The Case for Senator Barack Obama for President

Through the primary season, I had a much difficulty deciding whether I would support Senator Clinton or Senator Obama.  On one hand, Senator Clinton impressed me with her policy knowledge, intelligence, and pedigree.  On the other hand, Senator Obama’s famous oratory skills, comparisons to Jack Kennedy, and the powerful endorsements had given me pause to consider him.  In the end, I put my support behind Hillary Clinton.  My instincts told me that policy credentials were more important than breathless speeches.  Part of the problem was that I didn’t pay close enough attention to the primaries, I knew that I’d support the Democratic candidate either way and felt there wasn’t much difference between them.

Once Hillary lost, I started to make myself familiar with Barack Obama. What I learned about him changed my opinion tremendously.  Not that I had anything negative to say about Obama, but the assets I thought Clinton brought to the table, in many ways were matched by Obama.  He is truly a gifted speaker and one that can transcend policy discussions and make America feel good about itself.  But he is also a extremely intelligent and has a firm grasp on policy matters.  Beyond that, he seems to inspire people.  I am sorry, regardless of your view on Barack Obama, you’ve got to recognize and accept his ability to inspire – just like Ronald Reagan.  Rallies of 100K plus (particularly when McCain on the same day can barely draw 1K), millions of donations averaging $86/ea blows away anything the Republicans have been able to do with their deep pocket donors, and he’s had the ability to nearly make race a non-factor in this election.  He’s even more inspiring, in many ways, than Bill Clinton.

At the end of the day, however, this is not the reason you support a candidate.  Platitudes are nice, but they will not affect the change to make this Country be the best in can be – it’s a catalyst, but not the reason.  His ability to lead will be his most important asset over the next four years.  The best example of this leadership is his campaign.  Sarah Palin can mock his community organization or dismiss the ability to run a campaign as leadership.  However, very few will deny this is one of the smoothest and best run campaigns in history.   It hasn’t made many mistakes, is extremely well organized and coordinated, anticipation and reaction to events have been accurately measured, and despite it’s size, the ability to talk with one coherent voice has been impressive.

Leadership is extremely important. I believe the role of the President begins with leadership.  He needs to have a set of core values that are appropriate and meet my philosophical leaning.  However, a President cannot be an expert on every subject.  And where he is an expert, he cannot spend the time to go into the details at such great length that it takes away from his ability to stay focused on all issues.  What he needs is the best set of advisers on every subject.  Ones that will provide an accurate picture of an issue with appropriate options.  The President must be able to be objective and critical when working with those advisers – it’s his ability to get the best out of his team.  Through the campaign Obama has surrounded himself with the right advisers – from Paul Volcker to Warren Buffett on the economy.  On Foreign Policy he has supporters and advisers such as Tony Lake and Colin Powell.  Those are the type of people you want to advise you on the important decisions.

Beyond that, leadership is understanding the appropriate way to react to issues. There are very few times in this campaign where his reaction what incorrect.  You want a President who doesn’t jump to conclusions, gets hot headed, or makes a decision without all the facts. Compare John Kennedy and Cuba to George Bush and Iraq.  Kennedy’s response was measured, patient, and made with facts.  He questioned to ensure he wasn’t being railroaded by any stakeholder.  Bush, reacting to information without proof, attacked Iraq in support of finding Weapons of Mass Destruction.  Can you imagine Bush and Kennedy swapping crisis?  We’d not be in Iraq right now, if Kennedy was President.  Oh, wait, we’d be non-existent because Bush would have ‘nuked’ Cuba.  When Obama was down in the polls – he didn’t over react.  He kept to his plan.  When the economic crisis hit- he didn’t react right away.  He collected his advisers and came up with a sensible solution.  A leader should also challenge the status quo.  It should challenge our policies – such as the infamous Bush Doctrine or sitting down with enemy leaders.  It’s not that we change the policy, but broach alternatives, vet, and engage in the right solution.  Obama does that.

Finally, a leader should encourage and not discourage.  A leader should be positive, not negative.  This is true to his constituency and his role as a leader around the World.  Obama’s campaign of change and tone of his campaign are positive.   To be inspirational when the morale of the country is down, is important.  To show and rally our greatness is imperative.

Beyond his leadership qualities, his policies are what this country needs.

Obama and McCain agree.  The middle-class has been ignored over the last eight years.  Wages have gone down, debt gone up, and unemployment and 16 year highs.  The difference is that Obama has real help for the middle class. His tax cuts are aimed and returning more money to the pockets of those with minimal or no disposable income.  McCain’s tax cuts are negligible until you meet the higher income brackets.  Beyond the discussion of whether supply-side economics work, is the basic belief I hold that this country cannot move forward without EVERYONE being a part of the success.  And yes,  that means redistributing wealth – so let it be. The rich will still be rich.  The middle-class will still be the middle-class, and the poor will still be poor.  But here’s the thing – the middle-class and poor will be helped greatly by Obama’s plans.  See, in a global economy that is extremely competitive – you need EVERYONE – all 300M Americans working to push our society forward.  You cannot go forward if the middle class, and particularly the poor, are disillusioned and feel hopeless.  A society that breeds exaggerated economic classes cannot survive. I am not a socialist.  I am not a communist.  I do not believe in leveling the playing field or income.  But giving folks the opportunity, the hope, and the desire to succeed is a powerful tool to make all of us live better lives than the previous generation.  It, quite frankly, has been the American way.

HealthCare is an imperative.  It is reprehensible that we live in the greatest society in the World and with the best medical care and technology, but 50M+ of our fellow Americans are without health care.  I’m sorry, but there is not excuse.  Whether it is expensive or not, we must have a program that covers every individual.  McCain’s plan basically creates a free-for-all. You have health care through your employer – great.  If not or want to change, here’s a credit.  Except, it still makes it unaffordable (leaving aside Obama’s concern with taxing the benefit).  I am currently going through open enrollment with my employer for health care next year.  I will pay a premium of 12K, my employer 9K = 21K for health care for a family of 5. How does a $5000 tax credit (offered by McCain) offset the $16000 I still have to pay?  Obama believes in work coverage and setting up a pool for those who can’t afford it.  McCain’s claim of an Obama ‘fine’ for employers who don’t offer health care?  Well, that simply McCain’s term for putting into the pool money to help those who are not offered work based health insurance.

The Supreme Court is a huge concern.  Right now the Court leans, by a 5-4 margin to a Conservative ideology.  Expectation is that three liberal Justices may retire – Stevens, Ginsburg, and Souter.  A McCain administration could potentially put the court at an 8-1 advantage to Conservative ideology.  It would be at least 20-30 years of policies far to the right of center.  Beyond abortion, every single social issue that the Christian right and deep conservatives have been railing for will occur.  These issues include a gay marriage ban, increased gun ownership, and reduction of social programs,among others.

On international policy McCain will absolutely follow Bush’s policy.  He will not talk to some foreign leaders, he believes in the Iraq policy, and has a hawkish outlook.  Where’s the difference? Beyond those views,our standing in the World is at an all-time low.  Electing McCain will not change that.  The World wants Obama.  November 5th, our view around the world will improve tremendously – in one day.  I agree we should talk to everyone.  Without diplomacy, you cannot affect change.  Iraq was a wrong decision and we need to get out and save our brave soldiers.  I want a leader who’s gut reaction isn’t to flex our muscle, but understand and work through the issue.  We don’t need unnecessary stand-offs with Balkan states.  We don’t want to encourage Korea and Iran to become more isolationist.  Despite the GOP rhetoric, I believe Obama fully supports Israel.  He recognizes the importance of the state as an ally and the counter-balance in the region.  I also want a leader who understands that to solve our energy problem and environmental problems – we must work internationally. Someone who doesn’t profess ‘drill baby drill’ – but recognizes that type of rhetoric only emboldens OPEC because our alliance on oil is not reduced. We cannot solve the climate problem without a wide ranging agreement from China to Canada to Russia and the United States.  If Palin plays a role in energy and environmental policy, she cannot be elected.  Her views on global warming and true lack of understanding of energy policy (beyond how it affects Alaska) would be wrong for this nation.

Obama’s plan for energy – to utilize many different sources – is the right approach.  It’s one I’ve believed in for the last fifteen years.  The lowest cost, best environmental solution would be one that takes advantages of the assets in each part of the country.  Less shipping of energy, less disruption on the environment, cheaper to produce.  Wind energy in the Plains. Clean coal in Appalachia, Natural Gas out west.  Hydro on the coast, and offset with nuclear where needed.  Obama doesn’t go all the way there, but it certainly better than McCain’s philosophy.

On social issues – Obama is correct. I believe everyone has the right to live their life as they see fit.  Do not encroach on my rights, and I will not encroach on yours.  Gay marriage, abortion, free speech, protection of our right to privacy, and even moderate gun control are issues that are important to the fabric of this nation.  Openness to social issues is an inclusive policy.  As our country becomes more diverse, we need to be open and accepting.  Closed minds or limiting choices will continue to separate parts of our society – particularly the minorities.  This country has always stood for freedom.  How dare the Republicans control our choices.  Obama may be to the left of other Democrats on social issues, however, to undo the damage done over the last eight years – that’s exactly what we need to be in order to center this country again.

On economic issues, Obama takes a centralist approach that is appropriate.  Regulation is important.  Free market, left to their own devices will work only for themselves.  We have seen that result.  I actually railed against this during the Clinton years in my college senior thesis.  McCain still doesn’t believe regulation is good. Obama does.  I do not believe he wants to over-regulate.  But he understands that checks and balances are important.  Obama’s support to an additional stimulus package and support of social programs are imperative for a well functioning society.  It was the New Deal that brought this country out of the last major crisis.  It were those social programs that continue to allow the ‘American Dream’ to be realized.  Without them, people would be starting at such a disadvantage, the divisions between the haves and have nots would get much deeper.

Obama is, overall, a centralist.  He is a thinker with left-leaning values but an understanding that this country is in the center. That is why the election is close, not because Obama is black.  He has shown significant and a diverse number of advisers – some Republicans and some Democrats. He truly loves this country – I believe that – and will do what’s right by the country, not him. He grew up from modest roots, unlike McCain.  McCain may have felt that way, but the way he has run this campaign shows, at the very least, his motives will always be suspect.

This is why I support Barrack Obama. Not simply for party loyalty, but for the ‘change he brings’.


McCain’s Foreign Policy Adviser – Sarah Palin

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Umm, yeah – from Politco:

John McCain said Wednesday that he has turned to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for advice on foreign policy issues “many times in the past.”

“She has the world view that I have and is very highly qualified and very knowledgeable,” McCain said during an interview on NPR.

“I’ve turned to her for advice many times in the past, I can’t imagine turning to Senator [Barack] Obama or Senator [Joe] Biden because they’ve been wrong,” the Arizona senator said of his running mate. “I certainly wouldn’t turn to them, and I’ve already turned to Governor Palin particularly on energy issues and I’ve appreciated her background and knowledge on that and many other issues.”

Seriously?  I mean, it’s one thing to defend your running mate. However, I really didn’t think McCain was so out of touch with reality that he would lie and say he uses her as a foreign policy adviser.   This means one of two things – either he is so out of touch he doesn’t realize how pathetic her foreign policy knowledge is or he is so out of touch as to what the electorate thinks of her.  I mean, its a bit of a stretch even in her defense, to claim she’s a foreign policy adviser.

It’s The Economy, Stupid – But Don’t Forget about Foreign Policy

Henry Kissinger

James Baker

Warren Christopher

Madeline Albright

Collin Powell

What do they all have in common?  They are former Sectretary of States under Nixon, Bush, Clinton, and Bush.  They all also came together for a panel sponsored by CNN in the context of ‘Advice to the Next President’.  There are two themes that have really emerged as I watched the program:

1) They all are in general concurrence as to how our foreign policy should be structured

2) They pretty much don’t have much good to say about Bush II.  This includes James Baker (Bush’s dad’s SofS), Collin Powell (Bush II’s SofS), and Henry Kissinger (another Republican).

Several points they agreed on:

1) The next President must shutdown the Guantanamo Prison and eliminate all torture

2) We should negotiate with Iran

3) Spend more time and money in Afganistan – build the infrastructure

4) Many on the panel (including James Baker) believe that the US needs to lead on global warming

So what’s the point? First, if there is any doubt that Bush doesn’t have a clue how to run his foreign policy, these five Secretaries kind of proved that.  While it’s always fun to pick at Bush and, in a lot of ways, very sad – that’s really not the point.

The point is we need a President who is radically different in his foreign policy choices than the current adminstration.  As the Secretaries point out, we need to demonstrate to the World through our actions that we want to be a leader again.  To quote Joe Biden, who’s been preaching this mantra “lead by the power of our example and not the example of our power.”  While this might be obvious, when you peel away the rhetoric and have an honest conversation, the Secretaries demonstrate it’s less an opinion and more of fact about how we should govern.  Things need to change.

Ok, fast forward to the candidates.  The question becomes who is more willing and flexible to listen and adhere to this advice.  McCain has stated he will not support discussions with Iran. Obama has agreed to meet with them.  Both agree to close ‘Gitmo’.  McCain believes Iraq is still extremely important, while Obama recognizes Afganistan needs more attention.  Additionally, Collin Powell sort of ‘called out’ McCain for making the inane comment that, “We are all Georgians’ after the conflict between Russia and Georgia. McCain took the side of the Georgians.  Obama, took a measured response realizing the Georgians caused the conflict, but recognizing the Russia’s response was extreme.  Powell also sort of ‘called out’ McCain for spending time on ‘lipstick on a pig’ rather than real issues.  Finally, on the issue of global warming – the biggest key will be reduced emissions.  Reduced emissions means converting from oil and utilizing other energies.  With McCain’s philosophy of ‘drill baby drill’ and big oil working for the GOP, I do not think you will get policies with teeth that will ‘lead by example’

The consensous of the panel was that the United States has a big job ahead to prove our leadership to the World by demonstrating our integrity on the international stage.  Between the two candidates, I truly believe Obama would be the better candidate on foreign policy.  He has deomstrated that he will be measured in thought and will not move forward on emotion, but on information.  McCain, during the campaign, has shown to act emotionally with regard to Georgia and other events – domestic and internationally.  He disagrees in several ways with the panel and he is proving to be a war Hawk.  

The next four years are too critical to follow a similiar path that we have followed in the past.  We need a clean break from the policies of the past.  As the World continues to get more interrelated, we need to ensure our President bases decision on information and not gut feeling or limited visibility.

A couple of quick notes.  Baker did say he endorsed McCain, and Albright endorsed Obama.  Kissinger and Christopher didn’t mention their endorsements, but probably following their party affilitation.  And despite some of his issues with McCain, Powell stated, “I am not voting for McCain because of our friendship and I am not voting for Obama because he is black.”  He hadn’t made a decision and wanted to see more about how the candidates did at the debate.  He said the most important thing he was looking for was experience and leadership.  That sounds like a vote for McCain, but – you know what?  He hasn’t made up his mind. It seems he is not sold on the ‘lack of experience argument’ with Obama.