Written by Aaron Goldstein
June , 2008
by Aaron Goldstein
Should Barack Obama be elected President of the United States this November his chances for a successful term in office are slim to none.
As the candidate who extols the virtue of hope and change and whose audience chants in unison, ‘Yes we can!’ Obama has set expectations so high that he is bound to fall short of lofty expectations.
After all, Obama has said this election is not so much about winning as it is about transforming the nation. This transformation would consist of (but would not be limited to) ending the War in Iraq; giving every American government health care, stopping lobbyists from running Washington and cease giving tax breaks to American companies that ship job overseas. It would come as no surprise to me if Obama were to tell his adoring audiences they could eat all the ice cream they wanted without getting indigestion.
Levity aside, it does beg two questions. Can Obama transform this nation? Should Obama transform this nation?
If Obama can’t transform America then he is going to have a lot of explaining to supporters once enraptured with him who will find themselves disenchanted and disappointed. They will come to view Obama as just another politician, a mere mortal. On the other hand, Obama could very well transform America but that doesn’t mean he should.
Sure we can leave Iraq. But what if Iran takes over Iraq? Sure Obama could meet with Ahmadinejad and try to reason with him. But what if Ahmadinejad laughs at Obama and decides to take Americans hostage? What if withdrawal from Iraq emboldens Islamic fundamentalists to carry out another attack on American soil on the scale of 9/11 or perhaps greater?
Sure we can give every American government health care. But to whom will Obama leave it to tell Americans that their health care will be rationed? Health care for every American is nice as long as Americans don’t mind waiting two years for an MRI exam or for surgery. Heaven help those who don’t have two years to wait.
Sure we can stop lobbyists from running Washington and curtail their power. But tell me how you go about it without violating the First Amendment? And are some lobbyists more equal than others? I have a friend who tells me that only people who lobby for “bad things” should be reigned in. So would Obama exempt unions, environmentalists and anti-poverty organizations from lobby reform and only target those organizations that support lower taxes, veterans and are pro-Israel?
Sure we can stop giving American companies tax breaks that ship jobs overseas. But how does whooping companies upside the head for investing overseas encourage them to invest at home? Besides, does Obama really want to stop American entrepreneurs from investing in places dear to him such as Indonesia or Kenya even if those entrepreneurs could have created those jobs here?
There are two lessons here. Don’t make promises you can’t keep and don’t make promises that aren’t worth keeping.
Conversely, not much is expected of John McCain. While liberals have swooned over Obama, many conservatives view McCain with suspicion. In fact, one of the pledges McCain has made is downright unpopular – namely staying in Iraq to win.
But, of course, it takes a man of courage to do the right thing even if it isn’t the popular thing at the time. McCain supported the surge in Iraq when nearly no one else in Washington would. Yet because of his political clout that accompanied the brilliant strategy of General David Petraeus, the surge has worked. Of course, there is more to be done in Iraq. But if anyone can see this nation through what has become a very complicated war it is McCain.
Make no mistake. McCain isn’t trying to win a high school popularity contest with his position on Iraq. Why would McCain stick his neck out for President Bush, a man with whom he has had substantive differences, if he truly did not believe in winning the War in Iraq, let alone in the surge? McCain is dead serious when he says that he would rather lose an election than lose a war. The same cannot be said for Obama.
Of course, McCain wants to win this election. But he doesn’t want to do it by telling people what he thinks they want to hear. Nor does he want to do it by telling people he is going to transform this nation. To do so would be an act of outright dishonesty. Besides, no one person, no matter how attractive and charismatic, should delude himself and others into thinking he can transform the nation with the stroke of a pen. McCain knows what government can and cannot do. More importantly, he knows what government should and should not do.
McCain’s proposals are modest but practical. They include an annual holiday on the Federal Gas Tax and Diesel Tax between Memorial Day to Labor Day; a repeal of the alternate minimum tax, a reduction in corporate taxes from 35 to 25%; a direct refundable tax credit for individuals and families looking for alternatives to employer based health insurance; providing families resources to move their children from failing schools and an opportunity for homeowners to trade an onerous variable rate mortgage for a long term fixed rate mortgage that better reflects the market value of the home. These proposals aren’t spoken of in grandiose language nor will they transform America. But they will help Americans who are in genuine need of it and help make day to day living a little more manageable.
I am not suggesting for a minute that McCain will implement these things with ease. After all, McCain has said he will veto any legislation that contains earmarks. A Democratic controlled Congress isn’t likely to be inclined to go along with McCain’s proposals if he chooses to carry a veto stamp in his pocket. But McCain has also made a career of working with Democrats and if there is any Republican President who could get things done with a Democratic Congress, it is McCain. That might be an anathema to some conservatives but it will be music to the ears of the majority of Americans, liberal and conservative, who just want their government to work.
There is nothing wrong with Americans who are filled with hope and want change. But there is a difference between optimism and wishful thinking. Some promises aren’t attainable while other promises would do more harm than good. Barack Obama’s rhetoric might soar to the highest sky but in the real world his words are out of reach. John McCain’s rhetoric might not stir our collective imagination but in the real world his words rest on a foundation of solid ground. This is why I believe John McCain would make a better President of the United States.
Aaron Goldstein writes about the things that pique his insatiable curiosity. In addition to politics, he is an aficionado of baseball, poetry, music and ketchup flavored potato chips. Aaron satiates his various appetites in Boston.