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Say It Ain't So Joe; Past is Prologue

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Message Betsy L. Angert
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copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.

The first and only Vice Presidential debate began.  The date, October 2, 2008.   The candidates were cordial, even friendly.  Joseph Biden and Sarah Palin took to the stage.  The Democrat entered the theatre from the left.  The Republican strode onto the platform from the right.  The two shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.  Sarah Palin inquired; might she call the Senator from Delaware "Joe."  Delighted, and with a sincere smile, the gentleman from Wilmington told the woman from Wasilla, certainly.  The scene was set.  For the moment, all was fine and would be, in appearance.  Only the words that whirled about spoke to the differences between these two Vice Presidential aspirants.

Sarah Palin was strident as she delivered her populace statements.  Debate moderator Gwen Ifill had asked of the subprime meltdown.  The Public Broadcasting Services Journalist inquires, who was at fault for this dire situation.  The candidate with executive experience firmly avowed, the "predator lenders were to blame.  The former Mayor and current Alaskan Governor stated,  "Never will we be exploited and taken advantage of again by those who are managing our money and loaning us these dollars."  Still steadfast, Ms Palin continued, "We need to make sure that we demand from the federal government strict oversight of those entities in charge of our investments and our savings and we need also to not get ourselves in debt."  However, Sarah Palin did not speak to the history of John McCain, her running mate.

The Arizona Senator has a record on the issue of deregulation.  He holds dear policies that strip the government of any ability to standardize controls on corporations.  The individuals who John McCain has consistently cited as his most influential fiscal advisers also reject regulations.  Decades of votes demonstrate Senator McCain has never departed in any major way from his party's embrace of deregulation.  As most Republicans, John McCain has relied more on market forces than on the laws to economic exercise restraint. 

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While Mr. McCain has cited the need for additional oversight when it comes to specific situations, like the mortgage problems behind the current shocks on Wall Street, he has consistently characterized himself as fundamentally a deregulator and he has no history prior to the presidential campaign of advocating steps to tighten standards on investment firms.

He has often taken his lead on financial issues from two outspoken advocates of free market approaches, former Senator Phil Gramm and Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman. Individuals associated with Merrill Lynch. which sold itself to Bank of America in the market upheaval of the past weekend, have given his presidential campaign nearly $300,000, making them Mr. McCain's largest contributor, collectively.

Yet, Sarah Palin did not speak to these truths.  Perhaps she did not know the facts.   History may not be her strong suit.  Hence, the push for populism from a person who represents a political Party that prefers to accommodate  the affluent.

Democratic nominee politely attempted to remind the Governor of what the grand Old Party and her running mate John McCain stood for.   He also hoped to shed a bit of light on what those in the know, in Washington knew.  Joseph Biden shared what was succinctly stated a week earlier in The New York Times. 

(i)t was that first Mr. Obama and then Mr. McCain (who) rushed out their statements on Monday morning before most Americans had reached their workplaces.

To the extent that travails on Wall Street and Main Street have both corporations and homeowners looking to Washington for a hand, that helps Mr. Obama and his fellow Democrats who see government as a force for good and business regulation as essential.  Yet Mr. McCain has sold himself to many voters as an agent for change, despite his party's unpopularity after years of dominating in Washington, and despite his own antiregulation stances of past years. . . .

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Mr. McCain's reaction suggests how the pendulum has swung to cast government regulation in a more favorable political light as the economy has suffered additional blows and how he is scrambling to adjust. While he has few footprints on economic issues in more than a quarter century in Congress, Mr. McCain has always been in his party's mainstream on the issue.

In early 1995, after Republicans had taken control of Congress, Mr. McCain promoted a moratorium on federal regulations of all kinds. He was quoted as saying that excessive regulations were "destroying the American family, the American dream" and voters "want these regulations stopped."  . . .

"I'm always for less regulation," he told The Wall Street Journal last March, "but I am aware of the view that there is a need for government oversight" in situations like the subprime lending crisis, the problem that has cascaded through Wall Street this year. He concluded, "but I am fundamentally a deregulator."

All this was before Sarah Palin was on the national scene.  Perhaps, the Governor could not address John McCain's past, for it was not part of hers, or possibly, stubbornly she would not.  Sarah Palin as much as said so.  The Alaskan Chief Executive exclaimed, "I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also."

Sarah Palin had not heard the tale, the true story Joe Biden told moments before.  An anecdote that addressed the concerns of everyday, average Americans was ignored.  The woman who claims to connect to the little people, the common folk, ignored an honest, homespun, humble yarn.  Senator Biden shared a sense of how John McCain's long-held positions affected ordinary Americans. 

So deregulation was the promise. And guess what? Those people who say don't go into debt, they can barely pay to fill up their gas tank. I was recently at my local gas station and asked a guy named Joey Danco (ph). I said Joey, how much did it cost to fill your tank? You know what his answer was? He said I don't know, Joe. I never have enough money to do it.

Then, Joe Biden empathetically explained, "The middle class needs relief, tax relief. They need it now. They need help now."  Sarah Palin then assured the public, she and Senator McCain would provide the assistance Middle America sought.  Governor Palin promised she and John would be the change candidates.

However, not surprised by the rhetoric; yet shocked by a reality Joe Biden knew to be true, the Delaware Senator offered another painful plea for the people in his neighborhood.  The man who takes the train each work day, from Wilmington to Washington, and who has remained active in his home community for decades spoke from the heart, as only one who lives with the supposed "little" people who are large in spirit can.  Joe offered . . . 

Look, all you have to do is go down Union Street with me in Wilmington or go to Katie's Restaurant or walk into Home Depot with me where I spend a lot of time and you ask anybody in there whether or not the economic and foreign policy of this administration has made them better off in the last eight years. And then ask them whether there's a single major initiative that John McCain differs with the president on. On taxes, on Iraq, on Afghanistan, on the whole question of how to help education, on the dealing with health care.

Look, the people in my neighborhood, they get it. They get it. They know they've been getting the short end of the stick. So walk with me in my neighborhood, go back to my old neighborhood in Claymont, an old steel town or go up to Scranton with me. These people know the middle class has gotten the short end. The wealthy have done very well. Corporate America has been rewarded. It's time we change it. Barack Obama will change it.

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When asked to respond, the Governor from the great state of Alaska and the representative on stage from the Grand Old Party smiled.  Then Sarah Palin pounced on a pronouncement that might hurt the image she and her running mate Senator McCain had hoped to project.  The former Mayor from Wasilla with a note of spite said, "Say it ain't so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again. You preference your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now doggone it, let's look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future."  The crowd chortled quietly.  The point was made.  Indeed, John McCain would not be as the current President was or is.  Yet, the Arizona Senator has long been in agreement with the present Administration, and still is.  

In an attempt to defer the discussion of deregulation, Sarah Palin so sweetly spoke of education.  The daughter of an educator told Joseph Biden she and he shared a common bond.  Sarah Palin expressed her awareness as she diverted the discussion.  The proud Palin proclaimed, "You mentioned education and I'm glad you did. I know education you are passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and God bless her.  Her reward is in heaven, right?"  

Yet, again the Governor might have forgotten the history that is not hers personally, but is the position of the man she runs with.  On Education, John McCain stands solid with George W. Bush, the President Sarah Palin professes is the past.  In a comparison on the issues, the nation's Chief Executive, Bush and Senator McCain agree. 

Mr. McCain generally supports No Child Left Behind, Mr. Bush's signature education policy. Calling it a "good beginning," he has said, "there's a lot of things that need to be fixed" about it. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a McCain adviser, has said "the law needs to start addressing the underlying cultural problems in our education system."

This position is but one of many in which there is agreement. The potential Republican President and the current Grand Old Party leader concur on much.  Americans may wish to glimpse into the abyss  Senator Biden sees.  The Democratic Vice Presidential nominee verbalizes his vision as he pronounces, "(The) past is prologue.  Perchance, in frustration Joseph Biden beseeches his adversary in this debate, the person who decidedly espoused she would not answer directly.  He exclaims, "The issue is, how different is John McCain's policy going to be than George Bush's? I haven't heard anything yet.

I haven't heard how his policy is going to be different on Iran than George Bush's. I haven't heard how his policy is going to be different with Israel than George Bush's. I haven't heard how his policy in Afghanistan is going to be different than George Bush's. I haven't heard how his policy in Pakistan is going to be different than George Bush's."

Sarah Palin stood solid silent on the specifics.  Possibly in that moment she thought to voice again, "Say it ain't so Joe"  Yet, it is.  Perhaps, that is why earlier she had decided not react to the questions unswervingly.  The Governor knew, she could not say what was not, as it surely was and is. 

Comparing Bush and McCain

Where They Mostly Agree

Abortion and Judges 
Both men oppose use of federal money for abortions, including aid to groups that help women obtain them. Both support the ban on Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003 and parental notification for minors. Mr. McCain says Roe v. Wade "should be overturned," altering his 1999 stand, and says he would appoint Supreme Court justices who "strictly interpret the Constitution." He voted for both of Mr. Bush's picks to the court. Mr. Bush has not publicly called for repealing Roe.

Diplomacy With Iran and Syria 
Like the president, Mr. McCain has ruled out direct talks with Iran and Syria for now. Mr. McCain supported Mr. Bush when he likened those who would negotiate with "terrorists and radicals" to appeasers of the Nazis, a remark widely interpreted as a rebuke to Senator Barack Obama.

Mr. McCain supported a 2007 bill, strongly backed by Mr. Bush, that called for establishing a guest-worker program and setting up a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. He sponsored a similar bill in 2006 but this year he said he would not vote for his own proposal now. "Only after we achieved widespread consensus that our borders are secure, would we address other aspects of the problem in a way that defends the rule of law," he said in February.

Mr. McCain supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003 but strongly criticized the Bush administration's handling of the war in the first four years. He was a vocal advocate of the troop increase strategy, eventually adopted by the president, and has supported Mr. Bush in resisting calls for a withdrawal timetable. Last month, Mr. McCain said he believed the war could be won by 2013; but this month he said a timetable was "not too important," in comparison with the level of casualties in Iraq.

Guantánamo Detainees 
Mr. McCain was a key backer of the 2006 legislation that allowed detainees to be tried in military courts and abolished habeas corpus rights for detainees labeled "enemy combatants" by the administration. He would close the Guantánamo prison and move prisoners to a maximum-security military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Health Care 
Mr. McCain's proposal to eliminate tax breaks that encourage employers to provide health insurance for their workers is very similar to one that Mr. Bush pushed last year, to little effect. The Bush plan offered a $15,000 tax deduction for families buying their own insurance, while the McCain plan would give a refundable tax credit of $5,000 to families for insurance whether or not they pay taxes. Both men opposed a 2007 bill to expand a children's health insurance program for lower- and middle-income families.

Both support having wealthier Medicare recipients pay higher premiums for prescription drug coverage. In 2003, Mr. McCain voted against the bill that added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare.

Social Security 
"I'm totally in favor of personal savings accounts," he told The Wall Street Journal in March, "along the lines that President Bush proposed." Mr. Bush did not find enough support in Congress for his proposal to allow workers to divert a portion of Social Security payroll taxes into personal investment accounts in exchange for reduced guaranteed benefits.

Same-Sex Marriage 
Mr. Bush supported a constitutional amendment to ban such marriages, but Mr. McCain voted against it, saying states should enact such bans. He said he would consider a constitutional ban if "a higher court says that my state or another state has to recognize" same-sex marriages. 
Civil Union 
Both would leave the matter to the states. Mr. Bush said in 2004 that he would not "deny people rights to a civil union" if a state chose to legalize it. Mr. McCain supported a 2005 initiative in his own state, Arizona, that would have blocked civil unions and domestic partnerships. Last month he said that "people should be able to enter into legal agreements" for things like insurance and power of attorney.

Mr. McCain would make permanent the large Bush tax cuts he opposed in 2001 and 2003. He has also proposed four new tax cuts of his own: a reduction in the corporate tax rate, immediate tax breaks for corporate investment, a repeal of the alternative minimum tax and doubling the value of exemptions for dependents to $7,000 from $3,500.

Both are proponents of free trade and support opening up markets with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. They also support education programs to help displaced workers.

Wiretapping and Executive Power 
Mr. Holtz-Eakin, a top adviser to Mr. McCain, said last week that Mr. McCain believes that the Constitution gave Mr. Bush the power to authorize the National Security Agency to monitor Americans' international phone calls and e-mail without warrants, despite a federal statute that required court oversight. When Mr. McCain was asked about the same issue in January, he had said: "I don't think the president has the right to disobey any law." 

Sources that say it is so . . . 


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I am an Educator, a student of life; I am an Author. On each path I learn from you and with you. Indeed. we all teach and study. Together we advance awareness and acumen. We learn, grow, and glow greater. Please peruse my prose at and (more...)
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