We’re getting to that time every four years when the United States has their presidential election. Both parties have chosen their nominees, not officially but that will happen soon at the conventions. I thought I’d take as objective a look as I possibly could at each candidate, not so much for our American readers as for the rest of the world who I am sure are having a difficult time understanding the two candidates, or at least the new guy on the block.
Anytime an incumbent runs against a challenger, the election involves someone with a known record going against someone whose appeal can only be based on the promise of office than an actual track record. I thought the best way to present each candidate was to list both good and bad decisions and policies that they’ve championed in the past or are currently pushing as an agenda. So here goes, and I hope I don’t offend too many people since politics is always tricky, no matter how you present it. What I count as successes are bills that Obama was able to pass, though some might disagree as to whether those bills were worth passing.
Barack H. Obama – Democrat and Current President of the United States
- Detroit Auto Company Bailout
- The Death of Osama bin Laden
- Dodd-Frank Act (overhauled financial regulation)
- Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)
- Pulled the troops out of Iraq
- Seeing the Libyan revolution succeed without sending in American troops
- Seeing the Egyptian revolution succeed without sending in American troops
- The opening of Myanmar (Burma) to reform and interaction with the western world
- Reformed federal aid for college students
- Repealed “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (pertaining to gays in the military)
- Increased enforcement of equal-pay laws
- Crack down on Iran and North Korea
- Tax on largest financial institutions to help pay for TARP
- Decrease unemployment substantially in first term
- Passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill
- Doubling exports in first term
- Improve home values and increase mortgage refinancing
- Hold regular meetings with Republican members of Congress
- Bring the troops home from Afghanistan
- Reform immigration laws
- Use trillion dollar spending bill to build infrastructure and create jobs
These were the major issues that Obama worked or did not work on during his first term. I’d like to single out a few specific examples.
- Auto Bailout – I think any sitting president would have bailed out Detroit, regardless of party affiliation. You simply do not let your heavy industry disappear. However, ‘would have’ isn’t the same as ‘did’ so Obama gets all the credit here.
- Both Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Ladin are no longer threats to the United States. That was the objective post-911. Mission accomplished.
- I don’t have a problem with the Affordable Care Act’s coverage, I have a problem with its financial viability. If Medicaid/Medicare isn’t reformed, in 20 years it’ll suck up 100% of the budget. That means nothing for education, the military, social security, social programs, nothing. Obama hasn’t even begun to face this problem. The Simpson/Bowles Plan came up with solutions and Obama ran away from it as quickly as he could. Nothing has been proposed that even begins to address this issue, the most important problem besides unemployment facing the country.
- Overall, I think most of Obama’s foreign policy positions have been right on the money. I attribute most of this to the able administration of Hillary Clinton in the State Department. She intends to resign at the end of this year. That worries me.
- A disaster foreign policy position? The troop surge in Afghanistan. The number of American deaths skyrocketed since the surge. The reasons we entered Afghanistan no longer exist. Our troops should have been pulled out of there a long time ago. Not doing so shows a lack of guts on Obama’s side, playing safe rather than protecting the lives of our soldiers.
- The last point I’ll address concerning Obama was his American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in ’09. I had no problem with a spending bill in the middle of a major recession. This can stimulate the economy provided the money is wisely spent. Unfortunately, the money was not wisely spent, it was mostly dribbled out as political payments to various constituencies. How do I know this? Because a county by county account of the spending was put on the net so I went to my county, San Diego, to see what was spent where. I’ve lived here for over 20 years so I know most of the companies in the county and I can tell you for a fact that it was $75K here, $150K there, no infrastructure and no real planning. The money could have completely rebuilt the national electrical grid, making it both green and flexible. Part could have been used to move air traffic control to a GPS system. Large, necessary infrastructure improvements could have been funded, the same improvements that are being pushed in a new round of investments proposed for the coming term. But none of that happened.
I think Obama has been chasing votes more than making coherent policy, especially over the last year. Each policy decision seems to appeal to a certain voting block rather than addressing the needs of the nation. Lately, this is my biggest gripe with his administration.
Willard Mitt Romney – Republican, Former Governor of Massachusetts & Candidate for President of the United States
- Successful CEO Of Bain Capital, a top private equity firm
- Governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2007
- President and CEO of Salt Lake City Olympics
- As governor, turned a $3 billion deficit into a $650 million surplus by the time he left office
- Passed Massachusetts Health Reform Law
- Lost the 1994 Massachusetts Senatorial Race
- Faces accusations of being a ‘flip-flop’ artist on various issues
- Has an inability to relate to people
- Lacks empathy
- Is more of a problem solver without a strong political ideology
- Refuses to release past tax returns
- Suspected of avoiding taxes by using offshore bank accounts and other tax dodges
- He’s very rich
Because Romney is not an incumbent, he is not running so much on his record as offering an alternative to Obama and his record. An incumbent president is normally re-elected based on what he has accomplished but so far, Obama’s strategy is not to run on his record but to paint Romney as a danger to various constituencies as a reason not to vote for him. With the Republicans consistently shooting themselves in the foot, so far this strategy is working out quite well. Here are a few points concerning Romney I’d like to highlight.
- A challenger does two things, he attacks the incumbent’s record and puts forth a plan to solve the nation’s problems.Romney’s done a lot of attacking Obama’s record but so far has not put out a plan that is financially feasible. Neither candidate trusts the people enough to tell the truth so neither will offer real solutions.
- Romney is a Mormon bishop. Personally, I feel very strongly about the separation between church and state. I would never vote for a bishop from another faith. In fact, I would never vote for a minister or priest. The way I see it, once you decide to go one way, you lose the opportunity to go the other. This is my biggest problem with Romney and might be a deal breaker for me.
- Romney is a problem solver. He actually has a good record as Massachusetts governor, Olympics CEO and Bain Capital CEO, yet he runs away from his record for some reason. As president, he’d probably be pretty good at tackling problems in a bipartisan fashion based on his record in Massachusetts but if an unexpected occurrence happened, be it something to do with a foreign power or a domestic catastrophe, he has no real ideology to fall back on to guide him.
- Romney has accused Obama’s healthcare plan of being socialist, yet it is just the opposite. Under the old system, if a person entered a hospital without insurance, they could not be turned away so in essence, everyone with healthcare was subsidizing them, which is socialized medicine. With mandatory healthcare, they would have to pay for themselves. This is what Romney accomplished in Massachusetts and it proved very popular. Granted, states have different needs than countries and what works in one state might not work in others, but it was certainly nothing to be ashamed of since it worked fine where it was tried. It can certainly work as a starting point to improve Medicaid/Medicare and health insurance in general but so far, Romney’s proposals will do nothing to bring costs under control.
I think Romney has spent too much time trying to appease the Republican right wing and not enough time trying to convince independent Americans who haven’t yet been convinced by his arguments.
So what’s the prognosis for this election? It’s been very close for months, despite massive amounts of negative advertising. I think most Americans change the channel whenever a political commercial comes on, they’re really that bad. Both campaigns have aired commercials that are outright lies concerning each other’s records so you don’t learn much by watching TV. Political commentators these days are so biased towards one party or the other that again, they just parrot their party’s spin. I think both candidates are weak as far as elections go, so it’ll come down to several factors. How is the economy doing near election day? Will any new event push one candidate decisively over the other? Obama is the guy who you can relate to but doesn’t have the competence to do the job. Romney is the guy who you cannot relate to at all but he seems pretty competent. As an independent not enamored with either party, it’s a tough decision for me and one I haven’t yet made.
What are your thoughts? Have you made your decision yet and if so, why? Because this is a political subject, I’ll accept positive comments about either candidate but if your idea of cogent analysis is to trash either guy, it’ll get censored. Those are the ground rules or else this could get out of hand.