Next Tuesday is Maryland's turn to decide where America needs to go in the coming years. And, believe it or not, it's not an easy choice.
Regular readers of this column will understand if I don't spend too much time on the relative merits (or lack thereof) of the Republican side of the 2008 primary ticket. Mostly because, unabashed progressive that I am, if you're a Bush-loving Republican, you wouldn't listen anyway.
What Mike Huckabee knows about foreign policy you could fit into a crab shell. And Mitt Romney's beliefs are like Baltimore weather in the springtime: If you don't like them, just wait 10 minutes.
Which leaves John McCain. McCain has been lots of things over eight years; he voted against the Bush tax cuts because they were weighted toward the rich, he co-sponsored the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform laws, he came out against torture, and he put the religious fundamentalists at Bob Jones University in their place in 2000.
Sadly, the other McCain embraced George W. Bush wholeheartedly in 2004, sucked up to Bob Jones in this year's campaign, and told reporters that if we were in Iraq for 200 years it "would be fine with me." On top of that, if McCain were elected, he'd be 72-Ronald Reagan took office barely two weeks shy of his 70th birthday, and by the time he got into his second term, he was little more than a doddering figurehead for James Baker.
All things being equal, if McCain remains the last man standing on the GOP side, I can argue without reservation that the Republicans chose the least of their multitude of evils to lead the country after the disaster that will have been eight years of Bush. But to be honest, nearly any of the Dems on this year's ticket would have been better: John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Christopher Dodd, or Joe Biden could have steered the nation back on a safe, sane, and sober course. But we are left with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
This is the point where I mention, once again, my mantra, which is that national polls don't mean squat. Not in the primaries, and not in the general election. National polls only mean something to the media-it gives them something on which to hang stories and drama. Primary candidates are elected by delegates; in the fall, it's state by state. Ignore the polls.
Between Obama and Clinton, it's a hard choice. In some ways, it matters not to the GOP which one wins, because either one will suddenly become "the biggest liberal in America," no matter what their actual records say. Clinton has been assailed as a liberal harpy by Republicans for 15 solid years, despite her Goldwater youth and her hawkish record as a member of the Senate. National Journal last week named Obama "the most liberal member of the Senate," despite senators such as Bernie Sanders of Vermont (who describes himself as a "democratic socialist"), making National Journal about as full of shit as the Wall Street Journal editorial board.
I have no compunction about mentioning that I spent three and a half years working in the Executive Office of the President under Bill Clinton, and for the time, he was, despite his flaws, the best and most gifted U.S. politician of his era. And despite Hillary's presence in the White House, close to all the decisions and politics, she is no Bill Clinton.
One of the favorite tactics of George H.W. Bush strategist Lee Atwater was to try and make his opponent's base stay home. Politically, Obama unites Democrats and divides Republicans; Clinton unites Republicans and divides Democrats. On top of which, despite the relative lack of daylight, policywise, between the positions of the two, if Clinton is elected, the national press itself will feel compelled to bring 15 years of its own baggage along for the ride, which cannot be discounted. The right-wing Wurlitzer will simply latch on for the ride.
It's time for a fresh start.
Obama, by virtue of taking the oath of office, will announce to the world that the premise and promise of America is back on track. The problems he would inherit from Bush and his wars, energy policies, and tax cuts for the rich will make the hurdles he would face perilously high. But he would have the wind at his back of a people voting for someone, not against. It literally would be a new day in America.
Either Democratic candidate would make a good president. But I think Barack Obama holds the promise, if we pull hard enough, to be a great president. I'm tired of anger. I'm tired of fear. I'm ready for the audacity of hope.
I don't know about you, but come Tuesday, I'm voting for Obama.
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