Archive for July, 2008

Character and Events

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

On the one hand, it is almost too easy to disparage the trivial nature of the issues in this Presidential campaign, the issues that rise to the top of the national media’s attention. Did John McCain question Obama’s patriotism? Why won’t Obama admit he was wrong about the surge? Does it help Obama or hurt him to announce his world citizenship, and apologize for America’s shortcomings, to 200,000 Germans? Does McCain really think that Pakistan and Iraq share a border? Is Obama really a sincere Christian? Is McCain? Is Obama arrogant? Is McCain old? Does a bear sh*t in the woods?

On the other hand, when people are sussing out a new neighbor, or a fellow worker, or their boss, or a lover, these are the kinds of questions for which they seek answers. Rightfully so. The issues are irrelevant. They will not be the same issues by the time the new President takes office. What matters is who that guy really is that we just put in the White House. We won’t really know the answer to that question until it happens, but it’s important to evaluate it the best we can.

There have been many instances of men who seemed flawed or mediocre, who have risen to the occasion of becoming President. As a rule, we don’t find out whether or not a President was great until at least a couple of decades after his death, sometimes longer. Herbert Hoover will be restored, one of these days, to his rightful place somewhere above his current position. Me and three or four other people think that George W. Bush will also rise in the ranks as time goes by.

Obsessive as I am about the issues; Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, health care, energy, taxes, regulation, the value of the dollar, I have to admit, this is not what really matters. It’s my hobby, the hobby of those without better things to do. Lincoln, FDR, Reagan, Bush, none of these men had any idea what they would face, or what they would do about it, before they became President. Well, maybe Ronald Reagan knew, but he had a limited imagination, thank God. When asked what represented the greatest challenge for a statesman, Harold Macmillan replied, “Events, my dear boy, events”. This is more true today than ever.

Whatever the upcoming events turn out to be, it is a safe bet that they will be hair-raising. The real audacity of hope is the audacity of the hope that the President turns out to be someone who will keep it together and make the right call when events inevitably overtake him (or her). Most of the time Presidents do OK, but sometimes they don’t, and the stakes keep getting higher. McCain looks like the best bet to me, or at least the safest bet, for obvious reasons, but nobody really knows what either John McCain or Barack Obama will do when events hit the fan.

This is the judgment that American voters are always called upon to make, and it doesn’t matter much how informed they are about the issues. What matters is how good a judge of character they are. Political ideology and issue wonkery tend to obscure one’s ability to judge character, rather than enhance it. I have much more faith in the American people’s capacity to assess what a man or woman is made of, than I have in the depth of their knowledge and understanding of the issues of the day. Fortunately, that is exactly what is needed.

Maliki Endorses Obama

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

There has been some controversy about whether or not Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki’s remarks were accurately translated by Der Spiegel, remarks that seemed to affirm Obama’s 16 month timetable for withdrawing all but a residual force of American troops from Iraq. There were some missing caveats, having to do with the “facts on the ground”, which Obama has repeatedly deemed to be irrelevant, but I think the remarks were probably translated accurately enough.

Sixteen months probably is a realistic schedule for an American troop draw-down. Why? Because the war has been won. Thanks to the surge, victory has been achieved, the mission has been accomplished. Sorry for the delay.

Obviously, Prime Minister Maliki feels confident that his government is no longer seriously threatened by forces internal or external. Apparently, he would therefore rather negotiate with a weak Jimmy Carter-like American President, than with an intransigent neocon like McCain, who is passionate about the tremendous possible asset of an American presence in the heart of the Middle East, on the territory of an American ally.

This is all incredibly good news. It is ironic that the good news appears to redound to the benefit of Barack Obama, who opposed the surge and wanted all American troops out of Iraq by March 2008, an irresponsible strategy that would have guaranteed defeat, rather than victory.

This victory in Iraq is the centerpiece of my resignation about the future Presidency of Barack Obama. The war in Iraq is won. We are still paying for the Carter Presidency, but we survived it, and we will, hopefully and probably, survive the change we have been waiting for.

Now that the war in Iraq has been successfully concluded, there is only so much damage that the Democrats can do. Obama has proven that he is nothing if not pragmatic. Whether or not he has the courage of his convictions, whatever they are, remains to be seen.

I don’t make over $250,000 a year, so what do I care? Besides, Obama wants to invade Pakistan. I’m all for that.

No Blood for Oil

Friday, July 11th, 2008

I’ve changed my mind. I think issue number one in this Presidential election is not Iraq, but rather, to put it crudely, the price of gasoline. To phrase it another way, it is dependence on oil. To be even more precise, it is dependence on oil from the Middle East (except for Iraq) and Venezuela and Russia. We, i.e., Western Civilization, absolutely must not be in the position of needing to buy oil from the Saudi royal family, the mullahs in Iran, Vladimir Putin, or Hugo Chavez. We must not be the victims of extortion. This is really the same issue as Iraq of course. It is the same war, just a difference in emphasis. We are financing our enemies, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, and around the world.

The Democrats are right about some things. We cannot drill our way out of this. Drilling is good, and I am in favor of it, off-shore, in ANWR, oil shale in Colorado, etc., but increasing the supply of “domestic” oil can only make a marginal difference. Oil is a fungible commodity, bought and sold in the global marketplace. Any reduction in price caused by increased supply will be shared by China, India, and every other oil-consuming nation. The only way that domestic U.S. production can wean America from Middle Eastern oil is if we produce everything we need and then nationalize the domestic oil industry. That would be a bad idea for many reasons.

We need alternatives. We need a massive, Iraq-size, or moon-shot size, national commitment to alternative sources of energy that are not just pork barrel schemes for Iowa farmers. We need lots more nuclear power. Neither candidate or party is really stepping forward on this issue. Pelosi won’t even allow an energy bill to come to the floor for fear that Republicans would add amendments to authorize more drilling, amendments which would pass by large majorities. But the Republicans are not proposing anything real either, other than more drilling.

The smartest thing anyone has said so far is John McCain’s proposal to authorize a 300 million dollar prize for a breakthrough in battery technology. Battery technology is the key, the most important aspect of the issue of energy, and its corollary, the war on terror. If we had batteries that would store electrical energy with negligible loss, which could be recharged in the time it takes to fill a tank with gasoline, and that did not depend on a chemical reaction, the war on terror would be won.

This will not happen without committed, intelligent, courageous Presidential leadership. I see no sign of that on the horizon from anybody.