Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Obama vs. McCain

Tuesday evening I saw on TV the major foreign policy speech of Barack Obama at the Natl. Press Club in Washington DC, and then the speech by John McCain at a Town Hall Meeting in New Mexico. They were both very characteristic of the two candidates for President.
Obama gave an excellent speech, full of high flown rhetoric and drama, while McCain's talk was more low key and specific. Obama's focus was on "ending" the war in Iraq, essentially by a rapid phased withdrawal, so that he can re-focus attention on Afghanistan and Pakistan, where al Qaeda still has a haven. This strategy is carefully crafted to appeal to the liberal anti-war sentiment in the US, while giving the conservatives something to look forward to, a continuation of the war against al Qaeda. Very plausible.
But, as McCain pointed out, Obama is about to embark on a world trip including Iraq and Afghanistan, and it will be only his second trip to Iraq after a long delay and his first to Afghanistan. As he said, usually the fact-finding mission preceeds the determination of policy. It is an astounding fact that Obama has never met Gen. Petraeus, the author of the "troop surge" success in Iraq, and has never met Pres. Maliki of Iraq or Pres. Karsai of Afghanistan.
Now it is also a fact that McCain supported and sponsored the "surge" in Iraq when it was not popular and did so at great personal political risk. Yet Obama, who opposed the "surge", as everything else about Iraq, now says that the results of the surge were expected, and he wants to end it without even consulting the military experts on the ground. How can he estimate when the troops can be removed from Iraq and military control be handed over to the Iraqi Govt. when he has not consulted with either the US military or the Iraqi Govt. So much for his high flown rhetoric, it has no substance.
Meanwhile, John McCain said that with his extensive military experience and in consultation with our military leaders and our allies he would decide when to reduce the US forces in Iraq and increase them in Afghanistan. He pointed out that there are four separate military commands in Afghanistan, one NATO and three US, and he said that to be effective these need to be unified into a single command, and he has the necessary military experience to accomplish this.
There were other areas that Obama addressed, such as energy/oil policy. But, what he said was hardly different from what Pres. Bush said at a press conference held earlier in the day, but he has instituted policies to expand US oil drilling, including on the outer continental shelf and in Alaska (that have been opposed by Obama and most of the Democratic Congress) and to improve financial rewards for exploiting alternative forms of energy. It was almost as if Obama stole the ideas from Bush, but couched them in high-sounding English instead of the folksy delivery of Bush.
So while I was impressed by Obama's rhetorical ability, I found his content shallow and without credibility, while I found McCain's talk more down to earth and based on experience and pragmatism. I could never vote for a candidate based principally on his oratory and not much else, that would be superficial.
I also saw the cover of the New Yorker magazine, that shows Obama and his wife in the Oval Office, he dressed as a Muslim cleric with turban, and his wife in camoflage with a gun slung over her shoulder. Above the fireplace is a picture of Osama bin Laden and in the fire is a US flag. I do think this is going too far, even for a supposed "satire." I would be insulted if anyone thought that my opposition to Obama has anything to do with his supposed Muslim background and/or the color of his skin. Let's be clear, I oppose his candidacy because he has insufficient experience and almost no track record, and I would oppose anyone with this background (or lack thereof) of any party for the highest position in the world, even if he does speak well!


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