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« Reason

Policy not personality

By Tyler S. Clark (Contact)


Published October 6, 2008

As the campaign turns into the home stretch, it's useful to look past the personalities to the policies which should decide an election but are often overlooked in favor of whom voters would like to have a beer with. I found this summary from the Daily Telegraph very fair and robust, so I'll quote it in full and without shame:

IRAQ

Obama: Said he was against the war in 2002 and has vowed to end the conflict and begin to withdraw the troops immediately. He is opposed to establishing permanent bases in Iraq, but says he would be prepared to send troops back in in case of a catastrophe or genocide.

McCain: Is a fervent supporter of the US surge launched in 2007. He has vowed "no surrender" and has said he is convinced that Washington is winning the war against the insurgency. He has come under fire from Democrats for suggesting that US troops could be left in Iraq for 100 years, modelled on the US involvement in Germany and South Korea.

IRAN

Obama: Is in favor of launching a dialogue with Iran, who he says presents a serious threat to the Middle East region and the United States. He has said he would be prepared to hold talks without pre-conditions with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But more recently he indicated talks would begin at a lower level first. He is in favor of using international sanctions to push Iran to be more transparent over its suspect nuclear program.

McCain: Says "there is only one things worse than military action and that is a nuclear-armed Iran." He is against any presidential level talks which he believes would only lend legitimacy to the regime's hardliners. He would like to tighten sanctions, mostly economic, outside the UN sphere if necessary.

MIDDLE EAST AND ISRAEL

Obama: The US commitment to Israel is "non negotiable." He envisages isolating Hamas and Hezbollah, as long as the Islamic militant groups refuse to renounce terrorism or recognize the right of Israel to exist. He has criticized Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories as unhelpful to the peace process, and is in favor of policies which can boost the influence of moderate Palestinians.

McCain: Supports US military aid to Israel and says he is Hamas' "worst enemy." He has repeatedly said Hamas would welcome an Obama victory. He encourages talks between Israel and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, and has called for Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria to be politically isolated. He believes the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006 was justified.

ECONOMY

Obama: Promises to cut taxes for working classes and low-income homes earning less than 75,000 dollars a year, while raising taxes for those homes with an average income of more than 250,000 dollars. On the housing crisis, he proposes setting up a fund to help stave off foreclosures and federal help to gain access to loans.

McCain: Pledges to maintain the tax cuts put in place under President George W. Bush. Firmly against public deficits, he has vowed to fight "porkbarreling" or congressional earmarks and has proposed a freeze for a year on non-military federal spending. On the housing crisis, he has suggested state guarantees for mortgages and for student loans.

HEALTH

Obama: Wants all Americans to be covered by a universal health care plan. His scheme, based on incentives and cost cuts, would be voluntary but oblige parents to insure their children.

McCain: Believes health care should be made more accessible. (Some 45 million Americans lack coverage.) He proposes greater oversight of insurance and pharmaceutical companies to prevent them from profiting unreasonably at the expense of consumers.

IMMIGRATION

Obama: Supports immigration reform which boosts border controls while legalizing under certain conditions the 12 million illegal immigrants.

McCain: Was a key mover in 2006 legislation to try to regularize the situation of illegal immigrants, but insists on the need to secure the borders before any other reforms can be carried out.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Obama: Has attacked the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico and says he would renegotiate it.

McCain: Supports NAFTA and sees free trade as an important tool in US foreign policy, notably in the Middle East. Unlike Obama, he supports a free trade accord with Colombia.IRAQ

Obama: Said he was against the war in 2002 and has vowed to end the conflict and begin to withdraw the troops immediately. He is opposed to establishing permanent bases in Iraq, but says he would be prepared to send troops back in in case of a catastrophe or genocide.

McCain: Is a fervent supporter of the US surge launched in 2007. He has vowed "no surrender" and has said he is convinced that Washington is winning the war against the insurgency. He has come under fire from Democrats for suggesting that US troops could be left in Iraq for 100 years, modelled on the US involvement in Germany and South Korea. 

Some of these are personal choices, while many of them are party inheritances. How many of you wish there were a stronger third-party choice at the Presidential level? Or do you think strong third-party involvement would just lead to legislative grid-lock, as some argue is the case in European parliaments that lack grand coalitions?

---

Thanks to those who have sent in comments. Have a topic suggestion? Or just want to give your feedback? E-mail me at reason-at-tylersclark.com  


Comments

1valleyred(1100 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

I think in the next 30 years we'll see a 3rd Party come close. Perot got Clinton into office, and got a ton of votes. Some say Nader got Bush into office. They are making subtle impacts into the political landscape right now.

As moderate-conservative Democrats leave the Democratic Party that is moving further to the left and as fiscal conservatives leave the Republican Party because of the wreckless spending and the religious right; we could see the formation of a strong 3rd party for those in the middle.

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2George412(161 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

valleyred, from your posts, I'm guessing that you're quite young and relatively new to political discussions. Here's a link to a website that guages the views of politicians on a left/right/authoritarian/liberatarian graph.

http://politicalcompass.org/uselectio...

If you look closely, you'll see Barack Obama up in the right/authoritarian quandrant along with Biden, McCain, and Palin...all right of center. The most recognizable current name in the liberatarian left quandrant is Ralph Nader.

Obama's politics are actually right of center (not left). However, I, like you, would be interested in the development of a strong third party, but I think the center is already fairly well covered.

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3valleyred(1100 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

George, I may be young, but I will not be fooled by one website's interpretation of the four candidates political persuasions.

Obama is far left.
Biden center left.
Hillary center left.
Bill Clinton close to the middle-left.
W. Bush close to the middle-right.
McCain is a moderate overall.
Palin is center right.
Reagan is far right.

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4George412(161 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Valleyred, Believe what you want. I just thought I'd present you with something to think about. To say that Obama is further left than H. Clinton is laughable (just ask those who voted for her in the primary), and some historical perspective would set you straight. After a couple of more years of college (or high school, whatever the case may be), you'll probably see things differently. I do however, admire that you put your opinion out there. At least you're trying, no matter how ill-informed you are, to participate in the conversation.

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5lucy(123 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

It's disappointing to hear intelligent people succumb to and repeat empty rhetoric rather than doing their own thinking. Between the "you betchas" and the single-issue voting, our two-party system seems more dysfunctional than ever. Thanks for the breakdown, Tyler.

Interesting site, George.

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6PragmaticSubstance(34 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

I want to say first of all that I think the comments in this thread are very thoughtful and interesting. I also want to say that I think Mr. Clark's column and its underlying theme are refreshing and at least in principle I'd love it if policy really were the only thing that mattered. I say that especially as an Obama supporter who at the moment is pretty worried about the decidedly non-policy-oriented course of Obama's opponent--even aside from the effort to make something out of William Ayres, a theme of the McCain campaign seems to me to have been a lot of emphasis on abstractions (like the most mercilessly whipped straw-man of them all, "liberal") rather than policy.

But I also think that, in this election above all others, an issue is relevant that is neither a "personality" issue nor a "policy" issue. I think that even many of its one-time supporters now admit that the current administration has been one impropriety after another. I submit that we really just cannot have another four years of that (and that's the case regardless whether George and valleyred are right that a third party is desirable or likely, since it won't come any time soon). But I think that will happen in a McCain administration mainly because the evidence is becoming really overwhelming that the McCain campaign and the administration he would run is simply full of lobbying and business interests. Here are some links to excellent stories from very legit news organizations:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pi...

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