Friday, October 10, 2008

OBAMA VS. MCCAIN, ROUND II: Ali Vs. The Raging Bull

By Jack Random

Against a backdrop of shifting polls favoring Barack Obama, an economic crisis and a sharp increase in personal attacks from the camp of candidate John McCain, the second presidential debate was billed as an opportunity for McCain to fight back hard and dirty.

It was supposed to be McCain’s Jake “Raging Bull” LaMotta against Obama’s “Sugar” Ray Robinson.

Obama not only lived up to his part but transcended, conjuring the image of The Greatest, floating like a butterfly, stinging like a bee, but McCain came out stumbling, plenty of rage but without direction, flailing like an overmatched club fighter, holding in the clinch and hitting nothing but air.

The only surprise of the evening came early when McCain asserted that as president he would order the Treasury to purchase and renegotiate troubled mortgages, an authority embodied in the recent bailout and an idea recently floated by Hillary Clinton, Barney Frank and Obama himself.

The proposal sounded altogether too New Deal for McCain’s Free Market ideology (indeed it was the founding concept of Franklin Roosevelt’s Home Owner’s Loan Corporation) but his base supporters need not have feared. The devil is in the details: Homeowners would qualify if the could prove they were creditworthy at the time of the original loan. If they were worthy of the loans in the first place, the market would not have exploded like an over inflated balloon. Moreover, McCain’s deal is tilted to the lenders, paying full value for worthless mortgages.

It is another reminder that we cannot trust a card carrying, lifetime Free Market fundamentalist to deliver a fair deal. You wouldn’t buy a second used car from the man who already sold you a lemon.

Upon further review, McCain’s proposal was ill conceived, poorly thought out and wrought with problems – not the least of which is that it runs contrary with his philosophy of government. That McCain would even float the idea is a measure of how desperate he has become in the waning days of this campaign.

While Obama discussed his own efforts to alert the Treasury and the Federal Reserve concerning the looming crisis in unsecured mortgages, McCain moved on to his villains of choice: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation). He ushered us back to 2005 and the curious case of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act sponsored by Senators Chuck Hagel, John Sununu and Elizabeth Dole. The bill was not a serious legislative effort as it contained a poison pill: provisions that eliminated numerous governmental regulatory functions and replaced them with a regulatory corporation (the fox guarding the henhouse).

It died in committee as intended and John McCain signed onto it months later as political cover for the crisis to come.

It is worth noting that Fannie Mae was originally a government institution founded by the New Deal. Had it remained so, lacking an incentive to inflate profits by nefarious means, Fannie Mae would have stood as a firewall against the crisis in the mortgage markets. Instead, it yielded to the pressures of unregulated greed.

We would do well to return Fannie Mae to its original form and purpose.

Choosing not to linger on his legislative foresight, McCain sprinted on to familiar ground: His rant against legislative earmarks, curiously omitting the usual reference to the DNA of grizzlies. (It turns out he voted for that legislation.) Obama replied that while he agreed with earmark reform, it would have no impact on the current economic crisis.

Obama laid out his priorities: Energy first, Health Care second and Education third. McCain said he could do it all. Incredibly, he was willing to freeze all spending and cut Social Security but the one thing he would never cut was military expenditures.

Obama described a vision of a green economy and public works to rebuild our infrastructure, creating millions of good jobs, while McCain extolled the virtues of small business and nuclear energy.

On the theory that if you repeat an assertion loud and long enough people will eventually believe it, McCain charged that Obama would raise taxes (like Herbert Hoover!) and Obama made it clear that he would lower taxes for all but the very richest of Americans.

Obama advocated health care as a right of each and every citizen while McCain, who appeared never to have given it a thought, declared it was a responsibility. Obama noted that de-regulation would do for health care what it did for the financial markets.

On foreign policy, Obama advanced a doctrine of diplomacy, alliance building and moral responsibility while McCain invoked Teddy Roosevelt and seemed to suggest that “victory” on any terms, at any cost, was the only objective worthy of an imperial nation.

One should note that Teddy Roosevelt, in addition to his military heroics, was a trustbuster and an advocate of strong government regulation at a time of runaway greed.

On every front, on every issue of importance to the American people, only one man on the stage at Belmont University showed the breadth and depth of knowledge, the even temperament and precise thinking required to be President of the United States in the troubling times ahead.

When McCain conjured the memory of Herbert Hoover, the antithesis of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, it was not Obama we pictured; it was McCain.

When the final bell sounded and the contest came to a close, the Raging Bull quickly retreated to the privacy of his dressing room (presumably to treat his wounds). His opponent lingered, sharing the moment with the people who witnessed it, enjoying a sense of common cause.

He had gone the distance and he was still dancing. It was a performance worthy of The Greatest of All Time: Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

None but the most hardened loyalist was surprised with the verdict.




NOTE: I have noticed some strange happenings on the Web. Formerly open posting sites have become proprietary. Links are taken down. Restrictions are enacted. Others have noted such things as well. Have you? Has censorship come to the free media?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Mansel: Poetry Corner

Limed In Restraints

from the beginning it was a prayer through
clenched hands
a beaten mouth so foreign to the words
as to wild the myrrh
for so blinds a man thus comes the vision
of a sense once used for locating the light

blood and rage, only standing still, eroding
only what was a part of the greater good

that a downturned eye could last in a room
of allegiance is to set fire to a ravine where
the many have gathered to follow the few

I put my hands to the window and began to
tremble, the passage of Purgatory to the
burden of the families of a criminal,

government becoming the intercourse upon
which we joust on the way down to the
rocks below

- Chris Mansel