Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why Obama?

After many essays saying why I am against McCain, it is time that I give reasons why I am for Obama. I am not just voting against McCain, but, instead, I am actually for Obama.

Here’s why:

Obama has demonstrated time and again that he has a steady hand and calm demeanor, proven by over twenty months of running for president against tough and experienced opponents. During this long campaign, he has been vetted by serious challenges, such as the constant character assassination attacks, and yet allows the attacks to roll off his back, staying consistently calm and even. He has managed to keep a tone of optimism in his campaign at a time it would be very easy to be downhearted, worried, nasty toward his opponent, and pessimistic about our future. That optimism alone goes a long way in demonstrating the kind of leadership our nation needs. He knows the language of reassurance that Americans so desperately need to hear. He shows the kind of leadership, intelligence, and skillful communicating that will be needed as America deals with our standing in the world and the historic economic crisis.

Obama is Reaganesque in his attitude and demeanor. Those of us who remember the 1980 campaign recall how the Democrats portrayed Ronald Reagan as an inexperienced cowboy, as a racist—as a lot of bad things. They did this because their own president, Carter, was unpopular, so they wanted to create doubts about the interloper from the West. In the end, the nasty approach didn’t work because Reagan had a calming presence, and an optimistic outlook at a time Americans weren’t feeling too good about themselves. Obama’s speeches repeat Reagan's soothing wisdom that there are solutions to our problems, although not easy ones, and show Reagan’s vision of American exceptionalism. The parties of Reagan and Obama are reversed, but the dynamics are similar. Obama is calm, solid, and reassuring. This comes naturally to him, just as it did to Reagan.

But it is not just his calm, even temperament and his speaking ability that draws me to him. It’s his stand on the issues that will affect me, our country, and therefore the world:

1. On the economy: If you study and compare their economic plans, Obama’s plan is much more geared to help the middle class and small business, whereas McCain’s plan is geared to help big business – such as his wife’s big beer distributorship – and his wealthy friends. Obama only would raise taxes on individuals and businesses netting more than $250,000 after deductions. This affects very little of the population – only about two percent of small businesses in the country fall into the over $250K category. Obama is also proposing a tax credit for offering health care to employees and elimination of capital gains taxes on startup businesses. He is proposing eliminating income tax on the first $50,000 of a retired couple’s income.

McCain’s plan mostly helps the wealthy and does little for the middle class. He has offered to help refinance all bad mortgages at the now lower home values, and, of course, using taxpayer money to pay the banks the money they would lose. Even this idea helps the banks more than it helps the middle class. Most of the middle class, the ones who have played by the rules and have always paid their bills on time, the ones who have been struggling to keep their heads above water for the last eight years, are not helped at all by the McCain Economic Plan.

2. On choosing running mates: Obama has demonstrated sound judgment in selecting as his running mate Sen. Joe Biden, whose experience and knowledge of foreign policy prepare him to step in if, need be as chief executive.

McCain's selection of Sarah Palin, by comparison, may have shown political savvy for that moment. At the expense of offering a vice president the Republican base could rally around, he selected an individual in whom a lack of knowledge to take over as president has become embarrassingly obvious, as evidenced by answers given during unscripted interviews. In the selection of Sarah Palin, instead of choosing one of the many accomplished women in the Republican Party that could have given his candidacy a stamp of seriousness, McCain has shown a reckless gambling attitude in his decision-making process.

3. On health care: Obama wants to continue our current employer-based system by requiring large companies to offer health care. For those people who cannot get health insurance through an employer, he would like to allow them to buy into a national insurance cooperative that offers coverage similar to that for federal employees.

McCain would give a $2,500 refundable tax credit to individuals and $5,000 to families in order to purchase a policy on the open market, but, at this time the average policy costs $12,500 per year. Then, he would tax the payments that businesses and their workers make toward employer-sponsored health insurance. This would cause a hefty tax increase that would likely cause employers to drop the insurance plan and force more people to buy on the open market. He wants to allow people to go to any state to buy insurance. This would likely cause most insurance companies to move to the state with the least regulation.

4. On Iraq: McCain did push the Bush administration to put in more troops – now called “the surge.” But the fact that surge was a success in reducing bloodshed does not vindicate the wrong decision made in the first place to invade a country that was NOT behind the 9/11 attacks and did NOT have weapons of mass destruction. Iraq has been a huge diversion from Afghanistan where the real terrorist threat resides. The Iraqis do not want us there. It’s time to start handing more responsibility to the Iraqi government and begin slowly pulling out. Obama understands this about Iraq and pledges to give Afghanistan the attention it deserves.

5. About ability: Barack Obama has consistently shown his intellectual strength in problem-solving. He went to Harvard on merit scholarships, not on racial-based quotas. Having the intelligence to get into Harvard without a rich daddy (unlike Bush at Yale or McCain at Annapolis), Obama graduated near the top of his class. While there, he was elected the first black editor of the Harvard Review by the mostly white Harvard student body. That says a lot for Obama. On the other hand, McCain got into Annapolis because of who his daddy was, partied all the way through college, and graduated fifth from the bottom of a class of nearly 900 students. As a retired teacher, this speaks volumes to me.

6. On who has a better moral compass: Barack Obama is a committed Christian, husband, and father. (No, he is not a Muslim.) We know he has not strayed from his wife, because if he had, it would have been dug up by the Republicans and flashed throughout the media for all to see. In his campaigning tactics alone, in the lies and sleazy tricks used, McCain has shown he is not a moral person. But there’s more: McCain is a know womanizer who left his permanently injured wife for his extremely wealthy mistress. And, even more disturbing, The New York Times and Time Magazine have done investigative reporting (Google: New York Times + McCain gambling), with witness statements and pictures, on McCain’s love of gambling regularly at the craps table in various casinos. Interestingly, McCain’s gambling has not been reported in any of the Republican-leaning media – obviously because they do not want the Republican base to know. But even if someone refuses to believe that McCain is a regular casino gambler, his gambling traits show up for all to see in the way he makes his decisions.

My choice has been made easier by the kind of campaign McCain has run. McCain has failed to sound any consistent themes; has been all over the map during the crisis over the federal bailout package; and now has come up with a socialistic $300 billion plan to refinance all distressed mortgages at new lower house values with the government paying the banks the difference, without any description of how he would pay for it. As the global economy went into meltdown, as the Dow went into free fall, McCain staged a pretend campaign suspension, including a suggestion that he would not attend the first debate until the problem was fixed, so that he could fly into Washington and save the country by brokering a deal between Democrats and Republicans. He brokered nothing. In fact, Republican Congressmen, as well as Democrats, said that he got in the way.

Despite promises he would not go negative, McCain has allowed his campaign to attack Obama's character with tenuous associations and outright lies . The McCain strategy recently took on a decidedly dangerous turn as desperation has turned into full-scale panic. McCain supporters are increasingly out of control. At recent McCain/Palin rallies, people in the crowd were heard shouting, “terrorist, treason, kill him, off with his head” in reference to Obama. Since the economic bailout was passed by Congress, all John McCain has wanted to do is link Obama to an aging radical regardless of the fact that their relationship amounted to just crossing paths while serving on the same charity board, on which, by the way, several Republicans have served. McCain and Palin continue to hammer away at Barack Obama’s very minimal relationship with 1960s Weather Underground radical William Ayers. Ask them about the economy and they bring up Bill Ayers. Ask them about Iraq and they talk about Bill Ayers. Just like Sarah said in her one debate, “You can ask me anything you want, but I am gonna talk about what I want to talk about.”

McCain really would be more of the same: On Face the Nation, he said that he agrees with the Republican ideology. Having voted with the Republicans over 90% of the time (McCain has acknowledged this data), McCain would be little change from what we have endured for the last eight years. Eight years of the Bush administration have left our country weary of Republican neo-conservative ideologues.

Obama has given many people hope for a change – a chance to go down a new road. Obama’s rhetoric is not just empty words; what he says is obviously carefully considered. In the debates and during his campaigning, Obama has been the voice of moderation, combining common sense and compassion on issue after issue. When the subject turns to foreign policy, supposedly McCain's strong suit, Obama gives no indication that he will have to learn on the job. The strengths of Barack Obama, whose rise to prominence is not a fluke or national infatuation with a “rock star” but, instead, his remarkable skills -- a keen intellect, and ability to compromise when necessary, noble intentions, moral character, and the wit and grace to express them in ways that have inspired millions across the country – are exactly suited to these fearful times. These strengths give Obama the capacity to grow into the office.

On the other hand, John McCain, whose behavior, as the campaign progressed, in my opinion, has shown the beginnings of character changes that often accompany old age: the obviously simmering anger during each debate, the "that one" comment at the second debate, and the "my fellow prisoners" comment at a campaign stop. In all his campaign speeches, at least in the many to which I have listened, when he isn’t smearing slime all over Obama’s character, it’s always about I, I, I, me, me, me…and rarely speaks about what he will do for the middle class. That is because his policies will mostly help the wealthy and do very little for the middle class.

Our new President will face a series of challenges including the crisis in the financial markets, the rising costs of entitlement programs, a huge national deficit, an unpopular war in Iraq, the war on terror, and a growing strain upon the nation's health care system that will make it difficult to deliver on many campaign promises. Our next president must have the kind of qualities that Obama has demonstrated in his long, unusually tough, and historic fight to lead the United States of America in order to set the right priorities. If Obama does win, I believe he can steer us through the economic downturn, get the Iraqis to take charge of their country, and start putting the culture wars behind us. There is no guarantee that he will be able to clean up all the mess that Bush is leaving behind, but I am absolutely convinced that he is much more likely to do it than his opponent.

Although endorsements generally serve as an informational shortcut for voters, when you're voting in a local race, and you have no information about the candidates, you might well go with whomever your local paper decides to endorse. In a race like Obama-McCain, on the other hand, you already have all the information you could ever want, and probably have already made a choice. With that said, Powell has approval ratings as high as just about any public figure in America. On Meet the Press, Colin Powell had harsh words about the far right path the Republican Party has taken in recent years. In announcing that he is voting for Obama, his endorsement was eloquent, unequivocal, and because of his role in the Bush Administration, genuinely newsworthy.

Powell said, “We have two wars. We have economic problems. We have health problems. We have education problems. We have infrastructure problems. We have problems around the world with our allies. So those are the problems the American people wanted to hear about, not about Mr. Ayers, not about who's a Muslim or who's not a Muslim…to focus on people like Mr. Ayers, for the purpose of suggesting that somehow Mr. Obama would have some kind of terrorist inclinations, I thought that was over the top. It was beyond just good political fighting back and forth. I think it went beyond. …we can't hold our elections on that kind of basis. ...that kind of negativity troubled me – and the constant shifting of the argument. I was troubled a couple of weeks ago when in the middle of the crisis, the [McCain] campaign said, ‘We're going to go negative,’ and when they announced, ‘We're going to go negative and attack [Obama's] character through Bill Ayers." Now I guess the message this week is ‘We're going to call him a socialist, Mr. Obama is now a socialist, because he dares to suggest that maybe we ought to look at the tax structure that we have.’ I don't want my taxes raised. I don't want anybody else's taxes raised. But I also want to see our infrastructure fixed. I don't want to have a $12 trillion national debt, and I don't want to see an annual deficit that's over $500 billion heading toward a trillion. So, how do we deal with all of this? [Someone has to pay for it.]”

Powell continued with, “...it was in the period leading up to the conventions, and then the decisions that came out of the conventions, and then just sort of watching the responses of the two individuals on the economic crisis. It gave me an opportunity to evaluate their judgment, to evaluate their way of approaching a problem, to evaluate the steadiness of their actions. And it was at that point that I realized that, to my mind, anyway, that Senator Obama has demonstrated the kind of calm, patient, intellectual, steady approach to problem-solving that I think we need in this country."

Well said, General Powell, well said.

During the campaign, McCain, the experienced candidate, has not embodied the leadership Americans deserve. He has shown a lack of class, a get-down-in the-trash-to-fight attitude, in contrast to Obama's classy consistency and calm.

Quite frankly, I do not want a President with whom I would feel comfortable having a beer. I do not want someone who is like me. Because he will have to deal with a dangerous world, I want a President who is much more intelligent and very much calmer than I am.

That is why I am voting for Obama.