JOHN McCAIN gave a speech this week, describing what the world would look like after his first term in office.
It looked great! The terrorists are on the run, Iraq is a “functioning democracy,” and back home the economy is terrific, thanks to a combination of business tax cuts and savings gleaned from eliminating useless government programs. For average citizens, the tax code has been made so simple and undemanding that filling out IRS forms would probably become an enjoyable family activity, like miniature golf.
It was a little like those old Victorian novels in which the hero visits the future and discovers that by 2000, America has become perfect. Not only have wars and poverty been wiped out, houses have self-washing windows and everyone gets free tickets to great sporting events and concerts, for which good seats are always available at the last minute.
The most intriguing part of the McCain vision is the League of Democracies. This is his plan for a planetary alliance of economically powerful, democratically governed nations whose leaders would work together to protect human rights and combat terrorism.
The proper policy response, no doubt, is: What about the United Nations? But all I really want to know is: will there be uniforms?
Jan. 1, 2013: President McCain celebrated the multitudinous achievements of his first four years in office with special friends in the White House. The tiny American contingent of troops still stationed in Iraq joined the festivities by satellite from a golf course in Baghdad, where they have been spending their time since the war was won. Members of the League of Democracies opened the ceremony with their pledge to “fight a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the small-d-democratic way.”
Wearing their colorful terrorism-fighting costumes were French President Nicolas Sarkozy, now better known to the planet by his nom de guerre of Pate Man, and Germany’s green-haired Angela “EcoGirl” Merkel, accompanied as always by her sidekick, Icy the Polar Bear. Silvio Berlusconi of Italy wore a business suit, but still wowed the crowd with his trademark power of shooting molten-gold bullion at his assailants.
It’s always helpful to hear a candidate’s broad vision, but sweeping plans do pose a problem if you can’t get there from here. Pressed for details on his foreign-policy strategies, McCain said the secret was “setting goals and achieving.” You can just hear the Democrats of 2013 kicking themselves: Goals and achievements! Why didn’t we think of that?
While McCain was unveiling his great expectations, Congress was voting by overwhelming majorities to pass an enormous, wasteful, ridiculous agricultural bill that provides massive subsidies to farmers growing wheat, corn, soybeans, rice and cotton as well as Sen. Mitch McConnell’s famous tax break for breeders of thoroughbred horses. McCain, who was absent, said he’d veto the bill if he were president, a threat that loses some of its wow quotient when the bill in question just passed both chambers by veto-proof majorities. (Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama dived into the tank and praised the package.)
Among the smaller subsidies was one for goat mohair. This was a target for the Clinton administration’s big efficiency drive, partly because the national security does not really require a regular supply of mohair, and partly because it has the disadvantage of sounding silly. Mohair price supports were eliminated with great fanfare and effort, then sneaked back in via Congress as an emergency measure. (I have fond memories of Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, yelping: “Mohair is popular! I have a mohair sweater! It’s my favorite one!”) Special breaks for mohair were re-cemented into law under George Bush, a genuine opponent of wasteful farm spending.
The farm bill is one big hairball of accommodations and trade-offs, apparently invulnerable to the forces of reform, presidential vetoes or even the reality of record commodity prices. Cheers to McCain for taking a principled stand against it.
But unless he’s been serving on a US Senate in an alternate universe, he knows how hard it is to get rid of anything that means a lot to somebody’s constituents.
It would be lovely to have a president willing to try, but scary to have one who builds his entire economic program on the presumption that in 2012 a “top to bottom review of every federal bureaucracy has yielded great reductions in government spending by identifying programs that serve no important purpose.”
And if his domestic vision is that far removed from reality, what does that say about the goals-and-achievements stepladder to international peace and harmony via military interventions and a League of Democracies?
Although if the costumes were neat enough.... – The New York Times