Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Shopping Won't Do

I haven't made a post in two months, but I'm finally settled in here in Chapel Hill and hope to keep in better touch.  Of course, the world hasn't had the luxury of taking time off so let me get to it.

George W. Bush's first reaction to 9/11 was to tell an unsettled nation to shop.  It appears the John McCain who was the first opponent to experience W's Swift Boating tactics during the South Carolina primary, has finally come full circle when it comes to the Decider.  He, together with his sidekick Lindsey Graham, has gone shopping.  And the two Senators - the straight talker and the Clinton impeachment prosecutor - got some real bargains.  Their rugs cost a buck a piece.  Of course one wonders what it cost the taxpayers to have all those fully armored and armed surge soldiers circle them not to mention the two Black Hawks hovering above.  If you've filled your tank recently you can imagine what fueling those suckers must cost.  McCain has not merely gone shopping he apparently is putting time in at Vegas as well, betting every last penny of those disappointing campaign funds on Bush's ill conceived War.

Now I'm not a huge fan of John McCain who, with all his straight talk appeal, remains a pretty consistent social and political conservative.  But, like others who disagree with his underlying positions, I have always found him to be both bright and engaging.  He knows how to connect with people and at some pretty crucial times he has spoken out with both reason and courage.  So what's up with this smart senator and a discredited war just at the moment when the pundits thought he had the Republican nomination all but locked up?  I think the answer is pretty simple, Viet Nam.  It is said that America never got over its defeat in Southeast Asia.   The experience seems to have driven our foreign and most importantly military policy for decades.  A series of Presidents including Reagan who spent so much on defense essentially kept their fingers far away from the trigger.  John McCain told 60 Minutes that he doesn't dwell on the past, which included not only the ugly whisper campaign in 2000 but most notably his long term imprisonment and torture.  If you believe that, you also believe Dick Chaney is just a happy cherubic grandfather.

John McCain, the proud son of a multigenerational military family, has never come to terms with the humiliation of Viet Nam.  He has long chafed at our reluctance to use military power in its aftermath.  Like Bush and company, he saw the direct attack on us in 2001 as the opportunity to shake off those Viet Nam cobwebs and show the world what we really could do.  This after all is the nation of the Greatest Generation that pulled itself out of the doldrums and won World War II.  The only problem is that Baghdad isn't Berlin, it's Saigon all over again and John McCain simply can't accept it.  He's mad as hell and not going to take it any more.  He smells victory around the corner, and if W can't take us there then let's at least hold on until President McCain takes command to finish the job.  Just what we need, but only in John McCain's mind.

If anything has reinforced my conviction that what we do desperately need is someone new, someone without the cobwebs of our past mistakes in his closet, it has been John McCain's performance in the last weeks.  It isn't simply that he (and others) are haunted b the past, they haven't learned from it.  Experience is a great thing, but only if it informs rather than blinds.  We need a fresh look and a fresh start.  The world out there has lost respect for us and for what they see is the American same old, same old.  I watched the Speaker of the House's press conference yesterday, called largely to justify her trip to Syria.  I for one think she was right to make it (as probably did the Republican politicians who were in Damascus before and after her), but listening her repeated reassurances that she had done nothing inconsistent with US policy unnerved me a bit.  It isn't that our policies are working that well, especially our refusal to sit down with anyone who disagrees with us.  It's time for us to disagree with our foreign policy, to pull back the guns and start talking to everyone, no strings or preconceived notions attached.

Well I'm settled in watching the races (and the world falling apart) from this University town.  We may be in a reddish state (North Carolina produced both Jesse Helms and John Edwards) but this is a strictly blue area.  Kerry-Edwards bumper stickers, left in place, abound in every parking lot.  It's green in this town, and not merely the beautiful trees and plants that abound.  But even the natives (who are not always easy to find in this or any place like it) seem to have had it with this Administration.  The only people in the country who don't know its over temporarily reside on or near Pennsylvania Avenue.  I'm here and I'm watching.  My Kerry-Edwards sticker has long since been removed from my rear window.  The Obama in '08 that's replaced it isn't there by accident.  At this point moving forward is what we need.  Watching John McCain wiggle through the last couple of weeks tells me that looking back simply won't work.  We don't learn, so we might as well start afresh.  Really afresh!

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