Saturday, August 09, 2008

McCain Catches Break with War

Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain is lucky a war broke out yesterday. Otherwise, more people would have noticed that he took a couple of hits from the media today.

In a real surprise, the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch published a tough opinion piece on how mediocre McCain would be as a president. Author Rex Nutting ripped McCain for his Naval Academy career, fighter pilot performance, running for Congress as a carpetbagger, legislative record, economic ignorance, and relentless self-promotion.

Here's a sample:

McCain says he doesn't understand the economy. He's demonstrated that he doesn't understand the workings of Social Security, or the political history of the Middle East. He doesn't know who our enemies are. He says he wants to reduce global warming, but then proposes ideas that would stimulate -- not reduce -- demand for fossil fuels.

McCain has done one thing well -- self promotion. Instead of working on legislation or boning up on the issues, he's been on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" more than any other guest. He's been on the Sunday talk shows more than any other guest in the past 10 years. He's hosted "Saturday Night Live" and even announced his candidacy in 2007 on "The Late Show with David Letterman."

In my opinion, a McCain presidency would be even worse than that. But I have to wonder why this kind of hit piece is appearing in an outlet of the reliably Republican Wall Street Journal. There's lots of possible explanations and several of them could be applicable at the same time. It may be that the business community is becoming more politically diverse and Market Watch is speaking to the Democrats among its customers. There's also a chance that Nutter's article is payback for McCain's efforts against the tobacco industry, Bush's initial tax cuts, and pork-barrel legislation.

But I wonder if the corporate sector as a whole has decided that the Republicans aren't good for big business. The Bush administration's economic policy was mostly limited to tax cutting and deregulation while they've allowed health costs and oil prices to balloon, the deficit to spiral out of control, the dollar to lose much of its value, and the housing market to become a flimsy speculative bubble.

Business might have decided that the Democrats are likely to do better.

The second hit piece came from Arizona reporter Amy Silverman who views McCain as being more of a dishonorable, lying kind of politician than most office-holders. Silverman's major piece of evidence is the way McCain sandbagged Arizona governor Rose Mofford and then gleefully lied about it afterward.
Now, Mofford had been governor for only eight days . . . She was not familiar with the particulars of federal water law. Nor did her staff think she'd be expected to be — just then. But, apparently, Senator James McClure, a Republican from Idaho, did . . . McClure asked Mofford a series of questions that would leave any water expert's mouth dry. Her staff jumped in to try to answer, but even so, ultimately they had to file an addendum to the testimony . . .

"During lunch, McCain said, almost with mischievous glee, that he had slipped some highly technical questions to [James McClure] to ask Mofford — questions she wouldn't be prepared to answer or expected to answer.

"Flabbergasted, I asked McCain why would he want to sabotage Mofford's testimony, when in fact the CAP was the nonpartisan pet of Republicans and Democrats . . . since its inception.

"His reply, as near as I remember, was, 'I'll embarrass a Democrat any time I get the chance.'

"The lunch continued in strained chit-chat. We then walked back to McCain's office, where a few reporters, all of them from Arizona papers, as I recall, were waiting. One said there was a rumor McCain had tried to sabotage Mofford's testimony, to which he said something like, 'I'd never do anything like that.'"
According to Silverman, it's McCain's ability to adapt a self-righteous posture precisely when he was lying about a bit of his own nasty work that makes him a despicable character. She also writes about McCain's nasty jokes about women, McCain's betrayal of Barry Goldwater, and manipulation of his relationship with the dying Mo Udall for political purposes.

All in all, it's an ugly picture of John McCain as a man and as a politician.

For now, the WSJ Market Watch article and Amy Silverman's profile aren't going to have any impact because of events in South Ossetia.

But they may still come back to haunt McCain as media attention begins to focus on the question of whether John McCain is qualified to be president.


Anonymous said...

The war in Georgia may have been a break for McCain, but the Olympics would be more of a distraction. The reality is that most people don't care much about either one, sad to say. Also most people are not evaluating the campaign and the candidate's background like you have. The "dog days of summer" are here and I don't think interest in the national campaign will increase until the party conventions or until a VP is announced. We still have polls and news announcements but I think more people are interested in Edward's affair than anything of real substance. The war in Georgia and the Olympics should both be front page news taking up all the news shows. People don't know anything about the country of Georgia and why should they care about it. Nobody even remembers where the last Olympics were held let alone any significance of it being held in China. Hopefully people will learn more about China even if they don't care about the Olympics. About McCain, he isn't any more interesting than the war or the Olympics either. Boring! Obama isn't far behind but at least he has a little curious energy appeal that sustains interest in him. You bring up many points about McCain but I don't think they sink in as much right now as they will after the party conventions are over and we get closer to election day.

Anonymous said...

The war in Georgia is a really big issue. Too bad nobody knows where it is or cares about it. The majority of Americans can't remember the issues of Chechnya, right next door to what is going on right now in Georgia. What this really is about is Russia's willingness to flex its muscles for internal political support and to test the international waters to check on the responsiveness of the world community. Chechnya was a mixed problem for Yeltsin and the Russian people. This war is right out of Putin's playbook -- to rally the Russian psyche with a nationalistic move toward a former colony that has thumbed their nose at Moscow since the breakup of the old Soviet Union. Controversial figure Eduard Shevardnadze (previous Georgian President) was a former Minister of Foreign Affairs under Gorbachev. After the breakup of the USSR in 1991, Shevardnadze became president of Georgia and the rift with Moscow widened. Russia sustained its interest in the regions within Georgia of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This conflict has been brewing for a long time to await an opportunity to erupt in an all-out conflict. Russia has recovered its internal political power (under Putin) to be able to muster a move toward bringing these breakaway regions within Georgian territory back to the Russian motherland. What most don't understand is that most of these people are not Russian but of other ethnicities and many of them Muslim, as the case with Chechnya and its neighbors. Russia needs a nationalistic shot in the arm to keep their internal politics together. The US response to this situation is critical. Georgia is (was) the third largest supporter of troops to Iraq after the US and Britain. We have had military training camps in Georgia for years under the Bush Administration. Bush and Putin were once "soul mates" and could do business together. The whole southern Caucasus region of Russia is a minefield of political chaos. Look at a map and try to pronounce the names of those Russian republics located there. There is a North Ossetia there also. There is a major oil pipeline (million barrels a day) running from Baku on the Caspian to through Georgian and ending on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. This pipeline was just blown up this past week in Turkey and is a major issue within the oil industry. This war is a larger international problem than just a local Georgian problem. More is going on behind the scenes that will probably never hit the news or understood by most people. This war should be taking away a lot from the news headlines but probably never will. The issues of the southern Caucasus region will remain more muddy and mysterious than clear. The American people don't know where this place is, can't pronounce the names of these places and just don't care. So, McCain is safe for the short term but I'll bet he doesn't even know where Karachayevo-Cherkesiya or Kabardino-Balkariya are located.