Saturday, September 19, 2009

Attack of the Misguided Missiles

Was John McCain being unusually clever this week when he attacked Barack Obama’s plan to scrap the Bush-era, European land-based missile interceptor system?

The Arizona Republican called the president’s decision “misguided,” as in misguided missiles. Or was it just an inadvertent word play, a hasty reaction based on the need to instantly attack anything this president says, proposes, announces, implies or insinuates.

There’s nothing particularly “dovish” about Obama’s decision to support a weapons program which launches U.S. missiles from naval vessels rather than land-based silos in Poland or the Czech Republic. Western European allies tend to think it’s a good idea and so do the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Missile attacks from Iran will still be thwarted. And it’s a money saver.

Also this week, the House voted to streamline the Federal Student Loan Program by ending subsidies to private lenders, a plan which delivers more aid to college students, removes an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and again saves money.

Six out of 173 Republicans supported the measure (which now moves to the Senate). Republican opponents muttered something about “new entitlement spending,” and the elimination of the “innovation of the private sector.” Continuing his onslaught, Representative Joe Kline of Minnesota called the legislation “job killing.” The bill was triggered by last year’s disclosures of suspicious links between private lenders and some college financial aid officers and a tendency by these private lenders to offer – surprise, surprise – less favorable rates than the federal government.

These are not the inflammatory and toxic issues that dominate the current political atmosphere. That’s why they’re particularly useful examples of how Republican legislators think, react and operate.

There is plenty of time for progressive activists, bloggers, thought-leaders, Congressional Democrats and the Administration to pound home to voters the everyday behavior of our opponents.

While Republicans have certainly done damage with their clever and devious manipulation of hot button issues, they continue to be extremely vulnerable for their blind loyalty to business interests, opposition to consumer and environmental protection, knee-jerk support for excessive military spending and, of course, rabid hostility for just about every item on the Obama agenda.

On big picture issues, next up is financial reform.

Here we see obvious opportunities to showcase expected Republican resistance to Wall Street accountability and their anticipated refusal to protect the public from abusive practices.

Whether Democrats lead that charge depends, in part, on their own willingness to take on the financial elite. And, hopefully, the majority in Congress and the White House will do a better job positioning that debate than they did with health care.

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