With the presidential race now effectively pared down to four candidates, thanks to the departure of John Edwards and the imminent departure of Rudy Giuliani, we’re left with a really “B-grade” contest: a bomber (John McCain), a bummer (Hillary Clinton), a betrayer (Mitt Romney) and Obama (that’s Barack with a B).
McCain, the bomber, wants to “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,” ensuring not just mayhem in Persia, but chaos, bloodshed and disaster across the Middle East and surely retaliation here at home for a generation to come. Here’s a guy who made his name by getting himself shot down while committing war crimes against the people of a backward nation in Southeast Asia, who glommed onto Sen. Russ Feingold’s clean government initiative after carting off wheelbarrows of cash from Charles Keating in the savings and loan scandal (McCain was one of the infamous Keating Five), and who claimed to be a renegade Republican and “straight talker” until he decided in 2004 to cling tightly to President Bush and become the mad Texan’s biggest apologist during his second benighted term. And, after months of pandering to the Christian right and the neocon loonies, he now wants us to believe he’s a maverick and “middle-of-the-roader.”
Hillary Clinton, the bummer, wants to bring her “experience”—that’s the eight years of her so-called “co-presidency” with hubby Bill—to the White House again. That “experience,” for the benefit of those suffering short-term memory loss, includes kicking off the first term by caving in to inappropriate criticism from the generals and backing down on a promise to end the ban on gays in the military, undermining habeas corpus with the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, gutting welfare benefits for the nation’s hard-pressed poor, locking up millions of black and Hispanic Americans on non-violent drug charges, allowing the clearcutting of original growth forests on national lands, giving away mineral rights to mining companies, establishing the precedent for unilaterally attacking other nations (Sudan and Afghanistan), expanding the military budget in peacetime, failing to defend abortion rights, appointing hacks to federal court posts, failing to stand by good appointments to those courts in the face of right-wing attacks, and of course, in Hillary’s own case specifically, throwing away for a generation a unique chance to establish a nationalized health care system in America. The very idea of re-“experiencing” any of that eight-year national disaster is my definition of a bummer. Meanwhile, her "experience" as a Senator has included voting for the illegal and unwarranted invasion of Iraq, the criminal "PATRIOT" Act, the funding of the illegal war in Iraq, and even the dangerous defining of Iran's Revolutionary Guard army as a terrorist organization (an open invitation for Bush to bomb them).
Mitt Romney, the betrayer, spent his years in Massachusetts at least pretending to be a New England liberal. He introduced a kind of state-based health insurance plan that at least had the potential of making health insurance available to every person in the state, but has since been running away from it in practice, for fear of sounding too liberal. As governor he supported a woman’s right to control her own body, and to seek and obtain an abortion if she wanted one, but when it came time to run for president, he claimed to have undergone a miraculous conversion to the view of the hard right: that a woman is nothing but a vessel for growing and delivering babies. Claiming to care about the workingman, Romney, as a venture capitalist, actually betrayed workers, eliminating their jobs in the interest of his own and his partners’ personal profits.
And then there is Barack Obama, a man who is trying to gain the presidency on sheer sophistry. “Change” is his mantra, but change to what? He doesn’t really say. His whole campaign is a feel-good exercise in ducking the issues. The United States has been pillaged relentlessly since at least the early 1970s, when Richard Nixon paved the way, with his recognition of China, for the wholesale offshoring of American industry to Asia. Administrations since then, Democratic and Republican, have been competing with each hasten the hollowing out of the American economy. Will Obama “change” this? No. He has no plan to undo the North American Free Trade Act, or to demand changes in the World Trade Organization rules. American labor unions are dying. Does Obama plan to “change” that by undoing decades of one-sided laws and regulations making it easy for employers to crush unions? No. He hasn’t said a word about defending, much less expanding the rights of workers. Health care is in crisis. Does Obama have a solution? No. He is wedded to the same approach as Hillary Clinton, which leaves the blood-sucking insurance industry in charge of financing (and denying) care. The US is being bled to death by military expenditures, which in total account for more than half of the US budget when honestly accounted for in full. Does Obama plan to slash that spending, which is greater than all the military budgets of the rest of the world’s nations combined? No. He has not said a word about cutting military spending (nor is he committed to ending the Iraq occupation). The Constitution has been undermined, particularly over the last six years, to the point that it is unrecognizable, with the presidency now more appropriately called an elected dictator, and Congress now little more than a talk shop. Does Obama plan to “change” that by voluntarily restoring the presidency to what it is supposed to be: just on co-equal branch of a tripartite government? He hasn’t said a word about restoring checks and balances. Obama’s “change” rhetoric is as empty as was Ronald Reagan’s talk about America’s being a “shining city on a hill.”
In the choice between a bomber, a bummer, a betrayer and Obama, it hardly matters who comes out on top. My guess is whoever wins, we get more military spending, more war, fewer jobs and fewer rights.
Rep. Ron Paul, for all his flaws (and they are many, including a racist attitude on immigration, a sexist attitude on abortion, and a doctinaire view of primacy of the rights of property), is looking better and better. At least he would end the Iraq War, cut the military budget significantly, and restore the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Let’s hope he quits this B-rated presidential campaign and runs as an independent or Libertarian.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening (as are signed hard-cover copies of the impeachment book at a discount!)