By Bertram de Souza
When Democrats threw political caution to the wind and nominated Barack Obama, a first term U.S. senator, for president, one non-aligned voter said to himself, “Let’s see what John McCain has to offer.” McCain had early on secured the Republican Party nomination and the only question unanswered in the months leading up to the GOP national convention had to do with his choice of running mate.
The veteran U.S. senator from Arizona had a list that included Tom Ridge, former head of Homeland Security, former governor of Pennsylvania and former congressman from Erie; Mitt Romney, former governor Massachusetts, former CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympics and a successful businessman; Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Democrat-turned-independent, who shares McCain’s passion for the war in Iraq; and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Who McCain picked would define him in his bid for the presidency, the swing voter thought. In Congress, he’s known as a maverick, as someone willing to buck his party and unwilling to kowtow to ideological special interests. The selection process for running mate was followed closely.
Obama’s victory over U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, the former first lady who championed the cause of women and children not only in this country but around the world and who led the fight for affordable health care for all Americans, was puzzling, given his r sum . There also was the issue of his having a black father from East Africa and a white mother from Kansas.
Such hurdles to his developing a broad-based, bipartisan coalition of voters for the general election were discussed in detail in this space several times, starting late last year.
Of particular concern was Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience compared with some of the other contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Republicans, led by McCain, jumped on the fact that the Democratic Party’s standard bearer not only had a thin r sum , but lacked a deep understanding of foreign affairs.
How did Obama, a former state legislator from Illinois, react? By picking as his vice presidential running mate veteran Sen. Joe Biden, who twice sought the Democratic nomination for president.
Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations committee, is recognized by foreign policy experts as one of most knowledgeable members of Congress when it comes to America’s role and standing in the world.
How would McCain counter? Just before the GOP convention, he introduced Sarah Palin, an obscure governor from a faraway state.
Palin’s r sum is even thinner than Obama’s. She has been governor of Alaska less than 20 months, while he has been in the U.S. Senate three years and before that was a state legislator.
But to this non-aligned voter, here’s the most telling comparison between the Democratic and Republican tickets: Biden can bolster Obama’s knowledge of the pressing issues of the day; Palin can’t help McCain in any substantive way. Her role on the ticket is ideological.
McCain has said that the economy is not his strong suit. His vice presidential running mate certainly can’t help him there.
Given that admitted shortcoming, why didn’t McCain select Romney, the former governor of a major state and a highly successful businessman? Because Romney is a Mormon and many right-wingers in the Republican Party, especially the Bible thumpers, view Mormonism as a cult, rather than a Christian religion.
Why not Ridge, who has vast Washington and state government experience? Because he is pro-choice on the issue of abortion, even though he personally is opposed.
McCain’s selection of Palin was a genuflection before the evangelicals, many of whom had threatened to stay home election day because they weren’t sold on his conservative credentials. With Palin on the ticket, the three Gs — God, Guns and Gays — are in play. And, she is stridently opposed to abortion.
As Wall Street burns, the Dobsons of the world hold prayer sessions to change the evil ways of homosexuals. These are the people hailing Palin’s presence on the Republican ticket.
Dear John: You put political expediency before principle — and this non-aligned voter in a quandary.