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Some things about these two political campaigns have struck me recently as glimpses of what to expect from an administration led by either candidate. It isn't a perfect picture, but it is telling in a way. It also matches what I think about these two men so clearly my own viewpoint is mixed in richly in the interpretation. To be clear about that bias, I should state here that I am currently planning to vote for Obama, though will not vote an entirely Democratic party ticket. We have some very good representation here in Maine from both parties.
One of the key differences I see in these organizations is how they respond to challenges.
The Obama campaign has had to really thread a needle on several key issues. There were the remarks and rhetoric made by Rev. Wright and all of the related tension of culture and race those remarks brought up. There is the simple issue of his name. There was the very prolonged split with the Clinton organization -- this being nearly as hard fought as most senate or governorship campaigns ever get. In every case, the Obama campaign has met the issue with a carefully executed and well considered plan. In most cases, the issued ended up adding to the reputation and status of the candidate. If anything, the Obama campaign has felt a bit like it has the momentum of an inevitable historic event.
The McCain campaign has really been at its best just about the time everyone is ready to write it off as a loss. John McCain seems to bring to the table a perseverance and a readiness to dig in deep and fight the long fight. It has served him well throughout his life, but comes at a price. His campaign has been up and down like a roller coaster. The decision to chose Governor Palen of Alaska feels very last minute and poorly researched. One gets the impression that once McCain failed to get support for his first choice -- Joe Lieberman, Democrat -- within his party that in frustration he accepted an alternative too quickly and without enough consideration and follow-through. Even more telling is how his campaign has been backed into a corner by that choice, and has fallen back to the strategy of defending its decision at nearly any cost. This is very much what we've seen from the G.W. Bush administration for the last 8 years. A poor decision or a poor choice of cabinet level official is backed up and supported well past the time to move on out of a misplaced sense of loyalty or a fear of being seen backing down (see Brown, Gonzalas, Iraq War).
Barak Obama seems to give real consideration to any question rather than a snap judgement. He's proven to be difficult to pin down on a couple of issues and been criticized for being willing to modify his position given new information. When I consider the international scene right now, there are several critical regions on the edge of major change. Iraq is just one. Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea are all critical places where a single strong leader is making decisions charged with so much rhetoric and bluster that their true positions can be very difficult to ascertain. These are relationships that I believe can become radically better or worse in the next four years. McCain's instinct seems to be to bunker down and fight. I don't believe that will be positive for us now. On the other hand, Russia, China, and Israel are all major problems where a stubborn but careful resolve is going to be needed. Is Obama as ready for that? While Obama strikes me as a negotiator, McCain's tendency is to get his back up and lock in to a position. When McCain is forced to back down, he seems to do so suddenly and with rash results. The man is famous for his temper.
In both cases, the campaigns seem to echo the style of the candidates. McCain may believe in slightly different things than G.W. Bush, his approach to politics and policy is every bit has hard line and uncompromising. There are times when its called for, surely, but for the time being I think most of the world both inside and outside our borders have had enough of that from our nation.
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