Sunday, November 2, 2008

Presidential Election Conclusions

The great majority of political pundits think Barack Obama will be our next president. I agree with them. The great majority of American voters seem to be increasingly tired of two long years of campaigning, much of it negative, and the incredible levels of fundraising we have seen, and will be glad the election will be over after November 4th. I agree with them as well.

I've also been concerned with the many campaign promises made by both Senator Obama and Senator McCain that they most likely will not be able to deliver on because on their own they don't have the constitutional authority, might not have adequate bipartisan support in Congress, or the needed federal funding availability, given the huge and growing budget deficit, worrisome national debt level, our very weak economy, ongoing expensive war commitments in the Middle East, and promises to push for lower income taxes and tax credits. Realistically, whether Obama or McCain win, to govern in this environment, the next president will have to prioritize the legislative agenda, make concessions to gain enough support, and defer action on a number of campaign promises.

And this doesn't even take directly into account several highly important national issues which were not given all that much attention in Obama and McCain's campaigns and the media covering them: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and public education, all big ticket issues of great interest to a significant majority of Americans. It has also been quite surprising to me that there has been so little talk in the campaigns about a substantive reform of our archaic and unnecessarily complex and expensive income tax system. I know that tax attorneys and tax accountants are very happy with the present system, because it provides them a good living. But my guess is that most taxpayers don't see it that way.

While I have some concerns with both candidates, I think the country will be best served by the election of Obama. It is true that he has limited governing experience, but so does McCain. The smooth and effective way his campaign has been managed, supports the view that he is a good manager, with capability to be a well performing executive. A significant number of senior military men and women, including especially Colin Powell, have endorsed him and believe he will be a very capable Commander-in-Chief. That should give us some comfort. Like most presidents, I'm quite confident that he will surround himself with a highly experienced team of national security, military, economic, foreign policy and domestic policy advisors. While he has been repeatedly branded as a socialist and liberal leftist, I believe he will be a pragmatic problem solver, listening to his advisors, and that he will govern from the center, similar to Bill Clinton. His judgment, intellectual capacity, superior communication skills, and his level-headed presidential bearing during his campaign make up for his relatively limited resume.

No one should question McCain's courage, honor, patriotism, or devotion to public service. However, I have been concerned with many of his comments on foreign policy, including his inclination to seriously consider going to war against Russia and moving to kick the Russians out of the G8, the group of major industrialized countries. Instead of provoking the Russian leadership, such as President Bush has done with the expansion of NATO and missile defense systems in eastern Europe, we need to pursue a dialogue path towards strategic cooperation on higher priority issues like fighting terrorism, combating global warming, energy conservation, and nuclear non-proliferation. I also question McCain's continuous, unrealistic insistence that "victory" in Iraq must still be our primary goal, implying that this should be so regardless of costs, whether human or financial. It seems to me, instead, that our primary goal should be a stable, democratic Iraq that can defend itself against insurgents and any external enemies, to be achieved as soon as possible with a very limited level of further U. S. financial expenditures and casualties.

If it wasn't clear at the beginning of these presidential campaigns, it must be clear now, that the U. S. does not have the resources, or public support, to police the world and solve the planet's problems largely by ourselves. We have to work more closely with allies and friends, as well as the near super-powers (Russia, China and India, and possibly later on, Brazil). Going to another war must be a very last resort. We also need to focus more on our domestic priorities, including rebuilding our public infrastructure, energy independence, K-12 public education, healthcare, and putting Medicare and Social Security on a more solid financial footing.

The next president is inheriting an incredibly serious, complex and challenging set of major unsolved problems, perhaps more so than any other president-elect in recent history. To be successful he will need to all his analytical, negotiation and communication skills, a highly effective team of experienced advisors, a great deal of bipartisan support in the Congress, strong support from our allies, the media and the American people, and, yes, also some measure of good luck.

No comments: