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McCain Political Stance

From dKosopedia

John McCain gave a speech in early June of 2008 that some pundits regarded as an effective campaign instrument. In this speech, McCain repeatedly attacked the Bush administration, concentrating on but not limited to its botched invasion of Iraq. He touted what he depicted as his own superior strategic vision. In particular, he maintained that Barack Obama was dipping moonshine from an antiquated liberal still.

McCain attributed policy failures to others having been stuck in the past, and implied that his view is the superior one because it takes account of post cold war geopolitics, the global reach of information technology, and the rise of a global economy. In this speech he only threw three factors out and only gave one of them any further treatment. At least McCain can be credited with having awareness of some of the global factors important to a needed Grand Strategy for the coming years. However, he did not even sketch out how these three factors might interact.

McCain selects several issues as central to his campaign:

The Bush administration has had no notable successes in any of these areas, so McCain's first step is to repudiate old policies, and his second step ought to be to line out alternative proposals appropriate to whatever his core principals are. How many of these topics can be given answers by appealing to market forces or to minimizing government regulation of business? How many of his proposed fixes will turn out to be intended for the benefit of ordinary Americans? Can he go beyond the "borrow and spend" methods of the Bush administration? Can he go beyond traditional Republican appeal to authoritarian values in all fields of human endeavor save making profits?

After eight years of a Republican administration supported most of the time by Republican majorities in Congress, he refers to "job loss, failing schools, prohibitively expensive health care, pensions at risk, entitlement programs approaching bankruptcy, rising gas and food prices."

If those observations were not enough, he makes a very acute observation regarding the Bush administrations lack of any strategic vision: "For too long, we have let history outrun our government's ability to keep up with it." He points to the need for an understanding of the world that is sophisticated enough to foresee looming problems in good time to do something to fend them off. But merely calling for a cure does not make one a great physician.

He uses several paragraphs to list out the failures of the Bush administration, e.g., speaking of our need to "respond quickly and effectively to a natural calamity," all without any specifics about how we might even get back to the successes of the Clinton administrations, and then he implies that Obama would fail to clean up these messes in a timely and efficient way by saying, "The wrong change looks not to the future but to the past for solutions that have failed us before and will surely fail us again." That statement is a major but groundless charge laid against Obama, and also a promise of perspicacity and wisdom on his part for which he gives no actual source of confidence.

McCain is only slightly more effective at political rhetoric than was Bob Doyle in the latter's oft-repeated mantra about "tax and spend" Democrats. McCain says the same thing, but occasionally uses words of two or three syllables: "He seems to think government is the answer to every problem; that government should take our resources and make our decisions for us." If there were any substance to this charge, McCain would surely drop the "seems to think" part and give his audience some specifics. What decisions is McCain worried that a Democratic administration might make for us? Is he worried that an Obama administration might press for banking regulations to curb credit abuses? Or what?

The message this analyst sees in his words is that the governmnet will protect us against enemies domestic and foreign, and that otherwise big business will be free to do whatever it wants to do to make money. And this is supposed to be a new and forward looking Republican strategy for the coming decade?

McCain continues to attack items on the Bush failure list, but does not mention Bush by name until he comes to speak of the waging of war. He alludes to torture, to spending irregularities and "creative" ways of budgeting for immense wartime expenses, and even spending that profited business without augmenting the public good. He implies privatized armed forces under the general rubric of "contractors," but will not cop to what has actually been done. He could have been very much more specific and pointed in regard to the degree to which the war has been privatized to the detriment of both Iraqi and U.S. public interests. Why has he chosen to gloss over these practices?

He implicitly claims that the Petraeus strategy was his own from the beginning.

He asserts that Obama would withdraw troops from Iraq precipitously and without regard to potential consequences to regional power relations.

Perhaps McCain's rhetoric is to suggest that Obama is the real follower of George Bush, and that he will be the one to step clear of the the Bush failures. "For eight years the federal government has been on a spending spree that added trillions to the national debt." He seems to imply that he will not be like Bush and "borrow and spend," but he does not say how he will support such necessary expenditures as servicing the Bush war debt.

McCain seems to live somewhere on the Big Rock Candy Mountain. In addition to correcting the tax code, he will turn on a green energy spigot and turn off the oil spigot. He uses code words to describe how he will improve availability of health care to ordinary citizens by "breaking from inflationary practices, insurance regulations, and tax policies" that are out of date. What are these code words really supposed to mean? They could sound very appealing to companies that sell health insurance.

McCain claims that Obama takes an isolationist view on the burgeoning world economy, whereas McCain sees that a single worldwide economy is inevitable. But McCain effectively capitulates to the strong economic force of third world workplaces that use primitive capitalist operating principles and reduce workers to the level of serfs. Furthermore, he fails to see that the power to impose import regulations that prevent entry of the products of inhumane or unfair work practices abroad can have a positive effect on lives of people the world over and bring their living standards more and more in line with ours rather than beggaring our own workers.

McCain argues that he is not a primitive capitalist roader. "We are not people who believe only in the survival of the fittest." He offers some palliative measures to the people whose jobs have been lost to workers in foreign sweatshops, but it remains unclear what his moral stand is. If it is not the "fittest" who are to survive, then is it sufficient that our workers merely survive? If not, how does McCain propose to distinguish among imports that are produced by workers in first-world countries that may have all the benefits of trade unions that are effectively denied to some of our workers, imports that are produced by workers that enjoy equal employment opportunities with our own, imports that are produced by workers living in economies that permit business owners to take advantage of them to varying degrees, etc.? What are McCain's social values if he is equally willing to benefit the manufacturers involved in all these different kinds of relationships with their workers? Surely he would not permit goods produced by slave labor to compete on the American market, would he? So what is the principle that guides him?

McCain says of Americans: "They are sick of the politics of selfishness, stalemate, and delay." That is probably not all that Americans are sick of, but just on these three issues McCain needs to tell us what values he thinks our polity should be based on. Politics deals with the mediation of opposed interests. On what grounds ought these opposed interests be resolved? Shall we do the Republican thing and "let market forces decide?" In the past we tried various versions of that principle, from the primitive capitalism of the early factory systems that starved the lives out of workers and then hired new ones all the way down to the Hoover administration. We risked shooting far beyond that dismal social situation to some form of communist rejection of all forms of capitalism, but we found instead the solutions worked out by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. If McCain is not himself going back to the past for his approach, then he needs to tell us at bed rock what does he think a society is for? Is a society merely something that keeps people under control? Or should a society do more for its members? Does a good society simply rule out a narrow class of anti-social behaviors such as murder and slavery? Or does a society have a right to insist of more cooperative efforts as a condition for membership in the society?

Until McCain tells us more about his values and his principles we are left to try to detect them by means of inductive reasoning. His speech, which was lauded by some reputable political analysts, does not give much grounds for optimism regarding his fundamental human response to others, nor does it give clear grounds for seeing how his true values (whatever they may be) are worked out in practical cases.


A transcript of the McCain speech was provided by:

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This page was last modified 03:57, 5 June 2008 by dKosopedia user Patrick0Moran. Content is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

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