The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of AWN, Inc. and its affiliates.
In response to the recent article by columnist Mark Simon, I fired off a letter to AWN, protesting what I feel is Simon's incredibly biased attack on the right, and his irrational statements about the election. AWN's publisher did the stand-up thing and invited me to submit an "op-ed" piece as a counterpoint to Simon's article. Below is my retort to Simon.
As Election Day '08 draws near, it's obvious that this election represents the crossing of the Rubicon for America. As voters, We the People have a choice to make, and it's a dramatically different one than we've faced before. In our generation, we've never had to face a decision that offers such stark contrasts -- Obama, the anti-war, anti-big business, big-government candidate or McCain, the pro-business, anti-tax, political maverick -- who in any other year would be described as a moderate (in almost every respect, except for his position on the war).
Those on the left would have you believe that the choice we face is between the "progressive" ideas of the cool, calm and collected Obama, versus a senile, mad dog (McCain) prone to rash decisions and irresponsible positions on the war, the economy, and our future. In fact, AWN columnist Mark Simon took it upon himself to take a poll of animators and artists. He published no methodology to attest to the accuracy of his poll, nor did he spell out how his demographic sample compared to the population of artists and animators at large. None of this, however, stopped him from using the conclusions he drew to justify what can (in fairness) only be described as a left-wing rant, simultaneously vilifying McCain and promoting Obama as the Obvious Choice for Our Troubled Times. In a tone that I would characterize as smug, condescending, and at times, vitriolic, Simon proceeded to paint Obama as the rightful heir to the über-cool Rat Pack of the '60s. You have only to look at his caricatures of Senators Obama and McCain to understand Simon's unrestrained hatred of All Things Conservative and his undying affection for (as Oprah calls him), The One.
But pause with me for a nanosecond, and let's consider a few (verifiable) facts, and see if Mr. Simon has all the answers.
First of all, let's look at the contenders for the highest office in the land. Barack Obama is an overnight success by anyone's measure. He has served less than one complete (six-year) term in the U.S. Senate, and has little more political experience under his belt in the Illinois legislature. He has neither taken the lead on nor written any legislation in his time in the Senate, and his voting record earned him the title of the single most liberal member of that body. His biggest claim to fame prior to announcing his candidacy was to give the keynote address at the Democrats' convention four years ago. His foreign policy experience is limited to his recent whirlwind tour that culminated in his vaunted speech in Berlin ("Ich bin ein Progressiver!") You can certainly argue that "experience isn't everything" and you "think Obama's got better plans for the country" -- and that's your right as an American. However, you gotta admit, the guy's a little light in the loafers when it comes to an actual record.
John McCain has a well-documented background as a war hero/prisoner of war, and U.S. senator. He has a number of pieces of legislation to his name, as well as a number of bpartisan achievements, most notably his brokering of a compromise to break the deadlock over federal judicial appointments, and the McCain/Feingold campaign finance law. McCain has a long and storied history of voting his conscience instead of towing [sic] the party line, and in the process delighting Democrats and infuriating Republicans. In fact, his voting record reflects that, and shows him to be a very middle-of-the-road moderate. Among the more conservative Republicans, he's called a RINO (Republican In Name Only.) Ask 10 conservatives who they wanted as their nominee this year, and I'll wager McCain was nobody's first choice. Or second. In fact, McCain won the nomination for two reasons -- no conservative candidate was able to coalesce support to the tipping point, and McCain was the media darling. (Remember, McCain was all but out of the race before the Florida primary.) In fact, the media has (up until they collectively jumped in the tank for Obama) had a love affair with McCain for years. He was the only Republican many on the left could stand -- or grudgingly admire. But to paint McCain as a conservative? That's a big stretch.
Let's talk VPs. It's no secret that every presidential candidate picks a VP based on what he (or she) can do for the ticket. In days gone by, most VPs were chosen to balance the ticket geographically. Today, it's to shore up foreign policy street cred (Biden) or enthuse the base into supporting a RINO (Palin). That's not shocking, nor is it a bad thing -- it's a political necessity. Both candidates picked VP nominees to give themselves a boost. In McCain's case, it worked. He no longer has to worry about the GOP base. By all accounts, it was a bold, daring move. (As a conservative, I wish Palin was at the top of the ticket, for I agree with her politics far more than I do McCain's.) In Obama's case, I see Biden as a safe, albeit uninspired choice. Picking Hillary would have been a game-changer, but I don't think he could afford the associated baggage that pick would have carried along with it. There were others he could have picked, but Biden offered the cover of some foreign policy experience that Obama lacks. So be it.
So to be fair, let's paint Obama on the far left, and McCain just to the right of center. (Remember, this is not conjecture -- their voting records back this up.) Biden is almost as far to the left as Obama, while Palin is a genuine conservative, to McCain's centrist. Ironically, by shoring up his support with core Republican voters, McCain committed the one, unpardonable sin against the media -- he picked a conservative running mate. (The horror!) Keep in mind, with Obama in the race, McCain could have picked Ted Kennedy for a running mate (he did actually consider picking Joe Liberman, by many reports), and it would have done him no good on the liberal side of things. As far as the Left is concerned, Obama is The Chosen One -- no others need apply.
This election is far more about political philosophy than it ever was about policy. Don't believe me? Why did McCain suggest a federal buyout of failing mortgages, allowing homeowners to refinance based on the current (depressed) value of their homes? That's hardly a plank in the conservative platform. In fact, Obama and McCain have been all but indistinguishable on their Band-Aid approach to fixing the economy. No, what separates them is something far deeper -- and interestingly enough, far more important as to the ultimate direction of the country.
Take away the war as an issue, and even the economy (which will eventually get better -- sooner or later), and let's look at Obama's core principles. He fundamentally believes that the correct thing to do is to take money from those that are well off and redistribute those funds to those that have less. When he said, "I want to spread that wealth around," that was a clear signal -- he wants to use tax policy to redistribute income to promote "equality." He's even publicly admitted that while this may do harm to the economy, he'll push ahead with his plans, because it's the "right thing to do."
Now there is a name for any kind of government system that features income redistribution. It's called socialism. To some, "socialism" is but a buzzword -- a sort of Boogeyman to those on the Right. But socialism is real, and its effects can be seen everywhere it's been embraced. Socialism sounds great at face value -- but socialism works only in the lab. In the wild, it runs smack dab up against human nature -- and fails miserably. Socialism holds that the needs of the collective outweigh the rights of the individual, and no individual's contributions are worth more to the collective than any other member's could be. Human nature denies and invalidates this theory. Let's say you have a man who earns $20,000 a year, versus one who earns $200,000 a year. Under socialism, the man making $200,000 is taxed heavily, so that the government can give "rebates" and other entitlements to the man making $20,000 a year. Problem is the guy who makes $20K a year has no real incentive to make more money. He learns that if he is patient, the government will take money from the rich and give it to him. Likewise, the man who makes $200,000 has no incentive to work harder... in fact he has every reason to work less, so he too can fall below the poverty line and have someone else make money for him.
Don't believe me? For all the talk about Obama lowering the taxes of the middle class, understand this, 40% of the people in America pay no federal income taxes. When they receive a "rebate" it is really a welfare entitlement in disguise. (How can you get a rebate, when you never paid anything into the system?) The logical fallacy of Obama's plan is that he plans to tax those making over $200,000, plus he wants to raise corporate taxes.
Raising corporate taxes sounds great, doesn't it? I mean, why not? It won't hurt anybody, right? Except that it will. It will hurt the very people Obama wants to help, for corporations simply raise their prices to offset the cost of additional taxes. Higher prices hurt everyone -- especially the poor. Higher corporate taxes also mean that employers will have to make cutbacks -- usually in hiring -- in order to afford to stay in business.
For all his faults (perceived or real), John McCain does not want to raise anybody's taxes. Obama sees taxation as a linchpin of his progressive social engineering plan.
Obama strikes me as do most "progressives" -- earnest, well-meaning people that believe if only they have a chance to tinker with social policy, they just know, in their heart of hearts, that they can engineer a better world. Trouble is, human nature is an irresistible force, and as wonderful as their plans may sound on paper, they simply don't work.
Simon also seems to have a major jones against Fox News. Fox features commentators that are on the right (O'Reilly, Hannity) on the left (Colmes, Van Sustern) and in the center (practically everybody else). A number of respected viewer surveys found that ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, and PBS had a monopoly on left-leaning commentators and anchors. I can name one right-wing/moderate at ABC (John Stossel). I could name one at CNN Headline News (Glenn Beck, but he just quit to move to Fox News). Can you honestly, and with a straight face tell me that any other news organization but Fox even tries for "fair and balanced"? The only reason Fox News appears to be right-leaning to Mr. Simon is because all the others lean Left. When you see CBS and ABC as "moderate" or "right-leaning" you need to get your political meter recalibrated.
A huge problem here is the phenomenon that occurs when you get a bunch of like-minded people discussing a topic. You never hear the other side, and you are prone to allow your peers to reinforce your bias, and lead you to think that the other side has no merit, as well as no clue. That's what's happened to the so-called "mainstream media" -- everyone sits around congratulating themselves on how right they are, and each trying to out-do the other on how ideologically pure they can be. (The same problem exists in Hollywood, where many directors make films to impress other directors and the rest of the Hollywood community, instead of telling stories that the public wants to watch.) When you have no input from the other side, you have no perspective. It's that simple. Surround yourself with people that think like you do, and you'll never see the world through the eyes of those who do not agree with you.
Okay... now let's talk about the war. Obama's against it. McCain is for winning it, then going home. My son is a U.S. Marine about to leave for his second tour in Iraq. You wanna know what's really going on over there? Talk to a Marine. They'll tell you that when they are allowed to fight to win (and not have one or more hands tied behind their backs in the name of political correctness), we win. The surge (a McCain idea) has been hugely successful. Of course, you'd hardly know it from the news, because the mainstream media tends to soft-pedal military successes. They love body counts, though. (If it bleeds, it leads.) Forget for a moment the question of "should we have invaded Iraq?" Doesn't matter now. We're there, and by all accounts, it has focused the attentions of Islamic militants on us there. (Better there than over here, surely.) If we leave before we beat the terrorists, we will end up making them stronger -- and likely have to go back to finish the job, with a much higher loss of American lives than if we simply stay and finish the job now. Obama would have us come home at any cost. McCain wants us to win, so we won't have to pay a higher price later. Which sounds like the more responsible policy?
How about that economy, huh? Scare you? It does me, but probably for not the same reasons. I believe, passionately, in the free market, and free enterprise. Any time someone attempts to game the system by violating the rules of supply and demand, problems occur. Our economic mess was caused by greedy executives who thought they could bend the rules and get away with it, and a bunch of legislators that thought they could skew the system in order to get votes. That's bad enough, but the solutions both sides are pushing will only make the depression longer and deeper, and insure it will make recovery more difficult. Why should we trust the same clowns that caused the problem to fix the problem? Now that's scary. Get past the blame-storming and the finger-pointing, and take a look at who was playing ostrich and who was sounding the alarm in the years before the collapse. Democrats Dodd, Frank, Waters, and Schumer (Obama cheerleaders all) maintained that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were healthy. They pushed both organizations to change lending standards to create the entire "sub-prime" market. And they are the first to declare they had nothing to do with the mess. McCain, the Bush administration, and a number of others (on both sides of the aisle) were sounding the alarm years ago, but the Dems would have nothing of it (too many voters to woo). The result is a mess caused by the government, with the Democrats in the lead roles.
McCain has not covered himself in glory here (the suspended campaign was a good idea, poorly executed), but his solutions are at least less dangerous than Obama's. McCain wants to shore up the markets. (We have to take our medicine sooner or later, but at least this won't hurt as much as Obama's ideas.) Obama wants to use this mess as an excuse to enact the second coming of FDR's New Deal. (We're still paying for that one, over 60 years later.) We claim to be a capitalistic society, but when the going gets tough, our politicians hit the panic button and enact legislation that is decidedly anti-capitalistic. We need to stick to our principles. Period.
One more thing. In my reply to Mr. Simon, you didn't hear me bring up anything like Simon's shots at Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, George Bush, or John McCain. (For more of his bile, be sure to read his unexpurgated version, which has extra helpings of hate on the side.) Wonder why? Because I don't hate Obama. Or Biden. I don't like their politics, but I've got nothing against them personally. Obama and Company love to talk about the "politics of hate." Those that would cast the first stone might want to take a look inward, first. I see no value in vilifying Obama or the left. We have a genuine difference of opinion here, on issues that are fundamental to our future. If hate-mongers like Mr. Simon have their way, the election will be decided by their near-worship of Obama as a political idol. That's both wrong -- and dangerous. Far better to decide on the issues, than on a cult of personality, and the followers that think it's okay to hate those that don't agree with them.
The way I look at it, we have three main issues: Winning versus quitting the war, fixing the economic mess, and determining if our country will continue to be a capitalistic society, or a socialistic one. My vote is to win the war, let capitalism do what it does best, and to avoid socialism at all costs. McCain is far from a perfect candidate, but he's far closer to my ideals than is Obama. We are at a crossroads. Do we want to embrace socialism, run away from our responsibilities to win a war, and allow our government to become even more intrusive into our lives? Or do we choose capitalism, honor, and embrace the idea that less government is better government?
Here's an idea -- just say no to the bandwagon techniques, the jingoists, and those that worship at the feet of idols. Let's all try to apply a little logic and reason to this question, and… dare I say... think for ourselves?
Mr. Simon is passionate, no doubt. But his methods -- and his methodology -- reveal not only his bias, but his blindness to his own myopia. We would all be better off if we turned down the rhetoric and started debating facts and ideas -- not slanders and illogical hatreds.
Here's hoping that for all our sakes on both sides that the best man truly does win. Our future, and our country, hangs in the balance.
Brad Kozak is a professional animator, graphic designer, writer, musician and marketing professional, and the owner of grokmedia -- a marketing/advertising/design firm in Amarillo, TX. The opinions he expresses are his own, (although he's willing to share). He can be reached at email@example.com.