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23-07-11 Would We Be Better Off if John McCain Were President

23-07-11 Would We Be Better Off if John McCain Were President

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Published by William J Greenberg
Democrats were united on one issue in the 2008 presidential election: the absolute disaster that a John McCain victory would have produced. But Obama has out-McCained McCain, in almost every respect.
Democrats were united on one issue in the 2008 presidential election: the absolute disaster that a John McCain victory would have produced. But Obama has out-McCained McCain, in almost every respect.

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Published by: William J Greenberg on Jul 23, 2011
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Would We Be Better Off If John McCain Were President?
By Fred Branfman, AlterNetPosted on July 17, 2011, Printed on July 23, 2011http://www.alternet.org/story/151665/would_we_be_better_off_if_john_mccain_were_president
The following piece first appeared onTruthdig.Democrats were united on one issue in the 2008 presidential election: the absolutedisaster that a John McCain victory would have produced.And they were right. McCain as president would clearly have produced a long stringof catastrophes: He would probably have approved afailedtroop surge inAfghanistan, engaged in worldwide extrajudicial assassination,destabilizednuclear-armed Pakistan,failed to bring Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to the negotiating table, expanded prosecution of whistle-blowers, sought to expand executive branch power,failed to close Guantanamo, failed to act on climate change, pushed bothnuclear energy and opened new areas todomestic oildrilling, failed toreformthe financial sector enough to prevent another financial catastrophe, supported anextension of the Bushtax cutsfor the rich, presided over a growingdividebetween rich and poor, and failed to lower the joblessrate. Nothing reveals the true state of American politics today more than the fact thatDemocratic President Barack Obama has undertaken all of these actions, and evenmore significantly, left the Democratic Party far weaker than it would have been hadMcCain been elected. Few issues are more important than seeing behind the screen of a myth-making mass media, and understanding what this demonstrates about how power in America really works—and what needs to be done to change it.First and foremost, McCain would have undoubtedly selected as treasury secretary anindividual nominated by Wall Street—which has a stranglehold on the economy dueto its enjoying 30 to 40 percent of all corporate profits. If he didn’t select TimGeithner, a reliable servant of financial interests whose nomination might haveallowed McCain to trumpet his “maverick” credentials, whoever he did select wouldclearly have also moved to bail out the financial institutions and allow them to water down needed financial reforms.Ditto for the head of his National Economic Council. Although appointing LarrySummers might have been a bit of a stretch, despite his yeoman work indestroyingfinancial regulation—thus enriching his old boss Robert Rubin andhelping cause the Crash of 2008—McCain could easily have found a Jack Kemp-likeRepublican “supply-sider” who would have duplicated Summers’ signal achievement
 
of expanding the deficit to the highest levels since 1950 (though perhaps with aslightly higher percentage of tax cuts than the Obama stimulus). The economy wouldhave continued to sputter along, with growth rates and joblessness levels littledifferent from today’s, and possibly even worse.But McCain’s election would have produced a major political difference: It wouldhave increased Democratic clout in the House and Senate. First off, there would have been no Tea Party, no “don’t raise the debt limit unless we gut the poor,” no “death panel” myth, no “Obama Youth” nonsense. Although there would have been plenty of criticism from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, the fact remains that McCain, aRepublican war hero, would never have excited the Tea Party animus as did the“Secret-Muslim Kenyan-Born Big-Government Fascist White-Hating Antichrist”Obama. Glenn Beck would have remained a crazed nonentity and been dropped far sooner by Fox News than he was. And Vice President Sarah Palin, despised by bothMcCain and his tough White House staff, would have been deprived of any real power and likely tightly muzzled against criticizing McCain’s relatively centrist(compared to her positions) policies.Voters would almost certainly have increased Democratic control of the House andSenate in 2010, since the Republicans would have been seen as responsible for theweak U.S. economy. Democrats might even have achieved the long-desired 60 percent majority needed to kill the filibuster in one or both houses.Democratic control of the House and Senate fostered by disastrous Republican policies would have severely limited McCain’s ability (as occurred with George W.Bush) to weaken Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance andother programs that aid those most in need. (Yes, domestic spending might have beencut less if McCain had won.)Had McCain proposed “health insurance reform,” because health insurers saw agolden opportunity to increase their customer base and profits while retaining their control, the Democrats would at least have passed a “public option” as their price for support. And possible Health and Human Services Secretary Newt Gingrich—placedin that position in a clever move to keep him away from economic or foreign policy— might have even accelerated needed improvements in computerizing patient recordsand other high-tech measures needed to cut health care costs, actions that he touted inhis book on the subject.In foreign and military policy, McCain would surely have approved Gen. DavidPetraeus’ “Afghanistan surge,” possibly increasing the number of U.S. troops there by40,000 instead of 33,500. But Gen. Stanley McChrystal would probably haveremained at the helm in Afghanistan, since he and his aides would never have
 
disparaged McCain toRolling Stone. McChrystal might have continued a“counterinsurgency” strategy, observing relatively strict rules of engagement, unlikehis successor, Petraeus, who tore up those rules and has instead unleashed a brutalcycle of “counterterror”violencein southern Afghanistan. (Yes, far fewer Afghancivilians might have died had McCain won.)McCain, like Obama, would probably have destabilized nuclear-armed Pakistan andstrengthened militant forces there by expanding drone strikes and pushing thePakistani military to launch disastrous offensives into tribal areas. And he would havegiven as much support as has Obama to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s oppositionto a peace deal because he believes that present policies of strangling Gaza, annexingEast Jerusalem, expanding West Bank settlements and walling off Palestinians aresucceeding. (It is possible that a McCain secretary of state might not have incitedviolence against unarmed American citizens—as did Hillary Clinton whenshestatedthat Israelis, who killed nine unarmed members of the 2010 Gaza flotilla,“have the right to defend themselves” against letter-carrying 2011 Gaza flotillamembers.)While McCain would have wanted to keep 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan until2014, he might have been forced to reduce their numbers, as has Obama. For McCainwould have faced a strengthened and emboldened Democratic Congress, which mighthave seen electoral gold in responding to polls indicating the public had turned againstthe Afghanistan War—as well as a far stronger peace movement united againstRepublicans instead of divided as it now is between the desires for peace and seeingan Obama win in 2012.Most significantly, if McCain had won, not only would Democrats be looking at aDemocratic landslide in the 2012 presidential race, but the newly elected Democratic president in 2013 might enjoy both a 60 percent or higher majority in both houses anda clear public understanding that it was Republican policies that had sunk theeconomy. He or she might thus be far better positioned to enact substantive reformsthan was Obama in 2008, or will Obama even if he is re-elected in 2012.Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in March 1933 after a 42-month Depression blamed entirely on the Republicans. Although he had campaigned as a moderate,objective conditions both convinced him of the need for fundamental change— creating a safety net including Social Security, strict financial regulation, programs tocreate jobs, etc.—and gave him the congressional pluralities he needed to achievethem. A Democratic president taking office in 2013 after 12 years of disastrousRepublican economic misrule might well have been likewise pushed and enabled byobjective events to create substantive change.

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