Saturday, October 6, 2012

Why I will vote for Obama

I watched the first presidential debate on Wednesday as I was cutting apart plastic pieces for one of my miniature soldiers project.  While I was not tempted to impale myself with the fresh X-acto blade, it was disappointing to see the president perform so poorly.

Despite the President's discouraging performance in Wednesday's debate, he is still my man.
Even so, I made up my mind long ago to vote for President Obama.  For anybody who knows me, this should not come as much of a surprise.  I've been a liberal and a Democrat all my life.  I believe in what the Democratic party has always stood for:
  1. Improving the standard of living working Americans
  2. Economic protections to insure the poorest and most vulnerable Americans can survive in our economy
  3. Using government to insure those protections, and regulate the economy, preserve the environment when needed. 
Some may throw stones and suggest this is socialism.  It's not.  I've been  socialist, and this ain't it. I believe President Obama fits quite nicely in the line of Democratic leaders from Franklin Roosevelt, to the Kennedys (all three of 'em) to Bill Clinton.

I have a great deal of admiration for the President.  I like his story.  I read Dreams of My Father and was blown away by his life experiences.  I really like Michelle Obama.  She's beautiful and smart, a great advocate for fitness and health, and together the two of them are raising a great family in the harsh spotlight of highly partisan Washington, D.C.  Barack is very intelligent and speaks in nuanced terms.  While he comes across as professorial (that's who he is,) he communicates with Americans in multi-syllables.  He helps us understand the problems we face are complex and the fix will neither be easy or brief.

I confess my great fortune.  I have not been badly affected by the economic troubles of the past four years.  I still have a job, though I took a pay cut and my health insurance is now spendy.  None of my family or closest friends have had extended jobless periods. I've been able to watch the President try to improve the country's situation as an outsider, secure in the knowledge that I am likely not at risk if the economy slides sideways.  I've observed his negotiations with Congress with incredulity, and become utterly disillusioned at the lack of interest Republican leaders and the Tea Party insurgents seem to have in solving the country's very real fiscal problems.

Obama has done the best that he can under trying circumstances.  He walked into a Hoover-like catastrophe with limited tools at his disposal.   The trap door opened under the economy, and when he worked with his predecessor to rescue the banking industry, bailed out the auto industry and offered a stimulus package he was met with contempt.  When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed the number one priority was to make Obama a one term president, he led the GOP away from answering the country's economic challenges in favor of political gain.  McConnell will simply be remembered as political pond scum. Though Obama's economic accomplishments are far from perfect the GOP obstruction is unforgivable.

The President is vilified in unspeakable terms by the Tea Party, the right wing media, the LaRouche nutballs in ways I simply cannot remember being applied to any leader, R or D.  Is it racist?  Likely some of it.  Or some of it is just pseudo-intellectual whackball nonsense such as Ramesh Ponnuru's "Obama is an anti-colonialist America hater." The right wing has great respect for haters who are multi-syllabic and don't wear sheets.

While I do like Obama a great deal, I am not star-struck.  There are important aspects of his presidency I find deeply troubling. Most are related to the continuation and extension of President Bush's policy in the War on Terror.  First, is the the president's signature on the National Defense Authorization Act.  This act, signed January 1, 2012, authorized funding for the military.  However, it also authorized the indefinite detention of Americans suspected of terrorist acts.  The president threatened a veto over this measure and should have followed through.  Though these measures existed under both the Bush and Obama administrations, the Act officially codified them into law and make them ripe for abuse.The President did not close Guantanamo as he promised.  Though this is as much related to the craven views of  Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the President's lack of will in removing this moral blot from our record is disconcerting.  Prolonging the Afghan war, extending the human and financial cost seems wholly out of balance with the likely outcome when we leave, and we must leave. Resentment against the drone war in Waziristan is growing in the press, and will eventually be seen as our own war of terror. The President has not acted honestly and forthrightly with a plan to curtail deficits and deal with the debt.  Too many important decisions are left undecided.

Mitt Romney is the alternative.  I won't waste my vote on a minor candidate.  I did that in 1980 and got eight years of Ronald Reagan.  It's Obama or Romney. I can't vote for the latter.

Mitt Romney is in a terrible spot.  First I want to just say that I find him a very sympathetic figure. Mitt clearly has many accomplishments notched on his belt. He is clearly a good man, devoted to his family, and has used his great wealth for many good causes.  Bain CEO, Massachusetts governor, Olympic savior.  At another time a very moderate governor from a liberal leaning state could be just the man to lead this country..  Unfortunately that man cannot run for president as a Republican in 2012.

What happened to the GOP?  Once upon a time-during my lifetime, not eons ago-there was a kaleidoscope of political views in this party.  Jacob Javits of New York, Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, Howard Baker of Tennessee were all liberal to moderate Republicans.  They would have no place in this party today.  Even men like Robert Dole and Alan Simpson, men with impeccable  conservative credentials, would not find themselves welcome in the party of Rand Paul, Todd Akin, and Marco Rubio.  Men of long GOP standing like John McCain and Orrin Hatch, legislators who could make a deal with their rivals across the aisle are forced to adopt new Tea Party-stamped underwear that insulates them from cross-party cooperation for fear of a fatal primary battle.  The GOP is all orthodoxy all the time, the good of the country be damned.  Fiscal neanderthals, and social jihadists, for these Republicans there can be no third way.

Yet this is the party for which Mitt Romney must carry a standard.  He must adopt positions I don't think he shares in his heart of hearts.  Ultimately I believe Romney is a decent, moderate man.  Yet he is shackled to social and fiscal policies locked to his candidacy by the traveling clown show that was Republican primary season.  No longer pro-choice, no longer favoring his own Massachusetts health care system for the rest of the country, Romney must adopt the same scorched earth policies of Mitch McConnell, Jim DeMint, and Michele Bachman.  Maybe not Bachman; she seems to orbit some other dark star of fantasy in her own strange psyche.

There are many areas where I cannot support Mitt the Candidate.  Today he opposes a woman's right to choose.  That's a non-starter for me.  He opposes same-sex marriage, the civil rights issue of our time. His positions on Iran simply scare the crap out of me.  Unless the United States is prepared to undertake a war costing tens of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, Gov. Romney needs to take a more cautious view of this situation.

Yet the biggest issue for me continues to be the GOP/Romney fiscal plan. Cut taxes, and close unspecified loopholes, increase military spending by two trillion dollars over ten years. Offset the lot with unspecified spending cuts.  Oops, I forgot, Big Bird must be plucked.

 In 1981 Ronald Reagan cut taxes and increased military spending, promising growth and a balanced budget.  Eventually we got growth, but the debt, a campaign issue that festooned Jimmy Carter's re-election bid, exploded, and continued throughout Reagan and George H.W. Bush's presidencies.  When Bill Clinton reached agreement with a Newt-led Congress to raise taxes and actually balanced the budget, this was immediately flushed with George W. Bush's tax cuts.  These too promised growth with fiscal responsibility.  We got little of the former and none of the latter.  Conservative economists continue to promise that lower taxes with fiscal austerity will bring back the economy and balance the budget.  I'm not buying.  Arthur Laffer  promised this so many times over the past thirty years he should change his name to Arthur Laughable. Nope, it's snake oil. What has austerity done for Ireland, Great Britain, Greece, Spain and Italy?  Recession, depression, civil unrest.  This may be the one thing Mitt truly does believe in, and for me it's like Coronado chasing the Seven Cities of Gold.  It's mythical, and not a way to run the country.

I don't know how Mr. Obama will do in the remaining debates.  My hope is he will rise to the occasion and give Romney hell. Whether he performs well or not, he has my vote. 

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