Friday, April 20, 2007

Be Careful What You Ask For

Barack Obama has spent the past several months becoming the unstoppable force du jour in the Democratic Party’s presidential field. Obama makes a good candidate: he’s young, he’s bright, his speeches don’t sound like we heard it all before (which is what I think Joe Biden meant when he called Obama “articulate”).

Obama’s a person of color, but not so much color he’ll offend too many in the powerful White Bread voting bloc. Some of his alleged peers don’t think he’s black enough; if they’d prefer four more years of the Republic Party’s “compassion,” less power to them.

There’s one thing to consider before the Obama train leaves the station. It’s a name not often associated with him, belonging to a person who can provide an important lesson on the pitfalls of voting for someone before you know enough about him: John McCain.

I’ll admit to having been in the tank for McCain. I voted for him twice in 2000: I crossed over to vote in the Republic primary, then wrote him in during the general election. I admired his straight talk, and his willingness to break with party orthodoxy. Six months ago, I couldn’t wait to vote for him again.

Boy, is my face red.

McCain has devoted 2007 to proving he is the basest kind of political whore, so overcome by ambition he’ll say anything, to anybody, if he thinks there’s a vote in it. Hillary Clinton is justly vilified for her constant triangulation; McCain has slipped into the realm of quadrangulation.

First he sucked up to those who stabbed him in the back in 2000. “Good politics,” was the justification. “He’ll tack toward the center for the general election.” Wrong answer. What made McCain special was his ability to portray himself as apart from politics as usual. That’s why so many Democrats crossed over for him. It’s a sad commentary on the American electorate that we only remember what a candidate said five minutes ago, and twenty years ago. What is said during the primaries to get the fringes to vote – from the left or right – apparently doesn’t count come November.

Then there was last week’s horrifying interview with the New York Times. When asked for his position on the Iraq war, McCain said, “I have no Plan B,” which meant, in that context, no alternative to victory.

McCain elaborates in the next paragraph. Quoting from the Times :

He said that if the Bush administration's plan had not produced visible signs of progress by the time a McCain presidency began, he might be forced—if only by the will of public opinion—to end American involvement in Iraq.
"I do believe that history shows us Americans will not continue to support an overseas engagement involving the loss of American lives for an unlimited period unless they see some success," he said. "And then, when they run out of patience, they will demand that we get out."

McCain will cut and run if politics demands. How is this different from the Democrat’s "reckless"… game of "small politics" that "gives them an advantage in the next election" while denying "our soldiers the means to prevent an American defeat." (Excerpt taken from Slate magazine, quoting McCain’s recent speech at VMI.) It’s not. So much for character.

I’m not comparing Obama to McCain; that would be worse than racism. I’m just saying I’d like to see him around for a bit to gauge the level of his ambition before going all in on him.

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