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Where I Stand With Four Weeks to Go

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There are four weeks until the election and I’m still not 100% sure who I will vote for.

While I hope that my posts over the last month have made clear my respect for and problems with both candidates, I thought I’d take a moment to update the regular readers on where I stand.

I’ve broken matters down to several key issues and hope my remarks spur a little debate.

The rest of the post is after the break.

Economy: I worry about John McCain on this issue. His reactions to the financial crisis have been unfocused. He bashes Wall Street and talks about more regulations but is pushing an agenda not too far removed from George W. Bush’s. If McCain thinks Bush has been generally correct about the economy, I want to hear him say why. I’d give him a listen.

As for Barack Obama, I think he’s shown intelligence and a willingness to place fact over partisanship, but I wish he had a more dynamic economic plan. It’s almost the same as John Kerry’s. We could use some newer ideas not so reliant on tax-and-spend proposals.

International Relations: I’m a realist when it comes to foreign affairs and have found the neo-con approach to be a disaster. McCain is part realist and part neo-con. Obama is part realist and part idealist. For the most part, I prefer Obama’s less antagonistic approach. He’s convinced me he will still defend our interests, even if he’s more willing to engage our adversaries than is McCain. Like it or not, President Bush has diminished our power and standing in the world. I’m not foolish enough to think that electing Obama will be like hitting the reset button, but, so far, I have more faith in his approach than I do in McCain’s.

Iraq: The recent successes in Iraq have left both candidates advancing similar plans of a phased, responsible withdrawal. The surge has ironically worked more to Obama’s favor than McCain’s by making Iraq a secondary issue and leaving little room for disagreement on how we proceed. McCain was right about the surge and gets my respect for that. And I worry that while Obama was right in his opposition to the invasion, he’s been consistently wrong about how we wage the conflict.

Reform: McCain has a record of advancing reform. Obama mainly just talks about it. I don’t really believe that a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress are going to initiate many governmental reforms, unless you define reform as changing the apparatuses of power from Republican control to Democratic control. Government has a much better chance of seeing reform with McCain sparring against a Democratic congress. The decision I have to make is whether getting the Republicans out of power is more important than advancing the kind of systematic reform McCain could deliver.

Healthcare: I think both candidate’s plans are wholly inadequate and full of problems. Obama’s plan just shifts around cost burdens while McCain’s will likely do little to increase the number of insured Americans (although I like several of his specific reforms). A Republican president and a Democratic Congress have the best chance of crafting a reasonable plan, but I’m not counting on that level of cooperation on this issue. I will not be making healthcare my deciding vote despite the fact that healthcare is of real concern to me and my family.

Leadership: I have made a personal pledge not to allow one or two politically motivated moves influence my vote. Politicians play silly games and, while I don’t like it, I can’t disqualify a candidate because of a few stupid ads or a few partisan attacks. That said, McCain hasn’t impressed me recently. Most notably, the choice of Sarah Palin as VP was too much of a reach. She’s not ready to lead and I’m unimpressed by the fact that she seems to be a real person. That’s nice but I’m more concerned with whether she is a real leader. She may be ready to be a national candidate in a few years, but she’s not ready now.

The Palin pick is part of a pattern of go-for-broke maneuvers McCain has tried. I understand that the candidate trailing in a race will be more desperate. But that doesn’t excuse the Palin choice or such stunts as the bailout bill campaign suspensions and the numerous deceptive ads that are anything but straight-talk. Obama has hardly been a saint here, but he’s shown a steadier hand, even when he was briefly behind after the convention.

All that said, I am still concerned about Obama’s experience. Does he have the depth of knowledge and breadth of experience necessary to make the right decisions in tough situations. To me, Obama is a higher risk, higher reward candidate. He has the potential to be both a much better and a much worse president than McCain. The question is: are we willing to roll the dice?

Final thoughts: I’ve found myself leaning towards Obama lately. But I know part of that is because I live my life surrounded by Obama supporters. And part of that is because, despite my current tendency to hover a little right of center, I’ve never voted for a Republican for president. Obama is the easy choice for me. But this shouldn’t be easy. That’s why I refuse to commit until at least the end of the debates.

In fact, I might think about my decision until the moment I enter the voting booth.

There’s a lot to consider.