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The Future According to McCain

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John McCain is laying out what he envisions for the future of America should he be elected president. So what does McCain see in his crystal ball? Peace and prosperity, of course. But some of the details are intriguing. Here they are in black with my comments following (note he did admit he’ll need a lot of cooperation to make these things happen).

• “The Iraq war has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension. Violence still occurs, but it is spasmodic and much reduced.”

Now, who wouldn’t support that outcome? Of course, the only way this happens is if our troops stay and it certainly isn’t a 100% probability that our presence will actually lead to a stable Iraq, let alone a democratic one. In fact, I think “functioning democracy” is a visionary blind spot that McCain could do without. I’d settle for “functioning, non-threatening government.” But I still generally prefer McCain’s vision to the far more reckless notion that Iraq will magically heal itself (rather than collapsing into horrific violence) if we just withdrew.

• The Taliban threat in Afghanistan has been greatly reduced.

Uh-huh. Great. How? With whose resources?

• “The increase in actionable intelligence that the counterinsurgency produced led to the capture or death of Osama bin Laden, and his chief lieutenants,” McCain said. “There still has not been a major terrorist attack in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.”

Well, if the Taliban threat is reduced and Iraq is much more peaceful, I suppose finding Osama bin Laden is more likely, although I’m not holding my breath. As for terrorist attacks here? We can only hope and pray McCain is right.

• A “League of Democracies” has supplanted a failed United Nations to apply sanctions to the Sudanese government and halt genocide in Darfur.

Well, that’s interesting. Darfur has exposed the UN’s ineffectiveness and an alternative international solution is needed for that crisis. The question is, does McCain see this League of Democracies forming simply to combat the human rights abuses in Sudan or might there be a more permanent role for such a body? Kind of a non-militaristic, more expansive NATO?

• The United States has had “several years of robust growth,” appropriations bills free of lawmakers’ pet projects known as “earmarks,” public education improved by charter schools, health care improved by expansion of the private market and an energy crisis stemmed through the start of construction on 20 new nuclear reactors.

This whole comment is what critics dislike about McCain. He often proposes small changes that he envisions will create big results. Personally, I prefer taking things slowly and not enacting sweeping new legislation and creating big new government agencies before we’ve tried less intrusive and less costly options. He’s probably right that the nation will grow robustly and I’d imagine it will do so more under the favorable tax policies of McCain than the squeezing tax policies of Obama (although I imagine business will do fine under either). Even though McCain’s stand against earmarks is highly principled and admirable, eliminating these budget-bloaters won’t be enough to balance the budget. And charter schools won’t fix public education by themselves although, again, I’d have preferred us going this route before enacting the monstrosity that is No Child Left Behind.

On this list, only the proposal of 20 new nuclear plants would have clear and dramatic effect. If we want our energy needs met in the next 20 years without maintaining our enormous fossil fuel consumption, nuclear power is the only solution with guaranteed returns. All other solutions are still speculative as to whether they’d meet demand. While wind power, solar power, bio-fuels and hyrdo-electric power should and will all have a role to play, a serious energy plan must include nuclear power. Otherwise, we’re just doubling-down on alternative sources with no guaranteed return.

• Democrats are asked to serve in his administration, he holds weekly news conferences and, like the British prime minister, answers questions publicly from lawmakers. “I will respect the responsibilities the Constitution and the American people have granted Congress,” the senator said, “and will, as I often have in the past, work with anyone of either party to get things done for our country.”

The best is saved for last. This is one of the key reasons I like McCain (and one of the reasons many Republicans don’t). The man has a record of bipartisanship. Unlike Obama, who talks big about unity but spent his Senate term voting and acting solidly Democratic, McCain has bridged the two parties time and time again. When he says he’ll have Democrats in his administration, you know he isn’t just talking about token Democrats. And his desire to have British-style meetings with Congress is brilliant and bold. Our President should be more available and more accountable to Congress as they are our direct representatives. After eight years of the secretive George Bush, an available John McCain is a pleasing idea.