Sunday, September 28, 2008

McCain is campaigning on change whilst telling us that change is dangerous.

What was, for me, astonishing about McCain's performance last night was that he was essentially making the arguments of George W. Bush. He may have decided to campaign on change, but he showed last night that he doesn't have a single new idea or a single substantive policy difference from Bush.

The notion that a 72 year old man could be an agent of change was always going to be a hard sell, but McCain didn't even attempt to sell it. You can call yourself a "Maverick", as McCain is want to do, and you can talk about "bringing change to Washington", but at some point the candidate has to spell out what those changes are going to be.

From the debate, the only thing that I could detect which McCain wants to end are earmarks, a portion of the US budget which is so small ($18 billion) as to be laughable when compared to the tax cuts which McCain would like to give to the US's richest citizens and corporations ($300 billion).

Now, leaving aside the fact that McCain has been part of the Republican administration which presided over the past eight years of fiscal mismanagement - and the fact that he voted for 90% of the Bush policies which resulted in America's largest ever deficit - it was really striking that the only thing which appeared to rile McCain was this puny part of what has been wrong over the past two Republican terms.

When the debate turned to foreign affairs McCain, not only failed to offer any substantive change, but he was utterly patronising towards the very notion that the US should change how it relates to the rest of the world at all. McCain berated Obama's ideas of changing how the US should relate to country's like Iran and North Korea by defining them as "not only naive but dangerous".

McCain is actually arguing that change would be a bad thing. McCain thinks that the US must continue a policy which has manifestly failed because it would be "dangerous" not to. He is seriously putting forward the notion that you can do the same thing, with the same people, in the same way, and hope to get a different result. It's almost the textbook definition of madness.

So, McCain's "change" is a change that would effect Washington by reducing pork barrel spending, but McCain made clear that his change agenda ends there.

And he also makes clear that any change beyond that would be , "not only naive but dangerous."

McCain's campaign has been a dreadful one with no unifying theme. He began by hoping that he could run on "experience" but quickly abandoned that when it failed to have any real resonance. He then decided to kill it stone dead by appointing Palin as his VP and running on Obama's theme of change.

However, during last night's debate he managed to define change, the very thing he is supposed to be running on, as dangerous. His campaign is now rudderless. God knows what he's for now.

No comments: