The Campaign to Feel Your Pain

Dear Stumped:

The economy is issue No. 1, and rightly so, at the moment, but is talking about the economy and nothing else any way to select the president of the most powerful country in the world? Are Americans really willing to neglect other critical and life-and-death issues that face the world today? Climate change? War? Terrorism? Immigration reform?

Subhash Durlabhji

Dear Subhash:

The economy should be at the core of any campaign debate and is not necessarily as narrow a topic as you suggest. What is frustrating to me isn't so much that the issue of the economy looms large, but that the way it is discussed. There is far too much pandering to you the voter, sitting around the proverbial kitchen table (those of us who don't have a kitchen large enough for a table are the real neglected ones in this election), trying to make ends meet. This is politics in the Clintonian lip-biting-feel-your-pain mold. No one wants to end up like George Bush Sr., losing because he was perceived to be out of touch. So the entire discussion is about how each candidate understands you and wants to keep you in your home, regardless of whether you should have bought that home in the first place. Behold the spectacle of a presidential debate devoted to laying claim on "Joe the Plumber" and the spectacle of a Republican presidential candidate proposing to buy up distressed mortgages from individuals. Forget about the nanny state, this is like the white knight state.

There is much less talk, meanwhile, of how a severe economic downturn might impact other societal needs and priorities -- building a military capable of confronting multiple threats simultaneously, combating climate change, reforming our health care system to make sure millions of Americans are no longer uninsured, and, as you rightly highlight, fixing the nation's broken immigration laws. The campaigns define "the economy" as mostly micro -- about your needs and worries -- with little space for the macro. When pressed to identify programs or goals they might have to rethink in light of the worsening financial situation, Obama's idea of political courage was to throw foreign recipients of U.S. aid -- a non-voting constituency (presumably lacking kitchen tables!) -- under the bus, saying he might have to hold off on his previous pledge to expand Washington's embarrassingly modest foreign assistance programs.

All that said, I wonder about your underlying premise -- that if we weren't all obsessing about the immediate financial crisis and what's happening on the stock market, John McCain and Barack Obama could devote more time to discussing the tough, long-term challenges facing the nation. I'd expect that if the candidates weren't forced to focus on the timely economic news, they'd be wasting a lot more time on trivial matters like whether they've always worn flag pins or palled around with supposed terrorists.

McCain seems to be suffering a ferocious backlash for wanting to make an issue out of Obama's tenuous association with Bill Ayers. That is the good news. The bad news is that the backlash doesn't stem from a deep-seated desire by voters to grapple with global warming and healthcare reform; it stems from a desire to have the candidates pander to our individualized pain. If the Dow were at 15,000, I suspect we'd all be merrily debating the meaning of Obama's ties to Ayers.

Dear Stumped:

Why has the Republican Party decided to throw so much mud around, and why doesn't the Party's head stop it?

Bill Kneebone

Dear Bill:

The Republican Party is addicted to petty, nasty, dishonest campaigning because it has worked so well for its candidates since the days of Richard Nixon. I'm not sure which Party head you are referring to, but certainly President Bush and his operatives are big fans of baseless mud-slinging. The tragedy of this election is that John McCain, a victim to sleazy mud-slinging in the 2000 primary, truly was a maverick once in decrying such politics, and yet he has embraced sleazy tactics (and many of those same Bush operatives). He has proven the opposite of what he claims was his Daniel Webster-like approach to Iraq. McCain is acting as if he'd much rather be president than be right, or honorable.

Dear Stumped:

Is Obama-Biden right to give Palin a free pass on her religious extremism? She was blessed by a preacher, flown in from Africa, to ward of black magic and evil spirits in her run for office. Her current church and, more importantly the one she grew up in, believe in a global war between the devil and god. If were Obama, I'd blow Palin out of the water by exposing her extreme religious views.

Carl Lee

Dear Carl:

You can't be serious. You want Barack Obama to go after the views espoused by another candidate's church? How eager do you think he is to re-introduce the country to Jeremiah "god damn America" Wright? Believe me, Obama must be as eager to compare religious affiliations as he is eager to poke fun at McCain's middle name.

By Andres Martinez |  October 18, 2008; 12:00 AM ET
Previous: Is It Smart for McCain to Avoid Rev. Wright? | Next: Worried About the Crazies


Please email us to report offensive comments.

This campaign has taken so many turns and twists. We know that the last 8 years are what most of us don't want to relive ever again. For a Christian abortion is a very important issue in the decision making process, but so is the support of the not so rich who have been ignored in the last few decades. Health insurance is an important issue for most of us baby boomers who have been left without it. Sen. McCain used to be a man of honor, but he has let Rove and Steve Schmidt turn his campaign into a campaign of dishonor where anyone with integrity cannot be a part of and he decided to pick a VP who is already proven to have abused her power which a lot of us have been sick off already. This has been a campaign were many of us are flip flopping back and forth and than Sen. McCain comes up with another hate campaign ad and attack and oops lost me again.....but it is now time to make a decision and decide for a CHANGE TO THE POSITIVE ....and throw all the hate aside and also VOTE FOR CHANGE.....

Posted by: integrity5 | October 18, 2008 11:24 PM

Republicans have won many elections by taking the strong position that they are good christians and that their opponents are not..why fiddle around with confusing "issues" that only muddy the waters- if Jesus loves you and not the other guy- yer home free!

Posted by: rwcole | October 18, 2008 5:27 PM

I live in NC and have received 4 robo calls in the last two days. The information is inflamatory and untrue. Obama has not been palling around with Ayers. John McCain had a fund raiser sponsored by Gordon Libby, a convicted criminal and took vacations and lobbied for My Keating,convicted in the Savings and Loan Scandle. Citizens lost millions of dollars in the failure of the Savings and Loans. John McCain was censured and told he used poor judgment regarding Mr. Keating. Just as he used poor judgement in selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate and is using poor judjment in exploiting Joe the Pluumber.

Posted by: Bgspri | October 18, 2008 4:04 PM

I sure would like to see that video. The only video I remember is what Clarence said after he was affirmed, unfortunately.

Posted by: jimsbier | October 18, 2008 3:28 PM

"...palled around with supposed terrorists."
You misspoke. I think everyone agrees that Ayers was a terrorist, not a "supposed terrorist." You would have been more correct to put the modifier before "palling," as in "supposedly palling around with terrorists." What needs to be made clear to people is that serving on a Board with someone 40 years after that individual's terrorist activities have ceased is not "palling around," nor is it somehow dangerous or indicative of terrorist leanings oneself.

Posted by: chantooz | October 18, 2008 10:55 AM

I told my neighbor that I already voted. He knew that I supported Sen. Barack Obama, but he would not believe me when I said that the main reason I voted for Sen. Obama was really a vote against Gov. Sarah Palin.

Finally after a long discussion he saw how serious I was. He also agreed that even though I might still have voted Democratic if it was Guiliani or Romney as the VP pick, he saw how disgusted I was about Palin being so close to the oval office!

Posted by: jrubin1 | October 18, 2008 9:30 AM

What has happened here is not a party issue, nor a religious issue. The economy is always an issue because we do not have a barter system. The globe has shrunk to manageable pieces!

Having said that, then why do we have these problems? Most of the problems have been created by us. Whether it is conservation or prudent usage of resources or (in)justice served at various levels across the globe, or democracy vs autocracy, what ever it may be, the people at various levels at various times are the cause of all of the issues.

Right, left, black, white, liberal or conservative we have some issues to deal with. Yesterday the Post had an editorial endorsing Sen. Obama. One of the reason for its decision was the answer to the question as to who is better at tackling our immediate tough issues (I do not choose to use the word problem) on hand at the present time? Speaking for myself, I have seen the erosion of consumer confidence, integrity with in government, a lawless and autocratic white house, the likes of which we have never seen including Watergate! We only missed 18 minutes of a conversation then. Let us restore the honor and faith this America richly deserves, otherwise we will be missing several years of everything!

We have a decision to make on November 4, 2008. I urge you readers to make a life making decision. Consider this hope vs audacity, deal with the cards that are dealt with(inconvenient) or moan and groan (convenient) as to what it could be, or have been!? The religious sector is using democracy as a hostage for its own purpose. The children as its weapon!

Choice is clear! Those of you who live in battleground states especially, we cannot let the repeat of 2000 or 2004! We need a course correction for the submarine America without which the likes of present administration would spell 'DISASTER' in the future!


Good reading!!

Posted by: YouSee | October 18, 2008 9:15 AM

Back in 2004, when the Republicans controlled the House, they tried to have a hearing on the threat that the financial mismanagement of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac presented to the U.S. economy. Here’s the video evidence of the Democrats defending the status quo and blocking efforts to hold officials accountable. This problem did not get the publicity it deserved in the liberal media, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post. This incredible Congressional video shows Republicans in Congress trying hard to regulate better Fannie Mae and how the Democrats fought that tooth and nail, even referring to criticism of former chairman Raines as a "lynching".

Posted by: sagereader | October 18, 2008 12:56 AM

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