Assessing the U.S. Presidential Candidates for Election 2008
The raging economic crisis on American soil and the corroding trust of the world on American financial institutions not only make recession almost a certainty but also emphasize that the 2008 presidential election would be historic. If Senator Barack Obama gets elected, he would be the first African-American to occupy the White House as president; if Senator John McCain wins, at the age of 72, he would be “the oldest man to be sworn in to a first term as president and the first cancer survivor to win the office” (Altman 2008).
But being president, most especially when a gargantuan economic challenge (Luce 2008) awaits him from day one in office is not an easy job. It requires more than intelligence, dedication, hard work and the very best of intentions. It requires nothing less than greatness to qualify as leader of the free world, a leader who is expected to turn around the economy, and reclaim financial stability and prosperity for the country.
With these seemingly super-human qualities required of a president in these troubled times, the onus is now on the electorate to determine the suitability of the candidates for the position, and evaluate which of the two would rise up and meet, without equivocation and with success, the enormous demands of the Office of the President of the United States.
Senator McCain. To average Americans who get their news, when they can, from the mainstream media, Senator John Sidney McCain, III, a Republican, gives the impression that he has been around the political scene forever. The newly-qualified voters may be correct; Senator McCain, upon retiring in 1981 from a distinguished 22-year career with the U.S. Navy as naval aviator, extended his service to the American people (Ready from Day One 2008). He was elected in 1982 for two terms to the United States Congress, and in 1987 he was elected to the United States Senate. He is on his fourth term which ends on January 3, 2011 (Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress 2008). To average Americans who get political news in little doses while on the run to go to work, Senator McCain’s name would be familiar as journalists report, time and again, on his disagreements with his Republican colleagues. He is a dissenter. He does not vote ‘yes’ to a bill just because his party has sponsored it, or has popular support. He votes for what he believes is the best for the American people. He has a record of voting, along party lines, only 88.1% of the time (Voting with Party 2008). The average American regards him with respect even if his being a maverick has not been fully expounded in the mainstream media.
But his being a maverick in the Senate, like pushing for reforms that will cut wasteful government spending (Final Debate 2008), does not obscure his being an honorable man. The most telling example is his refusal to “play dirty” in the current campaign. While supporters have literally begged him to highlight his opponent’s alliance with Rev. Jeremiah Wright (Hayes 2008), the senator has refused; he does not want any hint of the Republicans using the “race card” in the campaign. He has also refused to call on the Democrats for their role in the collapse of the Federal National Mortgage Association, or Fannie Mae, and the Federal Home Mortgage Corporation, or Freddie Mac, because he “is afraid it will make independents [voters] mad” (Limbaugh 2008; 4.23). Senator McCain has also apologized to Senator Obama when, in February during a rally in Ohio, a speaker ridiculed the Democratic candidate, whom he called “Barack Hussein Obama,” for wanting to meet with “world leaders who want to kill us” (quoted in Reston 2008; par. 1).
Senator McCain’s uprightness is reflected in his transparency: the details of his birth (Directory of the U.S. Congress 2008), financial record (U.S. Senate Financial Disclosures 2007), and extensive, 1,200-page medical information (Altman 2008) are accessible to the public. His ratings as midshipman at the US Naval Academy “where he accumulated demerits and finished near the bottom of his class” (McCain’s Record Makes Him a Contender 2008) is on public record, too.
But who is to say that this “rambunctious” streak in his youth that resulted in the above (2008; par. 5) has not also strengthened, in a very profound way, his support for democracy when he was prisoner of war in Vietnam from1967 to 1973? As he said during the Presidential Candidates’ Forum last August, “I am privileged to spend every day of my life in [freedom and democracy]. I know what it’s like to be without it.” (Saddleback Forum 2008). Without a doubt, he has been very consistent in his advocacy although he qualified that the United States “can’t right every wrong” but that America can be a “beacon of hope and liberty and freedom for everyone in the world” (2008; p. 26). His optimism, when juxtaposed with his “Washington reformer” stance and his list of accomplishments, resonates well with his maverick image.
Part of Senator McCain’s maverick image stems from his efforts to reach across the aisle in order to craft bipartisan legislation. His records show that since 2005, he has “led as chief sponsor of 82 bills, on which he had 120 Democratic co-sponsors out of 220 total, for an average of 55 percent” (Dinan 2008). This has not made Senator McCain popular with his fellow Republicans and with the conservative base supporters of his party. His stand on global warming and illegal immigration is not congruent with the Republican stance.
With the current financial crisis, however, Senator McCain has focused on economic policies he intends to implement, if elected, to get the country back on its feet again. To lower gasoline prices and be energy independent, he wants to build 45 nuclear plants “right away” and start offshore drilling as soon as possible (Final Presidential Debate 2008). With those large projects, not only will the United States eliminate sending $700 billion overseas annually to places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Venezuela; millions of new jobs will also be created (2008; p. 25). On the matter of the huge budget deficit for the current fiscal year, estimated to reach well over $400 billion, about 3 percent of the GDP (Leaders: An Inconvenient Truth 2008), he wants to impose an across-the-board spending freeze. Senator McCain is also upbeat with the tax breaks and incentives he wants to give, not only to big business, but most especially to entrepreneurs, including the nation’s 23 million small business owners. His economic plans, as The Economist said, are “more clearly focused on promoting overall growth” (The Three Elections 2008).
Senator McCain’s maverick image can be both appealing and a turn-off. As mentioned previously, his stand on important Republican issues has alienated the conservative base supporters. But the senator has attracted the support not only of independent voters and a large portion of those loyal to Senator Hillary Clinton; he is also the choice of those in the military, members of the NRA and gun owners, the Christian Evangelicals who have expressed their support for him, the Hispanic community; the working class whites, the pro-lifers and anti-gay marriage advocates are also seen as favoring Senator McCain.
With the current polls placing Senator’s McCain opponent as ahead of him in percentage points, it must be said that he has been ahead of the polls before the economic crisis. This reversal in the polls can be attributed to the unpopularity of President George W. Bush being reflected on Senator McCain. However, his most deplorable “weakness” that may, and could cause him defeat rests on the mainstream media that have been openly hostile to his campaign.
Senator McCain has chosen to use the public financing system that limits what he can spend to $84 million for his campaign. He can accept contributions, however, to pay for legal and accounting expenses and his party can also spend its money for his campaign. In total, he has raised $360 million, and as of September 30, he has $95,880,920 cash on hand with $551,957 as debts (Summary of Data 2008).
In the event that Senator McCain gets elected to the White House, he will have to be more persuasive if he wants his policies to be passed and implemented. Both Houses are controlled by the Democrats, namely, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Senate Leader Senator Harry Reid. Even when Congress has hit 9% approval ratings, “the lowest ratings ever recorded by Rasmussen Reports, and has not received a higher than 15% approval rating since the beginning of this year” (2008), a McCain presidency may not fare well with or without his “famous” maverick image – unless the electorate vote for more Republicans into office.
Senator Obama. To say that Senator Barack Hussein Obama is wildly popular is not an exaggeration. This Hawaii-born Senator, son of a Kenyan bearing the same name, and an American from Kansas, was educated in his early years in Indonesia, and Hawaii, then continued on to Occidental College in Los Angeles, obtained his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, New York City, worked as community organizer in Chicago before studying law at Harvard University. He became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review; got his law degree in 1991 and worked as a lecturer on constitutional law before being elected to the Illinois State senate from 1997-2004, and was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 2004 for term beginning January 3, 2005 (Directory of the U.S. Congress 2008; Meet the Candidate 2008). He has voted 96% of the time with the majority of his Democratic colleagues (Voting with Party 2008) which belies his claim of being bipartisan. But during Senator Obama’s eight years in the Illinois Senate, he has also voted ‘present’ which is not a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ but a ‘maybe.’ Rich Miller said that there is a reason why the ‘present’ button is yellow, although he added that not all ‘present’ votes are cowardly including those cast by then-state Senator Obama (quoted in Schaper 2008). Nevertheless, a ‘maybe’ vote on a proposed bill is indicative of not only being indecisive on issues that are important to the people; pressing the yellow button for ‘present’ also points to a sore lack in leadership. Senator Obama has not gone head-to-head against his party leadership when it mattered, and has not, additionally, “challenge[d] the status quo” (quoted in Dinan 2008; par.19). Being popular in this context does not bode well for someone aiming for the presidency of a super-power nation.
But being popular, to use a ‘pop’ word is a blast for the youthful and inexperienced Senator Obama who has his name attached to two bills in the Senate during his less than two years of work there. His popularity even soared when Oprah Winfrey endorsed his presidential candidacy. He has also been endorsed by other celebrities, to name a few: Sean Penn, Tom Hanks, Robert de Niro, Michael Moore, George Clooney, Ron Howard, Barbara Streisand, Cindy Crawford, Whoopi Goldberg. He has also been endorsed by Louis Farrakhan, a radical Islam leader, who says that “presidential candidate Barack Obama represents hope that the United States will change for the better” (quoted in Estes 2008; par. 1) Hamas, a radical Islamist group, has also endorsed him (quoted in Goldfarb 2008; par. 1), along with Hugo Chavez, and Fidel Castro. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a terrorist sponsor who Senator Obama has expressed he would be willing to meet “without preconditions,” has said in March of this year that he wouldn’t have a problem meeting with Senator Obama if he wins (Berger 2008). The Iranian President later insisted that he has “never voiced support for Barack Obama” (quoted in Berger 2008; par. 21).
Senator Obama’s popularity is not confined to Hollywood types and leaders of nations overseas. He has massive support amongst the American electorate, including the average American voters who, when they can, catch, read, or listen to the news on mainstream media. But the mainstream media, supposedly a responsible sector of society tasked with giving people fair and balanced news and information, have “fallen in-love” with Senator Obama (Keith Olbermann Admits Media is in the Tank for Barack Obama 2008; IN THE TANK: The MS Media is in the Tank for Obama 2008; Media Love Affair with Obama 2008; CNN on the media’s lovefest for Barack Obama 2008). As such, what the average American gets to read, listen to, or watch are news items which are pro-Obama. Nevertheless, not every American is unaware of this media bias. A Rasmussen survey taken in July 21 this year found that 49% of voters believe that most reporters will try to help the Democrat with their coverage while 13% believe most reporters will try to help Senator McCain win (Reporters are Trying to Help Obama Win 2008). Some “45% also say that most reporters would hide information if it would hurt the candidate they wanted to win” (2008; par. 9). The pro-Obama bias of the mainstream media must have further surged since that survey was taken because in October 24, radio commentator Rush Limbaugh has exclaimed that “this is the most irresponsible journalistic exhibition I have seen in my life.” (2008; 1:56.)
To be fair, one or two of the mainstream media feature, once in a long while, snippets of positive news or information about Senator McCain. However, what the people should really know about Senator Obama has been ignored or glossed over. Were it not for the alternative media and the few mainstream journalists who have not abandoned their integrity, issues like these will remain buried: Senator Obama’s original birth certificate has not been produced to counter rumors that first, he is an Islam, and second, that he is a naturalized American and therefore, cannot run for the presidency; his academic records and his thesis have not been released; his undated medical certificate consists of one page stating that he was in “excellent health” (quoted in Altman 2008; par. 7). His associations – no, alliances – with Rev. Wright, William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, convicted felon Tony Rezko, the radical socialist Prime Minister Raila Odinga of Kenya who Senator Obama helped in 2006 to campaign (Obama and Odinga ND; 6:24); and the roommate and drug dealer that Senator Obama mentioned in his book Dreams from my Father, has never been located by the media for interview.
The kind of associates and alliances that Senator Obama has formed in his life matters a lot. It says a great deal about the person, and in this case, it says a whole lot more about the character and judgment of a candidate aspiring to a tough job. Senator Obama’s lack of transparency with important documents and his associates and allies hinders a thorough evaluation of him as a prospective leader. But while the way he presents his plans and policies to the people, using his usual rhetorical style, masks who he really is at heart, a simple everyday American managed to make the Senator reveal his plan, and that is to “spread the wealth around” (Obama Admits He is a Socialist 2008; 0:24). While the mainstream media is one of his strengths, a medium has proved to be a weakness, too, although with media bias for him, this video footage has not really been getting a lot of airtime.
The senator, having opted out of the public financing system, relies on donors to fund his campaign. He has raised $603,219, 040 through fundraising and online donations (Summary Data for Obama 2008). Although there is an ongoing investigation with regards to illegal campaign contributions – like thousands of donations have been traced as originating from the Middle East or coming from donors named Good Will – the fact is that between October 1-15, Senator Obama has spent $105,599,963.76; or put another way, he spent more than $293,000 per hour in his campaign during the period indicated (Montanaro 2008). Spending this kind of campaign money, if the donations will be found legal, seems in bad taste at a time when the economy is reeling.
In the event that Senator Obama gets elected to the White House without the help of ACORN – that group with which he has worked in the past during his community organizing days, and trained the members to get out in the streets to register voters, and to whom he has given $800,000 of his campaign money; and which, today, faces voter fraud cases in 11 states – it will be the day when, as both Houses are dominated by the Democratic Party, the U.S. will be “entering a period of unchecked left-wing ascendancy… with the media cheering it all on… to return to those heydays of welfare-state liberalism” (A Liberal Supermajority 2008). If Senator Obamas’s admirers are hoping for change in the political, social and economic climates in the country in an Obama government, chances are they would get what they hoped for — change with a capital C.
Evaluating the presidential candidates even against a background of financial instability, if all or most of the information are available or accessible to a thorough researcher, is not a difficult task – most especially if the aspirants to the top job, that of President and Commander-in-Chief of the greatest nation on earth, have sharply contrasting lists of resume, experience, policies, and ideologies. The onus has now shifted to a couple of choices that are different in complexion but are both very fundamental: that of electing an honorable man whose leadership has been tested, or a man with soaring rhetoric and wants to “redistribute wealth because it is good for everybody.”
Or: visualize which of the presidential candidate can lead the country into greatness not with a capital G but with all letters in the word in capitals.
The greatest nation on earth deserves nothing less than a GREAT NEW PRESIDENT.
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