The only presidential poll that matters is the one on Election Day, when voters will put an end to what seems like an endless campaign. I don't see much point in speculating about who's ahead on this or that day or parsing every word the candidates utter.
All we know for certain is that on Nov. 4, either Barack Obama or John McCain will become the president-elect, God willing and the Creeks don't rise. None of the minor candidates on the ballot has a chance. If you wish to waste a vote on one of them and it makes you feel better, go ahead, but the man who will affect your life during the next four years will be either Obama or McCain.
Neither man has much executive experience. They are the CEOs of their campaigns, and McCain had some experience as a squadron commander in the Navy. Both men have spent all of their political careers in the legislative branch.
That fact has this bearing on the subject: The essence of the legislative branch is compromise. Good legislators know how to compromise because they know that without compromise nothing will get done. You might want to keep that in mind as both men modify their positions. Accusing politicians of flip-flopping has become a rather worn political weapon, but the fact is, both men are used to compromising, and that always involves at least a slight change of position.
I would think that at least those of you who share my displeasure with the Bush administration would have had enough of a president who refuses to compromise or change his position. The world is in a constant state of change, and quite often our knowledge is constantly changing. It is only sensible to assess the situation as it is in real time before making a final decision. That means it is difficult to say with certainty in July what you will do next February.
Who knows what the situation will be next February in the economy, in the wars and in domestic affairs? Other than my assumption that the weather will be cooler, I certainly don't know what the world will be like or if I will even be around to see it. We humans have a tendency to delude ourselves that we are much more in control than we actually are.
The custom of some Muslims of adding "In shaa' Allah" (if God wills) to the end of most of their statements of intention is a good one. It is a reminder that all plans are, in fact, contingency plans, subject to interruption or changes because of things we don't control and can't foresee. The old Southern expression "God willin' and the Creeks don't rise" says the same thing. I grew up thinking that phrase referred to flooding creeks, but someone corrected me. It refers to an uprising of the Creek Indians, which in the 1700s and early 1800s could put a crinkle in anybody's plans.
One other caution about politicians: The devil is not only in the details, but in the definitions, and politicians are experts at saying things without defining their terms. "Reasonable gun control," for example, depends entirely on what you define as reasonable. A total ban on handgun ownership was thought reasonable by the pooh-bahs in Washington, D.C. I think banning firearm ownership by convicted felons is reasonable, provided they are not branded as convicted felons for their whole lives. A "phased withdrawal of troops" depends on what you mean by phased — so many a month or so many a year? No permanent bases in Iraq can mean bases for 50 years. That's not permanent.
It's sad that so many of our political leaders and our own government have adopted the habit of trying to mislead us or at least to hide the truth from us. Maybe we can break them of that habit — God willing.
July 15, 2008
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.
© 2008 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.