Monday, November 03, 2008

Using my voice

A few weeks ago, I was asked to explain -- if I wished -- who I was voting for and why. Someone I know was undecided and looking for some opinions. I happily offered mine. No one on this forum asked for my thoughts, so feel free to stop reading. No hard feelings.

My vote will go to Obama/Biden. I'd say I fall into the group of people who think the last eight years were among America's worst. Bush and Cheney broke the oaths they took upon their inauguration and failed to defend the Constitution. At times, they flatly ignored it and disregarded it. They stomped on it. Their policies have weakened our economy, destroyed our standing around the world and ruined other countries' opinion of us. The horrible events of Sept. 11 first led to an admirable military action in Afghanistan that should have produced the capture of Osama bin Laden, but Bush/Cheney instead chose to use that as an excuse to attack Iraq just to get the oil there, to make Cheney's former company rich with the rebuilding, and to satisfy Bush's grudge against Saddam Hussein. Iraq has cost billions of dollars, thousands of lives, and time, effort and resources that should be in Afghanistan. On top of that, taxes were cut (mostly for the richest Americans) that led to a deeper debt and budget deficit. When Clinton left office, there was a huge budget surplus -- the country was bringing in more than enough money to cover its expenses -- but Bush destroyed that within two years. I have more gripes -- from Supreme Court appointments to environmental policies and more -- but I won't go into all of them.

As for Obama vs. McCain, I see in Obama a genuine desire to help the country. So much of what has transpired in the past eight-to-12 years has led to the problems today, and Obama brings a fresher face. In 2004, when Obama first came on the scene with his speech at the Democratic convention, I thought he'd make a great president, but I didn't think it would be in 2008, because I thought he'd need more time and more experience. But after seeing what that Washington experience has led to, and what McCain would bring with his long experience, I feel that a fresher face is needed. It's similar to the way companies bring in someone from the outside when they need to get back on track, the way sports teams choose a new manager or coach from outside the program to turn around a sagging club, the way a movie studio changes directors when a film doesn't have the right vision or the way a family hires an interior designer to make over a room when you'd think they would know what they want. Sometimes you need a new perspective, a fresh approach to the task at hand. I think Obama's choice of Biden as his running mate also shows his insight to his own shortcomings. Knowing his own foreign policy experience was lacking, he turned to one of the most experienced and options for a running mate, based on Biden's work in Congress.

Though I don't doubt McCain's love for this country, he worries me. In 2000, I hoped he'd beat Bush in the primaries so that if Gore didn't win, at least the alternative would be a moderate conservative whose positions and values were closer to mine. Back then, McCain had no desire to overturn Roe v. Wade, he truly cared for the environment, he wasn't trying to become president just because it would put a cap on his political career. Even in just the past two or four years, McCain has reversed course -- flip-flopped, as John Kerry's detractors liked to say -- on his own positions. He now wants to appoint Supreme Court justices that would revoke a woman's right to choose; he stands closer to the big oil companies than he does to environmental reform; he's in favor of continuing the reckless Bush tax cuts that he once said he'd allow to expire; and he's admitted that if the immigration bill he once co-wrote came across his desk, he'd veto it. And in 2000, a big reason he lost was the South Carolina primary, during which Bush's team -- led by Karl Rove -- aired dirty and, in some cases, untrue ads that attacked McCain personally, not on the issues. McCain was angered and disgusted by that, yet he's hired some of the same people used by Bush and Rove to his own campaign all in an effort to win. He's compromised his principles just to win.

And finally, there's Sarah Palin. There were several viable running mates McCain could've chosen who would've complemented him well and strengthened his ticket, but he chose Palin based on her ultra-conservative views in an effort to appease the far-right Republicans and win back their support. He pandered to them, choosing her just to win their votes instead of for any insight or strengths she'd bring to his administration. McCain is 72 years old, which would make him the oldest person to win a presidential election for his first term. He's already a cancer survivor, which is wonderful. Yet despite those two big, legitimate concerns, his campaign has refused to allow a full look into his medical history. The voters have a right to know the status of his health, considering the job for which he is applying, yet he continues to hide that (as he does his wife's tax returns, and she's the big moneymaker in the relationship). These factors also play into the Palin choice. McCain's age and cancer history made the choice of a capable, able vice president paramount, yet he showed poor judgement in choosing someone with so little experience. Obama has essentially been running for president for as long as Palin has been Alaska's governor. Only a few months before McCain chose her, she admitted that she didn't even know what the vice president did. (The correct answer, based on the Constitution, is virtually nothing, other than break tie votes in the Senate. However, Dick Cheney has flaunted those rules -- or lack thereof -- and Palin has said she would continue to treat the vice presidency that way.) Should something happen to McCain and he dies or becomes incapacitated in office, our president would be someone who two years ago was a small-town mayor.

I could probably go on. I could address the candidates' campaign styles and tactics, I could point to their health care proposals, or I could go into more on their proposed tax plans or energy ideas. But the basics are this: Obama's stance on the economy, the environment, health care, taxes, education and America's security are so much closer to my own thoughts. I truly believe that a McCain administration would be so close to what we've had the past eight years, and we've seen where that leads. I would truly be scared if Obama doesn't win.

No comments: