10.10.08 Specifics, Dammit!

I’m getting a bit of a kick reading all the commentary decrying the fact that neither Barack Obama nor John McCain is announcing which parts of their long-established platforms they will have to give up due to the economic crisis.  The critics are right, of course: neither side has said a thing when the question is posed to them in debates or otherwise, beyond mentioning the slight possibility that we won’t be able to have everything we’ve dreamed of.

“Where are the specifics?” cries the chattering class.

And I wonder what universe these folks are living in.  Remember the last guy who mentioned a specific sacrifice on the presidential campaign trail?  It was Bruce Babbitt, who had the temerity in a 1988 debate to promise a tax increase.  The very fact that you probably don’t even recognize the name “Babbitt” tells you how far his campaign went.

Rarely before and never since have you heard any presidential candidate talk about costs, cutbacks, or sacrifices in any specific terms.  They all promise to “eliminate fraud, waste, and abuse.”  McCain claims that the panacea is to eliminate $18 billion in earmarks from the federal budget (weigh that against the $2 trillion in savings that have been lost in the past couple of weeks).  Obama is saying that tax hikes on the ultra-rich will fund tax cuts for the other 98% of us and pay for increased spending on everything from energy initiatives to education.

Is all this ducking, dodging, and weaving the fault of the candidates?  Of course not!

The American people, as force fed by the media, would never allow anyone to be elected who told the whole truth during a campaign.  The talking heads would go absolutely NUTS if Obama or McCain were to announce cutbacks.  The accusations of flip-flopping hypocrisy would fly.  CNN would develop a new graphic for a crisis announcement: “Obama to Reduce Middle Class Tax Cut” or “McCain Says We Can’t Afford Wars.”  And then, the critics, the very ones who seem so dumfounded by the lack of specificity now, would declare THE STUPIDEST CAMPAIGN MOVE EVER (though, I can’t imagine ANY campaign move stupider than picking Sarah Palin).  And the campaign in question would be D-E-A-D, dead!

Now, I’m not sure that anyone has any idea what the right thing to do will be in January.  But I do know that I have more faith in Barack Obama and his team than I do in the Bush/McCain/Gramm/Palin ticket.  And I want Barack Obama to win, dammit! So, I’m just fine with his skimping on the details right now.  How ‘bout you?

©2008 Keith Berner

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One Comment on “10.10.08 Specifics, Dammit!”

  1. Mark Says:

    You are quite right to point out the conundrum facing any candidate who is asked for “specifics” (whatever that term may really mean). However, I would first fault the American people who, I would posit, actually want to be deceived and want to think that we can get along without sacrifice. After all, Iraq was sacrifice free thanks to George W. Bush. And trickle down economics is the sacrifice free. All we are asked to sacrifice are our rights, but never are we asked directly for financial sacrifice.

    I would also add though that the current cry for specifics is not fair and not necessarily about candidates telling (or not telling) the truth. Rather, no one knows the effects of the crisis or the bailout quite yet on our budget so I would be hesitant to believe any specifics even if a campaign offered them. I would rather here priorities, principles, and values from the candidates so I can judge which one would propose the right cuts and sacrifices.


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