Saturday, March 17, 2007

Politics of Calculation

John McCain said yesterday in response to a question about contraception and AIDS prevention, in part,

"You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception…"

He’s not going to tell us what he really thinks or believes (so much for the "Straight Talk Express"), he’s going to provide us with his position on the issue. He’s forgotten at the moment what his position is, but as soon as his aide looks it up he’ll get back to us.

Hillary Clinton, when asked about General Pace’s statement about the immorality of being gay responded that it was "for others to decide," giving a calculated response designed to offend as few as possible. She later told us she did not think being gay was immoral, but only after her "handlers" advised her just how unpopular her initial response had been.

That’s what politics is today. It’s not about saying or doing what you think is right, or what you believe in. It’s not about letting the voters know who you are or what you are made of. It’s about saying the "magic words." It’s about saying what you think the people with the money, and to a lesser degree the voters, want to hear.

The Democratic Party has lost election after election because they choose calculation over leadership. They, as much as the Republicans, got us into the unholy quagmire in Iraq by their policy of calculation. Rather than taking a stand against what they knew to be impending disaster, they made the decision that they needed to "look strong on national security." They made the calculation (reputedly verbalized by one senator) that "we'll give him this vote, get it out of the way and then be able to focus the 2002 election on the issues we do best on: the economy, education, healthcare, corporate corporation."

So how did that work out? If there were any big Democratic gains in the economy, education, healthcare, corporate corporation the Republicans sure managed to keep those gains out of the public’s attention.

The Republicans exercise leadership. It’s bad leadership: it’s demagoguery, fearmongering and hatemongering, but it is leadership. They don’t care how they look, as long as they win (or can steal) elections.

Even after winning both houses of Congress the Democrats are still practicing politics of calculation, and they are still losing because of it. They played a significant role in getting us into Iraq with their calculated policy of appearance on national security, and they cannot get us out because that policy has not changed. Despite its clear defeatism, they hold onto that losing policy.

How many bills has the Democratic Congress put on the president’s desk and made him veto? Until they do that, they are fully complicit in "the surge." They're blaming it on Bush, but they're allowing him to do it.

Until the Democratic Congress quits calculating it’s appearance on national security, takes a leadership role and passes a bill requiring withdrawal and puts it on George Bush’s desk and makes him veto it, they share with him the responsibility for every single soldier who dies or is wounded on that foreign battlefield.

It is theirs because they are calculating instead of leading, taking positions instead of governing.

It is likely that the two politicians I quoted at the beginning of this post are going to be the two choices we have for president in 2008. That prospect rather sickens me. Two people about whom the only thing we really know is that they will do anything, say anything and take any position in order to assume a position of power.

We have come to a sad state of affairs.

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