Legacies might not be what is expected

August 31, 2008|By Robert Gary

The legacy of an Obama or McCain presidency after one term in office is hard to predict.

On Jan. 30, 1976, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case of Buckley vs. Valeo. By any standard, this has to be one of the worst decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court. It put political money on a par with free speech, essentially saying that money is a form of speech.

The First Amendment is the most powerful single utterance in the U.S. Constitution, so when political contributions are brought under its protection, they are well-protected indeed, maybe more protected than they should be. Under Buckley vs. Valeo, Congress cannot set spending limits in federal elections.

The result is that we have a parliament of whores in Washington, D.C. Everything, short of provable vote buying, is O.K. Money, which everyone knew "talks," has been elevated to the highest level of dignity and protection afforded by our laws.


Speech of the deliberative variety has been downgraded to the point where it has actually almost completely disappeared. Congressional offices in Washington operate more as banks than anything else. Legislators read into the record, by turn, scripts that have been prepared for them by their clients on K Street. The big money boys now do all the big talking in Washington.

McCain's legacy would be real progress against this massive blight that blinds and binds the USA. He would kick the money changers out of the temple. He would make our Congress a place of good-faith, self-government instead of an ornate waiting room in a house of ill-repute. In his heart, John McCain is "burning like a fire in the sun" to cure this problem.

Money would return to being what it is - the medium for commerce. Speech would be understood as the vehicle of ideas. Real ideas - not just bought and paid for propaganda, disinformation and mass mind programming using Madison Avenue methods. Humans in America would know again that speech is not money, and money is not speech.

The one who can solve this problem is the maverick. It's ironic, because he thought his legacy would be in the foreign policy area - some kind of acceptable closure in the Middle East - but that is not to be.

In the Summer of 2008 Vincent Bugliosi's book, "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder" was published. Vincent has the case against Bush laid out about as well as anyone could do it. For now, let's just say the war in Iraq was a bad idea.

The justification for the Iraq war has sort of wandered all over the map, and finally now it seems to have settled on bringing democracy to the Middle East and thereby transforming the Middle East. It's hard to imagine a less constitutional or more arrogant mission upon which to maintain a U.S. armed force overseas.

Maybe the Middle East doesn't want democracy. Maybe they have their own traditional tribal ways of governing their own people. Maybe whatever they want should be up to them to find and choose and not up to us to bring to them. It's a question of cultural imperialism, not so different from colonial rule.

Now, seemingly out of nowhere, comes Barack Obama, the man who gets it. Obama's idea is a more modest and restrained USA on the international scene. Strength, but with a little humility. Not so much Great White Fleet - a little more of a team player in the community of civilized nations. Right now, most of the people in the world hate America's guts - not our music, not our products, just our guts. Obama would be the man who gives the world a break from Absolute Certainty.

Would it be helpful to the United States to have its guts not hated all over the world? It would, in at least two ways. It would help us contain the influence of the Chinese and the Russians, neither of whom currently wish us well. Imagine if we could have some real allies - people who trust us, and admire our newfound modesty and restraint as an international player. Obama doesn't know much, but that doesn't matter. World leaders are not looking for history lessons, political philosophy or moral guidance from American presidents. They would be happy with someone who is charming, modest, a quick study and ready to move the world out of miasmas that Blunderman has stumbled us into.

Obama is uniquely qualified to bring rational people into a community of intelligent response to the threat that all civilized humanity faces. He would be our diplomat-in-chief. His legacy would be the restoration of American influence in the world by getting us better liked, better respected, and better trusted. Obama is a methodical, quiet man, who is not absolutely fixed in his opinions. He has a flexible mind, an agile mind, a mind that could fit in with others without shaping and dominating everything. America must become a pillar in the Parthenon of Civilization, not the Capstone on the pyramid of New World Order. Obama's legacy would be better outcomes for the U.S. in the world. It's ironic, because Obama thought his legacy was going to be along the lines of The Great Society, a second War on Poverty in the U.S., but that is not to be.

Robert Gary is a Hagerstown resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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