Followup on “a different election?”

It’s been about three months since I last wrote about the candidates in this years US presidential race. Speculating about who would be the candidate for the Democrats, I wrote: “A couple more weeks now, and I guess we`ll know”. Well, It has now been closer to three months, and all I can say is… a couple more weeks now, and I guess we’ll know.

Things change quickly in politics. It’s fascinating how a candidate’s image can go from respectable to distasteful. In an election this sort of thing is to be expected, of course, and for that reason, the lack of such a change can sometimes be just as fascinating. I’m mentioning this for two reasons. The first has to do with John McCain, the second with Barak Obama.

First of all, I’m having second thoughts about John McCain. He’s sounding more and more like President Bush, and he seems to be abandoning some of his core principles, precisely the things that to me mad him seem respectable. I was unpleasantly surprised when I heard that he had voted no to a bill that would ban water boarding – something I had admired him for speaking out against. From the NY Times:

The Senate voted 51 to 45 on Wednesday afternoon to ban waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods used by the Central Intelligence Agency (…).

Senate Republicans generally opposed the bill, but several of them also did not want to cast a vote that could be construed as supporting torture, and so were relying on President Bush to make good on a threat to veto legislation limiting C.I.A. interrogation techniques.

In other words, there was no real need to oppose the bill – President Bush would eventually stop it anyway. In fact, McCain could have supported the bill, and continue his opposition to torture. This however, would have amounted to criticism of the Bush presidency, and the current republican government, something he probably did not want to partake in out of fear of loosing support from potential voters that still support George W. Bush. So instead of taking a principal stand against torture by supporting the bill, he opposed it, even as several other republicans did not (they abstained from voting):

Mr. McCain, a former prisoner of war, has consistently voiced opposition to waterboarding and other methods that critics say is a form torture. But the Republicans, confident of a White House veto, did not mount the challenge. Mr. McCain voted “no” on Wednesday afternoon.

Lately, McCain has also seemed unclear about everything from the economy to the war in Iraq. I’m getting the impression that he might be more hawkish than I previously thought, and worse: He seems utterly unpredictable. In a Newsweek article from a few weeks back (The world according to John McCain), it is pointed out that he has “an explosive temper” (In fact, there is a term for it: Having a “McCain moment”), and it is insinuated that he has a somewhat simplistic view of what is right and wrong, and what must be done (from page 2 of the linked article):

This is what troubles some about McCain’s zeal for certain causes: he can be pragmatic in the pursuit of them, but seems to see them in largely black and white terms, not unlike George Bush, and rejects too much of the gray.

To be frank, I find this a little frightening. Along with several other minor things, it contrasts strongly with the idea I had of McCain earlier. An must-read article in the Huffington Post by Arianna Huffington* paints a bleak (and rather sad) picture of the Republican candidate, a picture that pretty much matches my impressions of him from the last few weeks. At the very least, I now believe there are a lot more questions that need to be asked of him before the election. The good news is that there is still plenty of time for it, and that the election in 2008 has and will continue to be covered by the media unlike any before.

As for the two Democratic candidates, Clinton and Obama, I haven’t changed my mind about what I wrote earlier: Up until the North Carolina election, which Obama won decisively, I thought I sensed an increasingly negative, ugly undercurrent in Hillary’s attacks on him. She keeps looking like a typical cynical politician, willing to do or say whatever is needed to win, and several things she has said or done lately, have annoyed me. Barak on the other hand, pretty much “kept his cool”, even as criticism grew: First over the controversy surrounding his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and later over what he himself calls some “badly phrased remarks” during a speech at a fund raiser (He referred to some Pennsylvanians as [rephrased] “clinging to guns and religion out of bitterness over unfulfilled promises from Washington”. It might be a controversial statement, but not as much so as it would seem when read out of context. Follow the links in the article for more from the original speech). I think he handled both issues in a calm, honest and straight-forward way, allowing him to move on, and proving once again that he does have the character needed to be a good president.

It now looks increasingly likely that Obama will win the Democratic nomination, but it’s not over yet. Tomorrow, on Tuesday 13., a primary will be held in West Virgina, where Clinton is expected to win by an overwhelming margin (although some claim it will make no difference).

I guess I’m crossing my fingers, hoping the margin will be smaller than everybody seems to expect. It would not really surprise me if it was – and if is, the Democrats will be a lot closer to having a clear, undisputed candidate.

It would be about time. It’s time to take on the republican machine.

*Note: Arianna Huffington is a political commentator for whom I have a great deal of respect, after having listened regularly for well over a year to the podcast Left Right and Center which she co-hosts, and which I highly recommend if you’re interested in American and / or global politics.

About kjartanl

Systems Developer working near Bergen, Norway.
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