Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I was for McCain before I was against him

In the 2000 presidential campaign, I was excited about McCain, who in my opinion was a conservative with a heart. But he got “swift-boated” by the Bush-Cheney-Rove machine during the South Carolina primary. There were allegations that McCain had fathered a black child (he and Cindy have an adopted daughter who is from Bangladesh) and that McCain had committed treason in Hanoi, or was crazed from his captivity and, as a result, has a dangerous temper. He was run out of South Carolina on a rail, virtually tarred and feathered. This time around, for the 2008 election, I had high hopes for John McCain, who was a man of honesty, integrity, and would not get down in the gutter while campaigning – or so I thought.

In the last several months I have become more and more disillusioned with the McCain campaign for using nasty, personal attacks full of outright lies that have nothing to do with public policy and should have no place in a presidential campaign. So, I am no longer for McCain. If he is going to use outright lies and slander to win the election on the emotions of the common voter, then I believe he will continue to lie to the country once he is in office.

There was nothing subtle about the first smear attempt in trying to depict Obama as “not one of us.” Obama was painted as a candidate who might technically be American but who remained in some sense foreign, not patriotic enough (as in no flag pin) and certainly not a “real” American. Since then, McCain has only upped the ante, sliming Obama every which way he can to see what might stick.

First came the reports about Obama secretly being Muslim and having attended a radical Islamic madrassa school in Indonesia. After careful research, I found this to be an outright lie, but I did not directly blame McCain for the rumors. He was still saying that he would run a clean campaign.

A few months ago, McCain, and some pundits, demanded that Obama visit Iraq and prove he could be presidential in the foreign arena. I, like many, was expecting Obama to stumble. When he conducted himself with foreign leaders flawlessly, visited with General Petraeus, talked easily with American troops who seemed to appreciate him, and proved his potential, the pundits reported that Obama was appearing “too presidential.” First they said that he is too young, inexperienced, and not presidential enough and then they said he is acting too presidential.

McCain's accusation that Obama would rather lose a war than a campaign and that he snubbed injured troops in Germany were reprehensible. You can tell McCain knows they were reprehensible because after he says it, he grins broadly, and then gives an uneasy semi-laugh. The charges are as uncivil as they can possibly be, close to calling Obama treasonous. Republicans saying that Obama did not visit troops in Landstuhl hospital because he could not take the media was proven to be an outright fabrication, as the McCain camp was finally forced to admit. What if Obama had appeared at the hospital? David Kiley reported in Business Week magazine how a Republican operative described plans to attack Obama for using wounded troops as campaign props if he had gone through with the visit.

The 200,000+ crowd who attended Obama’s speech in Berlin was less about his being a celebrity than about the disaster of the Bush-Cheney reign. Obama has become a symbol of hope for many people in the United States who want to see the return of the America they remember. So when Obama said that this was NOT about him, but instead he has become a symbol of the possibility of America, he was absolutely correct.

In the aftermath of Obama's trip to the Middle East and Europe, it has become clear to many, including myself, that the root of the extreme dislike for Obama is based on him stepping out of his "place," beyond his station. Obama is being "uppity," the charge leveled at blacks for generations when they dared try to equate themselves with those who they should know are better than them. The code word for “uppity” is “arrogance” and vice versa. The arrogance theme itself, in my mind, is Republicans playing the race card. Yet, McCain feigned great anger, with his campaign manager literally throwing a hissy fit during one interview, accusing Obama of playing the “race card” when he said that he didn’t look like the Presidents on the dollar bills. This “arrogance” theme is a variation on the usual Karl Rove fare.

Using airhead female celebrities Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears in an ad against Obama was the usual Republican attempt to imply that the Democrat is only a celebrity and not tough enough to be president. The ad called “The One” was downright insulting to all good, educated Christians. Politicians using our religious figures in such a way is offensive and mocks our faith. These ads both tap into a conversation that has been building on Christian radio and political blogs and in widely circulated e-mail messages that accuse Obama of being the Antichrist. McCain said that “The One” was meant only as a joke – for fun. I’m not laughing.

The taxes ad claims that Barack Obama voted to raise taxes on folks earning more than $42,000 a year. The McCain team is lying through their teeth when they say Obama will raise everyone’s taxes. Many non-partisan economic groups have said that most of the population would get a tax cut under the Obama plan – much more of a tax cut than under McCain’s plan. Obama isn't proposing to raise taxes on people as the ad insinuates. He is proposing to lower taxes for the middle class and raise taxes back to where they were during Clinton years for those who make more than $250K per year. How many of us even come close to making $250,000 per year?

The Palin VP pick is an example of McCain’s cynicism, using the emotions of the common voter as a tool. Since Palin was put on the ticket, the McCain campaign keeps the spotlight on her; it's out with a new ad attacking the Dem ticket for attacking her (although the Obama team did not attack her). During the Palin interviews with Charlie Gibson, the woman showed herself as clueless. Yet the Republican base and some very conservative independents fall for her because she shoots guns, eats moose stew, and comes across as decisive (in her own words, “I never blinked”). Never mind that she also tells lies about her “success” as Governor of Alaska, even when it is directly pointed out to her that what she is saying is not true, only half true or less (i.e. She reports having said “thanks, but no thanks” to the bridge to nowhere. She said thanks to that same money anyway, to be used on whatever Alaska wanted.)

The McCain ad that lifted the “lipstick on a pig” phrase out of context and insisted that Obama was talking about Palin is such a boldfaced lie that I cannot believe anyone would fall for it, but many people have. I heard that Obama speech. He was speaking of McCain’s economic policies when he used the lipstick on a pig cliché. If McCain keeps running ads like this one, he richly deserves to lose.

Until this past week, with the recent economic debacle, everything with the McCain campaign was Palin, Palin, Palin. They didn't want the spotlight on McCain; but with the Wall Street failure, the spotlight is directly on him, where it should be.

McCain has portrayed Obama’s team as part of the Fannie and Freddie mortgage problem, another incorrect statement. At the same time, The New York Times reported that McCain's campaign manager was paid nearly $2 million for running a Washington outfit set up by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to stop stricter regulation of these two entities. McCain's right hand was one of the major players in the corrupt Washington machine. Yet McCain accuses Obama of being part of a corrupt system.

McCain's campaign statements and ads have been at best only half true with, at best, cherry-picked statements taken out of context, and at worse, outright lies. In the beginning, every time he was questioned about his ads, he signaled with a big smile and then an odd little half-laugh that he didn't really believe his own message. Now he has become bolder by refusing to admit the lies, by ignoring questions, giving statements that do not answer the questions, or denying that he has lied.

The real question is what all of this means for a McCain presidency. The list of troubling portents that undermine his integrity is growing long: repeated campaign staff upheavals reflecting poor management skills; reversals on big issues like tax cuts; flip-flops on how the economy is doing and once realizing the fundamentals were not strong, saying he would fire the SEC chairman which is not the President’s prerogative to do; shameless pandering on a gas-tax holiday that would put very little in the pocket of the middle class; confused ideas on how to handle Social Security; and false charges, such as saying Obama caused high gas prices and the Wall Street debacle.

McCain embraces the Bush agenda and would bring four more years of the same GOP policies that we have been suffering under:

• the war policies that have bankrupted us,
• the economic policies that have allowed the rich to become richer while the rest of us tread water and have allowed Wall Street to destroy the economy while lining their own pockets,
• and the environmental policies, or lack of, that have added to global warming.

For those who thought McCain would be a better sort of candidate, it was more than a disappointment when he showed his true colors. Let’s not have any more nonsense about McCain being the straight-talking Maverick. He is just a down and dirty politician trying to coast into office on his past glory as a POW. He flips, then flops, then flips again with wherever the wind blows on major issues. Worse of all, he wants to be President so badly, that he has sullied his character by selling his soul to the Rovian disciples whose methods he once preached against.

That doesn’t just turn me off, it makes me physically ill.

McCain no longer seems presidential to me.