McCain and Republicans Distance themselves from Bush Legacy as Convention Begins Tomorrow
Sunday Discourse by Philip Fernando for Asian Tribune
Fast on the heels of the pageantry that Democrats offered in Denver, John McCain and the Republicans start their convention in St. Paul, Minnesota on Monday, making a valiant effort to look further and far away from the George Bush presidency. McCain seems willing to take on orthodoxies and to be a maverick at times. He proved it with his V P pick, Sarah Palin of Alaska. A new breed of Republicans is emerging on the scene as delegates assemble in Minnesota. This might turn out to be an incredibly compelling convention and we are definitely going to witness hectic times, according to some critics.
Change is what is shaping US politics today: “a change oriented election cycle with the economy as its motivator”- a dynamic that Obama and McCain would capitalize on... We have relatively new candidates, Obama and Palin. They are matched by two experienced stalwarts, McCain and Biden. This is quintessential politics, riding the wave of crosscurrents leading to a major change but backed by those who had been running the show for decades.
America is now facing two cohesive bases-Republican and Democratic. Within those two there are segments that may look contradictory. How Obama and McCain can unite their bases would determine the course of history. Meanwhile, between 10-15% of independents are sitting on the fence according to many surveys.
Republican convention next week would target some key states in order to win over those independents. Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Virginia come to mind, just to name a few.
The Republican policy makers have their work cut out. How best to get away from the Bush legacy and unite the different segments of the part would be that task. America needs to have more friends and fewer adversaries. It is not easy to consolidate frayed alliances and revitalize the international institutions. Faced with a specter of terrorists trafficking in weapons, the acute shortage of food, even water supply and the need to strengthen international cooperation, Republicans are thinking anew.
At home, American workers have consistently raised their productivity. They've worked harder and produced more. The Republicans have to show that the Americans in turn, would be assured of rising wages, greater health care and pension benefits, lowered poverty levels and a substantial reduction in income inequality that the last eight years produced.
The next four days, starting on Monday, would be crucial for the Republicans. But McCain is still a compelling figure. His insurmountable problem was the political environment. He was a Republican in what was deemed a Democratic year. He's aligned with Bush in years of Bush bungling. Bush fatigue over the economy and Iraqi war has overwhelmed the country.
As the McCain and Obama slugged it out in fierce fashion, incumbent President George W. Bush became a point of reference among most of the political observers. It would be a travesty of relevancy if Bush policies were not included in this analysis. His last hurrah ended far less upbeat than when he began as President. George W. Bush coined a new phrase to define his legacy “we will leave a protective overview commission in Iraq.” A far cry from his signature assertion “we will give them hell and we shall prevail.”
At the last President’s State of the Union Address, a packed crowd of decorated armed services men and women, congress colleagues, diplomats and distinguished guests gave a resounding applause only when Bush said that the men and women in uniform gave their very best for the safety of America and that fight against terrorism will continue. There were no surprises and no new promises, just a quiet way of saying” I will be long gone before you knew it.” George Bush, who started with a flagging economy-so, he said, completed his term with a deeper economic crisis. In between there was Afghanistan and then Iraq. It was the economy plus the war stupid, chuckled a standup comic.
Meanwhile the Democrats were rubbing it in good. Bush repeated that Iraq war has turned a corner and that victory was right round the corner. Americans have heard that refrain many times since Bush's declaration of victory in May 2003.
Bush administration was also mired in controversial issues: an overhaul of federal laws governing electronic surveillance, permanent extensions of his 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. The Republicans have to undo many things. These are the size of federal government and the budget deficit, development of alternative fuels, the partial privatization of Social Security, immigration reform and the expansion of Medicare to cover prescription drugs, many key promises that Bush made. The Middle East peace process stalled since Bush era began, has to be given a second look, amidst violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
As he leaves the White House at the end of his second term, the President’s approval rating remained low. His foreign policy, judged a failure, especially in view of the long, painful, costly war that he declared, may hinder his achieving a lasting legacy.
McCain had made a valiant effort to run on his own steam. He will present himself as an independent and he has a fair chance of doing it right, some believe.
- Asian Tribune -