I and my two eldest went to the McCain townhall in Warren, Michigan (capital city of the Reagan Democrats) this morning. A salute to Maddie and Dale--they were perfectly well-behaved--not only could I have asked for better behavior, I wouldn't have dreamed of it beforehand. Dale III was interested in a pilot who flew planes off aircraft carriers, and Maddie was impressed by the whole refusing-early-release-after-capture story.
The townhall was held at Andiamo's on Fourteen Mile Road, and was a packed house. My sandbagging son, who attempts to hide the fact he's reading just fine for his age read the McCain sign on the marquee outside. Because of the overflow crowd, we parked at the McDonald's across the street, bought snacks for the kids and coffee for me to assuage my guilt, and then went on over.
There really wasn't a bad seat in the house as they'd set up a theatre in the round experience with the Senator in the middle. We waited a while, the kids munched McNuggets (cheers to Andiamo's for indulging people bringing) and I recognized a mom from our homeschooling group there with 2 of her daughters (thanks, Marcy, for the post-birth feast you dropped off!), all of them appropriately bestickered. It was a pretty good mix of Macomb County folks, heavy on local pols (including some more Dem-oriented) and enthusiastic veterans, but also well-leavened with yutes and several families like ours.
After a delayed arrival, the Senator arrived to cheers. He looked fit and energetic to me. If I work very hard, I'll be in that good a shape when I'm 71. He spoke on three points before he took questions. (1) The economy. "Just like the textile jobs in South Carolina, the auto jobs here aren't coming back." "But we are a Judeo-Christian society, so that means we don't leave anybody behind." He then spoke about revising our displaced worker laws ("we have six, and none of them are working"), improving retraining and investing in technology. A little vague, but a nice specific acknowledgment about the utter failure of displaced workers' laws. My brother-in-law's factory closed with no notice whatsoever, despite the alleged protections of the WARN Act.
(2) The War in Iraq. He thumped the fact that he was the first politician to criticize the Rumsfeld "light" strategy and called for something like the surge. It's good being right. But he also emphasized that political improvement has to happen, and is happening, mentioning the law permitting Baath party members to participate in public life that was passed this week. He also called for the reinstitution of an "honored American tradition," namely that political battles must "end at the water's edge."
(3) Foreign affairs. He mentioned the incidents in the Straits of Hormuz, Vladimir Putin's Soviet tendencies, Pakistan's instability and other cheery notes. Enough said.
The townhall part of the meeting was really interesting--it was a truly open forum. I tried to ask about ESCR, but being in the Uker seats kept it from happening. Given the lighting, I don't think he saw that far out. The questions ranged from the comical ("How about Lou Dobbs for your VP?" "No.") to the fawning ("Beef up your Press Releases with more good stuff!") to the incisive ("What are you going to do to address the subprime mortgage systemic failures, such as the role of credit agencies in the collapse?"). This last prompted him to cede the floor for a time to the former chair of Hewlett-Packard, one of his economic advisors. "I don't know everything, but I'll get the best people to help me." The former CEO gave an intelligible, direct answer, which made sense. Contrary to the ready portrayal by his opponents, his first thought was to give the voluntary measures in the mortgage industry a chance to work, then evaluate it for further remedies, if necessary.
Abortion came up, and the boilerplate about overturning Roe and getting better justices was the response. It's been the response of the GOP and in 2007, it finally started working. I should expect more, but I'll take it.
Yes, he brought up CAFE and climate change, right in the belly of the Big 3 beast. Say what you will about the man, he's not shy about stating his viewpoints anywhere. However, he did a nice job of linking both to the war and our $400 bn annually spent on foreign oil, "much of which eventually ends up in the hands of those who want to kill us." Why not wean ourselves off it, then?
A lot of conservatives accuse liberals of engaging in 9/10 thought patterns. Guess what--conservatives have their own problems in this respect. Yes, Payne (the Detroit News' editorial cartoonist) actually uses "war leader" as derogatory. Sounds an awful lot like someone who desperately wants to take another holiday from history.
Down that path lies madness.
There is a war on. And if there appears to be exactly one candidate in both parties who's acting like it, then the problem lies with us.