The Maverick Returns (July 28, 2011)

Had I been a Republican during the 2000 Presidential primaries, there is no doubt I would have voted McCain instead of Bush. At the time, the man came off as relatively uncompromised. As a decorated Vietnam veteran and a legislator who had a record (at the time) for rejecting pandering in order to reach across the aisle and get things done, he had my respect. Had he made it to the general election, I might have even considered casting a ballot in his favor instead of Al Gore.

By the time the 2008 campaign rolled around and McCain had morphed into a man who suddenly wanted nothing to do with immigration reform, labeled Barack Obama “that guy,” and selected Sarah Palin as a running mate, effectively putting an idiot one heartbeat away from the Oval Office, I was glad I was never faced with a real opportunity to punch a hanging chad in his favor. Turned out McCain was just like all the rest. He would say or do anything to get elected.

But all it once it appears that the removal of the Holy Grail chase, the end of his POTUS dreams, have freed John McCain to take a real stand where certain issues are concerned. Or it could be that at nearly 75 years of age, he just doesn’t give a shit anymore what anyone thinks.

And so yesterday, I read this report from Yahoo News’ The Ticket: “John McCain Unloads on the Tea Party,” and my stunned heart sang. Not so much because I care about McCain’s rediscovery of his backbone, but I was enthralled because finally SOMEBODY is pointing out the Tea Party Emperors are not wearing any clothes.

I could care less about his pity for John Boehner’s attempts to cobble together a last minute deficit reduction/debt ceiling compromise, but seriously, what’s not to love about quotes like this:

“The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against . . . . Barack Obama,” McCain said, quoting a Wall Street Journal article. “The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.”

“This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell into GOP Senate nominees,” McCain added, still reading from the article.

Squee!!!! I know he’s basically regurgitating the work of another writer, but the fact that he does so on the Senate floor, with C-Span cameras rolling, provides a tacit blessing to the Journal’s indictment. Like it or not, McCain remains a standard bearer of the GOP and though it is unlikely, this should give pause to intolerant right extremists.

Allow me to quote another Open Salon blogger I greatly admire, a gentleman by the name of Cranky Cuss. I published a post this past Tuesday entitled, “The Party is Over,” where I detailed my general disgust with the current “work” and comprehensive ineptitude of both political factions. That said, Crank offered a fairly prescient indictment of the Republican caucus in particular:

“The Republicans would rather have the nation default, with all the devastation it would cause our already teetering economy not to mention the world economy, than allow Obama to be re-elected. I consider that treason.”

Thank you Mr. Cuss for calling a spade a spade, and grazi Senator McCain, however belatedly, for trying to lead your party by example.

Who Needs Congress to Raise the Federal Minimum Wage? (March 6, 2013)


President Obama’s now legendary State of the Union address, delivered before a joint session of Congress last month, touched on several notable issues that the POTUS plans to incorporate into his second term agenda. As of midnight last Friday, we now know that one of the Presidents’ goals: the negotiation of a budgetary deal that would take the place of the unpopular sequestration maneuver, was a dismal failure. In part, the inability to secure a new plan can be blamed on an important miscalculation on the part of the POTUS. Believing (incorrectly it seems) that the GOP would place concern for the immediate cuts to defense spending above its commitment to opposing him at every turn, Obama played the waiting game – and lost.

So that’s one down from the State of the Union with many to go. The increasingly comprehensive paralysis on Capitol Hill inspires little confidence that deeply partisan issues like gun control and immigration reform will be dealt with in an expeditious and logical fashion. The majority of Americans have been placed in the same uncomfortable position as the Commander-in-Chief: gamely rooting for members of the House and Senate to do the jobs to which they’ve been elected, while suspecting a whole lot of nothing in the end. Our collective silver lining gut feeling, which is all we really have to sustain us at this point: is that somehow, someway, Congress will be divested of its ability to hold the fiscal, social and foreign policy of the nation hostage. It’s perfectly arguable that the rise of a viable third political party has never been more necessary.

We’ve grown so accustomed to our “do nothing” government as the root cause for so much of what ails our country, it’s often easy to forget that we really don’t have to depend on lawmakers to come to the rescue. Sometimes the solutions are just sitting there staring ordinary citizens and the private sector in the face.

Take, for example, President Obama’s stated intent to advocate for an increase in the Federal minimum wage. During this portion of the State of the Union address, the President framed the issue in this context: “Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour…This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families.”

The minimum wage, which currently sits at $7.25 an hour, has held steady since 2009. The President is proposing an increase to $9.00 that would take effect in 2015. This is the sort of common sense idea that one might expect could be embraced by members occupying both side of the political spectrum. Of course, that’s not true. The opposition from the business community is to be expected, and upon remembering that most of the Republican Party rests comfortably inside the corporate pocket, most of us are well prepared for yet another showdown.

But in considering the potential squashing of another effort to assist the beleaguered working and middle classes, it occurs to me that this isn’t an issue that should require Congressional intervention. In anyone else tired of reading about the record-breaking profits and hoards of cash enjoyed by American companies, even as workers struggle to hold onto jobs that pay them flat wages?

Call me naive but I’d like to see the media machine hold some freaking feet to the fire. For example, why is pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb planning to layoff nearly 500 additional workers, when 2012 fourth quarter profits were up over 22 percent? Why isn’t Anderson Cooper keeping the company and scores of other greedy operations like it, honest with these types of questions? Why is it continually viable to discuss making the economy work for business, without any concern for the people who are responsible for the flush state of a company’s bottom line?

Against the backdrop of a government “for the people, by the people” which does seem to serve all parties except individuals’ sense that revolution is inevitable grows more palpable. With regard to the increase of the Federal minimum wage, with a little partnership from the media, we shouldn’t need Congress to act. The Tea Party is supposedly all about individual initiative, right?