A year and a half ago I predicted that Obama would defeat McCain. At the time I had enormous respect for both men, and to some extent I still do. Yet events over the last few months have made it quite clear to me that Barack Obama is the superior candidate. First, here are three pieces written by conservatives who are supporting Barack Obama.
1. In February, I wrote my Conservative Case for Barack Obama. It is one of my favorite pieces, and everything still applies.
2. Andrew Sullivan's Top Ten Reasons why conservatives should vote Obama. A conservative Catholic British-American, Andrew's blog is one of my favorites.
3. The Economist newspaper finally endorsed Barack Obama. Coming from a right-of-center newspaper with 150 years of support for free trade, that is a powerful statement.
Since my "Conservative Case for Obama" was written in February, it is missing commentary on two important developments that have occurred since then. Obviously, the most important is the financial crisis. My views on economics are more conservative, thus John McCain should easily be able to draw my support on this issue. Unfortunately, he does not.
His first response to the financial crisis was to rashly call for the firing of Hank Paulson. He then suspended his campaign to fly to Washington DC to "help" with the bailout plan (with what expertise, I wonder?). He constantly accuses Obama of socialism - a curious accusation to make, considering we just nationalized all of the banks with McCain's support.
Meanwhile, Obama has had a steady hand and has been surrounding himself with very intelligent advisers. I for one don't believe his populist economic rhetoric; I suspect he is going to have economic policies similar to those of Clinton. Further bolstering Obama is this impressive survey by The Economist. Even controlling for party affiliation, the professionals overwhelmingly supported Obama's economic policies. Obama's principled stance against McCain's stupid idea of a gas-tax repeal earlier this summer also scored him a point.
The end game is that I am not overly impressed with either candidate on economic matters. Obama seems to have a better grasp on things, but I reflexively disagree with any left-wing economic policies, especially in this time of crisis. McCain has been a consistent supporter of free trade and cutting government waste, which I would support. However, his erratic and inconsistent behavior has made me question how he would handle things as president. To get a feel for how bad it really is, consider watching this video where Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto rips McCain a new one for his handling of economic issues.
McCain could have put people like me at ease with the selection of someone like Mitt Romney as vice president. Indeed, a McCain/Romney moderate pro-business ticket would be a very tempting alternative to Obama's populism. Alas, McCain took the low road and selected the most embarrassingly unqualified person to be VP that I could ever imagine. She is George Bush in a woman's body. Boastfully ignorant, hyper-religious, anti-science, and condescending to those who are curious about the world. One of McCain's own staffers was quoted as describing Palin as a whack job. The most important decision McCain had to make up till now was his VP selection, and in that decision he failed on an epic scale.
A month after her pick, I cannot emphasize enough how much I am turned off by Sarah Palin. However, anyone who thinks I am being unfair, reflexively using her as a reason to support Obama is dead wrong. My first reaction to the pick was excitement and support. Its obvious from that post that McCain had room to sweep me (and presumably other centrists) away from Obama. Instead, he threw us moderates under the bus to appease the far right. That decision probably cost him the presidency.
If I haven't been convincing enough, here is a final point. There is one outcome of an Obama defeat in 2008 that we can be sure of. Hillary 2012.
There you have it. We have two good choices, but in the home stretch one of them clearly pulled ahead while the other fell behind. McCain has had a good career and I wish he would have defeated Bush in 2000. Things would be different if McCain had been in charge for the last eight years. Alas, the McCain of 2000 is gone and is not coming back. There is only one real choice. Barack Obama for President in 2008.