Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Compromise; John McCain for President

This is probably the most exciting political year in many decades. We have a Republican party in disarray and a Democratic party that will nominate either the first woman or the first African-American for President of the United States; the dynamics of which is causing a bit of disarray in that party as well. More on that later. In case you haven't noticed, this is a Democratic year and one of these two will likely become president.

I have strong libertarian leanings. As a libertarian my preference is for less government and more individual responsibility for oneself and others. But I'm not a purest. I come to my own conclusions and prefer to think for myself and in the process sometimes compromise those principles.

Divided government is good. By divided government I mean that we, particularly those of us who pay the lion’s share of the taxes, are better off when the executive and legislative branches are not under the control of the same political party. I thought the Republican Party could be trusted to hold all the reins of power, but that has been proven empirically to NOT be the case. The federal budget is approaching $3 trillion per year. In 1998 it was less than $2 trillion.

It is generally accepted that the next Congress will remain in Democratic hands. There's little hope the Republicans can hold onto the numbers they currently have. The Democrats will probably expand their majorities by some measure in both houses. In the House it's 232 versus 199. In the Senate it's a tie. Independents Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman caucus with the Democrats making an effective 51 to 49 majority. The Democrat probably won't get the 60 vote majority needed to automatically get cloture on any measure but with help of a few moderate Republicans they will.

It therefore becomes extremely important for a Republican to be elected president. Only a fiscally conservative Republican who believes there is an existential threat from radical Islamists would have the ability to provide some measure of checks and balances to a Democratic Congress. Senator John McCain isn't a libertarian; Congressman Ron Paul is, but Paul's ability to get 5% of the vote, while pretty good for a libertarian, ain't quite gonna cut it. And while I can make a case for why Paul's stand on the war, which is diametrically opposed to McCains, could also be a good thing in the long run, he still doesn't have a chance to win, so why bother. We have to be realistic in these things and while McCain has a nasty habit of making nice-nice with Democrats, we have to make a logical, reasoned decision for whom to vote in the primary. With the fiscal issues facing this country, divided government is vitally important and he's our only chance.

John McCain can get the votes of Independents. He proved that in New Hampshire. The vote in Florida will be crucial. If he can win there, where ONLY Republicans can vote in the primary it will indicate that the mainstream Republican base is coming to the same conclusion.

And John McCain is without question the only Republican who can beat either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. He would have an easier time beating Hillary. Hillary’s nomination will motivate a dispirited and dismayed Republican Party. Her baggage is well known. But should Hillary get the nomination, even after having denied the nomination to the first Black man who could realistically win the office, she will still be able to rally and unite the Democratic Party. The Democrats are motivated and smell blood. Their desire for divided government dissipated the day after the election in November of 2006. They desperately want both legislative and executive power. The Reagan Democrats are fed up with George Bush as are ALL the Independents and some minority of Republicans. Only someone like John McCain, who can attract those Independents and Reagan Democrats along with anti-Hillary Republicans, can bring together a coalition that can win in November.

Barack Obama’s nomination would be a bit more problematic. But before we get into that, I can't help a divergence to discuss the current fight between the Clintons and Obama. This is simply too delicious. I've been collecting the op-eds from the NY Times columnists, Gail Collins, Maureen Down and Bob Herbert. Since Jan.1, they've collectively written 7 anti-Clinton columns. This group is NOT part of the "vast right-wing conspiracy". The recent columns have been critical of the Clintons sliming of Senator Obama. I think the Democrats are coming to understand what people on the Right have known all along. The Clintons will stop at nothing to gain power. Using underhanded tactics to beat Republicans is one thing, using such unsavory tactics to deny the presidency to the first legitimate Black politician who can win white votes in Iowa; that's another thing altogether. The other interesting thing about this internecine fight is watching the Left hoisted by their own petard. Some have argued that the Obama’s African-American supporters are being a bit too sensitive about these attacks. "Politics ain't beanbag" as the former Democratic Speaker Tip O'Neil used to say. Well, if the African-American community is in fact being too sensitive, could it be that the victim mentality that Bill Cosby has so eloquently spoken of, is partly to blame? Would it be over the top to suggest that this sense of victim-hood was, to the extent it's a factor, exacerbated by, the Great Society programs of the Democratic Party? Just a thought.

But back to Obama and McCain. If McCain needs independent voters to beat Hillary, he'll need them just as much, if not more, to beat Senator Obama. Mr. Obama has a gift of oratory that Mrs. Clinton doesn't possess. A significant theme in his speeches is his desire to bring the country together; black and white; left and right. And this resonates with White American because it wants very much to get past its racial past. What better way to prove to ourselves and the world that we have become a truly ecumenical society and have overcome our racial divide than to elect the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas? I listened to his speech the weekend of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. I have to admit I became emotionally mesmerized. But Mr. Obama is not without his baggage. He truly lacks experience and it is somewhat difficult to understand what he really believes. For example, his desire to bring the country together when juxtaposed next to his membership in a church that stresses African nationalism and presents awards to Louis Farrakan brings questions as to his true beliefs, assuming they will be asked; which brings up the delicate question of the strategy the Republicans would use against him. If you think the Clintons are getting heat for criticizing Obama and bringing race into the political equation, justified or not, just imagine what will happen to the Republicans.

The bottom line is both Clinton and Obama are of the same political cloth. With control of the legislature and the executive, they will pass new entitlements (such as universal health-care) and institute tax policies that are antithetical to positive economic growth and which will surely lead to increased government debt and probably economic malaise, the likes of which we haven't seen since the Seventies.

John McCain is the only one who can save us.