Monday, September 29, 2008

Friday Night Fights

When I said no more political posts until November, I should have said, "not many more." I just can't help it. However, I listened carefully when the annual political letter was read in church yesterday and am conceding that while my own biases will surely be revealed here, I believe that no one party or candidate has all the answers nor is the right choice for every person whose own ideas of "good government" may be different than mine.

What I think is worth discussing here, is the poll-bump that Barack Obama recieved among white suburban women voters after Friday night's debate. One poll, conducted within hours of the debate had over 60% (to McCain's 35%) saying that Obama was the "winner." At least among women--the men were split nearly down the middle in declaring a victor. So was it about Mr. Obama that prompted this disparity among the sexes? I've been thinking about it a lot this weekend and have a few ideas.

* On the economy, both candidates were fairly non-committal. There was some major criticism over this. It is important to keep in mind that both men sat in on bailout-meetings all that day, but that no agreement had been reached as of Friday night. Markets, already skittish, may have imploded with any broad statements made by either candidate that might have been seen as evidence of future policy. As such, McCain and Obama each stuck the party line--McCain counseling fiscal restraint and reassurances of the Republican Party's committment to unfettered markets; Obama calling for regulatory reforms and help for "average" Americans. Where Obama did, perhaps, make inroads with the SAHM crowd was with his emphasis on the importance of financial stability so that you can send your kids to college, pay for groceries, put gas in the car, etc.

* Foreign policy was where the distinctions between the candidates became sharper, or at least semantically they did! Within 12 hours the McCain campaign was declaring victory, patting each other on the back for the number of times McCain made it clear to Obama that "he failed to understand," or that he "just didn't understand" or that his foreign policy was "naive at best," you get the picture. My own impression was not so positive. What it seems that John McCain has failed to realize is that even if elected come November, he will inherit an ailing economy, an unpopular war and a Democrat-controlled congress who is going to rally around the upstart Senator from Chicago whose ideas they just happen to believe in. McCain's insistence that Barack Obama "doesn't understand" his own ideas hashed out over many months with advisors and military strategists, is a broader condemnation of anyone who thinks that American foreign policy is due for a course correction. McCain, for all his excellent record of bipartisan cooperation, has really drawn a line in the sand over the Iraq issue. Yes, he has experience, but there are other experienced politicians and generals who disagree with the current course of action. Is he saying that all these other people are just dead wrong, ignorant and/or naive? If so, that is a pretty paternalistic attitude from a man wanting to lead the free world. Americans, and our foreign enemies and friends alike, are pretty tired of hearing that "President knows best." I thought that much of this lack-of-experience argument would fade in light of the Sarah Palin choice. On balance, each ticket has a similar amount of experience.

* Within 24 hours of the debate the McCain campaign began running ads, triumphantly showing the number of times Obama agreed with him during the debate. McCain has a better (and of course, longer) record of bi-partisanship than Obama. Yet, this agreement despite every condescending remark thrown at Obama paints him as the candidate best poised to bring people together. Whether he will or not, of course, is a matter of opinion and speculation. Still, he seems to be trying to reassure the middle-leaning electorate that "Yes, I know I'll be a Democratic president over a Democratic congress, but I will not overlook the places where there is agreement." There is something to be said for the give-and-take, quiet dignity approach when dealing with a variety of world leaders.

* Obama became very specific talking about "taking out" AlQaeda targets in Pakistan with or without their government's approval. McCain jumped all over that, telling his colleague that even if you thought such a thing, you would never say it on national television for fear of turning allies into enemies or creating a huge backlash in the Muslim world. Perhaps a valid point, though at least it is a specific approach to foreign policy. Five minutes later, Obama made a comment that you don't get to know a Russian by looking into his soul and then going on for a minute or so, rather un-surely, about his approach to this nuclear behemoth. McCain's reply, "I have looked into Putin's soul, and I see three letters: K. G. B." Um, what happened to "even if you think such a thing, you would never say it?" Not only did he commit the same type of error as Mr. Obama, but his statement wasn't even intended to express any kind of specific policy. His own rhetoric about Russian policy was no stronger than Obamas, despite the "zinger." People are smart. WOMEN are smart. They will look for the candidate with policies that agree with their own thoughts, or seek to be educated when they don't have a clear idea. If McCain wants to win over women, he needs to seek to educate, not dictate.

* The story McCain shared about the dog tags in his posession passed on by the mother who pled with him to not let her son die in vain was very touching. McCain used this story to make the point that if we pull out now (or roughly 18 months from now as is the Obama plan) then the sacrifice of all of those American soliders is wasted. Obama's reply was just as valid about the mother who begged him not to send another child to die for a lost cause. I am certainly not going to judge each mother's approach to her grieving. I do think that McCain's own experience however, must be considered when looking at his point. He fought in a losing war. He is never shy to tell about the crucible of prisonership and torture that formed him as an adult. But according to his reasoning, the fact that he was on the losing end of a difficult war, his life-changing experience and terrible sacrifice is somehow less important. I don't buy into this philosophy any more than I believe that a person who disagrees with the Iraq war is less of a patriot.

Again, perhaps not unbiased, but I am one of those white housewives from the suburbs, and these are the things I see women picking up on. I may not be in a swing state, but I'll still vote. I hope you will too! Regardless of your political leanings, your voice is important. As we head to the polls with prayers in our hearts for the future of our country, but mostly our children, let us try not to have the "lesser of two evils" mentality, but instead say, "which candidate do I think will do the greatest good for the greatest number of people?"


Slyck and Slim said...

What scares me is the people he associates with. Sure, there will be change if he's elected. Change can be scary if power is shifted to people with radical ties. I am not dismissing his friend's in this election as unimportant.

Dickey said...

You sum up the debate so well... I just have one thought...Why didn't McCain ever make eye contact with Obama during the debate? Why does this bother me so...

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

I agree with you that Obama's acknowledgment of common ground with McCain was a positive thing. After years of divisive "us vs. them" leadership, I think our country could really benefit from a president who recognizes and builds on shared values, rather than continually focusing on differences.

I appreciated that in Obama's foreign policy views as well. Whereas McCain wants to take a tough, isolating approach to Russia, Obama wants to build on common goals. Also, McCain wants to build a coalition of democracies to pressure Iran (again, "us vs. them"), while Obama points out that if we want to have any kind of real influence on Iran, we need Russia and China on board, too.

I could go on, but if I'm going to ramble on much more, I should probably do it on my own blog. It's certainly on my to-do list. :)

Christie said...

I listened for a while but eventually tuned out. I just couldn't see how watching two grown men bicker and disagree on live television was going to help me decide who to vote for. I get enough bickering with my teenagers at home.

Honestly, if there were a viable third choice, one who didn't engage in bickering and who had a record of fixing broken systems, I'd vote for them.

Politics always leaves me disillusioned.