Not McCain


I voted for Obama.

On Wednesday, I queued up at a supermarket near my house here in Austin so that I could vote early and avoid the lines on Election Day. (In March, the lines at my precinct during the primary were more than an hour long.) After a lot of thinking, I decided that I couldn’t vote for the Libertarian candidate, Bob Barr, even though I’ve voted for the Libertarian candidate in the past two elections. Further, while it’s highly unlikely (verging on impossible) that Obama will win Texas, I just couldn’t waste my vote on a fringe candidate. I wanted my vote to count, if not in the Electoral College tally, then at least in the popular vote numbers.

Eight years ago, I could have been a McCain voter. I admired his guts and his willingness to stand up to the Bush dynasty. Today, I am convinced that if McCain is elected, the U.S. will be in even worse shape than it is already. A McCain presidency, coupled with the traveling theater of the absurd known as Sarah Palin, would further isolate America at a time when it desperately needs an image overhaul.

In other words, my vote for Obama was not so much a vote for him or the Democrats (I consider myself a member of the Disgusted Party) as it was a vote against McCain. There are plenty of things about Obama that worry me. As a student of energy and energy politics, it’s clear to me that the energy platform that Obama has outlined is little more than a collection of pleasant-sounding slogans. For years, Obama has been carrying water for Big Ag and the corn ethanol scammers. Obama continues to say he favors “energy independence” even though that phrase has become the most hackneyed phrase in modern American politics.

Nevertheless, I can see listening to Obama for the next four years. The idea of listening to McCain talk tough while he careens around the White House makes my skin crawl.

Like Obama, McCain claims he wants “energy independence” for America. Thus, when it comes to energy and energy policy, McCain and Obama are almost equally ill-informed. It’s the other factors that made me punch the button for Obama. First and foremost among those factors: McCain’s near-total disregard for playing fair, for not being, dare I say it, a gentleman. Whether it was his willingness to play the race card, or his reference to Obama in one of the debates as “that one,” it became obvious that McCain is simply not a gentleman. There appears to be something deep inside McCain – who, like George W. Bush, is a child of privilege – that has given him an attitude that fairly screams the words “I deserve this.”

After eight years of George W. Bush, the last thing America needs is another president  with an excess of swagger. After eight years of Bush, the last thing America needs is another president born to a famous daddy who’s still trying to prove himself. After eight years of Bush, the last thing America needs is another president who prefers hot testosterone to cool intellect. After eight years of Bush, the last thing America needs is a president who sees militarism as the first option, rather than the last.  

Yes, we need a strong leader with plenty of self confidence. But what we really need is a leader who is also a gentleman, a leader who respects the views and rights of others. By allowing his supporters to call Obama a socialist, by lowering himself to use the Karl Rove playbook – the very same playbook that Bush used against him in South Carolina back in 2000 – McCain has shown just how craven, and yes, ungentlemanly, he is.

And then there’s the Palin fiasco. I can’t decide which aspect of the Alaskan governor’s place in American politics is the most amusing/pathetic. Is it that she’s wholly unqualified? Is it that she, like Bush, doesn’t care to even read the newspapers? Is it that the Republican makeover machine spent $150,000 on some new duds for her? Is it that during the first two weeks of October, the highest paid member of McCain’s campaign was Palin’s makeup artist? Is it that she, like her running mate, uses the phrase “energy independence” nearly every hour? Of all the people McCain could have chosen as his running mate, he chose the woman who’s been christened by the wags as “Caribou Barbie.” This demonstrates McCain’s good judgment?

McCain claims that we need a leader with judgment, a maverick, a person who works outside of the Washington mainstream. And he makes that claim despite the fact that he’s spent his entire career as a Washington insider. Sorry. I don’t buy it.

Sure, Obama is relative political novice. But he has, as conservative author Christopher Buckley put it in his now-famous declaration that he was voting for Obama, a “first-class temperament.”

Over the past three years or so, I’ve been to the Middle East three times. I’ve visited Israel, the West Bank, Bethlehem, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Dubai. My travels there, along with my observations of American politics in general, convince me that the U.S. desperately needs an image makeover. We have endured eight disastrous years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. We have watched as Bush and Cheney have degraded America’s image in the world. Their stint in power will be remembered as one during which the U.S. lowered its ideals by torturing prisoners, by jailing prisoners in an extra-Constitutional limbo, by invading Iraq after justifying that invasion with trumped-up evidence. We have seen the results of their reckless spending, where the national debt has nearly doubled (to about $10.5 trillion) during their two quadrennia in power. We have listened as Bush declared back in 2003, that the U.S. was “redefining war on our terms.”

After eight years of Bush and Cheney, the U.S. needs an anti-Bush. Yes, America might be able to find another candidate for president who is better than Obama. But right now, America could scarcely do worse than to choose McCain for the White House.

ROBERT BRYCE is the author of Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of "Energy Independence."



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