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Posted by on Oct 17, 2008 in Economy, Politics | 6 comments

Moving Into Ambiguity

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with someone about the upcoming presidential race and I must have said something that made her asked if I was wavering in my support for McCain.

I said no, but in reality, I was.

At this point, I am not sure who I will vote for. There are certain things that make me pause with both candidates. No matter what I do, voting for McCain or Obama will have its risks.

The thing that has given me doubts about McCain can be summed up in two words: Sarah Palin.

Now, I’m not like many who seem to detest the Alaskan governor. I don’t doubt her skills as a governor. I am not so concerned on her social views, since she seems to not be as right-wing as others and tends to be more live-and-let-live. I also don’t expect any governor to have a deep understanding of foreign affairs. But they should have at least some opinions on the matter and should be able to explain those views in a clear and concise matter. In her interviews, she could not explain what her opinions were on these issues.

I think Ms. Palin is an okay person. But she doesn’t inspire me with confidence and that means something. In a recent post, I said that image or perception doesn’t matter, but after a time, I am beginning to think otherwise. The fact is, McCain is not a spring chicken. I’m not saying he is going to die tomorrow (he DOES have a 96-year-old mother), but you have to think about that at his age. If the worst were to happen, could Palin step in? I want to believe that, but in my gut, I don’t think so.

I know, Obama has a short resume just like Palin. People are correct. But I also think Obama can project a certain amount of confidence even if you don’t accept his views. Palin doesn’t show off the confidence.

But this also shows something about McCain. It doesn’t look good. McCain could have picked many other Republicans out there that would inspire more confidence. Why did he pick someone that is not ready?

Peggy Noonan sums it up:

Here is a fact of life that is also a fact of politics: You have to hold open the possibility of magic. People can come from nowhere, with modest backgrounds and short résumés, and yet be individuals of real gifts, gifts that had previously been unseen, that had been gleaming quietly under a bushel, and are suddenly revealed. Mrs. Palin came, essentially, from nowhere. But there was a man who came from nowhere, the seeming tool of a political machine, a tidy, narrow, unsophisticated senator appointed to high office and then thrust into power by a careless Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose vanity told him he would live forever. And yet that limited little man was Harry S. Truman. Of the Marshall Plan, of containment. Little Harry was big. He had magic. You have to give people time to show what they have. Because maybe they have magic too.

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. She is a person of great ambition, but the question remains: What is the purpose of the ambition? She wants to rise, but what for? For seven weeks I’ve listened to her, trying to understand if she is Bushian or Reaganite—a spender, to speak briefly, whose political decisions seem untethered to a political philosophy, and whose foreign policy is shaped by a certain emotionalism, or a conservative whose principles are rooted in philosophy, and whose foreign policy leans more toward what might be called romantic realism, and that is speak truth, know America, be America, move diplomatically, respect public opinion, and move within an awareness and appreciation of reality.

But it’s unclear whether she is Bushian or Reaganite. She doesn’t think aloud. She just . . . says things.

Her supporters accuse her critics of snobbery: Maybe she’s not a big “egghead” but she has brilliant instincts and inner toughness. But what instincts? “I’m Joe Six-Pack”? She does not speak seriously but attempts to excite sensation—”palling around with terrorists.” If the Ayers case is a serious issue, treat it seriously. She is not as thoughtful or persuasive as Joe the Plumber, who in an extended cable interview Thursday made a better case for the Republican ticket than the Republican ticket has made. In the past two weeks she has spent her time throwing out tinny lines to crowds she doesn’t, really, understand. This is not a leader, this is a follower, and she follows what she imagines is the base, which is in fact a vast and broken-hearted thing whose pain she cannot, actually, imagine. She could reinspire and reinspirit; she chooses merely to excite. She doesn’t seem to understand the implications of her own thoughts…

In the end the Palin candidacy is a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics. It’s no good, not for conservatism and not for the country. And yes, it is a mark against John McCain, against his judgment and idealism.

In my view, she might make a good Vice President, if she were given a few more years as governor and time to build a reputation and time to develop a philosophy. But McCain picked her before she was ripe and now he and the rest of the GOP is dealing with the consequences.

But that doesn’t mean that I am ready to vote excitedly for Obama. No, I am not troubled by the whole Ayers controversy, or the Wright controversy, or the ACORN controversy (and the GOP should stop wasting its time on these “scandals”). He does project himself as presidential and, even though he is thin on experience, seems to give people the feeling that he knows what he is doing. That said, what gives me pause is twofold: his economic policy and the threat of a Democratic super-majority.

First taxes: I’m not your traditional tax-cut Republican, but I’m not desiring going back to the old “tax and spend” ways of the Dems. Alan Stewart Carl has looked into Obama’s tax plan and notes that those “tax cuts” Obama talks about are really “tax credits.” Now, there is nothing bad about tax credits, the Earned Income Tax Credit, has helped those in poverty. But to give all these credits to people, many who don’t even pay taxes is going to cost. How is this going to paid for?

I’m also concerned about trade policy under Obama. Bill Clinton helped move the Democrats to become friendlier to free trade, but that has disappeared in the ensuing years. Will a President Obama be able to stand up to his base which opposes free trade? What will happen to free trade agreements with other nations? I think that free trade can help developing nations, as well as help our nation. Would Obama pursue a protectionist policy?

Also, with Obama in the White House and bigger Democratic majority, would we have liberalism run amok? I wasn’t crazy with the GOP running the show from 2000-2006 and I’m none too crazy with having the Dems run everything. Absolute power tends to produce pretty lousy government. Could a President Obama become a check against going overboard, or will he just be an enabler like President Bush? I don’t know.

So, there it is. I’m probably still leaning towards McCain, but I’m basically on the fence.

I will vote for Republicans down-ballot because I want to have some divided government. As for President, we will find out.

Cross-posted to the Square Deal

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