Sunday, October 26, 2008
One more rat is leaving the ship...
This is not the easiest post for me to write. I am at heart, a moderate Republican, a conservative. I have been involved with the party and have supported GOP candidates. I'm not looking forward to the coming Democratic tsunami that's coming. I have many liberal friends and I'm married to one, but that doesn't mean I always agree with them- which is why I am a Republican.
I also like John McCain. McCain has been a committed conservative and a reformer. He has been a leader when it comes things like climate change and immigration at a time when many in the party seem to put their heads in the sand at such issues. He also has a long history of reaching accross the isle and working with his ideological opposite in order to get things done. When he uses the slogan, "Country First" in his campaign, I know it speaks to his willingness to put his love of country over simple partisanship.
I want to vote for John McCain, I really do. I've given money to his campaign, I supported him in the Caucuses. But in recent days, I have found that I just can't pull the level for Mr. McCain. Not this time.
Running for President is basically a two-year job interview. We get to see how these people react during the interview and we make up our mind as to who can best do the job. For a long time, I thought the best person would be McCain, with his experience and knowledge especially on issues like foreign policy. But over time, McCain has made some mistakes and Mr. Obama has played a better hand that has made me think this guy could at least do a good job as President, even if he is a Democrat.
So, what has made me look at the young Senator and bypass someone that I consider an American hero? There are a few, that I have mentioned before, but I will repeat them again:
Sarah Palin. I've said it before, but I will repeat it again: she is just not ready. McCain made a lot of mistakes in this campaign, but picking the Alaskan governor was among the worst. She might fire the imagination of the true believers, but she has lost the moderates in the GOP and independents. McCain might have thought picking this "maverick" would have picked up some votes among independents and women, but as well have seen, her red meat rhetoric has turned many people off. She is now making forays into support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and has even had trouble saying that abortion clinic bombers are terrrorists, bring the stinging rebuke of conservative blogger Rick Moran of being a "moral coward." McCain just didn't do proper vetting of Palin and will end up costing him the White House and it also might permanently damage his reputation.
The Financial Bailout. When McCain said that he was suspending his campaign in late September to take part in negotiations in the financial "bailout" package, I thought this was a noble idea: signature McCain putting country first. It turned out to be a disaster. As the New York times has shown, he hardly said anything as the House GOP was balking. There is also no record of him working with Democrats on the package. McCain has a storied history of working accross the isle to get things done. He could have done that here; working to bring both sides together. And yet, what he did was nothing but show. When the package failed a few days later, it was McCain who had egg on his face, while Obama looked cool under pressure. If McCain could fail this test, then what would happen as President?
Lack of Policy. Yes, McCain is a hero. Yes, he is a maverick. But the decision to run soley on biography when the GOP brand was in the toilet was a mistake. He could have gone the route of French President Sarkozy who also had to run against a very unpopular predecessor and against a rock-star Socialist rival. But he chose not to. He could have ran as he tried to in 2000 as a different kind of Republican that could salvage the party and lead in a new direction. But that would require new ideas and new policies. He offered very little, which allowed the Democrats to tar him as Bush II. I have yet to read the Times piece about the campaign, but reports say that for the most part, McCain and his campaign were about repackaging and repackaging McCain and not concerned with proposing new ideas and new ways to jump start the GOP and move it towards the wide center.
Not tending towards his base. McCain had a base-among moderate Republicans, Reagan Democrats and independents. He could have ran on this base and created a new GOP coalition for the 21st century. But instead, he ran on the old Christian Right base which tends to skew old and male. Yes, I know that some of the commentators would say that this was suicide. But since we are now seeing political suicide happen, one has to ask, it is more important to widen the base, create a movement, or rely on the same old, same old? The reason that moderates like Colin Powell, William Weld, Arne Carlson and several others are jumping ship is because McCain failed to cultivate a relationship with his "base." So, like a person spurned by their lover, they find another with flowers and open arms.
The debates. Actually, it was the second and third debates. I remember being 11 years old and watching the 1980 debate between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Reagan was the picture of cool, while Carter seemed off his game. Fast forward 28 years later, and it is Obama that shows a sense of maturity that looked presidential, while McCain seemd unsure of himself and trying to please too many people. A telling moment in the third debate, was when the subject of abortion was brought up. McCain seemed to not know which message to bring up. He shared that he had voted for Ruth Bader Ginsberg,a liberal who supports abortion rights, and then try to shore up his pro-life bona fides. He wanted to show he was willing to be the maverick and also be the loyal Republican on the same issue. It didn't work. I'm not saying one can't be pro-life and vote for a pro-choice judge, it's just that he didn't come off as confident. Perception is reality and McCain didn't come off as presidential during the debates, but came off as petty and small-something I thought I'd never say about John McCain.
While I am supporting Obama, it is with trepidation. I worry that once in office he will veer too far to the Left, pleasing the Democratic base. I can only hope that with so much support from independents and Republicans, that he will realize that he has to govern from the center or face a backlash in 2010.
As David Brooks said, John McCain would have made an awesome president. He is and will always be a hero to me. But he became a prisioner of a GOP that seems blind to seeing that it needs to become a movement again, reaching towards the center- instead of a party of resentment and exclusion.
So, with sadness and hope, I will vote for Obama. Hoping the Illinois Senator will listen to the center and sad at what might have been with John McCain.
Sorry, Senator McCain. I just can't pull the lever for you.