Would We Be Better Off If John McCain Were President?
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Democratic control of the House and Senate fostered by disastrous Republican policies would have severely limited McCain’s ability (as occurred with George W. Bush) to weaken Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance and other programs that aid those most in need. (Yes, domestic spending might have been cut less if McCain had won.)
Had McCain proposed “health insurance reform,” because health insurers saw a golden opportunity to increase their customer base and profits while retaining their control, the Democrats would at least have passed a “public option” as their price for support. And possible Health and Human Services Secretary Newt Gingrich—placed in that position in a clever move to keep him away from economic or foreign policy—might have even accelerated needed improvements in computerizing patient records and other high-tech measures needed to cut health care costs, actions that he touted in his book on the subject.
In foreign and military policy, McCain would surely have approved Gen. David Petraeus’ “Afghanistan surge,” possibly increasing the number of U.S. troops there by 40,000 instead of 33,500. But Gen. Stanley McChrystal would probably have remained at the helm in Afghanistan, since he and his aides would never have disparaged McCain to Rolling Stone . McChrystal might have continued a “counterinsurgency” strategy, observing relatively strict rules of engagement, unlike his successor, Petraeus, who tore up those rules and has instead unleashed a brutal cycle of “counterterror” violence in southern Afghanistan. (Yes, far fewer Afghan civilians might have died had McCain won.)
McCain, like Obama, would probably have destabilized nuclear-armed Pakistan and strengthened militant forces there by expanding drone strikes and pushing the Pakistani military to launch disastrous offensives into tribal areas. And he would have given as much support as has Obama to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s opposition to a peace deal because he believes that present policies of strangling Gaza, annexing East Jerusalem, expanding West Bank settlements and walling off Palestinians are succeeding. (It is possible that a McCain secretary of state might not have incited violence against unarmed American citizens—as did Hillary Clinton when she stated that Israelis, who killed nine unarmed members of the 2010 Gaza flotilla, “have the right to defend themselves” against letter-carrying 2011 Gaza flotilla members.)
While McCain would have wanted to keep 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan until 2014, he might have been forced to reduce their numbers, as has Obama. For McCain would have faced a strengthened and emboldened Democratic Congress, which might have seen electoral gold in responding to polls indicating the public had turned against the Afghanistan War—as well as a far stronger peace movement united against Republicans instead of divided as it now is between the desires for peace and seeing an Obama win in 2012.
Most significantly, if McCain had won, not only would Democrats be looking at a Democratic landslide in the 2012 presidential race, but the newly elected Democratic president in 2013 might enjoy both a 60 percent or higher majority in both houses and a clear public understanding that it was Republican policies that had sunk the economy. He or she might thus be far better positioned to enact substantive reforms than was Obama in 2008, or will Obama even if he is re-elected in 2012.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in March 1933 after a 42-month Depression blamed entirely on the Republicans. Although he had campaigned as a moderate, objective conditions both convinced him of the need for fundamental change—creating a safety net including Social Security, strict financial regulation, programs to create jobs, etc.—and gave him the congressional pluralities he needed to achieve them. A Democratic president taking office in 2013 after 12 years of disastrous Republican economic misrule might well have been likewise pushed and enabled by objective events to create substantive change.