Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Getting Specific

Back in the day, I noted the absurdity of anyone railing on Obama's "lack of experience" while giving anything but scorn to Rudy Giuliani. Alas, Hizzoner's brilliant campaign strategy ("1.Lose state after state by resounding margins. 2. ? 3. Victory!") somehow foundered, so that rule is now moot. However, we have a replacement: neither John McCain nor his supporters get to complain about Obama's supposed lack of specificity, or his supposed lack of policy knowledge, or his supposed appeal that is based solely on his personal attributes.
McCain takes a strong interest in foreign policy, to be sure, but his main public appeal has been to endless remind voters of his history as a POW. On economics, he's repeatedly admitted that he knows very little. And on social issues, he doesn't even know what his own positions are. (See this hilarious report from last year.)

McCain is like Obama in that he's appealed to voters largely on the basis of broad themes and his personal charisma and history. The difference is that Obama is a former law professor who's actually done his homework on the policy, and McCain is still winging it.

Of course, this is St. McCain we're talking about, so rest assured he'll never be called on it.

1 comment:

PG said...

Of course, this is St. McCain we're talking about, so rest assured he'll never be called on it.

This is the Republican Party we're talking about. The less government does in the U.S., and the more it does in the way of bombs overseas, the happier they are. The one domestic policy issue that Republicans care about right now is immigration, and McCain's already ostracized himself on that issue. It frankly still blows my mind that a candidate who doesn't live in terror of "dial 1 for English" has managed to win the Republican candidacy. (Republicans also care about conservative judges, but McCain's taken the Scalito test on that, even if some snicker that such judges are the ones hostile to his campaign finance law.)

Anyway, what's there left to be specific about? Obama gets picked on for his health care plan; Republicans think health care should be left to the private sector. There's some uncertainty about what to do with NCLB; most Republicans never thought that was a brilliant move on Bush's part in the first place and think education belongs wholly to the states, preferably with vouchers for sectarian schools.

As for economics, Republicans don't believe in regulation, so there's no point in putting forward ideas like, "Gosh, maybe we should keep a closer eye on the lending industry?" or "Maybe it's time to start monitoring the credit rating agencies?" In the conservative view, the rise and fall of CDOs, sub-prime lending etc. is not something for the government to involve itself in.

I'm myself doubtful about having massive government bail-outs for people who really couldn't afford to buy a home in the first place, but I do think the government has an obligation to regulate the securities and lending markets. That's what the SEC, comptroller of the currency, and several other federal agencies are for. Gut their funding and narrow their mission, and this is the mess we end up with.