As John McCain and his resume deficient running mate seem to go deeper and deeper into their smear campaign, I've been thinking how refreshing a message of hope might be as politicians search for scapegoats for the problems facing us. I'm reminded of the 1932 campaign, where the dour, and angry, Herbert Hoover, seemed to get over-run by events. FDR, his opponent, didn't exactly play his hand as far as policy issues and what he proposed to accomplish. However, he did project confidence and hope. I believe a message of hope, is needed here in the country. Certainly, FDR wasn't the first or last to talk about hope. Reagan was perfectly willing to do it as well. But what this race has gone down to, is "guilt by association" and questioning one's motives. Can we all agree on a couple of things.
John McCain wants our country to do well
Barack Obama wants our country to do well
Unless the evidence solidly contradicts it, John McCain should be taken at his word
Unless the evidence solidly contradicts it, Barack Obama should be taken at his word
More than anything, what our country needs is leadership. Aspects of leadership that I want in a President:
Projection of hope and confidence
An understanding of the most vital isses
The ability to ask hard questions of subordinates
A vision of where America needs to go (even if the how-tos haven't been worked out)
A willingness to recognize, that as President, his constituency is ALL Americans
A clear understanding of the separation of powers and the roles of the executive, legislative and judicial branches
Someone who will ensure we have a strong military
Someone who will be judicious in the use of this military so it can remain so
Someone who can build alliances, not alienate them
Someone who other nations will want to be allied with
A basic understanding of the role of regulators
An understanding of the distinction between their administration, and their re-election campaign
I know it is a long list, and I'm sure others could offer additional sound things to look for. Based upon these criteria, I feel much more comfortable voting for Obama than I do McCain. Others may see it differently. But the McCain campaign now seems to be more about Obama, than it is about McCain. McCain isn't projecting hope, he's telling us not to trust Obama when he projects it. The power of positive thinking will not end the crises we are facing. However, true leadership is about inspiring our nation to come together and overcome the obstacles we are facing. Not projecting worse case scenarios should "the other guy" get elected. The McCain campaign has resorted to the politics of fear, and maybe that is just a projection of the fear they have that the election may be lost. Fear still plays a role with my own thinking, I admit. If elected, I'd be scared shitless of a McCain heart attack or stroke. But I am willing to extend some hope, that if elected, McCain can rediscover his independent streak. It's a faint hope, but it is there.
But in the end, our candidates can either project hope, or fear. Even if it is a naive hope, it beats the quagmire of fear. For fear is paralyzing. Fear causes one to search for scapegoats, not solutions. Fear can easily disintegrate into paranoia, finding enemies where they don't exist, and losing trust in allies you have a history with. And in the search for scapegoats that fear inspires, who knows what "them" are to wear that label? And pretty soon, we are again, the "Disunited States of America" where your standing as a citizen is subject to whether you fit within that "them" group or not. In the words of Aragorn from "The Two Towers", "there's always hope."