It’s been two months since Super Tuesday. One month after Super Tuesday, McCain had the republican nomination in hand. The democrats, Hillary and Obama, were slugging it out in more primaries. In this second month since Super Tuesday, McCain has continued to sit pretty while Hillary and Obama have doggedly continued onward to compete for the democratic nomination.
With no competition McCain has had time to look presidential at home and abroad. The New York Times called his March trip abroad “an audition on the world stage”. In England and France he spoke and wrote about the need to reduce global warming, denounced torture, and called for the closure of the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba while continuing to support the War in Iraq. Reportedly, at the heart of his activities was a belief that America’s reputation needs to change for the better. He’s got that right.
Meanwhile here at home, Hillary and Obama have continued to rally votes and controversy around their respective campaigns for the democratic nomination. Political capital has been squandered by focusing on gaffes and in-the-long-run non-consequential controversies. It wasn’t any different in yesterday’s 21st debate in which the moderators George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson led the attack.
There was the Reverend Wright, Obama’s pastor, who with his fiery use of the N-word stirred up the stereotype of the angry, radical black man. Guilt by association: Obama must be that angry, radical man. Huh? And, then there’s an acquaintance with an english professor who in his errant youth was a member of the “Weather Underground.” That this person did despicable things as a youth have anything to do with Obama? Of course, not. This is another guilty of what I don’t know by association.
Hilary got herself in trouble with the “sniper attack in Bosnia” gaffe even though she corrected herself. Fact checking is good, but the gaffe took on a life of its own and suddenly stood for the person. What this episode taught is that Hillary is exhausted and so is Obama. You hear the weariness in their voices. The process is too long, too complicated, and too exhausting. Tired people make mistakes.
When one of Hillary’s chief strategists, Mark Penn, was caught promoting a fair trade bill, that Hillary opposes, to the Colombian government. The finger pointers jumped on it saying Hillary was being disingenuous about her position. But Penn wasn’t representing her campaign. He was representing a client of the PR firm where he is CEO. Hillary took action and he ended up resigning. Hmmm, where were the fact checkers on that one?
Just a few days ago Obama’s remarks calling people living in economically downtrodden small towns, “bitter” and clinging to religion and guns caused another tornado. Hillary is calling him an elitist and even McCain is jumping on the incident for his own political benefit. Instead, this incident should have led to a national discussion about our nation’s economy and what’s happening to the shrinking middle class, it only set off posturing and labeling. He’s “this”. She’s “that.”
Let’s pause for a moment. Perhaps Obama was trying to say that people without hope, who believe that they cannot achieve better for themselves either say, “God must have meant it to be this way, so I should resign myself. I should just be accepting and do nothing.” or “I’m so angry that I’ll go and shoot someone or something.” Perhaps he is asking what it takes for people to grab hold of themselves and make things happen that better their lives. Why do people feel so exhausted? So resigned? What’s holding people back in the most innovative country in the world? The power to change is in the people.
In 1984 we asked “Where’s the beef?” It’s time to ask again. What are the policies and programs that the candidates are going to focus on and that parties are going to stand behind? Here’s my big-three list of really important stuff.
Number One: A new economy for the 21st century. Change from being a consumer economy to a new-kind-of production economy. Let’s figure out how we take a lemon–global warming/climate change–and turn it into gold–the basis for a new production economy.
Number Two: Health care. Excellent health care is not optional as Mr. McCain believes. It’s not the same as choosing to go to college or not. Not going to college won’t kill you. Not having health care can.
Healthcare is a basic right. Just as every American accused of a crime has the right to legal counsel, each has the right to health care. There are three tenets to really excellent health care: (1) Everyone must be covered–no exclusions, no denials, no opting out and everyone must pay an insurance premium. Government must cover premiums of the poor and disabled. (2) There must be transparency in the system and the same procedure must have the same price everywhere for everyone. (3) There must be competition among insurers and providers with no middlemen or gatekeepers.
Number Three: Foreign policy and military action. We’ve really got it wrong. Fear has been masking logic. There is no military win in Iraq or anywhere a conventional army is fighting against the hearts and minds of many splintered social/religious groups. Diplomacy, not military action, must be at the core of a new strategy and the actions we take to implement it. We must learn to listen to our allies and let them lead sometimes. And, we need to get off our high-horse. We must turn from arrogance to self-effacement to win back some modicum of respect around the globe.
What do the candidates have to say? Let’s press them to talk about this stuff.
All original content copyright 2008 Mary E. Slocum