Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Choosing our President – McCain and Obama

In just a few weeks, America will vote. This will be an historic election: a barrier will be broken in 2008. We will either elect an African-American or a female to one of the top-two offices, President and Vice-President.

So as promised, I am writing this week about politics, which I mostly do NOT write about in this column, because it’s sort of my job, and who wants to write about their job?!

When I DO write about politics, I always start with a disclaimer: I am a sometimes-Republican. Today, however, I am trying to wear a non-partisan hat. I’m not endorsing either candidate, but I’m trying to present my own unbiased analysis of both.

Back in January, before the South Carolina Presidential Primaries, I wrote about the process of choosing our next President when there were still more than a dozen candidates – six or eight for each party. I took an unusual approach: I didn’t endorse any candidate, but tried to give good, solid reasons to vote for each -- reasons that each might make a good President. (Frankly, I wanted to try a positive approach in contrast to the negativity which the news media usually injects into political campaigns.)

Here are my comments about John McCain and Barack Obama from eight months ago, long before we knew either once would secure their party’s nomination:

John McCain: I believe John McCain is a good and decent man, proven in the service of his country as a POW during the Vietnam War. He has solid and successful experience in government, and has shown himself to be a consensus builder. He’s battle-tested, and we probably know everything there is to know about him, so we’re unlikely to run into any surprises. McCain would be a solid President during a time of war, and one who truly understands the sacrifices faced by our military families.

Barack Obama: Barack Obama appears to be a very nice guy who is smart, capable and likeable. At a time that most Americans appear to be ready for a major change in their government, Obama represents that attitude - not only because he speaks of change, but also because his election as the first African-American president would embody the most significant change in many, many decades. Obama is perhaps uniquely qualified to be the individual who pioneers this final frontier toward unifying a nation divided by race since its inception.

Eight months later, I stand by my comments about both candidates. I believe they’re both good people who mean well.

Both candidates also espouse notions of change and reform, and both appear to be agents of change. For better or worse, change would seem to be coming in the next four years.

There are, however, differences between the two. Their philosophies of government and positions on key issues are different, reflective of the American population as a whole. And perhaps this is the year that the American population will make some major decisions about the direction our nation will move for the future. Perhaps, our majority will decide, that after 232 years, some of the ideas on which the nation was founded are obsolete. Perhaps the majority will redefine America.

So I would like to offer four thought-provoking issues, to help guide the decision-making processes of anyone who may be undecided about his or her choice of our next President. These, as I see it, are the major issues which we currently face as a nation:

1. The Economy. The recently exposed financial crisis, along with last week’s government bailout, has many Americans concerned for their futures. While both candidates voted for the bailout, their approaches to long-term solutions differ. McCain is more likely to offer the type of tax cuts seen during the Reagan years as a means of stimulating the economy, and is not likely to constrain the freedom of businesses to prosper. Obama is more likely to offer continuing governmental solutions and tighter regulation of the corporations currently blamed for the crisis. He is more likely to quickly offer needed assistance to those families suffering from the crisis.

Neither of these approaches is right or wrong. Some Americans prefer one approach, and some prefer the other. Traditionally, our nation has embraced free enterprise… but tradition is the past. The future may, indeed, hold something else for us.

2. The War on Terror. Homeland defense continues to be a concern for all Americans. John McCain’s military background suggests he will be a capable Commander-in-Chief, and his support of the surge in Iraq is now hailed as the right approach. Barack Obama’s election might signal to the rest of the world that America is changing, perhaps lessening the hatred they seem to have for our nation and our ideals. Perhaps Obama’s strength would be in diplomacy, turning former enemies into future allies.

3. Energy. Gas prices anger millions of Americans every day. If he were on the ballot, I’m pretty sure T. Boone Pickens would be elected. He’s not, but he has alerted most Americans of the need to stop shipping oil profits overseas to nations which are not necessarily friendly to us. Both McCain and Obama have shifted their positions toward expanding America’s energy sources, with McCain now favoring off-shore drilling, and Obama having recently joined him. It is my guess that Obama would be somewhat more deferential to the environmental lobby, therefore slower to fully explore all new energy options. Again, the degree of deference given to environmental protection when we are facing an energy crisis is a matter on which many, many Americans simply disagree.

4. Globalization. To me, this emerging issue is the most important one facing us as we choose the next leader of the free world. It is clear that the world is changing. We now have a global economy, and live in an age of instant global information. The next four years will see the world moving increasingly toward globalization, which will impact virtually every other issue facing our nation. The person we elect as our next President will help determine how America fits into a new global society… indeed, whether we try to exist inside walls, or lay down a welcome mat for all. Both McCain and Obama have wide ranges of experiences on the world-wide stage. We would do well to examine those experiences, and to look within ourselves to determine the course we want for our nation.

I cannot predict the outcome, but I am predicting an all-time record-breaking voter turn-out for the November 4th Presidential Election: more people going to the polls to vote than ever before. I’m just trying to do my small part to make sure they know what they’re doing when they get there.

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