The Sovereign Mind

Free thought on politics and real life

Posts Tagged ‘John McCain

Obama: Changing the Tone of Our Politics

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There were a lot of things to like about President Obama’s State of the Union address. But I’d like to focus on this part for now:

But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can’t wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side -– a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of — (applause) — I’m speaking to both parties now. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants shouldn’t be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators. (Applause.)

Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, no matter how malicious, is just part of the game. But it’s precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, it’s sowing further division among our citizens, further distrust in our government.

So, no, I will not give up on trying to change the tone of our politics. I know it’s an election year. And after last week, it’s clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern.

Right on, Mr. President. This is something I can get behind. We really do need to change the tone of our politics.

We want to debate the issues respectfully and listen to opposing views with an open mind:

And we need to stop taking cheap-shots on the opposition. Intelligent people often disagree, so we shouldn’t be belittling people’s character or intelligence:

And we certainly shouldn’t be criticizing our opponents because of their age or disabilities, particularly when those disabilities are due to war injuries. That would just downright dirty politics:

Despite all of your efforts, Mr. President, the tone of our politics hasn’t changed much. But keep up the good work. Your consistent example is appreciated and is sure to bring about the change we hoped for eventually.


Written by Mike

January 28, 2010 at 12:16 am

Obama, Prove Me Wrong

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After nearly two years of campaigning, the 2008 election is almost over. I am looking forward to moving on. I’ve written a few posts defending the undecided, and explaining my own reasons for being undecided. Just to tie up loose ends, I should note that I have decided on McCain. In the end, it comes down to the fact that I just can’t trust Obama with a congress also controlled by liberals. So, I guess I was won over by the “divided government” argument.

But I’m not posting just to tell you how I’m going to vote, as if you cared.

What I hope we all remember is how fortunate we are to have a voice. There is a lot of cynicism about the corruption of government and the flaws of our political system. Our government was built on a system of checks and balances, and it is the people who have the ultimate check. No matter how much money is poured into a campaign, it can’t buy (at least literally) even one vote. It is the people who decide who our leaders will be. I think that we take that for granted. In many countries around the world, the people either don’t have a voice, or the democracy hangs on by a thread, which each election followed by violence. It really is remarkable that after all of this fighting between political factions within our country, after every election the democracy holds together after the dust settles. Why is this so? It is because we understand that above the labels of Republican and Democrat, we are all Americans.

So, whoever wins tomorrow, I look forward to a honest debate about policies, untainted by campaigning. I will not submit to partisan appeals. I will praise him when he is right and criticize when he is wrong. I will be voting for McCain, although he will almost surely lose. I want to believe that Obama will really be a great leader who will unite us and govern with a voice of reason against the political ideologies of both sides. But, in the end, I don’t believe it.

Obama, for the sake of our nation, prove me wrong.

Written by Mike

November 3, 2008 at 9:46 pm

For Sale to the Highest Bidder: My Vote

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I don’t believe in voting for self-interest. For one thing, it’s selfish. But for another, what’s in my self-interest is not always as simple to figure out as some try to make it. Some people can’t understanding why anyone in the middle class wouldn’t vote for Obama. Don’t they know they will get a tax break (assuming he does as he has promised, and ignoring the fact that he would not unilaterally write the laws)?

No, we don’t all exist in a vacuum. The poor do benefit, to some extent, from cutting taxes on the rich. After all, it does increase the chance of finding work. On the other hand, the rich do benefit from cutting taxes on the poor and middle class, since it gives the rich more customers. Clearly, our economic system is intertwined, so determining what is in my best interest (even if I were to vote that way) is not so easy to figure out and certainly involves more than a simple calculator.

But, as an experiment, I decided to suspend whatever intellectualism I have and determine how I would vote if I truly were to yield to my most primal instincts (give me more money!). I don’t wish to disclose the details of my financial situation to the world, but if is sufficient to say that I am doing pretty well. I am one (of the apparently few) that is actually better off than I was four years ago. But I am still solidly middle-class, and certainly not anywhere close to Obama’s definition of rich (which he says is $250,000).

So, with that in mind, I expected Obama to win my auctioned vote, given that he has championed the cause of the middle class, and has painted McCain as only caring about the rich. I had heard of a tax calculator on Obama’s website, so I checked it out. Sure enough, I would get 9 times more of a tax cut with Obama than McCain. Hmm… maybe there is something to this “vote for my own self-interest” after all.

But then of course, I couldn’t resist yielding to at least a little bit of intelligence in my decisions process. So I decided to see if there were any more independent calculators. I found this one which is promoting Obama, but at least claims to be based on independent numbers. I filled out the form and found out that apparently I will be getting even more with Obama than even Obama’s website claimed! Cha-ching! But…

…I would get even more with McCain.

Apparently I would get 14 times more under McCain than what Obama’s website told me I would. Let me repeat that: Obama misrepresented McCain’s tax cut by 14 times! Of course I shouldn’t be surprised by that, but it is appalling.

It’s bad enough that Obama tries to appeal to my selfish side by putting up a tax calculator. But to make matters worse, he blatantly lies about the tax cut I would see under McCain, in order to make his tax cut appear more appealing. In my opinion, this is more than just a typical politician who misrepresents the facts. He directly lied to me in order to persuade me to vote for him.

Beware, self-interested voters.

(By the way, I already know McCain frequent misrepresents Obama’s tax policy. I had given Obama the advantage in terms of honesty on tax policy. No longer.)

Written by Mike

November 1, 2008 at 10:18 pm

Snapshot of an Undecided Voter: T minus 6 days

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It’s been almost two weeks since my last update, and I am still undecided.  There were a few times in the past few weeks that I thought I might decide, only to be reminded of what I don’t like about the candidate I was about the choose.

I won’t post the chart I used last time that maps out where I stand on all of the issues.  Instead, this time I’ll focus in on the key factors that keep me on the fence.

Why I might vote for Obama:

1) I agree with Colin Powell when he said this:

On the Obama side, I watched Mr. Obama and I watched him during this seven-week period. And he displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge and an approach to looking at problems like this and picking a vice president that, I think, is ready to be president on day one. And also, in not just jumping in and changing every day, but showing intellectual vigor. I think that he has a, a definitive way of doing business that would serve us well.

Republicans have often pointed out how Obama speaks well in front of a teleprompter, but when speaking off the cuff his words don’t come as smoothly. They insinuate that this is a sign of his lack of knowledge on the issues. Listening to him speak in the debates and in other venues, I actually get the opposite impression. He seems like a man who thinks about what he is saying, and tries to get his words in line with his thoughts. That means he doesn’t often come up with zingers off the cuff, but when he speaks I at least hear real ideas. Heaven knows it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have a president that thinks before he speaks.

Incidentally, I have been struck by the level of detail outlined on Obama’s website regarding his positions, in comparison to McCain. He clearly has done a lot of thinking and researching these issues (and has assembled a team that has spent a lot of time doing likewise). If we are to reject the politics of bumper stickers, then I think Obama deserves credit for that.

On the other hand, the McCain campaign has been panicky. They have relied on old politics of culture war (“Obama’s a celebrity”), of misrepresentation (“Obama will raise your taxes”) and of fear (“Obama is a terrorist’s friend” and “Obama is a socialist”). They have not spent much time talking about issues, and when they do it’s mostly bumper sticker slogans (“Drill, Baby, Drill”) that don’t inspire confidence that they’ve done much thinking. Granted, Obama has done his fair share of spin (“McCain wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years”, and “McCain can’t use a computer”). I don’t think either candidate has lived up to his promise to run a “new politics” kind of campaign, but in the balance I think McCain has gone further. For Obama, such moments are the exception to the rule, whereas McCain’s entire campaign seems to be revolved around such tactics lately. Perhaps that’s just because he’s losing, but for a man of integrity that’s no excuse.

2) I don’t think Sarah Palin is qualified to be vice president, and especially not president. McCain claims to have picked her because she is a maverick and a reformer. I agree that she is a maverick, but the reform spin has been mostly nullified in my mind by the finding of the ethics report that she overstepped her authority as governor of Alaska. In addition, being a maverick and a reformer is not enough to be president. You need knowledge and experience, both of which Palin lacks. At first, I defended Palin in the experience category, noting that she has more executive experience than Obama. However, even though both Palin and Obama are relatively inexperienced, Obama has proven he is knowledgeable (see #1) whereas Palin has reinforced her inexperience. It’s true that Obama has made some gaffes, but that is to be expected in a long campaign. Some of Palin’s comments, however, don’t appear to be just gaffes but reveal a fundamental lack of knowledge on the issues and a lack of judgment on where talking points should end and real discussion should begin. If she can’t handle the media, how will she handle foreign leaders?

Palin’s inexperience scares me, but the choice also reflects negatively on McCain. I don’t know if McCain really chose her, or if he was coerced to do it by the Republican party powers that be. But either way does not reflect well on him. If McCain really thought she was the best person for the job, that calls into question his judgment. If the choice was forced upon him, then that’s even worse–that means he is not really a maverick, but is beholden to the old political forces of party politics.

Why I might vote for McCain:

1) Obama is trying to sound like a moderate now, but his legislative record is very liberal, and recent comments regarding “spreading the wealth” hint at this as well. If the congress weren’t also ruled by liberals, this wouldn’t bother me so much given the points I outlined above. However, I have little reason to believe that Obama would stand up for the voice of moderation against Pelosi and Reid. That could spell disaster in terms of running up the deficit and helping our economy recover.

The argument has been made that Republicans have done nothing to help the deficit either. I agree, but McCain has done enough to convince me that he is serious about cutting spending, even though I don’t believe he can live up to his promise to balance the budget in four years. Obama has not done anything to convince me that he is serious about reigning in spending.

2) Looking only at issues in general, I tend to agree with McCain more than Obama. I side more with McCain on taxes, energy, and social issues. That’s not to say that his ideas have no flaws, however, and that Obama’s have no merit in my mind. But on the balance I favor McCain’s policies. If the campaigns and candidates were just the sum of their policy proposals, I would have decided for McCain a long time ago. But it’s not, nor should it be. It’s also about the candidates and how they run their campaigns, which can be viewed as the ultimate job interview.

Why I might (probably not) vote for Barr:

I’d like to stick it to both parties. I’ve written before about why third parties can be important to our political process, even without winning. So I would have no problem voting for a third party, even if I knew the candidate wouldn’t win, if I truly believed that the candidate was the best choice. But I can’t bring myself to vote for someone I don’t think would be a good president. I have some libertarian in me, the libertarian party is just a bit too libertarian for my taste. I would welcome them to have a role in our political system, but not as president.

So how will I make up my mind

The main question I will need to answer is which side of the candidate is real and which is fake. If I vote for Obama, will he be the liberal that he was as a senator, or the uniting post-politician he claims to be now? If I vote for McCain, will he be the maverick that I’ve admired in the past, or the same-old politician I’m seeing now? So, in the end, the policy positions have been laid out and nothing new is likely to come around on that front. So for the candidates, it’s all about convincing me that I can trust them. The candidates have one week to convince me one way or the other. Let’s hear the closing arguments.

Written by Mike

October 29, 2008 at 7:25 am

The One Reason I’m Still Undecided: Palin

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Just when I start thinking I’m deciding to vote for McCain, Palin says something like this:

Just say “Yes”. Please.

My simple definition of a terrorist: Anyone who attempts or threatens to cause death or bodily harm in order to promote their own ideology.

Ayers, check.
Abortion clinic bombers, check.

Written by Mike

October 24, 2008 at 10:44 pm

The Psychology of the Underdog

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I am an unashamed undecided voter. However, I am leaning toward McCain. The main reason I remain uncommitted is that I don’t really like either candidate. I think they are both great people, but I don’t like how they have run their campaigns, and I don’t agree with many of their positions.

As I’ve pondered who I might vote for, I’ve noticed an unsettling idea creeping into my head. Psychologically, it seems like it will be easier for me to pull the lever for the candidate I think will lose, because by doing so I won’t have any responsibility for what the new president might do. Now, don’t get be wrong. I’m not saying this is a valid reason to support a candidate, and I will be fighting this inclination in myself. But just saying that it is not right does not make it not real.

So am I alone in this? Could this be part of the explanation for why election polls tend to tighten as the race gets closer to election day, including this one? Will undecides (the majority of whom probably aren’t thrilled about either candidate) break toward the underdog?

I don’t know, but I came across this recounting of history that was interesting to this discussion:

There is a precedent for this kind of thinking in presidential politics. The most famous example came in the fall of 1976, when Gerald Ford battled his way back from a mammoth 33-point deficit against Jimmy Carter. Ford capped his methodical comeback the weekend before the election when polls showed him – for the first time in the entire campaign–pulling ahead of Carter. The prospect of Ford actually winning the election sparked some widespread second-guessing among his softest supporters. Hang on, they seemed to say, are we really going to give four more years to the guy who pardoned Nixon? After two months of steady gains, Ford’s support dropped that final weekend and Carter won the race by two points.

So electors increasing supported Ford, until it got to the point where he might win, and then backed off, allowing Carter to win instead. This seems to support my argument: it’s psychologically easier to support the underdog.

But if I’m right, it’s not all good news for McCain. After all, the underdog is only the underdog while he is behind, of course. If McCain is able to catch up to Obama, and there is not a clear expected loser, the psychological tendency to “wash my hands” will be nullified. So I still think Obama will win, but McCain could make it close.

Written by Mike

October 23, 2008 at 8:31 pm

Orson Scott Card: Democrats Caused the Housing Crisis

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I am always impressed with independent thinkers, which is what I strive to be, if you haven’t figured that out by the title of my blog.  This is probably why I was very impressed with Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama.  It wasn’t just the fact that Powell endorsed a Democrat, but I thought his explanation was extremely well thought-out, and showed that he had made the decision for the right reasons, without relying on any partisan talking-points (although some disagree with me on that).

Today my attention was drawn to an article by another independent thinker: Orson Scott Card. Although a Democrat, he has written articles before criticizing his own party. But this one’s a doozy:

This housing crisis didn’t come out of nowhere. It was not a vague emanation of the evil Bush administration.

It was a direct result of the political decision, back in the late 1990s, to loosen the rules of lending so that home loans would be more accessible to poor people. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were authorized to approve risky loans.

What is a risky loan? It’s a loan that the recipient is likely not to be able to repay.

The goal of this rule change was to help the poor — which especially would help members of minority groups. But how does it help these people to give them a loan that they can’t repay? They get into a house, yes, but when they can’t make the payments, they lose the house — along with their credit rating.

They end up worse off than before.

This was completely foreseeable and in fact many people did foresee it. One political party, in Congress and in the executive branch, tried repeatedly to tighten up the rules. The other party blocked every such attempt and tried to loosen them.

He goes on in his scathing criticism of both the Democratic party, as well as the media for failing to report on the facts of the story.

I believe he is right as far as the media goes. Journalists have, for the most part, gotten lazy. It seems most prefer to regurgitate what some other news story said, rather than do real research. That’s no more apparent than in the current election, where the news only reports the horse race, rather than talking about real issues.

However, as far as the Democratic party goes, I think he goes a bit too far. I do agree with him that McCain and Bush did try to pass stricter regulation on Fannie and Freddie. But I don’t think it’s 100% accurate to say that the failure to do so was all the Democrats’ fault. After all, Republicans were in charge of Congress at the time. The bill passed the committee vote 9 to 11 (down party lines, with Republicans favoring the bill to add more regulation), but the Republican leadership did not bring it up for a full vote, despite McCain’s attempt to revive it by becoming a co-sponsor. You could argue that Republicans didn’t because they knew it would fail since no Democrats supported it. So there’s room for debate, but at least I don’t think it’s as cut-and-dry and Card suggests.

Additionally, his column points out that all of this started under Clinton. That is true, but Republicans had six years to correct it, and failed to do so. It seems there is plenty of blame to go around.

Still, I credit him for at least thinking for himself and holding his own party accountable. We could use a lot more of that.

Written by Mike

October 22, 2008 at 10:17 pm