This is a really interesting graph comparing what Obama and McCain talk about on their websites. The immediate thing that strikes me is how much more policy is on Obama’s website and how many more issues he discusses. Does McCain really have no positions on technology, urban policy, science, social security, civil rights or any of the other issues that he doesn’t have anything written on his website about? On some of them, such as social security, I seriously doubt it. But does anyone think that McCain or his campaign have given any serious thought to urban policy or poverty? I certainly haven’t seen any evidence of it.
What this really comes back to is Tyler Cowen’s observation of a couple of weeks ago:
Trade aside, so far I’ve yet to see many actual policy proposals from the McCain camp. Mostly I’ve seen attempts to signal that they won’t do anything too offensive to the party’s right wing. Very few of these trial balloons seem to be ideas that McCain had expressed much previous loyalty to. I don’t even think we should be analyzing these statements as policy proposals. We should be wondering why the Republican Party has given up on the idea of policy proposals.
The graph didn’t even mention trade as an issue, so I hopped on over to McCain’s website and sure enough, I didn’t see anything at all about trade. It’s not listed on his issues page but as a part of his economic page he includes this statement under the banner of promoting trade and global competitiveness:
John McCain Will Lower Barriers To Trade. Ninety-five percent of the world’s customers lie outside our borders and we need to be at the table when the rules for access to those markets are written. To do so, the U.S. should engage in multilateral, regional and bilateral efforts to reduce barriers to trade, level the global playing field and build effective enforcement of global trading rules. These steps would also strengthen the U.S. dollar and help to control the rising cost of living that hurts our families.
John McCain Will Act To Make American Workers More Competitive. We must prepare the next generation of workers by making American education worthy of the promise we make to our children and ourselves. We must be a nation committed to competitiveness and opportunity. We must fight for the ability of all students to have access to any school of demonstrated excellence. We must place parents and children at the center of the education process, empowering parents by greatly expanding the ability of parents to choose among schools for their children.
Thats it. Nothing more than some boilerplate about how trade is good and “leveling the playing field.” He’s got nothing about how he envisions trade deals be structured, who they should be with and how he’s going to build political consensus about trade, either here or abroad. But that’s not even the worst part. McCain doesn’t even begin to grapple with US farm subsidies and agricultural policy, which, along with European reticence about the same issues, are the major things holding up the Doha round of multilateral trade talks. McCain talks a lot about trade on the stump, so it’s not like he hasn’t thought about the issue. Its just that his campaign doesn’t seem to have any plans about it.
It’s not as though McCain just got in the race. He’s been actively running for President for over a year now. Yet somehow, he hasn’t articulated much of anything about what he’d like to do as President. I’ve got a great idea of what Barack Obama’s priorities would be as President. He’d push for a universal healthcare plan without individual mandates but with generous subsidies for low income individuals. He’d push for a cap and auction system to address global warming. He’d set about pulling American troops out of Iraq. He’d reorient America’s diplomacy and foreign policy around leveraging our soft power and work within international institutions. With McCain, who knows. He’s made people believe that he’d want to push immigration and global warming legislation, but he’s never explicitly said it. We know he’d keep troops in Iraq throughout his presidency and would run a foreign policy that broadly similar, or, as in his approach to Russia and China, even more radical than Bush’s.
But there are no details. McCain has simply never addressed a lot of these issues. Frankly, it’s hard to see how McCain could have gotten this far without addressing a lot of this. But given the way policy has been covered throughout this campaign, I’d be quite surprised if he was forced to address any of this before November.