domingo, novembro 02, 2008


Da edição de fim de semana do Wall Street Journal

"A curiosity of this Presidential campaign has been the way former media idolaters of John McCain have suddenly turned on him. They now claim to be horrified by his choice of Sarah Palin, or by his ad hoc economic decision-making, or his TV ads, or something. Whom do they think they've been praising all these years?
The John McCain of this campaign is the same as he ever was. The former Navy pilot's politics has always been more personal than ideological. His core convictions are duty, honor and country. He has always been passionate to the point of being impulsive, an unguided policy missile until he locks on target. Then he can be tenacious, and sometimes moralistic. These traits have characterized the McCain candidacy for better or worse and, we suspect, would also mark his Presidency. What the media can't say with a straight face is that they are shocked by any of this; they should admit they've simply found a new romance in Barack Obama.
If the 2008 election were solely about character and experience, Mr. McCain would be winning in a walk. Few Presidential nominees have been better known or more admired. A McCain Presidency would have its surprises, but they would not be from personal vice or political scandal. His courage has been tested far more than most -- both in a personal sense in Vietnam, and in a political sense during the Iraq war.
Arguably the finest hour of Mr. McCain's career was his support for the Iraq surge at the height of the war's unpopularity. It was gratifying to see this virtue vindicated as he won the GOP nomination. But in an irony of history, his very far-sightedness on Iraq and the success of the surge have made national security seem less urgent as Election Day nears. His commanding edge over Mr. Obama as a Commander in Chief seems less compelling to many voters than do their current fears about the economy.
If Mr. McCain does lose, a President Obama would also now inherit a far more stable and pro-American Iraq thanks to the Republican's efforts and no thanks to Mr. Obama's antiwar opportunism. In a further irony if he loses, Mr. McCain would return to the Senate and do his utmost to support a President Obama's campaign in Afghanistan or against Iran. That favor would not be returned if Mr. McCain wins. This too is a sign of the Arizonan's honorable character.
Mr. McCain's bad luck is to be running in a year when character and experience aren't enough. His party is at a low public ebb and the financial system imploded only weeks before Election Day. The first problem he could overcome with his history as a GOP apostate. The second hasn't played to his strengths but has instead revealed his penchant for -- let's be charitable -- political wanderlust.
Looked at individually, most of Mr. McCain's economic proposals are sensibly conservative, and some are even bold. They are superior to Mr. Obama's, and if implemented would make a recession shallower and shorter. They are also politically braver, especially his support for free trade. His health-care plan in particular amounts to genuine "progressive" change in the sense that it would redistribute tax benefits from the well-to-do to the uninsured working class. Mr. Obama's health plan by contrast is one more incremental -- if larger than usual -- increase in government control. But Mr. McCain was never able, or willing, to explain the differences.
More broadly, he has never explained to fearful Americans how an economy with Republicans at the helm could fall into this ditch. His one-line explanation for the financial panic has been "greed and corruption" on Wall Street and Washington. Voters know that's simplistic and would have been open to a larger, and truer, argument.
Once the panic hit in September, Mr. McCain's penchant for hyperactivity was also less than reassuring. He suspended his campaign to lead the "bailout" talks without a clear idea of what he favored. He offered to bring all sides together but in the process made himself hostage to Nancy Pelosi and House Republicans. All of this let Mr. Obama pose, paradoxically, as the steadier hand, even if all he did was sit back and bow to Congressional Democrats.
In the final days, Mr. McCain has finally gained traction by pounding away on Mr. Obama's enormous tax increases. But this would be a far more powerful argument if it were linked to the larger challenges that the U.S. faces in a world of competition from China and India, or to the dangers of making the U.S. into a European welfare state. Without such an argument, millions of anxious voters may default to Mr. Obama's alluring if vague case for "change."
Mr. McCain's surprising choice of Governor Palin was another example of his brand of politics by personal instinct. The Alaska Governor has fired up the GOP base, and as a candidate she has been less embarrassing by far than Joe Biden. But it is also true that her performance in early interviews gave the media a chance to assail Mr. McCain's judgment and has diminished her own political standing. The campaign -- and Mr. McCain -- should have been better prepared for the media assault that always hits a GOP unknown.
Perhaps the best case for the McCain candidacy -- apart from national security -- is that he would be a check on what is likely to be an emboldened and dangerous left-wing Congress. He would surely work with Democrats on some things -- for the better perhaps on immigration, for the worse on energy "cap and trade" regulation. However, unlike President Bush, Mr. McCain wouldn't wait four years to use his veto pen.
In this difficult year, Mr. McCain has had the harder sale to make. His admirable personal tenacity has been better than his variable political argument. We'll find out Tuesday if biography trumps hope."

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