05 September 2008

Obama Tells a Half-Truth About McCain; Which Half Counts?

Senator Obama says that Senator McCain said nothing about "what's happening to the middle class" last night. I think that just from looking at my review of the Republican's speech, you can tell that Obama is exaggerating the negative slightly. At the least, his account of McCain's talk doesn't match what I heard. Maybe the Arizonan didn't cite statistics to Obama's satisfaction, but he clearly acknowledged that people are hurting, albeit in the individualized, anecdotal fashion typical of convention speeches. Obama is on more solid ground when he contends that McCain offered little toward solving the economy's problems, but the Democrat offered little more himself last week. Both made big promises of massive job creation by developing alternative-fuel industries, but neither really submitted suggestions for dealing with structural problems.

Obama is absolutely right, meanwhile, to mock the late convention's emphasis on McCain's biography. On this score, the Republican conclave was the height of hypocrisy. Republicans themselves might say that their point was to oppose a real hero, a real great man, to the allegedly ersatz hero the Democrats are saying, but in effect that left them making exactly the same pitch they accuse the Democrats of making, only more so. They're the ones saying that McCain is a man of destiny, the necessary leader, etc., and that fact makes their mockery of the Democrats look like some sort of projection. The Republicans looked more like a cult of personality than the Democrats did, leaving McCain himself in the position of Stalin or any of his emulators, who always said they were sort of embarrassed by all the adulation, but who were they to suppress the spontaneous expression of the people's love.

I'm reminded of a story I read some time ago about a hapless news editor on an Iraqi TV network during Saddam Hussein's regime. His job, if I remember right, was to choose letters to Saddam to read on television. While Saddam affected modesty like other despots, these letters were usually groveling hymns of praise to the leader. The editor made it his job to eliminate the tackiest ones that went the furthest overboard in their worship. One fine day, he gets a call from Saddam himself, who asks: why are you censoring the people's free expression? At that moment, the editor knew that his career, and more, was in peril. Remembering that tale makes me wonder what McCain thought of all the hero-worship this week, and how he might have reacted if some Republican flunky, perhaps thinking he was anticipating the leader's own attitude, decided to do without it all.

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