Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The 2008 Election: Another Example of the Devolution of Politics

Obama and Jeremiah Wright (NYTimes)
I know that I have not posted in a while (even WikiCU has downgraded my status from "Active" to "Somewhat active"), and that is due to the massive amounts of work that I have. I should be doing work now, but having watched MSNBC and perused through some other news sources and stories about the 2008 election (both the Democratic primary and Republican candidate John McCain), it seems that there are so many conflicting stories and one-sided information that it is no wonder that less than half of Americans who are eligible to vote actually do (and we are the nation exporting our democracy overseas).

To begin with, let's look at the Jeremiah Wright scandal (who also has ties to Bill Clinton, but hey, why talk about that?) So Obama went to Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for a while and was influenced by Wright. It turns out that Wright has made some controversial comments saying after 9/11 that America's chickens have come home to roost, God damn America (which was in the context of slavery and Jim Crow) and that America started the AIDS virus. Let's address the first one: 9/11 as being caused by America. While it's obvious to anyone that America did not deserve the horrendous tragedy that befell it on 9/1, America's past foreign policy had a lot to do with the events leading up to it. Our involvement in the Soviet-Afghan War laid the groundwork (both literally in Tora Bora and with CIA arms and figuratively) for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban to gain a stronghold in Afghanistan and begin to train terrorists to hijack airplanes and attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Additionally, the warning signs were there and the government was well aware of them. Given these two things, to say that American policy had no role in 9/11 and that we had no idea that anything like this could happen is unbelievable.

The "God damn America" remark certainly looks pretty bad when taken out of context. However, when you watch the entire video and Wright's remarks leading up to his "God damn America" statement, the comment is much less damaging than one might think. Wright discussed slavery (you know, that thing that happened when Americans, with help from Portuguese and Spanish traffickers, kidnapped Africans from their homeland, shipped them across the Atlantic like dry goods in the Middle Passage and forced them into backbreaking labor) and Jim Crow (when blacks were treated as sub-human) in America. In this context, he said God damn America. However, I suppose that if you think that slavery and Jim Crow were good things, then you would be outraged that someone would say God damn America for doing them.

As for America starting AIDS, that one's kind of out there. While we do not know how AIDS, which seems to have mutated from Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) into HIV, which is the precursor to AIDS, came to fruition and became a worldwide epidemic like it is today, there is little conclusive evidence that the American government had anything to do with it. Maybe Wright was referring to the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) Theory, which is also inconclusive, or maybe he was referring to the government's slow response to the disease in the early 80s. However, this comment from Wright is inappropriate. But again, it's important to take the comment in the totality of its context, which I cannot find online. However, the comment is misleading and inappropriate if, in fact, it means that the government synthetically created the disease and then spread it among blacks and homosexuals.

McCain sleeps on a private plane
Now that Wright is out of the way, let's look at Obama's "bitter" comment. He said that people in small towns that have faced economic hardships in the post-industrial economy of America can be bitter and often cling to guns and religion and anti-immigrant sentiment as a way to release their frustration. People pounced on him for that comment. But are people who are affected by illegal immigration and the lower wages that they will take because of their exploitable status happy about things? Hopeful that the government will do something to curb illegal immigration? I would say no. So they turn to anti-immigrant sentiment, they turn to the church for support and guidance, and they turn to their 2nd Amendment right as something to hold on to that the government cannot take away from them. Was Obama's comment bad because it was wrong, or because of the reality of the situation that it pointed out?

One of the best reactions came from the McCain camp who called Obama elitist and out of touch with the people of America. This actually made me laugh, because McCain is a man of many shades. First he is the war hero who was shot down in Vietnam, then he is the man against corruption and pork-barrel spending, and the man who supports the surge in Iraq. What no one mentions is the fact that he was sleeping around on his first wife with his current wife, married his current wife (who is loaded - so loaded that McCain is afraid to publicly announce her tax returns), was involved in a huge savings and loan scandal with the Keating Five, and a man with such a bad temper that he called his wife a cunt in front of numerous media reporters. Plus, the man made $419,731 in 2007. His net worth is $40,000,000 according to Money magazine. You want to talk about out of touch with the American people and elitism? McCain is worth more than most people in this country and he won't even disclose his wife's tax returns because he is scared that she makes too much money. McCain's politics have always been mixed with his wife's father's business, so privacy is not really an excuse. But hey, if McCain wants to parade around like he's "one of us," let him. I know I'm not buying it.

Hillary Clinton, allegedly landing in sniper fire
Now let's look at Hillary. She's persistent, you can give her that. Personally, I see her as the annoying aunt who does not leave at the holidays despite every hint you drop to her. She has lied numerous times throughout this campaign, the most serious one being about Bosnia sniper fire. That wasn't even a fib, that was a blatant lie. Plus, no matter what she says to Bill, he does not shut up and continues to hurt her campaign by bringing up negative things, like her Bosnia lie (which Bill proceeded to lie about). Plus, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Clinton supporter, has been working hard for Clinton in Pennsylvania. The only problem is that Rendell has, in the past, graciously praised both Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam and Clinton has chastised Obama in the past for not rejecting Farrakhan's support. Obama did not solicit the support, he did not praise Farrakhan, he simply did not outright reject the support. Here Rendell is basically kissing Farrakhan's ass and he is seen as a major Clinton ally. I guess we'll have to see how she handles that one.

Then there is the Weather Underground mess for Obama. Obama has known a man named William Ayers, who was a member of the Weather Underground, which was a domestic terrorist group. Ayers is much older than Obama and was apparently involved in bombing targets like the Pentagon and has gone on record as saying that they should have done more. The relationship between the two was brought up at the Pennsylvania debate moderated by none other than George Stephanopoulos (a former major adviser for President Clinton), which was actually a question fed to Stephanopoulos by Sean Hannity, a guy who's written anti-liberalism books that have been trashed by reviewers (so much for good, objective reporting ABC). Obama ripped Stephanopoulos a new one, saying that what Ayers did when Obama was 8 has little bearing on Obama's patriotism. Seriously, there have got to be better questions more pertinent to the American people than some loony who did some crazy shit in the past and Obama knowing him. Of course, Hillary played right into it, trying to blast Obama for knowing him, under the guise that she's not the one saying it, but the Republicans will. And ABC tries to defend that bullshit debate.

William Ayers, alleged best friend of Obama
(Penn Live)
I guess that all of this just goes to show the level that politics have sunk to. We have Clinton and McCain attacking Obama for those who he has known in the past, with the media outlets not really looking at Clinton's and McCain's past affiliations and past actions. If this is what the game has devolved to - finger pointing on bullshit issues - then at least be fair about it and put everyone's past out there. Obviously it would be nice if the media and the people of the United States could simply focus on the issues, but alas, the mudslinging overtakes the issues and we are forced to focus on that. I would like everyone to go to websites and actually look up the issues on which these people are running. Also look at the politician's integrity. Integrity is not defined by who you have spoken to before or anything like that. Look at things like, does the politician lie? Lying can take many forms, like sleeping around on your wife or saying you landed in sniper fire when in reality little 7 year old girls were giving you flowers and kisses once you deplaned. Look at hypocrisy - are people calling others elitist when in reality they are the ones out of touch? Are people jumping on others for crazy religious leaders like Louis Farrakhan when in reality, some of their biggest supporters have praised these leaders in the past? Obama has made very little screw-ups this entire campaign and, because he has been in Washington only a short time, has not been as corrupted as others who are Washington insiders. If you are going solely on media coverage and who is the least sleazy of the candidates (which I think America does a lot), then Obama is your man. I'll be voting for him because not only does he have a tendency to tell the truth, he also takes stances that I like on most of the issues.

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