Saturday, October 18, 2008

McCain-Palin Getting Mavericky by Invoking Politics of Nixon-Rove-Bush

The American Heritage Dictionary, a source that even Sarah Palin would have a difficult time condemning as anti-American, defines "maverick" as "one who refuses to abide by the dictates of [their] group; a dissenter." As Karl Marx did with Hegel's philosophy, Palin has turned the definition of "maverick" on its proverbial head, declaring herself and John McCain to be mavericks as a consequence of their eschewing of moderate politics for the adoption of the politics of the far right--or, worse yet, no discernible governing philosophy at all.

At the beginning of the final month of campaigning, with the McCain-Palin ticket floundering, Governor Palin ratcheted up her sophomoric campaign stump pablum by injecting into the monologue accusations that Barack Obama is anti-American and a terrorist sympathizer.

The tactic is not new, of course, dating back at least to the 1940s when Republicans, weary of their long run outside the White House, groped for a fear tactic that would play to the uninformed.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Republicans, led by congressional candidate then Vice Presidential candidate Richard Nixon, propagated the notion that the country was being undermined by communist subversives in the democratic White House. In the absence of cable television and internet, two prodigious means for responding to unfounded political attacks, Nixon and other Republicans were able to paint Harry Truman, Adlai Stevenson, and other respectable politicians as un-American.

Nixon continued with this ploy in 1960, when he unsuccessfully ran for President against John Kennedy and, again, when running for President against Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and when attempting to dismiss Daniel Ellsberg's revelation of the Pentagon Papers.

From 1968 to 1992, Republicans controlled the White House for all but the four years of the Carter Administration. That control led to an abatement of sorts of the type of desperate campaigning that Nixon had championed within his Party for nearly four decades.

That changed in 1992 when, saddled with a bad economy, George H.W. Bush found himself mired in a tight race against a theretofore unknown in Bill Clinton. Late in the campaign, desperation oozing from his every pore, President Bush referred to Governor Clinton and his running mate, Senator Al Gore, as "those two clowns," and referred to Governor Clinton as "Bozo the Clown."

The tactic backfired for President Bush for several reasons. First, it came too late in the campaign to be effective. Second, it came off as a subjective, non-substantive criticism. And, third, President Bush did not provide substantive follow-up.

Republicans learned their lesson eight years later, however, when George W. Bush ran against Vice President Gore. Republicans, led by campaign strategist Karl Rove, pounded on the theme that Vice President Gore was going to milk the rich and give to the undeserving poor, that Gore was a "tree-hugger." "Watch your wallet!" was the rallying cry for Republicans and it worked because Vice President Gore refused to respond to the rallying cry and even fed the notion.

In 2002, Republicans again relied on the anti-tax rallying cry, despite sponsoring a candidate committed to policies that effectuated significant tax increases for the vast majority of Americans, and enlisted the aid of media conglomerates such as Rupert Murdoch's Fox Network to paint John Kerry as un-American. "Is John Kerry too French?" Fox reporters repeatedly asked as they led into their "news" of the day.

Not only was Kerry not "too French" he was and remains not at all French, in any sense of the word. But, understanding the willingness of Americans to dislike the French and for many of those same Americans to dislike anyone who does not share their same unfounded bigotries, FOX and the Republican Party, led by Karl Rove, were able to perpetuate an image of Senator Kerry as un-American. That Senator Kerry failed even to attempt to repudiate the association further reinforced the notion.

Borrowing from the Nixon-Rove line of campaigning that undermined the candidacies of Stevenson, Humphrey, Gore, Kerry, and others, Governor Palin, clearly at the behest of Karl Rove and his associates, continues to suggest that Senator Obama is un-American, calling into question his acquaintanceship with Bill Ayers, a 1960s radical. Though Senator Obama's association to Mr. Ayers is limited to his inclusion on a public education board on which Mr. Ayers also serves and to one campaign event at Mr. Ayers' home nearly forty years after Mr. Ayers' radical activities--activities that both Mr. Ayers and Senator Obama have denounced, Governor Palin continues to rely on this limited and contemporary association to portray Senator Obama as un-American and as a terrorist.

That's Nixon-Rove politics. It's the politics of fear-mongering over the politics of substance. And it is far from a "maverick" style of politics.

Where Governor Palin deserves some credit for being a maverick is not in how she or her running mate are conducting their campaign, but in her affiliation with a Party seeking independence for the State of Alaska. The Alaskan Independence Party, a Party with whose members Governor Palin clearly has palled around, given that her husband is an on-again, off-again member of the Party and that Governor Palin, herself, has attended several Party conventions as a speaker, represents the type of anti-Americanism for which Governor Palin is so far reaching to associate Senator Obama in a last, clearly desperate attempt to win a losing proposition.

If there is any anti-American sentiment at the top of the campaign tickets this election year, that sentiment seems far more compelling coming from the Palins' association with the Alaskan Independence Party than does it coming from Senator Obama's meager connection to a reformed radical. That's not what McCain-Palin-Rove want voters to believe, but, as Senator McCain is wont to say, "the proof is in the pudding."

Redefining the

Monday, October 13, 2008

Poor Judgment Likely Seals McCain Defeat

The contrast between his own public pronouncements in response to the moronic would-be voter in Lakeville, Minnesota and the comments emanating from the mouth of his embarrassing vice-presidential selection, Sarah Palin, would be enough to lead most thinking voters to conclude that John McCain either is rudderless or duplicitous in his campaign for President. But Senator McCain has opted to make the point even clear enough for his own base to see through.

As Senator McCain aides rushed to get to the public the video of Senator McCain correcting a woman who does not trust Barack Obama because "he's an Arab," his campaign--not the Republican Party, but his own campaign--continued to run ads suggesting that Senator Obama is the very embodiment of the uniformed Lakeville voter's, and, presumably, many other Republicans' worst fears. The implication in Senator McCain's most frequently running ads is that Senator Obama, though not an Arab, is either a terrorist or a terrorist sympathizer.

While Senator McCain and his aides insist that they are turning the page on this disingenuous campaign theme--a theme that is failing miserably even by the candidate's own polling statistics--Governor Palin continues to tour the country promulgating the view that Senator Obama is in bed with terrorists intent on destroying the United States.

Fortunately for Senator Obama and his presidential ambitions, Senator McCain appears neither to have the inclination nor the ability to reign in his "maverick" (read embarrassing) running mate.

Senator McCain has only one hope for winning this election. And that hope is tied to a string of decisions that he must make at this point in his campaign to save what has been the most poorly executed campaign since the evangelicals hijacked the campaign of Senator Bob Dole. As with many of his campaign miscues, however, Senator McCain appears intent on riding this out without either admitting or correcting his mistakes before they cause his candidacy to become the least competitive presidential bid since that of Walter Mondale.

Should Senator McCain any longer care to win the election, however, there is one thing that he must do and do immediately. That one thing, of course, is to admit that his decision to cave into the demands of the Karl Rove-led faction of his Party--a faction that ought to be well out of favor by this point--was a mistake.

The conventional wisdom in presidential elections is that the selection of a vice-presidential candidate is a non-issue on election day, save for the possible influence that that candidate might have in securing votes in that candidate's home state. Sarah Palin's inclusion on the McCain ticket is threatening to add a corollary to that axiom, however.

Speaking in cliched generalities, stoking divisiveness, baiting hatred, and offering no semblance of intelligent insight on any subject, Governor Palin has made a caricature not only of herself but also of the McCain candidacy. While Senator McCain has made numerous and severe errors in judgment during this campaign, including his continuing attempts to position himself as a Washington outsider despite his nearly three decades in the Senate and his attempt to portray himself as a leader on the financial crisis while offering a bailout to bankers and financial firms most intrinsically associated with Washington cronyism that created the current economic turmoil, his gravest error in judgment was selecting an unfit and uniformed running mate.

For Senator McCain to mount a credible campaign starting in the final three weeks of the election cycle seems improbable, particularly given the ineptitude that has characterized this campaign from the beginning when Senator McCain failed to parlay his three-month lead in securing the nomination into voter support. But, if he is to have any hope of winning the election, the time for making sound decisions begins now. And the most important step, though only a first step, is to replace Governor Palin with someone known for understanding the economy.

One suspects that those hoping for a turn-around in the polls are not holding their breaths.