Baseball Crank
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May 21, 2008
POLITICS: Can America Win The War? Yes, We Can!

McCain, Obama and the Optimism Gap

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One of Barack Obama's greatest assets has been his appeal to the idealism of young voters and the frustration of grownups disenchanted with the dysfuctional ways of Washington - when prudence and experience says something can't or shouldn't be done, or would have awful unintended consequences, Obama's the guy who says "Yes we can!" Can-do optimism is always popular, and people have come to identify Obama with the ability to eliminate All Things Bad.

But the more we see of Obama, the more cracks we see in the facade of that optimism. A new poll from Rasmussen suggests one of the clearest divides between John McCain and Obama:

If John McCain is elected President, 49% of voters say it is at least somewhat likely that the United States will win the War in Iraq. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 20% believe victory in Iraq is likely if Barack Obama is elected in November.

There are very few things the United States government has done more consistently well throughout its history than win wars against our enemies. It's the most basic, traditional function of government - yet the public recognizes that Obama lacks faith that we can win, whereas McCain has proposed a positive vision of victory by the end of his first term. Which is why I think the following would be a guaranteed applause line for McCain on the stump:

Can America win the war against its radical Islamist enemies? Yes we can! Can we finish the job our troops have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to do in Iraq and Afghanistan? Yes we can! So tell me - why is it that Senator Obama suddenly runs out of hope and optimism when it comes to fighting our enemies?

But the war isn't the only area where Obama's decided lack of confidence in the traditional functions of our government and the dynamism of our economy leads him down the path of pessimism and a cramped view of the future of American liberty.

ObamaCardigan2.JPGThe most eye-poppingly Carterish of these was Obama's recent declaration that

"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times . . . and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK."

Yes, we can! Obama suffers from a failure of faith in American markets and American liberty, the very same lack of faith that gave us Jimmy Carter and malaise the first time around.

Smaller examples abound, and McCain should exploit them to reveal the hollowness of Obama's claims to can-do optimism. McCain believes that American business can compete with all comers; Obama thinks we can't, so he wants to tear up NAFTA. McCain thinks that school choice can open up new opportunities for children in bad schools; Obama says this:

"If there was any argument for vouchers, it was 'Alright, let's see if this experiment works,' and if it does, then whatever my preconceptions, my attitude is you do what works for the kids," the senator said. "I will not allow my predispositions to stand in the way of making sure that our kids can learn. We're losing several generations of kids and something has to be done."

But when it comes to actually taking the step of trying an "experiment" he admits might work, he's proud to say "no, we can't." McCain has caught all sorts of grief for his support for comprehensive immigration reform, but at least McCain thinks we can solve the border security problem once and for all; Obama was willing to give up on any solution and provide driver's licenses and federally funded health care to illegal aliens. Can we enforce our own laws? No, we can't!

McCain and Obama both believe that there are things we can do and things we can't. The difference is that the things McCain has faith in are the tried-and-tested things that have worked in the past - the valor of our fighting men, the industry of our people. Those are the very things Obama lacks faith in. McCain should call him on that lack of faith.

Credit to absentee at RedState for the Obama photo.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:12 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Dan-o

Longtime reader first time responder ... to win this thing we need to get about 500,000 dudes in country and stay for another 20-30 years. I don't think America is ready for this, especially considering that the types of folk we need to do it right are not military but DoS, DoE, DoT, HUD ... infrastructure/institution building ... none of whom signed up to be sent overseas for an extended period.

If this country really wants to get the GWOT right, that's what we need to do.

See you at reunion,
Sangs

Posted by: Sanger at May 21, 2008 10:52 AM

Dan-o

Longtime reader first time responder ... to win this thing we need to get about 500,000 dudes in country and stay for another 20-30 years. I don't think America is ready for this, especially considering that the types of folk we need to do it right are not military but DoS, DoE, DoT, HUD ... infrastructure/institution building ... none of whom signed up to be sent overseas for an extended period.

If this country really wants to get the GWOT right, that's what we need to do.

See you at reunion,
Sangs

Posted by: Sanger at May 21, 2008 10:52 AM

Yes, definitely, it will take time and money to rebuild Iraq, which is one of the many problems with this particular war. I don't know why republicans chalk up antipathy with the war to "lack of confidence" or "lack of hope". It's not simply a matter of "yes we can." In many voter's eyes, the rallying cry is "it's not worth it".

At the end of the day, it's a cost/benefit analysis. The war is unpopular because Republicans could not persuasively demonstrate a benefit to the war on terror that would justify the expense of an all-out war and restructuring of Iraq. And it's not that voters, apart from the far left, oppose the use of force for the war on terror. It's just that Iraq wasn't enough of a major player to justify the expense of removing Hussein - never mind trying to engage in nation-building afterward.

Republicans will wind up alienating many undecided voters by equating a lack of support for the war with a lack of resolve for fighting the war on terror. Obama, for his part, is going to have to prove to moderates and conservatives that he is willing to use force - in some capacity - to fight terrorism. After all, voters had no problem with removing the Taliban.

Posted by: MVH at May 21, 2008 1:03 PM

One does not "win" nation building, one commits to it...and "war" (as in the so-called "war on terror") is a misnomer, as terror is a tactic and a perjorative term. To some, crossing the Delaware and "minutemen" were terrorism; others, a legitimate war tactic in defense of one's country.

War is failure of diplomacy; terror is a tactic to attack innocents/pawns in a political power struggle, and is largely in the eye of the beholder. And the less educated, more religious (i.e. everything is a black and white world), the more emotional, the more powerless one feels, the more likely killing innocents is seen as a legitimate tactic.

There are legitimate uses of force (to keep the peace, to ensure civility, to prosecute the criminal), but it should be a last resort, and limited in scope. Carpet bombing Iraq and providing no post war plan was madness, and all those defenders of Bush are rightly being criticised for attacking those that were critical. And like MS-01, it will show in November.

Posted by: AstrosFan at May 21, 2008 5:31 PM

This is painfully nit-picky of me, but would someone please tell me when the US executed a carpet bombing raid anywhere in Iraq? Was there some sortie where the USAF carpeted some slab of desert of which I'm not aware? AstrosFan, perhaps you're mistaking strategic bombings with precisions munitions for carpet bombing tactics. There are plenty of reasons to dislike the prosecution of the war in Iraq. You don't need to make any up.

Posted by: SFC B at May 21, 2008 10:12 PM

I was wondering the same thing.

Posted by: The Crank at May 21, 2008 10:15 PM

Where did the US commit a carpet bombing raid? Anybody remember Shock and Awe?

Look, in 1943, FDR had some of his brain trust develop several plans for the rebuilding of Japan and Germany, and at the time, nobody was sure who would win. He then had his brains, with the differing plans get together to have this phone book sized tome on what to do. I don't mean to disparage the army and why they've done in Iraq. In fact, they were and are the people who seem to know what to do. It's the clucks from the political side, who had sort of a pamphlet to work from who screwed up.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at May 21, 2008 11:14 PM

So a war that provides great benefit to the few, to the detriment of the many isn't popular?
I give the American public a begrudging kudos. Hello, we've been expecting you.

Posted by: Robert in BA at May 22, 2008 2:14 AM

Calling Shock and Awe carpet bombing is really unfair. Carpet bombing is dropping a large number of bombs -indiscriminately- over a defined area with the hope of hitting a target which you can't exactly place.

With shock and awe, the military knew exactly what buildings to hit, it targeted them precisely and brought them down with the least collateral damage possible. If memory serves, this is the campaign where an advance team of soldiers went in and "painted" buildings in a certain way so that the bombs could be precisely targeted. Someone can correct me if I have the details wrong.

By the way, nice to see another HC alum writing in.

Posted by: MVH at May 22, 2008 9:29 AM

Did you say "collateral damage"? You must work for the Pentagon. It's like someone holding up a liquor store and telling the police that the dead guy behind the counter is "collateral damage."

Posted by: steve at May 22, 2008 12:31 PM

Did you say "collateral damage"? You must work for the Pentagon. It's like someone holding up a liquor store and telling the police that the dead guy behind the counter is "collateral damage."

Posted by: steve at May 22, 2008 12:31 PM

Me? The Pentagon? Nah. I'm just a lawyer. And did you read my other post above?

There are a lot of legitimate reasons for opposing the war and how it was conducted - some I agree with and others I don't - but "carpet bombing" isn't one of them because it never happened.

Posted by: MVH at May 22, 2008 12:58 PM

I just realized I pretty much paraphrased SFC B's post. I think it's safe to say I agree with it!

Well, now you have it from someone in the military and someone who is not.

Posted by: MVH at May 22, 2008 1:13 PM

It cracks me up that McCain is so paranoid about being perceived as ancient and infirm that his wife is now doing sexy photo layouts in Vogue. We get it Johnny, you got a younger trophy wife. Now, go get the hot milk and go to bed.

Posted by: dante at May 22, 2008 7:00 PM

On the topic of the post - how about John McCain/Shirley MacLaine?

Their campaign slogan - "It's in the stars"

You never know when an astrologer might be useful in a campaign.

Posted by: MVH at May 23, 2008 11:09 AM
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