Sunday, June 22, 2008

Trading Flip Flops

So both campaigns traded some flip flops last week: McCain on off-shore oil-drilling, and Obama on campaign finance.

McCain's public explanation: the price of oil today is far more than it was when he opposed off-shore drilling. Obama's public explanation: (i) his campaign is going to need the money to combat the 527 ads that Republicans will launch and (ii) his donors are grassroots supporters and not lobbyists.

As pots and kettles trade jabs on either side, it is worth noting that both presidential candidates are merely doing whatever they think they need to win. McCain is pandering on an issue that has election-year salience, and Obama is milking his unprecedented fundraising potential. McCain's drilling proposal exploits short-term anxieties only to fail to deliver long-term solutions. Obama will have us believe that he alone must be the exception to the change he is trying to bring.

In terms of the horse race, both flip flops will probably prove to be politically efficacious. Gas prices are a salient issue today, and a flip flop in the direction of majority opinion never hurts. Only because money is such an important resource in American politics - more important, by the way, than the pristine image of the crusader of change, so the Obama campaign has wagered - Obama's opportunistic switch is going to benefit more than it would harm him.
The truth is, we best expect no less from our politicians vying for the highest office of the land. Obama didn't win the nomination because of nobler tactics, but better ones. He had a superior ground operation in the caucus states and a fundraising machine that beat the hitherto finest team on the Democratic side, the Clintons. As we gradually discover that McCain is no more immune to the politics of insinuation and smear than Obama is above the use of political tricks, we should quickly learn the lesson that politicians are never above politics. Only when we become intelligent consumers of political theatrics will we cast our vote correctly - not for the noblest man, but for the one least likely to fail.

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