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So, you're a Maverick

Fri, Oct 10th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

As we know all too well, Senator McCain and Governor Palin like to characterize themselves as mavericks. And, as many of you know, the first definition of a maverick is a calf that has strayed from its' herd. In other words, some poor little creature that has definitely lost its' way in the world.

Another definition of maverick, especially as applied to politics, is one who refuses to go along with the policies of a group; or, one who is considered to be independent in thought or action. It is too tempting to use the "lost its' way in the world" metaphor to describe or discuss the policies espoused by Senator McCain and Governor Palin.

Suffice it to say that they are lost and wandering in the great land of presidential politics. They are searching for a coherent message that will bring folks back to their herd. However, in place of coherent messages on the economy, energy conservation, health care and job creation they have chosen to go to the mean side of politics and attack their opponents. This is the politics of denigration and fear.

Certainly, Senator McCain has on occasion gone against the policies or dictates of President Bush and the Republican Party. And, in some cases it was the right thing to do. But, making the right decision in a few cases, as a self-proclaimed maverick, does not establish a record of sound policy decision making.

Let us take for example Senator McCain's handling of his own presidential campaign. By all reliable reports the main brain trust advising him consists of many who previously worked with and for Karl Rove and President Bush. Does this look like the actions of a maverick or someone rooted in the past and unable to bring anything new to the process?

What of his choice of a running mate? Say what you will about Governor Palin, she does not have the portfolio of experience to be a President-in-waiting. If the choice of a woman was of paramount importance to Senator McCain there are Republican women whose selection would have brought more credibility to the ticket. It is very difficult to believe, despite what they say on TV or in the press, that many Republican leaders really think that Governor Palin is ready for the job. When conservative columnists such as George Will and David Brooks, and even some Republican Congressman and Senators strongly suggest she is not up to the task, one wonders about Senator McCain's decision making prowess. Maverick kind of pick, you betcha! Smart pick? No!

What does one make of Senator McCain's attempt to inject himself into the recent Congressional machinations regarding an economic bail-out plan? First he wanted to fire the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The maverick fires from the hip without thinking.

Then he supposedly suspended his presidential campaign. Hip shot number two. What did that prove? Not much. Unlike Senator Obama, Mr. McCain came late to the party with ideas or suggestions that would be helpful.

How does the maverick now stand on taxes and tax breaks? To his credit he was once against the Bush tax breaks for the wealthiest of the wealthy. Definitely a maverick stance. Now, he is for them. Did the maverick find his way back to the herd? Yes he did. Is this, in the language of the previous presidential election a flip-flop? Yes it is.

During all this McCain/Palin talk of "we are the mavericks, the mighty, mighty mavericks" Senators Obama and Biden have maintained a strong and steady campaign. No panicking about the economic meltdown. Instead they offered suggestions and a plan for the Congress to consider. They did not try to usurp the process or turn it into an object of Presidential politics.

Senator Obama stated at the outset of his campaign that he wanted things to be different, he wanted to bring change that will affect people in a positive way. Through the many months of his campaign he has proven this to be true. He has, for the most part, kept to the high road, not resorting to the character assassination tactics now being put forth by Governor Palin. He has clearly and passionately presented his plans and proposals for our country. He has, in the face of severe criticism, not risen to the bait, or sunk to the low levels of retaliation that in the past have been the hallmark of presidential campaigns. He has been thoughtful, steady, and decisive on the plans he has proposed and on the problems he has encountered during his campaign. These are attributes of a leader.

In the end, who do we trust? The self-styled mavericks who shoot first and ask questions later. Or, those who have proven themselves to be good at analyzing problems and formulating proposals to solve these problems.

Alan Lipowitz lives in Peterson.

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