Today’s NY Times Op-Ed: Fact vs. Reality

20Jul08

The NY Times is always center stage on Sunday. Their Op-eds are renowned as perhaps the prestigious in the country, and have brought their columnists near celebrity status. This Sunday, Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich, arguably the most famous amongst all of them in the media, tell tales of two different candidates, and reveal a sad truth in the process.

Dowd spends this column detailing some “Herculean” tasks that Obama needs to overcome in order to become president. Dowd frames her discussion around Obama’s trip to the Middle East and Europe, where he has already seen Iraq Prime Minisiter Al Maliki endorse his 16 month withdrawal plan. She also opens up by comparing to Obama to one of her friend’s that puts their serious significant others through trials with her family; another sign that Dowd wants to fuck the shit out of Obama, but is a truth that has nothing to do with national or foreign policy, so we’ll ignore that part.

One portion of her column in particular strikes a sad reality in America. In describing his trip to Europe, Dowd warns that he missed succeed without that success seeming “too European.” This excerpt explains:

Even if Obama is treated as a superstar by W.-weary Europeans, some Obama-wary Americans may wonder what he’s doing there, when they can’t pay for gas, when the dollar is the Euro’s chew toy, when Bud is going Belgian and when the Chrysler Building has Arab landlords.

“I don’t know that people in Missouri are going to like seeing tens of thousands of Europeans screaming for The One,” a McCain aide snarked to The Politico.

Firstly, are the Republicans now admitting they are the bad guy, pitting themselves against Sen. Neo? That’s the type of Cheneyism I like to see.

Regardless, in the wake of Rev. Jackson’s controversial comments on Obama, I must ask, are the Republicans talking down to the people of Missouri? Do Missourians think it was really Europeans that caused the price of gas to go up? Was it the Europeans, with governments that would be called socialist here, that were responsible for the fall of the dollar? Are Missourians aurally allergic to foreign language, culturally resistant to Europeans’ superior alcoholic beverages, and economically intolerant of a strong currency that is wisely taxed to support a higher quality of life?

Maybe, maybe not. Obama all-star Sen. Claire McCaskill eked out a win there in 2006, with strong support for stem cells. But even she couldn’t help but get the all-American street cred of taking actions to try to stop the sale of Anheuser-Busch. Sometimes going against the inevitable is a safe strategy.

Regardless, the success of not appearing overly European along with the other tasks Dowd lays out are almost a certain barometer for Obama’s success in this election. This election and its coverage is entirely predicated on Obama, because, as Frank Rich points out, the media simply refuse to do their job on reporting the colossal gaffes and absurd positions of John McCain.

Rich’s article is written with decidedly less haughty diction than is typical of theatre critics. It is a near catalog of calamities that should sink any candidate, let alone one that has made his reputation on being a “maverick.” Some of the highlights:

The McCain-Gramm bond, dating back 15 years, is more scandalous than Mr. Obama’s connection with his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Mr. McCain has been so dependent on Mr. Gramm for economic policy that he sent him to newspaper editorial board meetings, no doubt to correct the candidate’s numbers much as Joe Lieberman cleans up after his confusions of Sunni and Shia.

Rich himself even commits an error of omission in describing the McCain-Gramm connection, failing to note that McCain himself has repeated that our problems are psychological. Here’s the video proof:

I’ll let Rich off the hook for that one, in only because he describes McCain’s other would-be downfalls so brilliantly.

…his new No. 1 economic surrogate, Carly Fiorina — Mr. McCain is clueless. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger, a supporter, said that Mr. McCain’s latest panacea for high gas prices, offshore drilling, is snake oil — and then announced his availability to serve as energy czar in an Obama administration.

One can read all about Fiorina’s incompetence here, but in summation she was ousted as CEO of HP for halving the companies value. Inadvertently, Rich points out Schwarzenegger as going against McCain. I was surprised to see the Governator endorse McCain, although he pretty much had to. With more libertarian views on drug laws, progressive views on the environment and gay rights, and the ability to at some point win over bluer than navy California, one would think that Arnold may represent the only possible face for the future of the Republican party (although he can’t run for president as an immigrant. Now that’s irony). As Bush has proved, and McCain to some extent, neo-conservatism is bunk. It is curious then, what exactly is driving McCain if not a new brand of conservatism? Oh that’s right, war.

Back to Rich:

In February Mr. McCain said he would balance the federal budget by the end of his first term even while extending the gargantuan Bush tax cuts. In April he said he’d accomplish this by the end of his second term. In July he’s again saying he’ll do it in his first term. Why not just say he’ll do it on Inauguration Day? It really doesn’t matter since he’s never supplied real numbers that would give this promise even a patina of credibility.

This is really one of the more egregious violations. While Obama continues to lay out plans, whether it be economical or in foreign affairs, McCain throws around conservative and military buzzwords, never saying how he’ll actually accomplish anything. Unfortunately, this line of attack may be feeble against McCain, mostly because Hillary had similar criticisms of Obama. In that regard, it is truly a shame that Clinton supporters couldn’t read a fucking website.

On Social Security, McCain is dizzying:

Mr. McCain’s plan for Social Security reform is “along the lines that President Bush proposed.” Or so he said in March. He came out against such “privatization” in June (though his policy descriptions still support it). Last week he indicated he isn’t completely clear on what Social Security does. He called the program’s premise — young taxpayers foot the bill for their elders (including him) — an “absolute disgrace.”

See now, McCain just almost went and got me to agree with him. If what he meant was that the “young Americans” aren’t going to receive Social Security benefits because they will run out due to the stress Baby Boomers put on the system, then maybe I could get on board. But a) he didn’t say that, and instead indicated he has no idea why and how social security has worked for so long and b) the problem is still solvable, and Obama has a plan for that as well that should work.

The last McCain mistake that I’ll discuss in Rich’s article is my personal favorite:

This month [Fiorina] said Mr. McCain wanted to require insurance plans to cover birth control medications along with Viagra, when in fact he had voted against it.

No, PUMA, my ass. If this and “cunt-gate” (which is the best “-gate” ever) don’t swing the Hillary women Obama’s way, what else will? Perhaps it’ll just be McCain’s opposition to the equal pay bill. Or that abortion will become illegal during his presidency. Or that he abandoned and cheated on his crippled first wife. Gee, I don’t know.

Of course, there is something that is kinda off-putting about Rich’s article, other than when contrasted to Dowd’s. It sounds kind of familiar. I at least credited Max Bergmann, no love from Frank to either me or Bergmann. Regardless, the more recognition these mistakes get, the more this election becomes Obama’s to lose. Still one help but feel that forces bigger than ourselves will continue to push for a close election, if not a McCain victory.



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