Published: Monday, September 1, 2008 at 11:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 1, 2008 at 11:31 p.m.
By now we know John McCain has seven houses, at least, has a campaign infiltrated, if not commanded, by some of the highest-priced lobbying talent in Washington and has spent his whole adult life on the government payroll.
By now we know Barack Obama’s middle name is Hussein, that some of his friends might have once disliked, if not outright hated, their country and its policies and that he’s been in the U.S. Senate for about a minute, relative to some of the old-timers.
But what does any of that have to do with what else we know by now? That our country is bogged down in two intractable wars and is run by an administration itching for a third; that at least 3 million manufacturing jobs have departed U.S. soil for the Third World; that our national economy teeters on the brink of recession, with wages dropping and joblessness and inflation at heights unseen in nearly 20 years; that the price of gas is double what it was just four years ago; that America has lost its influence around the world and alienated friend and foe alike.
We could go on: the housing market wipeout; the utter loss of faith in our financial, cultural and governmental institutions; the depletion of our military strength; our failing infrastructure; and on and on.
As we see it, the number of McCain homes or Obama’s middle name have nothing to do with solving any of those problems.
Now that Obama has been officially nominated by the Democrats, and with McCain soon to be formally declared the Republican candidate, we think its vital that all concerned, the candidates, the parties and the voters, get beyond the trivial and start dealing with the substantive.
When policy prescriptions for what ails our nation have been offered so far in this election, they usually have been spelled out in attack ads denouncing the other guy for how his ideas would fail us.
Obama, McCain says, would tax the middle class into poverty and would retreat from the terrorists. McCain, Obama retorts, would continue to reward the wealthy with tax cuts and keep us in Iraq into infinity.
We’re not squeamish about negative ads. Done correctly and factually, they can effectively demolish a candidate’s arguments, and chances. America, however, seems tired of this. Don’t tell us what the other guy won’t do. Tell us what you will do, with enough details so we can evaluate it thoughtfully.
Obama somewhat started this conversation in his acceptance speech Thursday night.
After the opening obligatory comments to remind us what a wonderful country we have in spite of its woes and the salvos at McCain, the Illinois senator delved into policy, albeit not in great detail.
One example where he did get specific was on energy. He set a goal to end our dependence on Middle Eastern oil within 10 years, including a pledge to invest $150 billion in renewable energy sources like wind, solar and biofuels.
Too often candidates at all levels suppress their intentions before the election because it gives the other side time to dismantle their positions, and masks the fact that they have no plans or ideas at all. We, as citizens and voters, should demand better of those who want our vote, as well as ourselves.
Obama hinted at the problem of our superficial politics in his remarks Thursday night. “If you don’t have any fresh ideas,” he said, “then you use stale tactics to scare voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things.”
Well said. And we hope between now and Nov. 4 that Sen. Obama takes his own advice.
This week, it will be Sen. McCain’s turn, and at least in this aspect, we hope he was listening to his opponent.
Negativity and generality have defined our elections, especially at the presidential level, for too long. Our problems are too big and too complex, our situation too dire, for discussions about flag pins and multiple residences. Let’s get serious.
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