State of the Race

The front page of today’s New York Times says George W. Bush in July gave orders for American forces in Pakistan to carry out operations without notifying the Pakistani government.

Nearly a year ago, in a Democratic debate, Sen. Barack Obama said that if he is elected president and has a chance to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, he may order military action inside Pakistan without first notifying the Pakistani government. Other Democratic candidates jumped all over him. So did Republican candidates. Sen. John McCain said Mr. Obama “wants to bomb our ally” and pledged never to take action in Pakistan without notifying its government.

What does Mr. McCain say now? Will he criticize Mr. Bush, the man he hopes to succeed; now that Mr. Bush has adopted Mr. Obama’s position? Does Mr. Bush want to “bomb our ally”? Is there one standard for Democratic positions and another for Republican positions? Is Mr. Bush hopelessly naïve when it comes to foreign affairs?

I think he is. To tell the truth, I’m not sure I agree with Mr. Obama (or Mr. Bush) on this one. My point today is not about policy, but politics.

Mr. Obama has long advocated drawing down American troops in Iraq on an 18-month timeline. (I agree with him there.) Everyone jeered him for that, too. Then the Iraqi prime minister came out with the same timeline. Then the Bush administration said, “Well, maybe it’s time to start drawing down those combat troops.”

It seems that within a matter of months, everything Mr. Obama suggests in the area of foreign policy goes from being a matter of scorn to carved-in-stone Republican administration policy. Mr. McCain says Mr. Obama doesn’t have the experience to be president, but when it come to the current president following a candidate’s advice, Mr. Obama is batting .600 and Mr. McCain is batting .300. (I use a baseball metaphor so that, on the off chance Mr. Bush is reading this; he’ll know what I’m talking about.)

Here’s where we stand: today is the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. We are less than two months away from electing a new president. Our nation is at war in two countries on the far side of the world. Our military forces are stretched to the breaking point and thousands of our veterans are returning with physical and psychic wounds that will take decades to heal, if ever. One candidate, Mr. McCain has sung ditties about bombing a third nation, Iran. He has called for policies that would bring us close to war with Russia over the nation of Georgia.

Our economy is a wreck. Banks are failing and home foreclosures are at a rate that has not been seen since the Depression and Dust Bowl. Inflation is up, but the money supply is shrinking. The deficit will likely be a half trillion dollars by inauguration day. Both the stock and currency markets are fluctuating wildly on a daily basis.

Hurricanes ravage our southern coast while entire communities in Alaska are sinking because the permafrost they were built on is melting for the first time in tens of thousands of years. Delegates at the Republican National Convention last week danced in the aisles chanting, “Drill, baby! Drill!”

This week, Mr. McCain accused Mr. Obama of calling Sarah Palin “a pig.” Please read the preceding three paragraphs again and then realize that Mr. McCain’s top priority this week has been to accuse Mr. Obama of calling Ms. Palin “a pig.” (For the record, Mr. Obama’s pig statement referred to Mr. McCain’s platform, not his running mate.)

When I was in sixth grade, I ran for class office. I lost. I didn’t accuse anyone of name-calling. Maybe I should have.

© Mark Floegel, 2008

One Comment

  1. Nuttshell
    Posted 9/11/2008 at 4:40 pm | Permalink


    I couldn’t agree with you more. For the life of me I don’t understand why so many people want to redo 2000 & 2004. I know plenty of people who voted for Bush in both elections and they have regretted it but now those same people are seriously thinking of voting for McCain. The Republicans are masters at playing at people’s feelings. I’ve heard people say they feel more comfortable with McCain. They talk about his experience without citing anything specifically. He (or rather the Republican machine) makes them feel so good when they are about to be screwed.

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