More Dogs on Main Street
October 17, 2008
On Wednesday night, coverage of Madonna’s divorce was preempted by the third presidential debate. The pundits said McCain needed to come out with guns blazing to keep his campaign alive.
McCain has run a campaign that is so slimy that even Karl Rove, who invented slime, said it was over the line. Recent McCain rallies have a kind of frightening tone, fully egged on by Sarah Palin. One recent scene, played over and over on TV, involved McCain talking to a Minnesota woman in his "town hall" format. The woman said she didn’t trust Obama and thought that he was and here she paused and groped for the word. The rest of the audience, and those watching at home, were ready to fill in the blank for her "Muslim" but she couldn’t find that foreign-sounding word, and came out with the accusation that Obama "is an Arab."
McCain saw it coming, and shaking his head, snatched the mic out of the woman’s hands before it got worse. He said that no, Obama was not an Arab. He’s a decent family man.
I think that is the low point of this whole long election cycle for me. First off, a person who is interested enough in the process to go out and attend a campaign event, and serious enough to fight her way to the microphone to ask her stupid, uninformed, question is pretty engaged and committed. That’s more direct involvement than most of us will have in the process. She probably is following the issues carefully.
And she can’t differentiate between "Arab" and "Muslim." She can’t figure out from the whole whacky preacher problem with Reverend Wright that Obama attends a Christian church. The Muslims don’t have Reverends. In other words, this woman, who is well up the pyramid of active political participation, is completely clueless. She probably is something of an opinion leader among her even dumber friends. McCain’s response was equally off target, implying that Obama couldn’t possibly be an Arab because he loves his wife and kids, despite pallin’ around with terrorists.
As I watched the debate, on a day when the stock market plunged another 730 points in anticipation of a repeat of the Great Depression, I felt completely unsatisfied. They argued tax policy. Obama wants to give the middle class tax cuts, and raise taxes on incomes (personal and business) over $250,000. McCain said that is class warfare and income redistribution, and he would instead continue the Bush tax cuts that redistributed the nation’s income to the wealthiest 5 percent. It’s not class warfare if you are on the winning side.
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They had the same kind of runaround on health care. McCain was very anxious to talk to Joe the plumber, and I think I learned more about Joe the plumber and his attempts to purchase the plumbing business from his boss who was retiring that I did about the candidates. There are big differences in their health-insurance approaches, and the details weren’t very clearly spelled out. It’s a complicated and numbing topic. I didn’t hear enough about either plan to know which I prefer. The private insurance system has demonstrated little reason to preserve it, so I’m personally ready to euthanize it and try something completely different. Neither candidate is willing to go that far. Not even for Joe the plumber.
With the world falling apart, I can’t find much comfort from either candidate. Obama seems smart, calm, deliberate, and looks presidential. But his experience is very thin. McCain has a lot of experience, but doesn’t seem to have learned from it. McCain seems like the "shoot first and ask questions later" kind of guy, while Obama seems like the exact opposite, who may study too long and shoot too late.
McCain came right out and said, "I’m not President Bush." Well, that’s a start. After eight years of watching the Republicans wreak havoc on the country (and world), putting some distance between himself and the worst president in history is a wise move. But it’s not enough distance for me. Despite my misgivings about Obama’s lack of experience, this year, not being a Republican is enough. It’s enough on every level. Not being a Republican is enough to cast a vote for whoever is running against Congressman Rob Bishop. I don’t even know the guy’s name. He could be a complete idiot (in fact, almost certainly is to run against a Republican in Utah), but because he’s not a Republican, I’ll be voting his way. Hold them accountable for what they have done.
But back to the debate. You don’t have to live on a ranch to recognize BS when it starts stacking up. I don’t care what either candidate says your taxes are going up, the health-insurance system will stay broken, education will stay under-funded, and bridges will keep collapsing. The country is broke. We’ve thrown away about $700 billion in Iraq and keep on spending. We just spent another $700 billion, which really became $850 when Congress got through stuffing all the goodies into the plan, to bail out the Wall Street mess. All of that is on the credit card. Under Bush’s tenure, the national debt has gone from $5 trillion to about $10 trillion. Heckuva job, W. My calculator doesn’t have enough zeros to compute what my share of that is.
Congress has shown there is no intention to even talk about fiscal responsibility. There is no plan to pay that $10 trillion back to the folks we borrowed it from. Instead, we expect to borrow more from them tomorrow and the day after. It’s the ultimate "liar loan," with no income verification, and one of these days, when Uncle Sam goes to the Chinese to borrow a couple of billion more (to pay the interest on what we borrowed last week), the answer will be "no." Think we’ve got troubles now?
As the economy tanks, tax revenue will tank with it, leading to larger deficits in the coming years. When either candidate talks about tax cuts and new programs, he is lying. It doesn’t matter who wins. Your taxes are going up, and services are going down. Even Joe the plumber understands that.
Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs On Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for more than 20 years.