The Larger Issues

Tuesday, March 4, and John McCain has done it. The underfunded and cantankerous McCain is the Republican nominee. The Republicans will have to make do with him, even if he has deeply offended many of them year after year after year. He will visit the White House and receive the blessing of the pope – Bush will endorse him. McCain in his acceptance speech said that starting the preemptive war that got rid of Saddam Hussein was a brilliant idea. He didn’t sing his Beach Boys song – Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran – but things are set now. Iran is next. Huckabee withdrew – he said he kept the faith, or something. So that’s done.


There are the minor matters. There’s this clip from Fox News – their new highly-paid commentator, Karl Rove, saying McCain has only one choice for his running mate, Mitt Romney. Rove calls it the M&M ticket – McCain and Mitt. Romney’s first name is actually Willard, but Rove must know John and Willard would remind people of that odd 1971 movie, the one about the eccentric and his pet rat. Of course Romney for Vice President makes sense. McCain is on record saying he doesn’t know much of anything about the economy. Romney made his fortune, the part he didn’t inherit, buying and selling big companies, disassembling them and reassembling them to finally make money. He knows how things work.  That matters, but the ultimate Republican insider, Robert Novak, the fellow who gleefully exposed that CIA agent to help the White House punish her pesky husband, know this must be:

According to Novak, Rove and other GOP bigwigs want Romney in the No. 2 spot despite the bad blood that exists between the former Massachusetts governor and McCain, an enmity that grew out of their heated rivalry during the Republican presidential primaries.

Insiders say that having Romney, who is worth between an estimated $190 million to $250 million, would bring an infusion of big bucks into the cash-strapped McCain campaign. Moreover, conservatives unhappy with McCain (like author Ann Coulter) who are threatening to vote for the Democratic candidate say they’ll back McCain if he picks Romney.

Take the guy’s money and placate Coulter and Limbaugh. It makes sense. And McCain is in his seventies – the oldest man to ever run for president – so he can’t last that long.

That same evening, as expected, things hadn’t been settled on the Democratic side. Obama took Vermont and Clinton took Rhode Island. Texas was undecided and she won Ohio – and you could feel things were changing. Clinton would be in it until the end, the August convention in Denver. There are those who feel she has paid her dues and is owed the nomination, and Obama hasn’t and isn’t. Blocs of white folks were proudly saying race matters and they voted for her overwhelmingly. So she may have the nomination.

What would that mean? Young people would stay home. What’s the point? Blacks would feel betrayed and stay home. The anti-war folks who have listened to her again and again and again defend her vote to start the war would stay home. Her core constituency, white women over sixty and nostalgic Latinos, would not be enough. McCain, if that’s the scenario, will win easily.  That will of course be okay with her – Obama was unfit for office, as she has contended – he’s all words and naiveté.

Obama could, ahead in delegates and the popular vote, pull off a miracle – maybe. He’d have to contend with the angry crowds with the thousand of preprinted HOPE IS BULLSHIT signs.

Of course the Democrats could run Obama for Vice President, but Clinton has, with her attacks on what she seems to think is his shallow stupidity, made that impossible – and to his supporters that would seem like a calculating and patronizing booby prize. So McCain it is.

See Andrew Sullivan on McCain and the war:

His strategy is now clear: he will refuse to debate the question of whether we should have fought in the first pace. And that’s understandable. He cannot win on those grounds. And his commitment to end the war as swiftly as possible without inflaming sectarian hatred is as good as we’ll get. But here’s what I fear: that he will not be honest and candid about the true implications on his strategy: an occupation with no fewer than a hundred thousand troops for his entire first term, and at least 75,000 troops for decades. If he has the courage and candor to say this, to be honest about the enormous cost of staying for the very long haul, and the low chances for success, the fact that success means merely a non-genocide and non-despotic by Middle Eastern standards, he will deserve the presidency. But the last thing we need is someone who will do what this president has done, and consistently fail to tell Americans what the actual cost of the permanent occupation will be. If McCain wants to keep the war going – and extend it to Iran – he has to get the American people to sign off on it. With their eyes open. And the costs explained.

Maybe we’d rather not know. But nothing will change. See this – retired General Jack Keane, one of the architects of our latest strategy in Iraq, the famous surge, tells the New York Sun he believes Clinton would not order an immediate exit, or any exit from Iraq at all. He knows what’s up there. There will never be a real government there, so to protect our interests we will stay as the de facto government from now on, forever, as far as anyone can tell, using massive force to hold the place together. He says she’s no dummy – she knows this. Her campaign was not pleased with his assessment.

Well, the primary responsibility of any President is to provide for the common defense, and Iraq may have something to do with that. What we have done may have inflamed everyone in the region with any political leanings at all against us, but what’s done is done. It is clearly not in our interest to stay. It is also clearly not in our interest to leave. McCain or Clinton, or perhaps Obama, just have to face that.

But what about the primary premise – the first and overriding responsibility of any President is to provide for the common defense? Chris Bowers here suggests that notion is reductionist and wrong. This is, he contends, a Republican view of government, that its only concern is keeping people safe. It’s a view that just causes trouble:

Our growing national obsession with security over justice, liberty and democracy is one of, if not the, clearest sign of the eroding stature of America in the geopolitical scene. Until about thirty years ago, America had pretty consistently been the most progressive great power, or super power, in the entire world. Now, due to the rise of conservatism in America, we have unfortunately lost that title to the European Union. It is a painful irony that most of Europe has become more democratic than America itself: in a sense, they have become more American than thou. Our loss of priorities in governance is one of the main reasons for this. In an American contest, “liberty and the pursuit of happiness” should matter just as much as life (remember Patrick Henry?). Justice, the general welfare and liberty should matter just as much as the common defense and domestic tranquility. We have really lost our way on this front, to the point that even saying your first priority as President or in Congress is anything but security is considered blasphemy. That is an incredibly frustrating, teeth-grinding loss of our national purpose, to such an extent that it has become an untouchable symptom in our national decline.

See “dday” at Hullabaloo with this:

It’s not an insignificant point. We are seeing basic human rights and practically the entire code of justice stripped away because of a false notion that security must take primacy. Because of this, we see our legal system twisted into such a knot that a President can indemnify lawyers who act on his orders and lawyers can indemnify a President if they act under their orders. Because of this, members of the executive branch are the only citizens in the country who don’t have to answer to Congress, simply by virtue of being in the executive branch. Because of this, companies who break the law are supposed to be rewarded with our gratitude. This is of course about aggrandizing power, but the fig leaf for all of this is national security. The lie that our founders created this great democracy with the singular goal of keeping themselves and their charges safe, this unbreakable, untouchable lie, is like a cancer on the body politic.

And even if you cede this lie, even if you measure the current Administration based on this and only this standard, the only conclusion you can reach is that they are complete and utter failures. Not only is this White House totally irrelevant in promoting any kind of democracy promotion or peace-building strategy, but its policies, which have the nominal goal of keeping America safe, could literally not be more destabilizing and endangering for this country and our allies.

You can follow the links to see what he’s talking about. We threw out the baby with the bath water. As for the latest failure, the rest of the item discusses the Vanity Fair item regarding a covert initiative (the last link), approved by President Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. We supplied the weapons.


Here’s a summary of how it backfired:

Long story short: the US government decides to bolster Fatah by sending them a bunch of arms. Word of these shipments leaks to a Jordanian newspaper. All hell breaks loose, Hamas and Fatah start a civil war. Hamas wins the war and proceeds to use the American-supplied arms it confiscated from Fatah against Israel. Now, here’s the punch line: 


“You know,” says [Khalid Jaberi, a commander with Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades], “since the takeover, we’ve been trying to enter the brains of Bush and Rice, to figure out their mentality. We can only conclude that having Hamas in control serves their overall strategy, because their policy was so crazy otherwise.”


… Now that it controls Gaza, Hamas has given free rein to militants intent on firing rockets into neighboring Israeli towns. “We are still developing our rockets; soon we shall hit the heart of Ashkelon at will,” says Jaberi, the al-Aqsa commander, referring to the Israeli city of 110,000 people 12 miles from Gaza’s border. “I assure you, the time is near when we will mount a big operation inside Israel, in Haifa or Tel Aviv.”    


There’s much more, but you get the idea. As “dday” says:


This is standard American meddling abroad; we’ve seen this for decades, although the core competency seems to have, er, eroded a tad. But in a national security state, failures of this stripe are even more devastating. This is practically all we have left in a country where justice and human rights have been completely hollowed out. We’re governed by people who are contemptuous of government and indeed want to destroy it. They have no vision of government other than being a protective shield. And yet that shield is so cracked and withered and broken, the policies so dangerous and stupid, that it only hastens this American decline. And without a determined and concerted effort to make government somehow more vital than just a security blanket, there’s not going to be much of a chance to turn things around.

Those are the larger issues. McCain and Clinton can argue endlessly about who is tougher and make constant additions to their lists of governments with which we will never talk about anything ever – security is everything – and Obama can shrug, amble offstage and settle for being a minor senator for the rest of his days. We had our chance.


About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
This entry was posted in Civil Liberties, Democracy's End, Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton, Hope, McCain, Obama, Ohio, Presidential Hopefuls, Romney, Texas, The Primaries. Bookmark the permalink.

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