Monday, November 03, 2008

The Case for Barack Obama (Or At Least, Why I'm Voting For Him)

This isn't really a secret at this point, but I am voting for Obama tomorrow. I guess this is the official endorsement. I put this off to the end for a variety of reasons, mainly due to a lack of time, but I'm not worried about it being too close to Election Day to influence any votes, as it's clear most here have made up their minds already, and I don't suspect I'll be changing them. No big deal. In effect, this is the answer to the question, "Why are you voting for this guy?"

First off, let's get some preliminaries out of the way. I'm a moderate liberal Democrat, who generally comes from the center-Left, DLC/hawkish end of the Party. I'm pro-life, I think the MoveOn-Kos wing of the party has too much influence, and while I've disagreed with most of his policies, I don't have a pathological contempt for Bush.

Ok, so why Obama? To put it bluntly, I think on most of the core issues that are facing the country right now, I think Obama is best equipped to deal with those issues, meaning he has the policy vision, and temperament to lead. I like the guy. What I saw him in 2004, and in the early days of this campaign, I see in him now. He's got skills. You may not agree with Obama's economic and fiscal policies, but he has been pretty consistent throughout on the key issues, and not just on the economic crisis. McCain on the other hand, has been all over the place. McCain is not Bush, and I do agree that the Dems have used the McCain as Bush meme a bit too much, but with the exception of earmark reform and talks about a spending freeze, he really hasn't clearly laid out how his economic approach will be different than the standard GOP platform. If you're for that platform, that's fine, but a lot of us Dems see things differently. On the recent economic crisis, McCain has been all over the place. First he said everything was fine, the he recognized the crisis, then he was against the bailout, then for it. He suspends his campaign, and tries to postpone the debate, in what has to be called one of the most ill-executed moves in a while. He tries to paint Obama as being on the sidelines, but Obama always argued that one could deal with the crisis and run the campaign. At the meeting with Bush, Obama was engaged, but McCain didn't say much. McCain suspended his campaign, but sat back in the meeting, and when it came time to actually do what he suspended his campaign to do, he didn't get it done. Surely, the bill eventually passed, but it was a more bloated one. What's my point here? While Obama was consistent on the issue, McCain shifted positions several times on this, and then tried to paint Obama has the big spender, while voting for the bill that he once opposed, not mention adding another $300,000 plan to buy bad mortgages. Again, mileage is your own, but I think Obama showed real leadership.

What about foreign policy, you may ask. Let's be clear. I, for all intents and purposes am a supporter of the Iraq war. Obama, for all intents and purposes isn't. I wish he was as I am on this, but he's not. I have noticed though, and I'm not the only one to notice this, that Obama has always left wiggle room on his support for ending the war. He has always resisted the more aggresive pullout approach from the MoveOn crew. In fact, although Obama does get a lot of support from the anti-war faction, if they're looking for a Carteresque dove, they're deluding themselves. Obama has always been on target about Afghanistan, and contrary to McCain's distortions, he has it right on Pakistan.

To be fair, McCain has consistently supported the surge, and did so when it wasn't popular. He has my utmost respect for that. If this election were just about Iraq, or if I genuinely felt that Obama would somehow surrender to terror, things would be different. Obama was wrong on the surge, and he has yet to openly admit that, but he has acknowledged its success, for the most part. On Israel, I'll say again that if I doubted for a second that Obama wasn't committed to Israel, I couldn't vote for him. As to Iran, he did prevaricate on preconditions, but I think he has come around to an acceptable position.

The McCain camp continues to bring up Obama's supposed vote to defund the troops. Obama dealt with this in the first debate, but the charge keeps coming up. The issue at hand was not funding the troops, but timetables. Obama voted for the timetables troop-funding bill, and McCain voted against it, because of tmetables. The non-timetables troop-funding bill Obama voted against, was because of timetables. I suspect Obama voted against it, knowing it would pass either way. I suspect he was trying to make a political statement, and made the same mistake Kerry made in 2004. Honestly, I would've voted against it, because I don't really support artificial timetables, but let's be clear: The issue at hand was timetables, not troop funding. Obama has a consistent record of voting to fund the war, despite his opposition to it, much to the chagrin of many anti-war Lefties.

On the Russia-Georgia conflict, overall I thought Obama handled himself fairly well, with the exception of one pernicious gaffe, which fortunately he has not repeated.

There is of course the question of experience, or rather Obama's lack thereof. compared to McCain. McCain has an impressive record, and is a veteran on the battlefield, and in Congress. He is a man of honor, and sacrificed immensely for his country. Obama doesn't have that resume. He just doesn't, and there's no getting around that, but I believe he does have the temperament, policy vision, and judgment on the key issues, moreso than McCain. Heck, maybe it's just that I agree with Obama more, but I don't think so.

Let me say though, that both these candidates have their flaws. Obama is hardly perfect, and has some issues. I am concerned about the possibility of an unfettered Democratic majority in Congress. The Pelosi-Reid era hasn't exactly lived up to its expectations, and while I don't doubt his sincere belief in bipartisanship, he doesn't have the record that McCain has. McCain has a clear record of bipartisanship, not to mention opposing his own Party, and Bush. Obama doesn't have that much of a legislative record, but he does have good relations with many Republicans (and not just the ones endorsing him), and he has worked with Republicans in the State Senate, as well as the U.S. Senate. He was President of the Harvard Law Review, let's not forget. My concern, to the extent that I am concerned, isn't that Obama won't work with Republicans, but whether he will be able to oppose his own party when necessary. Say what you want about Sarah Palin, she has opposed her own party. The thing is, I'm not really sure about her record of working with Democrats, though. McCain to his credit, has done both. Obama has resisted many of the impulses of, and he did defy the Party leadership and campaign for Lieberman in 2006. Yeah, it's thin I know, but I'm willing to gamble. After all, how Left can Obama really go, with Blue Dogs in the House, and many Red-state Dems in the Senate?

Again, I'm concerned about the card check bill, and the possibility of the Fairness Doctrine coming back, but I'm willing to take the risk.

As to the negativity of the campaign, I freely cede that neither candidate has been pure. The Obama campaign has put out some questionable ads, and a few that were pretty sleazy. As I see it though, most of Obama's ads have been policy-based, while McCain's ads have been straight-negative for the last three months, and many were just straight up personal attacks. Obama has never questioned McCain's patriotism, or belittled his military service (at least not intentionally). The McCain crew and his supporters have gone personal on everything, and I may be the only one who feels this way, but in last few months, it's been over the top. True, many Obama supporters, and in certain instances Obama himself have brought up the race card, but it seems that they've gone after Obama on everything but race ("palling around with terrorists," real America vs. fake America, Obama is a liar, Obama is a socialist, etc), and it's gone beyond the pale, in my book. I will not lay that blame for the lunatic conspiracies (Obama as Muslim invader, phony birth certificate, Bill Ayers as ghostwriter of Obama's book, Obama's logo, etc) on the McCain campaign, but McCain and Palin have launched some beyond the pale attacks, and frankly it's beneath a man of McCain's character.

This is running long, so I'll wrap this up. As for Obama's alliances, at the end of the day, they don't bother me that much. He did flip on public financing, as I said before, that's the one typical politician move I cannot defend. At the end of the day, though, despite his weaknesses, I believe he is the man we need right now. He is not however, the Messiah. Many of his supporters are drunk with hero worship, but in the end, he's just a man, a mere mortal. If you're expecting him to heal the breaches of the universe, prepare to be disappointed. He may be running as a new kind of politician, but he's still a politician. He's run an impressive and historic campaign, but he's made mistakes.

I was technically undecided up until late September, although to be honest, I've leaned Obama's way most of the time. I've seriously considered backing McCain many times, and I think what took me so long was that I still contend that the choice is between two decent, patriotic men. I say one more time that McCain is an honorable and decent man, and despite my issues with his campaign, he still has my respect. As for Sarah Palin, my view of her has diminished over the last couple of months, but she still seems a decent person, and she does have a record.

Many will justify their votes against Obama because of the pro-Obama bias in the press, and the press has made quite the fool of itself this election cycle, but to borrow a phrase, you punish the press for its failures, not the candidate(s).

If Obama wins, he will be the first black President. As an American, and as a black man, that is a great thing for me, but that's not the reason I'm voting for him. The fact that he's made it this far is proof that the barrier has been torn down, and if Obama loses, it won't be because America is a racist country. It won't be because America didn't want a black man to be President, rather they didn't want this particular black man, for a variety of reasons. Will racism be out there? Surely, but I think most Americans won't stoop to that. Sue me, I'm an optimist.

And that's what I want to end this on. If Obama wins, this republic will survive. Yes, it will. If McCain wins, this republic will survive. If Obama loses, I'll be disappointed, but I'll get over it. If he wins, I won't gloat (although I fear others might).

And that's it. Go vote, if you haven't already.

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