Willing Patriots

John McCain is a magnanimous guy. He said tonight that after he wins the election this November, “we’re going to reach out our hand to any willing patriot” to put America “back on the road to prosperity and peace.” Remember, McCain’s war was the one in which we destroyed villages to save them. He wants to use the dynamite that blew up our house to put it back together again.

But the words that chill here are “any willing patriot.” Does that mean subscribing to the “bring it on” patriotism of Bush? The torture patriotism of Cheney? The “limitless executive power” patriotism of the entire Bush-Cheney wrecking crew? The “endless war” patriotism of McCain? Does that mean surrendering to the patriotism of ceaseless braying about the heroism and self-sacrifice of anyone in a uniform who goes along with the program without questioning the empty rationale or the moral bankruptcy of the undertaking?

Will McCain reach out his hand to the kind of patriotism that says, you’re wrong, senator–the policies you’ve embraced are killing the country we love, the only country we have for better or worse? In the frenzy of waving flags, in the midst of our military cult, I don’t see that sort of patriotic overture getting such a warm reception.

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Word of the Day

It’s Schadenfreude. My own spin on the definition: the bitter joy one takes in the suffering of others.

I loved Obama’s take on the Palin misfortune: back off and let the family take care of its misfortune in private. Of course, the world little noted his injunction, let alone remembered it, and the hits just keep on coming. Governor Palin’s embarrassing moment with her daughter’s pregnancy–and hey, it’s Senator McCain’s moment, too–is really the least of her, or his, problems. She’s just a Christmas stocking full of early holiday surprises. See TPM Election Central for a handy list of the pies that hit her (and Team McCain) in the face over the last couple of days. My particular favorite, though it’s of no particular importance, is her giggling on a radio talk show while the host-lout calls one of her opponents “a bitch.” Who knew Christian zealots could be such fun?

Anyway, as Labor Day drew into Labor Day night, I recognized the guilty truth that it’s kind of fun to see a Republican candidate driven from pillar to post over some of the same kinds of issues–including a matter that is arguably private–for which Democrats have been harried for years by the self-anointed saints of the right.

Enjoy your time in the spotlight, governor. If the tide keeps running this way, you just bought yourself a ticket back to Juneau.

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Game Token

Venturing into deep waters, but here goes: I think it’s safe to say that with Sarah Palin on the ticket, Team McCain has all but sewn up the battle for Alaska’s three electoral votes.

Palin’s sudden elevation from obscure environmental menace to No. 2 on the ticket is the most surprising rise to national prominence since Bush II named Harriet Myers to the Supreme Court. It’s reminiscent, too, of the cynicism that led Bush I to nominate Clarence Thomas to the court.

In the Myers case, the choice met with derision: Mr. President, you’re asking us to believe you have searched our great land high and low and that this is the best candidate for our most august tribunal? Of course, under this president, the notion that competence is a prerequisite, or even desirable, for high office has taken a beating. But in the Myers case, the howls were so loud and insistent from all quarters that the president was forced to let his friend withdraw herself from consideration for the court.

McCain’s choice of Palin provokes the Myers reaction all over again. Senator McCain, you’ve combed the ranks of GOP officeholders everywhere–and even a non-GOP one in the repugnant person of Joe Lieberman–and this is the person you want us to believe is the best-qualified to vault into high office?

OK–if you say so.

As even the dimmest pundit can see and as Palin herself made clear in her debut, she’s on the ticket as a magnet for the legions of Hillary Clinton voters so crushed by Obama winning the Democratic nomination that they’re going to vote for McCain. For them, Palin would clinch the deal. Or maybe McCain and his brain trust believe that everyone who voted for Clinton voted for her because she was a woman. Run out a new body in a pantsuit, put some of the same rhetoric on stage, and see whether anyone notices the difference.

We’ll see how that works, I guess. Meantime, from the Republicans, the party that has fought affirmative action at every turn, arguing that it begets tokenism and promotes the unqualified over the qualified, we get another bizarre episode of tokenism to ponder. When civil rights pioneer Thurgood Marshall died, they found a black man bent on reversing his legacy to take his seat on the Supreme Court. When Sandra Day O’Connor retired from the court, they suggested a woman without a scintilla of judicial experience or preparation to replace her. And now, to appeal to the partisans of Clinton–as steadfast an opponent of the GOP right as any Democrat–they put up a right-wing Republican.

Ben Stein, on the Money

Ben Stein and I go way back. Yeah. There was “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” And once I won some (but not all) of his money. On the studio lot where that happened, I saw his car. It was a pearl-finish Cadillac with the vanity license plate CLER EYZ (or some variation); the plate referred to the fact Stein was a spokesman for Clear Eyes and had made a bundle from the gig.

Anyway. Ben’s quite the conservative Republican. Much more conservative Republican than anyone else in my little circle of acquaintances. But having said that, he is not of the stripe of Republican conservatism that hands you a cow pie and tries to sell it to you as filet mignon. He seems oddly reality-based. Today, he wrote a great column in The New York Times: “What McCain Could Do About Taxes.”

His message to the nominee presumptive of the GOP is that Republicans have “for the last 30 years or so been operating under a demonstrably false and misleading premise: that tax cuts pay for themselves by generating so much economic growth that they replace the sums lost by tax cutting.” In an open letter to McCain, he argues that that course is ruinous. The Bush tax cuts, and the Reagan cuts before them, have shifted the tax burden “from us to our progeny and add immense amounts of interest expense to the federal budget. At this point, taxpayers shell out about $1 billion a day just for that item.” He continues:

“Moreover, immense federal deficits in modern life are financed largely by foreign buyers of our debt. This means that the American taxpayer must work a good chunk of the year to send money to China, Japan, the petro-states and other buyers of United States debt. In effect, we become their peons.

“By flooding the world with debt, we in effect beg foreigners to take our dollars, and this leads to a lower value of the dollar and a higher cost of imports, including oil. If you feel pain filling up the tank, you can partly thank those tax cuts. If you feel the sting of inflation, you can partly thank the supply siders. Deficits matter.”

What’s to be done? Stein urges a decisive tax increase for the wealthy. His reasoning? “The government — which is us — needs the money to keep old people alive, to pay for their dialysis, to build fighter jets and to pay our troops and pay interest on the debt. We can get it by indenturing our children, selling ourselves into peonage to foreigners, making ourselves a colony again, generating inflation — or we can have some integrity and levy taxes equal to what we spend.”

Note that he says taxes ought to be equal to what we spend. That could be a veiled call for draconian budget cutting, but Stein does seem to have his feet on the ground: He concedes what a lot of the Republicans deny: That the people want a lot from the government, and that what they want costs money.

I hope McCain or maybe even some Democrat is listening to this.

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