I spent some time over the past weekend looking into our Presidential candidates a bit more.
McCain: I have been a McCain supporter for many years (I even gave him a small contribution back last summer when he was essentially written off), but some of his recent (pandering to the Right) speeches and the like had bothered me so I wanted to go back to the basics. I can say that I had never given John McCain a second of thought before I heard an interview with him maybe 10 years ago on an NPR show. The interview lasted for a full hour and was entirely devoted to a discussion of Ernest Hemingway novels and characters. Suffice it to say that I was both very impressed and very intrigued. Here was a US Senator talking in a very intelligent and passionate manner for an hour on a relatively esoteric subject without, as far as I recall, any mention of current events or anything else that could be used for campaign purposes. After hearing that, I began to pay some attention to Senator McCain and the more I learned of his positions the more I liked him. I was an enthusiastic supporter in 2000. I have done some Googling but am unable to find a link to that NPR show, I would really like to hear it again. However, I did find this interview, done in 2002 when he was not campaigning for anything, that I think gets at his character as well.
Obama: Enter Barack Obama. I don't think I knew anything of the man until maybe a year or so ago when his name entered the media mainstream. I had no intention of even thinking of supporting him until I began to see him speak. There are two main reasons that I would now consider voting for him.
One, the man is truly an inspirational speaker. The power of the presidency is largely that of the bully pulpit and here is a man who may be able to inspire enough of the American public (doesn't need to be too many) to begin to care that members of Congress will need to move on many issues in larger steps than would normally be the case. Now, I am pretty much a conservative on most issues, but I do think that it may be necessary now and then to have a progressive liberal type consensus take charge for a short period and push the country a little bit harder in the general direction it needs to go to protect and enhance America's unique society. I think of some of the domestic policies of the Johnson administration as an example. After that hard nudge in the right direction, more conservative leaders can hopefully guide the ship in a responsible fashion until it has once again strayed off course to far.
Second, having lived for some time outside of the US, I am particularly sensitive to America's image abroad. While America's soft power in many ways is not eroding at all (in fact I think it might be said that the 21st century will truly be America's century in that the emerging global culture seen in so many places around the world is essentially American in character), I do believe that some of the more beneficial aspects of that soft power have been diminished over the past some years. It is depressingly common to see foreign tyrants, corrupt politicians, evil businesspeople, religious zealots, and a host of other deprave characters try to justify their actions by pointing to superficially similar actions by America and its leaders. Of course, in most cases a few minutes of research will demonstrate the the scale of the evilness (whatever it is) is not comparable, these facile comparisons made in sound bytes on overseas media to have an effect on how America is perceived. The election of someone of the background (both racial and personal history) of someone like Barack Obama is about as powerful a pro-American visual soundbyte (can u say that?) as I can think of.
I found this nice talk with Obama from a few years ago. I would encourage anyone interested to watch it. By the way, the website is just great too.
Clinton: I do not support Hillary Clinton. Though I do not deny her obvious intellect, I simply feel her to be too inauthentic and divisive to support.
So where does this leave me? I am happy to still have another 6 months before the November election to think on it some more. Right now, I am concerned about McCain's age. When I see him recently he often seems like an old man, repeating himself and perhaps becoming a bit more close minded. When I see Obama, I am concerned that he may be a bit too liberal for me (by too liberal I mean does not appreciate the role of personal responsibility to the extent I consider appropriate). I am also concerned that he simply does not have enough relevant experience to adequately prepare him for the job. I would be much happier if he had at least a full Senate term under his belt.
In any event, Americans are fortunate to have the opportunity to choose this year between candidates of a higher quality than I think has been seen in some time.