Sometimes these days, we in the netroots/liberal blogosphere get so deep into the swamp of the Obama/Clinton campaign that we lose sight of what is most important in this year’s election. The issues. The policy differences between any Democratic nominee and John McCain. Indeed, what are the differences between the two parties and what political agenda would a President McCain offer to America vs. that which a President Clinton or Obama would pursue? So, in the interest of getting our dialog off Jeremiah Wright and the the Great Super-delegate Easter Egg Hunt, I’d like to take a stab at delineating what a McCain victory would mean for all of us in terms of substantive policies as opposed to cheap rhetoric.


This one’s pretty easy to define. McCain wants to keep US troops in Iraq for as long as humanly possible. He literally foresees an occupation by our forces with permanent military bases much like the ones we maintain in South Korea, Germany and Japan. I imagine he also supports a continued propping up of the current Iraqi government, and continued wasteful spending on private contractors to supply services to our forces and to the reconstruction efforts (such as they are) in Iraq. In short, he’s Bush’s third term. Whatever the cost (and it will be steeper as the years go along in human lives and dollars spent) he wants to pay that price.

Iran and Israel

McCain is the Beach Boys President, i.e., he’d have no qualms about bombing Iran if Bush and Cheney don’t beat him to the punch. And he would likely order such an attack on his own, without Congressional approval. Despite her recent bellicose statements about Iran, I don’t believe Clinton would order an attack without Congressional authorization. Obama has already stated his willingness to negotiate with Iran.

McCain also would be the President most likely to support the right wing agenda of the Olmert government which is currently starving and killing Palestinians in Gaza as part of their blockade effort, building more and more settlements in the Occupied Territories, and generally punting the Israeli/Palestinian problem down the road, hoping, I suppose, that eventually there will not be enough Palestinians for Israel to worry about. I don’t see McCain changing that dynamic. Clinton or Obama would at the least push for more negotiations.

The War on Terror and National Security

I’d like to believe that McCain would put a stop to our use of torture and our illegal and warrantless wiretapping of Americans. I’d like to believe that, but I see no evidence that he is so inclined, despite “maverick” statements he made, and positions he took, earlier in the Bush era.

And since he is the “Iraq or Bust!” candidate, I don’t foresee any reallocation of resources to pursue Al Qaeda in Pakistan and the Taliban in Afghanistan by a McCain administration. Nor do I see him getting tough with the Saudis over that country’s under the radar support for Islamic extremism. McCain talks about shoring up our alliances, but I’ll have to see it to believe it. Once in office I anticipate he’ll be as enamored with unilateralism as Bush was.

As for Homeland Security Measures that the Democrats have proposed, such as increased security at our ports and at our nuclear and chemical plants, as well as increased spending for first providers, I simply don’t know. If a Democratic Congress passed such bills he might favor them, but he might not. Particularly if they are paid for with increased taxes.

What you can expect is lots and lots of spending on whatever the Department of Defense and the Pentagon want, and even on many things they don’t want. McCain has never met a defense appropriations bill he didn’t love.


He’s now a Bush man all the way. On the stump he’s been speaking loudly about making the Bush tax cuts permanent. However, since the tax cuts are set to end automatically in 2010, as long as no bill is passed by Congress to extending them or making them permanent (and I don’t see that happening) he probably can do very little to accomplish that goal. He can’t that is, unless all the Blue Dog Democrats form a coalition with Republicans to get such a measure passed.

On the other hand, I suspect any “Middle Class” tax cuts, such as those Obama has proposed, would be vetoed by a President McCain. He’d also likely veto any increase in the Capital Gains tax, increases in tax rates on wealthy Americans, and the closing of the current tax code loopholes which allow many corporations to avoid paying taxes.

Health Care

McCain has recently proposed a “new” market based heath care plan. For all intents and purposes its the same plan that Bush has proposed last year. With a Democratic Congress one would think his plan would be dead in the water, but you never know. It’s a band aid when we need major surgery. I don’t much like the Obama or Clinton approaches to solving our health care crisis, but they are vastly superior to anything McCain is likely to support, and with the veto power he holds I don’t see him compromising much on health care issues with the Dems.

The Economy

The man has already said he doesn’t no much about economics. What he’d do is anyone’s guess, but you can be assured it would be based on “free market” principles rather than any massive intervention by the Federal government. Frankly, I think he’d extend himself on economic issues only if forced to do so. In this respect, he could very well be the reincarnation of the presidency of Herbert Hoover should the economy’s walls all come crashing down next year.

Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke has been giving us his best three card monte game to forestall any collapse until after this year’s election and he may well achieve that limited success. However, that only means a deep recession/major depression is all the more likely to occur over the next 4 years. No President is well prepared for such an eventuality, but McCain, with his well known aversion to dealing with domestic concerns, is certainly the least qualified person to guide our country in a time of an economic crisis.

Environment/Global Warming

The good news is that McCain does believe global warming is real. The bad news? He doesn’t want to do much about it. His proposal: a cap and trade because for him it is “far more capitalistic and free-enterprise oriented” then setting emission reduction goals or imposing a carbon tax. He’s also a big advocate of nuclear power, which, while good at reducing carbon emissions carries its own set of problems, including the thorny issue of what to do with all that radioactive waste.

Still, at least he’s not a complete nutjob when it comes to the environment. Indeed, his ideas are not that much different than those of Clinton or Obama, though they appear place a greater emphasis on developing alternative, clean sources of energy than McCain. His main problem is that his moderate position are deeply at odds with those of his own party, and with many of the GOP’s largest contributors from Big Oil, the automotive industry and the energy utilities. In my view a McCain White House would be under a lot of pressure from industry lobbyists to water down any legislative proposal regarding environmental and global warming standards that might come out of Congress.

As for his record on environmental protection, it isn’t a particularly good one. For the most part he has voted the GOP party line with respect to weakening federal air and water pollution standards, weakening the power and regulatory ability of the EPA, etc. So, that doesn’t give me a lot of confidence that he would back his green friendly rhetoric with a lot of substantive legislative proposals. What we are likely to see from him is, again, “market based” solutions to protecting the environment rather than government regulation. Still, I expect the national media to tout him as an environmentalist whatever he does.

Social Issues

McCain is basically spouting the party line regarding gays, guns and abortion. However, since his party never really does anything about these issues anyway, except to use them to inspire conservative Christians to vote, I don’t believe they merit much discussion. The only significant issue would be his likely appointments to the Supreme Court, and I expect him to follow the lead of Republicans in Congress as to that issue. Thus if elected you can expect to see more pro-business, pro-life, anti-civil liberties conservatives, such as Justices Roberts, Scalia and Alito, appointed to the court. It goes without saying that anyone nominated by President Clinton or Obama would be less radical, if not necessarily liberal/ progressive in orientation.


McCain may be touted as a moderate and a maverick, but the reality is that he is deeply conservative, and as business friendly as any other Republican out there. This is the man who was a close personal friend of Charles Keating and one of the infamous Keating Five, who did whatever was asked of him to assist the corrupt and criminal enterprise of his good buddy. The goal of the Democratic party and its nominee should be to emphasize the fundamental radical nature of his philosophy and his proposals regarding national security, foreign policy and domestic issues, as well as his close ties to business lobbyists. And I’d make his position on Iraq the centerpiece of a major national ad buy. America can’t afford another 4 years of fighting Bush’s war, much less expanding that war to Iran, nor do most Americans want to do so.

McCain as President would be a disaster for this country after 8 years of the corrupt and lawless reign of Bush the Second. Let’s try to keep ourselves focused on that as much as possible despite the ongoing debacle of the Democrats’ scorched earth nomination battle.

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