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Would We Be Better Off If John McCain Were President? August 1, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, John McCain.
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Roger’s note: for those of us who vote the “lesser of evils,” here is a cogent and fascinating argument.  Should it be McCain and not Obama who is selling out wholesale to the military-industrial complex, warring incessantly abroad and helping the rich get richer and the poor poorer at home, not only would the hypocritical Democratic Party be taking up indignant opposition, but, more importantly, there would be massive protests in the street (which is the only effective antidote to Imperial America).
AlterNet /Fred Branfman

Presidents serve the institutional interests of the
corporations behind them. A President McCain may have at least triggered a true
progressive fight.

July 17, 2011  |

Beth Rankin / Flickr Creative Commons
Photo Credit: Beth Rankin / Flickr
The following piece first appeared on Truthdig.

Democrats were united on one issue in the 2008 presidential election: the
absolute disaster that a John McCain victory would have produced.

And they were right. McCain as president would clearly have produced a long
string of catastrophes: He would probably have approved a failed troop surge in
Afghanistan, engaged in worldwide extrajudicial assassination, destabilized nuclear-armed
Pakistan, failed to bring Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to the negotiating table, expanded prosecution of whistle-blowers, sought to
expand executive branch power, failed to close Guantanamo, failed to act on climate change, pushed both nuclear energy and opened new
areas to domestic oil drilling, failed to reform the financial sector enough to prevent another financial catastrophe, supported an extension of the
Bush tax cuts for the rich, presided over a growing divide between rich and poor, and failed to lower the jobless rate.

Nothing reveals the true state of American politics today more than the fact
that Democratic President Barack Obama has undertaken all of these actions, and
even more significantly, left the Democratic Party far weaker than it would have
been had McCain been elected. Few issues are more important than seeing behind
the screen of a myth-making mass media, and understanding what this demonstrates
about how power in America really works—and what needs to be done to change
it.

First and foremost, McCain would have undoubtedly selected as treasury
secretary an individual nominated by Wall Street—which has a stranglehold on the
economy due to its enjoying 30 to 40 percent of all corporate profits. If he
didn’t select Tim Geithner, a reliable servant of financial interests whose
nomination might have allowed McCain to trumpet his “maverick” credentials,
whoever he did select would clearly have also moved to bail out the financial
institutions and allow them to water down needed financial reforms.

Ditto for the head of his National Economic Council. Although appointing
Larry Summers might have been a bit of a stretch, despite his yeoman work in destroying financial regulation—thus enriching
his old boss Robert Rubin and helping cause the Crash of 2008—McCain could
easily have found a Jack Kemp-like Republican “supply-sider” who would have
duplicated Summers’ signal achievement of expanding the deficit to the highest
levels since 1950 (though perhaps with a slightly higher percentage of tax cuts
than the Obama stimulus). The economy would have continued to sputter along,
with growth rates and joblessness levels little different from today’s, and
possibly even worse.

But McCain’s election would have produced a major political difference: It
would have increased Democratic clout in the House and Senate. First off, there
would have been no Tea Party, no “don’t raise the debt limit unless we gut the
poor,” no “death panel” myth, no “Obama Youth” nonsense. Although there would
have been plenty of criticism from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, the fact remains
that McCain, a Republican war hero, would never have excited the Tea Party
animus as did the “Secret-Muslim Kenyan-Born Big-Government Fascist White-Hating
Antichrist” Obama. Glenn Beck would have remained a crazed nonentity and been
dropped far sooner by Fox News than he was. And Vice President Sarah Palin,
despised by both McCain and his tough White House staff, would have been
deprived of any real power and likely tightly muzzled against criticizing
McCain’s relatively centrist (compared to her positions) policies.

Voters would almost certainly have increased Democratic control of the House
and Senate in 2010, since the Republicans would have been seen as responsible
for the weak U.S. economy. Democrats might even have achieved the long-desired
60 percent majority needed to kill the filibuster in one or both houses.

Democratic control of the House and Senate fostered by disastrous Republican
policies would have severely limited McCain’s ability (as occurred with George
W. Bush) to weaken Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance
and other programs that aid those most in need. (Yes, domestic spending might
have been cut less if McCain had won.)

Had McCain proposed “health insurance reform,” because health insurers saw a
golden opportunity to increase their customer base and profits while retaining
their control, the Democrats would at least have passed a “public option” as
their price for support. And possible Health and Human Services Secretary Newt
Gingrich—placed in that position in a clever move to keep him away from economic
or foreign policy—might have even accelerated needed improvements in
computerizing patient records and other high-tech measures needed to cut health
care costs, actions that he touted in his book on the subject.

In foreign and military policy, McCain would surely have approved Gen. David
Petraeus’ “Afghanistan surge,” possibly increasing the number of U.S. troops
there by 40,000 instead of 33,500. But Gen. Stanley McChrystal would probably
have remained at the helm in Afghanistan, since he and his aides would never
have disparaged McCain to Rolling Stone. McChrystal
might have continued a “counterinsurgency” strategy, observing relatively strict
rules of engagement, unlike his successor, Petraeus, who tore up those rules and
has instead unleashed a brutal cycle of “counterterror” violence in southern
Afghanistan. (Yes, far fewer Afghan civilians might have died had McCain
won.)

McCain, like Obama, would probably have destabilized nuclear-armed Pakistan
and strengthened militant forces there by expanding drone strikes and pushing
the Pakistani military to launch disastrous offensives into tribal areas. And he
would have given as much support as has Obama to Israeli Prime Minister
Netanyahu’s opposition to a peace deal because he believes that present policies
of strangling Gaza, annexing East Jerusalem, expanding West Bank settlements and
walling off Palestinians are succeeding. (It is possible that a McCain secretary
of state might not have incited violence against unarmed American citizens—as
did Hillary Clinton when she stated that Israelis, who
killed nine unarmed members of the 2010 Gaza flotilla, “have the right to defend
themselves” against letter-carrying 2011 Gaza flotilla members.)

While McCain would have wanted to keep 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan
until 2014, he might have been forced to reduce their numbers, as has Obama. For
McCain would have faced a strengthened and emboldened Democratic Congress, which
might have seen electoral gold in responding to polls indicating the public had
turned against the Afghanistan War—as well as a far stronger peace movement
united against Republicans instead of divided as it now is between the desires
for peace and seeing an Obama win in 2012.

Most significantly, if McCain had won, not only would Democrats be looking at
a Democratic landslide in the 2012 presidential race, but the newly elected
Democratic president in 2013 might enjoy both a 60 percent or higher majority in
both houses and a clear public understanding that it was Republican policies
that had sunk the economy. He or she might thus be far better positioned to
enact substantive reforms than was Obama in 2008, or will Obama even if he is
re-elected in 2012.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in March 1933 after a 42-month
Depression blamed entirely on the Republicans. Although he had campaigned as a
moderate, objective conditions both convinced him of the need for fundamental
change—creating a safety net including Social Security, strict financial
regulation, programs to create jobs, etc.—and gave him the congressional
pluralities he needed to achieve them. A Democratic president taking office in
2013 after 12 years of disastrous Republican economic misrule might well have
been likewise pushed and enabled by objective events to create substantive
change.

Furious debate rages among Obama’s Democratic critics today on why he has
largely governed on the big issues as John McCain would have done. Some believe
he retains his principles but has been forced to compromise by political
realities. Others are convinced he was a manipulative politico who lacked any
real convictions in the first place.

But there is a far more likely—and disturbing—possibility. Based on those who
knew him and his books, there is little reason to doubt that the
pre-presidential Obama was a college professor-type who shared the belief system
of his liberalish set: that ending climate change and reducing nuclear weapons
were worthy goals, that it was important to “reset” U.S. policy toward the
Muslim world, that torture and assassination were bad things, that
Canadian-style single-payer health insurance made sense, that whistle-blowing
and freedom of the press should be protected, Congress should have a say in
whether the executive puts the nation into war, and that government should
support community development and empowering poor communities.

Upon taking office, however, Obama—whatever his belief system at that
point—found that he was unable to accomplish these goals for one basic reason:
The president of the United States is far less powerful than media myth
portrays. Domestic power really is in the hands of economic elites and their
lobbyists, and foreign policy really is controlled by U.S. executive branch
national security managers and a “military-industrial complex.” If a president
supports their interests, as did Bush in invading Iraq, he or she can do a lot
of damage. But, absent a crisis, a president who opposes these elites—as Obama
discovered when he tried in the fall of 2009 to get the military to offer him an
alternative to an Afghanistan troop surge—is relatively powerless.

Whether a Ronald Reagan expanding government and running large deficits in
the 1980s despite his stated belief that government was the problem, or a Bill
Clinton imposing a neoliberal regime impoverishing hundreds of millions in the
Third World in the 1990s despite his rhetorical support for helping the poor,
anyone who becomes president has little choice but to serve the institutional
interests of a profoundly amoral and violent executive branch and the
corporations behind them.

The U.S. executive branch functions to promote its version of U.S. economic
and geopolitical interests abroad—including engaging in massive violence which
has killed, wounded or made homeless more than 21 million people in Indochina
and Iraq combined. And it functions at home to maximize the interests of the
corporations and individuals who fund political campaigns—today supported by a
U.S. Supreme Court whose politicized decision to expand corporations’ control
over elections has made a mockery of the very notion of “checks and balances.”
The executive branch’s power extends to the mass media, most of whose
journalists are dependent on executive information leaks and paychecks from
increasingly concentrated media corporations. They thus serve executive power
far more than they challenge it.

No one more demonstrates what happens to a human being who joins the
executive branch than Hillary Clinton, a former peace movement supporter whose
1969 Wellesley commencement address stated that “our prevailing, acquisitive, and
competitive corporate life is not the way of life for us. We’re searching for
more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating modes of living”; praised “a lot of the
New Left [that] harkens back to a lot of the old virtues”; and decried “the
hollow men of anger and bitterness, the bountiful ladies of righteous
degradation, all must be left to a bygone age.” Clinton the individual served on
the board of the Children’s Defense Fund, promoted helping the poor at home and
Third World women abroad and at one point was even often compared to Eleanor
Roosevelt.

Although her transformation began once she decided to try to become
president, it became most visible after she joined the executive branch as
secretary of state. The former peace advocate has now become a major advocate
for war-making, a scourge of whistle-blowers and a facilitator of Israeli
violence.

But while rich and powerful elites have always ruled in America, their power
has periodically been successfully challenged at times of national crisis: the
Civil War, the Progressive era, the Depression. America is clearly headed for
such a moment in the coming decade, as its economy continues to decline due to a
parasitic Wall Street, mounting debt, strong economic competitors, overspending
on the military, waste in the private health care sector and elites declaring
class war against a majority of Americans.

Naomi Klein has written penetratingly of Disaster Capitalism, which
occurs when financial and corporate elites benefit from the economic crises they
cause. But the reverse has also often proved true: a kind of “Disaster
Progressivism” often occurs when self-interested elites cause so much suffering
that policies favoring democracy and the majority become possible.

The United States will clearly face such a crisis in the coming decade. It is
understandable that many Americans will want to focus on re-electing Obama in
2012. Although Democrats and the country would have been better off if McCain
had won in 2008, this is not necessarily true if a Republican wins in
2012—especially if the GOP nominates Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann.

But however important the 2012 election, far more energy needs to be devoted
to building mass organizations that challenge elite power and develop the kinds
of policies—including massive investment in a “clean energy economic
revolution,” a carbon tax and other tough measures to stave off climate change,
regulating and breaking up the financial sector, cost-effective entitlements
like single-payer health insurance, and public financing of primary and general
elections—which alone can save America and its democracy in the painful decade
to come.

Fred Branfman’s writing has been published in
the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Republic, and other
publications. He is the author of several books on the Indochina War.

Vietnam MIAs: Ghosts Return to Haunt McCain May 30, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in History, John McCain.
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Friday 28 May 2010

by: Alexander Cockburn, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

The ghosts that haunt Sen. John McCain are about 600 in number and right now, they are mustering for a final onslaught. McCain, one of America’s foremost Republicans and President Barack Obama’s opponent in 2008, is currently locked in a desperate bid for political survival in his home state of Arizona.

After 20 years of immunity from challenge from his fellow Republicans, he’s now involved in a close primary battle with J.D. Hayworth, a former congressman turned radio broadcaster who sports the tea party label. Hayworth says McCain is a fake Republican, soft on issues like immigration. The polls have been tightening, and if McCain got bludgeoned by some new disclosure, it could finish him off.

That very disclosure is now likely to burst over the head of McCain, the former Navy pilot who was held in a North Vietnamese prison for five years and returned to the U.S. as a war hero.

His nemesis is Sydney Schanberg, a former New York Times reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from Cambodia that formed the basis for the Oscar-winning movie “The Killing Fields.”

In recent years, Schanberg has worked relentlessly on one of the great mysteries of the Vietnam War, one that still causes hundreds of American families enduring pain. Did the U.S. government abandon American POWs in Vietnam?

By 1990, there were so many stories, sightings and intelligence reports of American POWs left behind in Vietnam after the war was over that pressure from Vietnam vets and the families of the MIAs (missing in action) prompted the formation of a special committee of the U.S. Senate to investigate. The chairman was John Kerry, a Navy man who had served in Vietnam. McCain, as a former POW, was its most pivotal member.

Down the years, Schanberg has pieced together the evidence, much of it covered up by the Senate committee. In 1993, an American historian unearthed in Soviet archives the record of a briefing of a Vietnamese general to the Soviet politbureau. The briefing took place in 1973, right before the final peace agreement between the U.S. and Hanoi.

What the Vietnamese general told the Russians was that his government was intent on getting war reparations, $3.25 billion in reconstruction money, pledged by the U.S. in peace negotiations headed on the U.S. side by Henry Kissinger. The general told the Russians that Hanoi would hold back a large number of POWs until the money arrived.

But Nixon and Kissinger had attached to the deal a codicil to the effect that the U.S. Congress would have to approve the reparations — which the two knew was an impossibility in the political atmosphere of the time. Thus they effectively sealed the POWs’ fate. Hanoi released 591 immediately, but held back around 600.

All of this was suppressed by the Kerry-McCain committee, with the complicity of the U.S. press, enamored of both McCain and Kerry. McCain was particularly vicious in mocking what he and his press allies suggested were the fantasies of MIA families and Vietnam vets.

Schanberg writes now that, “In a private briefing in 1992, high-level CIA officials told me that as the years passed and the ransom never came, it became more and more difficult for either government to admit that it knew from the start about the unacknowledged prisoners. Those prisoners had not only become useless as bargaining chips but also posed a risk to Hanoi’s desire to be accepted into the international community.

“The CIA officials said their intelligence indicated strongly that the remaining men — those who had not died from illness or hard labor or torture — were eventually executed.”

In the presidential campaign of 2008, as I reported for The First Post at the time, McCain faced accusations that in fact, as a POW, he had broken and cooperated with his North Vietnamese captors, who regarded McCain as a valuable prize because his father was a prominent U.S. admiral, at the time commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific.

McCain Jr., so his accusers said, disclosed vital information and made broadcasts denouncing the U.S., which were then used by the Vietnamese to break other POWs.

The issue never became a big one in 2008 — but now it’s coming on back with a vengeance.

On May 26, the American Conservative, a monthly, released a special issue, “The Men our Media Forgot.” The U.S. media, pressured in any number of ways by successive U.S. governments to ridicule and suppress enquiries into the missing POWs, are the prime target, but McCain also bulks large in the American Conservative’s sights, since his present political crisis forms an excellent peg for Schanberg’s story. The calculation is evidently that this could be a huge boost to Hayworth.

In an article for the American Conservative titled “McCain and the POW Cover-Up,” Schanberg insinuates, without saying so directly, that the Pentagon blackmailed McCain to squelch the MIA hearings: “It’s not clear whether the taped confession McCain gave to his captors to avoid further torture has played a role in his postwar behavior in the Senate. That confession was played endlessly over the prison loudspeaker system at Hoa Lo — to try to break down other prisoners — and was broadcast over Hanoi’s state radio.

“Reportedly, he confessed to being a war criminal who had bombed civilian targets. The Pentagon has a copy of the confession but will not release it. Also, no outsider I know of has ever seen a non-redacted copy of the debriefing of McCain when he returned from captivity, which is classified but could be made public by McCain.”

Alexander Cockburn is co-editor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book “Dime’s Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils,” available through http://www.counterpunch.com.

Copyright 2010 Creators.com 

The Real Bill Ayers December 6, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, John McCain, Political Commentary, U.S. Election 2008.
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Published: December 5, 2008
New York Times

Chicago

IN the recently concluded presidential race, I was unwillingly thrust upon the stage and asked to play a role in a profoundly dishonest drama. I refused, and here’s why.

Unable to challenge the content of Barack Obama’s campaign, his opponents invented a narrative about a young politician who emerged from nowhere, a man of charm, intelligence and skill, but with an exotic background and a strange name. The refrain was a question: “What do we really know about this man?”

Secondary characters in the narrative included an African-American preacher with a fiery style, a Palestinian scholar and an “unrepentant domestic terrorist.” Linking the candidate with these supposedly shadowy characters, and ferreting out every imagined secret tie and dark affiliation, became big news.

I was cast in the “unrepentant terrorist” role; I felt at times like the enemy projected onto a large screen in the “Two Minutes Hate” scene from George Orwell’s “1984,” when the faithful gathered in a frenzy of fear and loathing.

With the mainstream news media and the blogosphere caught in the pre-election excitement, I saw no viable path to a rational discussion. Rather than step clumsily into the sound-bite culture, I turned away whenever the microphones were thrust into my face. I sat it out.

Now that the election is over, I want to say as plainly as I can that the character invented to serve this drama wasn’t me, not even close. Here are the facts:

I never killed or injured anyone. I did join the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, and later resisted the draft and was arrested in nonviolent demonstrations. I became a full-time antiwar organizer for Students for a Democratic Society. In 1970, I co-founded the Weather Underground, an organization that was created after an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village. The Weather Underground went on to take responsibility for placing several small bombs in empty offices — the ones at the Pentagon and the United States Capitol were the most notorious — as an illegal and unpopular war consumed the nation.

The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be — and still is being — debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.

Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response. But it was not terrorism; we were not engaged in a campaign to kill and injure people indiscriminately, spreading fear and suffering for political ends.

I cannot imagine engaging in actions of that kind today. And for the past 40 years, I’ve been teaching and writing about the unique value and potential of every human life, and the need to realize that potential through education.

I have regrets, of course — including mistakes of excess and failures of imagination, posturing and posing, inflated and heated rhetoric, blind sectarianism and a lot else. No one can reach my age with their eyes even partly open and not have hundreds of regrets. The responsibility for the risks we posed to others in some of our most extreme actions in those underground years never leaves my thoughts for long.

The antiwar movement in all its commitment, all its sacrifice and determination, could not stop the violence unleashed against Vietnam. And therein lies cause for real regret.

We — the broad “we” — wrote letters, marched, talked to young men at induction centers, surrounded the Pentagon and lay down in front of troop trains. Yet we were inadequate to end the killing of three million Vietnamese and almost 60,000 Americans during a 10-year war.

The dishonesty of the narrative about Mr. Obama during the campaign went a step further with its assumption that if you can place two people in the same room at the same time, or if you can show that they held a conversation, shared a cup of coffee, took the bus downtown together or had any of a thousand other associations, then you have demonstrated that they share ideas, policies, outlook, influences and, especially, responsibility for each other’s behavior. There is a long and sad history of guilt by association in our political culture, and at crucial times we’ve been unable to rise above it.

President-elect Obama and I sat on a board together; we lived in the same diverse and yet close-knit community; we sometimes passed in the bookstore. We didn’t pal around, and I had nothing to do with his positions. I knew him as well as thousands of others did, and like millions of others, I wish I knew him better.

Demonization, guilt by association, and the politics of fear did not triumph, not this time. Let’s hope they never will again. And let’s hope we might now assert that in our wildly diverse society, talking and listening to the widest range of people is not a sin, but a virtue.

 

William Ayers, a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is the author of “Fugitive Days” and a co-author of the forthcoming “Race Course.”

Peas in a Pod November 2, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in John McCain.
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From McCain, Warm Words for Bush

Michael Cooper, New York Times Political Blog, Nov, 2, 2008

WALLINGFORD, Pa. – Senator John McCain was nearing the end of his rally in a high school gymnasium here Sunday morning, making the case that a comeback was at hand, when his voice suddenly began to grow hoarser and hoarser.

“Now let me give you a little straight talk about the state of the race today,’’ he said at Strath Haven High School. “There’s just two days left. We’re a couple of points behind in Pennsylvania. The pundits have written us off, just like they’ve done before.’’

Then his voice cleared, and he announced brashly, “My friends, the Mac is back!’’

He was reprising a slogan that was popularized around the time of his come-from-behind victory in the New Hampshire primary, and in doing so trying to offer a dollop of optimism supporters wary of the many polls that show him trailing Senator Barack Obama both here in the state of Pennsylvania and nationally.

“The other night, Senator Obama said that if he lost, he would return to the Senate and try again in four years for the second act,’’ Mr. McCain told the crowd. “That sounds like a great idea to me! Let’s help him make it happen.”

For months Mr. McCain has been trying to distance himself from President Bush, the deeply unpopular Republican president he is vying to succeed. For many days he has said at rallies, “I’m not President Bush.’’ And when Vice President Dick Cheney praised him this weekend, the Obama campaign quickly cut an ad to spread the word of an endorsement they clearly believed would hurt Mr. McCain more than it would help him.

So it was a bit surprising when Mr. McCain offered praise of President Bush on Sunday, reprising a line he has hardly used, if he has used it at all, since the Republican primary battles ended. It came as Mr. McCain praised Tom Ridge, the former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security secretary, who had introduced him.

“I think that Tom Ridge — and President Bush — deserve some credit for the fact there’s not been another attack on the United States of America since 9/11,’’ he said.

Obama Congratulates McCain on Cheney Endorsement November 2, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in John McCain.
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Posted on Nov 1, 2008, www.truthdig.com
Cheney
AP photo / Evan Vucci

Vice President Dick Cheney waves as he leaves George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 15. 

During a campaign stop in Pueblo, Colo., on Saturday, Barack Obama used the news that Vice President Dick Cheney had endorsed John McCain for president to further link McCain and the Bush administration. In retaliation, McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds attempted to link Obama with Cheney. Hot potato!

 

 

ABC News’ “Political Punch”:

“So I would like to congratulate Sen. McCain on this endorsement,” Obama continued. “Because he really earned it. That endorsement didn’t come easy – Sen. McCain had to vote with George bush 90 percent of the time and agree with Dick Cheney to get it. McCain had to serve as Washington’s biggest cheerleader for going to war in Iraq. And supports economic policies that are no different from the last eight years.  So Sen. McCain worked hard to get Dick Cheney’s support.”

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McCain’s Big Backfire: Majority of Americans Like the Idea of Spreading the Wealth November 1, 2008

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By Alexander Zaitchik, AlterNet. Posted November 1, 2008.

It must come as a surprise to the Republicans that the public favors Obama’s idea of speading the wealth.

John McCain and Joe the Plumber are campaigning for Barack Obama, and they don’t even know it. The more McCain has ramped up his attacks on Obama as a “spreader of wealth,” the more the country has lined up behind the Democrat’s plan to spread the wealth. If McCain’s economic agenda was a gun and his attacks on Obama’s agenda the bullets, the old soldier would have shot both his feet clean off a long time ago.

Watching the GOP’s coordinated if increasingly delirious attacks on Obama’s economic plan, it’s clear that the party is even further out of touch with the America of 2008 than previously imagined. After eight years of establishing and then extending America’s lead as the most unequal of all industrialized countries, Republicans thought they could deflect a national groundswell of righteous anger by dusting off and hurling every insult in the conservative arsenal, including old favorites “extremist,” “radical,” “Marxist” and “socialist.” One suspects they are saving “anarchist” and “Hessian” for McCain’s last-gasp speech on Monday.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Republican hammer-and-sickle-themed haunted house: Nobody showed. The McCain campaign’s attempts to smear Obama as a Trojan donkey for socialistic un-Americanism have belly-flopped, if not backfired. Obama has not only maintained a stable lead under the Republican barrage, he has increased his positives in the traditionally Republican territory of taxes. The final national polls before Tuesday all show a national hunger for national wealth redistribution downward. An Ipsos/McClatchy poll finds that likely voters prefer Obama’s tax plan to McCain’s by 8 points. Pew says Obama added to his edge on taxes and the economy between mid-September and mid-October by 6 points, jumping from 44 to 39 earlier to 50 to 35. On Oct. 30, Gallup released results showing Americans favor Obama’s style of wealth spreading by a whopping 58-to-37 margin.

It appears the nation’s sanity and sense of fairness has reasserted itself to wipe the floor with condescending GOP red-baiting.

It hasn’t hurt that the GOP attacks have been absurd on their face. A 3-point increase in the top marginal income tax rate to 39 percent is not easily morphed into the face of Pol Pot. For much of the 20th century, the top income tax rate in the United States slid between 50 percent and 90 percent, peaking at 94 percent during the final two years of World War II. Most Americans would agree that the mid-century rates were excessive, but support for some kind of progressive tax curve remains widespread. Both Bill Clinton and Al Gore ran winning campaigns promising to raise taxes on the rich.

“The public has always supported moderately progressive taxation, so I don’t think McCain’s pitch had much resonance unless he could convince people that Obama would raise their taxes,” says Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “Obama inoculated himself against this attack by saying that he would cut taxes for 95 percent of the public. Basically, McCain was trying to make things up, and most people didn’t believe him.”

Charges of socialism are especially discordant coming from the McCain campaign. The top marginal income tax rate held steady at 50 percent for five years under McCain’s hero, Ronald Reagan. His other hero, Teddy Roosevelt, was a fierce and early booster for federal income and estate taxes. And Sarah Palin? It wouldn’t be all that surprising to see her turn up at a commemoration of this year’s 70th anniversary of the Fourth International. As Hendrik Hertzberg noted in one of many recent New Yorker pieces debunking the newest GOP attack line, the redistributive principle is practiced with particular gusto in Palin’s Alaska, where the governor spreads the oil wealth like creamy butter around the state’s absorbent white bread. “One of the reasons Palin has been a popular governor,” notes Hertzberg, “is that she added an extra $1,200 to this year’s (government) check, bringing the per-person total to $3,269.” Earlier this summer, Palin boasted to journalist Philip Gourevitch, “Alaskans collectively own the resources. We share in the wealth.”

Like Alaskans, we’re all socialist now, to an extent, and have been for a long time. It’s just a question of daring to speak the adjective’s name, which happens to describe hugely popular programs like Social Security and Medicare. Watching McCain’s socialist attack line flop, it’s tempting to think that the country is edging closer to the day when the word, stripped of its Cold War baggage, no longer has the power to frighten Ohio. Another element is the further eclipse of the culture war by economics. As the country’s shifting demographics grow over the divides opened up during the 1960s and ’70s, attempts to bundle pinko economics with fears of godless agents of chaos become increasingly meaningless.

The Right is aware of and worried about this growing de-contextualization of the word “socialism.” The counterrevolution against the New Deal was aided by the presence of the Soviet Union as a running counterpoint. But it’s now almost 20 years after 1989. A generation has matured that never soaked up any of the old propaganda. This generation has studied abroad and knows you can Super-size it in Sweden. It has no memory of “Better Dead Than Red” and can’t imagine an elderly British logician making international headlines for saying he’d rather crawl to Moscow on his hands and knees than die in a nuclear war. Conservatives worry about this group much as arms controllers worry that kids today don’t understand the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. The right’s fright over the post-Cold War generation’s immunity to cries of “socialism!” was expressed clearly in an Oct. 27 editorial in the Investor’s Business Daily titled “Defining Problems With Socialism for the Post-Cold War Generation.”

“John McCain has finally called Barack Obama’s agenda by its proper name,” it begins. “But if he assumes voters understand what he means when he uses the word ‘socialism,’ he assumes too much. Sadly, most people under 60 in this country went to schools and universities where socialism isn’t considered a bad thing.”

Actually, those are two distinct groups — those who don’t understand the word or its gradations, and those who do and wouldn’t mind living under most of them. What they have in common is that together they constitute a future United States where the word “socialist” carries an ever-weakening stigma.

Whether we choose to reclaim or dispense with the word, its days as a conversation stopper appear to be over. Over the last eight years, 90 percent of the new income generated has accrued to the top 10 percent, while average family incomes have dropped $2,000. These numbers have engendered bitterness on top of anxiety that has shifted the economic debate. If Democrats get a chance to seek forceful redress in the coming years, Republicans are sure to call Obama a socialist and much else besides. But that’s OK. Tuesday’s election is going to show that when people are hurting, they don’t mind a little “socialism” — just as long as it’s pointed their way.

Another Prominent Republican Dumps McCain October 31, 2008

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October 31, 2008
Posted: 01:35 PM ET
From

Duberstein is pulling for Obama.

Duberstein is pulling for Obama.

(CNN) — Former Reagan chief of staff Ken Duberstein told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria this week he intends to vote for Democrat Barack Obama on Tuesday.

Duberstein said he was influenced by another prominent Reagan official – Colin Powell – in his decision.

“Well let’s put it this way – I think Colin Powell’s decision is in fact the good housekeeping seal of approval on Barack Obama.”

Powell served as national security advisor to Reagan during Duberstein’s tenure as chief of staff.

Duberstein spoke with Zakaria about his final days in the Reagan White House. The Reagan official, along with Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Carter National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, also discussed the transition process to a new administration.

Watch the full discussion on the next administration this Sunday at 1 p.m. on Fareed Zakaria GPS.

And Yet Another Republican October 29, 2008

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McConnell Fundraising E-Mail: Vote for Me to Fight Obama Presidency


Sam Stein, Huffington Post, October 29, 2008


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has sent out a new fundraising email that, at its crux, plays off the assumption of a Barack Obama victory in the presidential election.


Citing media reports that show “an Obama win [as] a real possibility,” the Kentucky Republican positions himself as the one man capable of standing up to the Obama/Pelosi/Reid machine” that “will steamroll a host of new taxes and left-wing social policy across the Senate Floor.”


It is not uncommon for politicians to use presidents or presidential candidates as a boogeyman to curry votes. But McConnell’s fundraising appeal seems to go a step beyond, painting, at times, Obama’s election as a fait accompli that voters in Kentucky must consider.


“[L]ocal and national newspapers are already saying that if my opponent were to win this race, he would be a reliable vote for Obama and Chuck Schumer,” he writes of Democratic challenger, Bruce Lunsford.


Hinting at the possibility of complete Democratic control of government – again a statement predicated on an Obama win — McConnell writes: “national liberals want this Senate seat so badly” because “they are making this race a power play for domination of the public debate. They have made no secret that they are fighting for total unfettered domination of the government and its agenda.”


This is the second time in as many days that a Republican official has sent out a fundraising letter for the Kentucky Senate race that forecasts a future Obama White House. On Tuesday, Mitt Romney blasted out an email on McConnell’s behalf, warning that Democratic challenger Bruce Lunsford “was handpicked by Chuck Schumer and will be a reliable vote for the Democrats. And as we face the very real possibility of an Obama presidency, that’s the last thing we need.”


The Kentucky Senate race has become ground zero of sorts for Democratic efforts to secure 60 seats in the Senate. And as the election has approached, McConnell’s once strong standing has diminished.


Good government groups, who have long viewed the Minority Leader as a thorn in the side of their agenda, are also seeing a real possibility of flipping the seat. On Wednesday, Campaign Money Watch, a national nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog organization, announced that it will spend another $800,000 on a television ad in Kentucky accusing McConnell of being a puppet of special interests.



There Goes Another Republican October 29, 2008

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Shays concedes McCain defeat

Staff Reporter, Yale Daily News
Published Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NEW CANAAN, Conn. — The first ballot has yet to be tallied, but some Republicans are already hammering nails into the McCain-Palin campaign’s coffin.

Locked in a tight congressional race, Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut’s 4th district is the latest in a slew of Republican incumbents, including Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, to concede a near-certain victory to the Obama camp.

“I just don’t see how [McCain] can win,” Shays said in an interview here on Sunday.

Shays, the Connecticut co-chair of McCain’s campaign, said he was disappointed by the standards of McCain’s race, which has increasingly relied on mudslinging.

“He has lost his brand as a maverick; he did not live up to his pledge to fight a clean campaign,” Shays said.

But Shays — who is famous for never running a negative campaign ad, even when behind — said the negativity in the presidential race has nevertheless been flowing both ways. He said that though they have been diluted by positive ads, Sen. Obama’s campaign has empirically run a greater number of negative ones.

“Obama has four times the amount of money McCain has, so for every negative ad he runs he can balance it with an upbeat one,” Shays said. “McCain, on the other hand, has been nearly 100 percent negative.”

Shays laid much of the blame on the far right, which, he said, has “hijacked” the Republican Party, threatening to walk out if its demand are not met — despite being in the minority.

He said this situation is a cautionary tale for the Democratic Party, whose Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and MoveOn.org have imposed their often-radical ideas on the rest of the party.

But Shays also said he was skeptical of Sen. Obama’s promise to rule from the political center.

“It’s what all presidents should do, but [Obama] has never been there,” he said, referring to Obama’s left-of-center congressional record.

McCain’s other Connecticut co-chair, Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67, has not publicly commented on McCain’s chances on Election Day, but he has continued to campaign for him, most recently in Florida on Monday.

Jeff Grappone, New England communications director for the McCain campaign, did not return several requests for comment Monday.

GOP Doubts Grow: Romney, Pawlenty Sound Skeptical October 28, 2008

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MIKE GLOVER and NEDRA PICKLER | October 28, 2008 09:56 PM EST | AP

(partial article)

HERSHEY, Pa. — Doubts about John McCain’s chances for the presidency grew louder among fellow Republicans on Tuesday as a White House race largely focused on Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania entered its final week.

Even two Republicans once on McCain’s short list for vice president sounded skeptical. In a fundraising e-mail on behalf of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Mitt Romney referred to “the very real possibility of an Obama presidency.” In the Midwest, Gov. Tim Pawlenty gave a dour assessment of McCain’s chances in his state, saying Barack Obama “has a pretty good advantage in Minnesota right now.”

Nationally, a poll by the Pew Research Center found Obama with a 16-point lead among registered voters. The survey said Obama had 52 percent and McCain 36 percent, with independent voters supporting the Democrat by a 48-31 margin.

The Nielsen media company reported that both are focusing about three-fourths of their advertising in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Obama, who had been spending four times as much as McCain on advertising, is now airing only twice as many ads as his rival, the ratings company said.

Those three states are battlegrounds, offering a combined 68 electoral votes on Election Day.

The concentration of firepower comes even as Obama mounts a national advertising campaign that will culminate Wednesday evening with a 30-minute, prime-time commercial on network television. The candidates also planned appearances on cable TV talk shows, including Obama on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

The candidates kicked off their final week of campaigning in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania, which hasn’t supported a Republican presidential candidate in 20 years and where Obama is ahead in the polls. McCain is working for an upset and has Pennsylvania as the linchpin to his victory strategy.

“I’m not afraid of the fight, I’m ready for it,” McCain told noisy supporters at a rally in this Republican region and home of the world’s largest chocolate factory.

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