this is what patriotism sounds like



Barack Obama is an amazingly charismatic orator. There are few men in my lifetime that I've been able to see move crowds the way that he has.

But I genuinely ask, why do we think he's going to be able to bring about the hope and the relief that we seek? Yes, his ideology and his beliefs are different then the current administration but you need more then that to be able to lead and bring about actual change.

Historically 95+% of members of congress retain their seat each election. So does it make sense for either candidate to insult the Washington elite when they're going to have to work with those members to bring about the change that they espouse?

Also... I ask, why is it that we look to the government for hope? Is the source of the American promise found in its government or the people which live it? We display our resilience as a nation by living our lives with the freedoms we hold dear. The governments job is to protect those freedoms so that we can live our lives.

Also...If we're looking for hope, are we really hopeless? I don't feel hopeless. Maybe I'm just out of touch.

Over the weekend I was in Indiana. Once I was offered by a bank to re-finance my house or get a mortgage and the other time I was offered a big line of credit at Fry's electronics. Yesterday I booked a plane ticket to LA for $249 (which seems low).

Granted our economy is a downturn in the economy, unemployment is up, gas prices are high, and hardship still exists but it seems like that resilience of the American promise is still there.

Sorry for the rambling... just feel disconnected from what I hear on TV and what I see in my day to day.

I hope that you don't see this rambling as a political jab but as young person that is trying to actually make rationally wrestle with life and start conversations that will help to enlighten my thinking.

Justin, I'll do my best to address some of your questions (I don't mean to be officious; I've just struggled with similar ones and have my perspective to offer).

One of Senator Obama's core tenets has been refocusing Americans on our ability to bring about change. He started as a community organizer and knows the power of people giving back to the community (it really can't be stated enough how much volunteering and giving money to your community helps). His change, to me, is that shift away from reliance on government to self-reliance.

And historically, congress has not had such abysmal ratings as it does now. This congress--Republicans and Democrats alike--has failed the American people. It'll be interesting to see how the public reacts when the next congressional election cycles roll around.

I agree, too, that the resilience of the American promise is there. Americans are very resilient people. I think it was that optimism, people remaining hopeful when things have gone to hell, that enabled us to survive the Great Depression.

These are my opinions, too, as a caveat. But they're ones I've rationalized based on similar conversations and trying to view what's going on from multiple perspectives.

Brendyn, thanks so much for your thoughtful response.

I think Senator Obama's core tenet of refocusing American on our ability to bring about change, his time as a community organizer, and his support of volunteerism are very laudable but does that qualify you to be President of the United States or someone who's inspirational?

As I said, he's incredibly charismatic and a one of the most inspirational speakers that I've heard in a long time but you're going to need more then that if you're going to get something done... more then that if you're going to bring together very ideologically separated and very entrenched viewpoints.

When candidates for President, they seem to forget about Congress. Despite popular opinion, the Legislative branch is the most powerful within the federal government and gridlock practically written into the constitution for how Congress is supposed to go about doing this. For a president, we want someone who's going to be able to steer these waters and help get things done.

I too have heard him talk about how we should find our reliance not in government but in each other. I completely 100% agree with this sentiment but I'd encourage you to read his policy book "Change We Can Believe In" ( and then re-ask yourself after reading about 200 pages of detail on government programs whether you still think he believes that we should be first reliant on each other or government.

I will read that. One of the other things I love most about him is his transparency via the Internet.

But, my visceral reaction to your questions regarding his readiness is that who he surrounds himself with is more important than his experience. I firmly believe, based on his nature, that he will have a bipartisan cabinet and won't appoint down party lines.

Character-wise, I believe--looking at the equanimity he's maintained under heavy attack, the choice of a practical vs. flashy VP who fills his biggest gap, how meticulously he's executed his campaign, and how hard he's working to make sure his campaign touches every state, red, blue, in America--he is the best candidate.

I don't think, since the days of Washington, a president has been seen as perfect in the public's eyes. For a lot of people, Obama isn't who they want as the leader of their country and the free world. But, looking at how dedicated he is to hearing all sides of an issue (there are some interesting stories floating around the web told by former colleagues of his at the University of Chicago) and how rational and methodical he is, I have confidence in his ability to represent even those who don't want him where as their President. And I think that's a mark of a strong leader.

There are unknowns about him, I agree. And, purely from a time perspective, McCain bests him. But he studied at Columbia and Harvard, is a trained constitutional scholar, is vocal against the abuse of government power, protests torture, advocates human rights, promotes the use of technology, is consistently levelheaded, and, as you mentioned, is strikingly charismatic, which will play well when diplomacy becomes the foundation of our foreign policies again.

If ever there was a type of leader to invest our American hope and optimism in, isn't he it?

My computer died this weekend, so I haven't been able to jump in here, but I really appreciate this discussion happening here.

Justin, those are good questions. For me, my support of Obama is not about his charisma or message of hope and change--though I enjoy and appreciate both of those. Instead, it's about the issues that are important to me.

You're right that it's difficult for a president to move policy on his or her own, given that we have three separate branches of government working (ideally) to provide checks and balances. But there are certain things a president can do, and that I trust Obama to do better than McCain.

The first is appointing supreme court justices. I don't want someone who's going to use only an ideological litmus test to select justices. I want someone who has knowledge and understanding of the role of the court, and who can be trusted to appoint people with experience and wisdom--on that front, I think Obama will make better choices.

The second is relationships with other countries. Obama is clearly better respected overseas, and I believe that he's less likely to lead us into more active conflicts. McCain strikes me as trigger-happy--both in his storied past and in his current approach to foreign policy.

The third is organizational leadership. As candidates, both McCain and Obama have had to lead massive, well-funded, national organizations through a treacherous campaign landscape for the past two years. They had one major executive discussion to make during that period--the selection of a vice presidential candidate. Obama chose someone with strong experience on the international front, and with national policy. McCain chose someone who can't name a single important supreme court decision other than Roe v Wade, who was unable to name a newspaper or magazine she reads regularly, and who refuses to even hold a press conference despite the fact that she could well be *president* in the next four years. She is the epitome of the worst anti-intellectual sentiments in this country, and there is simply not an argument to be made that she is ready to be president of this country. God forbid anything should happen to McCain after he was elected, we'd have an unmitigated disaster on our hands.

Simply based on their selections of running mates, I think Obama has already shown that he's better able to handle executive decisions and to make them based on a real "country first" approach rather than a false rhetoric.

At the end of the day, I'm not voting personalities for president (which puts me in the minority in this country)--I'm voting policies. And on the issues that are most important to me--net neutrality, privacy, the war in Iraq, the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" (which when used by other countries are generally referred to as "torture"), Obama better reflects my views than McCain.

First off... Liz, I was really hoping that you'd dive in and join this conversation. Would love to hear your thoughts on these issues.

I completely agree that Barack Obama is incredibly book smart. You can't fake your way through Columbia and Harvard. There is no chance I'd ever be able to get into either institution.

But... when you're president of the united states and have a crisis on your hands with the ideological wings of congress firmly standing behind two very different points of view, how is an ivy league education going to help you bring people together? How is that going to help you reach compromise? Spending a lot time reading about great leaders, being able to recite them, and charismatically talk about them, doesn't mean that you are one. We won't know until Obama is sitting in the chair. Till then, we have to look at his past decisions to see what he has done.

I too am confident that Barack will surround himself with very smart and capable advisors but the advisors aren't the ones making the big decisions. Barack will be presented with a lot of very tough choices and have to make a call about what he wants to do. It bothers me that when he was in the Illinois legislature on multiple occasions instead of taking a stand on tough issues... instead of making a call that he believed in but that would potentially make him unpopular with a block of voters in his district, he voted "present"... not taking a stand at all.

I've been really impressed with John McCain because he's got a hard core track record of making decisions he believed that he were unpopular and having a history of working with folks across the aisle and actually getting things accomplished.

For example...
* he broke with his party and voted to confirm Clinton's judicial nominees Breyer and Ginsburg
* he worked with Democratic Senator Feingold on Campaign Finance reform
* he opposed military operations in Somalia, which Clinton supported
* he was a supporter of the Line Item Veto, as a way to overcome useless spending
* McCain sided with Clinton to take on the tobacco industry in support of a federal cigarette tax
* In May 2001, he was one of the only two Senate republicans to vote against Tax cuts
* He stood behind Senator Jim Jeffords decision to become an independent giving Dems control of the senate
* He worked with Democratic Senator (at the time) Joe Lieberman to start the 9/11 commission... if memory serves against the wishes of the Bush Administration
* He worked with Democratic Senator Fritz Hollings to federalize Airport security
* He voted against a second round of Bush tax cuts saying it was unwise at a time of war
* He expressed his lack of confidence in Donald Rumsfeld
* He co-sponsored with Lieberman the Climate Change Stewardship Act
* In May 200, McCain led the so-called "Gang of 14" (Repub and Dems) which established a compromise around the use of the judicial filibuster
* Worked with Ted Kennedy to propose immigration reform
* He sponsored legislation that outlawed the use of torture against detainees, against the Bush administration

Should I go on? And yes, I do have citations for all of these.

So not only has he taken tough stands against popular issues... He also has the ability of bringing people together from both sides of the aisle to actually engage the change with you avidly espouse to what to see happen. If Barack Obama were the next president, would he be able to sit down with the Ted Kennedy's of the Republican party and get a compromise?

The Senate Dems love John McCain so much that both John Kerry and Joe Biden have said that they'd be willing and/or interested in being on a presidential ticket with John McCain.

So... if I were to be of the mind that I want to put my hope and optimism in government, I'm going to bet the on the horse who's got the track record of making it happen... John McCain.

But then as I mentioned before, I don't believe the role of government is to provide hope. I believe its there to protect my freedoms and then get out of the way so that I can live my life. Government can make laws and throw people in jail but it can't change people's hearts. It can't change people's values.

So I support the candidate who's going to protect my personal freedoms and get in my way the least... also, John McCain.

Read Obama's policy book. You'll see all of the very incredibly well intentioned New Deal-style programs that Barack wants to enact which will do nothing but get in my way of living the life that I want to live. It will prevent me from being the change I want to see in the world.

Sorry for the long winded answer. Wanted to do some research before I posted :-)

Four years ago, I told my husband that if John McCain ran for president on the republican ticket, I'd be strongly tempted to vote for him--despite the fact that I've been a lifelong democrat.

That was before he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. That single act was the most politically craven thing I think I've ever seen from a presidential candidate. It deeply weakened my belief that he really would put "country first." Too many vice presidents have suddenly be thrust into the presidency for him--and us--not to consider that possibility.

McCain voted for the Patriot Act, the single most personally intrusive piece of legislation in our lifetimes. I don't believe he'll protect our personal freedoms, and I believe even less that Sarah Palin will do so.

McCain is opposed to governmental action to protect net neutrality--just as he was opposed to governmental regulation of banking.

And McCain's choice of Palin indicates to me that he has moved solidly into the camp that wants government to intrude on a host of private issues--from the choice of who we can marry to the decision that a woman should be able to make about whether or not to have an abortion.

So we're clearly in disagreement about whose policy positions pose a greater risk to personal freedoms. For me, the risk McCain poses to privacy, net neutrality, and woman's right to choose are paramount.

A follow-up on the issue of taking on one's own party...

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