Obama-McCain: Style vs. Substance

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - October 22, 2008

The last debate between Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain may have been good political theatre, but it was not the night the McCain campaign hoped for. Despite a more animated and aggressive performance, McCain did not take the final side-by-side opportunity to define himself, rather he tried to define his opponent.

Unfortunately, barring some explosive information or emerging scandal, it appears that Obama will be the next president of the United States.

However, I have been wrong before. There was the time I picked the Cubs to win the World Series in 1969. I also thought the New Coke was better than the Old Coke. And, as recently as last year, I pronounced on this page there was no way Obama would win the presidency. Oops.

I opined in this space (December 2006) that America was not ready to elect a black president. This was not a racist remark, rather a political observation involving race. I anticipated race would have played a more significant role, but I was mistaken. Race really is not the issue. However, what has emerged are race-based concerns. Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s black spiritual adviser, with statements like “G*****n America” exacerbated a festering concern about radical race-based comments. Rep. John Lewis invoked the days of George Wallace, segregation and the terrible deaths of little girls in describing the race-baiting environment created by McCain and Sarah Palin. Race does play a role in presidential politics, whether we like it or not, but this issue has not proven to be a determining factor so far, and with only a couple of weeks left, probably won’t.

The national polling, as of this writing, show Barack Obama leading in all battleground states and nationally by 8 points. The electoral count is the magic number now and, if McCain does not win a slew of states like North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, Colorado and others, then it’s game over.

This last debate revealed a great deal about this campaign and may explain why Obama has done so well against McCain. It really boils down to style over substance. Remember the presidential debate of 1960? Sen. John F. Kennedy prepared for the debate by vacationing. He looked tanned and rested, which accentuated his youth and attractiveness. Vice President Richard Nixon looked haggard. He refused makeup for the camera and perspired. The physical difference between the two was startling.

Nixon was comfortably leading Kennedy before the debate, and the race tightened after that. It is told that those who listened to the debate on the radio firmly believed Nixon had won. Those who watched on TV firmly believed Kennedy won. Despite allegations of voter fraud, Kennedy won by about 100,000 votes. Welcome to the world of superficial politics.

However, it is clear the strategy of associating McCain with President Bush has succeeded. Public opinion polls show Bush one of the lowest-rated presidents of all time. When McCain issued his strongest line of the night, “I am not President Bush. If you want to run against President Bush, you should have run against him in 2004,” it seemed as if McCain found his footing. But, in the next exchange, Obama was successful in deflating McCain’s argument. He merely mentioned that McCain’s economic record was indistinguishable from the president’s. Done.

This is the gift Obama has. He is unflappable. He is smooth. He is articulate. He is attractive. He is the candidate for our iPod, YouTube, Twitter, MTV generation.

But what about substance? Here is the bottom line. Obama is a proponent of socialism. He believes people should rely on government, thusly, people should fund government. Make no mistake. The comment made to “Joe the Plumber” is at the heart of his socialist agenda. “I believe it’s good to spread the wealth around.” So, what does this socialistic world view mean to us? More government programs, more government expenditures, which require more of your money. Just remember, government does not create wealth, it takes it. I want to emphasize I am not an anti-tax citizen. I understand our need to collectively support core governmental responsibilities. However, I am a believer in the free market and capitalism. Obama’s world view is antithetical to the views of many.

McCain is not perfect. Nobody is. But he is definitely not George Bush. I know that our economic condition is top-of-mind. However, we are still engaged in a war on terrorism. I don’t want to lose this war. If we do, everything else in our lives becomes moot. I want our nation safe and secure, and I believe McCain is better prepared to do exactly that. McCain does support capitalism, entrepreneurialism and the free market. I believe him when he promises to be a good steward of our tax dollars. I don’t believe Obama will.

Regardless of the outcome on Nov. 4, and after all the rancor and divisiveness has dissipated, we should remember we are all Americans. We should not allow our leaders to define us, but we should be true to ourselves and our own lives.

Please vote.

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