Obama for President

Dean Davis/Greg Stiles

The Inlander | October 23, 2008
You'd think an old soldier would know that adage about how we always make the mistake of preparing to re-fight the last war. But here's John McCain, in the home stretch of the race for president -- the culmination of a remarkable, profoundly American life -- running the perfect campaign ... if we were still in the year 2000. Back then, the playbook told you to remain vague on specifics, fire up the faithful by pushing all those divisive hot buttons and, if necessary, trash the living hell out of your opponent. Hey, it worked for George W. Bush, leaving tread marks on McCain, Al Gore and, in 2004, John Kerry.

Here in 2008, people want politics waged differently -- to solve problems, not score cheap points. People are hungry for plans from their leaders, the hot buttons aren't eliciting the same Pavlovian responses and this time, the opponent -- Barack Obama -- is having none of the trashing.

McCain's story is truly poignant -- this is a guy who gets shot down twice, once by North Vietnam and once by Karl Rove, and he just keeps getting up. He's like Rocky, and every American can respect that. But since shortly after his flameout in 2000, he's been a prisoner of Republican orthodoxy.

McCain's secret weapon had long been his fans among all the political independents out there -- in fact, this very newspaper advocated a joint John Kerry-John McCain ticket in 2004. But since winning the nomination of his party this summer, McCain found out how small a tent his party is pitching these days. He wanted to choose former Democrat Joe Lieberman as his running mate, but the decision was vetoed by party insiders. With time running out, one hand tied behind his back by the need to appeal to the base, and the GOP bench looking woefully thin, he chose Sarah Palin.

Bye-bye, independents.

The choice for vice president usually doesn't matter -- unless you screw it up. And McCain's choice has been a disaster, reflecting a political party at the end of its rope. Not only has Palin been judged unfit for command by respected members of all political parties, but she has also refused to answers questions about her intentions should she become president. Even Joe the Plumber talks openly to the press, and he's not running for anything. This is a basic, well-established requirement of American Democracy. We, through the media, interview our potential leaders, for everything from city councils to school boards. Or, to put it in business terms, imagine you are on a board of directors and you want to choose a new CEO, but she refuses to sit down for an interview. That is Palin's extremely puzzling position; for a lot of Americans, that choice all by itself disqualifies her and John McCain from serving.

Sorry, those are the rules: no public vetting, no vote.

Bush Bias

McCain started this race with an anchor tied to his leg: George W. Bush. After eight years in power, it's hard for any party to convince America to stay with them. But this is different -- Bush is already widely considered to be among the three worst presidents of all time, along with James "Civil War" Buchanan and Herbert "Great Depression" Hoover. And after voting with Bush 90 percent of the time, as McCain has admitted to doing, those coattails were almost guaranteed to smother whoever came next.

Oh, the irony. Bush torpedoed McCain in 2000, and it looks like he's doing it all over again in 2008.

As we ponder this election, it's crucial to understand the lessons of the recent past. As Obama has observed, we've made big elections about little things. In 2000, we picked the guy who seemed like a fun drinking buddy, failing to realize that was exactly the hook his handlers hoped America would swallow. Bush cynically told us about being humble in the world and how he'd keep government small; meanwhile, his cronies were planning the biggest heist in history. While we grieved over 9/11 and then bickered over who was more patriotic, they were picking our pockets. Today, after the debacle on Wall Street, we are just starting to make out the contours of an unprecedented transfer of wealth from the middle class to the very cream of the upper class.

In America, elections are always about big things -- so shame on us for being so naïve. Yes, Bush tortured the Constitution, the economy, even fellow humans, but the saddest part is that we elected him to do it. Twice.

Karma is coming for Republicans because America woke up. Now we see the sham, how we were routinely tricked into complicity whenever the manipulators waved the red meat -- gay marriage, flag pins, freedom fries, taxes...

Ahh, Taxes...

At this point, we must interrupt this endorsement to discuss our nation's completely unhinged relationship to the issue of taxes. Can we please have a grown-up conversation about taxes? As you may have noticed, it's the only issue John McCain has left. Obama, he often concludes, will raise your taxes. (Actually, Obama won't, unless you’re already rich, and in that case -- good news! -- you can afford it.)

In every state budget in the land -- and even in your own personal household -- "taxes" are simply the amount required to pay the bills. But when it comes to Washington, D.C., the discussion veers into fantasyland. For our own sake, we simply must cope with reality better than this. As we teeter on this brink of economic catastrophe, we need our discussion on taxes to be rooted in actual economic law, not wishful thinking.

Here's the fact: Taxes are raised every time government spends more than it takes in. When George W. Bush launched the war in Iraq, expanded Medicare benefits and bumbled into having to pump $700 billion into Wall Street, he raised the nation's taxes. Of course he didn't have the political honesty to actually levy the tax at the time -- he just left it all for your kids to pay. (FYI: The current tally of the Bush bill just passed the $10 trillion mark.) And by promising even more tax cuts, McCain's answer seems to be to keep digging. More often than not through history, nations and empires fall because of collapsing finances, not from invading armies.

So to review: McCain and Bush have spent us right up to the doorstep of the poorhouse, and now it's Obama who will raise your taxes? That's the very pinnacle of political dishonesty and cynicism.

And in 2008, America isn't buying it.

The Right Stuff

It's fitting that just as the epitaph of the me-first generation is being written, the next generation is making its case for a new paradigm in American life. And they're making it under the banner of change heralded by Barack Obama.

In the most tangible ways, Obama is the face of America's future -- multiracial, open-minded, humble, smart. Electing Obama would be a pivotal, page-turning moment in our history, allowing us all finally to move on from the persistent troubles that date back to the sin of slavery. He's a living, breathing more perfect union -- the very best that we, as a nation, can produce. Rising up from humble, only-in-America origins and educated at our best schools, he has the exact pedigree these complex times demand. Most important, his smarts and competence augur a return to those times when America thought and innovated its way to a better future. Obama will make book-learnin' cool again, and we'll get back to common sense for a change. Instead of making our problems worse, we’ll start solving them.

In the ongoing quest for a better nation, every four years America ponders what it takes to make a good president. Experience? Yes, of course, but consider that both Buchanan and Hoover were among the most experienced presidents to ever take power, while Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman were among the least. Temperament? Yes, as proven when John Kennedy narrowly avoided a nuclear war. Independence? Absolutely, as when Teddy Roosevelt took on his own party when America needed him to. Brains? Thomas Jefferson -- enough said. Wisdom? Both Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan earned theirs over remarkable lives, and they shared those lessons at key moments in our history.

Obama's nearly two-year campaign has offered ample proof that he has the right mix of such gifts and skills; he's got calm, cool and collected covered, too. But what is especially right for these times might be his devotion to the same issue that defined our very first president: national unity. How he is running his campaign matters -- by sticking to facts and by honestly and openly dealing with the issues that have come up along the way, he is leaving no scorched earth behind him. As a result, if elected he will be able to bring people from all sides together -- continuing what has been the hall-mark of his public career. And that's the only way we'll meet the challenges we have arrayed against us.

A New Movement

To turn this country around, this needs to be more than just an election; it needs to be the start of a broad-based, progressive movement. It's long past time for a fresh approach based on that common ground all Americans share -- our children's future, our blessed way of life and our commitment to opportunity for all. The politics of division have failed to solve anyone's problems, so we need to stop retreating into our red and blue bunkers. Instead, we must meet out on that precious common ground and start being one big happy, prosperous purple nation.

Maybe we have lost our way -- perhaps we've been a nation of spoiled children these past few decades, looking out for ourselves more than our neighbors, our children or even the rest of the world.

Our recent economic setbacks are proving by the day that greed is a dead end. But in learning that hard lesson, Americans are coming back to an old, time-tested, conservative idea -- that we are stronger and wealthier together than we can ever be apart. And that's really the idea of America -- and the reason Barack Obama is such a beacon of hope for so many people today. In him, and through his words, we touch that memory of the noble, selfless America we learned to love as kids -- the America that for these past eight years has been stolen from us.

Now's the time to take America back.

The Inlander

Founded in 1993, The Inlander has quickly become the most trusted source of news and entertainment information for the sprawling Inland Northwest. While the majority of our readership lives in the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene area -- a fast-growing part of the...
More »
Contact for Reprint Rights
  • Market Served: Metropolitan Area
  • Address: 1227 W. Summit Parkway, Spokane, WA 99201
  • Phone: (509) 325-0634