States Visited

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Finally!

Friday, September 05, 2008

And, finally, we are to the end and John McCain.

Like his choice of running mate, he changed up the order a little on the Standard Operating Procedure, but it was still there. He did, however, say something that I have not heard a candidate or President or pretty much anyone in Washington say for a very, very long time:

"We're dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal and endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights. No country ever had a greater cause than that."

I have no idea what he is going to say next, but it sure is nice to hear a politician at least acknowledge it. This is the promise of American – nothing more, nothing less.

"All you ever asked of government is to stand on your side, not in your way. And that's just what I intend to do: stand on your side and fight for your future."

Well, he is off to a good start. He, unlike Obama, seems to at least grasp the real promise of America.

"She's (Palin) tackled tough problems like energy independence and corruption. She's balanced a budget, cut taxes and taken on the special interests. She's reached across the aisle and asked Republicans, Democrats and independents to serve in her administration. She's the mother of five children. She's helped run a small business, worked with her hands and knows what it's like to worry about mortgage payments and health care and the cost of gasoline and groceries."

As I mentioned in my remarks on her speech, he record on cutting taxes and balancing the budget aren't quite a rosy as presented here. She may have cut taxes on individuals and other businesses, but she roasted the oil companies and basically instituted a wealth transfer from the oil companies to the people. However, she would bring a huge unknown to Washington – a "real" person that has actually lived a true middle class lifestyle.

"I don't work for a party. I don't work for a special interest. I don't work for myself. I work for you."

Okay, he's still talking the talk, saying the right things…

Oh, boy, now he's throwing out names of citizens showing how much he cares. If this wasn't the millionth time I've heard a politician do this it would carry more weight.

"I fight to restore the pride and principles of our party. We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us. We lost the trust of the American people when some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption. We lost their trust when rather than reform government, both parties made it bigger. We lost their trust when instead of freeing ourselves from a dangerous dependence on foreign oil, both parties and Sen. Obama passed another corporate welfare bill for oil companies. We lost their trust when we valued our power over our principles. We're going to change that. We're going to recover the people's trust by standing up again for the values Americans admire. The party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan is going to get back to basics."

He is still talking the talk. All of these things are true and deserve to be said, but we've heard it all before. That last part about Roosevelt scares me a little, though. Roosevelt was one of the very first to start throwing around Progressive ideas.

"We believe in low taxes, spending discipline and open markets. We believe in rewarding hard work and risk takers and letting people keep the fruits of their labor. We believe in a strong defense, work, faith, service, a culture of life, personal responsibility, the rule of law and judges who dispense justice impartially and don't legislate from the bench. We believe in the values of families, neighborhoods and communities. We believe in a government that unleashes the creativity and initiative of Americans. Government that doesn't make your choices for you, but works to make sure you have more choices to make for yourself."

Well, there it is – the message of Barry Goldwater and the message of George Bush. Goldwater never had the chance to show what he could do as President. Bush did and he, with the help of a Republican House and Republican Senate, screwed the pooch. I want to believe it. I want to believe he believes it and will fight to make it happen, but history says he won't. It isn't all his fault. The entire party is to blame. I'm still not comfortable with the words "make sure you have more choices." How is the federal government going to do that? If it is by cutting taxes and getting out of the way, perfect. If it is by trying to deliberately do things to the economy, it is just Barack Obama all over again.

"My health care plan will make it easier for more Americans to find and keep good health care insurance."

BOOM! That was the sound of his promises starting to crack. Government in the health care business scares the bejeepers out of me. I really don't know exactly what his plan includes, so I'm not going to completely write him off, but I do know it doesn't contain the word 'universal' and that is a very small step in the right direction. My guess is that it will be some sort of hybrid plan that allows for private ownership with public funding. Grrrrr…that's not much better. Incremental socialism.

"Keeping taxes low helps small businesses grow and create new jobs. Cutting the second-highest business tax rate in the world will help American companies compete and keep jobs from moving overseas. Doubling the child tax exemption from $3,500 to $7,000 will improve the lives of millions of American families. Reducing government spending and getting rid of failed programs will let you keep more of your own money to save, spend and invest as you see fit. Opening new markets and preparing workers to compete in the world economy is essential to our future prosperity."

Oh, Senator McCain, you were soooo close. You almost had it. Everything was just peachy until the last sentence – "Opening new markets and preparing workers to compete in the world economy…" I will give him a bit of a pass on "opening new markets" because he doesn't say what that means and it could mean signing trade agreement treaties (which is good), but it could also mean directly subsidizing businesses (which is bad). But, I can't let that last phrase go without a few words. It is absolutely NOT the job of the federal government to be training people for jobs. That is absurd and it is a vote buying scheme.

"We will use our community colleges to help train people for new opportunities in their communities. For workers in industries that have been hard hit, we'll help make up part of the difference in wages between their old job and a temporary, lower paid one while they receive retraining that will help them find secure new employment at a decent wage."

Here is more of that crap. So some bureaucrat in Washington is going to monitor wages paid at certain jobs, monitor what someone is now getting paid and stroke a check to cover the difference? This is not a job for the federal government and there is no way to effectively manage this from Washington, either financially or productively speaking.

"Education is the civil rights issue of this century. Equal access to public education has been gained. But what is the value of access to a failing school? We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work… I want schools to answer to parents and students. And when I'm president, they will."

I understand where he is coming from here but I couldn't disagree more with that first sentence. Education is not a civil rights issue because you do not have a right to an education. You cannot have a right to something that must be provided by someone else and still live in a free society. We may, as citizens, decide that public education should be a priority and is worthy of our tax dollars, but it is not a right. I completely agree with his assessment that schools should be subject to competition and parents should have a choice, but none of these are things that should be within the realm of the federal government. In the first place, this is not a job for the federal government. In all of the debates about the form and duties of our government that were had by the Founding Fathers, to my knowledge, education was not mentioned once. Second, why do we need an additional layer of bureaucracy, an additional layer of 'professionals', an additional layer of payroll and insurances and benefits on top of all of those that already exist in every state, county, parish and city in the country?

"My fellow Americans, when I'm president, we're going to embark on the most ambitious national project in decades. We are going to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much. We will attack the problem on every front. We will produce more energy at home. We will drill new wells offshore, and we'll drill them now. We will build more nuclear power plants. We will develop clean coal technology. We will increase the use of wind, tide, solar and natural gas. We will encourage the development and use of flex fuel, hybrid and electric automobiles."

Here we go with the government going into business. There is a role for the federal government here but it isn't what he or Obama believe it to be. The full explanation of how it would work is well beyond what I want to get into here, but it is all a matter of supply and demand. If we quit importing so much oil from OPEC, and know those reductions are coming well ahead of time, the government won't have to do anything, our companies and economy will do it, in spades.

"My grandfather came home from that same war exhausted from the burdens he had borne, and died the next day. In Vietnam, where I formed the closest friendships of my life, some of those friends never came home with me. I hate war. It is terrible beyond imagination."

I cannot even begin to imagine what this man suffered in Vietnam. Can anyone? He personally experience things that make our scandals at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo look like a fifth grade field trip. He was tortured and held in confinement as long as I was in college. It has been decades since a President has had the kind of service he gave in the military. I would wager that no President has ever given so much of his own blood for his country. Perhaps I am na├»ve, but I trust this man when it comes to the military and politically Senator Obama would be a fool to get too deep into military matters with him – I don't care where he finished in his class at the Naval Academy.

"We need to change the way government does almost everything: from the way we protect our security to the way we compete in the world economy; from the way we respond to disasters to the way we fuel our transportation network; from the way we train our workers to the way we educate our children. All these functions of government were designed before the rise of the global economy, the information technology revolution and the end of the Cold War. We have to catch up to history, and we have to change the way we do business in Washington."

Man, is he ever right about all of these things, but he couldn't be more wrong if he thinks Washington should be the place providing the answers. He doesn't really say how he wants to address these problems. He is still saying the right things…but will he do it when in power? History says not a chance.

"A lot of prisoners had it worse than I did. I'd been mistreated before, but not as badly as others. I always liked to strut a little after I'd been roughed up to show the other guys I was tough enough to take it. But after I turned down their offer, they worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me. When they brought me back to my cell, I was hurt and ashamed, and I didn't know how I could face my fellow prisoners. The good man in the cell next door, my friend, Bob Craner, saved me. Through taps on a wall he told me I had fought as hard as I could. No man can always stand alone. And then he told me to get back up and fight again for our country and for the men I had the honor to serve with. Because every day they fought for me. I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency; for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn't my own man anymore. I was my country's."

Maybe his is using his time as a prisoner of war for political gains. Maybe he is tugging on our heartstrings and filling us full of what we want to hear. Perhaps I am cynical enough to believe any person seeking that office has an ego so big that he or she would do it in a heartbeat. But, I cannot attack what he said. As the son and step-son of men who served in Vietnam and have personally shared their stories with me, as a student of history that is aware of the absolute, unimaginable horrors that so many of our soldiers have faced over the years, as the beneficiary of the freedoms guaranteed by the sacrifices of so many, I will not question the words of the man on that subject. I will argue his politics, I will disagree with positions he takes and decisions he makes, but there are certain things I will not question because, thanks to him and millions like him, I've never been asked to do it. Thank you for your service, Senator.

"If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you're disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. Enlist in our armed forces. Become a teacher. Enter the ministry. Run for public office. Feed a hungry child. Teach an illiterate adult to read. Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed. Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier. Because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself."

In the end, he actually said a lot less about policy than Barack Obama, so I have a lot less to write about. I want to believe him. I've gone back and read what I wrote and, even though I should know better, I am drawn to it. I am drawn to the politician that seems to understand what this country was supposed to be rather than the one that has some vision of a world as it should be that looks nothing like the America our Founding Fathers created. I do not agree with all of his positions, not in the least. He still sees government involvement in far too many places in which it should not be involved, but he said the right things so far, as limited as they were. We've been here before. George Bush said the right things. The Republican congress and Senate said the right things. But they did something else. And I really see no reason to assume, at this point that a McCain administration would be any different.

What a choice we have to make!

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