Some Real News From The Campaign Trail

[ Posted Tuesday, April 15th, 2008 – 16:50 UTC ]

The level of bloviation from the mainstream media over trivia is approaching hysterical levels it seems, but if you look carefully there is actually some news from the campaign trail that won't insult your intelligence. All three candidates have made interesting remarks in the past day or so which (if people hear them) might actually help them make up their mind in the voting booth. As opposed to the media's clinging to distractions such as sniper fire and bitterness.

I will leave it to others to microscopically analyze Hillary Clinton's sniper fire story and Barack Obama's recent comments in San Francisco. There certainly seems to be no shortage of folks willing to obsess over such unforced errors on the campaign trail, on both sides. My only comment on the situation is for Democrats to beware, because they are being treated unequally in this mess. During the same time period as Clinton and Obama's recent kerfluffles, John McCain has said some profoundly stupid things. And the media has barely blinked. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama should realize this and direct a little more of their fire at McCain instead of each other. Clinton has already played this card once, so she knows that it works -- challenge the media to drop its fawning attitude toward John McCain and start shining a light on his misstatements as well, or else whoever becomes the Democratic nominee is going to have a much worse time of it this November.

McCain, as Jon Soltz at Huffington Post points out, has failed the "Commander in Chief test" twice recently. The first time was a repeated confusion of the differences between Sunni and Shi'ite in Iraq. Now, I realize a lot of Americans don't really know which one is which over there, but they're not running to be the next president. McCain is. The second gaffe was when McCain seemingly promoted General Petraeus to "War On Terror Czar," when in reality he's only in charge of the situation within Iraq.

This is not some puffed-up memory of an event over a decade ago. This was not being inarticulate about explaining voter demographics in Pennsylvania. This was a profound ignorance of (1) our own military, and (2) who we're fighting in Iraq. And yet, the media largely gave him a pass on both comments. So, as I said, Democrats need to be putting some pressure on the media to do their job when it comes to vetting McCain's statements on the same level as their own.

Enough of that. The real subject that the media (and the public) should be concentrating on are three statements from the candidates. Whether you agree with them or not, each of these is a solid answer to some very interesting questions -- ones that I have been waiting for answers to for a long time. Because each of them goes directly to a bedrock question on the minds of all American voters -- "If you actually become president, what are you going to do?"

John McCain gave a speech today (tax day) about economics, and tax policy. Now I don't pay as much attention to Republican politics as I do the Democrats, I freely admit, but this is the first time in the entire campaign I have heard any domestic policy from McCain. So it should be big news. He's got a laundry list of ideas to dangle before the voters, some old and some new. Democrats so far have been sweepingly dismissive of his ideas, but they really need to address some specific issues that are going to sound awfully tempting to the middle class voters out there.

McCain's "gas tax holiday" is the first of these -- halt all federal taxes on gasoline (18.4 cents per gallon) for the entire summer. You can argue that this is a bad idea fiscally, but to people filling their cars up it's going to sound mighty tempting. Doubling the personal exemption on income tax is another one that is simple, easy to understand, and would benefit just about everybody. Plus, since it's tax day, it's on everyone's mind. Thirdly, McCain would offer people facing foreclosure a federally-backed mortgage loan where you can pick up a form at any post office to apply.

Of course, since he's a Republican, there's all sorts of goodies for the ultra-rich and big business. This is where Obama and Clinton have been focusing their attacks. But they'd better not ignore the parts of McCain's plan that actually look very attractive to an average wage-earner. The gas tax thing is a gimmick, and since McCain is calling for it this year, it will either happen or not before the election. But the other two are good ideas because they are simple, easy to understand, and I would wager, quite popular. Democrats in general had better co-opt these issues or offer their own competing ideas very soon, unless they want to see more headlines linking "John McCain" with the word "populist."

Both Democratic candidates have been saying some interesting things as well, and I sincerely hope that they will be pressured to fill out their statements at tomorrow's debate. Both of them, in different ways, were answering what they would do in their first weeks in office as president.

Hillary Clinton, appearing before a gathering of newspaper editors, outlined what her first 100 days in office would look like. Stories about her doing so range from the medium-snarky to all out snark-fest, always pointing out that her chances of having this opportunity appear to be diminishing. But it's a valid topic on the campaign stump, and I wish the jaded professional campaign reporters would stop chuckling in their sleeves long enough to seriously examine the question. From an Associated Press story about the event:

"I'll end the use of signing statements to rewrite the laws Congress has passed. I'll shut down Guantanamo, disavow torture, and restore the right of habeas corpus," [Clinton] said.

"And I'll end the practice of using executive privilege as a shield against the public's right to know and Congress's duty to oversee the president."

Clinton's 100-day agenda included the start of a troop withdrawal from Iraq and submitting a budget to Congress that rolls back some of Bush's tax cuts. She also promised to sign bills he has vetoed to expand federal embryonic stem-cell research and broaden government-supported health care to millions of lower-income children who now go without.

"In short, starting from Day One, the Bush-Cheney era will be over in name and in practice," she said at a meeting of the Newspaper Association of America.

Sounds pretty good to me.

Barack Obama was recently asked a question in the same ball park: Would you investigate the Bush administration's possible crimes upon entering office? From Will Bunch's blog, here is Obama's answer in full:

What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that's already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued. I can't prejudge that because we don't have access to all the material right now. I think that you are right, if crimes have been committed, they should be investigated. You're also right that I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt because I think we've got too many problems we've got to solve.

So this is an area where I would want to exercise judgment -- I would want to find out directly from my Attorney General -- having pursued, having looked at what's out there right now -- are there possibilities of genuine crimes as opposed to really bad policies. And I think it's important -- one of the things we've got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing between really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity. You know, I often get questions about impeachment at town hall meetings and I've said that is not something I think would be fruitful to pursue because I think that impeachment is something that should be reserved for exceptional circumstances. Now, if I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in coverups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law -- and I think that's roughly how I would look at it.

Whether you agree with him or not, I don't think anyone would disagree that it's an important question. In fact, I think both Obama and Clinton should be asked to fully answer both questions in tomorrow night's debate:

What -- specifically and in detail -- would be your priorities for your first 100 days in office?

Would you investigate possible crimes committed by the Bush administration, or would you let sleeping dogs lie?

Sure, it's less fun than the meaning of the word "bitter" or "cling." And it's also less fun than making "sniper fire" jokes. But millions of Americans would truly like to hear the complete answer to both of those questions, from both candidates. One would like to hope that tomorrow's debate moderators are paying attention to the real news from the campaign trail, rather than the fluff.

But I'm not holding my breath, or anything.


-- Chris Weigant


4 Comments on “Some Real News From The Campaign Trail”

  1. [1] 
    Michale wrote:

    McCain's "gaffe" about Patraeus handling the decision regarding moving troops from Iraq to Afghanistan is probably not really a "gaffe", but rather acute foresight.

    There has been talk in the highest circles of Patraeus replacing the retiring Admiral Fallon as CentCom commander. In his new job, General Patraeus will certainly be the man that makes that sort of decision.

    I haven't seen the original interview, but I am sure the question was something along the lines of, "When you are President, blaa blaaa blaaa.." So, McCain's answer predicates that Patraeus WILL be the man that makes the decision.

    In fact, it might be a giveaway that McCain already KNOWS that Patraeus is going to replace Fallon..

    I am glad to see that you rise above political bigotry and actually acknowledge that McCain has some good ideas.. Actually, you usually do (rise above political bigotry, I mean) but after being tainted by all the political bigotry elsewhere, it's nice to see some common sense prevail in the political arena..

    I agree. Those ideas of McCain's will really resonate with the common people. And the Dems candidates will ignore those ideas at their own peril..

    Moving on to Hillary's first 100 days in office. It's a pipe dream. She knows she ain't gonna get the nod, so she can say pretty much anything she wants, knowing she is not going to have to follow thru. But let's assume a miracle occurs and she actually wins..

    1."I'll end the use of signing statements to rewrite the laws Congress has passed."
    Utter crap.. This is probably one of the biggest perks she is looking forward to as President. Hillary is all about "power" and she will NEVER give up this king-like power...

    2. "I'll shut down Guantanamo"
    Another bullcrap fantasy. More so than the rest.. So, Hillary is going to give Gitmo back to Cuba?? Yea right... Let's assume she made a "gaffe" and meant she is just going to shut down Camp Delta...
    Where are you going to put the hundreds of terrorists?? US Soil?? Yea, THAT will make Hillary popular.. Turn them free?? Can you say IMPEACHMENT?? Hillary simply can't shut down Camp Delta and she knows it. As for shutting down Gitmo?? What planet is she living on???

    3. "disavow torture"
    She will probably "disavow" torture.. But that doesn't mean she is going to prevent it from being used. I guess Hillary fancies herself the head of the IMF (the old and classy one, not the Tom Cruise crap).. Sure she'll "disavow" torture.. But that will be just lip service.

    4. "restore the right of habeas corpus"
    How can Hillary restore a right that hasn't been taken???

    5. "And I'll end the practice of using executive privilege as a shield against the public's right to know"
    I can't believe the Dems are not laughing in the aisles at this one. Can you believe the audacity of Hillary? Do you people HONESTLY believe that, once elected President, that Hillary will suddenly have an epiphany and become all open and sweetness and light?? When Hillary releases her FULL Tax Returns and the donor list for her husband's palace and shrine, then I will believe she will be open.
    I honestly can't believe there is a Dem alive who is buying into this crock'o'crap...

    Moving on to Obama, I like his ideas.. I especially like the fact that he doesn't automatically assume that crimes HAVE been committed (as most Dems do)but states that he will do full investigations and then prosecute where warranted. I have no problem with that. I also like that Obama realizes he must not let these investigations become a partisan witch hunt else he lose all credibility as a bi-partisan President..

    So, all in all, this General Election is shaping up to be a real quagmire for me.. I have yet to hear Obama's real firm decisions on National Security and Defense.

    What would really be the best thing to happen is for Obama & McCain to appear together and state that, as it was in our first elections, the loser of this election will become the winner's VP...

    THAT would give a nod to our founding fathers and really make this an interesting election...


  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    More on McCain's "gaffe".... :D

    Gates to pick Petraeus to lead Central Command

    McCain's "gaffe" doesn't look so "gaffee" now, eh?? :D

    Like I said.. It would have been better described as "astute foresight"... :D


  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    I have to give credit where credit is due -- you called this one exactly right!


  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    Hehehehehehehehe :D

    I have my moments... Few and far between though they may be.. :D


Comments for this article are closed.