Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The first 100 days

President John McCain shakes up politics-as-usual with his maverick style

I didn't really want to write a "100 days" evaluation of Obama's Presidency, because it's an arbitrary time period to measure. So I thought what I would do instead is meditate deeply and tune in to that alternate-dimension Earth where John McCain won the Presidential election in 2008 and write a piece about President McCain's first 100 days.

A Maverick 100 Days for President McCain by mccainfanboy

John McCain's signature "maverick" style continues to be on display in his new role as President of the United States.

For instance, announcing that he didn't intend to observe the status-of-forces agreement on withdrawing troops from Iraq and sharply escalating the air war has resulted in widening attacks on Americans from both Sunni and Shi'a fighters, critics charge. But the President insists the difficulties are temporary and that "defeating Al Qa'ida in Iraq is vital to American national security."

Emphasizing the centrality of the "war on terror" to his Presidency, McCain's plans to expand US forces in Afghanistan are putting increasing pressure on the Army and Marines. The drone strike in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad in early April that aimed to kill an alleged Al Qa'ida leader, but which which Pakistani officials say killed 127 civilians instead, has put the country into an uproar and ended Pakistani cooperation for now against "Taliban" groups near the border with Afghanistan.

McCain continues to escalate threats against Iran, sometimes using near-apocalyptic rhetoric. Iran's diplomacy for the last several weeks indicates they expect major hostilities with the US in the near future. This is likely one of the reasons behind the escalating attacks by Shi'a militias and increasing disagreement between the US and the pro-Iranian, Shi'a-dominated regime in Baghdad.

His intransigence on the "enhanced interrogation" torture program has surprised his admirers in the press corps, who nevertheless continue to defend him on the issue. His refusal to released legal memoranda on the program and his adamant opposition to any formal investigation of any kind into the program have so far been effective. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has backed McCain on the issue, saying, "such an investigation would tear the country apart at a time where we need national unity because we have two wars and face a looming military threat from Iran."

US popularity in the Muslim world continues to sink to near-zero levels in some countries, due to the escalation of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the intense military threats against Iran and the sometimes odd pronouncements from Vice President Palin about Biblical predictions of continual war in the Middle East.

McCain's demanding tone toward NATO allies, his continuation of the torture program and his perceived recklessness toward Iran have caused support for the Afghanistan War in Europe to crater during the first three months of his Presidency. NATO leaders in Europe are reported to be close to an agreement to withdraw all European troops from Afghanistan as soon as the end of 2009.

McCain's appointments have drawn criticism from the Democratic left. But all his Cabinet nominees were quickly approved, with the Democrats mounting token opposition only against Jay Bybee's appointment as Attorney General.

Although administration officials admit that the 17% unemployment rate, which most economic forecasters expect to continue to rise throughout the year, is disturbing, they argue that the recent rise of the Dow Jones back up to the 5000 level is a sign that the economy is beginning to improve.

McCain was successful in preventing Congress from passing any Keynesian-type bailout plan for the economy. His administration contends that the "pro-investment" tax cuts targeted at the upper brackets and the vast expansion of the military budget are already beginning to have a stimulative effect. They also claim that the soaring budget deficit is temporary and can be controlled by reducing Congressional earmarks.

In one of his most visible "maverick" actions, McCain has drawn some criticism from other Republicans for his emergency plan to rescue Bank of America from going into bankruptcy. He argued that such a large bankruptcy, coming so soon after the bankruptcy filing of Citigroup, in addition to those of Chrysler and General Motors, would be a dangerous drag on the economy.

The President's popularity at 52% approval remains remarkably strong, according to many analysts, given the nature of the challenges the country is facing. And many observers believe his optimistic outlook is a major boost to the economy by bolstering consumer and investor confidence.

The President's "maverick" style and occasional flares of temper have created some awkward moments. Most recently, he derided the significance of Spain's troops in Afghanistan despite their sizable losses of life related to that conflict, reportedly saying that the Spaniards were "a bunch of damned cowards". McCain denied the accuracy of the report, but nevertheless stated, "I want to express my sincere regret if anyone was offended by this false report. The NATO allies must stand together in confronting the growing threat of Al Qa'ida."

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