Monday, November 03, 2008

Why I am voting for Obama

Time to make the last ditch push with anyone who is still undecided. This is probably the most important election of my lifetime, which spans a bit more than half a century. It's time to decide.

Why Obama?
I originally came to Obama by process of elimination among the Democratic candidates.

The Clinton coterie bothered me. Biden didn't strike me as quite right. I liked the insouciance of Dennis Kucinich (and, yes, his wife), but i didn't thnk he had a snowball's chance in hell.

Then, I found myself watching Obama speak shortly after winning South Carolina and I knew I was in the presence of someone Kennedyesque for the first time since the Boston-accented, first and only Catholic president, whose inauguration I had lived to witness. Whatever might be said about Kennedy today, after we know more than we ever wanted about the darker side of Camelot, his gift was an oratory that mobilized and first set me dreaming.

Obama had that.

Then I began to examine his positions and what his aides said and I came to the conclusion that this was a man who acted with deliberation. There was nothing improvised about him.

When gas prices went up and McCain and Hillary Clinton launched their demagogic call for a gas tax holiday, Obama said the sober "no." He was right. Gas prices woke the country up.

When he had to choose a running mate, Obama displayed the wisdom and humility to choose someone who had criticized him sharply, but was, without question, experienced in policy and statesmanship.

When the bottom fell out of the economy, Obama laid out four crisp principles and they are embodied in the legislation authorizing the $700 billion bailout of the finance sector.

That's three for three.

Hillary's health plan was more generous and innovative, but it probably would never pass. Biden wanted to withdraw too quickly from Iraq (although his trial balloon on partition -- which worked for Yugoslavia, a country similarly artificial and divided -- was very good).

Yet every policy proposal of Obama's that I have heard -- and I have listened to his economic advisers at length -- has a crispness, sobriety and focus on the majority that is sound and actionable. When he says we can recover, I trust that he will use the proper tools to get there.

In sum, I have confidence that Obama will be not just a president I can agree with, but one who will be great and may convince me to change my views in a number of areas. That's a leader.

Why not McCain?

It's perhaps a sign of how far to the right the United States shifted since 1981 that John McCain was even a viable candidate. Yet, like his fellow Arizonian Barry Goldwater, I long knew McCain to be an extremist.

Here is a man so besotted with private enterprise as to disdain the environmental and urban traffic benefits of Amtrak, which he has repeatedly attempted simply to abolish.

Why not privatize rivers and mountains? (Oops, in a reality-trumps-satire turn of events, they've just announced from the Bush White House that they're considering opening federal lands in Utah for mining.)

McCain is not merely conservative; he's almost to the right of the libertarians. Study his record and you will discover a man who saw Ronald Reagan as failing to damage government enough and George W. Bush as a patsy.

While I think Obama might be a tad too critical of some programs I like, and Hillary's people too uninformed about them, given a free hand McCain would simply abolish every domestic program that was not connected to law enforcement and security, starting with social security.

Imagine what would have happened to the retirement of millions this year if policymakers had listened to McCain and social security had been turned into privately held stock market investment accounts!

McCain is simply unthinkable for anyone who is honest about electing the head of state of a 21st century, complex society such as the United States.