Feb 11, 2008

February 10, 2008: Profiles in Cowardice, Rat in Heat, Gone AWOL

Keith Olbermann, in last Friday’s “Countdown” on MSNBC, rebuked John McCain for the number of votes he has missed during this congressional session. In addition he chided the Senator for failing to vote on the Senate version of the ‘stimulus’ package which added some 40 billion dollars to the House version by extending rebates to disabled veterans and social security recipients.

I do not fault the Marshall of Tombstone for missing votes since given the state of physical science it is not possible to be simultaneously both on the Senate floor and out in the country campaigning for the Presidency. And since this country requires that in order to grab the brass ring one must campaign like a rat in heat, I cannot find fault with the Senator’s voting record. Similar standards were set by John Kerry, George McGovern and Bob Dole to name but a few. I am, however, baffled by the Marshall of Tombstone being AWOL on a vote of such importance to the Administration and the country.

Let’s be very clear about this. Newsweek, as well as several other leading news organizations have had lead stories on what appears to be an emerging recession. The Federal Reserve has dropped interest rates and is contemplating more rate cuts even in the face of real inflation (read above “Inflation is a Cruel Mistress). In fact this problem looms so darkly on our immediate horizon that this President, this complete ideological moron who had previously never encountered a problem that could not be solved by massive infusions of federal dollars into corporate coffers, has rushed forward with a ‘stimulus’ package that emphasizes putting money into the hands of those who struggle most. For George W. Bush to discover, even at this late date, Keynesian economics is to underscore the seriousness of the looming crisis.

But the Marshall of Tombstone was AWOL. His gun was on the Senate floor, but the Marshall was gone. Why? Because he was about to be gored on the horns of a dilemma: on the one hand if he voted for the bill he feared he would outrage the fiscal conservatives jeopardizing the support of the base of his own party; on the other hand if he voted against the bill he feared he would be seen as savaging disabled veterans and retirees on fixed incomes, jeopardizing his support among independents and Democrats. And so in the name of unlimited political expediency, John McCain took the coward’s way out.

It’s not that he didn’t have cover. The Democrats, in their own trembling cowardice, quailed at the prospect of being called out by the President for being too much the bleeding-heart, the Good Samaritan. Accordingly, they dropped demands that unemployment insurance be extended to those whose benefits have expired. McCain could easily have pointed to the capitulation by what remains of the ‘left’ and reassured both Wall Street and Main Street that something would be done to shore up aggregate demand. Instead he appeared before a conservative forum protesting his exclusion and demanding admission. Contending that he too is a “Reagan” conservative, “a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution”, he demonstrated a proclivity altogether too common in such circles: the need to besmirch the historical record to achieve useful misunderstandings.

The truth is that Reagan, as ‘Ol Two-Cows”, amassed huge deficits as they spent money like drunken sailors. Both now have supported such stimulus measures. Barry Goldwater would not. Perhaps it is not wise to forget that McCain has Goldwater’s old Senate seat. The point is that while McCain, as both Goldwater and Reagan before him, distinguishes himself for his unpredictable predictability-- Goldwater would rail against the Neo-Con police state and welcome gays into the military, Reagan would run huge deficits and move to throw away our nuclear arsenal-- they would have taken a position and made a stand. The difference is that no matter on which side they stood neither Goldwater nor Reagan in the heat of a Presidential campaign would have, on an issue of this importance, gone AWOL.

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