Thursday, October 30, 2008

Barack Obama for President

This is a defining moment in American history, and the choice before us is clear. Barack Obama is the man we need to take the helm and steer us in a new direction.

At this point, there are only two justifications for supporting John McCain: short-sighted greed and fear.

Back in June, Obama headed to Florida to reassure Jewish voters. "Let me know if you see this guy named Barack Obama," he quipped. "Because, he sounds pretty scary." The Republican Party has spent all of its time manufacturing a grotesque caricature of the Democratic nominee that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the original. John McCain has campaigned nearly exclusively on wild, fear-mongering claims about what Obama would "do" to the country, while offering almost nothing in terms of policy and vision.

John McCain has served his country admirably and once had broad, bi-partisan appeal. He is a true American hero who suffered unimaginable horrors in Vietnam. He has stood up for sensible policies on taxation, immigration, the treatment of detainees and campaign finance reform.

Unfortunately, that John McCain didn't run for President.

The John McCain that did run has so little idea of what to do for this country and so vague a concept of why anyone should vote for him that he had a create a straw bogeyman, banking his candidacy on fear and prejudice and hoping that he could convince moderates and independents that Barack Obama would be so terrible for America that we should prefer to prolong the Bush years.

The latest bizarre smear is that Obama is a "socialist" who wants to "spread the wealth around." The picture he paints is of a Robin Hood government, robbing hard-working Americans to give handouts to the poor and lazy. But all Obama wants to do is return us to the tax structure we had under the Clinton Administration. Republicans can chant all they like that higher taxes shrink the economy and eliminate jobs, but if you compare eight years of George W. Bush and eight years of William Jefferson Clinton, you'll see that our economy did just fine with the top 5% of Americans paying slightly more. Most Americans remember the economic boom of the 90s rather fondly. I, for one, certainly miss my Intel shares that used to trade at $145. (As I write, that stock is currently at $15.81.)

McCain accuses Obama of being naive on foreign policy, but the record demonstrates that he has been sound and prescient. Most Americans now understand that the war in Iraq was an enormous mistake. Whether Iraq can evolve into a functioning democratic society is not up to us and is not something we can unilaterally achieve through military force. We can't achieve it in Afghanistan, either, but at least there we can pour our resources into chasing down Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, who remains free these seven years after 9/11. McCain speaks of diplomacy as if merely sitting down to negotiations with the likes of Castro or Ahmedinejad is some sort of enormous concession. But talking to our enemies doesn't mean we concede anything. It's the adult thing to do. Eight years of neocon-fantasy foreign policy should be enough to convince us that it doesn't work.

Obama's proposal for fixing healthcare in this country isn't perfect, but it's a step in the right direction. Frankly, the solution -- eliminating the scourge of for-profit private health insurance -- is presently politically untenable, so Obama has put forward the best we can do for now. McCain, on the other hand, has famously argued that we should eliminate consumer protections and government oversight so that we can do for healthcare what we did for the banking industry. His plan taxes healthcare benefits for the first time in history, with the express intent of driving employees to find their own coverage on the open market. In exchange, he offers them a tax credit that, in most cases, wouldn't even amount to half of the annual cost of a policy. He would allow insurance companies to exclude patients with pre-existing conditions.

McCain is now attempting to make the argument that, after all these years in public service -- as a community organizer, as a professor, a state legislator and a senator and twenty months on the campaign trial in a 24/7 news cycle -- that we don't know who Barack Obama is. They are openly trying to align him with radical fringe elements of society and despicably claim that he is "pals" with terrorists. This is beneath contempt. He has generally allowed some of his supporters to believe that Obama is a "secret" Muslim, and has not even had the principle or the courage to stand up to this appalling bigotry to remind people that there is no religious litmus test for public office in this country, that we have many citizens of all faiths in the United States, including many native-born Muslims, and that Muslim-Americans are presently fighting and dying for us in Iraq and Afghanistan. Barack Obama is not a Muslim but the only honorable response to the "accusation" is, "So what if he were?"

In his choice of a vice president, John McCain has selected a religious zealot who wears her ignorance as a badge of honor and calls it patriotic. Her job on the campaign trail has been to wink and fan the smoldering flames of ancient hatreds from our nation's ugly past.

On Tuesday, please vote Barack Obama for America.