Reaction to National Service Forum

McCain is talking now on volunteerism.  He sounds so calm, confident and secure.  Where is the bitterness?  His mission is to charm, reassure and show respect for national service.  He praised Obama’s community service.  He praised Teach for America, but mischaracterized it as a program where volunteers go teach in inner-city schools, leaving out the fact that Teach for America also sends volunteers to rural America.  He praised the Peace Corps.  He cautioned government not to get too involved with administering the programs and I presume not to get more involved with funding.  But if not funded adequately by the government, our national service programs would collaspe – not only the Peace Corps, but Americorps and it’s offshoots like Citiyear.  He would not require any kind of national service and argues that the volunteer model works, that the major national service programs are oversubscribed.  I don’t know if that is true, but it strikes me that McCain thinks, as do most Republicans, that social services can be adequately performed by volunteers.  Remember Bush the Elder’s 1000 points of light?  Why invest in social programs when we can get the services for free, at least that is the message.  On this point I completely disagree.  We must continue to invest in our social infrastructure, to provide a safety net for all Americans who struggle or may struggle in the future; to support our public schools, not with a volunteer force but with serious funding on the level of what we spend on military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries we have destabilized in our wayward war on terrorism and thirst for oil.

McCain’s tone has been eerily civil, nothing like his negative campaign strategy which has sought to distract the media from covering and talking about issues of substance with Palin and phony lipstick outrage. He even said tonight, as if he were completely innocent, that Americans want to focus on the issues that matter.

Obama seems to be commited to funding national service programs, expanding them, unlike McCain and providing incentives to attract more young people to the ideals of national service.  But ROTC at Columbia?  I doubt it would happen.  I don’t remember why Obama favors the return of the ROTC to his alma matter, but I am a little surprised to hear of his support for the idea.  I don’t think the Republicans can continue to call him the most liberal candidate ever.  Not that the L word is anything to shrink away from, but I think if you look at Obama’s positions, he is more of a centrist a la Bill Clinton.

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