Musings on the US Presidential Elections II: McCain, Distance, Palin and More Bush

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Sunday September 28, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Distance, distance, distance. Distance is the watchword and battle-cry of Republican John McCain's presidential campaign for if he is to have any chance, he must distance himself from fellow Republican George Bush and from the disastrous past eight years of the Bush presidency. For that reason, on August 29th I wrote that I was not surprised by McCain's choice of running mate Sarah Palin. He needed a Republican but one with little baggage from the Beltway and little association with Bush policies. He got that in the relative unknown Palin, but he also got a lot more, he got an attack dog, a cheerleader, and a mixed bag of anomalies.

The attack dog role came out during the convention itself. As she read from the teleprompter, Sarah Palin went down the laundry list of the old saws that the Republicans have to attack the spendthrift Democrats. Of course that is part and parcel of the vice-presidential candidate's job description and the strident Palin had no trouble filling that role.

The cheerleader aspect came with a different twist; in subsequent speeches and interviews, Palin over and over used the phrase, "John McCain thinks" and "John McCain's position is" so much so that one began to wonder whether Ms. Palin had any thoughts of her own. It could certainly be seen that the McCain camp had little confidence in her ability to say something intelligent and plausible when she was away from the teleprompter, but it was probably more to the point that McCain's group were afraid she would blurt out some basic differences in position between herself and John McCain. It became evident that Palin had been told to both repeat over and over that McCain was a "maverick" to help distance him from Bush and to somehow justify why he actually chose her a person with so little experience. After that she was to simply stick to traditional Republican saws. In effect, Palin was being kept under wraps.

Then came the anomalies and here belief in McCain's wisdom falters. No one doubts McCain's patriotism, and no one doubts his stubbornness, but questions are starting to arise as to his wisdom. McCain is an old school man who insists on doing things his way, regardless of the consequences, but that can be dangerous when the leadership of a nation is of concern.

True, the Republican Convention had gotten off to a bad start; Hurricane Gustav was heading towards New Orleans and the public was well aware of the Bush administration's botched handling of the previous Hurricane Katrina disaster. It would hardly do well to see on TV the Republicans partying in Minnesota while Gustav was poised to finish off a city that Katrina had wasted. Fortunately Gustav veered away and the convention could go on. However, there were unexpressed orders that George Bush not show his face. He did appear on video message, but that was all. It is strange that the reigning Republican President of the past eight years would not be welcome at his own party's convention, but the McCain camp did not want any photos of McCain and Bush on the same stage. Distance, distance, distance.

Nevertheless the anomalies continued. McCain is a Republican and he had voted with Bush 90 per cent of the time in the past years. His reputation as maverick beginning to be seen as more for show, for distance, more talk than walk.

Then there was the matter of experience. The McCain camp had been trying to stress the fact that a major difference between McCain and his rival Obama was Obama's lack of experience. So why then did McCain choose a most inexperienced woman as his vice presidential running mate? Why would he put the nation in such jeopardy with Palin being only a heartbeat away from the presidency? It would take a lot of rhetoric and skewed reasoning to try and convince the public that though Palin had only two years of experience in any significant position she still was experienced.

Such rhetoric is not necessarily lacking to Republican swift boat speech writers. In the past, they had been able to sell the American people that George Bush, a man who had escaped the Vietnam War by running to the National Guard would be a better military leader than a man who had served tours of duty in Vietnam. Added to this they had to overcome the dispute that Bush did not even fulfill his obligations in the National Guard. Can the swift boat writers convince us that Sarah Palin has VP experience? Let's wait and see.

Add to that the fact that McCain remains an old man, the oldest ever to run for the presidency of the United States; he cannot lift his arms. True, he is loyal; he is stubborn; and he has determination. That got him through years in a prison cell, though there are even swift boat accounts as to the credibility of all those details. Though he does have a military background, the key issues facing America right now are financial. Does McCain have the knowledge and team to face the financial crisis that eight years of a Republican president and six years of a Republican Congress have brought on the country? Who would be on McCain's team that was not already part of the Republican vision, plan and philosophy of letting the market place determine all that created the crisis? Let the marketplace go until the fat cats need a bailout?

This presents some major credibility issues about McCain the candidate selected at the Republican Convention. Was it wisdom or political gamesmanship in his VP choice of Sarah Palin to be only a heartbeat away from the presidency? His choice was different, but different isn't wise, and different isn't what is best for the country. Further with the looming financial crisis and enormous debt that the country faces, the vision of Sarah Palin reading the teleprompter and crying out "Don't worry, John McCain and I are not going to raise your taxes," seems quite simplistic and totally divorced from the reality we all face.

Second there remains the fact that the majority of the people that were cheering for McCain as the man with the answers at the Republican Convention in 2008 were the same people that were cheering for Bush as the man with the answers in 2000 and 2004. Even if McCain is a little different from them, if he would die in office the same Bush people would be back in control in spades. Even if McCain wouldn't die in office, he would still be surrounded by and owe all those people at the Convention. In all the recent Congressional hearings on the economy, McCain has been unusually silent. He has a dilemma; he wants to distance himself from Bush, but he cannot cut himself off from his Republican base. Silence is perhaps his best choice.

No, it is time for a change; and the change is not McCain despite his tough talk from an age gone by. After eight years of disaster it is time to give the reins to the other side. McCain can talk tough, but so could George Bush. Tough talk is not wisdom; and for all McCain's other talk about concern for the taxpayer, in the specifics of the plans he offers thus far, the lion's share of benefits go to the rich. You don't need a moose gun to bring that one down.