It’s coming to America first,
The cradle of the best and of the worst.
It’s here they got the range,
And the machinery for change,
And it’s here they got the spiritual thirst.
It’s here the family’s broken,
And it’s here the lonely say,
That the heart has got to open
In a fundamental way.
Democracy is coming to the
— “Democracy” by Leonard Cohen
The Wall Street financial meltdown is the latest disaster in the sorry saga of the Bush administration. Although both Republicans and Democrats share the blame for the deregulation that has led to the current insolvency crisis of financial institutions, the Bush presidency has reached a nadir in U.S. history for incompetence and irresponsibility in both domestic and foreign affairs.
The McCain-Palin ticket essentially promises more of the same and increased societal misery — no matter how they rhetorically distance themselves from the failed Bush policies. McCain has tacked steadily to the political right over recent years, reversing his positions on numerous issues (Bush tax cuts, reproductive choice, immigration reform, warrantless wiretapping, etc.). And with the totally cynical decision to choose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate — a concession to the hard-right of the Republican Party — McCain has completely undercut any claims he can make either as a person of sound judgment or as someone who will bridge the partisan divide.
The next president of the United States will inherit the global warming and peak oil crises, intractable and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, growing instability in the Middle East and the threat from an aggressive Iranian regime, a national debt approaching $10 trillion, crumbling domestic infrastructure, Medicare and other federal entitlement programs teetering on the brink of insolvency, and the need for further government intervention to recover from Wall Street’s reckless binge. You really can’t envy the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
However, Sen. Barack Obama gives us hope that a talented new administration in Washington, D.C., can surmount the daunting challenges that our nation and the world will face in the coming years. Especially in the realm of foreign affairs, where the stock of America has sunk to new lows, Obama has the potential to forge a new coalition of world leaders dedicated to the remediation of extreme poverty and the spread of democratic values.
For the betterment of the Jewish community, and for the uplift of all Americans, readers of the American Jewish World should vote for Barack Obama and work for his election on Nov. 4.
The presidential campaign has taken a turn for the worse in the last week. The scurrilous accusations that Obama is the “pal” of a domestic terrorist reveal the degree of desperation felt by the Mc- Cain-Palin ticket as it sinks in public opinion polls. Republican partisans have played on the Jewish community’s uncertainty and fears about an Obama presidency. Over the past year, we have seen a vile campaign of calumnies and misinformation — spread by e-mail and the Web — to damage the Obama candidacy.
Readers of the American Jewish World have seen the weekly ads purchased by the Republican Jewish Coalition, which employ McCarthyesque guilt by dubious association and skewed arguments designed purely to scare Jewish voters away from Obama. But as we pointed out in editorials in January and February, Jews in Obama’s hometown of Chicago, people who have known the candidate for many years, have come to respect and trust him.
In the editorial in our Feb. 1 edition, I noted that Jay Tcath, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in the Chicago area (who previously headed the JCRC in Minnesota for five and a half years), said that Obama, both as a state legislator and as a U.S. senator, has “been on the right side” of issues affecting Israel “each and every time… his statements and his voting records should and do speak for themselves.”
Tcath, who has been at his post for the past nine years, added that Obama has been “open to and sympathetic to Jewish communal public policy issues” and is “very close with a number of Jewish leaders in the community.”
Lester Crown, a leading Chicago Jewish businessman and philanthropist, says that those who are “unsure” about Barack Obama simply “don’t know him, and don’t know enough about him. If they did, I think they would be very strong backers of his candidacy. The more you know about him and the more you know him, the more you’ll like him and the more you’ll have confidence in him.”
Abner Mikva is another luminary of Chicago’s Jewish community. The former congressman, federal judge and White House counsel says, “People who have worked with [Obama] in Chicago who are Jewish know that this is as solid a candidate for the interests of Jews, professed both domestically and abroad, that we’ve had in a long, long time.”
Mikva adds, “I think the Jews who sit this one out, or pull the wrong straw on this one, will find a hard time explaining it to their descendants, as to why, in this important moment to the country and to the world, they picked the wrong straw.”
Beyond Jewish communal concerns, the turbulent state of the U.S. economy is a matter of increasing concern for most Americans. The Economist magazine reported last week that 80 percent of economists responding to a recent survey, “and no fewer than 71 percent of those who do not cleave to either main party, say Mr. Obama has a better grasp of economics. Even among Republicans Mr. Obama has the edge: 46 percent versus 23 percent say Mr. Obama has the better grasp of the subject.”
“‘I take McCain’s word on this one,’ comments James Harrigan at the University of Virginia, a reference to Mr. McCain’s infamous confession that he does not know as much about economics as he should,” the magazine noted.
An overwhelming majority of the economists polled also thought that Obama would select a superior cadre of talented economic advisers, as compared to a team picked by McCain.
In the area of foreign policy, McCain blithely offers that U.S. military forces can stay in Iraq for “100 years,” in pursuit of an illusory victory. In contrast, Obama, prior to his tenure in the U.S. Senate, opposed the Iraq War and correctly predicted that America would find itself mired in a bloody and costly struggle. Generally, Obama has advocated for a more pragmatic and flexible U.S. approach to thorny foreign policy issues.
McCain eschews the idea of ramping up diplomacy, and articulates a worrisome aggressive and ideological stance in foreign affairs. Gov. Sarah Palin simply has no experience in foreign policy and only recently has traveled abroad — her apprehension of the world beyond America’s borders is drawn largely from reading and watching TV. The possibility that she could ascend to the presidency should give voters pause.
On a range of social issues, the Obama-Biden ticket offers more promise of solutions in the areas of affordable health care, environmental protection, and the transition to a sustainable energy economy. Again, the Wall Street mess threatens to limit the resources available to beneficial social programs; however, a Democratic administration likely will bring innovation and new talents to bear on government initiatives.
Of course, we should not expect that spending a few minutes in a voting booth will bring about the political and social changes we desire. In the years to come, each of us must become more engaged in holding politicians to their promises and more vigilant in monitoring the press. We cannot take our liberties for granted. In the post-9/11 era, we have seen the rise of an imperial presidency, the evisceration of the Bill of Rights and the continual expansion of government surveillance.
A popular movement is needed to restore the civil rights that the Bush administration has trampled upon under the rubric of the war on terrorism. The unseemly and illegal conduct of our government in foreign affairs, and assaults on the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens, have diminished America in the eyes of the world.
The idea of “change” has been abused in this election cycle; but Americans do want a change in direction after eight years of the benighted policies and corruption of the Bush White House.
“This time — in this election — it’s time for fundamental change in Washington,” Barack Obama said at Rodeph Shalom Synagogue in Philadelphia on April 16. “To make that change, we need to draw on a spirit that is deeply embedded in the Jewish tradition — a view that says we all have a responsibility to do our part to repair this world; that we can take care of one another and build strong communities grounded in faith and family; that repairing the world is a task that each of us takes up every day. That is how we are going to meet the challenges we face.”
Vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden on Nov. 4.
— Mordecai Specktor
(This editorial solely reflects the views of its author. It is not intended to represent the viewpoint of Minnesota Jewish Media, LLC, the parent company of the American Jewish World, or the opinions of its principals.)
Obama is trying to demonstrate why he should win the presidency, McCain is just trying to win an election.