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本文是该期其中一篇,电子书为英文原版,无中文翻译.

[2008.09.20] 美国总统大选:美国并不在理想状态

The presidential election

美国总统大选

America not quite at its best

美国并不在理想状态

The election has taken a nasty turn. This is mainly the Republicans’ fault

大选开始恶毒了起来,这主要是共和党的错

AS RECENTLY as a few months ago, it seemed possible to hope that this year’s presidential election would be a civilised affair. Barack Obama and John McCain both represent much that is best about their respective parties. Mr Obama is intelligent, inspiring and appears by instinct to be a consensus-seeking pragmatist. John McCain has always stood for limited, principled government, and has distanced himself throughout his career from the religious ideologues that have warped Republicanism. An intelligent debate about issues of the utmost importance-how America should rebuild its standing in the world, how more Americans could share in the proceeds of growth-seemed an attainable proposition.

几个月之前,今年的大选看起来有可能是一场文明的竞赛。巴拉克奥巴马和约翰麦凯恩都代表了他们各自党派最好的一面。奥巴马聪明,有感染力,似乎骨子里就是一个始终寻求共识的实用主义者。麦凯恩一直以来都支持自律的有限政府,并且始终和扭曲共和主义的宗教意识形态人士保持一定距离。他们非常有可能就一些极端重要议题-如何使美国在国际社会中重树形像,如何让更多的美国人共享发展的成果-展开睿智的辩论。

It doesn’t seem so now. In the past two weeks, while banks have tottered and markets reeled, the contending Democrats and Republicans have squabbled and lied rather than debated. Mr McCain’s team has been nastier, accusing Mr Obama of sexism for calling the Republican vice-presidential candidate a pig, when he clearly did no such thing. Much nastier has been the assertion that Mr Obama once backed a bill that would give kindergarten children comprehensive sex education. Again, this was a distortion: the bill Mr Obama backed provided for age-appropriate sex education, and was intended to protect children from sex offenders.

但从现在看来,这种情形不会发生了。在银行和市场都步履维艰的过去两周内,竞争中的民主党和共和党不仅没有展开预期的辩论,反而为一些小事喋喋不休,胡言乱语。麦凯恩团队相对而言更恶劣一些:他们说奥巴马把共和党副总统候选人称为猪,以此指责他有性别歧视,而事实上奥巴马根本没有这么说过。更有甚者他们声称奥巴马曾经支持过一项要求为幼儿园儿童提供全面的性教育的法案。这种说法也是在扭曲事实:奥巴马支持的这个法案要求为儿童提供与其年龄相适的性教育,以保护他们免受性侵犯。

These kinds of slurs seem much more personal, and therefore unpleasant, than the more routine distortions seen on both sides. Team McCain accuses Mr Obama of planning to raise taxes for middle-income Americans (in fact, the Democrat’s plan raises them only for those earning more than $250,000); Mr Obama claims Mr McCain wants to fight in Iraq for 100 years (when the Republican merely agreed that he would gladly keep bases there for that long to help preserve the peace, as in Germany) and caricatures him far too readily as a Bush toady (when Mr McCain’s record as an independent senator has been anything but that).

上述这类攻击比两党常规的歪曲事实的行为更加针对个人,因此也更加让人感觉不快。麦凯恩团队指责奥巴马计划对中产阶级美国人增税(事实上,他的计划只针对那些年收入在25万美元以上的人);奥巴马声称麦凯恩希望伊战持续100年(而后者只是声称,为了维持伊拉克的和平,他很乐意把美军的军事基地保留足够长时间,就如同在德国一样);奥巴马还把麦凯恩描绘为布什的翻版(麦凯恩作为一个独立参议员的记录毫无疑问否定了这一点)。

An issue of life and life

生命议题和生命本身

The decision to descend into tactics such as the kindergarten slur shows that America is back in the territory of the “culture wars”, where the battle will be less about policy than about values and moral character. That is partly because Mr Obama’s campaign, perhaps foolishly, chose to make such a big deal of the virtues of their candidate’s character. Most people are more concerned about the alarming state of the economy than anything else; yet the Democrats spent far more time in Denver talking about Mr Obama’s family than his economic policy. The Republicans leapt in, partly because they have a candidate with a still more heroic life story; partly because economics is not Mr McCain’s strongest suit and his fiscal plan is pretty similar to Mr Bush’s; but mostly because painting Mr Obama as an arrogant, elitist, east-coast liberal is an easy way of revving up the Republican Party’s base and what Richard Nixon called the “silent majority” .

共和党采取”幼儿园谣言”这类下三滥的手段说明,美国又开始回到”文化冲突”这条老路上了。在这种情况下,竞选的重点不再是政策而是价值观和道德品质。竞选之所以回到这条路上部分是因为奥巴马的竞选团队,也许是有点愚蠢地,大肆宣传他们的候选人的优点美德。相对其他方面,大部分民众更加关心严峻的经济形势;但民主党在丹佛却把更多的时间用在讲述奥巴马的家庭故事上,而不是宣传其经济政策。共和党也打”文化冲突”牌,部分是因为他们的候选人有一个更加有英雄气概的故事;部分是因为经济并不是麦凯恩的强项,而他的财政计划和布什的极其相似;但最主要的是因为把奥巴马描绘成一个傲慢,精英主义,东岸气息的自由主义者是稳定共和党基础和蛊惑尼克松所称的”沉默的大多数”人士的捷径。

The decision to play this election, like that of 2004, as a fresh instalment of the culture wars is disappointing to those who thought Mr McCain was more principled than that. By choosing Sarah Palin as his running-mate he made a cynical tryst with a party base that he has never much liked and that has never much liked him. Mr McCain’s whole candidacy rests on his assertion that these are perilous times that require a strong and experienced commander-in-chief; but he has chosen, as the person who may be a 72-year-old heartbeat away from the presidency, someone who demonstrably knows very little about international affairs or the economy.

像2004年一样,今年的大选再一次大打”文化”牌,让那些原以为麦凯恩比布什更加自律的人大失所望。通过选择萨拉佩琳作为竞选伙伴,麦凯恩与原来那些他不怎么喜欢并且也不怎么喜欢他的共和党基础人士达成了妥协。麦凯恩的整个竞选活动基于这样一个理念:现在是一个危机四伏的时代,美国需要有一个强力的,有经验的三军统帅;但他却像一个远离政治的72岁老人一样,选择了佩琳这位大家公认对国际事务和经济问题都不怎么了解的人。

What Mrs Palin does do, as a committed pro-lifer, is to ensure that the evangelical wing of the Republican party will turn out in their multitudes. Mr McCain has thus placed abortion, the most divisive cultural issue in America, at the centre of his campaign. His defenders claim that it is too big an issue to be ignored, that he has always opposed abortion, that culture wars are an inevitable part of American elections, and that it was only when he appointed Mrs Palin that the American public started to listen to him. All this is true: but the old Mr McCain, who derided the religious right as “agents of intolerance”, would not have stooped to that.

佩琳所能够做的是,作为一个忠实的反堕胎人士,她能够确保共和党内的绝大多数福音教派人士积极投票。麦凯恩也因此把堕胎这个美国最具争议性的文化议题,置于竞选的核心地位。他的支持者们声称:这个议题非常重要,因而不能被轻易忽略过去;麦凯恩一直以来反对堕胎;文化冲突是美国竞选不可避免的一部分;只有在他选择佩琳以后,美国才开始倾听他的想法。这些都是真的:但是曾经嘲笑宗教右派为”不容异见者”代言人的老麦凯恩,不应该堕落成现在这样。
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