Oh, Roswell, New Mexico is a strange place – you recall that in 1947 our government recovered a crashed flying saucer there, recovered the bodies of the alien critters piloting the thing, and then refused to admit we’d long been closely watched by creatures from outer space, and we’d finally snagged ourselves a few. Or maybe that didn’t happen, even if it plays a prominent part in many a movie. But, if strange things are going to happen, they really should happen way out there in the surreal desert – as most directors of fifties monster movies knew, what with the giant ants, or gigantic grasshoppers, or that fifty-foot woman. Strange things happen out there.
So, Roswell, New Mexico, Sunday, October 19, 2008, and the other huge woman:
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin spoke to a crowd of about 10,000 supporters Sunday in a Roswell airplane hangar, not only making a reference to Joe the Plumber, but alluding several times to “Ed the Dairyman” after seeing someone in the crowd holding a sign identifying himself that way.
She warned voters about Democratic plans to raise taxes “on America’s hard-working families and our small businesses and a lot of folks just like Joe the Plumber and Ed the Dairyman out there.”
Yeah, yeah – she was lying through her teeth. Obama’s plan lowers taxes for everyone earning less than a quarter million a year, somewhere between eighty-one to ninety-five percent of us all, but Joe, the angry bald plumber from Toledo, had confronted Obama and told him he was going to buy his boss’s plumbing business and would then earn over a quarter million a year, and he didn’t think it was very fair that by being so ambitious he’d get hit with higher taxes.
He became an icon – even if he wasn’t a plumber, earned forty grand a year and could never buy the business, which his boss mentioned was not for sale and never had been, and even if Joe did buy it he would never net that quarter million anyway, and Joe had a lien because he already hadn’t paid his taxes, and his real name was Sam, not Joe. No matter – Joe became a convenient symbol. He was the little guy who tried hard and got punished for it. Sarah Palin was adding a variation on the theme – now we have Ed the Dairyman.
The problem is that Obama would let the Bush tax cuts expire so that those earning over a quarter million would be taxed at the former rates – the higher tax rates from the Reagan through Clinton administrations. And he’d let the tax rates for corporations revert to their former levels. The McCain idea is to keep the Bush tax cuts, and further lower the rates for corporations and the wealthy, drastically – as that would encourage growth, even if the tax cuts for the eighty-one to ninety-five percent of us all would be very, very small. And Obama made a key mistake – in the last presidential debate he talked about sharing the wealth. Bad move – the Palin speech in Roswell was all about socialism, taking the hard-earned wages from the good people and giving that money to the lazy, no-good bums who didn’t deserve it. You don’t share with the undeserving, and if you share at all, which you might do now and then, you do it because you feel like it, on a whim or if you’re in a good mood, not because the government tells you that you have to share. Otherwise you have socialism – and public roads and public bridges, and cops and firemen, and public hospitals and public schools, or something like that. It’s a bit confusing.
Actually, the scene in Roswell was probably somewhat like one of those black-and-white low-budget monster movies from the fifties – way out in the desert and that threat of aliens who want to take over and take our stuff. It was the perfect venue, but instead of space aliens you have Obama, taking our stuff and giving it away to blacks and Hispanics and who knows who. In an odd way, however, it was the Attack of the Fifty-Foot Woman – you don’t want to make her angry.
As they say in the movies, fade out and fade in to a scene on the other side of the country, Washington DC and the set of Meet the Press, and Powell Endorses Obama, Chides McCain Campaign Tone:
Colin Powell, a Republican and retired general who was President Bush’s first secretary of state, broke with the party Sunday and endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president, calling him a “transformational figure” while criticizing the tone of John McCain’s campaign.
The former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman said either senator is qualified to be commander in chief. But after studying both, he concluded that Obama is better suited than McCain, the standard-bearer of Powell’s own party, to handle the nation’s economic problems and help improve its world standing.
That’s the other big AP story of the day, Powell saying it wasn’t easy for him to disappoint his old friend John McCain, a fine man, and that he really regretted it, but facts were facts:
I think we need a transformational figure. I think we need a president who is a generational change and that’s why I’m supporting Barack Obama, not out of any lack of respect or admiration for Senator John McCain.
He didn’t mention space aliens from the planet Clorox II or anything like that. The AP calls this “a stunning rejection of McCain, a twenty-six-year veteran of Congress and a former Vietnam prisoner of war who has campaigned as the experienced, tested candidate who knows how to keep the country safe.” McCain was just not the right guy. Powell said he knew people would say this was because Obama was a black man, like him, but said that had nothing to do with what he had decided:
Powell expressed disappointment in the negative tone of McCain’s campaign, his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a running mate and their decision to focus in the closing weeks of the contest on Obama’s ties to 1960s-era radical William Ayers, saying “it goes too far.” …
“This Bill Ayers situation that’s been going on for weeks became something of a central point of the campaign,” Powell said. “But Mr. McCain says that he’s a washed-out terrorist. Well, then, why do we keep talking about him?”
And there was the matter of that woman who at the time was out in the desert warning about aliens:
“She’s a very distinguished woman, and she’s to be admired. But at the same time, now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don’t believe she’s ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president,” he said. “And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Sen. McCain made.”
Yeah – what had McCain been thinking?
Actually, Senator Webb from Virginia had already said it best:
I don’t know how many people here like country music. I like country music. There was a song about two years ago, “I know what I was doing, but what was I was thinking?” John McCain is probably singing that song right now.
But McCain shot back – four other former secretaries of state, all Republicans, had endorsed him – Henry Kissinger, James A. Baker III, Lawrence Eagleburger and Alexander Haig. Yep, the first cannot travel some place in Europe without worrying about being held for war crimes, the second led the legal fight to stop the 2000 Florida recount and convinced the Supreme Court to stop that nonsense, and the fourth, when Reagan was shot, declared himself in charge of the country, which was a bit of a stretch. But they all had held the job.
The AP item details why Powell was doing this:
Powell also said he was troubled that some Republicans – he excluded McCain – continue to say or allow others to say that Obama is a Muslim, when he is a Christian. Such rhetoric is polarizing, he said.
“He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America,” Powell said. “Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?”
Ask Sarah Palin about that.
But there’s more:
Powell said he remains a Republican, even though he sees the party moving too far to the right. He supports abortion rights and affirmative action, and said McCain and Palin, both opponents of abortion, could put two more conservative justices on the Supreme Court.
“I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that’s what we’d be looking at in a McCain administration,” Powell said.
Now they’ll say he was never a real Republican. Those two issues make him an apostate.
Still, all in all, this was about temperament:
Powell said the nation’s economic crisis provided a “final exam” of sorts for both candidates, suggested McCain had failed the test.
“I found that he was a little unsure as to how to deal with the economic problems that we were having,” Powell said. “Almost every day there was a different approach to the problem and that concerned me, sensing that he doesn’t have a complete grasp of the economic problems that we had.”
In contrast, Powell said Obama “displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge and an approach to looking at problems… I think that he has a, a definitive way of doing business that would serve us well.”
And what struck me was that Powell’s rationale for supporting Obama tracked very closely with some of the harshest critics of Sen. McCain, despite the fact that he used less cutting words to express them.
There were three key points he hit. First, he questioned McCain’s unsteady and erratic response to the economic crisis. He didn’t use the word ‘erratic’ but he might as well have. McCain was “unsure”, “almost every day there was a different approach to the problem,” he “didn’t have a complete grasp of the economic problems.” In contrast, Obama had “steadiness” amidst the crisis.
Second, he questioned McCain’s “judgment”, particularly but it would seem not exclusively in his decision to pick Sarah Palin as his running mate, someone Powell said was unqualified to serve as president.
Third, he said he was “disappointed” in McCain’s sleazy campaign tactics. Yes, “sleazy” is my word. But Powell’s own words were pretty clear – he was talking about McCain’s campaign of distortion and innuendo aimed at painting Obama as a crypto-Muslim and terrorist. It “goes too far”, said Powell, in something of an understatement.
It’s quite a blow for McCain on each point. But the most galling must be what Powell said about his judgment, his steadiness in moments of crisis. Powell and McCain are both in their early seventies. Obama is a quarter century younger. And in so many words Powell said that compared to Obama, McCain simply lacks the seasoning, the maturity to be president.
That last point is telling. Powell was sort of saying that even if both he and McCain were in their early seventies, McCain had just never grown up – it was probably best to have an adult in charge this time. At the same time Sarah Palin was out in the desert warning that dairyman about the Evil Other plotting to take away his goodies.
And then Powell spoke on the steps of the NBC Washington studios (video here) addressing that:
And now I guess the message this week is we’re going to call him a socialist. Mr. Obama is now a socialist, because he dares to suggest that maybe we ought to look at the tax structure that we have. Taxes are always a redistribution of money. Most of the taxes that are redistributed go back to those who pay them, in roads and airports and hospitals and schools. And taxes are necessary for the common good. And there’s nothing wrong with examining what our tax structure is or who should be paying more or who should be paying less, and for us to say that makes you a socialist is an unfortunate characterization that isn’t accurate.
See Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes – “I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization.”
Oh, Powell also mentioned the constant efforts to label Obama as a Muslim and make “Muslim” some kind of slur, and said that was dangerous – “Those types of images going out on Al Jazeera are killing us around the world.” And he wasn’t pleased with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann saying Obama was anti-American and many in congress were too, and, even if she wouldn’t name specific congressmen and senators, they should be exposed and run out of town. Powell wasn’t impressed – “We have got to stop this kind of nonsense, pull ourselves together, and remember that our great strength is in our unity and in our diversity.”
He’s burned all his bridges – he has no party now. Pat Buchanan was on television saying that the Republican Party had plucked Powell out of obscurity long ago and made him what he is, and this was just ingratitude – he should have kept his unhappiness to himself, as that would be the gracious thing to do (what they used to call the white thing to do, oddly enough) – and anyway, Powell, a black man, was only endorsing Obama because Obama was also black (video here).
And there was Rush Limbaugh:
“Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race,” Limbaugh wrote in an email. “OK, fine. I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I’ll let you know what I come up with.”
Well, George Bush was white, and stunningly inexperienced. Does that count?
Does any of this matter? See Matthew Yglesias:
I think it’s a more devastating blow to John McCain than I initially would have thought. Of course this won’t move real liberals, who don’t like Powell much and are already committed to Obama anyway. Nor will it move conservatives, who don’t like Powell either. But there are people out there – lots of people – who, just like Powell, voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and then again in 2004 even though maybe Bush was a bit too conservative for their tastes. Now those people maybe regret having done so and see that Bush was a disastrous president. But at the same time, the Democratic Party seems to have shifted left, and nominated a relatively green figure, while the GOP nominated someone who has a reputation for moderation.
And now here’s Powell, probably the only Republican moderate with a meaningful national profile, speaking in detail about problems with McCain, about the process of growing disillusioned with McCain, and vouching for Obama’s readiness to lead and fitness for office. In a lot of respects guys like Jim Leach and Wayne Gilchrest have, on the merits, been better messengers for this kind of message. But nobody knows who Leach and Gilchrest are, whereas everybody knows who Powell is. It’s a signal to every right-of-center person who maybe thinks the GOP has gotten too right-of-center that Obama’s okay. Meanwhile, it’s a reassuring reminder of what kind of people Obama does, in reality, pal around with. Powell was National Security Adviser under Ronald Reagan. He was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs under George H. W. Bush. And he was Secretary of State under George W. Bush. Those probably aren’t the most impressive qualifications to hard-core liberal blog readers, but to Powell’s fellow moderate Republicans I think that’s a pretty heavyweight resume.
Well, maybe that woman in the desert will now say Powell is a terrorist too, as he is, as we see now, one of Obama’s pals – and Bush did fire Powell for being all full of warnings that the Iraq war could go badly and cost far more than anyone thought and last forever, and maybe diplomacy was a good thing, and all the rest. He was insufficiently enthusiastic. Maybe that makes him a terrorist too. She could say that. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann could investigate – you know, hold a few hearings like Joe McCarthy did.
And they could go after Richard Lugar, who was the Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations when the Republicans controlled the Senate. He said this:
Typical of hard fought Presidential campaign issues, this debate has been characterized by hyperbolic rhetoric that seeks to influence the gut-level impulses of voters. Even so, the exchange is a reflection of one of the most frequently discussed issues in U.S. foreign policy circles. Specifically, what relative weight should be assigned to diplomacy versus other instruments of power – including military force – as we seek to address challenges posed by hostile nations?
Clearly, there is truth in the positions of both Senator McCain and Senator Obama. As Senator McCain suggests, there are times when diplomatic approaches to rogue regimes have little efficacy. No President should undertake discussions for the sake of appearances, and the President should be mindful of the legitimacy such talks might confer on particular leaders. But as Senator Obama has argued, isolating regimes, though sometimes necessary, rarely leads to a resolution of contentious issues. He correctly cautions against the implication that hostile nations must be dealt with almost exclusively through isolation or military force. In some cases, refusing to talk can even be dangerous. Negotiations on some level are particularly necessary in circumstances where the nations in question are prone to miscalculation or misinterpretation of U.S. intentions.
See UCLA’s Mark Kleiman:
Despite the surface even-handedness, there could hardly be a sharper repudiation of one of McCain’s central claims. Other Republicans (Collins, Coleman, Gordon Smith) have been distancing themselves from McCain, but Lugar isn’t up for re-election until 2012; in any case, he was unopposed last time. And Lugar is no blue-state RINO – he ran for President in 1992 as a conservative Republican, and his domestic-policy voting record is reasonably orthodox, with a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 78%.
Ah – Kleiman hits on it. Now we know who the monsters from outer space are. They are those Republicans in Name Only. We’re being attacked by giant alien RINO things. Head for the hills!
Or stop watching old monster movies.