Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why Obama?: Reasons

Like Colin Powell, I’ve decided who I’m going to support—though I made my choice several months ago. Unlike some of the more extreme folks at either end of the spectrum I don’t think the nation is headed for a disaster if either of the candidates is elected. Reasonable people can disagree on many of the candidates’ proposals. I see merit in some of McCain’s proposals, and I can see how some people would prefer his approach on some issues. Whoever is elected, the debate over issues will continue, and neither of the men’s programs will be put into place without some compromise and tinkering.

My choice? Barack Obama. Here is a brief version of my reasons. You can find longer versions of some items via links or in other entries I’ve posted.

Quick summary:
Leadership: Obama has shown great effectiveness (greater than McCain, I believe) in leading, inspiring, and uniting. (And his campaign has been remarkably disciplined and well organized.)
Temperament: Obama's steadiness and calm have contrasted with McCain's crotchety tone and somewhat impulsive and erratic behavior.
Judgment and intelligence: Obama has shown good judgment; he is smart and well-informed; and he works very hard to educate himself on the issues. McCain, despite his time in office, has shown questionable judgment and appears oddly ill-informed on some issues, not only on the economy but even on matters of foreign policy. (Note this video for instance.)
Character: Both candidates are good men, but for reasons I detail below, I am particularly impressed by Obama. Like all of us, he's a flawed human being, but he has shown great strength and grace under pressure.
The issues: Though I don't agree with Obama on everything, I'm impressed with many of his positions on the issues (some of which I detail below and elsewhere on the blog). I would estimate that, roughly, I agree with Obama 75-80 percent of the time and with McCain 50-55 percent of the time.
Other factors: As noted below, other things that have influenced me are McCain's choice of Palin, the kind of negative campaigning he has used or allowed recently, and the contrast between Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama as first ladies and between the McCains and the Obamas as "first families."

Longer summary:

Why Obama

1. Obama’s character: his integrity, intelligence, judgment, and grasp of the issues; he is gracious, civil, fair, and respectful; he is calm and steady under pressure.

2. Obama’s positive and inspirational style: his inclusiveness, his ability to unite, his ability to inspire idealism and public service and to bring out the best rather than the worst in people.

3. The ability Obama and Biden will have to work effectively with Congress.

4. Obama’s approach to foreign policy: his view that diplomacy should be vigorously pursued and that military force should be a last resort; his plan for a measured, careful withdrawal from Iraq that could encourage Iraqis take full responsibility for their country; and an approach to foreign policy in general that I believe will increase international cooperation and respect for the United States.

5. Obama’s positions on other issues: Though I don’t agree with him on everything, I’ve looked at his proposals and find most of them sensible and practical and many of them much needed. I believe he has a much better grasp of economic issues than McCain does. (For more on Obama’s positions, see as well as some of the items below.)

6. His family: Michelle Obama would be a much better first lady than Cindi McCain. And Obama’s family would be a model family, an inspiring example for the country. (I know this is a personal reaction, but I think the sort of family life a president has—and has had—makes a difference. And honestly, without going into details, I’d say this is bit of a weak spot for McCain.)

Why not McCain?

1. Sarah Palin: Though there’s much good that could be said about her, I don’t believe she’s qualified to be president (and she apparently has about a one in five chance, maybe more, of becoming president if McCain is elected). She is not well informed and not exceptionally intelligent; she lacks depth and wisdom and sensitivity in her approach to many important issues.

2. McCain’s judgment: His choice of Palin, his uncertain response to the economic crisis, and some of his statements on other issues have led me to question McCain’s judgment.

3. McCain’s temperament: He has a reputation for temper outbursts. Though we haven’t seen those much during the campaign, he has shown a lack of civility and generosity, even a lack of basic respect at times, and a tendency to anger and mean-spiritedness.

4. Divisiveness: I believe a McCain-Palin White House would be more divisive and negative than an Obama-Biden one.

5. Relative lack of effectiveness as a leader: Partly because of his judgment and temperament, I believe McCain would be relatively ineffective as a leader. McCain would not be particularly effective in inspiring or uniting the country. And I don’t think Sarah Palin would be of much help in making him effective in working with Congress.

6. A potentially dangerous approach to foreign policy: Though I believe he would try to be pragmatic, McCain’s tendency to make impulsive decisions, his sometimes bellicose rhetoric, his skepticism about diplomacy, and his history of favoring regime change through military action all concern me. (Also--as this video suggests, he may not have a terribly clear grasp of some of the details of international matters.)

7. Other positions: I have mixed views on McCain’s other positions. There’s probably a lot to be said for many of them. I believe, though, that McCain’s understanding of economics is limited, and I don’t like his health care plan. (For more on that, see

8. Negative campaigning: The past few weeks we have seen some of the ugliest and most divisive negative campaigning in recent American history. McCain’s approach has gone far beyond just disagreeing or attacking his opponent’s positions. It amounts to demonizing Obama himself and trying to make him seem “un-American” or even “anti-American.” I keep hoping McCain will express discomfort with the direction his campaign has gone or even firmly denounce the racist and bloodthirsty comments that have been made at some McCain and Palin rallies. Instead, a couple of days ago he said he was “proud” of the robocalls being made, robocalls that claim Obama has had a “close association” with a terrorist who has “killed Americans.” (See more on this below.) Such rhetoric is inflammatory: it could provoke some susceptible folks into supposedly “patriotic” acts of “revenge” against Obama himself, despite the fact that he has denounced the violent activities that took place when he was 8 years old. I don’t think my concern is exaggerated: when people yell out “Kill him!” “Treason” and “Off with his head!” at rallies (and don’t get immediately rebuked), they are putting themselves in a mood to take out the supposed traitor.

(By the way, the worst of this is even worse than the kind of negative politics Elder Robert Wood spoke against in LDS General Conference a couple of years ago; see “Instruments of the Lord’s Peace,” Ensign May 2006: 93-95; also found online at )

For a longer and earlier explanation of my views, see "Who I support and why."

For my responses to reservations some people have about Obama, click HERE.


Garry Wilmore said...

I read your post, and even though I am going to vote for McCain, I respect your judgment enough to regard your support of Obama as a point in his favor -- which means, of course, that I can disagree with you without being disagreeable. Last week I told my daughter that even though I won't be voting for Obama, I will accept the result if he wins the election, and he will be my President, too. That, as I see it, is part of what this country is all about. Also, I can see two potentially very positive results coming out of his election: first, it would show how far we have come as a nation in the past 50 years -- I am old enough to remember Jim Crow laws and the hoses at Birmingham, for example; and (2) I believe his background, which includes having a Kenyan father and a childhood spent partly in Indonesia, could improve our international standing, especially in third-world countries.

I know some people, including my wife -- a very sensible woman -- who are honestly afraid of Obama and regard him as something close to the Antichrist. While I have my own concerns about him, I am at least willing to acknowledge the possibility that he might surprise all of us -- even Republicans -- and become a very effective President. Moreover, I have always had a strong sense of history, and lately I have been thinking a great deal about FDR's first 100 days, wondering if we are going to be seeing something similar to that beginning in January.

Bruce Young said...

Thanks, Garry. I absolutely respect your opinions as well. Your comments, as usual, are thoughtful and well put.

If Senator McCain becomes president--which I believe is still a possibility--I will wish him well. As you said about Obama, McCain (if he becomes president) would be my president as well. Whether he succeeds or not--and despite my reservations about him--I have great respect for him. I believe that, at core, he is much better than he has sometimes come across as a campaigner. There is much I like about him personally. He has given great service, and he still has much to offer.

Even though I try to avoid the polarized attitudes that politics too often inspires, I'm sure I've overemphasized the negatives in my assessment of McCain. I think the nation can do well with either man as president--especially if all of us seek to cultivate an attitude of respect and goodwill.

Whoever is president, we will face great challenges, challenges I believe we will deal with successfully only if we can exercise sufficient faith, hope, and charity, in our political as well as our personal lives.

As you've suggested, we are witnessing history in the making. Thanks for offering your perspective. I look forward to getting your further comments and insights as events unfold.