On the Issues

The candidates’ positions on the issues are not the only criteria on which to vote - governing style, administrative acumen, choice of advisers, interaction with Congress, and crisis experience may be collectively more important - but are probably the most important nonetheless.

Below, I set out to compare the candidates' positions on a few of the key issues they will face. Framing the issues is important: I do so according to goals that I think a majority of Americans would agree with. Readers can certainly differ with which goals to set and emphasize: thus do good people differ.

Goal Obama-Biden McCain
Economic Growth Proposes more than $342.5 billion in stimuli on a single page of his website, which is more than 10% of total Federal spending. Presumably wants to raise taxes on the wealthy to make up the difference. All of this will slow growth. Supports unions and trade restrictions, which lower real income for most Americans. Also, higher corporate tax rates would speed outsourcing and protectionism would cost America friends abroad. Proposes lower taxes and freer trade. Both of these help growth and raise real income. Proposes some loan bailouts and other goodies which would dampen growth. It's unclear whether he will govern as a conservative or only run as one; it's also unclear whether he could do anything but slow the rush to protectionism of an anti-growth Congress.
Energy Independence Opposes drilling, has a menu of subsidies for alternative energy. Short-term goal is 10% alternative energy use by 2012. He's more likely to move toward public transit and walking-friendly development. Some of the loss in economic growth will be traded off against energy/environment gains. Besides drilling here and now, Supports new nuclear plants, a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels. Also supports curtailing "speculation", which is a bad idea, a menu of subsidies. Honestly, drilling isn't important: we will drill eventually, and drilling later just means we'll have more oil left when the world is running out.
Budget Balance Wants to repeal most of the Bush tax cuts, despite the fact that government revenues increased after the tax cuts. This will hurt the economy (see above) and increase the deficit. He further claims he'll cut pork spending and increase transparency. His website does not mention entitlement programs. This issue is very hard to judge a priori, but Obama will have difficulty fending off spending proposals from Democratic Congress. Emphasizes growth as means to balancing budget. Aims to balance the budget by 2013 (we've heard that one before). Also claims he'll fight pork and entitlement spending. He has credibility on pork, but it's hard to believe Congress will bend to his will on entitlement reform.
Fair Judges Obama's Blueprint and website are silent about judicial appointments. Does anybody imagine he would appoint a moderate? This is where Obama's ties to the far left of the Democratic Party are most worrisome. Issues standard GOP promises about constructionist judges. The Democratic Senate guarantees he'll have to offer moderates. Likely to appoint judges with expansive view of Federal regulatory power.
Health Care Proposes national health provision, which would cover everyone but raise costs (through taxes) for everyone as well. Private insurance and high-quality care would quickly become the domain of the wealthy. His "plan" is a smorgasbord of small-scale reforms and proposals, with the stated goal of insuring everyone. Don't bring a knife to a gunfight, John.
Working with Iraq The choice of Biden hurts Obama's ability to cooperate with Iraqi leadership; otherwise, he should be fine unless the Bush-Maliki withdrawal agreement breaks down, or war breaks out. McCain has many friends in Iraq, but few outside. He earned his stripes by supporting the Surge before it was cool. He also has the trust of the U.S. military establishment, more than Bush or Obama.
Reform Immigration Proposes standard talking points, but emphasizes small-bore fixes. Is unlikely to get the Democrats to agree on any large reform, except to continue to exclude most skilled workers. Chastened into putting security ahead of reform, his heart is still in favor of immigrants. He supports loosening immigration for skilled workers. This is the issue on which the candidates match most closely.
Transparent Government Statements on ethics mainly address the Bush administration. There's much to be said against Bush, but partisan reform isn't reform. Most of Obama's proposals offer information transparency, but few substantive changes. Has made cutting pork a signature campaign issue, and government reform is his biggest legislative passion. He'll use lobbyist reform and pork as a club to beat Congress.

In sum, my overarching sense of the candidates is that while well-intentioned on some issues, Obama will be dragged down by the many "friends" of the Democratic Congress. Democrats have proliferated small groups that feed off the Federal government - and any policy that benefits the rest of us must hurt one of these special interests. He won't do it. Obama also has a Neanderthal view of the economy, and could do serious damage in that department.

McCain, on the other hand, has generally favorable positions, and is far less beholden to his party and to special interests. Some of McCain's policy areas are shallow, and he's likely to punt health care and serious budget issues to Congress. Still, the issues where the candidates differ most starkly - trade restrictions and economic growth - fall sharply in McCain's favor.

Posted by Chops at August 26, 2008 10:06 PM
Comment #259644

A primary example of the problem with a governmentally enforced, media supported, duopoly. Just make yourself appear better than your one ‘valid’ opponent, don’t have to worry about your own value as it stands by itself.

Maybe you could edit the post to include the other candidates that, by all odds stacked against them, this year got on the ballot in enough states to mathematically win the election? I think that would be 2 or 3 more columns, depending upon how many states the Green party eventually qualifies for.

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 26, 2008 10:13 PM
Comment #259645

This post is dedicated to j2t2, who asked for more discussion of the issues. This means you can be well-reasoned and lay off the angry, misspelled rants (in case you were wondering).

Posted by: Chops at August 26, 2008 10:15 PM
Comment #259647

Rhinehold -
Maybe some other time I’ll write a post comparing various electoral systems. I’m a *huge* fan of the 2-party system, especially after living in a few multiparty democracies.

For now, I’ll just say I’m happy with my choices.

Posted by: Chops at August 26, 2008 10:22 PM
Comment #259655

Chops since you have went to this effort for me I will be as well reasoned as I can and try to keep my spelling in check. It’s more sarcasm than anger as the Ayers video is a cheap shot and unworhty of intelligent discussion IMHO.

Posted by: j2t2 at August 27, 2008 12:10 AM
Comment #259657

Leave it to a Republican writer in this election to tell voters to forget about the issues and positions on them by the candidates, style is more important as a voting criteria, and POW status and being tortured and subjected to brainwashing by Communists decades ago, is absolutely the experience America needs in the White House.

Absurd on its face, Chops. Absurd. You must be listening to slow as molasses Rush DimBulb again.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 27, 2008 12:17 AM
Comment #259658

Chops, I do want to thank you however for posting McCain’s mirror image economic policies of GW Bush’s. That was a bit of candor to be commended.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 27, 2008 12:19 AM
Comment #259661

Interesting that Obama’s connections to a domestic terrorist are deemed unworthy of discussion but if it were a Republican with such connections the left would be screaming it.

So whose kidding who?

Posted by: Stephen Lepley at August 27, 2008 12:52 AM
Comment #259663

Stephen Lepley, Bush looked into Putin’s eyes and saw what? Bush has held hands with the very Saudi Arabian Sheik who will not open diplomatic relations in Iraq and whose cartel is helping bankrupt America by exporting our wealth to Saudi Arabia and other adversarial nations.

I don’t recall those connections ever being used to indict GW Bush in the public media. Connections simply means having been in someone’s presence or having some interaction with another person. The connection, in and of itself, says NOTHING about the nature or content of the relationship between the persons connected by proximity or brief interaction.

Your comment’s Prejudging drowns its intended purpose. Obama has surely shaken the hands of Ex-Convicts in the crowd, as has McCain. Do these connections make a case against these men? Your comment would seem to indicate they should. Absurd on its face.

I am sure your comment’s penchant for avoiding fact and jumping to prejudgement tie Obama to the Rezko scandal and indictment, when every shred of evidence produced about that connection has exonerated Obama from having any role or part in any of Rezko’s criminal actions UNKNOWN to Obama and even law officials at the time they occurred.

But, carry on with such comments. They are entertaining and help this blog’s ratings, which is a good thing, at least.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 27, 2008 1:03 AM
Comment #259664

Umm, you and the entire left wing have been hammering this stuff endlessly. But Obama’s terrorist buddy is off limits? I don’t buy it.

Obama is a radical progressive. Obama did more than shake the guys hand for crying out loud and your effort to bury Obama’s deep and long connections to this guy seem a bit off to me. Obama worked with the guy, Obama communicated with him frequently. Obama used his home to launch his his career. And you call it a “hand shake”.

How about a little honesty here?

Posted by: Stephen L at August 27, 2008 1:21 AM
Comment #259665

Obama denying his connections to this terrorist reminds me of Obama spending 20 years at the feet of Rev Race Monger Wright and claiming he never knew the guy was a racist or a hate monger. That is, he never knew until it was caught on film then oh my was Obama “surprised”.

Obama is trying to toss over board his radicalized far left history. I for one don’t see why we should let him.

Posted by: Stephen L at August 27, 2008 1:24 AM
Comment #259671

Stephen L, Stephen Lepley Why is it there is a post just below this one that is about the subject you feel is important yet you find it necessary to steal this thread about real issues? It seem the repubs just cant stand to run on issues and track record.

Posted by: j2t2 at August 27, 2008 1:56 AM
Comment #259673


You were the one who mentioned Ayers first in this comment section, but use the fact that someone called you on your comment as an indictment against an entire political party?



Whether or not Obama’s relationship with Obama amounts to anything worth discussion is one thing, but to compare that relationship with ‘a politician handshaking some unknown guy in a crowd’ is a bit beyond the pale.


With a duopoloy, like you desire, you end up with less debate, lesser candidates and an eventual dumbing of the citizenry. Lincoln ran against three other people and won with only 39% of the vote. I would take a Lincoln compared to the fluff we have to choose against this year and for the past several decades.

Try thinking beyond your political self-interests.

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 27, 2008 2:11 AM
Comment #259677

Rhinehold I was responding to Chops.

Posted by: j2t2 at August 27, 2008 3:08 AM
Comment #259685

David -

I’m a bit puzzled by your first comment. Perhaps my stemwinding initial sentence is the source of confusion. What I posit in the lead paragraph is that policy positions are in fact the most important criteria on which to judge a candidate. I qualify that by suggesting that the sum of all other criteria outweighs policy positions alone.

Remember the example of G.W. Bush: his policy positions when he ran for office marginally determined his actions in office. This is true of many presidents: do we remember what promises Nixon or Truman ran on? Or do we remember them for their bad and good governance, respectively, and personal honesty (or lack thereof)?

Posted by: Chops at August 27, 2008 8:13 AM
Comment #259688

David has complained that we conservatives didn’t talk about the issues. Now, when there is a direct discussion of the issues he complains about what we say.

The single most important issue to the American people is trustworthiness. When people say that what Obama claims his beliefs to be should get him elected I think back to Clinton running against Bush I in ‘92. The reason Bush lost was his breaking his promise not to raise taxes. So Clinton runs a campaign saying he will not raise taxes then immediately after taking office in ‘93 reverses course, thus launching the demise of the Democratic control of Congress in ‘94. Had Republicans not run a dessicated corpse for president in ‘96 they could have won that race as well as a result of Clinton’s untrustworthiness.

The issue was then, is now, and always will be trust. That was the cause of the Republican’s defeat in ‘06. Republicans ran as government cutters but governed as though their constituency was government employees. Having thus alienated the base that elected them they found they had won no friends among moderates even as they had maimed the hand that fed them. Likewise, the Democratic Party’s greatest weakness is the public’s sneaking suspicion that they are trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Polling would seem to indicate the more people know about Barak Obama the less they like him.

So what is the heart of the real issues in this election cycle? What you are watching is the “Victim of the Greater Distrust Election”. If Republicans play their cards right they can win against the Democrats “anonymous candidate” gambit. It is hard to distrust McCain more than we already do, because we really know him fairly well. Keating 5, sleasy affair while his first wife was dying, limiting free speech in elections- all bad stuff he’s dealt with over and over. But, in an already tight election, the public still hardly knows Obama at all, and what they don’t know can hurt his trust numbers badly.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at August 27, 2008 9:21 AM
Comment #259689

You forgot to mentiond Obama’s support of the Demorat’s onerous bill denying secret ballots in elections to determine whether there will be union representation in people’s workplaces.

That is outright criminal extortion framed in law, reason enough all by itself to vote Republican no matter how badly that party smells.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at August 27, 2008 9:33 AM
Comment #259690


I for one remember most of Bush’s platform. His largest failures have been a lack of good judgment and allowing partisan ideology to rule his world. If I remember correctly one of his strongest running points was that he would be a uniter not a divider. The next was the compassionate conservative principle. While being a redundancy, many people fell for that spiel. Had he actually pursued either of these running points he probably would have been a much more successful president. However he chose to immediately abandon them upon swearing in and as a result further strengthened and widened the partisan gap. The result today is a largely non functional government that is stalemated and perpetuated by ineffective purely partisan leadership. I remember him and his party for pursuing that avenue of arrogant and total rejection of everything non republican. He has been the embodiment of divisiveness. He will be remembered as being a poor leader lacking good judgment with an inability to find compromise. It is a lack of leadership skills which have rendered him incapable of effecting responsible policy.

The determining factor as to how effective our next president can be will be determined by his ability to unite our law makers and pursue common cause solutions. McCain is clearly walking down the same path that leads to stalemate. That of partisanship and the perpetuation of government for the wealthy. He offers nothing new and gives no indication of possessing leadership skills beyond those of Bush.

Poor policy is the result of poor judgment and poor leadership skills.

Posted by: RickIL at August 27, 2008 9:39 AM
Comment #259700

Lee -
I did recall the union rules bill; that’s lumped under “support for unions” (which is not the same as support for workers) in my mind.

Among economists from all schools, one of the strongest consensuses is that unions are bad for everyone not involved. It’s a form of discrimination, essentially using economic muscle to screw the customer and the stockholders, much the way a monopoly uses its power to screw customers and workers. Both should be avoided for a healthy economy.

Posted by: Chops at August 27, 2008 10:19 AM
Comment #259734


That particular bill is more than mere support for unions. Let Republicans eliminate the secret ballot for county sherriff elections in rural Texas and see what Democrats have to say about it. What they would say about the dangers to public safety and law enforcement apply point for point to economic freedom and people’s opportunity to have and hold a job.

Democrat’s and Obama’s “support for unions” is, in this instance, pure gangsterism.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at August 27, 2008 1:53 PM
Comment #259753

Chops it seems you stand by your explanation of oil speculators but many have said speculation has caused the lions share of the rise in the price of gasoline. Your link explains the basics of the commodities market but leaves out what has happened since the Bush administration stopped enforcing the laws that made the commodities market useful. To much of a good thing is not necessarily a good thing.
Its a positive for me to see that McCain can see what a lot on the right can’t and is willing to admit it before elections.

Posted by: j2t2 at August 27, 2008 3:35 PM
Comment #259774

Exactly who are these “constructionist” judges that Rpblcns have appointed. Does “constructionist” mean Roman Catholic, because that’s who they appoint, as being perceived most likely to be against Roe v Wade, the only issue that matters for an appointment to the SCOTUS, except being a Rpblcn partisan?

Lee, the secret ballot sucks. It was necessary when people could be intimidated by their employer or landlord into voting the way they wanted. Walmart wants to bring us back to those good old days, but I would like to have my name on the ballot, when Sequoia prints it out, to keep the elections honest.

Posted by: ohrealy at August 27, 2008 5:14 PM
Comment #259779

I’m sorry, Ohrealy, but having it public sucks worse. With it private, an individual feels more free to vote their mind and heart, not their fear. Make it public and not only do you worry about the company, if you are voting for the union but also the union organizers who say ‘here, here is a ballot, go ahead and say yes on it now while we watch’. Please, isn’t there enough intimidation?

If the secret ballot sucks so bad, we do we use it to choose our representatives? There is something about being free from intimidation that we all must defend, even if it means less unions because fewer people want them and don’t want to be pressured into joining one.

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 27, 2008 5:34 PM
Comment #259832


I’m sorry, Ohrealy, but having it public sucks worse.

I have to agree with you on this one. Over my years as a worker and union rep I had the opportunity to be on both ends of this issue. I witnessed employees who would not vote their conscience because employers, union officials, or fellow workers were looking on. I also witnessed open forum votes via written ballot that were deliberately miscounted on the spot by union officials. On the other hand I was witness to underhanded test scoring and lack of accountability for that by my employer on more than one occasion. The last union votes I made were done by mail in secret ballot to an independent agency with checks for identity validation. So far as I know the independent agency tactic worked without a hitch.

Posted by: RickIL at August 28, 2008 11:13 AM
Comment #259840

I have no doubt that non-secret ballots open the door for intimidation, be it in a union hall or a caucaus forum.

The primary instrument of Union is the ability to shut down production to gain consessions from employers. Because of the American Way of Life,that ability has been corroded. The majority of workers live from pay check to pay check. They have sold their souls to the company stores. It is rather hard to vote for strike when the possibility of bankruptcy looms large. This fact plus anti-union propaganda makes unions less attractive.

Our American Way of Life has turned us into a nation of individuals, unable to unite on virtually every issue except our united desire to continue our hedonistic orgy of mass consumption. We have created a society based on vanity and immorality and history will villainize us for it.

Posted by: jlw at August 28, 2008 12:30 PM
Comment #259844

OKAY, let’s talk ISSUES.

Everyone makes a big deal about McCain’s POW status. So let’s hear what THE most decorated combat soldier in American history had to say about McCain:

“in McCain’s own words just four days after being captured, he admits he violated the U.S. Code of Conduct by telling his captors “O.K, I’ll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital.”

A Vietnam vet detractor says, “He received the nation’s third highest award, the Silver Star, for treason. He provided aid and comfort to the enemy!”“

The above was by Colonel David Hackworth, who won TEN SILVER STARS for his actions in combat, something that is unmatched by any other veteran in American history.


Posted by: Glenn Contrarian at August 28, 2008 1:35 PM
Comment #259857

I always did wonder how crashig an airplane created a war hero. I crashed a Jeep once…how come they didn’t give me the Silver Star?

McPain only deserves the same regognition and respect shown to other military personnel who have been in combat. He does deserve sympathy for the treatment he suffered at the hands of his captors, but sympathy does not automattically translate to heroism.

He is bleeding those five and a half years all over this campaign.

Posted by: Marysdude at August 28, 2008 2:47 PM
Comment #259865

You know, I remember what the left said of people who questioned Kerry’s short service in Vietnam, since he made it the center of his campaign. But now that McCain, ‘the opponent’, is doing a similar thing it’s now in vogue to show that those words meant nothing and step down to the same level…

And we were told that pulling strings to get to Oxford was ok, but then hear over and over again how Bush was a draft dodger, and of course tear down Bob Dole, one of the few who should have been untouchable because of his sacrifice.

The right, for their part, found no trouble with Dan Quayle’s term in the National Guard but attacked Kerry for his misrecollections of where he was during Christmas one year…

Gotta love the partisanship. I think the practitioners on both sides are repugnant, but the stench of hypocrisy is overwhelming.

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 28, 2008 3:43 PM
Comment #259868

Rhinehold -

‘scuse me, but have you seen ANY of the Democrat bigwigs attack McCain’s service? How about any of the Dem/Lib/Progressive talk show hosts? Any at all other than a few Vietnam vets on ONE website (and me)?

I haven’t…and I DO pay attention.

But the Republicans sure did against Kerry. Maybe Bush didn’t directly, but the other ‘lesser lights’ among the Republicans sure did, not to mention the talk show hosts who tore into him with savage glee.

AND IF YOU’LL REMEMBER, Hackworth was a strong CONSERVATIVE, was never liberal and was more of a war hero than McCain, Kerry, Bush I, or anybody else in American history…yet you’re lumping him in with the Dems and Liberals and using that as a reason to give no consideration to what he said.

Rhinehold, no offense, but you stepped all over yourself with this one.

Posted by: Glenn Contrarian at August 28, 2008 4:08 PM
Comment #259901


No, it is you that is stepping all over yourself in trying to say that sometimes it is ok to act repugnantly, if you are a liberal.

I tar anyone who did it with the same brush. I don’t care if they were republican with Kerry or democrat with McCain.

As for ‘progressive talk show hosts’? YES. Hell, I was listening to talk left on Sirius the day, THE DAY, that Tim Russert died and the host there was reading all of the email he was getting by his listeners saying ‘Good, he was an evil prick, now if only Cheney and Bush could die too!’

Now, as you can imagine, they had no trouble saying whatever they want about McCain, including his service. Especially the one show (I won’t name names, but…) who makes no aversion that anyone who doesn’t vote for Obama is obviously racist…

Trust me, repugnancy knows know bounds and Hackworth as been added to that list.

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 28, 2008 8:59 PM
Comment #259911


This- “The majority of workers live from pay check to pay check. They have sold their souls to the company stores. It is rather hard to vote for strike when the possibility of bankruptcy looms large.” - is nonsense.

When the Union movement was organizing in the late 1800s, with police beating and shooting strikers and people earning real starvation wages, do you imagine things were easier for the workers? NO! What they did was as heroic as any fight in any war. Unions properly constituted and understanding the economic playing field on which the companies which will employ their workers must compete are a great force for good.

If they were really serious today about doing that good they would be working hard to make that international playing field more level on foreign soil rather than acting like Soviet secret police and eroding the competitiveness of American industry.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at August 28, 2008 11:46 PM
Comment #259965

Senator Obama says this election is “about us”. He’s going to “change” politics. Well, my oh my, how he seems insistant on change. For instance changing how issues are “> discussed in an open forum, just down the street from his national headquarters.

Brown shirts anyone?

Posted by:
Lee Jamison at August 29, 2008 9:50 AM
Comment #259966

Oh well. Zero points for style. Let’s see if I can get the “> link right.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at August 29, 2008 9:54 AM
Comment #259968

HTML is your friend. Just keep saying that to yourself til you believe it. “>http://media.nationalreview.com/post/?q=ZmRhYmE3NzFlMTljNTdmZGQ3MjhkYTVjNzdmMjVhMzE=

Posted by: Lee Jamison at August 29, 2008 10:00 AM
Comment #260225

Lee, some advice, the site will create the link for you if you just post the url. If you want to change the name you can do that in the Preview. If you try to creat the link yourself, remember to leave a space before and after the coding and the changed name.

RickIL and R-man, I was in a meeting Wednesday where we had a heated discussion with some Russian immigrants who couldn’t understand why they were paying union dues. They are willing to take whatever crap they are handed, and have no concept of what a union does here. In this case, the Illinois Dept of Aging and the DOHS, OORehabServs is seeking to reduce their hours, after giving them a raise. They don’t want to make waves, which is fine, as long as the union does it for them. Secret ballots validate timidity.

Posted by: ohrealy at August 29, 2008 8:00 PM
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