I've stayed on the sidelines for most of this political campaign, but with one more day to go now is probably the time, right?
I have to be honest, but neither candidate really appeals to me. Not because I'm so conservative that I'm appalled by McCain's realization that we need a pragmatic immigration policy, or because he opposed to the federal marriage amendment. These are good things. And surely Barack Obama's political views leave a lot to be desired.
However, I must admit that McCain isn't exactly the most inspiring leader. And the campaign he's run is undoubtedly negative. Just last week Obama spent enough money to buy actual network TV time in what was effectively a half an hour commercial. On the same night, McCain appeared on Larry King Live. As one pundit put it, Obama spent almost the entire time talking about Barack Obama; McCain spent the time talking about ...... Barak Obama. While the candidate who is down in polls tends to attack his opponent (the old "tear him down to bring me up" approach), McCain's campaign has been overwhelmingly negative in the past few weeks. I have to say that I'm not a huge fan of constant negative campaigning.
On the other hand, despite Obama's tremendous political skills and ability to inspire, his unprecedented lack of experience is quite worrisome. For all effective purposes, he's been in the Senate for two years. It's rare for senators to be elected as President. But when was the last time a senator was chosen with so little experience? Has there ever been a senator elected president before even completing his term? While experience is not everything, it provides all-important data when making fundemental decisions. I have a hard imagining that a potential President could really respond effectively to difficult and urgent foreign policy problems without some serious leadership experience.
Despite the personal flaws elaborated on above, at the end of the day Presidents must be chosen based on policy, not personality. And on policy I tend to lean more towards McCain than Obama ( I know, shocking). McCain's foreign policy appeals to me primarily because of his views on Iraq. A hasty withdrawal would be a disaster in that area of the world. If Iraq collapses in civil war, the region could explode. While I believe that McCain's foreign policy overall could use a little advice from professional diplomats such as Dennis Ross, McCain's willingness to make the difficult, if unpopular, choices, gives him a leg up over Obama, who does not seem to believe that we can win in Iraq.
And then there are economics. McCain wants to cut taxes across the board, while Obama wants to raise taxes on the top 5%. But raising taxes during a recession is a terrible idea. Even the great liberal economist, John Maynard Keynes, proposed increasing spending to get economies out of recessions, not raising taxes. Raising taxes only hurts economies when times are tough.
Divided government is also an important consideration. Surely the excesses of the Bush administration can be traced to one part controlling the Legislative and Executive branches. When the branches do not properly check each other, they tend to run wild. A democratic President with a filibuster-proof Senate and a huge majority in the House would be able to implement whatever extreme policies they feel would solve our national problems. Even a Democrat should be wary of that possibility. Just look how the eight years turned out for us Republicans.
Politics aside, I believe both candidates could be good Presidents and would be fine seeing either one occupy the White House in January. But I hope the American people make the right choice tomorrow and give McCain a shot. And, hey, if it doesn't work, maybe Obama will actually be ready in 2012.