25 February 2008

Ballots, Blow-Up, and Boredom

In what seems like the latest strike in a very public catfight, photos of Barack Obama in traditional African dress (this can be found at bbc.com) recently came to light. Obama's campaign blames Clinton’s for the release, an accusation “strongly denied.” The Drudge Report originally issued the photos, and claimed to have received them from a Clinton staffer.
I see this not as an attack on Obama from Clinton, but as an attack from someone who wants to see both of these candidates dragged down a bit, and perhaps tire them out a bit before November by keeping them busy fighting each other. Of course, I’ve got no proof of this, but the way I see it, the scenario could be plausible. What’s interesting is the reply Clinton’s campaign manager Maggie Williams gave in the article I found at bbc.com: “If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed," she said. “Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely." This is all well and good – but has Hillary Clinton had to dodge accusations of either being a Muslim of having Muslim affiliations? Of course Clinton has worn a variety of clothing – as has Laura Bush. It’s simply what First Ladies do when they are abroad. The reason the logic used by the campaign manager falls short is because it does not take the accusations against Obama into account.
The more I examine Obama, McCain and Clinton, the more difficult I find it to escape this conclusion: no matter who gets elected in November, I will probably be disappointed.
Obama: His rhetoric soars. He inspires like no other politician has in years. He’s getting the youth behind him. In short, he’s talking and people are listening. I admit, he’s my first choice, but honestly, I know nothing about him other than his buzzword: “change.” That’s a well-needed panacea after eight years of George W. Bush, but change is not always good. For example, when the idea of change came up while George was running in 2000, I thought change could be good. Well, how misguided was that? Things changed, all right; they got far worse. Now, this country doesn’t seem to be what it was eight years ago. We’re more fearful of the world around us, and tied down in a desert war, the reasons for which could be argued and analyzed until hell froze over. “Change,” however needed or wanted, can sometimes be bad. From Obama, I hear all sorts of nice-sounding platitudes and sayings. But let’s not be fooled. For example, in 2000, a certain candidate’s campaign buzz phrase was “Compassionate Conservative.” And we all saw how THAT turned out.
Clinton: I respect and admire Hillary Clinton. I’m reminded of a quote from the movie “Gladiator:” “If only you’d been born a man. What a Caesar you would have made.” Clinton’s ability and experience are unmatched on the Democratic ticket. Unfortunately, as often comes with traveling, she’s got baggage. She’s connected at the hip to the controversial legacy of Bill Clinton’s presidency. America is already quite familiar with her – and the public seems to love her or hate her with no middle ground in between. My fear with her running on the ticket is that it will draw votes away from the Democrats that might have been given to a candidate who wasn’t as polarizing (like Obama). My fear with Clinton running is that the Republicans, despite the ineptitude and callousness that’s marked the past eight years, will win the White House again. It’s unthinkable that such a thing would be possible with 9/11, Katrina, Abu Graib, the Patriot Act, domestic surveillance and tax cuts for the rich, but a Clinton nomination would bring such a thing one step closer. Besides, do we really want to hand power back to one of the two families that’s been in control since 1988? After all, the last fresh blood in the Oval Office came from Ronald Reagan – a man who, last time I checked, has been dead for nearly four years.
McCain: I respect John McCain, too. I admire him for being able to survive five years in captivity during the Vietnam War. He seems like a truly decent man, the kind of guy I would want leading me if push came to shove. However, John McCain is a Republican – and after the last eight years, I want no part in maintaining the strife and smugness that were hallmarks of the Bush Administration. I went to McCain's website, and tried to figure out what he stood for. He’s pro-life (or anti-choice, depending on how you look at it. I couldn’t find his views on the death penalty). He wants to overturn Roe vs. Wade, which I personally disagree with. I don’t believe in the mechanics of abortion, but I also realized I have no business telling a woman what to do with her child. It’s something between herself and whichever god she believes in. I lack the moral clout to be in a position to make such demands, and frankly, I am of the belief that many of the children who aren’t wanted in the first place end up in prison anyway. He’s for staying in Iraq and not “failing” – an attitude I grudgingly concede is prudent. His plan for health care is a basic overhaul of “the culture of our health care system.” Yeah. Good luck with that one. My bet is you won’t get very far.

I can’t help the feeling that, no matter what happens, I’ll be disappointed with whomever we get in November. Obama could show us how inexperienced he really is, Clinton could be Bill Clinton Part Two (for better or worse) and McCain could turn out to be an extension of the same ideological conservatism (in name) and narrowness that make me loath the Bush Administration. I could be wrong. I really hope I am. But part of me, and a large part I admit, is already resigned to waking up the day after Election Day 2008 and having the same mindset and attitude I had after Election Day 2004: “Oh no. Not this clown again!”

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