Category Archives: John McCain

Misinterpreting the Early Vote

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hi. MSNBC and other anchors are quoting exits polls which indicate that the substantial volume of early votes are going for Obama – fulfilling the prophesy of the polls they’ve been reporting in recent weeks that show double digit advantages for the Democrat candidate. By at least one account, 30% of all Americans who will vote in this election have already voted – but even that conclusion is based on polling.

It’s certainly true that these exit and other polls may be accurate, but then maybe they’re not. Polling is far from an exact science – exit polling, in particular. More to the point, the logic of these anchors and the political experts they are forever interviewing is lacking, to put it politely.

Just because the early vote is favoring one candidate – if that is, in fact, the case – doesn’t mean that it’s representative of the votes most of us will cast tomorrow. In fact, it could be that the early vote is being cast primarily by Obama supporters, especially black and younger voters, who, in their enthusiasm for their candidate, want record their preferences as soon as possible. The composition of tomorrow’s vote could be entirely different. The early vote, in other words, tells us nothing for sure about the outcome of the total vote.


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Confessions of a used-to-be liberal: Why I’ve decided, reluctantly, to vote for John McCain.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Secret ballots be damned. It’s time for me to fess up. You’re nice enough to stop by, read my stuff, leave a comment now and then. You deserve to know.

Mind you, my reasons for voting for Senator McCain, as you are about to find out, are more negative than positive. They are reasons why I believe he would be better as President, better for our country than Senator Obama, even though I don’t like either of them for the job. I am, in other words, making a negative choice, a process which, unfortunately, has become a tradition. (For the record, if Hillary Clinton were the Democratic nominee, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.)

In case you’re wondering, in my entire life I have only once voted for a Republican candidate for President. That was for the first George Bush when he ran against Michael Dukakis. It was one of those negative choices. “None of the Above” wasn’t on the ballot.

Here goes, in no particular order. Be prepared. Life is short. I’m going to be blunt.

Experience… Barack Obama has none. Zip. He’s a professional candidate. Very bright. Exceptionally well spoken, but otherwise completely unqualified to manage our government, domestic or international. Senator McCain is a far less attractive candidate, but is experienced and unquestionably better prepared to be President.

Choice of Vice President… To say that Joe Biden is more qualified to be President than Sarah Palin is a joke based on the naïve assumption that being President does not require management skills or experience. The fact that our current President has no management (or other discernable) skills does not set the standard for his position. Bill Clinton, former Governor of Arkansas, is a better example of what I have in mind.

Naiveté… This is different than “experience.” What I’m talking about here is whether or not either candidate’s stated philosophy of governing is realistic. Senator Obama believes in governing by consensus and compromise. Give me a break. “Change” doesn’t happen by getting divergent interests in Congress to agree on a course of action. I want, and we desperately need real leadership if our government is to get anything important done anytime soon – leadership which John McCain is more likely to provide.

Naiveté… My impression is that Senator Obama believes that he can talk our enemies of state into getting along with us, that he can resolve international threats and crises by the sheer force of rhetoric, charisma and good will. His willingness to meet with anyone, anywhere, without preconditions is testimony to his fundamental lack of any real understanding of what it means to negotiate with someone you can’t trust, whose intentions are based on an entirely different set of principles and objectives. Senator McCain harbors no such delusions.

Integrity… Senator McCain has a history of saying what he believes regardless of the consequences. Senator Obama promises everything to everyone, without regard to his ability to actually accomplish those objectives or their cost. During three lackluster years in the US Senate, he’s followed his party leadership, failing to initiate any of the major new programs which are his campaign’s slogan. What’s he been waiting for? They’re both professional politicians, and you know what that means, but between the two of them, Barack Obama gets the prize for saying and doing whatever it takes to get elected. (Does anyone remember his commitment to government campaign funding, until he realized he might be able to raise enough on his own to, almost literally, buy the election?)

Political Philosophy… Senator Obama is too liberal, even for me. (Personally, I’m a registered independent who believes in using conservative economic policy and management to accomplish a liberal social programs agenda.) Every speech he makes convinces me more that he will preside over a larger, much more expensive government with takes a significantly greater role in our personal lives and economy. I don’t believe that government is the problem, but it certainly isn’t the solution either. John McCain is, above all, a Republican in the purest sense of that label, and will not grow the government or expand its influence, certainly not to the extent Barack Obama will. (Regrettably, President Bush and his gang have given Republicans a bad name just when we need to elect a competent one.)

Balancing the Budget and Reducing our National Debt… Senator McCain will, although getting it done with the Democrats in charge of Congress won’t be easy. Senator Obama won’t, primarily because he’ll be too busy kissing up to Congress and won’t be willing to make the necessary cuts to the agenda that got him elected.

The Economy… Neither of them knows what he’s doing. With luck, the economy will recover on its own in spite of either of them and Congress, and whoever’s in charge will take full credit. In general, I suspect Republican instincts will be more conducive to an economic recovery by encouraging business to take the lead with minimal interference. It’s a smarter and far less expensive approach than what the Democrats seem to have in mind.

Checks and Balances… I think we’re going to need a President who, by virtue of his party affiliation and personal beliefs, will be a countervailing power to what may be an overwhelmingly Democrat majority in both houses. (Another Bush legacy.) For the measly three years he’s been in the US Senate, Barack Obama has consistently done what his party’s leadership has asked of him. Does anyone really think they’re going to let him be in charge just because he’s President?

Campaign… Hands down, Senator Obama is sitting on top of the better organized, better managed campaign. It’s a major point in his favor. If Senator McCain can’t manage his campaign, so the argument in my head goes, how well can I expect him to run the government? It’s convincing, but only until I ask myself what one has to do with the other. Is the product that has the most effective advertising campaign necessarily the highest quality, the most useful and the one I want to buy? To what extent do I want to elect a person President because of superior skills at managing the media and public opinion? Do I even like the way that question sounds? No. I don’t.

Supreme Court… Yes, I’m concerned about the effect of the appointments our next President might make to the Supreme Court. Yes, my personal opinions are significantly different from Senator McCain’s on a number of social issues, including a woman’s right to choose, and that bothers me in no small way. But then the President only nominates, while it’s up to the Senate to confirm his choices for the Supreme Court – a Senate that is controlled by the Democrats. The need for compromise will make a McCain Presidency is far more likely to produce moderate replacements to retiring Judges, than an Obama Presidency whose replacements might be too liberal for my personal taste and that of a very large segment, if not outright majority of the electorate. I want competent Judges who are open-minded, all things considered, when they hear the major issues presented to the Court. Which Presidency, I wonder rhetorically, is more likely to nominate and approve extremes on either end of the political spectrum?

Short-term… This is my last and most perverse argument. Remember, even though I think we’re better off with Senator McCain in office, neither of these candidates measures up to my absolute standards for The Oval Office. In this context, I believe that McCain’s age is actually a point in his favor. However successful, he’s likely to be only a one term President, while we’ll probably be stuck with Obama for the full eight. Four years from now, I want to play it again. With or without Hillary Clinton, maybe next time we’ll get it right and give us the opportunity to make a more positive choice between two highly qualified candidates.

Whew. There, I’ve typed it all out. Spilled my guts, and it still makes sense. To me anyway. Now I can sit back, relax and enjoy the rest of the campaign. Whatever the polls say, I plan on having a good time.


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None of the Above: “Election Reform We Need.”

Friday, October 17, 2008

Every once and a while, I like to float an idea out there that’s a bit of a stretch, that I think is worth talking about even though it’s still a work in progress. Here goes. What the hell, it’s Friday.

As you may know from reading other pieces I’ve been writing, I’m not particularly crazy about either candidate for President. Actually, that was too kind. To be honest, I don’t think either of them knows what he’s doing. Hillary Clinton, maybe, but I find both Senators Obama and McCain to be well short of what I have in mind for The Oval Office. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I was pleased with either candidate running for any major office.

My problem is that I don’t want to compare the candidates to each other. I want to compare them individually to some standard I feel we need in anyone who aspires to high office. It’s not that I’m looking for the flawless candidate. I just want a candidate that doesn’t have any major shortcomings and whose ideas about the significant issues of our time are acceptable – not necessarily the same as mine, but acceptable. Anything less that this standard, and I don’t want him or her wasting our time.

“Is this the best our political system can do?” I keep asking myself every two, and especially every four years. And so it’s occurred to me… I want a “Right to Redo” built into the voting process. I’m not talking about the right to recall an elected official. That’s too late, after the fact. What I want is the right to redo the election if the electorate and I, after a reasonable but not endless campaign, still don’t like either of the choices we’ve been offered. I’m tired of settling for someone less than I wanted to elect, and then spending the next four years regretting it.

Suppose we made it the law that every ballot for high office – Governor, US Congress and Senate, and President of course, especially President – have a standard option, a third candidate on every ballot named “None of the Above.” (Write-in votes won’t do it. The option has to be specific and right on the ballot, as legitimate and as easy a choice as voting for any of the candidates.) If None of the Above gets a majority of the vote, the election needs to be held again, but this time with different candidates. The people have spoken. The campaign that just happened has not convinced a majority of the voters that either candidate is worthy of its endorsement. According to law, neither one of the first candidates can run again until the next regular term election.

The law would allow only one “Redo” per election which we schedule far enough in advance, let’s say 90 days from the end of the term, so that the parties have time to play it again. Real campaign financing reform which we desperately need isn’t enough. We need a national primary, and campaigns of limited, much shorter duration. But we also need a formal mechanism for ordinary people who aren’t involved in party politics to send a message: “Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve listened carefully to what they have to say, and neither of these two is acceptable.”

I’m trying to give us an alternative to the negative choice option – the way we now tend to vote for the candidate we dislike the least. I know, I know. It’s radical, some would say “Nutball.” (Who said that?!) But let’s be honest, wouldn’t you like Senator Obama more if he had, let’s say, experience? Between the nice sounding, but empty rhetoric and endless stream of promises he can’t accomplish and none of us can afford, am I the only one getting tired of the sound of his voice? If you’re a McCain supporter, wouldn’t many of you prefer that the Senator were a tad less Republican, less conservative, less old and a lot smarter? You know what I think? I think that if you could somehow merge both candidates, taking only their very best attributes, you still wouldn’t have one I’d want to be President. But then that’s just me.

At the very least, the None of the Above vote, even if it wasn’t a majority, might change the way our political parties select their nominees and the campaigns they run to get elected.

Oh, did I mention that I also think it should be illegal not to vote, that qualified citizens who don’t vote should be fined? Voting, I was taught, is not just a privilege. It’s my duty as an American. So let’s make “compulsory voting” the law. It may very well be both the least and the most important thing we can do for our country. Not a huge fine, just enough to make the non-voter feel bad and think twice. Can you imagine how elections would be different if almost everyone who could vote, did? I can’t, but I’d sure like to find out.

Wow. Do you see now what this election has done to me? …I need a nap. No. I need some Ben & Jerry’s, then a nap.


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Obama or McCain? Who best to preside over the bankruptcy of America?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Financially, our country isn’t all that different from its individuals and families, like you and me. If we spend beyond our disposable income on a sustained basis, the burden of the debt we are carrying eventually becomes overwhelming and our personal financial world collapses. We do our best to put off the tough choices we need to make, tap dancing our way from paycheck to paycheck, but the underlying problem – too much spending for too little income – doesn’t go away, does it? Without adequate savings, any major problem – loss of job, serious illness, whatever – only forces the inevitable.

For companies, as for individuals, we have taken for granted the availability of credit which, in many cases should never have been forthcoming. The thing is, credit is no substitute for savings or retained earnings.

As a nation, we have hugely over-spent, incurring untenable levels of national debt in the process, and now we’re in trouble. Our economy is in crisis, its financial sector in particular, and all our government can think to do is spend more billions, and probably trillions if nothing happens to change the same mindset which has brought us down this road to nowhere. Yes, we’re in deep trouble, but it’s not specifically because of subprime mortgages that never should have been financed. That’s a problem, to be sure. More importantly, it is the outgrowth of a national psychology, a mentality that has too long believed in excessive, reckless consumption by our people and their government. Well, time’s up.

As soon as possible over the next, let’s say 10 to 25 years, our people need to change their habits and start saving. Savings, in the absence of higher incomes will reduce consumption, and that’s going to be a real problem for our economy overall. It won’t be pretty, but we’ll have to deal with it. We need to generate new jobs in emerging sectors and subsectors of our economy, improve productivity, and make our workforce and technologies competitive by the highest international standards. Easier said than done, I know.

More to the point of his piece, our government has got to stop living beyond its means. We need to balance the budget and to eventually generate surpluses made possible by a healthy, competitive, growing economy with realistic levels of personal and corporate taxes, and then use those surpluses to pay down our national debt – starting with the international portions of it – and lower the costs of servicing those obligations. In the process, we need to dramatically reduce, at least for the time being, the scope and extent of what we expect our federal government to do for us. Our government simply cannot afford to sustain anywhere near the level of services in now attempts to provide.

(If I’m saying anything with which any of you disagree, please speak up. This is a blog. You know what to do.)

The question we need to resolve in the next three weeks is simple: Which candidate is more likely to understand this problem I’m describing, and manage our way through it, with less reliance upon our government, by encouraging our economy’s natural facility for recovery and growth? The answer is clearly John McCain. He’s not my first choice of people I would want to be President, but clearly the better of the two alternatives in front of us for the following reasons related to this one, really big problem I need the President to address:

Senator Obama has no experience, period. Unbelievable that I’m about to say this, but Goveror Palin has at least had to work with a state budget. She has management experience. Senator Obama, on the other hand, is a professional candidate for President. Between the two of them, and I know they’re not running for the same office, she’s the more qualified to be President given the current economic problems we’re facing. (To quote Long John Silver, “Shiver me timbers.” It gives me chills to say it, but it’s true.)

Senator Obama is a text book liberal who has promised everything to everyone. Either he’s pandering to the electorate, and knows he can’t possibly do all this – and lower taxes – or he’s has no idea what he’s talking about. I suspect it’s some of both.

Democrats, in general, believe in more government. Republicans, as parties go, believe in greater dependence upon the private sector. (President Bush is not… well, an example of anything, and needs to be left out of this debate altogether.)

Last point… The Democrats, and Senator Obama in particular who is so, so anxious to become President, love pointing to the current Administration as the cause of our problems. That’s nonsense, and everyone of you – even the most ardent Obama supporters – knows it. Our root problems have been festering for decades. More recently, the Democrats have controlled Congress for the past few years during which Senator Obama has been in office, and did nothing substantive to head off the mess we’re in today. He’s all talk, in a time when we are in desperate need of management.

Back to work.


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None of the Above

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I watched the debate last night. No surprises, not until after the debate which I’ll talk about in a moment.

Barack Obama was his usual endless stream of well spoken drivel, making promises after promises without regard to their feasibility or expense, some of his suggestions ludicrous, others outright dangerous. His rhetoric reeks of naiveté. Absent the requisite experience, he seems sometimes to have developed his programs from reading “Liberalism for Dummies.”

John McCain’s decades of experience have given far better instincts, but he’s not well spoken and his understanding of the economy too simple to be useful.

Neither candidate is acceptable. What is it about our political system that delivers candidates, and then Congressmen, Senators and Presidents, whose experience and skills are so substandard? We need the political version of one of those rulers painted on a stick that helps prevent people who are too short from riding the roller coaster. “If you don’t have at least the following qualifications, don’t bother to apply.” And those standards need to be high.

As for the highlight of the evening, for me it came after the debate during Katie Couric’s discussion which included the results of an instant poll of 516 so called “uncommitted” voters who were “either undecided about who to vote for or who say they could still change their minds.”* I have real questions about polling, particularly during this campaign. The issues are complex and rapidly changing. There are all sorts of newly registered voters. One of the candidates for President is black. One of the candidates for Vice President is a woman who may have some special appeal to working class voters. It’s only one poll. Who knows? But I thought these results were particularly interesting.

Who won the debate?
Obama: 40%, McCain: 26%, Tie: 34%

About each candidate separately,** to what extent do you believe he…

…would make the right decisions about the economy?
Obama: 68%, McCain 48%

…understands the needs and problems of people like you?
Obama: 80% (up from only 59% before the debate), McCain: 44%

…would make the right decisions about the war in Iraq?
Obama: 48%, McCain: 61%

…would bring about real change in the way things are done in Washington?
Obama: 63%, McCain: 38%

…answered the questions he was asked tonight?
Obama: 57%, McCain: 57%

…IS PREPARED FOR THE JOB OF PRESIDENT?
Obama: 58%, McCain: 83% …What?!

No, those last numbers are not a typo. In almost every other category, with the exception of how they might handle the war in Iraq, Senator Obama has a significant lead, and yet 83% of these “uncommitted” voters believe Senator McCain is prepared to be President, versus only 58% who hold the same opinion of Senator Obama.

Not that this carefully selected sample of 516 voters is a perfect or even good indication of total voter thinking throughout our electorate, but they’re still real, cogent, logical people. How can there be so much more confidence in one candidate’s preparedness to be President, without a substantial majority being committed to that same candidate? In fact, these voters were asked one additional question:

If the 2008 presidential election were being held today would you vote for…?
Now Committed to Obama: 15%
Now Committed to McCain: 12%
Still Uncommitted: 72%

You know, I’m beginning to think this campaign doesn’t have anything to do with qualifications… to which many of you are no doubt saying “Duh?” as if I was the very last likely voter to figure that out. It’s about personality, isn’t it, about age, about party affiliation, but not about the experience and qualifications, at least not primarily. With all that we have at stake, this is the way our electorate thinks? Is this the way you would choose a surgeon to perform a life saving operation? Is it any wonder we so often nominate and elect the wrong people – and then have the audacity to blame them, and not ourselves, for how they mismanage our government?

*CBS Post-Debate Poll of Uncommitted Voters.
**Percentages will not add to 100.


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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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Note to Barack Obama: Follow the leader. His name is “John McCain.”

“Senator Obama did what he does best: He’s remaining calm, seeking advice, forming a consensus, and waiting to see which way the political winds blow.”
Wednesday, September 24, 2008

No less an authority on life than Woody Allen once observed that “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” Apparently Senator Obama never got the memo. Oh, he’s showed up to run for President alright, since he was 10 years old according to legend. Unfortunately, that qualifies him to be a candidate, but little else.

Today, in the midst of what our government tells us – but I don’t buy – is our greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, Senator McCain called Senator Obama to suggest a joint, non-partisan statement on the subject, and to recommend that Friday’s debate be postponed to allow them both to go to Washington where our Congressional leaders who are sincerely interested in being part of the solution belong.

Instead of agreeing to the postponement, Senator Obama did what he does best: He’s remaining calm, seeking advice, forming a consensus, and waiting to see which way the political winds blow. It’s good to be laid back, so I’ve heard. It’s not a something I have time to be. Too much to worry about, I guess. I don’t know about you, but I want a President who gets excited now and then, who feels my angst and maybe shows some occasional frustration in the face of a government that’s not even close to working.

It’s reassuring to know that Senator Obama talks to Congressional and Administration leaders over the phone as he explained at today’s press conference. That’s great. All he needs to run the government is a cell phone. Think of the all money we’ll save. And he told them if he’s needed in Washington, just let him know and he’ll be there. Translation: That’s campaign-speak for “I’m busy running for President. Wake me when the crisis is over.” Senator McCain is not waiting for anyone to call, and deserves credit for taking the initiative.

Was suggesting the postponement a political ploy, a desperate measure given his recent slipping in the polls? One poll shows him down by 10 points, but that’s unlikely. Others show him down by only two, within the margin of error. Sure. Maybe. I don’t know, nor do I care. What’s becoming apparent is that Senator McCain’s in the fight of his life, and so is our country. They’re a good match.

Now could someone please remind me which one of the two candidates is the old one?


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