Subject: Nothing but Net
It may be a while before John McCain pushes Barack
Obama to take a dare again.
For the past several weeks, he had been hammering
home the point that
Obama didn't have much in the way of foreign
policy experience. It was a
legitimate claim, and McCain's people were making
the most of it,
putting up a day clock on their website to show
how long it had been
since Obama had visited Iraq, and McCain himself
challenging him to take a tour of the middle
east and to talk to our
allies so he would know what was really going
on over there.
It seemed a safe enough tactic. McCain doubtlessly
believed that Obama
would privately share his conviction that the
Illinois Senator was a
lightweight in foreign policy, and would avoid
going over to the
occupied areas and saying or doing something
that would either show he
didn't know what he was talking about, or better
still, having a
"Dukakis-in-the-tank" moment in which he would
look ridiculous trying to
show off non-existent military credentials.
Then, too, there was the fact that presidential
candidates rarely left
the country at ALL during the heat of the campaign,
let alone on a
week-long, highly-publicized tour. In terms of
getting votes, Enid,
Oklahoma would be more fertile grounds than all
of Germany and France
combined. The conventional wisdom was that truculent
voters would be
wondering why he was sucking up to a buncha damn
furriners when there
were red-blooded Americans right here demanding
The tour turned out to be a disaster, not for
Obama, but for McCain. It
was supposed to show that Obama would be out
of his league dealing with
heads of state. He wasn't. It was supposed to
show that he put politics
ahead of the troops, and the troops resented
it. They didn't. And it was
supposed to give McCain the opportunity to second
guess Obama, and
suggest better ways he might have handled the
situations that Obama bobbled.
Except Obama didn't bobble any.
It began with Obama in Afghanistan, being greeted
approval by troops there. None of the perfunctory
applause that one
hears when the audience has a military duty to
commander-in-chief some courtesy; these soldiers
jumped up and down,
cheered, whooped, pounded one another on the
back, and roared approval
when Obama took a basketball and sank the throw
from thirty feet out.
So much for the troops resenting Obama.
While Obama was meeting with Karzai and promising
more American troops
(the one mistake Obama made, in my opinion),
McCain was explaining to a
few bored reporters that Obama had no idea of
the conditions along the
Iraq/Pakistan border, "otherwise known," Jon
Stewart acidly observed,
Der Spiegel, the German magazine, then had an
interview with al-Maliki,
the Iraqi Prime Minister, who observed that Obama's
for getting American troops out of Iraq was pretty
much what al-Maliki
himself thought was the best route to take. A
top McCain staffer let
himself be caught in earshot of the press saying,
"Oh, we are fucked."
The White House promptly put out a message, saying
they had spoken to
al-Maliki, and he had been misinterpreted. No,
al-Maliki shot back, that
is what I meant to say. Since a big part of McCain's
campaign was that
he knew better than Obama what was best for Iraq,
"fucked" is a pretty
On the day that McCain was supposed to use Novak
the Prince of Darkness
to leak his choice for vice president, Batman
beat up his mother and
Novak himself drew attention away from the announcement
by running over
a pedestrian with a car. Later that day, McCain
landed in New Hampshire
to find that only one reporter and one photographer
was there to cover
his campaign stop.
On the day of the big speech in Berlin, McCain
planned to steal some
thunder by giving a speech on an oil platform
about how vital offshore
drilling was, and how clean and safe. The speech
and photo-op were
cancelled at the last moment, supposedly because
of Hurricane Dolly
which had gone ashore and disintegrated a couple
of days earlier. Not
mentioned by the McCain people was that there
was a 400,000 gallon oil
spill in the vicinity, caused by a collision
between two ships.
One of the elements of Obama's trip that might
have a lasting effect on
the voters was one that McCain didn't manage
to make worse for himself.
Two hundred thousand Germans turned out to see
Barack Obama in Berlin.
He is immensely popular over there. And in this,
there is a message:
People still want to like America. Yes, Putsch
has disgraced the
country, alienated its friends and made it many
new enemies, and he is a
source for sour jokes and outright hatred all
over the world. But people
all over the world still love the American dream,
and still respect and
adore the principles for which the country stands.
Even as many
Americans lost that vision, it remained in Europe,
even while they
stared in bafflement as America twice elected
a vicious buffoon and
followed policies closer in spirit to Adolph
Hitler than to Thomas
The Germans are wise in the ways of politicians,
in a way Americans hope
never to find out. I watched the BBC's Matt Frei
and a couple raised the question of whether Obama
is a dreamer or a
It isn't just a legitimate question. It is THE
most legitimate question
any voter should ask about all the candidates,
and not just of those
candidates they don't like. There's no guarantee
the answer will be the
right one (I myself felt in October 2000 that
George W. Bush was an
amiable flyweight who would prove to be an ineffectual
worthless one-termer. I didn't begin to guess
the ability of the people
around him to tear apart much of what America
stood for, in order to
erect their own corporate-run national empire).
But the question at
least puts your mind in the right place to spot
and react to demagoguery
when and if it arises.
Despite the question, Germans clearly like Obama
and wish him - and
America - well. Around the world, people still
believing in America may
be what it takes to get Americans believing in
themselves again, after
eight years of the moral and intellectual morass
of the Putsch junta.
McCain still hits all the same sour "can't do"
notes. America can't find
peace without war. America can't find prosperity
by feeding its poor.
America can't clean up its industry without it
America can't do this. America can't do that.
But America is strong. So strong it doesn't need
to talk to anyone.
Doesn't need to know what others are thinking.
Doesn't need friends. And
writhes in resentful fury because everyone is
alienated from it.
People, both in America and abroad, need to change
that. And Obama,
honestly or not, holds out the promise that he
-- "Now, by the way, any time you hear the United
States government talking about wiretap,
it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order.
Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're
talking about chasing down terrorists, we're
talking about getting a court order before we do so"
-George W. Bush, April 20, 2004
Not dead, in jail, or a slave?
Thank a liberal!
Pay your taxes so the rich don't have to.
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