Monday, May 14, 2007

Snappy Warriors

In case you missed it, the Meet the Press page at the re-designed MSNBC website now allows for a free stream of the most recent Sunday program, and also allows you to view past programs or transcripts featuring the 2008 presidential candidates. It's nice to know that if I'm away from TIVO, I can still catch Tim Russert & Company in a few lies on the fly.

This week's guest was Senator John McCain, who poured on the instant grump with irritable vigor, even before the questioning began.

Russert: Our issues this Sunday: Our Meet the Candidates 2008 series continues, an exclusive interview with Republican John McCain. He represented Arizona in the U.S. House for four years, for the past twenty years in the U.S. Senate where he now serves as the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee. He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for president in 2000. This morning John McCain joins us for the full hour on Meet the Press. Senator McCain, welcome back to Meet the Press.

McCain: You didn't have to say unsuccessful; everybody knows that.

That's right—Russert should definitely know that with the Bush Republican Party every failure is a Mission Accomplished, and every setback a sign of progress. McCain's curt comment was followed by a wan semi-grin, but phony smirks can't hide the shear exhausted nature of McCain's campaign this time around. His eerie smile was nearly identical to the one the Senator deployed after this statement about Osama Bin Laden in the recent Simi Valley debate, " We will do whatever is necessary. We will track him down. We will capture him. We will bring him to justice, and I will follow him to the gates of hell."


While McCain's testy demeanor is what instantly sets him apart from all the other candidates running, his confusion between conviction and demagoguery is what really makes him stand out. The Senator enjoys implying that his one-track support for the Iraq War makes him courageous, not an oppressor. The exchange that follows is long, but it explicitly reveals what has happened to political leadership under the arrogant reign of Bush-Cheney & Co., an arrogance that McCain has now adopted in order to lead a nation he no longer understands (highlights mine):

Russert: But, senator, the Iraqi parliament, a majority of the Iraqi parliament, has signed a petition asking for a date certain for withdrawal of American troops. If the Iraqi parliament wants it, a majority in the Congress want it...

Senator McCain: Mm-hmm.

Russert: ...then why do you stand there and say, "No, you can't have it"?

Senator McCain: Because it's my job to give my best estimate to the American people, no matter what the political calculations may be, as to what's the best in our nation's national security interest. Young men and women are risking their lives as we speak in, in, in Iraq. And I know that they will be in greater harm's way if we withdraw from Iraq, as we keep debating over and over and over again. And I know what's best, in my mind, in my experience, in my knowledge, in my inspiration, as to what's best for this country. So political calculations such as polls, I understand that if the American people don't continue to support this effort that we will be forced to withdraw. But it's also my obligation to tell the American people and my constituents in Arizona that I represent, what the consequences of failure will be; and I believe they will be catastrophic.

Russert: But the duly elected people's bodies, the U.S. Congress and the Iraqi parliament, say they want a troop withdrawal. That's more than a poll. Isn't that the voice of the people?

Senator McCain: Well, the--as far as the Iraqi parliament is concerned, the Iraqi government obviously doesn't feel that way, their--the representatives in their government. Second of all, there is some, a certain amount of domestic political calculations involved there in what the Iraqi, quote, "parliament" said. The Iraqi parliament has their ability to, to voice their views, and I respect them. And I, as I say, I--I'll repeat again, I understand how democracies work. I saw it in Vietnam. I saw it in Vietnam. And I saw it in Vietnam, the predictions, that everything would be a worker's paradise in, in Vietnam if we left. And thousands were executed and millions went to re-education camps. So I, I believe that, that the consequences of failure, and particularly sitting on the large reserves of oil they have, particularly considering the influence of al-Qaeda is concerned, you will see enormous destabilization in the region, and that's my duty. That's my obligation. It's not my privilege. And political calculations should not enter into any information or position that I take on, on a, on an issue of national security.

Since 2000, Americans have increasingly been told, on issues big and small, that elected officials (or appointed cronies) know best, and no matter what subsequent elections or polls portend, these individuals are not required to utilize the people's desires when making policy or spending decisions. Terrorism is the worst enabler for a governing group that thinks it knows best, because this governing group controls a majority of the facts that the people need to make rational decisions, thus the governors can exercise random impositions of generalities or fear in order to achieve their we-know-best ends. What McCain misses in his democratic calculation above is that while it may be his obligation to advise the people as to what is best, in his mind, when the people take this advice and continue to voice an opposing conclusion, that conclusion should almost definitely be heeded. The obligation is to advise, not to command. Once that advice is processed by the entire population and responded to, then a democratic leader must adopt that response and temper his or her decision-making with that reality.

The Iraq War has given the GOP another empirical opportunity to demonstrate their 21st Century philosophy, what could be termed a Culture of Countermand. From conception to death, the Republican Party primarily concerns itself with over-ruling the decisions, both personal and communal, of others, all under the guise of "we know what's best" or worse, of those illusory "values." Unfortunately, that is not government in the sense of administration, which I suspect the Constitution envisions, but government-by-domination. Government-by-domination leads to significant mismanagement, because pronouncements do not produce results. Americans can be told repeatedly that progress is being made in Iraq, that our homeland is protected, that No Child Left Behind works, that the economy is booming, or that our values are under attack from the Left--but these declarations are as useless as they are dangerous when it comes to government. A government of the people should not constantly inform the people that all is well, but rather constantly ask the people if everything is functioning as it should.

Apparently Senator McCain wants to take the Bush-Cheney philosophy one step further, adding indignance to the imposition. Bothered with having to explain himself he believes that if he smiles at the end of his annoyed declarations, then what preceded the smile will thus be beyond reproach.

He's wrong, and has attached himself to a failed approach to modern governing that is suffocating our democracy.

Everybody knows that.

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