Friday, October 3, 2008

We'll Inherit the Earth...

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I know that most of you feel the same way I do about November 4th. For those of you who don't, please read this letter written by Silanchi's dad. Silanchi is the little pistol in the middle. Lori is her super cool mom. This is what Lori said about her husband Steve, "Steve has written about politics for years, for many major publications and has written 2 books about politics--one of them George Stefanopolous said was the best book he's ever read on a presidential campaign."

From Steve Erickson...

I’ve been asked to write a letter about this presidential election, for
those like yourself who may still be undecided, so here it is. Obviously
there’s a point of view here, so I can’t promise I’ll always be as fair as I
should. But I’ll try. You or anyone else should feel free to pass this

I’m a registered Independent in California who usually votes Democratic but has voted Republican on occasion. I thought the idea of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor of California, for instance, was patently absurd when he first ran, but several years later when he ran for reelection I voted for him, as well as for some of his more “conservative” ballot initiatives that went down to defeat. I didn’t agree with Arnold on everything but I thought he had done a pretty good job and would do a better job than the old-school, big-labor liberal Democrat who opposed him.

Eight years ago I even voted for a Republican for President. We’ll comeback to that later.

Right now in the current presidential campaign there are a lot of distractions having to do with everything from crazy ministers to pregnant daughters to lipstick on pigs and pit bulls.I don’t have much to say about any of that because I think it’s unimportant at best and inane at worst. All of the four candidates on the two tickets are interesting people with different talents and backgrounds, and both political parties have struggled to identify themselves as reformers who will bring change to the country. But in the end, the biographies of the candidates are only a small part of this campaign.

Two wars rage overseas. Threats from other countries grow as international relationships deteriorate. For all the talk about the war on terror, little or nothing has been done to secure American ports and harbors,infrastructure and rail systems, nuclear power plants.At home, jobs disappear, many forever. A growing mortgage crisis threatens to bring down the entire housing market and the economy with it. People tumble deeper into credit debt as unregulated lenders deliberately raise interest rates beyond what people can afford or ever pay back. In most parts of the country, education is in disarray. More people are without health care, either because they can’t afford it at all or because unregulated insurance providers contest more and more claims even as premiums go up and up.

Potentially cataclysmic changes in the planet’s climate have been virtually ignored. Nothing has been done by an oil-centric Administration to make the county energy independent while, on the one hand, people pay four or five dollars for a gallon of gas and on the other hand oil companies (eg Exxon)post the single largest quarterly profits in history. The budget is in deficit, the nation in massive debt. Some of these might have come to pass no matter who had been in power, or are at least partly the responsibility of others; teachers’ unions, for instance, have made many problems in education worse, not better. But most are the result of Administration policies driven and supported by one party that has controlled both the presidency and Congress for six of the last eight years. The choice in this election is clearer than the distractions would suggest, if you look at the records and temperaments of those running.

When you vote for President, I think you’re voting for someone who has the personal skills and traits for the job, a grasp of what’s going on in the country, a vision of where the country can and should go, and the qualities to lead the country there.You’re voting for someone who -- and I realize this is hard to quantify -- not only has a sense of the country’s opportunities and challenges but understands that, among nations, America is unique for being founded on an idea, rather than just territory between borders. You’re also voting for someone who will protect the country and uphold the Constitution.

A lot, maybe most, of the above applies to both John McCain and Barack Obama. Having read books by both guys, I know they’re smart and idealistic,and though nobody should have any doubt that McCain’s fundamental political instincts are conservative (whatever that means anymore) and Obama’s are liberal (likewise), neither is especially ideological.

A lot of things are no longer as simple as Right and Left. I don’t think there’s a better example of this, or a clearer example of the difference between McCain and Obama in temperament and judgment, than their long-standing positions on the Iraq War. McCain was an adamant supporter of invading Iraq from the beginning. He believed that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States and was a natural battlefield in the war on the Islamic radicalism that led to the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon seven years ago. Recently McCain has talked a lot about the troop “surge” that has been partly responsible for diminishing the violence in Iraq, but it should be remembered that the surge is a tactic, and that the war itself is the larger national-security strategy of which the surge is only a part. Obama was an opponent of the war from the beginning. He believed -- and has been proven correct -- that Iraq had no ties to al-Qaeda or 9/11, and that the case for the existence of the fabled “weapons of mass destruction” was never persuasive. Since the fall of 2002 when he gave a major speech on the subject, Obama has believed that the war in Iraq diverts us from the more important war in Afghanistan, where no one disputes the complicity of the Taliban in 9/11, and from the pursuit of al-Qaeda into Pakistan.

In other words, both candidates support the war on terror, but one believes Iraq should have been and should continue to be part of that war and the other doesn’t.It’s hard to be sure what is the conservative position and what is the liberal, which is why many liberals supported the war and why many conservatives have opposed it. In this campaign, the single most conservative foreign-policy position taken by any candidate in either party has been by Obama, who argued last fall that if he had hard intelligence as to the whereabouts of Bin Laden in Pakistan. and the Pakistanis would not act on it, then as President he would send American troops into Pakistan to find Bin Laden and capture or kill him. At the time, everyone -- including McCain and President Bush -- criticized Obama’s position as “irresponsible.” But Obama has not backed down on it and now, just in the past week, the Bush Administration has adopted it as their policy.

Why it was not irresponsible to go into Iraq but it would be to go into Pakistan is something perhaps McCain can explain when he and Obama debate foreign policy later this month. In the meantime, if you believe that the war in Iraq has been a success, by whatever terms you want to define that, McCain is your candidate. If you believe the war in Iraq has not made the United States safer but has left us vulnerable in Afghanistan and stretched our money and military to a breaking point, and has strained our alliances and contributed to mobilizing world opinion against us and radicalizing what’s left of moderate Islam, then you might ask how it is that the “inexperienced” Obama got it right on the foreign-policy blunder of a generation, while everyone else got it wrong.

The differences between McCain and Obama on domestic and economic matters are as stark. Obama believes the crises in jobs, housing, health care,education, energy and the environment have grown so serious a President should be engaged in solving them. McCain believes that some of these matters may indeed be serious but that for the most part they’re best left to the free market and state governments to resolve. Obama proposes universal health care in which people participate voluntarily and have a number of options to choose from, depending on whether they already have health care and are satisfied with it. McCain’s health care plan is similar to Bush’s; it would provide families with a tax credit with which to buy health insurance. It also would eliminate the tax credit for businesses that provide health care to their employees,which means companies no longer would have the incentive to do so; most families would be left to buy private health coverage on their own that may cost more than the McCain taxcredit would cover. Unlike Obama’s plan, there’s nothing in McCain’s health-care plan that addresses the problem of what happens to someone’s health coverage when he or she leaves or loses a job, there’s nothing that addresses the problem of finding health care if someone has a preexisting condition. There’s nothing that regulates insurance providers that now routinely find ways not to pay on claims.

Most economists agree that the housing crisis is growing beyond subprime mortgages to other more conventional mortgages, and that if housing market completely collapses, the country faces potentially the greatest economic meltdown in 70 years. This is why the government is rushing to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own more than half the mortgages in the country. Obama has a housing plan that builds on the Homeowners Act passed this past summer by Congress. McCain has no housing plan. I know because last spring I listened to his address on this subject in its entirety.
McCain has no jobs plan, no plan for addressing the credit crisis, no plan for addressing education concerns. McCain’s domestic “program” is very similar to President Bush’s with the possible exception of energy and the environment, where McCain is somewhat more pro-active (although up until these past few days McCain’s choice for Vice President did not acknowledge there was such a thing as climate change, or at least did not acknowledge people’s role in it or that it’s a serious enough problem that the government should be addressing it).

At the moment, McCain’s economic campaign is built almost entirely on his opposition to congressional earmarks and his incessant charge that Obama will raise taxes. So let me offer some facts on Obama and McCain tax policy, as reported by, among others,the Wall Street Journal, generally a Republican newspaper. This information can be verified in black and white; you don’t have to take my word for it. It’s true that under Obama, a family of four making an income of more than $250,000 a year will see its income tax rise. But otherwise 8 out of 10 Americans, and 19 out of 20 households
with children, will pay less taxes under an Obama presidency than they presently do under the Bush tax plan. The Obama tax cut for families making less than $100,000 is twice what the proposed McCain tax cut is. UnderObama, seniors making $50,000 or less will pay no income tax at all. Small companies will get a cut in the capital-gains tax, while large corporations will see their capital gains and dividend taxes increase from 15 to 20 percent. McCain, who once opposed Bush’s tax policies as irresponsible, now supports them and will extend and continue them under a McCain presidency, except for corporate taxes, which he will cut further by another 30 percent
beyond what Bush already has cut.

In short, if you believe the country is in good shape and that it should continue on its current course with the present policies or something resembling them, or if you believe that the country may be in bad shape but that it’s not something the President should or can do anything about and the present policies should remain unchanged, you should vote for McCain.

I understand that McCain is the candidate of people’s comfort-zone and that Obama seems like a risk. It’s perfectly legitimate to question whether Obama, whom no one heard of five years ago, has the experience to be President. The job calls for managerial skills, a talent for putting together the right people, and for negotiation, conciliation and toughness with Congress and foreign governments. Hiring someone who lacks the pertinent experience runs the risk that he (or she) will prove out of his (or her) depth.

But Abraham Lincoln was the least experienced President ever elected. His national resume consisted of a single two-year term in Congress 14 years before he won the White House, when he beat an array of far more experienced men largely because, better than anyone else, he spoke to what the country -- on the verge of civil war -- was going through, in a series of debates and in a speech at Cooper Union in New York City several months before he received the nomination of the Republican Party. During the first three years of Lincoln’s presidency, people would come up to William Seward, who
as Senator and then Governor of New York was the most esteemed man in the country, and who had run against Lincoln for the Republican nomination and lost, and comment that he should be President, not some Midwest lawyer no one had heard of. Privately Seward always agreed -- until around the fourth year, when someone said to him, for the umpteenth time, “Well, of course, you should be President,” and Seward answered, No. The people, he said, had gotten it right -- “President Lincoln is the best of us.” Seward had come to realize (and was honest enough to admit) that Lincoln had evolved during the Civil War and had come to see what more experienced politicians didn’t -- a bigger picture of what the conflict was about morally, beyond simply the preservation of the Union. In his “inexperience,” Lincoln drafted and issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which was universally opposed by more experienced politicians in both his Cabinet and Congress.

Lincoln’s predecessor was James Buchanan, who had one of the most stellar resumes of any President ever elected. By the time he reached the White House, Buchanan had been in Congress, an Ambassador, Secretary of State. James Buchanan is considered by many historians our worst President while Lincoln is regarded as our greatest.

Is this to suggest that, if elected, Obama will be Abraham Lincoln, or that McCain will be James Buchanan? Of course not. It is to suggest that experience in a vacuum of wisdom is meaningless. Between them, Vice President Cheney and former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld had nearly a century of experience when they decided to invade Iraq; I’ll leave to you to determine how well that turned out. If George Bush’s presidency is a failed one, it’s not because Bush didn’t have enough experience, it’s because his vision of the country and the world, the problems and their resolution,was flawed, simplistic, rigid.

And that Republican I mentioned before, who I voted for eight years ago for President? You may have figured out by now that it was John McCain. I voted for him in the 2000 California Primary over Bush, Al Gore and Bill Bradley. I voted for him because although I disagreed with him on some things, I believed he was a man of honor who would shake up the Washington establishment as no one else would.

On occasion, I still see that McCain in this current campaign. I saw it during the primaries in his principled opposition to torture, even though it wasn’t a politically popular position in his party. (I never thought I’d live long enough to hear people actually arguing over whether it’s OK to torture people in the United States of America.) You don’t have to be a Republican to admire McCain’s courage as a prisoner of war 40 years ago,when he was offered an early release and turned it down because he wouldn’t leave his fellow prisoners behind.

But now McCain has working in his campaign the same people -- and I mean literally the same people -- who, eight years ago when working for his opponent (Bush), accused him of having gone mad in Hanoi, accused his adopted Indian daughter of being a black child fathered out of wedlock. Maybe it’s a testament to his hardnosed professionalism that he can forgive all that and surround himself with those people. Maybe McCain really believes that people who oppose the war “wave the white flag of surrender” (even as neither he nor the current President has ever defined what “surrender” is in this particular war, or for that matter what “victory” or “defeat” mean either). Maybe he really believes, as he says, that Obama would rather lose a war than an election, which sounds to me tantamount to an accusation of treason. I take McCain at face value when he says he always puts country over politics, in which case I assume he really believed that someone who first entered state politics (not to mention national politics) a year and a half ago, and to whom he spoke once for 15 minutes last winter, was the best choice to be Vice President, under a President who will turn 73 in his first year and has had four bouts of melanoma.

As we find out (as much as we’re allowed to) about the record and convictions of Governor Palin over the next seven weeks -- as opposed to the 19 months during which Obama was tested (in 23 debates and 52 state contests in which 36 million people voted) -- we’ll also find out more about McCain’s judgment in choosing her, and whether he really has become so cynical. But even allowing for the usual mudslinging that all sides are guilty of in political campaigns, the McCain campaign has been averaging at least one bald lie a day since the Republican Convention. As I write this, there’s an ad airing that Obama supported a law teaching sex education to kids in kindergarten. It doesn’t matter that every objective news and fact-checking organization has condemned this ad as having no basis in fact. (What Obama supported was a law that would help small kids ward off sexual predators, something Lori and I have been trying to teach our own son since he was four.) The McCain campaign has learned the lessons of the Bush campaigns, which is that in the time it takes for the truth to finally be told, someone will hear the lie and believe it. I can only hope that if he’s elected, it’s not this new McCain who will be President but the earlier one I voted for, and that the damage done by his campaign won’t make uniting the country as impossible as it’s been for the last eight years.

I don’t doubt that if Obama wins the election in the face of this, there will be a learning curve, to say the least. And for all his talk about “new politics,” I know Obama is a politician not above making compromises when he needs to; his record both in Illinois and the Senate is clear on that. But on the big issues so far his instincts have been more right than wrong, and he makes people believe in the America of their dreams, and he makes the rest of the world believe in that America too. It’s been a long time since that was true. If McCain is elected, he will be the last 20th century President. Obama will be the first 21st century President; and in the end this election is not only about who will be President, but what country and what century he will lead.



  1. I just love this letter, thank you for posting it.

  2. Thank you for this it's excellent. Although he almost lost me when he said he voted republican 8 years ago I read on.

    I cannot wait till this election is over.

    hope you're feeling better.

  3. Wow. That was a very interesting read.

  4. I'm tagging you. Don't worry, it's easy. And I'll hunt you down and paint your house purple if you don't. :)

  5. What a fantastic letter. Thanks for posting this. As a Canadian, I sincerely hope that Obama is elected and given the opportunity to help your country regain back some of it's dignity, integrity, and the respect of the rest of the world. McCain can not do this for you.

  6. Thank you for posting this letter! I wish, I wish, I WISH I could send this to my relatives in Kansas. If only they were open to LISTENING.

  7. Stumbling in from Purple Julie's "Journey to Family". I wish you the best in your journey to adopt.


  8. How could he vote for McCain over Gore?! Al Gore!
    Otherwise I enjoyed the article :)

  9. Wow that's a lot of information concisely put together! Thanks.

  10. In Canada, we have an election of our own looming. I must admit, the U.S. Presidential election race has caught my attention more mainly due to it's glitz and the very dynamic personalities involved. Our politicians seem staid and boring in comparison.

    I too hope that Obama is elected. He seems the man for the job - McCain (like Bush) has his own agenda and that to me is scary!

    Thanks for sharing this article! It's given me some insight into the whole situation. I will be keenly interested to see what happens on Nov. 4th.


  11. How can anyone read this, and see the facts, and go out and vote for McCain and Palin? I just don't understand. Really, I don't. It is baffling.

    Don't people CARE if everyone has health care? They don't!! Long, long before we were married, my husband, newly here from Puerto Rico, had his appendix out without health insurance. It cost him all his savings and many thousands more. He had to work 2-3 jobs for many years to pay that off. And that's nothing compared to what many people go through. It is insane. Insane. Total greedy insanity.

    And on a lighter note: Just out of curiousity... Why does being unable to speak properly make people love Palin so much? "We've not got to..." "ya" "goin'" etc etc etc etc. Imagine if Obama didn't use "proper English." Wouldn't get him far.

    Thanks for the great post! :)

  12. finally found time to read this and boy am I glad I did. yes, it all seems obvious to me, but I cannot seem to keep from using words like stupid and insane and wtf when I try to argue my points about Obama. this is better to share with those on the fence.