Friday, March 28, 2008

The Old General, the Bitchy Witch and the Dazzling Idol

It seems that the time for "foreclosure", announcements of victory and calls for withdrawal has come again. In very serious and wise newspapers and elsewhere, much-listened to OP/ED pieces writers come out (yet again) to make an impassioned speech about how poor Mr Obama is attacked by bad and evil Mrs Rodham-Clinton, and how, did she have any shred of dignity and honor left, she'd just withdraw, retire in some nunnery or other and let all the Barack worshippers celebrate what often seems to amount to them as some kind of "second coming".

The most funny thing about all those pieces, is that they have nothing to support them in the way of ideas, of policies defended by either candidate. Those pieces are full of only one thing: "we love Barack, we hate Hillary the mean bitch". Those pieces simply echo the advertisement slogans of Mr Obama's campaign, which remain, to this day, just that: advertisement slogans, with little reality in them.

In the meantime, the old general strolls on, unharmed, unhampered, toward a goal he may very well reach. Of course, the fault doesn't lie solely with the Obama campaign. Theugliness is shared on both sides: Clinton and Obama really should know and do better. But in that regard, they're both in the same boat and at the same level. The only thing is that for some reason many avert their gaze when the ugliness comes from darling Barack's camp, in a fascinating display of selective vision and hypocrisy, while they pay excruciatingly close scrutiny to the smallest misstep of Hillary.

How about coming back to the basics?

How about getting back to what those people propose, and to what they're likely to do once in power to make a choice?

Have all these famous, respected and oh-so wise OP/ED pieces writers forgotten about the meaning behind the word "politics"?

Thanks to some kind god or goddess, there remains one OP/ED writer who hasn't forgotten, and it's Paul Krugman. Again, he has produced a wonderful little piece of common sense and wisdom in his OP/ED piece in today's edition of the New York Times: Loans and Leadership. Selected quotes:

(...) it’s important to take a hard look at what candidates say about policy. It’s true that past promises are no guarantee of future performance. But policy proposals offer a window into candidates’ political souls — a much better window, if you ask me, than a bunch of supposedly revealing anecdotes and out-of-context quotes.

Which brings me to the latest big debate: how should we respond to the mortgage crisis? In the last few days John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have all weighed in. And their proposals arguably say a lot about the kind of president each would be.

(...) Mr. McCain is selling the same old snake oil, claiming that deregulation and tax cuts cure all ills.

(...) Maybe the most notable contrast between Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton involves the problem of restructuring mortgages. Mr. McCain called for voluntary action on the part of lenders — that is, he proposed doing nothing. Mrs. Clinton wants a modern version of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, the New Deal institution that acquired the mortgages of people whose homes were worth less than their debts, then reduced payments to a level the homeowners could afford.

(...) I was pleased that Mr. Obama came out strongly for broader financial regulation, which might help avert future crises. But his proposals for aid to the victims of the current crisis, though significant, are less sweeping than Mrs. Clinton’s: he wants to nudge private lenders into restructuring mortgages rather than having the government simply step in and get the job done.

Mr. Obama also continues to make permanent tax cuts — middle-class tax cuts, to be sure — a centerpiece of his economic plan. It’s not clear how he would pay both for these tax cuts and for initiatives like health care reform, so his tax-cut promises raise questions about how determined he really is to pursue a strongly progressive agenda.

All in all, the candidates’ positions on the mortgage crisis tell the same tale as their positions on health care: a tale that is seriously at odds with the way they’re often portrayed.

Mr. McCain, we’re told, is a straight-talking maverick. But on domestic policy, he offers neither straight talk nor originality; instead, he panders shamelessly to right-wing ideologues.

Mrs. Clinton, we’re assured by sources right and left, tortures puppies and eats babies. But her policy proposals continue to be surprisingly bold and progressive.

Finally, Mr. Obama is widely portrayed, not least by himself, as a transformational figure who will usher in a new era. But his actual policy proposals, though liberal, tend to be cautious and relatively orthodox.

Do these policy comparisons really tell us what each candidate would be like as president? Not necessarily — but they’re the best guide we have.

Good night, and good luck.

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