Thursday, July 3, 2008

If Waldo is the state's attorney, plead guilty and throw yourself on the mercy of the court

I have, regrettably, never had the opportunity to sit in a court room and watch Waldo as a prosecutor deliver his closing arguments. But I know he learned a lot from Andy Griffith, and when that tall Carolina boy (I mean Waldo, not Andy) stands up and starts doing the "aw shucks, folks" routine, you might as well send a telegram to the guy who puts together the electric chair to get out his screwdriver.

So I read What makes a good president for dealing with the world? Beats me, with a great deal of nostalgia and gentle amusement, while using my metal detector to check for hidden mines....

When Waldo says things like this:

Of the things Waldo ponders here, of things in the public realm, big areas remain terra incognita. Foreign policy, for example, and how to fight wars. DL has a post up about how he prioritizes electoral issues, and high on his list is war and foreign policy. He thinks both McCain and Obama are doofuses in that field, each in his own way, and has written about that a number of times, each worth reading. I like reading his ideas because they make me think differently and teach me things about the things I don't know much- or anything- about.

I leave stuff like that to him, and the more-than-I-can-count-bloggers who have the training and background he does and I don't. I worry about those issues, not just because relatives of mine are over there doing their best in what seems to me a pretty bootless endeavor. But what I would have to offer on strategy and tactics in a desert war theater I could probably sum up on the back of a movie ticket, so I just keep still, and read what others have to say, to my general improvement.

... well, I guess (as the DL of the paragraph) I'm flattered, but I'm also reminded by past experience with my old friend and debating foil that he's sometimes so full of it that his eyes are brown.

After this gentile I'm-just-a-simple-man-out-here-ruminating-by-the-cement-pond-Uncle-Jed opening, Waldo makes two main points:

1) That (especially if you know James Buchanan) prior experience has not in general been a good predictor of Presidential leadership on issues foreign or domestic;

and that

2) There are some good reasons to think Senator Barack Obama might have the requisite leadership qualities despite his lack of resume experience.

I agree with both points, but Waldo (who looks singularly innocent most of the time, right up to the moment when he slips the knife in), has palmed an ace here, if he was referring to my major arguments.

My major concern with Barack Obama and American foreign policy is NOT that he is inexperienced: it is the policy positions he takes and the company he keeps.

(I won't do the links again to previous posts; if you want them, just search Obama's name.)

During this campaign Barack Obama has steadfastly (if often rather tacitly except for the positions on his website that apparently nobody but me much reads):

1) Called for a substantial increase in the defense budget and the size of our armed forces.

2) Accepted major donations and endorsements from literally dozens of retired senior officers who now front for the defense corporations who are selling the very weapon systems that Senator Obama wants us to buy.

3) Has refused to disavow the Bush doctrine of preemptive war.

4) Has threatened (on repeated occasions) to violate the sovereignty of other nations without benefit of notice or declaration.

5) Has affirmed (in the Audacity of Hope) that unilateral US military actions, sometimes against the internal affairs of other nations, is something he might support

6) Has first sent the Palestinians in a tizzy by telling AIPAC that Jerusalem will not be divided (and implying it should always be an Israeli city) and then flip-flopping to tell Hamas that (I can't recall the precise term) he'd been inartful or that the heat of campaign rhetoric had made him do it.

7) Has yet to acknowledge the existence of, or call for a retreat from the massive American overseas military empire

8) Has carefully hedged his position on Iraq to retain (potentially) bases in-country after we have withdrawn, but at the very least to maintain operational bases surrounding Iraq from which he admits he's willing to send in US Special Forces at the drop of a hat whether the supposedly sovereign government of Iraq likes it or not

I don't argue the point that Barack Obama is very likely the single most effective leader currently in the race for President. If he's got a goal, he'll very likely achieve it.

Which means we better pay close damn attention to his goals.

The counter-argument is that Senator McCain's foreign policy outlook (100 years in Iraq! Preemptive war!) is even worse, although the defense lobbyists seem at this point to have chosen to focus their financial support on the Democrat in the race.

And McCain hardly seems these days to be a danger at leading anything, including the rush to the night-time bathroom cabinet to score the "restless leg" medicine.

So there is actually a part of me that says if I have to vote for one of the two of these men (and staying home with a bottle of Wild Turkey that day is looking better and better), I'd best vote for McCain on foreign policy. His goals are equally as problematic as Obama's, but at least I know McCain will be far less likely to pursue them with competence.

My tongue is only partly in my cheek here.

My greatest disappointment in this year's campaign is that both Senators John McCain and Barack Obama are establishment (as in defense establishment) candidates to the point that I don't relish the thought of voting for either.

Aw, shucks, yur honur, it's gittin' to be pig-feedin' time, so I'll leave the rest of the pontificating to the grown-ups.

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