The LA Times recently presented an unusually insightful editorial about ”Obamacain” -- relating to the few - but noteworthy - areas in which the two candidates overlap or share important views.
“It has been a refrain during the exhausting battle for the Democratic presidential nomination that once Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama emerged as the party's choice, we could finally dispense with the personality battles and get down to nitty-gritty policy differences. Indeed, now that Obama seems to have the position locked up, he and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain will have plenty to argue about. But some might be surprised at the breadth of issues on which they largely agree.”
The editorial goes on to cite surprising consensus in areas of National Security, Immigration, environment and social issues. The Times suggests that the thought of consensus, instead of Fox-style reflexive opposition, ought to be attractive, now and then.
Alas, the Times essay stops short - way short - of taking this notion to its logical conclusion. If a majority of voters in both major parties have already pledged general allegiancve to one of two presumptive nominees, haven’t we already voted, many months before the general election, to trust their wisdom enough to listen... tentatively... to areas where they both agree change is needed?
One of the very worst immaturities to be foisted on America by the culture warriors has been the oversimplification of reflext opposition. If your side likes something I must be against it. If you open your eggs at the small end, I must open mine at the big end. The biggest actual result of this wretched reflex has been to ensure that very little gets done. We’re doing fine, vetoing each others agendas. But to actually move ahead, we’ll have to re-learn how to negotiate, sometimes compromise, or else let your opponents have the part of their agenda you object to least... in exchange for them doing the same for you.
Above all, where ae actually agree, should it not be politically safe to actually say so?
I go into this in some detail in an essay that I have recycled during each of the live FIVE presidential elections... Why The Candidates Should "Stipulate"...
... proposing that a contest between two mature and intelligent adults does not have to be entirely about a battle of opposites. America and the world might benefit most by hearning where they have discussed a certain matter, and reached a consensus - a stipulation - that it is time to stop the rigor mortis inaction that arises from rigid opposition, and to start talking about how -- rather than whether -- to act on a major problem.
“One of the chief flaws of our electoral system is that real candor is punished. Both sides may rail against each other, but they'll never aim bad news at us. Even if both nominees believe in their hearts that the public needs to face some hard truth, neither will dare be first to say it, lest the other side take advantage.... only now consider this. There is no political cost to telling voters what you really believe... if your opponent has agreed, in advance, to say the same thing.
“The process is called stipulation... as when the attorneys representing opposite sides in a trial agree to agree about a set of points. By stipulating these points, they help move the trial forward, focusing on areas where they disagree. Consider this year. For all of his faults, McCain has done this sort of thing before. So has Senator Obama. In fact, the only ones to object would be those at the extremes, in both parties.”
I go on to cite the greatest-ever example of this kind of bipartisan maturity, in the 1940 Roosevelt-Wilkie election, in which both candidates agreed to support aid to Britain, instantly undercutting the isolationists in both parties. Of course this suggestion was pure fantasy during the poisonous atmosphere of the last eight years, while one of the major candidates represented nothing but stupidity, lunacy, compulsive deceit and rabid partisanship. But if we really are returning to an era (as in the Clinton-Dole contest) when grownups might argue sensibly, then this idea really needs another look. So please do...and possibly spread the word!
And while we’re at it, see another - somewhat related - idea that might also restore civility, consensus, negotiation and mutual respect back into the lexicon of American political life. In fact, this idea is - at one level - simply common courtesy and would score points to whichever candidate made the pledge that I suggest.
“Originally, the Constitution awarded a prize for second place -- the Vice Presidency. If little else, at least the electoral runner-up got a bully pulpit. But after near-disaster in the flawed election of 1804, the system was amended to make the Vice President more of a deputy, chosen by the winning party. Nevertheless, this precedent does show what the founders had in mind. They always intended for the losing side to get something. Might there be some way to acknowledge the losing minority in a presidential election, without grinding their face in humiliation, making them determined to do the same thing, when their turn comes around?”
Check out an original suggestion for how this miracle might be accomplished -- in a way that might also make your side’s candidate seem vastly more statesmanlike and mature.
---- ANNOUNCING ---
The latest Armageddon Buffet is out! See some wonderfully inflamatory (and yet twistedly wise) articles that leap out from the rest. http://www.armageddonbuffet.com
---- From the Transparency Front ---
The US & EU will let security agencies to obtain private information — like credit card transactions, travel histories and Internet browsing habits — about people on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The potential agreement, as outlined in an internal report obtained by The New York Times, would represent a diplomatic breakthrough for American counterterrorism officials, who have clashed with the European Union over demands for personal data. Europe generally has more stringent laws restricting how governments and businesses can collect and transfer such information.
---- FOR THE OSTRICH FILES ---
Here’s a news item that I have re-written in the form of “what if Clinton had done this?” -- as part of my continuing series offering you bait for that “decent conservative” or Ostrich, who might yet be lured out of that hole of denial, rousing him or her to recall that he or she is an American first, and a Republican second.
“Imagine how a Republican might feel if - late in the Clinton Administration - the Justice Department's own Inspector General reported that Clinton's White House staff had meddled with nearly all Justice Department hiring decisions, ending the traditional practice of hiring and promoting on advice from neutral commissions and instead applying blatant political tests, transforming the U.S.J.D. into a massive, private law firm serving one political party... relentlessly ignoring crimes by their "side" and pursuing vendettas against the other.”
If this happened under Bill Clinton, and only fiercely partisan liberal Democratswere allowed inside Justice, would you have called it a scandal? But the Inspector General says that this did NOT happen under Clinton. It happened under Bush and the Republicans. So where's your righteous sense of anger?
While you’re at it... try rephrasing the following items the same why! “What if Clinton and the liberals had...?”
A BBC investigation estimates that around $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq. “For the first time, the extent to which some private contractors have profited from the conflict and rebuilding has been researched by the BBC's Panorama using US and Iraqi government sources. ...A US gagging order is preventing discussion of the allegations..... And example cited in the article: “In the run-up to the invasion one of the most senior officials in charge of procurement in the Pentagon objected to a contract potentially worth seven billion that was given to Halliburton, a Texan company, which used to be run by Dick Cheney before he became vice-president. Unusually only Halliburton got to bid - and won.”
Now look back at how thr far-right howled over the UN’s “Oil for Food” program and some possible graft that might have added up, over a decade, to a billion dollars. Where is the same indignation over theft that directly betrayed our troops in the field, amounting to tens and even hundreds of times as much?
While we’re at conspiracy explanations for the , go see this intervirew with Vanity Fair editor Craig Unger on the Bush family feud, neoconservatives and the Christian right. Unger is author of House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties, which traces the intense links between those two royal families, which helps to explain why the Saudis and the Iranians are the only real winners to emerge from the neconservative era. Unger’s latest book The Fall of the House of Bush: The Untold Story of How a Band of True Believers Seized the Executive Branch, Started the Iraq War and Still Imperils America's Future tracks the civil war between Bush Sr.’s moderate republican circle and the neocons who (metaphorically) hijacked his son. See an interview with Unger that, except for some flickers of Israeli conspiracy fetishism, are deeply informative, fascinating and rather scary.
And what would Timothy McVeigh have said? That is... if liberals did this? The Senate’s subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on “Secret Law and the Threat to Democratic and Accountable Government,” chaired by Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis. Growing use of secret law “is implicated in fundamental political controversies over domestic surveillance, torture and many other issues directly affecting the lives and interests of Americans. ... Secret law excludes the public from the deliberative process, promotes arbitrary and deviant government behavior, and shields official malefactors from accountability.” At this very Senate hearing, John R. Elwood, the Office of Legal Counsel’s Deputy Assistant Attorney General, provided a startling example of the Bush administration’s justification for the imperious essence of secret law. As reported in the May 1 New York Times, Elwood “disclosed a previously unpublicized method to cloak government activities.” The Bush administration believes, he said, “that the president could ignore or modify existing executive orders that he and other presidents have issued without disclosing the new interpretation.”
Next time... why Obama should do several more “jiu jitsu moves”... including a bold statement in favor of “states rights.” Now it’s blue-staters who want relief from an overbearing central government that takes their taxes, returns little, and quashes every attempt to make progress at the state level.
The ul;timate irony will come when liberals add gun ownership to states rights, as positions that suddenly make sense from THEIR perspective... while the far right consinues being hereded toward defense of authoritarianism.
But then, ironies are generally overlooked till theyhit people on the head...