That was depressing.

“Something’s fundamentally wrong with our political process, and we need to fix it in a hurry.”
Saturday, September 27, 2008

I watched the debate last night hoping, in vain, that one of the candidates would surprise me, but that didn’t happen.

As usual, Senator Obama was overly self-assured, somehow confident that the endless array of objectives he has laid out for his Presidency can be accomplished without regard for their cost. His underlying assumption that he can control or significantly influence our economy, our society and the behavior of other countries is clearly naïve. Promises, promises. I’m not sure there’s anything we might want to do as a nation that he hasn’t promised, even though some of those commitments, such as balancing the budget, are clearly in conflict with others.

He’s inexperienced, and it shows. In the three years he’s been a US Senator, he’s done nothing to confirm his commitment to, or ability to effect the profound change he keeps talking about. I keep asking myself, “What’s he been waiting for?” The answer is that he’s waiting to be elected President. That’s the goal. He desperately wants to be elected President, and probably will. Then what?

Ironically, between the two of them, Senator McCain is the one who gets it. He’s experienced in the workings of our government, and in foreign policy and national security in particular. By comparison, Senator Obama has virtually no experience, period. He’s functionally an academic candidate offering us a textbook administration that sounds good on paper. As for his ability to deliver on any of this, it’s just something we’ll have to take on faith. Personally, I’m not inclined to risk our country and my family’s welfare to enable Barack Obama to realize his personal dream.

McCain’s not afraid, the way I sense Senator Obama might be beneath his almost boring veneer of calm, cool and collected. The extra almost quarter century Senator McCain has been alive and working in government service would give anyone a sense of reality that I respect. The problem is that he’s not, frankly, smart enough. His command of economic issues is poor. His vision, limited, no doubt by precisely the same experiences which make him so valuable in other respects. As a senior foreign policy, national security advisor, he’d be perfect. As a one term President, which is likely to be the case given his age, I’m not so sure.

Every four years, it seems, I find myself asking the same question. Is this the best our political system can offer us? Where is the professional manager, the senior executive who can balance a budget and cost-effectively deliver the programs we need? All I want is someone who can run the government like a highly profitable business, with the requisite creativity, compassion, leadership and relationship skills The Oval Office demands. What? Is that too much to ask, more than I have a right to expect from a single man or woman? Yeah, you’re right. I don’t know what got into me. It’s just that, every four years, I get the overwhelming feeling that we’re just going through the motions. There’s a sense of déjà vu I can’t shake.

Roughly half the electorate favors one of the candidates, plus or minus a couple of percentage points. The other half, the other candidate. Whatever your half, do you really think the other half is confused or stupid, that they’re overlooking some fundamental points that you find so obvious, but that they’re missing entirely? Of course not. (Maybe you do, but you shouldn’t.) So what does that tell you? That there are no real substantive differences between these candidates, only the pretence of substance. That the only thing that counts is style and chemistry. Does anyone out there who’s been around for a while really think who we elect is going to make any difference, and that we’re not going to be hearing the same arguments from people promising to solve the same problems four years from now?

What confidence do you have, after last night’s debate and from the other debate that’s ongoing in Washington about the financial sector crisis that may not even exist, in our government’s ability to do anything significant? Something’s fundamentally wrong with our political process, and we need to fix it in a hurry.

I need to stop typing and have lunch, preferably something with icing on it.

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