John McCain has resurrected the old Republican playbook: Become a disqualifying factor in painting your opponent as unacceptable, and use smear on top of smear when you have nothing left to say about your own policies.
It works on gullible, uninformed voters who will support the "hot chick" or the "hero guy." But for most of us, it doesn't work any more. We've had eight years of these kinds of tactics. Karl Rove was one of the best at it. He could turn black into white and lies into "truth."
Sarah Palin is an actor, and she played a credible politician in the vice-presidential debate. But I have seen a lot of actors in my day, and her performance was just that: a performance. If McCain and Palin are elected, the next four years will be like the last eight years. Only the names will have changed.
Palin is back on the stump, trying to tie Obama to former domestic terrorist Bill Ayers. But being on a charity board with the guy is not the same as endorsing his conduct of 40 years ago, when Obama was 8 years old. The American people can surely figure that one out — except maybe some residents in East Tennessee, where any candidate who has a fish decal on the trunk of his car, wears a "WWJD" bracelet, and isn't black is their kind of guy.
Joe M. Spitzer
Imagine you've just received documents in the mail about your financial situation — scary information that your retirement funds are in danger, your savings and investments are not as robust as you'd been led to believe, and that soon your paycheck will be affected.
Two teams appear offering to help you figure this stuff out. One team talks a bit about the numbers. Some of what they say makes sense, some of it sounds half-baked, but at least you get the notion that these guys have experience with this kind of situation and have some sort of plan to fix it.
The other team gets all chummy and offers you a can of your favorite beer. They ask about your family and point out that they are "just folks" from down the street, same as you, no pretenses, no glib intellectualism. They give you a friendly squeeze on the shoulder. "We're just regular guys, here to help," they say. When pressed for specifics, they mutter some vague comment about how the other team has connections with terrorists.
You'd probably toss the second team out of your house because you'd recognize that their fake attempt at friendliness shows they have something to hide and nothing to offer.
A Canadian friend recently asked me, "How could Americans possibly elect yet another president who wants to give more tax breaks to the richest 1 percent of your people?"
I had to explain that a great number of factors come into play in American politics: Roughly 50 percent of Americans can't read above a fifth-grade level, thereby making it hard for them to keep up with candidates' records and points of view; evangelical Christians will vote for any candidate who says he opposes abortion, even if that candidate has murdered a bus load of nuns in front of 100 witnesses and openly advocates nuking Russia. I further pointed out that even Sarah Palin is far more knowledgeable about economics and foreign policy than 95 percent of Americans.
Sadly, we have lost our lead as the nation with the highest living standard (that position is now held by Great Britain). We have lost our lead in science education and in respect around the world. Now our economy is failing due to eight years of rampant deregulation and lack of oversight from federal agencies. Most of this can be directly attributed to an uninformed electorate that bases decisions on emotions rather than reasoning.
I recently read a letter to the editor decrying the awful "mess" of the Clinton years. I'd love a mess like that again: the highest budget surplus in history, the greatest prosperity in decades, and respect around the world that we will likely never experience again.
With the election not far off, the political yard signs are starting to appear. As I drive around neighborhoods, I see signs reading "McCain/Palin" and "Obama/Cohen." What happened to Joe Biden? Guess he's not very well liked in the Mid-South.