no mandate after 2000. The body American body politic I'm afraid won't absorb it from liberals and progressives the way they did from conservative Republicans. A polarizing Clinton victory will result in a defensive posture for Democrats. Ironically, Hillary Clinton the "fighter" will be forced to compromise more than Obama the "conciliator."

Clinton caused controversy weeks ago by referencing how it was LBJ who pushed through civil rights. What she failed to mention however is that LBJ, unlike JFK, had a large working progressive majority after 1964 to implement his domestic agenda.

For all the talk of "conciliation" and Paul Krugman's (whom I admire) hair splitting about domestic issues, Obama had the toughness to carve out a progressive/reformist niche in the rough and tumble world of entrenched power broker Chicago politics.

As Obama has said, if you have a working majority than one can be civil and polite. It doesn't mean you're giving anything away. It's the same mentality he brings to foreign policy: not afraid to sit down with anyone but not going to back down to anyone either. Some call it naive. I see it as the leadership of confidence.

Ajaz Haque said...

McCain may even have an outside chance of beating Hillary Clinton for two reasons. One, Hillary will energize the Republican base who may otherwise be loathe to vote for McCain. Two, McCain's nice personality may win him some independents too.

However it is a different story if McCain is facing Obama. Obama's campaign is turning into a movement and he could concievably win by a landslide against McCain. So Democrats, read the writing on the wall.

Anonymous said...

This is from a dye in the wool Replublican who doesn't follow any crowd, without a logical purpose.

The purpose here is to encourage you Democrats/liberals to think logically how to win the upcoming presidential election. The bottom line is to show Mrs. Clinton the door to the trash heap of history.

Obama can win the election for a variety of reasons (in no particular order):

> His youthfulness. I wasn't a teenager when Kennedy ran for 1960 election, but he seemed so much more youthful than Nixon even though their age difference wasn't that much. On the other hand, McCain looks older than hills and Mrs. Clinton looks like she is not far behind (and if you can do the math, neither am I).

> He is a role model. We as a nation will be well served by the influence he will be on the African-American youth in particular and for the rest of the country in general. All the sports heroes do is to encourage kids to go heavy on the field/court rather than heavy on the books. On the other hand, for my half of the country, Mrs. Clinton is not a role model for women. Far from it, she was not a victim of her husband's indiscretions, rather she was the director of the Clinton response to nullify any sense of honor and responsibility for his numerous despicable actions.

> Voter bias. Most Republicans do not agree with Senator Obama's offered policies, and neither do I. While I think it was wrong to go to war in Iraq (since Hussein had repeatedly demonstrated that he was deterred from using WMDs against the West/Israel), it would be even more dumb to get out of the war at all costs as has been the Democratic mantra for some time now. Many of you will be too young to be aware of the specifics of post-Watergate Washington. The Democrats then were falling all over themselves to end all involvement in Southeast Asia. The result was that 1-2 Million Cambodians died because the Democrats were for peace at any price. The Democrats could have cared less about the Cambodians, the Laos or the Vietnamese. All they cared about was power in Washington. I am no big supporter of Senator McCain, but this is one area where he is on the right track. But let me get back to voter bias, Republicans do not and will not agree with Senator Obama, but they do not detest him. They do detest Mrs. Clinton. Do not underestimate the importance of this difference.

You may have noticed that I have repeatedly referred to Mrs. Clinton. I do that because she is the wife of President Clinton, and everything she has done has been because of that relationship. She is a modern day carpetbagger, and as I suggested at the beginning, she should join the Reconstruction era carpetbaggers in the refuse of history.

Ajaz Haque said...

An 'Obama Movement' is taking place right now. The chances are Obama will win by landslide against Senator McCain. So I agree the Democrats should choose Obama.

There is a possibility that even Colin Powell may endorse Obama.

libhom said...

Ajaz Haque: McCain's persona has gotten much less nice during this campaign. During his post Potomac primaries rally, McCain reminded me of Oscar the Grouch.