Friday, September 5, 2008

What was he thinking?

Amidst all this talk about "executive experience" in this time's Presidential elections, one question that the GOP had to answer was what ideas do they have to turn the US around? After all, dire predictions abound for the country, with people expecting America to be plunged into a third place behind India and China by middle of this century.

McCain's performance has been criticized as one of the worst ever by a Presidential candidate since Carter in 1980. To me though, the hallmark of the speech was a complete lack of direction. What does he stand for or intend to do?

For instance, one theme John McCain brought up was bi-partisanship after the GOP spent 3 days rolling out speaker after speaker to level character attacks against Obama, Biden, liberals and the DNC. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid were singled out. So, this is bi-partisanship? Did the rest of the RNC not get the memo? Is McCain in charge, or did he just suffer amnesia?

He talked a lot about reforming Congress, but what reform? What specifically does he believe is wrong with Congress? The only thing he mentioned was that people came there with selfish motives, but then, how does he hope to fix that? Why, in his 25 years in that body, has he not proposed the changes before?

He distanced himself from Bush and the Congress, yet all he could offer was some old examples of rebellion. But, if he's different, what's different? What does he stand for the Bush did not? What does he hope to do that Bush did not? In fact, his only real explanation was that there are good ideas out there and we should trust him to find them. Obama offers change as a fruition of hope. McCain offers the hope that he can change. Is that all he has to offer?

He said he cared about the plight of the economically disaffected, but then went on to offer not a single substantive policy proposal for the future. The tax cuts he touts are an extension of Bush's tax cuts with a few tweaks. How is that different? What will he do in the next four years that Obama will not, or for that matter Bush would not have proposed?

He brought up energy independence, but if you actually scratch under the surface, he doesn't have a single idea apart from opening up more reserves for drilling and a token gimmick for a fuel efficient car. If America had enough reserves to be energy independent, they would have already. The fact is America doesn't have the reserves to meet all its needs. All McCain is offering is a bunch of distractions.

He hailed Obama for his achievement of being the first African American candidate, but did not use the term African American. Instead he cited "all men are created equal, ..." just before praising Obama's achievement. I may be paranoid, but the first thought that struck me was that is he trying to remind people that Obama is "uppity"?

He also used "civil rights issue" as a description of the school voucher program, which is a veiled reference that the GOP has been successfully using to suggest that the voucher program enables people not to attend schools dominated by people who they don't want to associate with, i.e. other races. This is straight out of the Rove playbook - prima facie irreproachable and compassionate, while achieving the completely indefensible effect of exploiting race.

He said he was the person who could bring peace, yet spoke more of war and fighting, rather than diplomacy and alliances. He mentioned he would protect Georgia from Russian dominance. How? What does he actually plan to do? I don't seriously believe anyone has an easy answer, but then he brought it up.

He promised to cut pork, but what pork will he cut? How does he expect to get legislation passed if he angers all the Senators and Congressmen? How can you believe he will do something no one in history has managed to do, including his hero Ronald Reagan? Also, the bulk of government expenditure isn't pork, it's interest and allocations to defense, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Unless he reforms those, he won't really affect the deficit. Does he have any plans to reform those?

Tax and spend liberals are a danger to a nation. Left uncontrolled, profligate spending could result in burgeoning debt, economic malaise, and a sense of entitlement among workers that reduces productivity and growth. However, if what McCain said was that the best the GOP has to offer, its singularly underwhelming and depressing. Obama has a plan. I don't like everything in it, but its better than no plan and 'I'll figure it out as I go'.

'Worst speech ever' may be an exaggeration. However, the speech illustrates that the GOP has a much more fundamental problem. They have, under Bush, implemented almost every one of their agenda items except disbanding social security, banning abortion and banning gay rights. They have no more ideas to offer. McCain may yet win. However, it might be better for the GOP that he does not. They need to come up with a revised recharged platform. Not this old fatigued set of ideas.

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