Gene McCarthy used to say that the function of liberal Republicans was that, when they saw a drowning man, they would throw him a rope exactly halfway too short to reach him. Under the ironclad economic rule that there are no progressive multimillion dollar corporations, the New York Times is now, and always has been, a liberal Republican paper.
In the editorial today, "New and Not Improved," the Times is letting its desire to appear loftily superior outrun the facts. Just as it did when it permitted the discredited Judith Miller to shill for the Iraq war, the Times is now flacking for the Republicans with today's arguments. As usual, it does so just to create the appearance of being evenhanded while proclaiming a nonexistent equivalence of disreputability between the candidates.
s reported extensively on DailyKos, Sen. Barack Obama has never promised to use public funds. Sen. John McCain not only promised to, he undertook a legal obligation to do so when he pledged future public funding to a bank for a loan during the primaries. McCain is actually violating the election law, which is far worse than not accepting public funding.
Obama would be silly to give up the advantage in grassroots donors obtainable through the internet whom McCain can never reach. The internet has proved to be a better, more widespread method of campaign financing than the tax form checkoff system. The claim that Obama reneged on a pledge to accept public funding is a Republican talking point, not a fact. What happened was that Obama said he would talk to McCain to see if they could jointly agree to a package involving public funding and both-candidate-enforced limits on 527s and other swiftboaters, but McCain refused to relinquish the swiftboaters. So no deal -- not through Obama's inaction but McCain's.
(And because of the internet we are also going to beat McCain at independent expenditures through 527s this year, as well as on small contributions, so McCain's self-proclaimed ignorance of the internet is going to bite him right where it hurts every Republican the worst, in the wallet.)
Given the Republican habit of calling Democrats traitors since at least 1946, Obama would have also been silly not to let others take the lead on defeating the FISA rewrite, even though it would legitimize the administration's use of telcos to illegally spy on Americans. Obama actually understands being a senator, as McCain does not, and is letting Feingold and Dodd do the heavy lifting on filibustering telco immunity. We don't need a sacrifical lamb for a nominee. We need a guy tough enough to get elected. As I have said before, I have to give Obama FISA just like I had to give JFK his reluctance to push for civil rights. They're leaders and get to make calculations like that, which is not the same as rolling over supinely.
When Arlo Guthrie was born the nurse asked Woody what faith to fill out on the birth form. He said, "'None.'" The nurse said, "Sir, you can't do that." Woody said, "In that case, make it 'All.'" I actually like Obama's turning the faith-based movement against the right wing by funding some services by all religions, not just the fundamentalists. However, he limits it, as the Rethugs do not, to outsourcing certain governmental purposes. (Outsourcing may be inherently a bad idea -- but we do it in so many other areas, why avoid it only in this set of human services?)
If we were to be exactly as blatant as the Bushies have been, and only funded our allies, just think of all the Hispanic and black churches that could be doing good work with federal money. But if we can go beyond that and trick the evangelicals into taking public funding for daycare, we will have overcome one of their blocks on women's independence; and I surmise we can draw regulations that will make the churches that take federal money do so for useful purposes rather than for antiabortion, homeschooling, etc.
It is a very clever way to drive a wedge between the evangelicals and the Republicans, and I applaud it on that level alone. The fact that under the Democrats it can be used to nourish Democratic constituencies is additionally attractive.
Federal funding is the smallest problem with church-state relations anyway. Until we achieve a level of federal services sufficient to the population's needs we are going to need to use private charitable and religious institutions to accomplish state purposes, which I conceive to be different than "establishing religion." I mean, if we wanted to turn the schools, old folks homes, hospitals, libraries and all of agricultural research back to the churches, like it was in 1800, I would oppose that.
But just because the Rethugs tried to hijack the churches doesn't mean we should let the bastids have them. Let's get some work out of them instead. If we can fund an army so big it can be used for aggression, we can fund church-based daycare and a lot more. I will support severe limits on fed spending with churches for services rendered only in tandem with limits on fed spending on people with guns; not the one without the other.
An unfortunate fact is that, for this generation at least, the voices of progressive civilization have lost on gun control, and we lost long before the activist Supremes spoke of a gun right which no true strict constructionist could bear. But in this case, as Finley Peter Dunne said about the Spanish-American War, "Trade follows th' flag, an' th' Supreme Court follows th' iliction returns." People vote for guns and against gun controls, and if after Gunsaint Reagan got shot we couldn't stop handguns, it is going to take more time to make that possible. For Obama to recognize this rhetorically is just good sense. Let it ride for about 10 years and try again.
Same with the death penalty. Americans are just not enlightened enough to abandon it yet, any more than they are ready to abandon their guns, even though neither does what they are advertised to do and both cause far more pain, suffering, dysfunction and drama than they ought. Once we are cultured enough to criminalize the cultivation, storage, curing, transportation, sale, manufacture, advertising, import, export and packaging of tobacco, tobacco derivatives, tobacco products and tobacco residues anywhere in the US, or the financing, management or corporate oversight of the same, then it will be time to outlaw guns and the death penalty.
On all these things, Obama gets a pass from me for not leading us into fights we can't win today. The weak hearts at the Times need not fear Obama changing on the war, the Supreme Court, or taxes. That they pretend to do so now is just the liberal Republican streak breaking out in them again, half a rope short of usefulness.
Thank you, slangist! Al Giordano reaches back to his days with Abbie Hoffman to offer this support for Obama's Red State strategy: