Denver Bar Association
September 2008
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The Race for the White House

by Doug McQuiston

Time to Make Your Pick

With Colorado as a possible battleground state in this presidential election, have you decided yet? If not, let me help. I can’t ignore my bias, so I will at least state it up front:  I am a Conservative. Capital C. There. I’ve said it. I will at least try to throttle it back a bit while we discuss the candidates.

Tune out the nutroots
You won’t hear me say that if my guy doesn’t win it will mean The End of the Republic As We Know It. America has endured, and will continue to endure, good and bad Presidents. Both men, Sen. Barak Obama and Sen. John McCain, are constitutionally qualified to be President. Both are decent, patriotic, ego-driven, ambitious men who sincerely believe they have more to offer than their opponent in service to our great nation.

Don’t waste your time with the looney e-mails about how Sen. Obama is a “closet Muslim” or that Sen. McCain is the Manchurian candidate. What we do know is that, as the existing Administration retires from the public stage, the incoming President sworn in on Jan. 20, 2009 will be dramatically different, on many levels, from the current president. “Change” my fellow voters, is guaranteed.

But which candidate most closely reflects your goals, sensibilities and views for the country and its future? That’s the question you’ll need to answer before you flip the switch.

Get educated
First, check out their Web sites: Sen. Obama’s is www.barackobama.com and Sen. McCain’s is www.johnmccain.com.

Next, get a little perspective by visiting some of the political news and comment aggregator sites out there. As a political junkie, my favorites are www.realclearpolitics.com, and www.politico.com. For analysis with a particular ideological viewpoint, I recommend www.townhall.com, on the center-right and www.talkingpointsmemo.com on the center-left. Check them out.

Some of the candidates’ positions on the issues are a little complex. Others can be scored pretty quickly.  Let’s look at those first.

Coattails — Advantage: Obama. This year is shaping up to be a Democratic Party year on the “downticket” Congressional races. If an activist, liberal-leaning Congress appeals to you, Obama’s your man. If, on the other hand, you’d rather see a little tension between the opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, and you think a little Congressional gridlock might keep them from doing something stupid, go with McCain.

Judges — There are five Supreme Court Justices over 70. The next President likely will appoint at least four new ones. If Ginsberg, Stevens and Breyer are your kind of jurists, go with Obama. If Roberts, Scalia, and Alito are more to your ideological tilt, McCain’s your guy. That said, Obama will have a much easier path to approval of his judges than will McCain, so a McCain presidency likely will not see too many far-right judicial ideologues nominated.

Immigration — A toss-up. Both say they’re for “secure borders” and a “comprehensive reform” of immigration law. Expect neither from either, and you won’t be disappointed.

Guns — Obama wants to take ‘em.  McCain wants you to keep ‘em. If you have an NRA sticker on the pickup, this one’s a no-brainer.

Now, on to the more complex issues.

Oil and energy independence — McCain will drill everywhere but the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (and he’ll probably get to that, too). Obama won’t. If you commute by bike, it probably already has the little “Obama ‘08” sticker on it. If you’d prefer gas under $4 per gallon, slap the McCain sticker on the ol’ minivan.

Taxes and spending — This depends on your family and business income. Sen. Obama says he plans to cut taxes for everyone except “the rich.” The term is a moving target, creeping up or down depending on what audience Sen. Obama is speaking to. From my research, if you have family income over about $102,000 or especially over $250,000, he could mean you, according to the Brookings Institution. The more you make over that range, the more you’ll get soaked. He plans corporate tax increases, too.

Obama also plans to eliminate the cap on Federal Insurance Contribution Act taxes, resulting in hefty Social Security/Medicare tax increases for families making more than $102,000 per year. He claims he will “exempt” incomes between $102,000 and $250,000, but his former primary opponent, Hillary Clinton, had effectively called that claim “unlikely.” Expect the hit on all income (not just earnings) above $102,000 and you won’t be disappointed. For higher earners, the combined hit of higher income and FICA taxes will sting. 

Sen. Obama also proposes massive new spending. He believes in the basic goodness of government, and plans to grow it. The tab? Somewhere around $340 billion a year in new net red ink, according to an analysis by the National Taxpayers Union. I’ll give you one guess on where he and his pals in the incoming Democratic Congress plan to get this money.  Bet on “rich” getting defined down.

McCain proposes slight tax cuts for everyone. If you pay income tax, you’ll pay less in a McCain Administration. The more tax you pay, the bigger the net effect of his cuts. McCain also plans to cut corporate income taxes. I know what some of you are thinking — “that’s because he is just a tool of the evil corporations!” Wrong, my pinko pals. Corporations (evil and otherwise) don’t pay taxes. They just pass them along to you in their prices. McCain argues that cutting corporate income taxes will help make our domestic corporations more competitive on the global stage. 
McCain takes a more limited view of the government’s ability to solve all of our problems, as an ideological heir of Reagan. His spending proposals will produce a deficit, too, but less than $40 billion in new net red ink, according to the National Taxpayers Union.   

So, if you’re pretty well off and would rather keep more of your own money, the “tax and spending” issue scores: Advantage McCain. If you plan to be (or stay) on the lower earnings rung over the next eight years, and you’d rather the government take care of people, you’ll go with Obama.

Environment — Both tout their environmental bona fides. Both have plans on carbon-trading and global climate issues. Both would push “cap and trade” schemes, such as the type that Al Gore invested in. If you’ve got a copy of “An Inconvenient Truth” in the DVD player at home, this one might at first glance seem like a toss-up, too, but let’s get serious — you’ve already decided, haven’t you? Is the environment your key concern?  Advantage: Obama. No Republican can “out-green” a Democrat.

Foreign affairs/national security — Here is where the choice is the starkest. Sen. Obama seems to honestly believe we live in a “We Are the World” world, and that all of the world’s problems can be solved if we all just sit down and talk. He’ll even make the coffee.

Though lately he has been tacking toward the more muscular center on national security, I doubt Sen. Obama has fooled many of you into thinking he is the second coming of Reagan. He wants out of Iraq (though now that we’re winning, he’s rethinking the speed of the departure), he thinks he can talk Iran out of their nukes and is he desperate for the Europeans to “love us” again, no matter what it takes. If you have a “War Is Not the Answer” bumper sticker on your Prius, score this one; Advantage: Obama. 

McCain, on the other hand, has the benefit of a perspective that only age and military service can give. He is 72 years old (if elected, he will be the oldest person ever elected President for his first term); Obama is 47. McCain was born in 1936, in the Panama Canal Zone, into a career navy family. His father commanded a sub in World War II. McCain has seen how the world is too often a place governed by the aggressive use of force. As someone with experience (dare I say it — a geezer?), and military experience in particular, McCain believes there are dark and dangerous times ahead, and our enemies aren’t much for talking. 

As President, McCain would be under no illusions about our enemies’ intent, or about what it will take to defeat them. He believes that someday in the next four to eight years, the time for talking will end and it will be time to fight — not because we want to, but because we have to. If you share this viewpoint, and favor rational cynicism when it comes to foreign relations, a strong national defense, a muscular foreign policy and resolute persistence toward victory in the war on Islamic Extremism (whatever that may look like), score this one; Advantage: McCain.

So, who’s your pick? Neither candidate will lurch very far to the left or the right if elected. Both likely will govern between the 40 yard lines. But there are differences. You’ve probably figured out where I come out. Where do you? 

I’ll see you at the polls in November.


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