Friday, October 10, 2008

Elephant V. Donkey

The political coverage on television has gotten really distressing lately. I’m particularly bothered by the scary sounding audiences at McCain’s speeches. I don’t know why McCain/Palin are tolerated audience members yelling things like “Kill him!” and “Off with his head!” I have absolutely no problem with people agreeing or disagreeing with candidates on a political or personal level, but it’s starting to get so violent.

My own views lean towards Obama, although I really liked McCain before this election started. However, I’m bothered by some of his actions as the campaign has heated up. Obama is pretty well regarded in Illinois.

One of the barbs that’s been sprung on Obama is that he’s academic and elitist. I think this is really peculiar coming from the GOP who most recently nominated George W. Bush, a transplanted member of a Mayflower family, a legacy Yale graduate, and a member of the Skull and Bones society. That essentially is as elite as it’s possible to get in this country. Obama comes from a nice family, but certainly not one so elite as suggested. Having so recently had student loans and work as a community organizer in Chicago makes me think he probably remembers quite well the sort of financial and social struggles most people face.

I actually do think that Obama’s academic qualities are a plus. Academia forces a person to base their conclusions based on physical evidence, in the case of sciences, or precedent, in the case of arts and letters. Basically, it forces you to look at the opinions of others, which should be a positive trait in the president, and then draw your own conclusions. A paper running along of the lines of “I think that Shakespeare’s Hamlet is an Elizabethan variation of the Oedipus Rex because my gut says so” is probably not going to earn its writer an A. I think one of the greatest tragedies of the recent years is that of Colin Powell. He was charged with convincing the UN to attack Iraq based on what was later found to be faulty evidence. He said something to the effect that this was the greatest regret in his life. We need, as a nation, to really consider things and evaluate sources before we act. We have the power; we need to work on the responsibility.

McCain’s impulsiveness just doesn’t seem like a good trait in a president right now. As a senator, he’s very important. A straight talking person who isn’t afraid of party lines is a terrific asset in a large governing body. My concern is that he’s a better senator than president. His jumps like selecting the unknown Sarah Palin after one meeting and claiming he would suspend his campaign are strange and considering that we’re currently dealing with a terrible situations cause by impulse (the war, waged with insufficient intelligence and the failing banks, caused by giving morgages to people who couldn’t possibly pay them), more impulsive decisions doesn’t seem to be the right way to go.

I’m also distressed at his obvious personal dislike of Obama during the recent debates. He doesn’t look at Obama, doesn’t call him by his first name, condescends (“what Senator Obama doesn’t understand is…), and refers to him as “that one.” Some of the commentators say that that is just McCain’s style, but that is troubling. These are two American men who love their country and want the best for it, although their methods vary considerably. If he’s unable to put up a front of civility to a colleague, how will he be able to meet with unpopular foreign leaders like Putin or, heaven forbid, Ahmadinejad? Certainly, the president is the commander in chief of the military, but he must also function as a diplomat. This is an area where he clearly doesn’t live up to his idol, Reagan. Reagan was undeniably charismatic and able to control diplomatic situations, even with leaders with whom he certainly disagreed.

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