* “Who Are You?” – This is the title of a song by one of my favorite rock groups, The Who. It could also be the theme song for the 2008 presidential campaign. Barack Obama is a relative newcomer to the national political scene and voters are just getting to know him. There is uneasiness about and questions for the man who would lead America and be a force in the world community. The undecided voters will be the deciding votes in this election so Senator Obama’s challenge will be to convince America that he is the one to lead a country that finds itself in a critically precarious national and international condition and that is suffering from incompetence and neglect over the last eight years.
At the same time, “Who Are You?” must also be asked of the man who says he is the one with the experience and the candidate most prepared to reside in the White House on January 20, 2009. While addressing the Democratic National Convention John Kerry made it very clear that there is a deep chasm between John McCain the senator and John McCain the candidate. Citing the well-worn phrase “he was for it before he was against it,” a phrase used against Kerry during his bid for the White House in 2004, he applied it to McCain’s frequent whip lash reversals that include McCain being against the use of torture, new off-shore drilling, negative campaign tactics and tax breaks for the wealthy as a senator. As the Republican presidential candidate he is now for them. The list of McCain pirouettes also include being outspoken against lobbyist influence in Washington and the negative influence of the Christian religious right, both groups that he now embraces with bear hug ferocity. During the Republican presidential primaries Mitt Romney set a very high bar for flip-flopping. McCain has surpassed this obsequious pandering, thus garnering the tarnished irony medal.
* The phrase “political pundit” has become code for derriere orifice – The quality of political commentators imposed upon us during broadcasts of the Democratic convention was unworthy of the gravity of the 2008 election. If you watched the telecasts you also are shaking your head and fighting a gag reflex. What particularly had me reaching for a roll of Rolaids was CBS. They brought on board a body language expert to analyze whether Hillary Clinton really meant it when she endorsed Barack Obama on Tuesday night in Denver. If Senator Clinton were not protected by the Secret Service I imagine some yoyo with a microphone would have body-slammed her to the stage and compressed her wind pipe until she admitted that she hates Barack (Note: President Bush acquiesces enhanced interrogation methods). I suggest that the executives and producers of this week’s commercial news broadcasts be locked in a room until the election on November 4th and be forced to watch continuous loops of the sophomoric pap they inflicted on viewers. Congratulations to PBS’ Jim Lehrer, his associates and guests for providing interesting, civil and cogent commentary on the convention.
* The phrase “private contractor” has become code for political cronyism and payoffs ~ U.S. intelligence agencies are increasingly using private contractors to perform essential intelligence work. From The Washington Post, “About a quarter of the nation's core intelligence workers are contractors, perhaps as many as 37,000 private employees who work side-by-side with civil servants as analysts, technology specialists and mission managers, according to a report about government outsourcing by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.” The contract worker cost the government $207,000 while the government employee they sit next to earns $125,000. This is not unlike the equally disturbing situation in Iraq with Bush/Cheney best pals - the private contractors KBR and Blackwater. There is much evidence that their work has been fraught with fraud and incompetence, over-charging and non-performance. This is what the Republicans call fiscal responsibility and reducing the size of the federal government. Talk is cheap but not the economic burden of their policies.
* The Olympics are over and the fall television lineup is weeks away. What can we distract ourselves with to keep our minds off global warming, the Iraq war, the tenuousness of the Pakistani government, rising food prices, dropping home values and falling arches? Greeting cards may fill the bill. Hallmark just released its new line of Gay Marriage Greeting Cards and the religious right is not sending Thank You notes. Donald E. Wildmon, founder and chairman of the Christian right American Family Association tells his members: “Hallmark pushes same-sex marriage” and urges members to tell Hallmark to “stop promoting a lifestyle that is not only unhealthy but illegal in 48 states.” I say let’s take this a step further. Since heterosexual sex also has the potential to be unhealthy let’s eliminate all sexual intercourse, cease species reproduction and soon eliminate the entire market for Hallmark cards. That will teach these heathen bastards a lesson.
* Attention and About Face! - It has been about 1950 days since our Commander-In-Chief, donning a Corinthian leather flight jacket, heroically uttered the words about our invasion of Iraq – “Mission Accomplished.” An accomplished mission would imply an end to hostilities but in this case they became worse and worse and many more Iraqi and American lives were lost and many more limbs were lost and other injuries incurred. Those who called for an end to the Iraq fiasco were called cowards and traitors by administration officials and Republican spokespeople. The irony of this “marketing” of the war is how can one promote defeatism for a mission that had already claimed victory? Another irony that stands out is that the Bush administration just agreed for a timetable of complete withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2011 after first demanding an end-date of 2015 - a maneuver that Bush and McCain railed would result in America’s defeat. Okay, they are not calling it a timetable because that would make them appear even greater fools. Through the erudition of Secretary Rice they have come up with an “approximate horizon” and “aspirational timetable” for troop withdrawal. Call it what you will but it is another concession to stubborn failed policy suffered by the Bush administration.
* My reaction to the nomination of Joe Biden for Democratic VP is quite positive. I generally like the man and my reservations about him are few. Biden voted for the Iraq war but since then he has been a strong voice in supporting the troops and extricating the U.S. from Iraq. I am also disappointed in his support of the consumer bankruptcy legislation which was extremely regressive for consumers and contrary to Biden’s “blue collar” credentials. It was legislation strongly pushed by MBNA before being acquired by Bank of America. MBNA was based in Biden’s state of Delaware so I have to wonder about the motivation behind Biden’s support for this legislation. That being said, I think he was a strong addition to the Democratic ticket providing serious experience on national security issues.
* My reaction to the nomination of Sarah Palin for Republican VP is one of bewilderment. On the non-political plus side the 44-year old Governor of Alaska has challenged what has been a state with considerable corruption by passing strong ethics reform legislation and putting to an end the $400 million dollar boondoggle of Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens’ bridge to nowhere. On the Republican plus side she is pro-gun, anti-choice and not particularly concerned about the environment. However, having been mayor of Wasilla with a population of under 10,000 people and now chief executive for only two years of a state with a population under 700,000 does not make for a substantial resume. Why is her experience important to voters? She would be a heartbeat away from the most important and powerful political position in the world - separated from that position by 72-year old John McCain with a history of serious skin cancer. Strategically, this VP nomination may attract some Hillary Clinton supporter votes but for most of us the question for Governor Palin is, Who Are You?
* American voters will be asking the following questions from now until November 4, 2008:
Well, who are you?
(Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really wanna know
(Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)'
Cause I really wanna know
(Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
These lyrics from the song “Who Are You?” do not remind one of Irving Berlin but, the song has a great beat.
* "For over two decades, he's (McCain) subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy — give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps — even if you don’t have boots. You're on your own. Well, it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America."
Barack Obama, speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado 8/28/08