Thinking through the presidential politics

I’ve had an easy time deciding who to support for president for pretty much every election cycle since I turned 18. This year, though, the choices are not so easy. I’m a life-long conservative with a distrust for Democrats but a growing distaste for the Republicans. Which makes this next sentence a very difficult one for me to say: unless something drastic changes between now and November 4, I’m voting for Obama.

Now, let me work out some of the reasoning behind this, for my own mind if nothing else. Let’s group it around three broad areas: economy/domestic policy, war/foreign policy, for lack of a better term, “morality” issues, and, finally, general personality issues.

Economic/Domestic Policies

  • I have a huge distaste for the tax-cut promise pandering. Both sides think that they’ll get me to vote for them by promising me more money (i.e. “tax cuts”). I’d rather they told me why they need to spend my money, and then we’ll figure out if I can pay a little less.
  • I’m not much of an economist, but it’s clear that things are pretty hosed up right now. That’s probably the fault of both the Bush administration and the Clinton administration before that. I don’t think anybody has a magic bullet to fix it right now.
  • Short conclusion: this area doesn’t really make me favor either candidate over the other.

War/Foreign policy

  • As far as the war goes: I think both candidates will have to more or less do the same thing – slowly withdraw troops as Iraq becomes more stable. Both sides know that leaving immediately would cause big trouble in Iraq, so they won’t do it. So they try to recriminate each other to score political points. Ick.
  • Maybe I’m foolish here, but I think an Obama win would force the rest of the world, Europe especially, to take a long, hard look at themselves. It’s been too easy for the past decade to just blame George W. Bush’s America for all the world’s ills. When the European’s darling is in the White House and there are still problems in the world, they’ll have to start looking further for how to fix problems. (Or, they’ll just still blame GWB for everything… )

“Morality” Issues

  • The biggie here is abortion. I have a real difficulty wanting to support anyone who is in favor of legalized abortion. But we have to look practically at it, too. Aside from appointing Supreme Court justices, there’s not a lot the president can do about abortion law. I may need to just hold my nose here.
  • And about those Supreme Court justices. The traditional right-wing position is that a liberal president will get to make several appointments, thus turning the Court to the left. But let’s look at who’s likely to retire from the USSC: Stevens, Rehnquist, maybe Breyer? Liberals all. Which means even if Obama replaces them with liberals, the Court’s ideological balance won’t change much. The conservatives Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito are comparatively young and healthy, unlikely to leave their seats any time soon. So, I see this as a non-issue.
  • Another thing I want to lump into the “morality” bit: health care. This is one place where I’m increasingly convinced the hard Right has gotten it wrong for a while. We have a moral obligation to provide health care for those who can’t afford it. Now, I’m skeptical about the effectiveness of government-run health care, and I don’t think the USA will end up with a fully-socialized system akin to the Canadian or British ones for a while yet, but we should find a way to make sure people are cared for. i think Obama will have a better focus in that regard.


  • The VP candidates: the debate last night cemented it for me. Palin isn’t totally incompetent, but she isn’t ready for the number 2 position, either. Let’s put it this way: if something happened to Obama, I wouldn’t be afraid for my country to have Biden in the White House. If something happened to McCain, I’m not sure I could say the same thing. I like Sarah Palin, I like the idea that someone like her could make it to this point, but the hopes that she was the great savior of the Republican party have been dashed over the past few weeks. If she wants a political future, I propose this: get that corrupt Senator Stevens out of office and let Palin replace him. Give her some time to get used to the national limelight and bone up on the issues. Then let her come back in 4 or 8 years.
  • John McCain. I respect his years of service to the country, but I’m not really sure that we’d get anything different from him than we’ve had from the previous administration. All the talk of “reforming” is great for the stump speech, but much harder to do when you’re in office, especially if you’re dealing with a Congress controlled by the opposition party.
  • Barack Obama. For whatever it’s worth, I like the idea that America could elect a non-WASP to be president. I like his notion of change, though again I’m skeptical of just how much of it will translate from the stump to the office. I don’t think for a second that he’s the messianic non-politician that some want to make him out to be (can anything non-corrupt come out of Illinois politics?), but I think he’s different than the Harry Reid-Nanci Pelosi school of Democrats we’ve been afflicted with for lo these many years.

In conclusion: most of it’s a wash. Obama takes it just based on health care, VP, and general “change”. So, that’s my ramble. I’m sure this will greatly please some friends and family and greatly shock others. Feel free to agree, disagree, argue, whatever. I’m just hoping that next time around there’s a candidate I’m actually enthusiastic about voting for.

Links for 2008-10-02

Things I’ve linked recently:

And tell them we are men

Douglas Wilson posted this quote, and it’s too good to not pass along.

I wish you well. May your table be graced with lovely women and good men. May you drink well enough to drown the envy of youth in the satisfactions of maturity. May your men wear their weight with pride, secure in the knowledge that they have at last become considerable. May they rejoice that they will never again be taken for callow, black-haired boys. And your women? Ah! Women are like cheese strudels. When first baked, they are crisp and fresh on the outside, but the filling is unsettled and indigestible; in age, the crust may not be so lovely, but the filling comes at last into its own. May you relish them indeed. May we all sit long enough for reserve to give way to ribaldry and for gallantry to grow upon us. May there be singing at the table before the night is done, and old, broad jokes to fling at the stars and tell them we are men . . . The road to Heaven does not run from the world but through it.

(Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb, p. 180).

“I trust that age doth not wither nor custom stale my infinite variety.”

I sent an email this morning which sent me thinking about a familiar quote, which in turn sent me thinking about one of my favorite sets of stories: the various adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a multitude of mysteries featuring the odd detective between 1887 and 1927, and Holmes has been studied, quoted, parodied, and dramatized ever since.

I was first introduced to the Homes stories by Lydia back in, oh, 1989 or so. (I was probably 12 years old.) After borrowing her volume (I’m thinking it was A Study in Scarlet and The Hound of the Baskervilles) and devouring it no time, I proceeded to borrow whatever I could from the library, and eventually bought “The Annotated Sherlock Holmes”, a ridiculously large book containing not only all the stories, but also illustrations, explanations of some of the period references, and, most amusingly, studies as to the “actual” dates of the mysteries, piecing these together from descriptions of cultural events, weather, and moon phases in the stories. This book was equal in size to my father’s Strong’s concordance, but I lugged it around anyway, reading in the car, reading while my brother Ryan took his piano lesson, reading pretty much anywhere I could get away with it. I was that sort of kid.

I recall distinctly driving my mom a bit batty with that annotated Holmes. One of the readings in my literature book somewhere in early high school (recall I was home-schooled) was a Holmes story, so, rather than read it from my lit book, I read it from the Annotated Holmes. Afterwards, Mom got out the discussion questions, and question number one was “when did this adventure occur?”. It’s supposed to be a straightforward question; after all, the story told the supposed month and year right in the first paragraph. But no, I wasn’t going to pay attention to that. I quickly gave her the supposed “actual” date that the editor of the Annotated had surmised. She gave me a quite baffled look, and then, well, I had some explaining to do.

Holmes is one of those characters who, once you know, you start seeing references and allusions to all over the place. One such reference several years ago gave me the opportunity to email long-time New York Times columnist (and favorite of mine) William Safire to correct him. (In retrospect, I must have been one of dozens, if not hundreds, to do so.) He had quoted Holmes’ line about “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time”, correctly attributed it to the story “Silver Blaze”, but then slipped up by saying that “Silver Blaze” was the name of the dog in the story. Oops. (Silver Blaze was a racehorse.) I got an automated reply email from the NYT, but was more excited to receive a two-line email response later that day which, by all appearances, was from the columnist himself.

I go back to Holmes every once and again to enjoy an old friend. The Annotated still occupies a rather large chunk of bookshelf in my basement, not too much the worse for wear after having been dragged around for nigh on twenty years of my life. Many years and many readings have not “withered” or “staled” the stories quite yet. I look forward to the day when I can pass on the adventures (and the giant volume) to one of my little readers at home.

[The title of this post is a quote from The Adventure of the Empty House, wherein Holmes slightly modifies the line from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.]

Links for 2008-10-01

Things I’ve linked in the past 24 hours:

  • George F. Will – A Vote Against Rashness – "We are waist deep in evasions because one cannot talk sense about the cultural roots of the financial crisis without transgressing this cardinal principle of politics: Never shall be heard a discouraging word about the public.

    Concerning which, a timeless political trope is: Government should budget the way households supposedly do, conforming outlays to income. But the crisis came partly because so many households decided that it would be jolly fun to budget the way government does, hitching outlays to appetites.

    Beneath Americans' perfunctory disapproval of government deficits lurks an inconvenient truth: They enjoy deficits, by which they are charged less than a dollar for a dollar's worth of government. Conservatives participate in this, even though deficits fuel government's growth by obscuring its cost."

    George Will gets it right.

  • Elsewhere in Dreams » Blog Archive » Bullet Points for a Tuesday Evening
  • The Shaman and the Chicken Bones [Topic: Creation and Food] – "These pastors either don't know any better, in which case they cannot be trusted to handle the sacred text of Scripture, or they do know better but are afraid of the coterie of health ladies in the church who are propagating this kind of nonsense, in which case their cowardice disqualifies them."
  • FIRST THINGS: A Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life – "This much, I think, is clear: Without an allegiance to beauty, art degenerates into a caricature of itself; it is beauty that animates aesthetic experience, making it so seductive; but aesthetic experience itself degenerates into a kind of fetish or idol if it is held up as an end in itself, untested by the rest of life. "
  • prayers for blowouts » Blog Archive » The 2008 World Series of Worship Leaders

Take me out to the ballgame…

It’s October 1st, which, among other things, means it’s time for the baseball playoffs. This has long been a favorite time of year for me. I love watching baseball, or if a TV isn’t available, listening to it on the radio. And today we get a trifecta, with the meat game of the baseball sandwich being the Chicago Cubs starting a home series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

No sense in me adding to all the blather about the Cubs; just watching Sportscenter this morning they had features on “The Curse” (including the goat, the black cat, etc), the 100-year drought (there have been 4 states added to the USA since the Cubs last won the World Series!), etc, etc. As Lou Piniella said yesterday, the time for talk is done. Now it’s time to play ball. I’m too biased to make any good predictions here, but, as I told Richard on the phone this morning, I’d love to see a Cubs/WhiteSox cross-town World Series… as long as the Cubs win it. 🙂

Go Cubbies!

[Wrigley Field photo by wallyg via Flickr.]

Trying to describe Watership Down

I finished reading Richard Adams’ Watership Down last night and, when adding it to my reading list, found it rather difficult to describe. Figuring that few of you ever look at my reading list, (which is fine,) and knowing that my attempt amused me, I thought I’d post the description here, too.

This is a hard novel to describe, not because it’s nondescript, but because short descriptions would leave out so much. It’s a story about rabbits. Let’s try this on for size: if Tolkien were to have written a story the length of one of the LotR books, and set it in modern day, and narrowed the scope from “save the world” to “find a new place to live” and written it about rabbits instead of hobbits, you might get something like Watership Down. I enjoyed it.