Did you watch Obama’s speech in Berlin today? I did – along with 200,000 cheering Germans (versus 120,000 who turned out for Kennedy’s “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” and 40,000 who turned out for Reagan’s “Tear Down That Wall”). The world YEARNS for a leader like this . . . and giving the world the hope that it yearns for will be immensely good for American security, American prosperity, America’s standing in the world, and America’s pride.
If the last eight years have shown anything, it’s that whom we elect President matters.
Consider these two contrasting columns:
OBAMA IN KABUL
I think I have read every word Barack Obama uttered on his visits to Israel and Palestine and I’m struck by his ability to navigate this tricky issue with such dexterity. After all, everybody is just waiting for him to trip up on the Arab-Israeli issue. Joe Lieberman, the Israeli media, the right-wing pro-Israel organizations are just waiting to pounce on some misstep.
It didn’t happen, just as it didn’t happen in Afghanistan or Iraq.
And here’s why. He knows his stuff. I worked on Capitol Hill for 20 years and I can tell the difference between a staff driven politician and one who knows what he’s talking about. The staff driven pol (McCain is an example) is always capable of the big blunder. He does not mix up Shiites and Sunnis because he “misspoke;” he really doesn’t know the difference. Same on the economy, he studies a memo and works to assimilate it. But there is no depth.
The sad fact is that most of our politicians are like that. On the Arab-Israeli issue, all they know is that they need to sound pro-Israel. So they end up mouthing the most superficial pieties. They are afraid to talk about the Palestinians because they might say the wrong thing.
They pander and pander, knowing that they won’t get into trouble by just sucking up.
He is pro-Israel and he supports the two-state solution. He is for keeping Jerusalem undivided but supports resolving Jerusalem’s status in negotiations. He acknowledges the Iranian threat to Israel but does not endorse a military response to deal with it.
So what’s Obama’s secret. He’s smart. He reads. He knows his sh*t. And that is why the Republicans who are counting on him to lose this election through some verbal blunder are going to be disappointed.
I’m not saying that McCain cannot win. He can. But he’ll have to win it. Obama is not going to hand this election to him by stumbling.
I just talked to a friend who saw Obama in Israel. I asked him what his friends in the Israeli media are saying. “What are they saying? They are saying that he’s the next President. And they think he’s the smartest American politician they have seen yet.”
McCAIN IN KANSAS
John McCain made news last week for an interview with the Kansas City Star, noteworthy for an egregious comment.
When asked if his Democratic opponent for president was a Socialist, Sen. McCain — apparently channeling red-baiting of the glorious 1950s — shrugged and said, “I don’t know.”
If Sen. McCain is that unperceptive with a man he works with, why should anyone trust the Republican with total strangers? At least George Bush could look in people’s hearts. On the other hand, if John McCain actually knows that Barack Obama really isn’t a Socialist, well… what does that say about his renowned integrity?
It’s a remarkable quote, and understandable why it got all the attention in Dave Helling’s interview.
But that wasn’t the egregious comment.
Because Sen. McCain continued disingenuously, “All I know is his voting record, and that’s what people usually judge their elected representatives by.”
Forgetting for a moment that that’s not remotely true — since people judge their representatives by countless things, like their smile, their lapel pin, their spouse, the crude jokes they tell, whether they’d like to share a beer, and how disingenuous he is — by Mr. McCain’s logic, he might be a Communist mole. Or an escaped ax murderer. Or a mime. Because if all we know for sure about a representative is his voting record, then John McCain, too, could be anything.
(While I’m aware there was some satire above, I apologize for suggesting that John McCain could be a mime.)
But that wasn’t Sen. McCain’s egregious comment, either.
In attempting to smear Sen. Obama with red paint, Mr. McCain commented that his opponent’s voting record “is more to the left than the announced socialist in the United States Senate, Bernie Sanders.”
Blanket statements generally play havoc with the full truth — as did John McCain. In fact, checking VoteView, made up of actual political scientists, Sen. Obama is only 10th most liberal – behind, among others…Bernie Sanders. Oops. In Congressional Quarterly, an actual, official record of government, it reported Barack Obama voted with George Bush 40% of the time, putting him in the middle of Democrats. Oops. By the way, the rating John McCain likely refers to is from the National Journal, which doesn’t rank McCain himself — because he missed over half the key votes. Oops.
Yet that wasn’t Sen. McCain’s egregious comment, either.
Because Dave Helling asks the senator about the Minutemen, a rifle-toting posse pushing for a wall across the U.S.-Mexican border. Since the vigilantes are based in McCain’s home state of Arizona, Helling inquires if they’re a “good thing… do they help in the immigration fight, or not?”
After another shrug, John McCain starts in, “I think they are citizens who are entitled to being engaged in the process. They’re obviously very concerned about immigration.” Then again, that also describes the American Nazi Party. And it doesn’t address the question. So, Dave Helling tries again, “Are they helpful?” To which the senator answers, “I think that’s for others to judge.”
John McCain is running for president — and he doesn’t think it’s for him to judge what’s helpful dealing with immigration??? He’s supposed to be guiding that very judgment. Not dodging it. Besides, who are these mystical “others” who are entitled to judge, but not the would-be president? Anyway, the Senator continues his answer, “I don’t agree with them. But they certainly are exercising their legal rights as citizens.” Of course, when a 61-year-old librarian, Carol Kreck, was exercising her legal rights by carrying a “Bush=McCain” sign to one of the senator’s open meetings, his security detail had her ejected.
But still, no, that too wasn’t Sen. McCain’s egregious comment.
You see, near the end, John McCain starts to point out issues on which Barack Obama changed his positions. Dave Helling finally interrupts the speech, and in a soft, “Okay, okay, I know, but let’s be honest here a moment” voice, says politely:
“You flip-flop a little bit, too. You flip-flop on drilling a little bit. On tax cuts….You were against the tax cuts, now you’re talking about making them permanent. Isn’t there flip-flopping on both sides?
To which the engineer of the Straight Talk Express acknowledges — “Actually, no.”
“No.” Period. That’s as emphatic as it gets. Never mind that seconds before, he explained changing his position on drilling! Adding, “I haven’t changed my position on any other issue.” Only to then explain – seconds after insisting there’s “No” flip-flopping on his side – that his changed position on tax cuts was because, “We had to restrain spending, that’s the main reason I voted against them.”
Here’s a good linguistic tip: just because you have a reason you changed your opinions doesn’t mean you didn’t change your opinions.
But “No,” there is no flip-flopping on his side. None. Honestly, there was more flip-flopping in that single answer by John McCain than most people see at the dolphin show at Seaworld.
And…even that wasn’t the egregious comment.
This was the egregious comment –
After Sen. McCain explains his gas tax holiday suggestion, Dave Helling points out, “A lot of experts say this is not a good idea.”
And this is how John McCain defends criticism of the detailed facts and specifics of his economic plan: “A lot of experts are driven to work in chauffeured limousines. A lot of experts live in Georgetown and walk to work.”
I mean…yipes. That may be. But…they’re still experts. And he’s said he’s not.
Further, I’ll bet cash money that most economic experts don’t have chauffeured limousines. Name four. Most don’t live in Georgetown, but across America. Though John McCain himself is chauffeured in a limousine.*
And again — they…are…experts. Even if they bicycle to work.
Of course, sometimes you have to put things in perspective. After all, John McCain’s economic expert was Phil Gramm, who explained there’s only a “mental recession” in our “nation of whiners.” But now he’s been fired, so perhaps Sen. McCain is left without guidance.
In the end, it might be hard to say which of these comments is the most egregious. But what’s most noteworthy is not which one — but that all these egregious comments weren’t said over the course of weeks … but in 6 minutes and 7 seconds.
*In addition to being chauffeured, John McCain and his wife own nine homes and a private jet. Which is fine. Part of me desperately wishes I owned a private jet. It’s not his extravagant lifestyle I mainly object to, or even his carbon footprint. It’s the deception. Like George W. Bush, he will pretend he is just an ordinary guy – unlike his elitist opponent, the egghead who got good grades, where McCain and Bush ranked – far more affably – at the bottom of the class.
Quote of the Day
[It would be splendid if someday] economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people, on a level with dentists.~John Maynard Keynes
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