The Republican Convention was an early Halloween Party. The leaders of the party, including Sen. John McCain, dressing up and pretending to be something they are not. The party in power for eight years is pretending to run away from itself, putting on a false mask in order to continue the masquerade for 60 more days until Election Day.
The Republican Party is so unpopular their disguises are essential for electoral success. If voters see them for what they are then they will be landslided even if the Democrats continue to run their flawed campaign.
The masks at the masquerade were often ironic. There was Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. He has been an eastern establishment big finance player since he interned at the Boston Consulting Group in 1974. Then he went onto Bain and Company which became Bain Capital – leveraged buy out firms that buy-out companies – fire people, restructure them and make huge profits. . All the way through Romney was building his fortune making over 100% on return of investment for leveraged buy-outs. He and his wife are reportedly worth $250 to $500 million. And, there he was at the Republican convention railing against the eastern establishment. Take of his mask and he is the eastern establishment.
Then there was Mayor Rudy Giuliani the former mayor of New York City. He mocked Obama for being “cosmopolitan” – take off Rudy’s mask and he represented some of the most cosmopolitan people in the world. Then Rudy attacked the media – here is a guy who built his career running in front of the media. As a politically ambitious attorney he even took the strange step of going on crack raids with the media in tow to get front page pictures and national publicity. In fact his posing after 9/11 in front of the media saved his political career. No doubt he loved the “America’s mayor” label which the media generously placed on him. Anti-media, anti-cosmopolitan – come on Rudy – this mask does not even pass the straight face test.
But when you get to the two at the top of the ticket the masquerade really becomes something to see. The media fell all over itself praising Governor Sarah Palin’s speech as a game changer in the presidential election. Many in the media poll-vaulted her to the top of future Republican presidential tickets. But, really – does this speech deserve such applause?
The speech was reportedly written two weeks before Palin was chosen by former Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully. You could hear a feminized version of President Bush’s attacks on the “liberals” and “elites” in Palin’s presentation of Scully’s speech. Scully completely hid Palin’s divisive views on forced pregnancy – denying abortion even in cases of rape and incest, her views on teaching creationism in public schools and her efforts to ban books when she was a tiny town mayor. Scully presented this extreme, socially conservative candidate as a moderate that reflects the values of Middle America. He took someone who wants to dramatically expand oil company profits by drilling in ANWR and turned her into someone who challenges big oil. The Republicans know that it is critical for the McCain-Palin ticket to be viewed not as what it is – a conservative, Big Energy-based ticket – but as moderate-centrist.
But Sarah Palin, the former TV sports reporter for KTUU in Anchorage has perfected reading from a teleprompter. Palin performed Scully’s words as if they were her own. She read the speech beautifully, paused perfectly for applause, sliced Senator Obama with a smile on her face and competed with the Democrats orator-in-chief, Barack Obama, in her ability to communicate before a large audience. She smiled, waived and even turned her cheek when McCain came to kiss her. It was a wonderful performance – but it was a performance.
Sarah Palin was successfully portrayed as the hockey mom whose story everyone would love – all of the truths that would have turned voters off were well hidden to ensure the fiction was not confused with the facts. Will the Republicans be able to keep the true Palin hidden for 60 days? Has the media been cowered by the attack on them? Or, will the full Palin story be told? Will voters realize that reading a Bush speechwriter speech means no break in Bush-Cheney policies?
Of course, the top of the ticket, Senator John McCain, gets the prize for the best costume at the Republican masquerade ball. He told the American public he will bring change. Really? I am trying hard to find any significant difference between the policies of Sen. McCain and Bush-Cheney and cannot find any. On one of the two issues where voters want change, Iraq, where is the difference? Palin describes Iraq as a war from God – not to different from President Bush messianic approach to the war. McCain says we are staying until the U.S. is victorious. Isn’t that the Bush strategy? He supports Bush’s escalation in Afghanistan, his threats to Iran and his belligerence with Russia. Where is the change from the Bush-Cheney failed foreign policy?
On domestic issues, McCain now supports the Bush tax cuts after initially opposing them. The economy is doing so poorly under the Bush tax cut approach how is staying on that course going to correct the direction of the economy? How is it going to deal with the widening rich-poor divide in the U.S.? On energy, he now supports the Big Oil position on the right to drill off-shore, even though oil companies have not exploited the off-shore areas where they are already permitted to drill. On immigration, McCain does get credit for change since after introducing a somewhat moderate immigration bill he ended up not supporting his own bill. But, is his new position on immigration any different from Bush? They both now want to wall off the nation from Mexico and south. On trade – McCain-Palin is Bush-Cheney. On energy – McCain-Palin is Bush-Cheney. Where is the change that was the centerpiece of McCain’s acceptance speech?
The corporate media, the ally of two corporate parties, fell for it all. They described McCain’s speech as breaking from the Republican Party. Well, maybe rhetorically, but where are the course corrections? What is McCain-Palin promising that is different from Bush-Cheney. Just as Obama-Biden were pushed to define the change they were proposing, it is now time for the new candidate claiming the change mantel to describe what he would do differently.
Another claim McCain makes is that he will end the partisan bickering in Washington. Here is where the choice of Palin undermines him. Palin because of her right wing, socially conservative views brings back all the divisive Republican issues – gays, guns and God. Highlighting these issues is the strategy Republicans have used to fool voters and divide the country and they are doing so again. McCain is continuing the divisiveness, not ending it.
Finally, McCain promises to clean up Washington with the big money control of the government. But, McCain’s ghosts from previous big money scandals continue to live on. Perhaps the moment when his political career was in greatest jeopardy was the Keating Five scandal. Charles Keating was a major political benefactor of John McCain. He served as chairman of Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, which collapsed due to highly risky real estate investments. Deregulation of savings and loan associations in the '80s allowed their risky investments. The Keating Five were five senators who benefited from more than one million dollars in campaign contributions and who personally intervened to prevent regulation. The scandal cost taxpayers $3.4 billion. McCain was reprimanded by the Senate ethics committee for his role in helping to prevent regulation of Savings and Loans seemingly in return for political donations. Well, in the current election cycle OpenSecrets.org reports that a law firm founded by Charles H. Keating, Jr. has bundled at least $50,000 to his presidential campaign. Thirty partners of the firm, as well as their family members, have contributed to the fund. OpenSecrets.org reports that McCain does not list anyone associated with the Keating firm as a bundler. Can Americans trust someone who promises reform and change when he hides his connection to his corrupt past financial backers?
One person was able to pierce the veil of McCain’s mask during his acceptance speech. Adam Kokesh of Iraq Vets Against the War held up a sign shown by the media. One side said “McCain Votes Against Vets,” the other read “You Can’t Win an Occupation.” Kokesh was the only Iraq vet to “speak” at the Republican Convention and one of the few speakers who told the whole truth.
Of course, masquerade balls are not limited to Republicans. I’ve previously criticized the anointed “peace” candidate, Barack Obama, for his non-withdrawal from Iraq. Even after his “withdrawal” is completed he will leave a residual force of 35,000 to 80,000 troops plus 140,000 mercenaries behind. And, U.S. combat troops will not be brought home under his plan, but rather sent to an escalated war in Afghanistan and to Kuwait to serve as a strike force in Iraq. So, he needs to either revamp his exit strategy or take off the peace candidate mask off and leave it to real peace candidates like independent Ralh Nader, the Green Party’s Cynthia McKinney and the Libertarian’s Bob Barr.
The Democrat with the newest mask is Senator Joseph Biden. It was sadly ironic to hear him criticize President Bush for sending the U.S. in to an unnecessary war blaming his support for the war on Bush’s deception. In fact, he supported the Iraq war before Bush and held manipulated hearings where only pro-war views were heard to aid and abet the manipulation of the public and the U.S. senate on Iraq. Weapons inspectors, retired generals and foreign policy academics who opposed the war were not permitted to testify by Chairman Biden. Biden also put forward a plan opposed by Iraqis, to divide the country into three. This is the classic divide and rule approach of those who occupy other countries, and Biden put it out in the open as an absurd policy proscription to the violence.