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Sunday 19 October 2008

McCain -- national punchbag for crisis the Democrats created 

Obama's rise is a cause for concern but voters are too busy being angry at the Republicans, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

The fact that we're in the race at all, within striking distance with a five per cent right track, is a miracle", said one of Senator John McCain's key advisers on Friday, "because the environment is so bad and the headwind is so strong." What he didn't add was that McCain's problems were compounded by his failure to raise his game sufficiently in the last presidential debate.

He scored some hits but no knockout blows and some of his facial expressions were unattractive (grimacing, condescending smiles, even an eye roll), culminating in a terrible photo of him when he almost missed the exit route off stage with his tongue out looking old and deranged. As usual, Obama was cool and intellectually lofty, looked good and made no mistakes.

Because he's so unqualified for the job, and such an unknown quantity, Obama could still be defeated. But voters are blaming President Bush and the whole Republican party for the economic collapse and their anger is being taken out on McCain. The irony is they should be blaming the Democrats: the mystery is why McCain has failed to make that clear.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the economic hell that the world is now experiencing began with the determination of Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party to force mortgage providers to help the poor -- particularly those from ethnic minorities -- to become home owners.

Clinton became alarmed at the rampant success of his policy enforcers, but his attempt to introduce regulation of the sub-prime market was shot down in Congress by his own party, who were in thrall to the powerful Congressional Black Caucus who attacked prudence as racism.

George W Bush's several attempts to rein back mortgage providers were similarly sabotaged. "The Democrats are our family," said the head of Freddie Mac to the meeting of the Black Caucus in 2004 at which Obama was welcomed into the group: "You are our conscience."

There are hundreds of thousands of poor people, black, white and Hispanic, who are now homeless because the Democratic Party allowed itself to be bullied by that caucus. And Obama's failure to question the group's activities is all of a piece with his political record. He talks of change but -- unlike McCain, who is an instinctive and brave reformer -- as a politician he has never questioned the institutions of which he has been part.

As a state senator for eight years, he never challenged corruption in the Democratic political sewer that is Chicago. On the contrary, he sucked up to the power-brokers and wheeler-dealers and chose as his friends people who could help him extend his political base.

When he came on the scene I liked the intelligent, charming, eloquent Obama who beguiled us all with his message of transcending race. My concern then was how little I knew about his political record and I wondered at an arrogance that made him think himself fit for presidential office when he had not even served one full term in the US Senate.

He now alarms me. I've been following the campaign intently for months and I still don't know what makes Obama tick. Is he an attention-seeker like Tony Blair, wanting to be centre stage but not knowing what to do with power when he wins it? Or is he -- as his voting record and his choice of associates suggest -- a radical left-winger who wants to suck a nation of can-do, self-reliant people into the kind of dependency culture we bemoan in Europe and appease enemies abroad? With the help of a Democratic Congress, will he impose on a largely conservative nation the social legislation cherished by a liberal elite? On abortion, his stance is that of radical feminism.

Of course you have to be ruthless to get to the top of politics. But there's something unnerving about Obama's combination of hope-and-change language and merciless destruction of political opponents: he had every other Democratic candidate in his first senatorial election disqualified by having aides find minute, technical flaws in their nomination papers.

While eschewing the politics of race, he has used it to his advantage. John McCain, who has an adopted black daughter, was put on the defensive when accused of having racist supporters. Yet no one has the guts to point out that Obama has played so successfully to the ethnic lobby that polls suggest he will get 95 per cent of the black vote. The newspapers are full of liberal fears that there will be enough racist whites to tilt the election McCain's way, yet it is accepted as legitimate that blacks will vote for Obama because he's black.

The skeletons in McCain's closet are in public view: those in Obama's are neatly packed away. Will any tumble out during the next couple of weeks? I certainly hope so.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards