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June 19, 2008

Curses! Fooled Again!

Is it just me, or do Barack Obama and John McCain sound disturbingly alike when it comes to domestic issues? During a recent meeting of the Half Vast Editorial Staff, it was generally agreed upon that we are really beginning to resent being talked down to by these two as though we were a bunch of whiny two year olds ready to throw our votes to whoever promises us the biggest lollipop.

The dynamic duo continually assure us that "Yes. Yes they can" somehow get the big money out of politics (now that's a tactic no one's ever tried before). Of course, the reality doesn't always match up to the soaring rhetoric of hopeful change:

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, announced this morning that he will not enter into the public financing system, despite a previous pledge to do so.

"We've made the decision not to participate in the public financing system for the general election," Obama says in the video, blaming it on the need to combat Republicans, saying "we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system. John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. And we’ve already seen that he’s not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations."

Obama, 2007:

"In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election. My proposal followed announcements by some presidential candidates that they would forgo public financing so they could raise unlimited funds in the general election. The Federal Election Commission ruled the proposal legal, and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election."

Obama, 2008:

"Instead of forcing us to rely on millions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs, you’ve fueled this campaign with donations of $5, $10, $20, whatever you can afford. And because you did, we’ve built a grassroots movement of over 1.5 million Americans. ...You’ve already changed the way campaigns are funded because you know that’s the only way we can truly change how Washington works."

Obama said, "I’m asking you to try to do something that’s never been done before. Declare our independence from a broken system, and run the type of campaign that reflects the grassroots values that have already changed our politics and brought us this far."

Hmmmmm. Let's see if I have this straight. Obama wants to bring about a fundamental change in the way Washington works.

By breaking campaign promises...

That doesn't sound like a terribly positive change to me. Come to think of it, it doesn't sound like much of a change at all.

Update: This post got somewhat sidetracked earlier. What bothers me about these two is the way they both keep pandering to the worst instincts of the electorate, and doing so in a way that is insulting to boot. Case one is the way they both keep spouting populist nonsense about how if they're elected, they'll stop Wicked Corporations from making Evil Profits: (that ought to fix the economy right up)

In Raleigh, N.C., last week, Sen. Obama promised, "I'll make oil companies like Exxon pay a tax on their windfall profits, and we'll use the money to help families pay for their skyrocketing energy costs and other bills."

Set aside for a minute that Jimmy Carter passed a "windfall profits tax" to devastating effect, putting American oil companies at a competitive disadvantage to foreign competitors, virtually ending domestic energy exploration, and making the U.S. more dependent on foreign sources of oil and gas.

Instead ask this: Why should we stop with oil companies? They make about 8.3 cents in gross profit per dollar of sales. Why doesn't Mr. Obama slap a windfall profits tax on sectors of the economy that have fatter margins? Electronics make 14.5 cents per dollar and computer equipment makers take in 13.7 cents per dollar, according to the Census Bureau. Microsoft's margin is 27.5 cents per dollar of sales. Call out Mr. Obama's Windfall Profits Police!

It's not the profit margin, but the total number of dollars earned that is the problem, Mr. Obama might say. But if that were the case, why isn't he targeting other industries? Oil and gas companies made $86.5 billion in profits last year. At the same time, the financial services industry took in $498.5 billion in profits, the retail industry walked away with $137.5 billion, and information technology companies made off with $103.4 billion. What kind of special outrage does Mr. Obama have for these companies?

Sen. McCain doesn't support the windfall profits tax, but he can be as hostile to profits as Mr. Obama. "[W]e should look at any incentives that we are giving," Mr. McCain said in May, even as he talked up a gas tax "holiday" that would give drivers incentives to burn more gasoline.

This past Thursday, Mr. McCain came close to advocating a form of industrial policy, saying, "I'm very angry, frankly, at the oil companies not only because of the obscene profits they've made, but their failure to invest in alternate energy."

But oil and gas companies report that they have invested heavily in alternative energy. Out of the $46 billion spent researching alternative energy in North America from 2000 to 2005, $12 billion came from oil and gas companies, making the industry one of the nation's largest backers of wind and solar power, biofuels, lithium-ion batteries and fuel-cell technology.

Such investments, however, are not as important as money spent on technologies that help find and extract more oil. Because oil companies invested in innovation and technology, they are now tapping reserves that were formerly thought to be unrecoverable. Maybe we are all better off when oil companies invest in what they know, not what they don't.

And do we really want the government deciding how profits should be invested? If so, should Microsoft be forced to invest in Linux-based software or McDonald's in weight-loss research?

Apparently Republican John McCain isn't so far from liberal Barack Obama when the specter of American entrepreneurs figuring out how to make their businesses (you know, the ones which employ people like you and I; the ones which, if they fail to make a profit, won't pay dividends on the stocks we own?) generate a healthy return on investment rears its ugly head. Fools. Did they think this country was founded on capitalist principles?

Hoo boy.

And then there's the little matter of participatory government. We can count on both McCain and Obama to rid the nation of the scourge of interfering busybodies citizens who insist upon inserting themselves into the important business of self-government:

Kimberley Strassel addresses what has been bothering me about both candidates - their rhetoric to act as if lobbying was by its very nature a dirty and corrupt profession and thus they forswear having lobbyists involved in their campaigns. The campaigns and their supporters now trade accusations as they comb through the backgrounds of everyone working on the campaigns who might have had a job as a lobbyist.

The folly of campaign finance was thinking that it was wise or possible to outlaw free speech in the form of campaign contributions. The folly of lobbyist restrictions is thinking it is wise or possible to outlaw free association, in the form of men and women who are employed to petition government, many of whom also (unsurprisingly) take a passionate interest in politics. Start down the path of weeding out every "conflict" and you'll be weeding from now until November.

There's a particularly big risk for Mr. McCain here. One of his biggest attributes is his reputation as a reformer. His record should say it all, yet he has now set a new standard on which to be judged. And the irony is that those doing the judging will be the 527s and other big-dollar funds that gained new power thanks to McCain-Feingold.

The truly delicious aspect of these pie in the sky promises is that even Obama's most ardent supporters are beginning to whisper "No. No you can't" behind his back.

Judging from today's news, their suspicions appear to be justified.

There is just something unseemly about two Presidential candidates whose basis of appeal to the electorate seems to be the premise that if they're elected, they'll stop those nasty Americans from acting so darned..... American. Because the last thing we want in this country is corporations turning a healthy profit and citizens who are able to participate in, and influence, legislation.

If someone has committed a crime, prosecute him. But I'm unclear on the purpose of this rather bizarre rhetoric, unless it is to encourage ignorance and discontent and distract attention from the fact that none of this nonsense is what we hire a President to do.

Now where is that lollipop?

Posted by Cassandra at June 19, 2008 12:33 PM

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One thing you have to say about Obama, and that is that he's a man of principle. He'll never go back on his word.

Obama may opt out of public financing

"Leading Democratic fundraisers predict that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will raise hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few months if he opts out of public financing and begins raising money for the general election."

He's all about Change. "Well, I changed my mind. That was so Yesterday."

Posted by: ZZMike at June 19, 2008 01:50 PM

When, about what event and by whom was the following statement made?

But out of the gobbledygook, comes a very clear thing: you can't trust the government; you can't believe what they say; and you can't rely on their judgment; and the -- the implicit infallibility of presidents, which has been an accepted thing in America, is badly hurt by this, because it shows that people do things the president wants to do even though it's wrong, and the president can be wrong.

former President Richard M. Nixon heard those fateful words during a meeting in the Oval Office with aide H.R. Halderman, who uttered them. The date was June 14, 1971 and Nixon was obsessing over the publication a day earlier of the Pentagon Papers in The Washington Post.

Nixon also said something to the effect that the average person was like the small child of the family.

[meaning that the adults do care about them, but can tell them little as to the real world, the real reasons, and so forth]

Posted by: artfldgr at June 19, 2008 01:58 PM

Well, you've convinced me. I won't vote for Nixon, either.

Posted by: Grim at June 19, 2008 02:18 PM

Should we be so unfortunate to find him our president, I hope that he won't change his mind about the oath of office after he takes it. I'm not sure what the reaction would be after " I swear to protect and defend the constitution of the United States " becomes " open those gates and let anyone in, no questions asked. " If his word isn't to be trusted, what can be trusted.

Posted by: Edward Lunny at June 19, 2008 02:33 PM

If his word isn't to be trusted, what can be trusted.

*Change* is to be trusted, Brother Edward, *change*.

But you can trust Barry to mean exactly what he says, at the exact moment he says it. Then you can trust him to *change* what he said, or what he meant he said, or what he thinks you'll believe he meant when he said it. And then it will *change* yet again!

Ain't it grand?

Posted by: BillT at June 19, 2008 03:07 PM

Yes, well "change" for the sake of "change" is frequently disasterous for the recipients of such "change". In this case that would be those of us whom pay taxes. And ,yet, idiots by the thousands think this fool is the answer. Perhaps they are those whom do not pay taxes and thus do not bear the burden of such foolishness and extortion.

Posted by: Edward Lunny at June 19, 2008 04:31 PM

"But you can trust Barry to mean exactly what he says, at the exact moment he says it. Then you can trust him to *change* what he said, or what he meant he said, or what he thinks you'll believe he meant when he said it. And then it will *change* yet again!"
Yeah, I think that we can hold him to that standard. At least initially.

Commander in Change? Hopefully... not.

Posted by: bthun at June 19, 2008 05:06 PM

"Yes, well "change" for the sake of "change" is frequently disasterous for the recipients of such "change". In this case that would be those of us whom pay taxes. And ,yet, idiots by the thousands think this fool is the answer. Perhaps they are those whom do not pay taxes and thus do not bear the burden of such foolishness and extortion."
That just about says it all to me. People who don't work/contribute/pay taxes love somebody like this. Promises them a rainbow or something.

Posted by: lutonmoore at June 19, 2008 07:58 PM

"Is it just me, or do Barack Obama and John McCain sound disturbingly alike when it comes to domestic issues?"

No, it isn't just you.

Posted by: camojack at June 20, 2008 01:20 AM

Barack Obama is a *likable* John Kerry, minus the magic hat.

Therein lies the problem. If you *like* someone, you're willing to overlook such minor flaws as having no principles.

Posted by: BillT at June 20, 2008 05:05 AM

Heh. Hence why I say we get to choose which Democrat we want for President.

George McGovern, or Scoop Jackson?

Posted by: John of Argghhh!!! at June 20, 2008 08:48 AM

You aren't alone thinking that Obama and McCain sound the same. They are the same. One is older and one is younger; one is Republican and one is Democrat but they say the same things and repeat the same old Washington D.C. line -- change.

How many times have we heard "change" from Washington politicians. We have heard that from every administration since the 1960's.

Posted by: Dave at June 20, 2008 10:24 AM

If his word isn't to be trusted, what can be trusted?

you can trust that he cant be trusted

Posted by: artfldgr at June 23, 2008 03:05 PM