Saturday, October 25, 2008

Why John McCain Should Lose

I admire John McCain. He was, indeed, a brave soldier and an unerring patriot. A great statesman, who served his country for more than four decades with great devotion and integrity. Integrity - how important is that in Washington, when the lobbyists and special interests made the American democracy look silly! Over these years, he stood for principled behaviour, decency and whatever is good about the American politics. There was no better man than him to lead America in an age of uncertainty, dishonesty and violence.

George W Bush and his clever campaign administrators not only foxed Al Gore and stole his election in 2000, they outwitted McCain that year in the primaries. It was a sad win - backed by an indecent campaign of personal attacks and misinformation. It was a game of money and electoral calculations, which triumphed over principles and public service. It was a turning point in American history: What a difference a McCain presidency could have made in the last eight years.

But when John McCain runs again this November, he is sadly out of touch. This time, he has done many things right. He has played to the electoral calculations. He said the right things, even some which goes against his professed principles and whatever he stood for in the last four decades. He played to the camera. To offset his age and perceived lack of charm, he chose pretty Sarah Palin as the running mate - and then endowed her with $150,000 worth of clothing - for the camera. He made right noises, evoked Joe the plumber, though he possibly knows that Joe can't afford to buy clothing at the New york department stores he sent Sarah Palin to.

In the middle of an economic crisis, McCain talked about tax cuts, and how that will energise the economy. He talked about chasing American enemies all over the world. He derided the policy of 'sharing the wealth' and talked about 'creating the jobs'. He went below the belt - just like Bush has done to him - and started a whispering campaign that Obama is Muslim [false], hobnobs with terrorists [false] and subscribes to extreme views [false]. He tried to evoke American fears and American insecurities. And, by that, he proved the proposition I am making here - he is out of date, out of touch and out of sync with America.

I am not American. I have, in fact, never been to America. However, I have American friends, and more importantly, American heroes. Like many people in my generation, I have grown up with an admiration for American enterprise and American values. I lived, in my life, an essentially American dream - no matter where you come from, you can achieve what you want to achieve, through hard work and commitment. This is what sustains me through my personal failures and disappointments; this is central to all that I have done and will do in future.

And, this is why, I know, that American people today, in the middle of a crisis, will be inspired by hope and not be dominated by fear; I know they will not give up their leadership of the world and go home, but would want to set another example of emerging from a crisis.

This is where I feel the contest between John McCain and Barack Obama today looks like the one between Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt on the wake of the Great Depression. Here, at one end, we have someone who wants to administer more of the same medicine that brought in the disaster in the first place. John McCain believes that the self-interest of the banks and industrialists will keep the system going, and wants to give money in their hands to create jobs and prosperity. That would have been a great slogan in 2000; not so in 2008, today even Alan Greenspan, the high priest of monetarism, is accepting his mistakes in allowing that to happen. McCain is devoid of any ideas beyond this age-old prescription, and he refuses to see this as passé. This is where he fails, in imagination, to connect with realities of today. This is where America needs an all new deal from Barack Obama.

Also, in the area of international engagement, times are very different from that of 2000. John McCain's foreign policy doctrine is essentially similar to George W Bush - an unilaterally arrogant statement of America's superior military muscle. But that is past too. A McCain presidency may turn out to be more efficient than Bush's, but not much different in substance. America today, while militarily superior, but morally weak and economically wounded. John McCain, of all people, should know that victory in war does not come from military power alone. America needs to rebuild its moral leadership in the world, and John McCain, again, has no idea about how to do this.

Moreover, after two decades of division, American people needs unity and decency. John McCain seemed to have lost interest for decency. He has caught on the political disease - exhibitionism - and apparently chose his running mate because of her gender and good looks than any sound political considerations. He forgot that a Presidential Running Mate is not President's Show Girl, but a stand-by president. Sarah Palin must be a very formidable woman; but when she talks about Obama-Biden's readiness as President, the farce becomes unbearable.

John McCain is still sparkling, but he is peddling old formula fit for a world that no longer exists. He is trying to live George W Bush's Rules of Winning an Election. He is representing the American disease today - of fear and of chauvinism.

This is why his time is up. The old soldier needs to lose this one final time.

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