Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The New York Times damns McCain for being...liberal?

It's been observed by numerous people, from your regular blogger to well-known pundits, that McCain was once considered "Democrats' favorite Republican," but now that he's the nominee, he's suddenly the second coming of George W. Bush.

The New York Times already tried allegations that McCain had an affair with a lobbyist. When those didn't stick, they tried the non-issue of questioning his citizenship and whether he's qualified to be president. That still didn't take hold, so what's left?

Well, instead of painting him as a secretly rabid conservative so that Democrats would be sure to vote against him, Frank Rich of the New York Times decided upon a different tactic: trying to discourage Republicans from voting for him, by painting him as "channeling his inner Hillary."

McCain isn't the most conservative. He's not even very conservative. But just because McCain isn't Rush Limbaugh choice (putting it mildly) doesn't mean McCain is horribly liberal. There are plenty of conservatives and Republicans who think Rush Limbaugh is a blowhard, not to mention a hypocritical druggie/ex-druggie, and not always right like he thinks he is. And curiously enough, with Ann Coulter coming out against McCain as the GOP nominee, suddenly the NYT references her straightforwardly, not even implying but acting as if it's a given that she's right!

If Jonathan Chait of the TNR is so sure that McCain is so liberal, then let him put his vote where his mouth is, and vote for McCain in November. Is he willing to vote for McCain's "liberal" agendas on "immigration, campaign-finance reform, stem-cell research, global warming, oil drilling in Alaska, waterboarding, Gitmo," when a vote for McCain means a vote for a very anti-liberal platform of -- gasp -- Bush-style tax cuts, except this time coupled with the promise of pork-cutting? Is Chait going to vote for McCain, who said he's willing to keep American forces in Iraq for as long as is necessary, even if it means 100 years?

What Rich and Chait conveniently ignore is that McCain was right on "the surge." The American military toppled Saddam's army with ease, but it was unprepared to deal with the aftermath until McCain's strategy of the surge. I opposed sending more troops, not because I opposed the principle of the surge, but because I believed we already had the numbers for it: McCain's strategy wasn't so much about the numbers as it was about redoubling efforts to fight the insurgents.

But how come so many Americans disagree with McCain? And note that Rich has switched gears: in the same article, suddenly McCain isn't painted as Hillary-liberal, but too pro-war for the American public! Well, despite Rich's claim, "only 43 percent of Americans see an upturn in Iraq" is not contradictory with "the majority of Americans believe the surge is succeeding." When it comes to the war and fishing for anti-Bush poll numbers, the Democrats' news allies (CNN, CBS et al) for the last few years have resorted to asking exceedingly complex questions, full of nuance. Thus a majority of Americans can believe that the surge is working to root out insurgents, but a majority can also see that Iraq isn't getting better overall. Key words are often omitted as needed to advance the agenda behind the "news story."

Another example is, "Do you believe the country is going in the right direction?" Polls for months have proclaimed things like, "A majority of Americans think the country is headed down the wrong road." Someone like me would agree the country is not in the right direction, but for a very different reason than your typical Democrat. Yet on the same poll, we'd be giving the same answer.

Rich maintains,
Though Mr. McCain maintains that Republicans were routed in the 2006 midterms because of Congressional overspending and corruption, that’s wishful thinking. With all due respect to Mark Foley, Jack Abramoff and the bridge to nowhere, that election was mostly a repudiation of a war that was as unpopular then as it is on the eve of its fifth anniversary in 2008.
Rich is making too much out of only one factor. Iraq was a factor in 2006, but not as much as 2004 when John Kerry kept pushing it as "the wrong war in the wrong place in the wrong time." Conservatives like Thomas Sowell and, yes, Rush Limbaugh, have explained that Republicans in 2006 tried to be so middle-of-the-road that they were beaten by centrist (even conservative), populist Democrats. My former Congressman Sue Kelly portrayed herself as "independent," environmentalist and even slightly liberal. What happened? She lost to a genuine liberal, John Hall, who's so extreme that he wants to impeach Bush and Cheney mainly so that Nancy Pelosi can become President. Add to that the anti-war crowd and constant news stories of GOP corruption (released as close to the elections as possible without arousing too much cynicism), and that's why the GOP lost control of Congress.

So far we have obfuscation, deceit, and historical revisionism. Add to that a complete misrepresentation of something McCain said, and you have a New York Times op-ed. "Mr. McCain was reduced to arguing that such annoying little details are out of bounds because they belong to 'the past'" is a willful misquote of what McCain really said. McCain never said "annoying little details," meaning Rich put words into McCain's mouth (a common liberal trick), and his reference to "the past" was to point out that Obama is campaigning on what we should have done then (i.e. moot) rather than telling us what he thinks we should do now. And so what if McCain's "'what we are going to do now' in Iraq is merely more of what he did then"? One should respect that McCain is sticking to his belief, rather than flip-flopping like Hillary has on Iraq.

Rich mentioned in passing, "the Vietnam War hero Jim Webb," but hypocritically didn't extend the same to McCain. And strangely enough, other liberals like Gloria Steinem, having hypocritically forgotten John Kerry's biggest self-promotion act in 2004, have claimed that McCain's POW status isn't a qualification for the presidency, notwithstanding McCain hasn't claimed that!

But Rich's misrepresentation doesn't end yet:
Since the mere mention of Iraq is dangerous to Mr. McCain's and Mrs. Clinton’s claims about the exalted value of their experience, they have countered by trying to portray Mr. Obama as a foreign policy moron. They’ve even alighted on the identical bogus charge, accusing him of threatening to recklessly bomb our dear ally Pakistan. What Mr. Obama actually said last summer was that he would go after Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan’s mountains when there was actionable intelligence even if a recalcitrant President Musharraf refused to act.

As with his early opposition to the Iraq war, Mr. Obama has proved to be prescient once more. His Pakistan stance anticipated both the latest Bush administration policy — the C.I.A. killed the senior Qaeda commander Abu Laith al-Libi in just such a unilateral strike within Pakistan in late January — and Mr. McCain's own campaign posture. When Mr. McCain promises to follow Osama bin Laden to "the gates of hell," he too is vowing to go after Al Qaeda in Pakistan without restraint.
Obama is a foreign policy moron. While the U.S. would be justified in pursuing terrorists across a border, even and especially a friendly nation's border, that action must yield to the bigger picture. It's been pointed out for a long time now that if the U.S. simply bombed a part of Pakistan, it would destabilize Musharraf's government. Musharraf isn't the nicest guy on the planet, granted, but if he lost control of the government, imagine Pakistan's nukes in the hands of Islamic extremists after a coup d'etat? It's that sort of multi-step reasoning, not dissimilar from looking several moves forward in a chess game, that evades Obama.
In desperation to land some knockout punch, some McCain supporters, following the precedent of Clinton surrogates, are already invoking Mr. Obama’s race, middle name and tourist snapshot in Somali dress to smear his patriotism. The idea is to make him a Manchurian candidate, a closet anti-Semitic jihadist trained in a madrassa run by, say, Louis Farrakhan.
Journalism, even op-ed writing, still cannot take liberty with the facts. What actually happened is that while Obama smartly distanced himself from the anti-Semitic Farrakhan, McCain likewise distanced himself from the Tennessee GOP that released the photo of Obama in Somalian dress. You have both Hillary supporters and Republicans who are indeed trying to portray Obama as secretly Muslim, and so long as the official campaigns aren't doing anything, there really isn't anything the candidates can do to stop it.

On a side note, Obama allegedly being a Muslim secret in secret is to the point that my family in London, who see all around them what British Muslims are doing, think Obama really is a closet Muslim. A lot of Brits are wary of anyone who even harbors sympathy toward Muslims, including the current Archbishop of Canterbury.
What repeatedly goes unrecognized by all of Mr. Obama’s opponents is that his political Kryptonite is the patriotism he offers in lieu of theirs. His upbeat notion of a yes-we-can national mobilization for the common good, however saccharine, speaks to the pride and idealism of Americans who are bone-weary of a patriotism defined exclusively by flag lapel pins, the fear of terrorism and the prospect of perpetual war.
Rich has a strange concept of "patriotism." Is it really people chanting "O-Ba-Ma! O-Ba-Ma!" like you'd expect at a Young Jihadists meeting, or people who blindly vote for someone just because he promises "change"? Maybe if Obama gave specifics on what "change" means, I might have respect for him as someone who had principles, even if I disagreed with those principles.

Just remember that several decades ago, people shouted "Sieg heil!" at rallies and embraced someone who promised to restore strength and pride in the Vaterland. I'm not calling Obama a Hitler or implying he's a proto-dictator, but I'm merely comparing two different generations of two very different peoples who exhibit the natural human tendency to follow charisma without thinking.
A few more "macaca" moments for the nearly all-white G.O.P. could spell its doom. Recognizing the backlash that has followed the racially tinged smears leveled at Mr. Obama so far, Mr. McCain wasted no time in publicly scolding the right-wing radio talk-show host who railed against Barack Hussein Obama at one of his rallies last week. Or perhaps, as those of us who like Mr. McCain want to believe, he is simply a man of honor: he knows that history will judge him exactingly on how he runs against America's first black or female presidential nominee, win or lose.
Since even Rich acknowledges that McCain has repudiated race- and religion-based attacks on Obama, Rich's close is bordering on a non sequitur, which is appropriate because he closes his op-ed after exhausting every liberal trick of rhetoric.

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