In the past, we have not made a practice of endorsing any candidates for national public office. However, because of the significance of the issues at stake in the upcoming election on Tuesday, November 4th, and because of the despicable way the McCain-Palin campaign has been conducted, Crotonblog breaks with its tradition and urges the election of Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
We must admit that we were impressed when John McCain was hoping to be nominated by the Republican Party and took a firm stand against torture. But that was then and this is now. No longer is John McCain the affable old maverick who would banter easily with reporters on his bus called the “Straight Talk Express.” It is expected that every politician will fib a little about generalities, and hope that they go unnoticed. But no one anticipated a McCain campaign that scrupulously avoided the issues worrying voters today: the faltering economy, falling real estate values, a looming recession and rising unemployment—all the product of the inept Bush administration from which Mr. McCain has tried vainly to distance himself.
Instead we are exposed to a campaign built solely on lies and misrepresentations about Mr. McCain’s opponent. But the lies go even further. Mr. McCain even lies about himself in the face of incontrovertible evidence. The economy is the chief concern of voters today. John McCain was captured on tape saying, “The issue of economics is not something that I’ve understood as well as I should.” This tape is played frequently on opposition commercials, yet Mr. McCain flatly insists that he never made this statement.
In addition to having been a consistent supporter of the policies of George W. Bush, John McCain made a ludicrously unsuitable selection for the vice presidency. His choice of Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska for less that two years, and former mayor of a “city” of some 8,000 residents, who was plucked from political obscurity, demonstrates that he lacks the good judgment that is the prime qualification for the job of president. In this, Mr. McCain has also shown himself to be impulsive and irresponsible, willing to risk everything on one throw of the dice.
McCain’s choice of a running mate on the eve of the Republican National Convention set off an initial wave of excitement later belied by the reality of her shallowness. At the outset, Mrs. Palin revealed her abysmal ignorance early in the campaign by being unable to name any newspaper or magazine that she read regularly or identifying a single Supreme Court decision with which she disagreed. She was immediately shielded from contact with reporters who might ask embarrassing questions at press conferences. Revelations about her costly campaign wardrobe and bloopers about her interpretation of the vice president’s job description are now raising fresh fears that Sarah Palin is dragging down the Republican ticket.
Published financial records of the Republican National Committee show that it spent lavishly on clothes for Mrs. Palin since late August, making her the first “hockey mom” with a $150,000 wardrobe. After being found guilty of abusing her power as governor in the so-called “troopergate” scandal over the firing of her ex-brother-in-law, Mrs. Palin now faces a second probe over whether she violated ethics rules in the affair.
And late in the campaign Mrs. Palin revealed herself to be woefully ignorant of the duties of the vice-president. “They’re in charge of the United States Senate, so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes,” she said, overstating the vice president’s powers by describing fanciful duties that would make her part of the legislative branch. Her uninformed comment directly contradicted the separation-of-powers principle enshrined in the US constitution.
Under the 1787 Constitution, the vice president has two duties: (1) to be ready to take the place of the president in the event of incapacitation or death, and (2) To preside over the Senate (i.e., to conduct Senate sessions) and cast one vote to break a tie. That’s it—nothing more. No wonder John Nance Garner, who served as vice president during FDR’s first two terms, described the office as “not being worth a bucket of warm piss.”
Mrs. Palin’s principle contribution to the campaign is exemplified by a speech in rural North Carolina in which she said she was happy to be in “the real America” and praised rural areas as “the pro-America areas of this great nation.” We don’t know what America Mrs. Palin is talking about. Rural America now constitutes only 20 percent of this nation. Such a bald attempt to drive a wedge between rural America and urban and suburban America would have made more sense in the America of 1930. It is doomed to failure today.
Senator McCain’s hasty choice of Mrs. Palin combined with frequent confusion such as his mixing up Sunni and Shiite or the Taliban and al-Qaida have caused observers to suspect that he may be exhibiting the emotional instabilities that are signs of senility. He turns out to be a doddering old political hack whose chief argument for election to the presidency is that he was shot down over Hanoi during the Vietnam War and survived captivity for five years as a prisoner of war.
With its entrenched bunker mentality, the McCain campaign has been a disaster, inconsistent, wavering and angry from the start, being composed of messages containing equal parts of (1): “My friends, elect me; I’m not ‘That One.’ He’s a terrorist. No, make that “He’s a socialist—that’s today’s attack word.” (After this administration’s rescue of greedy investment brokerage firms and the nationalization of some of the country’s largest banks, Mr. McCain can hardly use “socialist” as a pejorative.) (2) “My friends, I’m a Vietnam War vet; I know how to win wars.” (Unfortunately, this nation lost the only war in which he served.) (3) “My friends, I’ll reveal to you my plan for my administration—as soon as my campaign managers tell me what it is.”
John McCain’s surprisingly unfocused, almost irrational campaign has been conducted without a strategy but with an overwhelming concern about day-to-day tactics instead of long-term planning. With its almost daily changes and angry messages of hate, his campaign has watched support erode. Aside from the confusion sowed among listeners uniformly worried about the sad state of the economy, the McCain campaign releases a bewildering array of daily attacks on opponent Barack Obama, characterized by absurd charges dredged up from the past.
An over-the-hill Senator McCain sealed his fate by choosing as the Republican candidate for the vice presidency an ambitious, unscrupulous woman who has outdrawn crowds with her bitter attack appearances. She had been mayor of a “city” no larger than Croton and for less than two years the governor of a state with a population three-quarters the size of Westchester County’s. Imagine a combination of Greg Schmidt and Andy Spano as such a candidate. Wait a minute! What are we saying? That combination would be more qualified than Sarah Palin.
If how effectively each candidate has organized and managed his campaign is any measure of that candidate’s competence to manage the high office of the presidency, then Barack Obama wins the contest hands down. Under the withering blows of fabricated personal attacks, Senator Obama has maintained his cool and adhered to plan, resisting the temptation to respond in kind. The election of Barack Obama to the presidency will prove to the rest of the world that the Bush administration’s assault on the Constitution, its unnecessary war, its rendition of prisoners to countries where prisoner torture and abuse are rampant, and its suppression of civil rights at home were all a temporary aberration. It will also show the world that the Constitution’s free and equal guarantees mean what they say and are not mere words on aging parchment, that its principles enunciated by Abraham Lincoln still pertain today.
Readers should vote in this election as if your lives depended upon it, for in a very real sense, they do. And we urge readers to also re-elect John Hall, whose first term has been an exemplary model of what a dedicated public servant can achieve in the short space of two years.