Monday, September 15, 2008

For John McCain: The Economy Matters

Does John McCain care about anything else other being called Mr. President? I think not. I doubt he sees the problems awaiting him, that he has the means of coping with them, and that another Republican administration has no capacity for dealing with the modern world that we have to live in.

From Frank Rich and the New York Times, we have this morning, The Palin-Whatshisname Ticket:
"There were several creepy subtexts at work here. The first was the choice of Truman. Most 20th-century vice presidents and presidents in both parties hailed from small towns, but she just happened to alight on a Democrat who ascended to the presidency when an ailing president died in office. Just as striking was the unnamed writer she quoted. He was identified by Thomas Frank in The Wall Street Journal as the now largely forgotten but once powerful right-wing Hearst columnist Westbrook Pegler.

Palin, who lies with ease about her own record, misrepresented Pegler’s too. He decreed America was “done for” after Truman won a full term in 1948. For his part, Truman regarded the columnist as a “guttersnipe,” and with good reason. Pegler was a rabid Joe McCarthyite who loathed F.D.R. and Ike and tirelessly advanced the theory that American Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe (“geese,” he called them) were all likely Communists.

Surely Palin knows no more about Pegler than she does about the Bush doctrine. But the people around her do, and they will be shaping a Palin presidency. That they would inject not just Pegler’s words but spirit into their candidate’s speech shows where they’re coming from. Rick Davis, the McCain campaign manager, said that the Palin-sparked"

***

How do you run against that flashy flimflam? You don’t. Karl Rove for once gave the Democrats a real tip rather than a bum steer when he wrote last week that if Obama wants to win, “he needs to remember he’s running against John McCain for president,” not Palin for vice president. Obama should keep stepping up the blitz on McCain’s flip-flops, confusion, ignorance and blurriness on major issues (from education to an exit date from Iraq), rather than her gaffes and résumé. If he focuses voters on the 2008 McCain, the Palin question will take care of itself.
And it looks like the Obama campaign has caught onto this idea: Democrats Launch a New 'Lie Counter' Site. Now will the media show some balls? E.J. Dionne asks that same question with less crudity in his Will Palin Get the Same Scrutiny Hillary Got?:

There’s a pattern here, two patterns actually. The first is that the McCain campaign is willing to peddle all sorts of untrue and half-true claims. The second is that the McCain campaign is clearly so uneasy about Palin’s patent lack of engagement with foreign policy that it has felt the need to greatly exaggerate what small bits of engagement she has had. (When ABC News' Charlie Gibson asked her how Alaska's proximity to Russia gave her insight into that country, Palin replied: “They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.” That’s reassuring, isn’t it? The Gibson interview also revealed the thinness Palin's knowledge of domestic policy, particularly on the budget.)

There is also a question here for the media. When Hillary Clinton claimed last March that she had to evade sniper fire during a landing in Bosnia in 1996, the media came down on her hard. It was a huge story. But at least Clinton actually visited Bosnia. Will the media focus the same attention on the false and exaggerated claims about Palin?

That old liberal bias is showing again, right? The toy poodles of the press stand ready as protectors of the political process, but damn I wish they were larger and noisier. (Why does this come from The London Times: John McCain camp braced to fight Troopergate fallout?)

This comes from Making America Stupid by Thomas Friedman:

Of course, we’re going to need oil for many years, but instead of exalting that — with “drill, baby, drill” — why not throw all our energy into innovating a whole new industry of clean power with the mantra “invent, baby, invent?” That is what a party committed to “change” would really be doing. As they say in Texas: “If all you ever do is all you’ve ever done, then all you’ll ever get is all you ever got.”

I dwell on this issue because it is symbolic of the campaign that John McCain has decided to run. It’s a campaign now built on turning everything possible into a cultural wedge issue — including even energy policy, no matter how stupid it makes the voters and no matter how much it might weaken America.

I respected McCain’s willingness to support the troop surge in Iraq, even if it was going to cost him the Republican nomination. Now the same guy, who would not sell his soul to win his party’s nomination, is ready to sell every piece of his soul to win the presidency.

In order to disguise the fact that the core of his campaign is to continue the same Bush policies that have led 80 percent of the country to conclude we’re on the wrong track, McCain has decided to play the culture-war card. Obama may be a bit professorial, but at least he is trying to unite the country to face the real issues rather than divide us over cultural differences.

***

Some McCain supporters criticize Obama for not having the steel in his belly to use force in the dangerous world we live in today. Well I know this: In order to use force, you have to have force. In order to exercise leverage, you have to have leverage.

I don’t know how much steel is in Obama’s belly, but I do know that the issues he is focusing on in this campaign — improving education and health care, dealing with the deficit and forging a real energy policy based on building a whole new energy infrastructure — are the only way we can put steel back into America’s spine. McCain, alas, has abandoned those issues for the culture-war strategy.

Who cares how much steel John McCain has in his gut when the steel that today holds up our bridges, railroads, nuclear reactors and other infrastructure is rusting? McCain talks about how he would build dozens of nuclear power plants. Oh, really? They go for $10 billion a pop. Where is the money going to come from? From lowering taxes? From banning abortions? From borrowing more from China? From having Sarah Palin “reform” Washington — as if she has any more clue how to do that than the first 100 names in the D.C. phonebook?

Sorry, but there is no sustainable political/military power without economic power, and talking about one without the other is nonsense. Unless we make America the country most able to innovate, compete and win in the age of globalization, our leverage in the world will continue to slowly erode. Those are the issues this election needs to be about, because that is what the next four years need to be about.

I emphasize that lat paragraph because I know of no one else connecting the dots. Maybe I am being so Eighties by remembering Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, but if so then so be it. A country's economic strength relates directly to its ability to be a power in the world. John McCain has no understanding of economics. He has no idea of what bought him his jet fighter, the aircraft carrier it rode on, his education at Annapolis. The only thing McCain understands is that he is the closest he has been to being President since just before South Carolina in 2000. Obama does understand this connect. It would be good to hear him make the explicit connection between our security and our ability to have a stable economy.

That our economy has serious problems is why today Lehman Brothers is going down the tubes and Merrill Lynch is for sale (or as the AP put it: Wall Street awakes to 2 storied firms gone). And The New York Times has this headline: U.S. Futures Contracts Fall With the Dollar:

The sharpest drops occurred in economies with the closest economic and political ties to the United States. In Taiwan, the Taipei market declined 4.4 percent by early afternoon, and in the Philippines, the Manila market dropped 4.2 percent.

In India, the Bombay Stock Exchange was down 5.5 percent in early trading. The rupee has weakened sharply this summer as investors have watched inflation rise while industrial production has slowed. Mr. Redwood said that the rupee and the South Korean won appear to be the most vulnerable Asian currencies in the weeks ahead.

Australia's The Age also picked up on the Lehman Brothers/Merrill Lynch meltdown with Financial shares hit by Lehman fallout:

"The fact that US authorities bailed out Fannie/Freddie last week, but have let Lehman fail this week, shows how the US authorities are managing two competing systemic risks," said BBY banking analyst George Gabriel. "The first systemic risk is counter-party financial risk the risk that the collapse of a large US financial institution flows through to that institution's clients and competitors."

"The second risk is the risk of loss of confidence in the US dollar and the US economy - this could occur if too much public money is committed to bailouts," he said.

"In short, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were considered too interconnected into the US economy to fail and so they were bailed out. This was not the case with Lehman, so no public money was committed to bailing Lehman out."

The Australian dollar zigged-zagged through the day as currency traders tried to work out the impact of the Lehman collapse.

Traders sent the dollar down as low as 81.68 US cents before it shot up as high as 82.63 US cents, only to fall again when the bankruptcy became official. The dollar last traded at 82.37 US cents.

Locally, investors and analysts reacted with alarm to Lehman's failure.

Oh, what a beautiful morning!



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