Sunday, November 2, 2008

I’m for Hope. And Change we Can Believe In.

Yes, the slogans are embarrassing. But I am voting for Obama, despite the fact I fundamentally disagree with him on many issues. His record in the Senate is remarkably thin. In contrast, McCain has not weaseled out of taking positions on hard issues and has led on the toughest issues, however politically risky. The word ‘maverick’ is now a punch line, but McCain earned the title. He also has an undisputed record of bipartisanship, in contrast to Obama. Nevertheless, my vote is going to Obama.

A Few Reasons Why:

Sarah Palin. For me, Palin is a complete non-starter, as I’ve written from the get-go. I won’t and can’t rehash why she is completely unacceptable, but I have felt the same way as other reasonable conservatives who are calling a spade a spade:

Colin Powell: “And I was also concerned at the selection of Governor Palin. She’s a very distinguished woman, and she’s to be admired; but at the same time, now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don’t believe she’s ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president. And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made.”

Christopher Hitchens: “The most insulting thing that a politician can do is to compel you to ask yourself: ‘What does he take me for?’ Precisely this question is provoked by the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin.”

Peggy Noonan: “But we have seen Mrs. Palin on the national stage for seven weeks now, and there is little sign that she has the tools, the equipment, the knowledge or the philosophical grounding one hopes for, and expects, in a holder of high office….. But it's unclear whether she is Bushian or Reaganite. She doesn't think aloud. She just . . . says things…. No news conferences? Interviews now only with friendly journalists? You can't be president or vice president and govern in that style, as a sequestered figure.”


Entitlement Reform. In a perverse way, I think the odds of entitlement reform are actually greater with a (responsible) Democrat president. As we saw with Bush in 2005, almost all Dems were against any reform brought by a Republican president- and a large number of Reps weren’t on board. It’s a hard issue. What I think has to happen is a scenario similar to Bill Clinton passing NAFTA, where Obama convinces a minority of Dems in the congress to go along with it. And a majority of Reps would go along with it as they are more naturally-inclined to reform entitlements. This is a big issue for me, if not the biggest. This chart, included in the treasury’s report on the financial health of the government, is why:

Republicans Need to be Chastened. Republicans have completely lost their way as fiscal conservatives. While they have cut taxes, they have simultaneously grown government by leaps and bounds. Earmarks grew dramatically. We have doubled the national debt in 8 years, and this doesn’t even tell the full story as our unfunded obligations related to entitlements are much, much higher. Christopher Buckley summed it up concisely, though I would add the dazzling display of incompetence we saw with Hurricane Katrina. His comment:

"Eight years of 'conservative' government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case."

The Terry Schiavo case was a microcosm of Republican failures. To appease evangelicals, we had Republicans in congress considering legislation for this one case, which naturally should have been resolved by the family and courts. Instead of focusing their attention and energies on Social Security reform, which was on the docket in 2005, we had Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist diagnosing Terry Schiavo from the Senate Floor.


Republicans are headed for the political wilderness for the near future. I hope they find religion, and by religion I mean their fiscal conservative roots (and not more embarrassing obeisance to evangelical Christians). If they can find themselves as the party of competence, reform, and fiscal conservatism, we may see a resurgence in 2010 (much like 1994). I have every confidence Nancy Pelosi will overreach, giving an opening to Republicans as she drives congressional approval ratings even lower. If McCain wins, I think you would continue to see a shift to the left in this country. Drip, drip, drip. With Dems running the government, the political pendulum will swing back to the middle faster.

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