BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
Experience is What Brought Down Wall Street
The McCain camp seems to have settled on a motif for this campaign. Every chance they get, they lapse into the mantra of how much more "experience" John McCain has over Barack Obama. But don't let them pull the wool over your eyes. While it is true that McCain has been in Washington for over 26 years, that in itself doesn't mean that he's benefitted from experience. The American Heritage Dictionary defines experience as the "Active participation in events or activities, leading to the accumulation of knowledge or skill" (emphasis added). Thus, by definition, there are two components to experience–first, undergoing the experience itself, and thereafter, having the common sense to learn from it. But in John McCain's case, there's compelling evidence that strongly suggests that he hasn't learned a thing.
In 1987 McCain was chin deep in a scandal very similar to the one that is currently playing out on Wall Street. He was one of a group of senators dubbed "The Keating Five" involved in a scandal by the same name. In 1976 Charles Keating moved to Arizona to run the American Continental Corporation. In 1984, shortly after the Reagan era push to deregulate the savings and loan community, Keating bought Lincoln Savings and Loan and began to engage in highly risky investments with the depositors' savings. In 1989 the parent company, which Keating headed, went bankrupt, and it resulted in over 21,000 investors losing their life savings. Most of the investors were elderly, and the loss amounted to about 285 million dollars.
Prior to the collapse of American Continental Corporation, along with Lincoln Savings, some regulators saw the danger inherent in the rush to deregulate, so they push for greater oversight, but congress turned a blind eye to their efforts. Many say that was due to the influence of the Keating Five–Senators John Glenn, Don Riegle, Dennis DeConini, Alan Cranston, and John McCain. After having received over a million dollars from Keating in illegal campaign contributions, gifts, free trips, and other gratuities, they attempted to intervene in an investigation into Keating's activities by the regulators. Later, they were admonished to varying degrees by the senate for attempting to influence regulators on Keating's behalf.
Keating ended up being convicted for fraud, racketeering and conspiracy, for which he received 10 years by the state court, and a 12 year sentence in federal court. After spending four and a half years in prison, his convictions were overturned. But prior to being retried, he pled guilty to a number of felonies in return for a sentence of time served.
Thus, in order for McCain to claim he gained experience, he would have had to learned something from that episode. He should have learned that regulations are necessary to keep man's natural tendency towards greed in check. But it seems that he didn't learn a thing. He's still one of the most adamant proponents of deregulation in the senate. In fact, I suspect that one of the reasons he tried to avoid the debate was that he was running from a report that his campaign chairman, Rick Davis, was being paid fifteen thousand dollars a month by Freddie Mac, right up until last month. So what did McCain learn from his experience, not a thing.
Nevertheless, during the first presidential debate between Senators Obama and McCain, Mc Cain tried to drive the message home that he was more experienced by continually repeating the phrase, "Obama doesn't understand." With respect to the surge, he said that Obama didn't seem to understand the difference between tactics and strategy. But the fact is, it is McCain who doesn't seem to understand the difference.
Sen. McCain continues to strut around reminding anyone who will listen that he was right about the surge, as though the result of the surge was an end in itself. What he doesn't seem to understand is, the surge was just a tactic to create a more peaceful environment in which to allow the Iraqi government the opportunity to pull its act together, not an end in itself. It was a foregone conclusion that if we poured enough troops and equipment into Iraq we could bring down the level of violence, but again, that was only a tactic to allow the Iraqi government to organize to the point that they could take over responsibility for their own security. And since, in addition to the surge, we've been paying the insurgents not to fight us, whether or not that objective has been achieved is not at all clear. So again, it is McCain, not Obama, who has a flimsy grasp on reality. Does McCain's failure to grasp that simple fact constitute what he calls experience?
And with all of his years in Washington, what has he learned about the dangers of placing his own political career above what's in the best interest of the nation? Hasn't he learned anything about the dangers of cronyism during a national emergency? Wasn't he awake during Katrina?
The man is 72 years old, and America is facing several of the most dangerous challenges in our nation's history. Yet, instead of taking the prudent course of seeking out the most qualified running mate he could find in the country, he decided upon political expedience, and chose a woman, based on pure whim, that he not only failed to properly vet, but in fact, had only met once, as a potential vice president of the United States.
Had this been a woman of quality and substance, McCain might have been forgiven for this impulsive act, but Sarah Palin is so obviously unqualified to be vice president that she has to be hidden from the press. She thinks that foreign policy experience entails waving at jets flying overhead just in case Vladimir Putin might be out sightseeing. And just as interesting, she's a woman whose husband is a member of a political party that advocates seceding from the United States. What kind of experience would allow him to perpetrate such a cruel hoax on a trusting nation?
And that's not the only way that Sen. McCain is trying to pull the wool over our eyes. He's built an entire career on his status as a former POW, and he claims to be one of our veteran's most steadfast supporters. But according to many vets, that's simply not the case. In September of 2007, McCain voted against the Webb amendment calling for adequate rest for the troops between deployments. In May of 2006 he voted against an amendment (H.R. 4939, S. Amdt. 3704) that would provide 20 million dollars for veteran healthcare facilities. In April of 2006 McCain was one of only 13 Senators to vote against a $430,000,000 amendment (H.R. 4939, S.Amdt. 3642) for the Department of Veteran Affairs to improve Medical Services for outpatient care and treatment for vets. And in March of 2006 he voted against an amendment (S.Con.Res.83, S.Amdt.3007) to increase veteran's medical funding by 1.5 billion dollars.
And of course, he didn't even show up to vote for the latest veteran's bill that increased veteran's education benefits. According to USA Today, "The Arizona senator opposes the scholarship measure, as does the Pentagon, because it applies to people who serve just three years. He fears that would encourage people to leave the military after only one enlistment even as the U.S. fights two wars and is trying to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps."
It is astounding that McCain would even make such an admission, since the stated rationale suggests that Sen. McCain's philosophy is that we can't afford to improve the standard of living of the poor and middle class, because we need them to fight our wars. If that's the kind of thinking that comes from "experience", maybe we need someone with a little less experience, and a lot more common sense. Such a person just might come up with the radical idea of, maybe, asking the children of the rich to pitch in and help defend the country.
Eric L. Wattree
I take great pride in being the product of adversity, because having simply survived provides me with unassailable credentials.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Posted by Eric Wattree at 7:09 AM