Excerpt from DAVID BROOKS at the NYT, pointing out that it wasn't Obama who defied the old corrupt Washington system; It was McCain. Once again we see the paradox that McCain actually is what Obama falsely claims to be
Farm net income is up 56 percent over the past two years, yet the farm bill plows subsidies into agribusinesses, thoroughbred breeders and the rest. The growers of nearly every crop will get more money. Farmers in the top 1 percent of earners qualify for federal payments. Under the legislation, the government will buy sugar for roughly twice the world price and then resell it at an 80 percent loss. Parts of the bill that would have protected wetlands and wildlife habitat were deleted or shrunk.
My colleagues on The Times's editorial page called the bill "disgraceful." My former colleagues at The Wall Street Journal's editorial page ripped it as a "scam." Yet such is the logic of collective action; the bill is certain to become law. It passed with 81 votes in the Senate and 318 in the House - enough to override President Bush's coming veto. Nearly everyone in Congress got something. The question amid this supposed change election is: Who is going to end this sort of thing?
Barack Obama talks about taking on the special interests. This farm bill would have been a perfect opportunity to do so. But Obama supported the bill, just as he supported the 2005 energy bill that was a Christmas tree for the oil and gas industries. Obama's support may help him win Iowa, but it will lead to higher global food prices and more hunger in Africa. Moreover, it raises questions about how exactly he expects to bring about the change that he promises.
If elected, Obama's main opposition will not come from Republicans. It will come from Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill. Already, the Democratic machine is reborn. Lobbyists are now giving 60 percent of their dollars to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The pharmaceutical industry, the defense industry and the financial sector all give more money to Democrats than Republicans. If Obama is actually going to bring about change, he's going to have to ruffle these sorts of alliances. If he can't do it in an easy case like the farm bill, will he ever?
John McCain opposed the farm bill. In an impassioned speech on Monday, he declared: "It would be hard to find any single bill that better sums up why so many Americans in both parties are so disappointed in the conduct of their government, and at times so disgusted by it." McCain has been in Congress for decades, but he has remained a national rather than a parochial politician. The main axis in his mind is not between Republican and Democrat. It's between narrow interest and patriotic service. And so it is characteristic that he would oppose a bill that benefits the particular at the expense of the general.
In fact, in this issue, McCain may have found a theme to unify his so far scattershot campaign. He has always been an awkward ideological warrior. In any case, this year may not be the best year for Republicans to launch a right versus left crusade. But McCain has infinitely better grounds than Obama to run as a do-what-it-takes reformer. He has a long record of taking on not only the other party, but his own. In the current Weekly Standard, the brilliant young writer Yuval Levin suggests that McCain put reforming America's decrepit governing institutions at the center of his presidential race. Levin points out that the health care system, the immigration system, the regulatory system and the entitlement system all need reforms. Instead of talking about personal honor or perpetual tax cuts, McCain should focus relentlessly on modernization. In fact, Monday in Chicago, McCain declared: "In all my reforms, the goal is not to denigrate government but to make it better, not to deride government but to restore its good name."
Obama, sad to say, failed the farm bill test. McCain may have found a theme for a nation that has lost faith in its own institutions.
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