Sunday, October 19, 2008

Spread the wealth part II

In one other respect I was surprised and, alas, disappointed by the performance of Mr McCain, a man whom in general terms I would hold in the highest esteem.

The Senator turned his nation's attention to a certain "Joe the plumber", supposedly an industrious and ordinary tradesman, whose enterprise depended upon taxes being moderate. Subsequent reports and inquiries have suggested that this Joe is by no means an ordinary tradesman. Although a plumber by profession he does not carry the licence that would guarantee his quality to customers; and it seems his reluctance to pay taxes may extend to not paying those that have already been demanded of him by the authorities.

It appears that Mr McCain is careless; and he would be president of the mightiest and wealthiest nation on earth. For this has not been the only example of his lack of forethought, of failure to consider detail, of failure to ask questions. This has been even more notable in his choice of deputy, Mrs Palin, the governor of Alaska. She, it seems, would happily destroy a species of whale in the pursuit of greed; she would use her office to pursue vendettas within her own family. Her lack of judgement appears only matched by her ignorance of great affairs.

Now a statesman must consider details, must ask questions, must pay attention to small matters. For what if the new President's advisers came to him and urged him to launch an assault on some nation or other, Persia perhaps. Would he take time to satisfy himself that the case was made? Or would he act out of rage, issue commands and then, should there be a moment of calm self-reflection, learn to regret his choice?

Mr McCain may counter that his opponent shows poor judgement in his choice of friends and acquaintances. He must know that in public life one has many acquaintances; it is those whom one chooses to promote, to elevate to high standing that reflect on judgement.

These were matters I repeatedly sought to emphasise to our dear Queen, to share with her the detailed considerations that led me to decide a course of action. Although she sometimes lacked patience in these matters, and indeed frequently urged me to choose instead the words of honey and treacle deployed by Beaconsfield, I do believe my persuasion helped reconcile her to policies that instinctively she would have rejected.


1 comment:

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

First, Mr. Gladstone, I cannot decide whether your description of your previous admiration for Sen. McCain is ironic or not. There has been little to admire in Sen. McCain's career, although he has tried very hard to create a public persona that is congenial, heroic, and sometimes at odds with the desires and policies of his party. In fact, he is susceptible to petty (and not so petty) corruption, easily angered, and as his campaign has demonstrated, volatile and unsure in a crisis.

As for your surprise at the way he uses "spread the wealth" as a negative epithet, the very idea has been derided as unAmerican for decades. We see ourselves as a people for whom wealth is a goal to be achieved, rather than a sum total to be divided by the powers that be. To be sure, the latter description is a caricature created by opponents of progressive taxation. Yet, it has served Republican rhetoric well for two generations to create this image of liberal, Democratic politicians as political pirates thirsting for the wealth of the few to toss willy-nilly out the windows of the Capitol to the mass of undeserving poor.

Our country is in a bad way, as is yours. It has been ill-served by the current Presidential campaign, if for no other reason than, except for the time centered around the collapse of the investment banking industry and the disappearance of credit for large institutions, there has been little attention paid to the most important needs of the American people. Sen. McCain's choice of Gov. Palin is, as you say, not only a symptom of his own lack of seriousness, but has been useful as a distraction, because so much time and effort has been spent trying to figure out who, exactly, she is and might be if elected to the second-highest office in the land (the answers have not been reassuring).

While I am hopeful in the remaining sixteen days that Sen. Obama (who is the junior Senator from my state, IL) will win, the votes have yet to be cast and counted, and anything is possible, as you well know. Let us hope that we Americans show ourselves to be better than our most base fears and bigotries, and less inclined to fall for the political nostrums of snake-oil salesmen like Sen. McCain.