10.21.2008

MCCAIN ON THE ISSUES

As a follow-up to a post from earlier this month, here's my presidential issues scorecard, per categories from a special report in a recent issue of the Economist:

* Economy. Obama has narrowed the gap in my free-market loving mind, between him giving his ear to some key conservative advisors and McCain dithering on the economic crisis. Nevertheless, this is the issue in which I am most right-leaning, and I can't help but think Obama plus a very Democratic Congress will not be able to avoid over-regulation and over-taxation of businesses of all sizes and sectors.

* Regulation and trade. Obama's populist panderings on NAFTA during the primary were shameful, and his pro-union positions are also worrisome. Worryingly, as with the issue above, a very Democratic Congress will push in the wrong way on both issues, and Obama hasn't yet shown he'll push back.

* Foreign policy. It's easy to be idealistic about diplomacy when you haven't experienced human depravity firsthand. McCain may be too hawkish for my tastes, and Obama offers the best hope for a restart in terms of America's image in the world; but I can't help but worry that Russia, North Korea, and/or Iran are more volatile and in need of direct confrontation than the typical American even appreciates.

* Iraq and Afghanistan. What's worse: staying too long or leaving too early? Time will tell on these two countries, but history seems to suggest that while both are costly, you can get it right now or pay dearly later. I'm nervously with McCain on this one.

* Health care. Costs or coverage? An ailing economy may mean costs come before coverage, which favors the McCain plan. Plus his willingness to eliminate the popular employer subsidy on insurance warms the cockles of this amateur economist's heart; doing so would level the playing field for small businesses and the self-employed.

* Immigration. McCain was for paths to citizenship for illegals when this was deeply unpopular within his party; being the senator of a border state plus needing to satisfy the base has meant he's balanced that by getting tough on border security. Obama's positions have been a little too anti-business for my taste.

* Energy and the environment. McCain went against ethanol subsidies even at the risk of political suicide. However, his gas-tax holiday idea was a loser. Obama seems to get that now is the time to move our country towards a post-petroleum age, so I'm with him on that even if I'm nervous about how big he wants to make government to get us there.

* Education. Not much to talk about here, although I do like vouchers and am therefore more with McCain than Obama.

* Crime. Again, not much to talk about here, although Obama's urban background likely means more federal dollars for policing.

* Values. It's not a hot-button issue for me, but I must note my disapproval of Obama's treatment of abortion. I do prefer his urban and multicultural perspective, which will play better at home and abroad. It's acceptable to me if he had to name the next two Supreme Court justices; even though I swing conservative there, 6-3 is too imbalanced and could cause problems. Ultimately, I'm swayed on this issue by the fact that McCain has suffered for his country, so I know that his most cherished priorities and principles have been literally battle-tested.

Of course, issues aren't the only way you decide who to vote for. I've already mentioned that I think Obama has run the better campaign, picked the better running mate, and attracted the better team of advisors. And he has kept his cool, while McCain was more attractive to me six months ago than now. Finally, the McCain campaign has somehow stupidly decided to turn this election into a scorched earth competition, in which rural and exurban areas are "more American" and anti-Muslim sentiments aren't being properly repudiated. These points count for something. Still, on the issues, I'm with the Maverick.
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