Cool is conquering crotchety in election…

October 9, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

It has become the contest of the crotchety old geezer against the cool kid, and cool is winning.

Republican John McCain is strident and does demonstrate policy knowledge gained from nearly three decades in Washington. But there is a certain angry and desperate edge to his demeanor that subtracts from what we would like to see as a leader in these extremely difficult times.

On the other hand, the Democrat Barack Obama exudes calm. In fact, it seems the more he is attacked and baited, the calmer he gets. Certainly he must be exasperated. But he is cool enough to know not to fall into the trap of being called an “angry black man.” He does not have the luxury of simply appearing as a forceful white military officer. We still have certain double standards in our society, the vestiges of racism. Then again, maybe Mr. Obama is just naturally unflappable (we have, though, seen him bristle ever so little at times – he is human after all). Obama does not claim to have all the answers as McCain does. He does demonstrate that he understands the problems we face and has ideas and can reason with others. McCain brags he is a “maverick” who loves to cross party lines, but his demeanor suggests one who is super sensitive to criticism or perceived slights, and who demands hero worship.

Asked about the fact that the McCain campaign is pressing its charge that Obama has consorted with a terrorist, William “Bill” Ayers, and that he is disloyal, but that in the debate McCain did not bring it up, Obama cooly noted that he wished McCain had the guts to charge him to his face.

When McCain referred to Obama as “that one” in the debate Tuesday night, I did not see it as a slight or sign of disrespect, it was just a rhetorical flourish to show some supposed irony about the way Obama voted on a particular bill. On reflection, though, I have to say that McCain acts as if he has no respect whatsoever for his opponent, even though some time ago he had promised to run a civil campaign. He’s getting desperate.

McCain talks as if the fact that he’s been in Washington for nearly three decades and has “been in on every foreign policy decision,” his words, and spent five years in a North Vietnamese prisoner of War camp gives him an automatic ticket to the White House.

First of all, I wouldn’t brag about being in on every foreign policy decision considering the mess we are in now with our military way over extended and world opinion being more negative toward us than any time in history (even our friends don’t like us).

And just how being a prisoner of war qualifies one to be president, please tell me.

McCain’s biggest liability is what he brags about being, a maverick. I really don’t know what his complete record is in the congress and senate, and at this point I really don’t care. But he has been so erratic during these past few financially turbulent weeks that such should be enough to convince folks he’s a little unstable or confused. The economy is “fundamentally sound”; we are in an “economic crisis”, two McCain assessments made within 24 hours. He tried to explain such away by saying “fundamentally sound” referred to the work force. Absurd. If that were so he would have said “work force,” not “economy”.

Choosing a woman to be his running mate seemed to me like a bold move at first, that is until I saw and heard more from this heretofore unknown. Now that I have gotten to know Sarah Palin I see her for what she is: a right wing reactionary demagogue who always goes for the lowest common denominator. So many people, from ones who are wealthy today to those who live in the ghetto, share something in common, they sought help from their government when they needed it. Even Palin has proclaimed that she is a recipient of women’s rights measures in civil rights legislation. But at the same time, Palin mocks government. We have freedom of speech in this nation, but anyone who doesn’t think as Palin or McCain is suspect, in their minds, or not ready to be president, as if Palin were. When Obama votes against one military funding bill, but supports another, he is voting against the troops, they say. No one votes against the troops. No one votes not to supply food and shelter and ammunition to the troops. To suggest otherwise is nonsense on its face. People who call for “supporting the troops” generally are using that slogan as a rhetorical device to stifle debate on the underlying policy that puts troops in harm’s way and keeps them there for such extended periods of time.

And contrast the shrill Cindy McCain who charges out on the stump that Obama somehow endangered her son in Iraq by voting a certain way in the Senate, to Michelle Obama’s graceful handling of the question of whether she thought McCain the candidate disrespected her husband by referring to him as “that one”. She said, “no not at all.”

Palin, a college graduate herself, mocks education, and refers to common folk as “Joe Six Pack.” She also refers to the concerns of “soccer moms” or “hockey moms” as if they were Stepford wives with no brains of their own, thinking and acting in unison. I’m sure neither of the afore mentioned groups are in total agreement among each other, but Palin cynically tries to appeal to prejudice and ignorance. Don’t think. Just react.

Just as Palin claims Obama is not fit to lead, I fear for the safety and dignity of this nation should she ever reach the White House. With McCain’s age and health, there’s too much danger of this undignified light weight becoming president. Despite her claim to be a conservative, many of the conservatives are in despair over her candidacy. There is actually a rift now between the less sophisticated conservatives and some of the more learned and I think genuine conservatives because of Palin.

Sorry for the diatribe on Palin. But the fact McCain chose her without even vetting her (we know now that he barely knew anything about her), says something, too much, about his irrationality.

McCain is also the man who sang bomb bomb bomb Iran, to the tune of Barbara Ann. A good joke I admit, but hardly an example of Teddy Roosevelt speak softly and carry a big stick policy that McCain always says he admires. And a leader of the free world should not be so flip.

He threw out the line or two at Tuesday night’s debate about coming up with his own original idea about the government buying up mortgages and renegotiating them at diminished value. Now we find out that it just means the government would eat the difference but give the total payoff to the banks up front. I’m not sure this is much different than what is proposed under the new bailout law, and I am not even sure that it is a bad idea, but I understand it is not original. Hillary Clinton proposed a similar approach on mortgages during the primary. But of course back then McCain said that would be government usurping the role of free enterprise (today we are finding out there is nothing free in free enterprise).

And that brings to mind another rift among the conservatives and among the Republicans in general. Bush, their man, pushed through the biggest socialization of free enterprise in the history of this nation. True conservatives should not be happy about that. And McCain suggests having the government buy up mortgages and then setting a lower value on property. Yikes! Adam Smith has to be rolling in his grave. And all this thanks to the conservative Republicans.

Maybe conservatism is dead. If true conservatism is anything like what has been supported by the Republican party since Nixon, thank goodness.

Once upon a time conservatism was about preserving the basic values of democracy and the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and support of the Bill of Rights, and of resistance to rapid change, and holding to accepted moral values. Then came Nixon who introduced a kind of meanness. He was an eager participant in the communist witch hunts of the late 40s and early 50s (now I don’t think he was wrong to fight what he saw as communist subversion, but it is said he tarred the reputations of innocent people in his zeal and often just threw around the word “communist” as a distraction, rather than argue on honest issues). Then in the late 60s and early 70s Nixon led the vile and cynical Southern Strategy that fed on racial prejudice, turning the Party of Lincoln (who freed the slaves) into the party of white bigotry. And if there was a war of choice, even more than ours in Iraq today, it was Vietnam. Americans have a right to oppose wars of choice, I believe (technically they have a right to oppose any war). But first under a Democratic administration and then under the Republicans, the idea that dissent on war or war policy even in wars fought for ambiguous reasons is disloyal has become vogue among those who call themselves conservatives.

When you consider the situation we are in today with the wars in the Middle East, you have to realize that to say we cannot reassess our situation but must continue on no matter what and to do otherwise is treason is illogical and beyond all reason. We have to look again at what we are trying to achieve (hard to do since it has never been made fully clear or the reasons have changed) and assess whether our goals are attainable. No one would reasonably argue against true defense of our nation. But gaining control of oil lands and nation building is not purely self defense. And we need to look at the moral aspect as well. Our Founding Fathers did not intend for ours to be a conquering nation. But then again, maybe they were not conservative for their time. They had the newer notion that people should be able to live free and peacefully and not be ruled by unquestionable authority. That was a liberal idea for the time.

I doubt whether most Americans concern themselves a lot about “liberalism” and “conservatism” and even “socialism”, though these terms are bandied about by candidates and political pundits (I must admit, though, liberalism has joined socialism as being an epithet in the popular lexicon, even though we seem now headed for a little more of both, go figure).

Personally, I believe in preserving our form of democracy using what works for the time. Maybe we could call it “Americanism.”

McCain thinks Palin presidential, that says it all

October 7, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

I will not vote for a candidate who refuses to answer questions directly, and especially if they go off on to a different subject. If both candidates play that game tonight, then I will vote for a third party candidate or perhaps not vote at all. And I think if I hear one “talking point,” which as far as I am concerned is nothing more than a ready-to-go piece of propoganda candidates carry around, that is going to be one heck of a turn-off.

These are desperate times, and I just don’t have the patience for games as usual. I live in California, so my vote likely does ot count due to our electoral college system (which I feel should be abolished). The system was designed to help the smaller states. But California is the most populous state in the union and yet because it is winner take all and because it is believed to be solidly in the Obama camp (whether we support Obama or McCain) in essence it makes no difference because it’s a foregone conclusion (unless a whole lot of folks said what’s the use and failed to vote. Many are already voting, with absentee ballots going out now).

They say it’s going to take time for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout to work. Well with the nation’s economy and that of the world seemingly disintegrating around us, someone better step on it.

Certainly that should be the main topic at tonight’s debate. It’s a town hall format, so I guess it’s up to the folks there.

We know that Barack Obama has had some tenuous association with a guy involved with a 60s and 70s radical movement that bombed government buildings and did result in some deaths. But Obama was just a child when this guy was doing that. Later when Obama was grown up and got into politics their paths crossed (it’s been written about – I’ve mentioned it myself in two of my blogs). There is no evidence Obama talked or conspired with the man about anything subversive. The man, William “Bill” Ayers, is nowadays a college professor.

And we know John McCain has for three decades played footsie with his big money buddies in Washington because pretty much that is what Republican (and Democratic) lawmakers do. The big money folks are more fun to hang around with and they come in handy when you need campaign funds. We know the whole sordid story about McCain being part of the Keating five, going to bat for a guy (Charles Keating) who bilked oldsters out of millions of dollars. McCain has said it was a mistake on his part.

I have yet to read anything sinister about Obama’s connections with Ayers (since they came long after Ayers’ radical days). While I have nothing but contempt for Ayers, he is not running for president. And apparently there is no connection at all between the two these days. Yes and we know that Obama has had some involvement with some sleazy character named Tony Rezko, a land developer and slum lord who has been convicted of fraud and bribery of public officials. And we know Obama got some type of a sweetheart deal on land adjacent to his home through Rezko. Sounds like Chicago style politics to me.

But there has been months upon months of campaigning with nothing substantial (distasteful maybe) coming out of any of this. Some people are already voting and the official election day is less than a month off. It’s a little late to worry about any of this trash. As far as we know, either McCain or Obama is going to be the new president, no matter what anyone thinks about Ayers and Rezco and Keating.

I would think most folks want to know what each man proposes to do about the fact we are likely for the first time in my 59 years actually headed for the second Great Depression. We’ve had plenty of recessions and downturns, but this one is beginning to look ugly. The frightening thing is even the experts seem to be saying they don’t know exactly what can or should be done.

What we need from the candidates is some specifics and not platitudes or silly things like: “the Democrats just want to tax and spend,” or “The Republicans got us into this mess” (even if it’s partly true). How do we get out of this mess? Just tell us Mr. Candidate, and if we buy your ideas we just might vote for you.

But as I keep saying in this blog, the Democrats will probably emphasize bottom up measures (helping workers and their families and in so doing get folks buying things and thus stimulate consumer spending and getting the economy going). And the Republicans will concentrate on doing things to help big business, under the mantra of cutting taxes (but whose taxes?). Both candidates supported the bailout (I call the Wall Street extortion).

I would hope too that there are questions about the wars and I would hope those questions pin the candidates down (war, pin down, an inadvertent play on words). I really have not seen much difference in their war policies, even though McCain insists that he wants to win (whatever that is) and his opposition wants to “surrender.” Obama has pushed for a timetable (but not an immediate pullout) in Iraq and more or an emphasis on Afghanistan (and McCain now calls for the latter). I don’t see an anti-war or “surrender” candidate there.

McCain has been getting a lot meaner in his tone (I’m not sure how that plays at a town hall meeting).

It now seems that McCain showed reckless judgment when he chose Sarah Palin to be vice president (an office that has the same demand for qualifications as the presidency). So far she has put on one hell of an act, and I have said she definitely has Reagan tendencies that way, but when you examine what exactly she has said and how she has said it (hardly as elegant as Reagan) you see that so far she has only proven that she is qualified to be a head cheerleader, mayor of a small town (probably better suited to be head of the chamber of commerce), governor of Alaska (only because, well she is). Leader of the free world? No.

That pretty well only leaves Obama. He does not have a long record. But he is a U.S. senator, and we pretty much know his life story. It’s been written about and there have been documentaries on TV. And we know he is a thinking man and capable of putting sentences together (that would be refreshing). And he seems willing to listen to others and consider their ideas (that would really be refreshing).

While I can hardly say I have an open mind going into this debate. I certainly will listen. I don’t know which man will win yet and I want to get an indication of what we are in for.

Obama and Ayers, McCain and Keating…

October 5, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

John McCain’s pit bull with lipstick Sarah Palin is going around accusing Barack Obama of consorting with terrorists because it is known that he has had some connection with admitted late 60s, early 70s radical bomb thrower William “Bill” Ayers, a member of the Weatherman terrorist organization, who is now a college professor at the University of Illinois, at Chicago, and a neighbor of Obama.

(I don’t know if McCain is talking about the alleged Obama-Ayers connection yet, but I would not be surprised if it comes up in Tuesday night’s debate.)

Of course when Ayers was throwing his bombs, Obama was just a kid. Ayers although charged later had his charges dropped after a court ruled that there was prosecutorial misconduct. Ayers donated $200 to an Obama state election campaign in Illinois. And Obama and Ayers have had mutual connections with more than one non-profit organization. Whether there ever has been any personal relationship between the two or whether they actually worked together on any projects, other than attended the same meetings, is unclear.

Certainly it would not seem like Ayers is one that anyone running for president should have kept company with. But in politics one brushes up with a lot of less than savory characters. I think Palin is implying that Obama and Ayers have conspired in some plot to destroy the American way of life.

Although considered by many, not all, to be a respectable part of the community in Chicago nowadays, Ayers is reportedly unrepentant about his radical past. He was quoted in the New York Times as saying: “I don’t regret setting the bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.”

It is important to note that people, including policemen and security guards, and some of the terrorists themselves, were killed in Weatherman bombings and an armored car heist.

Just as Obama has publicly distanced himself from the Rev. Wright, I think he should make a public statement about Ayers.

I would have a hard time voting for someone who has had a direct connection with such a person as Ayers, unless he was ignorant of the man’s past and could show he had reason to be ignorant of it and that of course any dealings he has had were not illegal or subversive. And he should publicly denounce Ayers.  Ayers’ reported admission to bombings is I suppose not actual proof that he really was involved or at least involved in bombings that resulted in death. But the public has to wonder why a seemingly admitted killer can go free and even be a college professor at a public institution.

While I think it is a little late in the game to be coming up with this kind of attack, I do think the McCain camp has a legitimate issue.

But, John McCain’s connection with Charles Keating of the Savings and Loan Scandal of the 1980s is much more clear. Keating bilked 21,000 investors, most of them elderly, out of their savings, totaling $285 million. McCain accepted political contributions from Keating and went to bat for him before regulators (McCain’s line is that he just introduced him as a constituent, sure, and just your presence there meant nothing senator). Keating was eventually convicted of fraud and racketeering.

Two wrongs do not make a right. But since we’re talking about connections Sarah….

Bogus e-mail, Pakistan, life near bottom…

October 1, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

Right off the bat I want to get something out of the way that’s been bothering me. During last Friday’s McCain-Obama debate, John McCain said or indicated in a statement that Barack Obama did not go to Afghanistan (in was in reference to Obama’s remarks that more emphasis was needed in the war in that country.) I had thought he did go and checked back and yes he did. But I read through a fact check on the debate and it did not mention that misstatement. Various outlets have put out fact checks on the debate and they are fascinating in that both candidates made several misstatements or mischaracterizations (or lied). And, by the way, that thing McCain said about Obama not going to Afghanistan was in a transcript and it is how I remember hearing him.

This whole thing reminds me of a forwarded e-mail I received from, well I won’t name the source to save the embarrassment. The forwarded e-mail purported to be from a soldier in Afghanistan. The person who forwarded the e-mail said she received it from that soldier in Afghanistan, a friend. The gist of the e-mail was that Obama landed there but only swooped by the troops in his motorcade, met with the brass, and left, thereby snubbing the troops. Well a website that calls itself fact check says that e-mail is basically bogus and apparently is one of those mass mailers sent out by the opposition to smear a candidate. According to the fact check, it was written by an Army officer who has since said he lied and only meant it to be a personal e-mail (I guess if it is personal it is okay to lie) and was deeply embarrassed that it was disseminated so widely. Well, I still don’t know what really happened but it appears that a lot of those e-mails were sent out under the guise of being personal e-mails from friend to friend, but were more like gossip, spreading rumors if you will, an apparent McCain campaign dirty trick (and maybe Obama’s campaign does the same. I don’t know).

I had indicated in an earlier blog that I might go into more detail about the debate, but I got caught up in writing so much about the Wall Street bailout fiasco. And I was disappointed in the lack of substance in that debate and then doubly disappointed to realize how much untruth took place on both sides.

But here’s something. They kept arguing back and forth about whether we should go into Pakistan to chase the enemy. Actually, the way I hear it from what they say is that both candidates think we should, but McCain doesn’t think we should publicly state it because Pakistan is our ally. Well let’s tackle this by the numbers: 1. Too late. We already are going in there with at least commando raids and some overflight. So I think the cat is out of the bag. It’s no secret to neither the Pakistanis nor the enemy. In fact, the Pakistanis have been firing at us. With friends like them, do we need enemies? 2. The Bush administration has publicly admitted it. 3. McCain himself agreed we need to do it, he just said we should not state it outright (we already have, sorry). 4. Today (well Tuesday) on TV the CIA director said that the enemy is running all of its operations out of Pakistan (seems to me Pakistan either helps us and gives us access or we go to war with them too, and if you read my blogs you know I am no war hawk, but if you are going to fight, take it to the enemy and win). 5. Sarah Palin keeps saying we need to go into Pakistan (and so does Obama, and really so does McCain, so I come full circle with the conclusion that McCain is double talking, wonders of wonders).

… They say it’s not really a proposed bailout for Wall Street, that $700 billion. It’s an economic rescue plan. But I say if it looks like a duck and if it quacks like a duck and if it walks like a duck, it is a duck.

They also say that the credit market has dried up. I doubt it. The cost of money is no doubt up. But if folks need credit, the folks with money are always glad to lend it – at a price.

One story on the nightly news told of a small businessman who could not get the usual loan to buy supplies. But he was able to secure a loan from his customers who needed what he produced. On the larger scale that probably does not work. But the point is, life goes go on. If products and services are needed they will be produced.

Another point. All my life I have heard about the needs of the rich and the middle class and the poor. But there are no clear delineations of these classes. But I think there is something called lower (and maybe lower lower) middle class or even working poor. I’m not proud to admit it, but I have probably been in the lower middle class or working poor most of my life.

Let me tell you, while I believe that folks from all classes make major contributions to our society, it is this class, the lower middle class or working poor, who does so much of the work, helps make others wealthy, helps the poor (out of taxes if nothing else), and gets little in return. We are in the embarrassing position of being looked down on by those above us for working hard, but not smart and by many of those on the dole for working at all.

Sometimes one gets a break. My last job promised to pull me up to at least lower middle class, but alas I got cancer. Now my health insurance will run out. But the Republicans say that universal health care is too expensive.

To that, considering all the work I put in over the years and all of the taxes I paid, my little contribution to the economy, I say, “you’re welcome!”

Bail fail, VP debate, rebuilding America…

September 29, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

Could this be the beginning of another Great Depression? The $700 Billion Wall Street bailout bill went down to defeat today in the House of Representatives and stocks plunged and there have been bank failures across the globe just preceding this. Apparently there will be no more action on this until tomorrow and maybe not even till Thursday.

My last blog was headlined: Democracy altered bailout, can it kill it? Guess I got my answer. Actually it was democracy and politics. No one wants to take the blame; everyone wants the credit, and there is no way to know what will happen if the bailout (or rescue)  ultimately passes or fails. Leadership is needed, but who can lead?

That was a new lead and now back to my blog as written hours earlier:

The bailout bill is said to be posted on the House Financial Services Committee website, and I know it is posted elsewhere on the web, along with summaries or news stories about it. I only quickly read over a summary on the LA Times site and listened to reports on TV.

As it now stands, the $700 billion would not all be allocated all at once. In some cases the government would buy up bad assets and in some investors would purchase government underwritten insurance on questionable assets. There are also provisions for the government to gain an equity stake in companies benefitting from the program in order that if the market turns around the government can actually make money on the deal. There are also to be curbs on executive pay for firms that take part. All that was from a summary I read in the LA Times.

…. It looks like the upcoming vice presidential debate on Thursday promises to be more exciting than the presidential candidate one this past Friday. How Sarah Palin could possibly stand up to Joe Biden is a wonder to me, but then again, I am often surprised at the outcomes of things (like that borefest last Friday). But let’s pray that Sarah does surprise us all. We can’t afford even the possibility that she would become president some day if her past performance, especially before Katie Couric, is any example of her knowledge and abilities. Just poor Sarah’s luck that Katie would finally start acting like a news person again and she, Sarah, was her first victim. I don’t care for Mrs. Palin’s politics. I think, however, she is a well meaning person catapulted into something that is way out of her league. It’s a little sad, and a lot embarrassing. The word is that she is sequestered down at the McCain Sedona spread in Arizona cramming for the big test. My guess is that she will bend pre-programmed talking points into an answer for each question whether it fits or not. 

… Something strangely left out of Friday’s foreign policy debate between John McCain and Barack Obama was what is going on down Venezuela way. Russian war ships are set to exercise with that country’s navy in November and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez claims his country may work on a nuclear power deal with Russia. As I wrote in a previous blog, that would have been a cause for alarm and amounted to a threat to start World War III back in the Cold War days, i.e. , the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 60s. And what about the Monroe Doctrine?

… And back to the economic thing. From what I am reading I do see the signs that life in America is not going to be the same with or without the latest bailout bill. My hope is that while there could be some discomfort it will serve as a kind of catharsis and then we will forge ahead with a new and more prudent but still vibrant way of doing business that will eventually lead to a new prosperity.

We really need to find some way to declare victory in the Middle East and come home.

Four thousand plus dead, thousands more wounded, and as much as a trillion dollars invested so far to help nations that fight internally among one another instead of working together to be free. And Iraq keeps its oil money and forces us to spend our own treasure. In my opinion we should get the oil revenues because we invested in it with our money and blood.

There was no reason to go into Iraq other than the oil. And as far as Afghanistan goes, why do we have to send a whole army to get one man? Originally we went into Afghanistan because they apparently were harboring Osama bin Laden, the admitted master mind of 9/11. It seemed as if Iraq had essentially by its actions put itself at a state of war with us. But after all this time it seems foolish to use an army to hunt one elusive man. Everyone knows that we are trying to create by blood sweat and tears a Middle East that is friendly to us. It’s not worth it.

Some say it is better to fight “them” over there than to fight “them” here. I don’t know. I think we need to rebuild our own country and that we are running out of money to fight “them” over there. I say let’s put our resources into the job that needs to be done at home and by God if “they” want to fight us here we’ll be ready.

Warrior McCain on his game (I thought)…

September 27, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

I just got finished watching the first presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama.

My immediate reaction is that on substance it was a draw.

On style, I give it to John McCain. And that is not to say I support him. In fact I have not.

Also that is not to say that I did not think Obama handled it well. He did a good job and made his points, but so did McCain.

And one thing I noticed is that as a listener you get caught up in the yes I did, no you didn’t conflict and you have no way to instantly verify the truth of what each man said.

McCain never stumbled, except maybe once on the name of Iran’s president, Ahmadinejad — and who wouldn’t? And even then he made a mocking gesture, as if he did it on purpose out of his own rightful disdain for that crazy and dangerous man, and as is his style, he was to the point, he was blunt, and he was confident (well maybe arrogant is a better word).

I don’t recall that Obama stumbled, necessarily, but he did seem to be on the ropes momentarily a few times.

The startling thing about it all was, in my view, that for the most part both men seem to basically agree, with their only differences at times being in how to arrive at something, if that makes sense.

Although the debate was officially on foreign policy, about the first half was on economic policy, which moderator Jim Lehrer said fit, because he said that the debate was on “foreign policy and national security” and that economic policy was part of national security.

Neither man would commit to whether he supported a particular version of the $700 Billion Wall Street rescue plan. Both agreed that a plan must include help for those on Main Street as well as Wall Street and that Wall Street executives should not be rewarded for their failures with bonuses after getting government help when they were the ones who made the disastrous investment decisions in the first place.

In talking military issues, McCain took advantage of the fact that he is a veteran and was much older and even bragged that he was much wiser. At one point toward the end, he charged that Obama was not up to handling things. In fact, on foreign policy, McCain was outright condescending many times, even though, both men seemed to agree for the most part.

The debate was contentious at moments, but for the most part civil.

And now my wife comes in and tells me that the television commentators were amazed at how knowledgeable McCain showed he was in foreign affairs, names, places, people (just think how Sarah Palin would have done – it’s scary). I think going in, although it was expected McCain might have some advantage on foreign affairs, it was thought that he was not going to be a good debater.

Well that was wrong. He made his points forcefully and well.

McCain in what I thought was reminiscent of Richard Nixon said something to the effect that under his leadership we would have, well I wrote down his exact words, he said about Iraq: “We will come home with victory and honor.” I recall that Nixon always said we would only have “peace with honor” in Vietnam. Interestingly, McCain poignantly noted that he had seen “an army in defeat” in Vietnam (he of course was a POW and Navy flier) and that he would not let that happen again.

Obama called for more attention to the war in Afghanistan.

I’m not going to go over the debate point by point here.

But now that I have written this much, I think I will say I kind of went into watching the debate thinking and hoping Obama would, well, clean McCain’s clock. He didn’t. McCain was prepared.

Here’s another thing, toward the end, McCain assured listeners that he “loves” veterans and they know “I will take care of them.” ( Now I have read where he has voted against some veterans benefits. One time he said he voted against a bill because it would have given too much incentive for military personnel to leave the service with the war still in progress.)

Obama was at his weakest – my opinion – in his closing. He told of his father from Kenya, the father from whom he got his name. Hey it’s a good story, but this is America and I am sorry, although we embrace the melting pot, you just don’t talk about places such as Kenya and mention you have a strange sounding last name (he already spends a lot of time convincing folks he’s not Muslim) when you’re running for president of the United States (and my apologies to the good people of Kenya).

One more thing, with the present financial uncertainty, I looked for Obama to throw a knock-out punch, since a lot of what has happened has been the result of activities on the Republican watch (McCain Republican, Obama Democrat). But that did not happen. McCain deflected the blows quite effectively by criticizing the current president, George W. Bush, and others. In an oft repeated line by McCain, he said: “The Republicans came to Washington to change government, and government changed them” (He’s a maverick, he says). McCain criticized both Republicans and Democrats and Obama included for massive over spending. McCain even said he’d reduce defense spending by cutting out what I recall him referring to as “cost plus” projects, giving an example of one I think in which he said started out as $4 million but wound of being $40 million or was in $400 million, well you get the idea.

Leher forced Obama into a kind of admission that he would not be able to enact all the social programs or reforms he might want to because of the current economic crises, but Obama noted that the important thing is that he has a priority for them as money permits, nonetheless.

Typically McCain accused Obama of wanting to raise taxes and Obama in turn accused McCain of wanting to cut taxes on the rich. And we all know that Republicans typically want to cut taxes on the wealthier folks and Democrats see the need for taxes to finance what people want government to do.

Okay, even though I am not a McCain fan, I am going to go out on a limb and say that he won the debate (even though the two basically agreed on things, except for the basic difference between Republicans and Democrats on taxing the so-called wealthy).

P.s. Now my wife comes in and tells me that the instant polling is giving the win to Obama. Well, that’s good, I guess, but I also guess I don’t see things the way others do. Or it could be the public wants change and came ready to listen to the new guy. Works for me.

P.s. P.s.  And another thing, Obama at least eight times (according to a New York Times count, and I thought it was more) said “John (McCain) you’re right,” maybe not such a good rhetorical device in a debate, unless followed by some ironic point, and they weren’t. I think the McCain ads are already out with Obama admitting (seemingly) that McCain was right.

Mr. Wall Street: ‘Your money or your life!’

September 26, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

The word this morning is that John McCain will take part in the debate this evening and apparently those pushing the $700 billion Wall Street bailout bill are hell bent on getting it done today (tonight).

 I find myself in the strange position of being on the side of those House Republicans who yesterday were holding out for some different type of bill that would use private money (government guarateed, I guess) instead of the straight bailout. I don’t know what the status of all that is now and whether they were sincere or just making a show for the folks back home who are skeptical.

I thought the political cartoon in my local newspaper this morning said it all: A big fat cat Wall Street tycoon was sitting up against a wall and begging to a little older couple with a sign that reads: “Please get me out of debt, or I’ll be forced to ruin us all.” The little slender old man is standing there with his hands in his pockets while the wife hands the sobbing tycoon some cash from her purse. I think we are all asked to be that lady.

It is hard to swallow that a whole society can be dependent upon those who borrow and leverage and borrow on what they borrowed and leverage and anyway, make money on money they never had in the first place (and pardon me if I don’t tell this is strict or correct financial language, I’m a layman).

Perhaps as a society it is our collective fault for not paying enough attention to the inner workings of our economy and letting ourselves be misled by leaders who don’t understand it themselves and that goes for those in both major parties.

And I am still scratching my head trying to figure out what the urgency is in this bailout thing. I realize it would not be a good thing to let the financial market go down the tubes in a panic because it thought phony money was not available anymore. But folks, if it is all that bad, we need to fix the system. That should be the urgency, and that may take a little more time.

And by the by, I plan to watch the debate tonight. I think this could be the most important presidential debate that has ever taken place. I plan to blog on it afterwards. And now for anyone who is interested, my previous blog follows:

I now recall seeing an earlier tape – was it Monday? – of Republican Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby asking Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake if they had thought of an alternative to the $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan. I don’t think Paulson answered – he seemed to just sit there bewildered and speechless (maybe he did mumble something), anyway I didn’t think much of it.

But a self-satisfied Shelby, chairman of the senate banking committee, came out of the specially-called Bush meeting Thursday afternoon before anyone else and told reporters: “There’s no deal.”

Where it all stands today, who knows? It’s like a Howie Mandel Deal- No Deal game.

What will Wall Street, picked up Thursday by hopes for a deal, think today?

This $700 Billion giveaway plan for Wall Street is one of the most bizarre, implausible and maybe even frightening turn of events ever. A Republican president proposed to bail out gambling investors on Wall Street, threatening that failure to do so would be the near instant ruination of the whole nation’s economy, with implications world wide.

(No one argues that there is not something terribly wrong right now with the economy. No one, not even the administration, though, is claiming to know exactly how to fix it.  Supposedly, the government might eventually recoup losses – make money, I don’t know – in the plan to buy up bad debt. While the official price tag is put at $700 Billion, the $1 trillion figure is often used, especially when the already-approved bailouts are counted.)

And it gets stranger all the time. Now we have Democrats seemingly pushing for a quick movement on a bill, but one with “safeguards” and help for some distressed homeowners who can’t make their mortgages and provisions to prevent Wall Street executives from getting multi-million dollar perks after receiving tax-payer dollars to bail them out. Some Republicans are on board too, but reportedly some 100 House Republicans are not.

A poll I heard on Thursday said that one third of the voters are against it, one third for it, and one third undecided.

The latest is that the objecting Republicans are proposing that it all go back to the drawing board and that a plan that would use private capital (probably much less than $700 billion), with some government incentives, such as tax breaks, be presented. And actually, that in principle, sounds reasonable to me.

It’s hard to tell what the motivations by the various parties are.

I suppose the original idea just to hand over $700 billion with no questions asked was never popular with most Republicans, let alone Democrats, especially since it was from a Republican president. On the other hand, they might have supported it if they really thought the world would come to an end otherwise. And some Republicans may have deviously thought, well at least it will help business and if the Democrat Barack Obama is elected it will tie his hands somewhat in getting social legislation through.

Then came the outcry from the constituency. Especially staunch conservatives or just citizens with a sense of fair play. You can’t just say when the man on the street makes a poor or unfortunate financial decision that it is his problem, don’t go crying to government, but when Wall Street investors make a bad or a just plain reckless move, the taxpayer must bail them out.

Meantime, Democrats saw the hypocrisy of the bailout and the cost, but thought, oh well, if it must be done let’s at least tack on some programs we want – and that was good politics.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain did not know what to think. But now he seems to be pushing some type of bailout (he was against it before he was for it), what type, we don’t know. And of course, meantime, he has suspended his campaign and threatened not to take part in tonight’s (Friday) presidential debate. Many think this is all a ploy. I suspect for the most part it is. It is a rather weak argument to suggest one cannot run for president and make decisions at the same time. Isn’t that after all, making decisions, pretty much the job of the president? Why even George W. Knows that – “I’m the Decider” (although not-so-much now).

Both presidential candidates were at Thursday’s meeting at the invitation of Bush. Actually McCain apparently was the one who came up with the idea to drop everything and put the debate on hold so he could run back to Washington to play hero (he didn’t seem to get anywhere Thursday). Obama reluctantly agreed. And in a statement late in the day, long after Shelby made his “no deal” announcement, Obama implied that he and McCain due to the politics of the whole thing may have actually been a distraction (of course they are politicians). McCain for his part said he was hopeful something (what?) could be passed soon.

P.S. That Hillary might replace Biden as VP thing I inserted as a new lead in my last blog came out of the Drudge Report (as reported somewhere else) and the report said that while it was just a rumor, the usual myth debunkers, such as Snopes and one the Obama campaign has set up, are neither confirming nor denying it. I usually would not bother with something so thin, but I couldn’t pass it up. It seems plausible (if a little Eagleton-like risky). It’s hard to know where the presidential race stands now with polls contradicting each other. Some say McCain is falling on his face, others say he’s made some crafty or clever moves, such as the suspending campaign move and picking Palin – and then there’s always the race card.  And if Obama says he’s “behind Biden one hundred percent”, don’t quit your day job Joe.