My niece asked me this last night. My short answer was: I have grandchildren. She asked for the long answer, and here’s what I told her.
1) My work on national security reform this year has convinced me that significant changes are necessary to secure the nation’s freedoms and prosperity. From civil-military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to understanding the security implications of international finance – we currently fail to integrate the elements of national power to realize security goals effectively. We lack a national strategy, and worse: We lack the ability to create strategy. As a result, we find ourselves reacting instead of planning. Because only the military plan and prepare for deployment, we send them in first. We are currently ‘nation-building’ in Afghanistan, an enormous agricultural economy, and guess how many employees from the Department of Agriculture are in country? Well, recently the workforce there tripled, so the situation is improving. Yes, we finally have six people in country to assist Afghan farmers recover and plant something other than poppy fields, up from two. It’s just not expected as part of their job, because we don’t prepare the rest of the government to assist the military in our obligations.
An Obama presidency will be elected on a mandate of change, and will be more open to the need to consider a new approach to national security. McCain is an honored Cold Warrior, but so far does not speak in ways that indicate he understands the nuance and complexity of international issues (he was precipitous in his assessment of the Georgia situation).
2) McCain’s response to the fiscal crisis was scattered, and amounted to “fire the SEC chairman.” First of all, the President lacks the authority to fire the head of the SEC. Second of all, there is no indication of wrongdoing – he has accused a public servant of ‘betraying the public,’ the worst thing you can say, and there is no truth to it. Worse, the problems are mainly systemic, not just due to individual greed. To wield the “accountability” stick without ideas for reform to the regulatory frameworks (which were called outdated by Secretary Paulson) indicates a lack of understanding regarding What Needs to be Done. He may have come around by now, but he’s not demonstrating to me that he’s ready to lead on ‘day one.’
3) Sarah Palin. Her selection is an indictment of McCain’s judgment. I’m sorry, she has a compelling personal narrative, and has endured possibly some unfair reporting – but she is profoundly unprepared for the office. Worse, she believes she is prepared. She is, to quote a conservative columnist, ‘out of her league.’ Read this column from National Review – an extremely conservative publication. (http://tinyurl.com/4t6zgw) Others are weighing in as well (http://tinyurl.com/3p53v6) The argument that only elites are against her implies that we don’t want ‘elites’ in office. When did elite become a bad word? We like elite doctors, and elite lawyers when they’re on our side – why do we want “regular folk” to manage the helm of government? Yes, Katie Couric can be a left-wing shrew. But she asked fairly simple questions – and Gov. Palin failed to convince me she can even think straight. (http://tinyurl.com/54jfka) McCain is a five-time cancer survivor would be the oldest first-term president if elected. Actuarial tables don’t lie – Gov. Palin could find herself behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office. That visual, to me, is terrifying. She’s worse than Dan Quayle, because she believes she needs to show confidence and is possibly blind to her own lack of preparedness and understanding.
4) There is no reason to vote for Sen. McCain. I miss him, I supported him in 2000, but I miss him now. Increasingly, I’m coming to realize that the ‘maverick’ who was always nipping at Republican heels, keeping them honest, isn’t necessarily the right man to man the helm. Being a POW makes you a hero, it does not make you a national security expert. Being in the Senate for 30 years does not make you an outsider. He’s given me no positive reason to vote for him, he has no plan other than to extend the tax cuts. His campaign is based on little more than exploiting fears about Sen. Obama’s age and tired narratives about tax-and-spend Democrats.
I can think of more, but those are enough for me. A year ago, I hoped for this matchup, because I felt I could live with either choice, and we would finally have two leaders vying for the position. I no longer feel McCain is a good choice for the presidency, and support Sen. Barack Obama for president.