Friday, June 20, 2008

The Republican Death Wish

It's interesting to watch the Republicans self-destruct. Eerily familiar: twenty-five years ago the Democrats were doing exactly the same thing. I couldn't believe it when Bush started talking offshore drilling and McCain started talking about dotting the country with nuclear power plants.

Personally, I think nuclear power plants are possibly the least bad option for a country whose voracity for vast quantities of energy is not going away any time soon; but that's not the point. The point is that there's a sizeable population that will never vote for someone who advocates nuclear power. It's just one of those touchstone issues, like the death penalty or abortion, that people completely lose their grip about. Why would you take it on in the campaign if you didn't have to?

And then the offshore drilling. There are two points there. One is that Florida, which lives or dies by its beaches, loathes the idea of offshore drilling, and without Florida there's no way the Republicans are keeping the White House. The other point is that it reinforces the widely-held impression that the Republicans are just stooges for the oil industry. It really seems as though this year the Republicans are determined to lose. Their death gene has been activated, apparently.

The nomination of McCain is exactly wrong. He would have been an excellent choice eight years ago. Back then, even I liked McCain. He said what he thought. He stuck to his guns. He didn't let himself get pushed around by his party. He was far right, but I often find the far right more intelligible and sympathetic than the middle right. I would never have voted for him, of course, but I could have understood why people would.

But in the last eight years, all of McCain's virtues seem to have evaporated. He's waffling and wiggling with the best of them. Where does he stand on immigration? On torture? Well, you tell me. I have no idea any more. And his big foreign policy issue -- pushing on in Iraq and seriously taking on Iran -- is both unpopular and dead wrong. It's true, and has been true for decades, that our serious enemy in the Middle East is Iran. Presumably Mr Bush knew that (though it's never safe, it seems, to assume he knows anything), but chose to invade Iraq simply because Iraq was a much easier country to defeat: lots of open desert, perfect for the air-supported tanks that are the US army's strong suit. Iran, with its difficult terrain, comparative religious and ethnic homogeneity, and high morale, would be another thing entirely. With our army -- brilliant in lightning desert warfare, but desperately unprepared and unsuited for thuggish police work -- attenuated and exhausted, invading Iran would be lunatic. It would make sense, in a way that Iraq never did, but it would be very unwise. Hugely expensive, and we might even lose. And what the devil would we do with it if we won? Conscript all the remaining 18- and 19-year-olds in the country to come up with an occupation force? As you know, all American teenagers are fluent in Farsi, and would love to go work as police in a country where everyone hates them. Their parents would love that too.

So it's becoming difficult for me to see how the Democrats, champion foot-marksmen though they are, can lose the November elections. They have an articulate, engaging presidential candidate, and far better congressional candidates, this year (I'm not sure what rocks the GOP looks under to find its people to run for Congress, but I think they should try some other ones). They have only not to blunder. So I hope they make the best of their day in the sun. It will be good to see our kids come home from Mesopotamia. I pray they get to come home, and stay home.

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