Monday, January 28, 2008

Electile dysfunction

The current election race for the 2008 Presidency has introduced a new term into our political lexicon, "electile dysfunction," and I am a victim of this malady. I define it as "the inability to become aroused over any of the choices for the Presidency put forth by both the Democrats and the Republicans."

As a nominal Democrat, I am naturally underwhelmed by the candidates for the Republican nomination. I shudder at the thought that the likes of Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, or Mike Huckabee could make it to the White House.

Romney is a slick, smooth-talker whose ideological views depend on whether he's running to be governor of Massachusetts or President of the United States. Giuliani is a petty, vindictive man who has exaggerated his role in 9/11 and made that tragedy the keystone of his career. Huckabee, a likable fellow best known until recently for losing 100 lbs., would have been a more appropriate candidate in the 18th Century.

And then there's John McCain, who I believe is most likely to win the Republican nomination. He is an admirable man whom I have respected in the past. But his insistence on sending still more troops to Iraq and his belligerence on foreign affairs in general lead me to fear that he would repeat George W. Bush's policy blunders and accelerate our nation's loss of international influence and power.

If either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton emerge as the Democrats' Presidential candidate, I am convinced that McCain, assuming that he is the Republican nominee, would win the November election. Until now, I have felt that John Edwards would be the most electable Democratic candidate. Sadly, I think the American electorate is still unprepared for an African-American or a woman as President. But despite his impressive talents, Edwards seems to have been eliminated from the race.

Obama is a refreshing political personality. I do not believe, however, that he is ready for the Presidency. Perhaps it's because I'm an old grouch, but I feel that he lacks the gravitas and experience to lead the nation.

Of course, an argument could be made that the importance of experience is overplayed. Not many men, e.g., have had more government experience than Vice-President Dick Cheney. But imagine him as the nation's commander-in-chief! (Actually, he has probably served as such during much of the past seven years, and look at the results.)

I have a high regard for Obama, but I find his political agenda still obscure and his record of accomplishment limited. Hillary Clinton's credentials are at least as impressive, and I have been puzzled why she is plagued by such pathological hatred on the part of so many people.

I am turned off, however, by the dynastic quality of her candidacy. I voted enthusiastically for Bill Clinton, but I do not relish the idea of the dual Presidency that would result if Hillary were elected. Moreover, the Clinton camp's tasteless tactics to defeat Obama in the Democratic primary campaign have tarnished the ex-President's legacy.

Where is Al Gore when we need him?

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

How reactionaries play games with the English language

One of my pet peeves is the way political reactionaries and the religious right play games with the English language. Terms like "values voters," "pro-life," "pro-family," and "socialized medicine" take on significance as ideological code words. They become major political issues as Republican candidates--particularly those on the extreme right-- compete for support from the party's so-called "base" that twice saddled the nation with George W. Bush. In the process, genuine meanings are lost or badly distorted.

Take "socialized medicine," for example. As I understand what "socialized medicine" really is-- as actually practiced in some foreign countries--doctors are employed directly by the government and citizens cannot choose a doctor or hospital for their medical care.

None of the medical insurance plans proposed by the Democratic Presidential candidates contain such provisions. As I've studied their proposals, the plans would essentially extend the current Medicare system, which now limits coverage to the aged and the disabled, to any citizen willing to pay for the insurance.

Since I became eligible for Medicare in 1989, I have always selected my own doctors and hospitals and have never been forced by the government to seek treatment from a specific physician. For me and millions of other senior citizens, Medicare has been a blessing.

As a World War II veteran, I have on rare occasions used the services of the Veterans Administration. I have received hearing aids, which were available free to qualified veterans. I also occasionally buy prescription drugs from the VA at relatively low cost.

Some critics might describe the VA medical system as "socialized medicine." But it covers only those veterans who want to use it. Some veterans may complain about by the quality and availability of VA services. I am unaware, however, of any ideological complaints about socialized medicine, particularly from veterans too young to qualify for Medicare.

The opposition to extending Medicare coverage to all citizens, as proposed by the Democrats, comes largely from some elements of the medical establishment and from insurance and pharmaceutical industries concerned about the potential impact on profits. Allied with them are social reactionaries who want to reduce the role of government in American private lives

These zealots, labeling themselves "pro-family" and "pro-life," are hypocrites. (Have you ever known anyone who is "anti-family" or "anti-life"?) Indirectly, the zealots are proposing greater government interference in private lives. They want to restrict both a woman's control over her own body and to limit the rights of homosexuals on matters dealing with taxes, health care, inheritance, and related legal issues. They also contradict their opposition to government interference in private lives by their efforts to promote religious faith as part of the political dialog.

Interestingly, the anti-abortionists appear more concerned with an unborn fetus than with the welfare of born children. I am confident that the vast majority of the Congressmen who supported President Bush's veto of legislation to provide health insurance for children from low-income families also identify themselves as "pro-life" proponents.

Religious and social reactionaries want to ban gay marriage on the grounds that it endangers the sanctity of marriage. My wife and I have been married for nearly 55 years, and we have never felt that our relationship is threatened because gays and lesbians want the same legal and financial privileges that we enjoy. In all candor, I do regard formal same-sex marriage ceremonies as strange events and believe that the rights that homosexuals seek can be provided through more straightforward civil unions. I am enough of a libertarian, however, to recognize that I have no right to object to what they want to do.

I am insulted that so many political pundits describe the so-called pro-lifers and pro-family crusaders as "moral values" voters because of their obsession with what they regard as the sacredness of marriage and the sanctity of life. The implication is that the rest of us are unconcerned with moral issues. But our moral values are linked to the belief that Americans should enjoy personal freedom that does not interfere with the rights of others.

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