Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What's missing at the RNC?

Ya know, Republicans do a great job repeating that John McCain is ready to be President, but the two words that you don't hear from them are "temperament" and "judgment." Obama and the Democrats made a big deal about this being a key test for being President, and the GOP is dropping this vital argument.

PS...if you thought "change" was a glittering generality, the GOP has the Dems beat big time.

UPDATE: ok, can we stop indirectly calling the black Presidential candidate uppity?

UPDATE #2: it really burns my biscuits that the GOP is trying to sound like NOW.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

McCain, Palin, etc.

John McCain isn't a maverick. He caved to the extreme right wing of the Republican party by picking Palin. A real maverick move would have been to pick Lieberman or Ridge and call the base's bluff. The choice shows 2 things: 1) that he makes stupid gut decisions (a trait I don't want in a President) and 2) he's still beholden to the most extreme elements of the right wing (compare that to Obama who, rather than feeling the need to cave in to the far left is acting more like the standard bearer for the party that he is).

It's clear that the McCain/Palin ticket is going to try to run on the "we're better change than Obama" slogan, rather than the "ready on day one" tagline. There are a couple problems with this. First, they are always a step behind Obama on the question of change. Obama has already spent months laying out how change works and what it means both as a set of beliefs and as a group of policies. McCain's stuck on the "reform" message, which is just change-lite. In fact, I would urge Obama supporters to refer to McCain's current schtick as change-lite. It has a good sound to it, and it puts the message in perspective. Second, the only thing I have ever learned from what little I've seen of America's Next Top Model is if you copy someone else's idea, you'd better make sure that you do it better than the person you're copying or else you look like a poseur. McCain is not far from looking like a poseur. How can he expect to match Obama's message of change with "reform"?

McCain's "reform" is too small to gain any significant advantage over Obama. Go back to Obama's speech (I have the link to the video in a post below) and note what he talks about when he mentions "change." He goes beyond the narrow-minded focus on pork spending that McCain is making the hallmark of his campaign. Notice that this is the only thing that McCain has been able to reference when he talks about the need to "shake up Washington" (well, that and standing up to your own party, but who does he think he's kidding?...see my first note above). Obama talks broader about a more fundamental question of the role of government in people's lives. Government isn't there to hold your hand through life or to control everything you see/do. It is there to help you out in times of need. It should help people have access to the American dream. All McCain has is "government is wasteful and spends money on useless crap...I'll stop that." Keep in mind, though, that Obama doesn't take lobbyist or PAC money, while McCain does. Obama even got the DNC to shun PAC and lobbyist money. McCain has just raked in that cash. The fresh perspective that Obama has gives him a leg up on "shaking up Washington" primarily because it involves wrestling it away from the hands of an incompotent Republican who's been steering it for the last 8 years.

Palin was either not vetted properly, which means that McCain made a stupid gamble, or was thoroughly vetted, meaning that McCain was perfectly OK with everything that has come out in the last 5 days or so. Neither of these says anything good about his judgment now, does it?

Republicans have tried to defend themselves from the fact that McCain's choice of Palin completely obliterates their "Obama ain't experienced" argument, mostly by trying to split hairs over what counts as experience. I've been working through this for a while, and I've come to several conclusions:
1) If Palin is more experienced than either Biden or Obama because her experience is "executive" in nature, then it must follow that Palin is more qualified to be President of the United States than John McCain, since he has no executive experience either. I dare any McCain supporter to defend the argument that because of her "executive experience" Palin is more qualified to be President than John McCain. If you concede that she isn't, then you have to concede that this means that a) executive experience really isn't all it's cracked up to be and b) that federal level experience has to count for something (definitely more than executive experience in a state with fewer people than the state of Delaware).
2) Executive experience should not be limited to government. What I mean by this is that you could say that Carly Fiorina or Meg Whitman have executive experience because they were CEO's of major multinational corporations. These positions involve significant management skills, meaning that if you run, say, a presidential campaign for 19 months (almost as long as Palin has run the state of Alaska...hmm), successfully attract 2,000,000 individual donors to give money to your campaign, average over $50,000,000 a month in campaign contributions, and defeat one of the most well-oiled political machines in the business (Hillary Clinton's campaign) in the primaries, wouldn't it seem fair to say that Barack Obama has at least some level of executive experience that we could compare to the exaggerated accounts of Sarah Palin's executive experience?
3) Republicans are trying to have their cake and eat it too with regards to the inexperience factor. They seem like they're not willing to let it go just yet, although, I think they do this at their own peril. In response to the argument that Palin isn't qualified to be VP or Prez, they're trying to argue that Palin is not from Washington DC, which is good because she's in a unique position to shake things up. Obama, on the other hand, the argument goes, is not experienced enough to be ready for prime time. If it's true that Palin's lack of time in DC is a plus, then it would follow that Obama's dearth of DC tenure makes him an equally viable candidate for changing the way that things are done in Washington. Either they're both fresh Washington outsiders, which means they both have a claim to being effective agents of change, or neither is fit for the office of the Presidency. I don't think that Republicans have thought this far into the argument. If Palin can shake things up, then logically it means that Obama can as well. In fact, if I were an Obama surrogate on TV, I would argue that Obama's limited time in Washington gives him the perfect mix of being the shake-'em-up outsider and an experienced politician who knows how to deliver the right kind of change for the country. Unlike McCain, he's not wed to Washington or the Bush legacy, and unlike Palin, he at least has some idea of how things work in DC.

McCain's choice of Palin undermines two of McCain's strongest arguments of the campaign so far: 1) the experience issue (which has been discussed ad nauseum) and 2) the importance of national security as the top issue in the campaign. At first I thought that #1 was the more damning concession, but I've started to think that maybe #2 is really the more dangerous one for McCain. This not only prevents McCain from using ideas from Hillary's "3am" ad and others to say that President Obama = country at great risk for big terror boom but also allows Obama to refocus the campaign onto the primary issue of his choice. In other words, now Obama can claim both that the economy is where people should determine their votes, not national security and that if McCain wants this election to be about national security then he's the dangerous one b/c he selected an unknown lightweight to be a heartbeat away from Leader of the Free World in a time of great peril.

Whew!...and I thought this was gonna be a short post...

BTW, did anyone notice that Fred Thompson admitted that being a POW doesn't = qualification to be prez? That's interesting. He says that it shows character, but both candidates have a claim to character. It's telling that a Republican is allowed to say what got Wesley Clark into so much trouble.