Colin Powell’s endorsement of Mr Obama for President wasn’t totally a surprise. Mr. Powell has always liked steady-as-they-go straight shooters who also light a spark. And, perhaps, Mr. Powell is seeking, some kind of redemption. I will never forget his speech in front of the United Nations to justify Mr. Bush’s desire to go to war. There was a discomfort in his demeanor. It seemed that underneath, he was not one hundred percent comfortable with the evidence, all those slick aerial photos that he had brought along for the world to see. At the time, he doggedly played his role. After all, as Secretary of State he served at the pleasure of the President. And, at the time, Mr. Powell wasn’t ready to walk away from his dream job. That would take more time.
Last week during the debate, I sensed that same undertone of discomfort in Mr. McCain as he lobbed the typical Republican attacks into the arena. I didn’t, for one minute believe that he believed them. He had resisted them for quite awhile. But, like Mr. Powell, Mr. McCain is serving, in a sense, at the pleasure of others. In this case, it’s the Republican party. Those gray men at the helm of the party who pull the strings and set the policy, had had enough of Mr. McCain, the maverick. They pulled him into line. What they wanted and got was a return to republican tactics of old: Character assassination, false accusations, and fear arousal: Those socialist loving, taxation crazy, money spending untrustworthy democrats. Of course, when one studies the facts, the accusations don’t hold up. But, when you mix fear into the equation, facts get pushed to the side.
The recent government bailout of the financial markets by the Bush administration has enjoyed bipartisan support. No one is labeling Mr. McCain a socialist for supporting it. The bailout, by definition, was socialist in nature: The government took an interest in private companies. It was absolutely necessary in these extraordinary times. And, no one expects the U. S. government to make such acts routine.
But last week Mr. McCain forgot about the bailout to focus on the fairy tale of Mr. Obama’s socialism. As Mr. McCain portrays it Mr. Obama is a socialist ‘Robin Hood’ who is going about taking from the rich to give to the middle class. When Mr. Mcain talks about Mr. Obama’s tax plan he talks as though there is no graduated income tax at all, just Mr. Obama taking money from a more wealthy group and sending it to one less privileged. The Republicans have been having a mini-field day with this one with Mr. McCain making it one of the centerpieces of his campaign stops lately.
And, it is not the ‘socialist’ accusation getting play. The ‘terrorist’ label has been getting just about equal time. As everyone knows just the mention of the word terrorist sends chills down the spines of many.
As William Ibershof, lead federal prosecutor of the Weathermen in the 1970s, said in his letter to the New York Times on October 9, 2008, “Because Senator Obama recently served on a board of a charitable organization with Mr. Ayers cannot possibly link the senator to acts perpetrated by Mr. Ayers so many years ago.” I don’t believe that Mr. McCain believes that Mr. Obama is a terrorist, in any sense of the word. But, Mr. McCain has sold his soul, so to speak.
The bottom line? Mr. McCain isn’t a maverick after all. He’s just another Republican doing as he has been told: Using typical republican fear tactics to scare up votes. Remember Mr. Reagan’s accusation that people on welfare buy steaks when the working guy can only afford hamburger?Or Mr. Bush’s coy approval of the attacks on Mr. Kerry’s war time bravery? Times haven’t changed much in the last twenty-five years. The difference is that Mr. McCain believes in his heart that he is a maverick. He wants to be so very different from George W. Bush. Notice how emotional he gets every time Mr. Obama reminds people about the sad state of things Mr. Bush, the Republican, is leaving us. But, in the end, the Repulican party and Mr. McCain’s ambition have gotten the better of him. What he is now is just another Republican peddling fear for a vote. One day, hopefully, he, too, will redeem himself. But, that seems like a long way off.
All original content copyright 2008 Mary E. Slocum