Obama and McCain, associations and philosophy

The McCain campaign is trying to associate Obama with Bill Ayers, an unrepentant domestic terrorist. The Obama campaign is trying to associate McCain with George Bush, an unpopular President. I agree with both campaigns, in a way, but disagree strongly with their approaches.

Too many details and talking points on both sides – “Obama voted this way”, “McCain voted the same way”, etc.,etc. I yet believe that the modern Islamic “Jihad” is the major threat to our Western civilization, but also agree that the current financial meltdown is a major problem of the moment. The details of particular policies of the moment are less important than the basic philosophical background of the candidate – the “where is he coming from” to use the vernacular.

I believe that there is evil in this world, sociopaths who have no empathy with other human beings. But I do not assume that anyone who disagrees with me has an evil motive. Rather than let you guess as to my political orientation may I state up front that in my early voting days I would have been called a “Rockefeller Republican” (for the younger among you Gov. Rockefeller was considered to be quite “progressive”). One of the great partisan divisions of today is that each side impugns the motives of the other. There is legitimate disagreement as to the best way to accomplish the mutual goals of the moderates of both left and right.

There are individuals who are personally greedy and say “the devil take the hindmost” – and they are equally represented on both right and left, they just take different forms. But I believe the great majority share the goal of reasonable prospertity for all people. In my opinion the view of the left that government is the answer, that there is a “goodness” in those who would enforce the dictates of equality, is wrong. And I think that has been proven over and over again in government programs. The bureaucrats are as self serving as anyone else. But one can argue with equal validity that “commercial man” is a natural predator against his brethren, and that only the “fine sensibilities” of governmental employees can ensure an equality of opportunity.

And therein lies a phrase, the Declaration of Independence spoke of the “persuit of happiness”, not a guarantee. The government has a suitable role in ensuring equality of opportunity. Those of the left can cite the idealistic Marxian paradigm, and those of us on the right can speak of the depradations on the the populace of Communist dictatorships. When you come down to it government can be defined as a benevolent paternal figure, elected by the people to enhance their lives – or it can also be a hereditary king. If we look a bit at Plato, and his view of democracy (which is more like Ross Perot’s “instant referendum” on every bill by computer) we see that it is a bit more like anarchy. The best possible government would be an omniscient and benevolent dictator – but where are we going to find that guy?

Obama comes from a background that believes in the benificence of government, and therefore a heavy role for government in setting social goals. I would call this the “European socialist model”. McCain comes from a background that believes in the free market, but with some regulation to avoid anarchy. This, in my mind, is the model that has done well for the United States, on average, over its history. Each candidate has suggested programs that I agree with, and programs that I disagree with – no one is perfect!

I find Obama’s associations with Ayers, not as a bomber but as a currently active educational revolutionary, to be indicative of a basic philosophy. Just as his associations with Raines and others who profited from the manipulation of policy to achieve a social goal. Yet it is legitimate that his campaign lists the corporate lobbyists who work for the McCain campaign.

This brings us to a question as to lobbyists. It seems that if a lobbyist represents the interests of a  corporation (that really is a collection of shareholders and workers) then it is evil – but if the lobbyist represents the views of a union, or an interest group that has self-defined the “public interest”, then he is merely exercising his Constitutional right to petition the government. In my over 70 years of watching the process I have found no monopoly of rectitude on either side, had Linus Pauling (Nobel in Chemistry) been right on the common cold we’d all be taking massive doses of Vitamin C, and the common cold would no longer be a problem.

It is a matter of argument as to whether the common good is best promoted by government or by a free market, I stand on the side of the free market – but I fully respect the arguments of the other side, as long as they are couched as argument rather than a polemic that impugns my motives. The same applies to matters of foreign policy and the interrelations between countries (and, not necessarily the same, their governments). In this case I do not agree that either governments or peoples are amenable to negotiation, there is national (or tribal) interest that often overrides the logical long term world view that I wish they would share.

So to complete the circle of this posting as to associations I will say that I view the past associations of Obama to be relevant, but only in their indication of his basic philosophy of government and world affairs.  I do not agree with that basic philosophy, but I may not be correct (was going to say right, but you already know I’m “right”).

BTW, do refer to my “Shape of Politics” posting that is now in the archives of this “blog”.

Best, Jon