Monday, November 03, 2008

Who Should Win?

I've already said who I think will win, but I haven't yet said who I think should win. It's probably obvious from context, but I believe that Barack Obama is the candidate that should win the Presidency in tomorrow's general election. In this post, I will attempt to lay out my reasons for that decision. (For another take, you can see Andrew Sullivan's Obama endorsement here.)

Domestic Affairs: One of the key issues in this race is the economy, and the crisis that has seized our banking industry. John McCain lacks expertise in economic affairs, by his own admission. Granted, Barack Obama is not a noted economic expert either, but he has some pretty good advisors. Biden, as senior senator from Delaware, has represented banking interests for lo, these many years. I've not always liked him for it, but it's one of his areas of expertise. And Obama counts Warren Buffett amongst his supporters. John McCain's most famous economic advisor is none other than Carly Fiorina. As you will recall, she's the same one who took a top computer firm, Hewlett-Packard, and drove it into the ditch. Truly, there's no contest. Warren Buffett could make money selling ice to Eskimos. Carly Fiorina could lose money selling a cure for Death. Advantage: Obama.

Foreign Affairs: As far as preparation and experience goes, this is also no contest. While Obama is quite well-educated and well-read, that doesn't quite measure up to the experience in military affairs John McCain has received. Son and grandson of admirals, graduate of Annapolis, decorated Navy veteran, he spent a lifetime in his nation's service before he even set foot in the Senate. But preparation and experience aren't all that matter. McCain's main drawback in this arena is his propensity for rash action. Obama has the temperament advantage, there. And, he looks to be a pragmatic realist in foreign affairs, a welcome change from the last eight years of Wilsonian interventionism. This one's a wash.

Truly, up to the end of the Democratic convention, I would have been content to have either man as President. They both bring good things with them to the office. Both men are a credit to their nation. But, there's a crucial point where McCain lost me.

As I've said before, a candidate's selection of a running mate is the first Presidential decision that they ever make for real. It's all jawboning up to that point. And, that decision sets the template for the way most of their decisions will be made. Look back, if you will, at Bush's selection of a running mate, back in 2000. He appointed Dick Cheney to run the vetting committee. And then, hey presto! Cheney was the VP nominee. That was a foreshadowing, if you like. We know now that he's been the most powerful VP in modern times, virtually a shadow President.

Bearing that in mind, we can take the measure of the candidates based upon their picks for VP.

Barack Obama picked a colleague from the Senate, Joe Biden of Delaware. Not a man that I have endless love for, to be sure, but not a total dunce, either. He does tend to run his pie-hole when you'd rather he didn't, but if he's had a chance to study up on an issue, he knows his stuff. Obama picked a running mate that would make him a better President.

John McCain, on the other hand, picked ... Governor Barbie.

Say what?

I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. But it became painfully clear that she was terribly, terribly unqualified to be Vice President, to say nothing of President. Her sole qualification is that she shored up his credentials with the social conservatives. This was a profoundly unserious selection, one chosen on impulse, one chosen to win the news cycle that day.

In my mind, that pick disqualified McCain from holding the Presidency. We don't need another wild gambler in the Oval Office. And we sure as Hell don't need Governor Barbie one heartbeat away from the keys to the nuclear liquor cabinet.

There are also three other reasons why I think it's important for a Democrat to win the Presidency this year, entirely apart from the individual qualifications of the men involved.

The Drunkard's Walk: Although I'm a paid-up member of the Libertarian party, I'm not ideologically committed to any party in particular. I tend to call myself a long-period centrist. I think it's healthy to alternate the Presidency between the major parties every eight to twelve years. Eight years is long enough to get some serious policy done, but generally not long enough to do any serious damage. It's long enough to appoint a judge or two to the Supreme Court, which tends to keep the court within shouting distance of a 5-4 balance. Neither party has a lock on the truth. By alternating between them on a long-term basis, we move more or less in the right direction, albeit in a drunkard's walk: lurching now to the right, then to the left, but overall moving in the right direction. After eight years of Republican rule, it's time to alternate.

If You Make It Their Baby, They'll Have To Spank It: The Democrats will act like petulant children about the Global War on Terror unless and until they own the responsibility for prosecuting it. I tend to think that one of the most important events in the Cold War was after the 1952 elections, when Eisenhower basically signed on to Truman's policy of containment. That made containment of Communism itself a bipartisan consensus policy. Had that not been done ... well, I don't know how it would have turned out. But I doubt it would have been good. We're in the same kind of fix today. We need for the Democrats to be forced to own the GWOT so that they'll begin to talk like serious adults about it. Then, and only then, will we have a bipartisan consensus as to how we're going to fight this one out.

Goodbye, Jesse Jackson: The election of a black man as President of the United States turns an important page in the history of race relations. Among other things, it virtually makes the Jesse Jacksons and the Al Sharptons of the world irrelevant. No one's fool enough to believe that it's the end of racism, or of the end of the conversation we need to have between the races in this country. It's not even the beginning of the end. But to paraphrase Churchill after El Alamein, maybe it is the end of the beginning.

I may well be wrong. The one thing I know with the greatest certainty is that I don't know everything. And what the heck, the Republic won't collapse if McCain wins ... but given all that I've seen so far, I am convinced that Barack Obama is the man for the hour. He is qualified, by experience and temperament, to lead us as President.

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