Saturday, October 18, 2008

'Tis The Season

We humans have established seasons in all aspects of our lives: tax season, holiday season, the varying seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall) and hunting season; so why should the political climate in the US fail to accede to this classification as well?

I've refrained from commenting on the forthcoming election on November 4th for various reasons, but mostly because I wasn't entirely sure for whom I'd be voting. Initially, I believed that I would support Jon McCain. I'm a Republican for the most part -- which makes me a "moderate" Republican, I suppose -- but because I tend to vote on what's in my head and my heart rather than a card carried in my wallet, I tend to think before I agree to support the Republican party or their leftist counterparts.

To clarify my position, I am -- for the most part -- a firm supporter of Republican financial policies. I believe in capitalism and I know, given the opportunity and a hands-off government, it works. Further, in typical times, I believe -- on some level -- in trickle-down economics because the theory has merit, on several levels. However, there are some caveats in connection with the theory which I won't go into here; I will, however, remind the reader that these are not typical times.

With respect to the economy -- which we can all agree will be getting worse before it finally improves -- it's clear that the teetering mortgages doled out since the late 90's have finally come due. People have been given far too generous loans by banks looking to make far too much money and the government has, unfortunately, been far too willing to bail out the institutions whose greed essentially caused all of this. Between the failure of many financial institutions (on a small, medium and large scale), the rising unemployment rate and a guaranteed inflation increase, the proverbial shit has and will continue to hit the proverbial fan.

Or, as the old-timers might say, these are the "rainy days" for which you were saving up those pennies. Except hang onto them as long as possible because there's plenty of cloud cover still up in the sky, and no one knows when they'll pass.

With respect to the election, I've spoken to quite a few people, some of whom are more dedicated supporters of either McCain or Obama, all of whom have relatively legitimate reasons for their positions. I say relatively because in many cases, there are ambiguities which confuse potential voters almost as much as those inherent in the massive blue collar support of Ronald Reagan in the 1980's.

I've been told that Obama will negotiate with terrorists (ie Iran and fringe groups). I think he will open dialogue with Iran and other hostile states, which is something that has never been done by a US President. The problem is that inasmuch as I disagree with this strategy, we cannot ignore the fact that it did bear success in working with North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program. Those talks weren't unilateral at first, but they did show some meaure of success. With respect to Iran, however, having a leader that calls for the destruction of Israel -- or any other nation -- is far in excess of Kim Jong Il's lunacy. The problem is that nuclear weapons make diplomacy a far better option. The problem is how can a nation negotiate with another nation whose admitted goal is to revel in the destruction of its neighbors?

Personally, I think the whole concept of dialogue with Iran is distasteful and destructive, and not in a good way.

Further, this policy suggests, to me, that Obama has less regard for Israel than he should. He says all the right things in front of cameras and microphones, but anyone willing to sit down with Iran and discuss these issues -- specifically, nuclear centrifuge and refinement -- and not publicly suggest that any Iranian nuclear program will result in a large crater in the Iranian desert is going in the wrong direction in my view. The problem with the Iranian mentality in this regard is this: refusing to enter into dialogue with them provides their leadership with the sense that America believes it is better than they are, which in turn spurs their nationalistic pride to continue on whatever path they've decided to pursue. On the other hand, capitulating to Iranian leadership and discussing these issues publicly provides their leadership with the sense that America has capitulated because it is weak, spurring their nationalistic pride, this allowing them to continue on whatever path they've decided to pursue. There really is no "winning" because no matter which direction we decide to go with respect to Iran, they'll do whatever they want to do and we -- and our allies in Europe and the Middle East -- will be left to pursue other options, hopefully before it is too late. And by too late, I mean once Iran has realized its desire to manufacture nuclear weapons. Simply put, talking with people who publicly advocate the destruction of another nation is not only foolish and a waste of time, it permits said nation to make further progress on a path which we -- and the world -- cannot afford to permit.

The other significant issue with which I have vis-a-vis Senator Obama is his immigration policy vis-a-vis Mexico. He has suggested that he will consider granting citizenship to illegal aliens living in the United States. I have a problem with that decision in several regards. It's not that I am xenophobic or dislike Mexicans or other foreigners, unlike what CNN's Ruben Navarrette Jr. seems to suggest. My problem with Obama's immigration policy is that granting citizenship to illegally-resident individuals is like legalizing heroin. It's easier to do it than address and resolve the issue properly, true, but it suggests to anyone considering illegally migrating to the US that they too will be able to achieve citizenship despite the fact their actions to do so are illegal.

So in essence, this policy suggests that anyone who wants to come here should break the law, ignore our constitution and our sovereignty, and we'll happily welcome you.

That's the antithesis of our Constitution, the same Constitution that many illegal aliens can't read unless it's translated for them into Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian or some other language.

Now -- if I haven't tickled your xenophobic funny bone yet, let me press harder.

Many left-wing liberals who respond to my displeasure with Obama's intended immigration plan scold me, advising me that this nation welcomed many European immigrants in the 30's and 40's as Hitler was attempting to gerrymander the map of Europe. And that's true. However, Ellis Island is far from the Rio Grande. Moreover, when Eastern European Jews migrated to the USA before, during and immediately after World War II, many of them had little to nothing and spoke various dialects, but adopted the Constitution, learned English and assimilated into the culture of the United States. How many modern immigrants -- legal or otherwise -- can be described that way?

It seems to me -- and the fact that every state in this country offers written drivers exams in languages other than English -- as proof that immigrants today are not asked to become Americans, nor do they have any interest in doing so. In the 30's and 40's, people came here to become Americans. Today, people want to come to America to make money to send home to their families, to whom they'll return as soon as they've struck gold in the land of opportunity.

The problem is that then, opportunity meant to make this land one's own and to make one a member of this nation. Now, opportunity means take advantage of what's being given away for free and use it up.

To me, that's the very antithesis of the concept of citizenship, and I think Senator Obama's suggestion that these people be given citizenship -- rather than earn it -- is repulsive.

Other things about Senator Obama bother me. He has only recently begun to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and the big discussion about his unwillingness to wear an american flag pin on his lapel were discussed ad nauseum for months. Clearly, he doesn't show patriotism like many of his peers do. Is that troubling? Yes. Is it a fatal problem? To me, no. I am not concerned about the beliefs of a surgeon about to perform surgery to save my life, my wife's life, or my son's or daughter's life. I just want to know that he or she is competent. Is the pledge of allegiance/lapel pin stuff a tad disconcerting? You bet.

However -- and there is not a big enough capital letter to precede this sentence -- my main concern is the economy. Abortion is another issue which needs to be addressed once and for all.

As a "moderate" Republican, it irritates me that no thinking Republican has come to the floor of the House or the Senate and said "We as Republicans should be ashamed of ourselves. Women should always have the right to make the choice vis-a-vis abortion unless their choice could endanger their lives, in which case their physician should consult and/or be involved in their decision." The fact that the Republican party has pandered to the right-to-life nitwits who believe the Bible, not the Constitution, is the supreme law of the land is ridiculous. And inasmuch as I typically agree with the Republican sense of small, unencumbered governmental interference, I think their stance on abortion is equally, if not moreso, repulsive than the notion of Obama's "open-door" immigration policy.

And frankly, criminalizing abortion is the worse of these two evils.

Mainly, with respect to the economy, it's relatively simple: for most people (not "folks"), both candidates will be in a position to relieve some of the tax burden. However, while Senator Obama's tax cut for those who make below $250,000 is, I believe, genuine, so is his intent to raise taxes on people making more than $250,000. On some level, I believe this is fair. If we intend to strengthen the middle class of this nation rather than have cities filled with homeless people and people driving Mercedes and Bentleys, then increasing the tax burden on the wealthy is appropriate. Jon McCain's policy seems to be keep taxes where they are or lower them across the board and hope the rich get everyone richer, not just the rich.

Personally, that is a great idea -- if our goal as a nation is to triple our President George W. Bush-strengthened deficit. If insuring the future of this nation and reducing our deficit is the main issue with respect to taxes and the economy as a whole, I can't see how Jon McCain will have a positive effect as President.

The problem as I see it is that I agree with Jon McCain's principles on many levels. I think he's a good guy and I like him. Also, I respect him -- which I cannot say for the sitting President. However, that being said, as much as I agree with many of his policies, I dislike the fact he is against abortion and would be happy to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Assuming this is true, we can only suspect he'd nominate judges for the Federal and Supreme Courts who agree with this position, and that could have severe adverse, long-term effect on this nation. So too could Obama's stupid, dangerous immigration policy. So do we go with pro-choice and an open-door policy, or do we go with pro-life and an immigration lock-down? Obviously, with womens' lives at stake, the answer is a no-brainer.

But these issues, frankly, are irrelevant when juxtaposed with the economy. There is no doubt in my mind that the economy will improve and this nation will bounce back. This crisis is a world-wide crisis in part because of the hundreds of millions we as a nation have committed to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other nations who have spent huge sums of money and resources in tandem. Once the other aspects of our economy have been addressed, and many Americans' fears allayed -- the latter of these will occur on November 5th, incidentally -- our nation will begin heading in the right direction.

Mainly, there are a variety of issues which are important -- gas prices, taxes, Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. -- but nothing at this point trumps the economy. And while I would prefer to vote for Jon McCain, I don't see how I can or will. I think that Obama has insured the "Lesser of Two Evils" approach is applicable for this particular election, however, with his admission that he wants to open a dialogue with Iran's demagogue, and his open-door immigration policy for anyone that would wants to earn American dollars to send home to be converted to other currencies.

I think this is an important election, and I hope that people are voting with their heads and not their hearts. This is an election about cold, hard facts, not whether someone is wearing a flag pin on their lapel or the cut of their suit. I spent a good bit of time listening -- rather than watching -- the debates and with the exception of Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate -- which, frankly, borders on insulting and ridiculous, and downright unbelievable -- I cared what was being said as opposed to how it was being said. Sound-bytes and snippets are entertaining but the real truth is that Obama's beliefs don't sound appetizing but the truth rarely does. McCain says all the right things and has the right values -- for the most part -- but what we need is a good shot of reality rather than more slogans and feel-good rallying. Been there, done that.

November 4th and beyond, full speed ahead.

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