For those of you who have time on your hands and like a more cerebral, literary understanding of the profound differences between McCain and Obama, I'm posting, with permission and minor additions and name changes to protect their privacy, the letter my very intelligent, thoughtful, deep friend has written to one of his liberal friends that I endorse and agree with wholeheartedly.
Thanks for reading.
(I'm saying Dear Liberal Friend, not my friend who wrote this letter, but I want it to be inclusive to all
those who are liberal and want to feel like this is being written to
Dear Liberal Friend,
(Now the rest of this letter is all him and I quote:)
"You must be burning the candle at both ends in light of how close we are to Election Day. While I have profound political disagreements with you, I have always admired your activism and your willingness to jump in and to expend enormous personal energy pursuing the promotion of your positions through the political process, which is what democracy is all about.
Perhaps the last thing that you are interested in at this juncture is expending your time to read someone else’s perspective, especially one that substantially differs from yours, but if you cannot do so before the election, I hope that you will take the time to do so afterwards.
Cindy shared with me your thoughts on the election and on some of the issues, and I wanted to in turn share some perspectives with you that I would ask that you consider, not in the hopes that it will fundamentally change your mind about your loyalties or your direction, but rather in the interest of potentially demonstrating that there are other plausible perspectives about many of these things than what you have espoused.
I also want to emphasize that I think the world of you, considering you one of the nicest, most generous, intelligent, and frankly fun to be around people that I have the privilege to know in this world. For some fantastic reason for which I am grateful, our profound political differences have never impacted our friendship, and I sincerely hope that they never will, because your friendship is important to me.
You stated that Obama leads by a mile from a moral perspective. I disagree. Your position is not self-evident. It is not a fact, but is a matter of opinion. This is a position about which honest and I believe genuinely open minded people can and do disagree. I should start by saying that I don’t believe for a minute that either candidate has a monopoly on morality. This also goes for my opinion about the parties themselves. The liberal or progressive orientation toward looking out for the less fortunate is commendable, in and of itself.
In a vacuum, it can easily be argued that the liberal perspective is more compassionate and more “Christ like” than the conservative one. The problem, however, is that Christ’s words were not spoken and were not directed to governmental entities, but rather to people. If he was addressing any institutional entities, they were the institutions embedded in the Jewish synagogues, such as the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
It takes a very creative argument to use the scriptures to extrapolate that Christians are to harness the government as the agent for caring for the poor. A much more straightforward reading of the scriptures indicates that Christians are enjoined through the Church to care for the poor. Paul’s epistles are replete with these sorts of injunctions, and to my knowledge he never once (nor did Jesus) command Christ’s followers to promote governmental programs in order to support the less fortunate.
The weight of evidence is that this is to be done by individuals and through the Church. While you may disagree with this perspective, and may feel that it is one of the primary callings of the government to administer these programs, many, many people disagree with this, and in fact believe that the government is one of the most corrupt and wasteful entities that exists, and as such is not an ideal or desirable entity to carry out this work.
With respect to McCain’s lack of an apology for “making the rich richer” and the “poor poorer,” I don’t see any objective evidence that this has been his modus operandi at any point in his career. The progressive tax code that is in place in America is arbitrary, and the percentages paid by various categories of earners has waxed and waned over the course of the last few decades.
There is no inherent morality associated with the percentages that one person believes should apply to different categories of earners versus another person’s position on this. One person might hold that the top 50% of wage earners should pay 90% of the taxes, and another may hold that every person should pay the same tax regardless of income. Neither position is more inherently moral than the other one.
If the first position is more moral than the second, then isn’t the top 1% paying 85% of the taxes even more moral? How about the top 0.1% paying 100% of the taxes? Where does one draw the line? Isn’t this an issue about which people honestly disagree and are not morally inferior if one person doesn’t agree with the next one?
If not, then Obama, with his recent (very recent) tax position is really only slightly morally superior to McCain, not substantially so, because their stated tax positions are not all that different. And why is Obama being so shy about his morality, when he could propose a substantially more radical realignment of taxation? If morality is proportional to how radically one is proposing income redistribution, then Obama is only slightly less morally challenged in this area than is McCain.
McCain has proposed that the current income tax levels remain in place (as opposed to raising the top bracket, as Obama has proposed). This does not constitute McCain making the rich richer and the poor poorer. It constitutes the status quo, and the status quo is based on an arbitrarily established progressive tax code--one which both McCain and Obama support.
Unless one contends that the money itself inherently already belongs to the government, and the government should determine what it will allow people to keep, then it cannot be said that McCain is making the rich richer and the poor poorer. If one does contend that all of the money already belongs to the government, then both McCain and Obama are highly immoral, because they are both proposing that many people get to keep a lot of money out there.
As far as corporate welfare is concerned, our economic system is a profit motive based economic system. It is a Capitalist system. You may argue, and some do, that they want to see the system itself changed to something else, but today it is the system that we as a people have elected to adopt. In this system, individuals and collections of individuals (corporations) produce goods and services and sell them in the marketplace with a goal of securing profits.
There is no inherent guideline written in stone anywhere, however, to tell us how much in taxes corporations should pay on their profits. People differ in their opinion as to what this level of taxation ought to be. A person could legitimately contend that it should be 0%, and another person could contend that it should be 50%, while still another might contend that it should be 100% (though one would have to ask why a person or corporation would have any interest in or incentive to be productive if this were the case).
Whatever number one believes is the right one, however, none of these positions constitutes corporate welfare. Further, if one day a corporation’s tax rate is 40%, and the next day it is 30%, this is not corporate welfare, it is a tax reduction. The term corporate welfare is a euphemism.
Some economists (they may be right, they may be wrong) believe that lower taxation on corporations leads to overall economic growth, including robust employment of laborers. The recent economic miracle in Ireland seems to indicate that there is some merit to this position. So, couldn’t one plausibly argue that a candidate that supports lower tax rates is actually highly moral because this leads (or at least might lead) to higher employment rates? I guess all that I am saying is that corporations are amoral, not moral or immoral. Individuals within corporations may—and often do—steer them to take moral or immoral actions.
On the whole, however, they operate based on their own self interest, but that self interest can have very positive implications on the populace. If raising corporate taxes leads to higher unemployment, it may prove to be the less moral thing to do than lowering taxes if lowering them leads to improved levels of employment. So, McCain’s more aggressive position on corporate taxes could in fact be more moral than Obama’s campaign against so called corporate welfare.
As to your allegation that McCain wants to keep men making more money than women make for the same work, I don’t know upon what you have based this. Has McCain stated this position? Has he voted on legislation mandating unequal pay for men versus women? If he has, I would like to know about it. (Joy’s note: It has been proven that McCain actually pays his female employees the same rate whereas Obama does not do the same for his Chicago staff – all talk, no reality.)
You stated that McCain wants to “keep tax breaks for the rich, none for the middle class.” This is half true. He wants to preserve or keep the recent tax reductions on the rich, but also the recent tax reductions on the middle class, and it is worthy of note that legislation in recent years that reduced income tax rates reduced them by a greater percentage for middle income people than for the wealthy. This is not a matter of opinion. It is established and incontrovertible fact. As such, claiming that McCain wants to “keep tax breaks for the rich, none for the middle class” is factually incorrect.
From a personal standpoint, both McCain and Obama are rich men. Granted, McCain is more rich than Obama is, largely on account of the incredible success of his wife’s family business. Nonetheless, by most people’s yardsticks, and I would venture to guess by Obama’s own yardstick, both men are rich. Obama also became rich in the free Capitalist market.
Is Obama not going to be able to go to heaven on account of it? When Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven, he went on to say, when his disciples asked him how then can anyone be saved (presuming that most if not all in some way would be considered rich), he replied that with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
On the topic of abortion, my personal opinion is that the argument that women will get abortions anyhow if they are made illegal so they should remain legal is not a legitimate basis for keeping them legal anymore than it would be for any other crime. We certainly cannot make rape and murder and grand theft legal because having them classified as illegal doesn’t stop some people from committing these crimes.
That Jesus did not explicitly condemn abortion and infanticide cannot be used as a basis for assuming that he condoned these practices. There is any number of practices that he did not explicitly condemn, but that does not mean that the balance of scripture doesn’t condemn them.
I have to challenge your claims about equal numbers of Christian and non-Christian, Republican and Democrat women availing themselves of abortions. With all due respect, I think that you pulled this out of the air. Where are the facts to back this up? Common sense indicates that, for all our challenges with hypocrisy, and we have many, not as many Christians (per capita, shall we say) obtain abortions as non-Christians.
I also think that it is fanciful to contend that as many Republicans obtain abortions as do Democrats. Saying that it is so doesn’t make it so. I know that you have grave problems with the Republican Party, but I can assure you that, contrary to your assertion, the vast majority of Republicans believe that abortion is murder, and they do not preserve it in order to prop up the party.
Given the opportunity, many would outlaw it outright, but most would get the courts out of the issue and would remand it to the individual states for them to implement the position on abortion dictated by their own respective electorates.
With respect to homosexuality, it is simply not possible to read Paul’s epistles without concluding that he explicitly condemns homosexuality. You may disagree with his position. You may contend that the epistles are not really scripture. You may contend that the Bible is an ancient document and religion should be more progressive, allowing things today that were at one time the object of condemnation.
One is entitled to all of these positions. One is not entitled to the position that Paul does not condemn homosexuality because he does so in the most unequivocal of terms. This is a fact. It wasn’t the sum total of his teachings, and it wasn’t a primary emphasis of them. He nonetheless brings the topic up on several occasions, however, and his position is clear.
I don’t see where Senator McCain has made homosexuality a focal point of his campaign any more than Obama has. What I have seen is that both contend that the institution of marriage is uniquely reserved to take place between one man and one woman. On this, at least as it relates to their professed position on the matter, they do not differ with one another. (Joy’s note: It has been proven that Obama has again changed positions along with his running mate Biden to embrace homosexual marriage and rights. McCain continues to not change.)
You have stated that Sarah Palin is not smart. If a person is not smart, they are stupid. While I know that you may disagree with Sarah Palin on most if not all issues, most fair minded people would acknowledge that it is extraordinarily difficult to become governor of any state if one is stupid. It is even more difficult to become the most popular governor in the country while one is stupid.
This allegation seems more like the general characterization that the opponents of Republicans level against them. They are stupid. I cannot count how many times I have heard a Democrat say that this, that or the other Republican is stupid. Nixon was stupid, as was Ford. Reagan was stupid, and both Bushes.
In my opinion, if Sarah Palin simply embraced a liberal agenda and not a conservative one—and nothing at all about her was otherwise different—she would have been lauded by the media as the quintessential dynamic example of accomplishment and of living the dream held by many career and family-oriented women for whom the feminist cause has argued for decades now.
But, she is a conservative and not a liberal, and that disqualifies her.
You stated that your stocks didn’t go up under Bush, and “that is how they like it.” Without question, the market has been thrashed in recent weeks due to the financial crisis that has hit. We have lost about 35% of the value in our retirement account. In my opinion, there is plenty of blame to go around. There is no question that the lion’s share of the mortgage crisis traces directly back to the like of Barney Frank who mandated that banks lend to financially unworthy parties. Banks are in the business to make money, and when the government puts them into a headlock to do what is against their own interest, trouble ensues.
The Republicans did not raise flags about this as strenuously as they should have, however, and Bush is the President, so it is his watch and he must take responsibility. He has also spent like a drunken sailor. In my opinion, from a spending standpoint, he belongs in the Democrat hall of fame.
But even if you attribute 100% of the crisis to Bush, it is hardly credible that he would actually want you to lose money in your investments. Attribute the worst self-interest in the world to him, and tell me how it benefits him if you lose money? How does it benefit him if the market itself goes down at all? If he is a committed Republican, if anything he would want the market to go up, and wildly so. You may blame him for your financial misfortunes, but actually thinking that he wishes them upon you is incredible.
I flatly do not believe that Barak Obama inspires people to help themselves. I do believe that Barak Obama inspires people to believe that he will ensure that the government will provide more handouts to them.
As far as the international community is concerned, I agree that in general the U.S. is held in low esteem by many in the world. This has certainly increased under the Bush administration. Many of us feel that the opinion that the French have of us, as an example, however, is secondary to our own safety.
Faced with a choice between their admiration and our national security, I would vote in favor of our national security 100 times out of 100. I think that most people would agree that Bush could have done considerably better in the area of diplomacy than he has done. It is unfair to not acknowledge that the motive in much of the world for the U.S. to change is to advantage them at the expense of the U.S.
The United Nations has always held the U.S. in contempt, whether the president has been a Republican or a Democrat at the time. None of the people that you toasted with, unfortunately, have any genuine say in our election next week—nor should they. They are not U.S. citizens.
All other things being equal, it is preferable to be liked as opposed to disliked.
Whether or not we will be liked, however, should not be the basis for the pursuit of our protection in a dangerous world. I am sure that you and I have radically different views on these topics, but I can say that the opinion of my international friends about who we elect as president has not at all entered into my consideration.
Now, to the men themselves. You have said the following about Obama:
He is a fine man—I don’t doubt this. He commands a presence, is an excellent speaker (especially with a tele-prompter), is articulate, and appears to be quite likeable.
He is a well-educated man—again, I don’t dispute this. Harvard Law School is quite an accomplishment.
He has devoted his life to public service—what he has spent his time doing with his life bears this out.
He is smart—again, no dispute here. He appears to be very smart.
He is compassionate—I believe that he is a compassionate man. I believe that he does care about the plight of the less fortunate.
Can I tell you anything good about McCain?
I find it astonishing that you can’t find something good about McCain yourself. You can be against the man and not want him to be president and still find good things about him. Unless virtually all of the key Democratic leaders in congress are fools, they have found much about McCain that is good. Just explore the many times that they have heaped praise on him, unless they were simply lying, which doesn’t reflect well on them. McCain possesses many of the same qualities that you have pointed out about Obama.
He is a fine man—you shouldn’t doubt this. If you have things that you can point out about him that make him a less than fine person (these certainly exist), they also exist for Obama. A fair-minded assessment of both men’s life history and rise to power contains less than fine moments.
He is a well-educated man—well, he is not Harvard Law School educated, but he did attend the Naval Academy (with a notoriously poor showing in his class ranking). To those who know him, this was more due to youthful arrogance than lack of aptitude. Very few people on both sides of the aisle would question McCain’s mental aptitude and the education that he has received from his rich life.
He has devoted his life to public service—I hope that you agree that this applies to McCain every bit as much as it does to Obama, even if he hasn’t been doing things that you would admire the way that you admire Obama.
He is smart—again, I would leave it up to the opinion of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate to validate this.
He is compassionate—McCain and his wife adopted a girl from Bangladesh. Once might say that this was easy with all his wealth, but how many people are wealthy who have never done such a thing?
McCain has experienced war firsthand in a way that few can claim. This has equipped him to take steps that could prevent worse wars with their horrors than any that we have seen. I gather that you would argue that Obama is more compassionate that McCain is as demonstrated in Obama’s more progressive agenda. You can certainly take that position.
I don’t agree that McCain’s willingness to extend tax cuts that have been enacted in recent years, including those to high income earners, makes him uncompassionate. I don’t agree that cutting taxes for corporations makes him uncompassionate. I do claim that cutting (or preserving cuts on) taxes—both for individuals and for corporations--may be more effective for the economy than raising them. Obama does not have a monopoly in the compassion department.
I would add to the above, without at this point commenting on these topics as they relate to Obama, by saying that McCain is highly experienced in both domestic and foreign policy (whether you agree with his positions or not, that he is experienced is a fact), he is someone that is very much a centrist (often to the chagrin of his own party) with a proven track record of reaching across the aisle, and he is a reformer (his record of legislation has proved this to be the case).
I would add to this that, even though he is a centrist, he still leans to the right, which is attractive to me. You may vehemently disagree with McCain’s policies, but he is not very much unlike Obama in the ways that you have described that you like about Obama.
I wouldn’t be being fair to myself or to my cause if I did not point out what I don’t like about Obama.
Obama is a profoundly liberal man. To liberals, this is a godsend. What irks me is that he is running as a centrist when he is absolutely not a centrist (unless he just became one in the last few months!). While you may be thoroughly jazzed about this guy precisely because of his liberalism, wouldn’t you prefer that he was actually running on the platform that he believes? Why doesn’t he run on the platform that he has voted with all of his career?
Of course, he is an opportunist.
I’m not saying that McCain is not, but there is no question that Barak Obama is an opportunist. He is a chameleon. Watch his voting career, then his positions during the primaries, and now his general election positions. He is running inconsistent with what he himself believes.
Obama is no messiah.
He is a politician. And that’s the whole point.
He is a consummate politician—perhaps even more skilled than the great one, Bill Clinton. Hey, why take it away from him. That is his profession. Just don’t try to tell me that he is the new hope, the fundamental change agent to usher in the dawn of some new utopian age. This is a purely fictitious marketing ploy. Sure, he is a compelling speaker, and is obviously quite inspirational to many of his followers. The hope and change that he is peddling, however, has no substance to underpin it.
How, specifically, has he run his campaign differently as this new kind of post-partisan politician? The answer is, he hasn’t. Is he just waiting until he becomes president to become post-partisan? He has proved to be opportunistic at every stage of the game.
Hey, good for him, after all he is a very skilled politician.
Part of that skill is to act like every other politician while telling people that he is the new kind of uber-politician—and to convince many of them of it when the facts plainly belie the claim.
Obama for months pushed McCain to pledge to accept public campaign financing, which Obama himself pledged to do. Then, following McCain’s acceptance, Obama discarded his pledge and went in a different direction. I agree that this was shrewd, after all it was to his advantage to do so. But how, then, is he an example of the post-political new kind of politician that he is holding himself out to be? Obama has this habit of decrying any attack on his positions as the “old underhanded politics of division,” and then he turns right around and attacks McCain.
So, McCain shouldn’t attack Obama, but it is okay for Obama to attack McCain? This is just disingenuous. And where is the history of reform that he claims for himself? I don’t see any substantive legislation to back it up. On the contrary, his voting record in both Illinois and in the U.S. Senate is decidedly contrary to reform. Sarah Palin has a much stronger record of reform than does Obama.
While you may profoundly dislike her, the reforms that she implemented in Alaska are compelling. Give me a Democrat who has actually gone after other Democrats for corruption like she did against her Republican colleagues. I can’t think of one. You may think that she is stupid, but she is pretty courageous as well.
Obama is not very experienced.
You may agree with his positions and may shudder at the thought of McCain being president, but it doesn’t change the fact that Obama is remarkably inexperienced. He certainly was profoundly inexperienced in the opinion of his Democratic opponents throughout the primaries. They only changed their tunes after he secured the nomination. So, were they making it up during the primaries in order to beat him, and they really believed that he was experienced then, or are they making it up now, and they still don’t think that he is very experienced? Or maybe he has magically become experienced in the space of the last few months? That’s certainly convenient.
I don’t think that the Democrats would rest for a minute in pointing out the experience gap if the tables were turned on the level of relative experience between the two candidates. Just look at how strongly they jumped on Sarah Palin’s experience. To them, it was more critical that the VP candidate, “a heartbeat away from the presidency” was relatively inexperienced than that their candidate for the presidency itself was relatively inexperienced. He has gotten a complete pass, and she was slammed and derided as though she had been a passerby picked up off the street.
The biggest single problem that I have with Obama is that I simply do not believe what he says. Do I believe him to be a liar? Absolutely! Is McCain a liar too? Probably so. After all, they are both politicians. With respect to Obama, I don’t believe that his pronouncements that he is currently running on reflect his true beliefs.
All that one needs to do is to evaluate his record and the way in which he has voted compared with what he is saying today on a variety of topics to plainly see that this is the case. (In my opinion, he is far more radical than he is letting on.) The most glaring one is the tax issue. Is there a single bill that he has ever voted for that actually reduces taxes? And the Iraq war.
He deftly outmaneuvered Hillary Clinton by demanding an immediate withdrawal from Iraq throughout the primaries. No sooner had he clinched the nomination than his tune radically changed. We must now have a sensible withdrawal. One only needs to read his actual words on all of these topics to see his opportunism.
I also believe that he intends far more radical income redistribution than he is letting on. I believe that his true intentions for government growth in social programs will make the FDR and Johnson years look like a primitive dress rehearsal. I believe that he could seek to implement radically socialistic programs, and with Pelosi and Reid at the helm of Congress, he would have willing assistants in the endeavor. While these approaches may be appealing to you, they are decidedly not to me.
Look at it this way. I perceive that you are a committed liberal. If what Obama is saying today about many issues are his true feelings about the matter, you cannot be happy with him, because many of his positions are quite centrist in character. Then again, if he is really cloaking himself in centrism in order to get elected, then he is a charlatan.
Pronouncements that he and his mentors have made in the past indicate that he would virtually say whatever he needs to say to become elected, and would rationalize that it is ethically sound in the interest of the higher calling of what he can do in the position of president. In other words, the ends justify the means.
He is a profoundly astute politician, and certainly a more skilled politician than John McCain is, but that is all that he is. He is not a savior. He is not a panacea. He is not even someone who believes many of the things that he campaigns on—except in those rare, unscripted moments when his true feelings seep out.
You may think that he is the ideal candidate due to how committed he is to the liberal cause, and you are absolutely entitled to that perspective. I just wish that he was more honest and forthright about his true beliefs and intentions because most people do not have the resources to research his past, and the vast majority of the media cannot be counted on to seriously evaluate and bring to light anything that might call him into question.
As John McCain said of Barack Obama, “I cannot wish him luck, but I do wish him well.” I cannot wish you luck in your support of your candidate, but I do wish you well.
Thank you for reading. Means a lot to all of us.
God bless you.