Thursday, June 05, 2008


Obama, McCain and Ethics

Remember a tiff between Obama and McCain about some bipartisan ethics reform taskforce on which both served? I don't. But Juan Williams does. And when such a story goes down the memory hole, it means it reflects badly on the GOP whilst when the likes of Juan Williams dredge it up, that means they've figured out how to spin it for the GOP and against the Dems.

Evidently, what happened is that, in the wake of the various lobbying scandals that managed to break just after the 2004 elections, a bipartisan task-force was set up to lay out a plan for ethics reform. Obama was on that task-force, but decided to leave it in somewhat of a huff, which got John McCain hoppin' mad.

My dad is an on-again/off-again local politician (at the homeowners' association level: he's never really done anything to even try to run even for city council or something like that) and as such has served on a number of "blue ribbon committees" (about which he is entirely cynical), so I know the drill, even if I don't remember the details: the committee was exactly the sort of bipartisan effort to which John McCain sincerely is dedicated, over which the media creams their collective pants and which, ultimately, does absolutely nothing except provide "fixes" that, in the long run, do more harm than good whilst making it look like someone's done something about the problem at hand.

Meanwhile, Obama probably left the committee because he saw the writing on the wall. Was he being partisan? Maybe ... but Obama was doing what is supposed to happen in the system. Our Founding Fathers were smart enough not to trust "blue ribbon committees" to come up with reforms. Instead, they constructed a system wherein "ambition would be made to challenge ambition". Ethics issues exist? Well, give political rewards to those politicians who actually are ethical and implement real reform. Even if Obama and the Dems. were playing politics with Ethics Reform ... nu? that is how the system is supposed to work (even if the GOP, in working the system this way about trivialities during the Clinton years did their utmost to discredit this).

I have no doubt that, in fact, John McCain was sincere in his anger over Obama. I have no doubt that the media elites, when they inevitably use this to smeer Obama, sincerely do believe that he should have soldiered along with the Taskforce. The problem is that the mindset of McCain and the media is not that of a democratic-republican but rather that of a feudalist. And too many people, c.f. Bowling Alone, wouldn't know the democratic-republican mindset if it bit them in the face -- because they've not served on "blue ribbon committees", they don't know what works and what doesn't. So they fall victim to "even the liberal media thinks politics is icky" -- which, given the public's almost Kassian approach to morality, makes politics evil.

Sure, politics is dirty ... but politics is, fundamentally, how we come together at the level of the polis and beyond. Unless we want to revert to some Jeffersonian agrarian utopia, we can't pretend politics shouldn't happen (and we can't let ourselves fall into the "Jeffersonian" glibertarian trap of "gummint is teh evil"): politics, taxes, etc., are the prices we pay for living in a society in which we get to have technology, art, etc. And aren't art and techology worth that price?


In other news -- I've heard it in the pipeline from my "sources": one of the talking points of the GOP is gonna be to re-enforce the notion of "the media are liberals with an agenda" (which notion is used to discredit any criticism of the GOP and ensure people support McCain thinking "wow, even the liberal media likes McCain") using the media's "calling" the Dem. nomination for Obama over that poor, 'Murkin Hillary Clinton (so hypocritical given how the GOP let the media foist their favorite candidate on them). You're gonna see a lotta conservative love (and crocodile tears) for HRC (in part to lure HRC supporters to McCain) -- what are the Dems. gonna do about this?

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