Tag Archives: Wall Street Journal

Why you don’t want McCain for a neighbor.

John McCain wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today with a revealing line:

I have a plan to protect the value of homes and get them rising again by refinancing mortgages so your neighbor won’t default and further drag down the value of your house.

I find it amazing that the first thought to come to McCain when he thinks of his neighbor facing foreclosure is how it affect the price of his own home. I certainly wouldn’t want to have him for a neighbor.

Many Americans are worried about the value of their homes, but when their neighbors face foreclosure I believe they’re thinking of a number of other things before they worry about their own home’s value.

  • We care about our neighbors and don’t want this worst of financial stresses on them and their families.
  • We don’t want our kids to worry about whether their friends on the block are going to move away or go hungry.
  • We don’t want the communities we live in, small or large, and our country to be full of people forced to make desperate decisions.
  • We wish our neighbors the best and want to help them if we can.

Thankfully, most Americans will think about these things first and their home values second. They know that in the long-run retaining strong, livable communities is what will help rebuild the value lost in our homes. I think this appeal to selfishness, is what has destroyed the McCain campaign and turned off most of the electorate. I find it utterly distasteful that the campaign has been pitting Americans against each other with the pro and anti-American rhetoric. The promotion of divisiveness at every level, amongst states, amongst races, amongst age groups, amongst gender, amongst faiths is shameful given the circumstances we are confronting.

The biggest risks I see to our economy are people losing trust in the person on the other side of the table or making desperate decisions out of fear. All business is about trust, and a lot of it has been shattered recently. And I know that in the long-run our prosperity is furthered by helping those hurt by this crisis survive it. Not because it’ll preserve the value of my house tomorrow, but because eventually it will create better opportunities for all of us.

I can’t say it as well as Obama did:

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this economic crisis, it’s that we are all in this together. From CEOs to shareholders, from financiers to factory workers, we all have a stake in each other’s success because the more Americans prosper, the more America prospers.

There is a piece in McCain’s op-ed I like and I thought I’d point that out too:

I have devoted my life to safeguarding America. Former Secretary of State George Shultz compares diplomacy to tending a garden — if you want to see relationships flourish, you have to tend them. I have done that, by traveling the world and establishing ties with everyone from dissidents to heads of state. There is great need for American leadership in the world, and I understand that only by exercising that leadership with grace and wisdom can we be successful in safeguarding our interests.

and I think there’s something here that the Obama campaign should also pay attention to. The thing that worries me the most about the Obama campaign is the occassional anti-trade, protectionist rhetoric. One of the civilizing acts we engage in every day is the free exchange of an everyday purchase. This works on the global level as well. I know there is a portion of the left that is adamantly against globalization and I don’t deny that there is exploitation of workers and resources in many parts of the world. But in sum, trade is a civilizing influence for the community of countries, and one of the best way to build trust. Trade and capitalism within the institutional context of strong individual rights have done more to lift people out of poverty than all the well-meaning protectionism in the world. I think Obama recognizes that.

On a personal note, I’m a libertarian, because I believe in the justness and dignity of individual liberty. But that does not mean I am a selfish or self-centered person, I just don’t think anyone else has the standing, contextual information or ability to make good decisions on my behalf. But that doesn’t mean I’m selfish and incapable of empathizing with someone else’s pain. And it certainly does not mean I’m blind to the fact that my life will be miserable if a significant portion of the country begins to suffer from deep insecurity.

Obama’s op-ed published in the WSJ is here. I’ll end with another quote:

You can choose hope over fear, unity over division, the promise of change over the power of the status quo. If you give me your vote, we won’t just win this election — together, we will change this country and change the world.

I hope his presidency lives up to our expectations.

Bush and Batman?

Andrew Klavan wrote a rather strange op-ed in the Journal today titled What Bush and Batman Have in Common.

In it he claims Batman: The Dark Knight is doing well at the box-office because it depicts “the values and necessities that the Bush administration cannot seem to articulate for beans.”  For Klavan these values include tactics from the “by any means necessary” school, tactics allegedly shared by both Bush and Batman.  I wonder why Jack Bauer was left out since we know the Bush administration looked to him for inspiration on interrogation techniques.

I see three reasons why Klavan’s reading is incorrect:

  1. The Ledger factor: Heath Ledger died earlier in the year and understandably this created a great deal of interest in the movie.  It probably didn’t hurt that practically every critic said his performance in the movie was brilliant.  Before Klavan adopts Ledger into his conservative pantheon, we should remember that his breakthrough movie was a tender exploration of romantic love between two men, not exactly the stuff of conservative dreams.
  2. The Star Wars counter: Klavan goes on to claim that films which question the Bush administration’s view have bombed at the box office (Redacted, Rendition).   Lets level the playing field, shall we?.  Batman is probably as big a franchise as Star Wars is.  If you watched episodes I, II and III you probably caught the references to Bush term I rhetoric when the young Darth Vader says “if you aren’t with me, you’re against me”, or when Obi-Wan cries out “Only a Sith deals in absolutes!”.  These most recent Star Wars movies had terrible dialogue and weak scripts, but they still managed to  gross between 310 and 431 million in the US.  There is an audience for nuance in a battle between good and evil on American movie screens.
  3. The Iron Man defense: We don’t have to reach that far back though, Iron Man dealt pretty definitively and specifically with the corruption wrought by close ties between a military-industrial complex (Cheney-Halliburton or Rumsfeld doctrine anyone)?.  It’s still playing and has racked up 310 million, not too shabby for a super-hero who hadn’t ever starred in a movie.  Perhaps there was a lot of pent-up demand for movies about how a strategy focused on forcibly subduing unrest, without using the resulting peace to encourage development would fail in Afghanistan and Iraq (as it did in Europe right after WW-I).

I could go on, Klavan also suggests 300 is a conservative film about Bush administration values.  It deals with the defense of a small nation by a determined band fighting a great power with overwhelming military superiorty.  If there are any parallels to the situation we find ourselves in, they are on the wrong side.  I know we like rooting for underdogs, but on the global military field, we are Persia, not Sparta.  Perhaps Klavan was only referring to the movie’s Spartans losing the battle after they demean and spurn their allies.

In any case, it’s a bit of a reach to look for support of your tactics in the box office results for a superhero movie.  That’s sort of like saying the American people love intellectual serial killers since Silence of the Lambs and Seven were hits.  We don’t have to search for such tenuous links, enough surveys have asked the question directly of the American citizenry.  70% of them say they have a negative view on the Bush administration’s Iraq policies59% give the Bush administration negative marks on fighting terrorism  and Bush wins the contest for worst president since WW-II.   The problem isn’t that the Bush administration has failed to spin their actions as well as Batman or Hollywood can.  They were pretty successful at it for a few years, but there’s a firm strain of independence in the American spirit, and there’s only so long we’re willing to accept authority without question, especially when it is inept.  The American citizen also knows enough to realize that what makes for good theater doesn’t necessarily make for good policy.

The truly frightening thing is that Klavan claims to speak for freedom, but has managed to write a defense of tyranny.   After all, what else would you call oppressive power vested in a single person, the doctrine of the unitary executive?