Monday, June 9, 2008

Two Candidates In Need of Tea Leaves

This column was to have been about presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Barack Obama's mandate. But, with Mr. Obama and his presumptive Republican opponent for President, John McCain, treading heavily through the nation's heartland this week, mandates already seem to be an afterthought for these two candidates. And neither appears well-served by their actions.

On Monday, Mr. McCain did his level best to sabotage his own campaign, wedding himself as closely to failed and suspect Republican policies as possible. Mr. McCain's solutions for solving the nation's economic woes were front and center this week.

Responding to growing concerns about the nation's faltering economy, Mr.McCain had three suggestions--drill for more oil in the United States, rely on nuclear power, and impose a moratorium on the national gas tax. None of these solutions is likely to play well to the majority of the electorate already suspicious of an eight year run of a President and Vice-President with far too close of ties to the oil industry and far more concerned about green issues than Mr. McCain or most of his elderly cohorts seem to understand.

Mr. McCain's simple solutions to complex problems suggest that the elder statesman is relying far too heavily on what he thought worked in the past rather than providing foresight for future policy. His continued support for the gas tax moratorium suggests as much while further indicating that Mr. McCain has no real solution regarding the gas crisis.

Responding to criticisms of his moratorium proposal, Mr. McCain stated: "Talk to somebody who owns a couple of trucks and makes a living with those trucks. Ask them whether they'd like to have some relief — 18 1/2 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24 1/2 cents for diesel. They say it matters."

The problem with Mr. McCain's argument, as most economists have been quick to point out, is not that a savings of 18-24 cents per gallon of fuel would be unwelcomed by those buying gas. Rather, the problem is that any consumer savings would be fleeting as lower prices would lead to increased demand and, in short order, the same high prices that we currently have. Elimination of the gas tax thus would have no net effect on the price at the pump while substantially reducing government revenue at a time when federal, state, and local governments already are feeling pinched.

Regarding the use of nuclear power, Mr. McCain, whose backyard currently houses the single most controversial nuclear landfill on the planet in Yucca Mountain, commented that "[n]uclear power, for all kinds of reasons, needs to be part of the solution." Mr. McCain did not specify any of the reasons, implying that he believed that everyone clearly understood the reasons.

Not to be outdone by Mr. McCain's bold attempt to go where everyone has gone before, Mr. Obama began his presidential campaign by going, or promising to go, everywhere. Today, it was the economy. Next week, it will be overhauling the education system. The next week, health care.

A wise political historian once suggested that the first 100 days of a presidency are the most telling of the prospects of the President in office. For, during the first 100 days, the President has both an opportunity and a platform to lay out a vision for the next four years in office.

The wise President, it has been shown, will focus on a few key issues. Not even in office yet, Mr. Obama appears intent on focusing on several hundred key issues. That might seem ambitious to some, but, for the initiated, it is a foolhardy recipe for failure.

Up Next: What They Ought to be Saying. Plus, can McCain Win?

No comments: