McCain and the RNC: from pander to slander when will it stop?

When I started this blog back during the primaries I expected to hear a busload of pandering from both sides of the aisle and tried to comment on the most egregious outbursts from all parties, including Obama, Clinton and McCain — and they didn’t disappoint.

Say "ahhhhhrg"

Say aargh!

 But with just two weeks to go before the general election I can’t even begin to process the out and out lies and misdeeds perpatrated by the RNC and McCain’s oppo guys, including Palin and McCain himself.  The behavior and statements exhibited in the past few weeks go beyond the usual pandering to the base and truth bending and has entered the Twilight Zone.  Some examples:

  • Palin and others claiming that only certain parts of the country (that voted for Bush) are “pro America” or the “real America”
  • Stirring up racist feelings at rallies that turn into calls for violence against Obama (and are reminiscent of similar gatherings officiated by leaders from Hitler to Ahmadinejad)
  • Robocalls inferring that Obama is a Muslim terrorist that are scaring children and giving adults hearburn as they sit around that kitchen table we keep hearing about
  • Attacking Obama for being a “socialist” the same week that a Republican president and both parties in Congress approve a $700 billion bail out package for financial companies and McCain himself promises to buy up mortgages for those that can’t pay their bills
  • Repeated statements on the part of McCain that his attack strategy is part of the “rough and tumble” of campaigning and that Obama’s ads attacking McCain’s positions somehow equate with the race baiting and hate mongering coming from the McCain side
  • Attacking the media or refusing media access whenever they expose or question a particularly damaging comment or event (e.g., the congresswoman from Minnesota’s 6th district calling for a witch hunt to expose “un-American” members of Congress, showing evidence of Palin’s naivite about the position she aspires to, the McCain campaign worker who had the courage to question the motives of racists at the rally he helped organize)
  • Attacking Colin Powell’s recent support of Obama as being based solely on race as he’s been making a passionate argument about why Muslims are “real Americans” too
  • Attacking ACORN for “destroying the fabric of democracy”, even though the “other” John McCain was praising them as recently as 2006.   An obvious ploy to stir up further racist feelings by picking on a grass roots organization (read “minority” and “urban”) that is registering both Democratic and Republican voters and has no proven record of voter fraud (just faulty registration rolls they are required by law to turn in).

The list goes on.  Either McCain has willingly given up whatever integrity he has managed to retain from his 26 years in office or he is just too disconnected from what’s going on to make it stop.  Some people are thinking that, despite calls from some of the cooler heads of his party to go positive, McCain will unleash wall to wall Reverand Wright ads in the last days of the campaign so white voters going into the booth on election day will have that image seared in their minds.

Whether he takes this tack or not, and if through some twist of fate he actually becomes President come January, America is going to be in for a very bumpy ride. 

Welcome to Fake America

Welcome to Fake America

And I mean the real America and the fake America I’m sitting in as I write this.  You know the one; it’s the America where you can find that elite French lady in the harbor, the fake America that processed the millions of immigrants who passed its shores and whose descendents make up 40% of the US population; the fake America that suffered the worst attack in the nation’s history right in its backyard.  Oh, did I also mention it’s the fake America that hosted George Washington’s inaugural address, is the birthplace of John McCain’s idol Theodore Roosevelt, and is the final resting place of U.S. Grant — the guy who helped Lincoln save a divided America’s ass when it almost came apart due to ideological differences based on race and class?

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Sarah Palin’s debate performance benefits from low expectations — but is that okay?

One of the points that many of the blogerati are missing re: last night’s debate is that Palin is not only just mouthing the words she’s been given, she hasn’t shown any particular views in the past that would support these positions. 

Any way you look it you lose

Here's to you Mrs. Palin: any way you look at it you lose

Although a social conservative, she has said (and probably thought) little re: national policy — the economy, the War — in the past.  And, in her state the majority of voters are Independents – they don’t have the stomach for the kind of hard partisanship that she has been showing on the stump (see excellent NYer article on Palin and Alaska).  Although a Republican in name, she has become a cheerleader leading the cheers of the away team.  I kind of feel sorry for her. 

Someone should rewind to the first Bush vs. Gore debate in 2000. A lot of similarities – Bush starting out with the benefit of low expectations, avoiding direct answers to the questions, using folksy talk and generally sticking to prepared points.   And the pundits saying “nice job.” 

But, why is so much of the country – and many in the MSM – okay with low expectations? Bush partly won the presidency because he managed to overcome his “low expectations” and the press played right along. Given this momentous time can’t we all have high expectations re: ALL of our elected officials? Can’t that be the standard? Instead of constantly quoting FDR, TDR and Harry Truman why can’t we have people who perform to their standards? Don’t we as citizens deserve it?

Biden Wins but …
There is no question that Biden won this debate and he made some great points about McCain’s views, including McCain’s flawed position on Iraq. But I still think both Obama and Biden have not been forceful enough on their Iraq strategy: the candidates are still playing within the Republicans’ frame of “defeat” vs. “victory.” You can’t just keep repeating that McCain was wrong in the PAST about Iraq. Biden should have made the point that Obama is confident of “victory” but that it will only come if we push the Iraqis into a timetable. McCain’s plan is to sit around and wait for the Iraqis to get their act together (Palin expressed this view in her definition of “victory”). Obama and Biden have to explain that this is not leadership. We don’t wait for the other guy, we ACT. Republicans want to WAIT for victory to somehow show up some day in a nice shiny package. But the Iraqis will not have any incentive to make the hard choices necessary to self govern under McCain’s strategy. Stating this difference will change the frame and poke a huge IED sized hole in their “Democrats want to raise the white flag” rhetoric.

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Palin pick shows McCain to be prisoner of the religious right

Caribou Barbie

Caribou Barbie

John McCain has done it once again.  While purporting to be a maverick, he has chosen the greased path of religious convenience with his recent pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. 

Although Republicans are touting his choice as evidence of his bold independence, it is clear that McCain chose the same route as his predecessor George H.W. Bush in his pick of Dan Quale: to pander to the intolerant right wing of his party. 

Purportedly, Palin went through a rigorous vetting process, including a 50 page questionnaire.  Evidently, one of the questions that she got right was “how do you spell po-ta-to?”

Some insiders are saying that lapsed Democrat (and angry nebbish) Joe Lieberman was McCain’s choice but that several groups within the party were planning to boycott the pick on the convention floor (antisemitism anyone?).  Okay, he is a Democrat in the lions’ den but still … The maverick had to back down – wouldn’t want to upset the party regulars by showing his backbone.  If he had chosen Mitt Romney he could have run a decent Center-Right charge and evened out the ticket with an experienced pol from the business world.  But the Mormon Romney is not a “real” Christian.

While McCain basks in the glow of his convention this week (and the new energy eminating from religious conservatives who would just as soon sink the country in order to have someone on the ticket that cares about their faith-based issues), voters should seriously question McCain’s decision making ability. 

Do we want another guy in the White House who makes decisions from his gut in order to appease the worst elements of his party?  Who goes with political expediency over thoughtful analysis? 

The brouhaha over Palin’s family problems is a nice distraction for McCain.  While the country is busy talking about Palin’s daughter’s uterus they are missing the larger issue: McCain would rather make a reckless decision and be overruled by the same elements of his party that have ruined this country for the past 8 years than follow his own instincts and do what he feels is right.  Country First indeed.

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McCain’s Indecision 2008: Reject religious intolerance or continue to pander?

It took him awhile but John McCain finally came out to denounce and reject the endorsement of controversial preacher and well known Catholic hater John Hagee. 

Hagee, whose antisemitism is cloaked in the “but I love the state of Israel” rhetoric that is typical of evangelicals, just got too hot for McCain to handle after the public heard his remarks equating the Holocaust with God’s shortcut to leading the Jews into Zion (BTW, if God wanted to return the Jews to Israel couldn’t he have done it in a slightly more direct way, say, by not allowing 2 of every 5 Jews to perish in the process?).

While pundits are comparing McCain’s “preacher problem” to that of Obama’s relationship with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the comparison isn’t really apt: McCain has taken a principled stand against people like Hagee in the past whereas Obama chose not to reject his preacher until forced into a corner.  That leads to the question as to why McCain has continued to embrace — and seek out the endorsement of — outspoken, right wing conservative preachers that he wouldn’t be caught dead associating himself with 8 years ago. 

Here is what the more centrist John McCain said back in 2000:

“Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right,” 

Bravo!  But, Johnny why were you led astray?  The pandering (his word, not ours) seems to have started in earnest a few years ago when McCain began his most recent run for President. 

(McCain and Jerry Falwell make nice in ’06)

In May of 2006 he spoke at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.  And ever since, his campaign has been courting some of the more infamous “intolerance agents” of the extreme religious right, including Hagee and Ohio’s Rod Parsley, who has called upon Christians to wage a “war” against the “false religion” of Islam with the aim of destroying it. 

The answer to McCain’s getting religion as it were lies in the after effects of the simultaneous rise of the New Religious Right and the Reagan “revolution.”  Back in 1980 Reagan recognized an important voting block by making alliances with more activist religious leaders like Falwell (who was just starting the Moral Majority) and others on the religious fringe who could be counted on to get out the vote.  While George Bush senior was able to keep these newly powerful religious leaders at arm’s length to win the presidency back in ’88, Bush II made them a centerpiece of his successful run for president in 2000.  This gave old guard bigots like James Dobson and Falwell unprecedented power in American politics and has helped them make inroads re: many of their pet issues including laws meant to restrict abortion and gay rights, and to promote “intelligent design,” and other means of breaking down the separation of Church and State.

But John McCain was never in that camp.  He was a Republican more along the lines of his conservative mentor and fellow Arizonian Barry Goldwater, who barely tolerated the religious wing of the New Right. In fact

When Sandra Day O’Connor was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1981, some Religious Right leaders suspected she might be too moderate on abortion and other social concerns.  Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell told the news media that “every good Christian should be concerned.”  Replied Goldwater, “Every good Christian should line up and kick Jerry Falwell’s ass.”

So what’s a guy to do now?  Although we are no big fan of the man’s policies and think a McCain presidency is the wrong direction for the country, we have a suggestion that could help McCain retain some of his integrity on the issue and prove himself a true leader of his morally corrupt party: make a historic speech, similar to Obama’s, that demonstrates his true thoughts about religion and denounces intolerence of any kind.  McCain needs to go over the heads of these “agents of intolerance” and speak directly to those who embrace the Word of God;  publicly reject their message of hate and prejudice; and scorn their influence on the politics of distrust and division.  Talk instead about Jesus’ message of love for your fellow man and how we all need to appeal to the better angels in our souls.

McCain has an opportunity to turn around almost 30 years of political pandering to the “outer reaches” of America’s religious sphere and redefine his party’s approach re: the role of religion in politics.  With the ascendance of newer, more tolerent voices on the right like Rev. Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals, this message can truly resonate among the country’s 65 million conservative Christians.  He can make history by removing the shackles forced on his party by men (and they are all white men) not worthy of mainstream public attention, let alone a voice in our national government. 

The move may not win him the presidency, but it could make him a hero among the more forward-thinking members of his party for generations to come. 

 

 

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Huckabee: You can take a guy out of the race but you can’t take race out of the guy

Mike Huckabee, we will miss you, you crazy fool …

Why oh why Mike? You already had a detailed script chock full of hot, steamy pandering for your gun loving, get-the-Government-off-of-my-back NRA audience. Why stoop so low with a badly improvised gun joke?

I guess you can take a guy out of the race but you can’t take race out of the guy

Interestingly, this is a man that was just recently defending Barack Obama every chance he got:

Here he is praising Obama as “Mr. Vertical”:

And, more praise re: Obama’s speech on race after the first Rev. Wright blow up:

Which leads us to the question: which is the real Huck?

If he wanted to look smart in front of this crowd, he might have chosen to quote someone a bit more erudite instead:

“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.  Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”  Benjamin Franklin

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McCain’s bright shiny future: Nostradamus on Acid?

In the wake of President Bush’s bizarre attempt to equate Barack Obama and Nazi appeaser Neville Chamberlain in front of the Israeli Knesset (did Obama give away Czechoslovakia — already?), comes another fantasist’s review of events.  This time it’s about the future rather than the past.  John McCain made a speech yesterday in Columbus, Ohio that contained some real whoppers about the state of the world in 2013, four years into a McCain presidency …

“By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom.  The Iraq war has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension. Violence still occurs, but it is spasmodic and much reduced.”

Here are some other predictions put forward by the Republican Nostradamus in that same speech (this is real, no kidding. Just say the word “check” after each as you go down the list)…

  • Osama bin Laden – captured or killed
  • Reduced influence of Taliban in Afghanistan
  • Al Queda, though still alive, will have no “safe haven”
  • The economy will be “fixed,” including several years of “robust economic growth”
  • Improved U.S. public education system
  • More accessible health care
  • The “Southern border” will be secure and illegal immigrants will be arrested and deported

Through an inside source within the McCain camp, we at the PW were able to obtain a copy of some of the notes that were edited out of that speech.  Also, according to McCain, in the year 2013 …

  • Upon his arrest, Osama bin Laden will own up to other “crimes against the United States,” including backing Rudy Guiliani’s failed 2008 and 2012 bids for president and 2011’s upteenth “Rocky” remake.  He takes no responsiblity for Chuck Norris, however.
  • Having been reduced to a few guys with hand-me-down Disney T-shirts given to them by Halliburton workers, the Taliban will reform as a regional soccer team and compete in the World Cup
  • McCain’s healthcare plan, which is heavily dependent on his “apple a day” prescription, will not only provide apple growers with windfall profits the oil companies would be jealous of, all leftover apples will be used as the keystone of McCain’s teacher incentive program in his wildly successful Education initiative
  • McCain’s “chicken in every pot” economic plan will be a boon to both chicken farmers and marijuana growers alike
  • Having secured the Southern border and arrested and deported all 5 million illegal immigrants, there will be huge demand for Canadian nannies, gardeners and Burrito makers resulting in the “10-day Taco War” with our neighbor to the North
  • McCain will be so ecstatic about the successes of his administration, he will choose to voluntarily step down after his re-election, making his VP Mitt Romney president. Upon hearing of this miraculous transition, the angel Maroni will descend from the Heavens once again and prove to the world all of the articles of the Mormon faith are indeed true.  The nation’s capital will move from D.C. to Salt Lake City and Donny Osmond will be named Vice President.
  • Oh, and the presidency of George W. Bush will be held up as a beacon for future presidents.  Plans for carving his face on Mount Rushmore have already begun.

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Obama’s flag pin flip flop: pander or potent symbol?

(photo: appletreeblog.com)

Much is being made in recent days about Obama sporting the flag pin again after dismissals of its relationship to his true feelings of patriotism.  Although he’s wearing the pin, he’s still playing down its importance.  Here’s what he said this week …

“I haven’t been making such a big deal about it. Others have. Sometimes I wear it, sometimes I don’t,” Obama said. “We were talking with a group of veterans yesterday. Over the last several weeks people have been handing me flag pins. I thought it was appropriate.”

Is this pandering or has Obama ventured into the reality-based thinking of presidential politics?  Not wearing the pin fits in nicely with Obama’s attempt to get beyond symbols and slogans and focus on real issues.  Here’s what he said in Oct ’07 when first asked about wearing it:

The truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for, I think, true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest. Instead I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe what will make this country great and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.”

Coming from a politician – and one running for president no less — this is a dangerious statement. He didn’t forget to wear it; he was taking a principled stand against wearing it by telling the American people that a symbol is a “substitute” rather than a true expression of his patriotism.  But as a man of faith, how could Obama be so blind to the importance of symbols?  

Symbols have been used since the ancients to bond a society behind a common cause and to motivate them for war against their enemies.  From the Celtic Cross, the Nazi Swastica (originally a Hindu and Buddhist symbol) and the Jewish Star of David, symbols are meant to instill both comfort and fear.  Even today, Israel is fighting for the recognition of the Red Star of David to be used by their international humanitarian agencies instead of the Red Cross or Red Cresent, which unlike the “Jewish star,” are religious symbols recognized under the articles of the Geneva Convention.  And remember Abbie Hoffman’s ironic use of the American flag shirt?  Man, did that piss a lot of people off in the 60s!

After the start of the Iraq War there were towns in the U.S. in which its citizens thought you were unpatriotic if you didn’t have a “Support our troops” bumper sticker or flag outside your door. Many would argue that putting a $2 sticker on your car isn’t true support.  But the symbol trumps logic.  And, Republicans are really good at taking advantage of (some might say pandering to people’s attachment to) symbols.  Let’s look at a short list of purely symbolic legislation that they’ve used to bludgeon well-meaning Democrats over the last few years:

-Voting to keep “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance” even though it was added much later, during the McCarthy-era anti-Commie panic
-A flag burning amendment to the Constitution
-Allowing the 10 Commandments to be featured in government buildings

The list goes on and on.  Obama was equating wearing the flag pin with those purely symbolic fights and he had a point:  what about affordable healthcare, ending the War, providing opportunities for the poor?  Weren’t gestures like flag pins and bumper stickers taking the discussion away from these more important issues?  Maybe, but he was missing the broader view of the potency of symbols.  Like his initial handling of the Reverand Wright issue, he was being extremely naive about the power of images to influence public opinion.

Before you can start convincing people to get behind you, first you’ve got to recognize the importance of the symbols they hold dear: God, flag (even when it’s teeny, tiny) and Country.  It is no coincidence that his failure to convince people of his dedication to these three are often the stated reasons for his lack of support among white working class voters (he has the “wrong” God/preacher, won’t salute the flag, and his wife disses the country).  After looking at his exit poll numbers this week, maybe Obama has finally gotten religion on the subject.

Now that he’s getting the importance of symbols maybe he can come up with a few of his own to convince people to get on his side when it comes time to debate John McCain on the real issues.  

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