Both Candidates Suck

In just ten days either Sen. John McCain or Sen. Barack Obama will be elected president of the United States. Of that there can be little doubt. I’m still struggling with a decision on which candidate I’ll vote for because, simply and more coarsely than I generally express myself, both candidates suck.

The case against John McCain is pretty easy to state. First, he’s a Republican and the last eight years of a Republican White House, Senate, and House of Representatives have not covered the GOP with glory. John McCain has not distanced himself enough from George W. Bush and in all fairness it’s darned hard to do so given that John McCain could never have gotten the Republican nomination without voting with his party and the president a good deal of the time.

Second, I am not an interventionist of either the conservative or liberal stamp and he’s too bellicose for me. Sen. McCain’s public statements have left me with the impression that his reflexive, hip-shot response to any foreign policy challenge is the use of force.

Third, John McCain’s executive or managerial experience goes back to his Annapolis training and his experience as a naval officer. It’s something but it’s not the sort of military experience that’s usually considered a credential for the presidency. He’s not a Ulysses Grant or Dwight Eisenhower.

Fourth, his economic reflexes are wrong. He has spent his entire life dependent on government and comes from a family that has done so for generations. He has an unrealistic idea of the power of markets, seeing them where there are no markets.

Finally, I’ve started to question whether John McCain is temperamentally suited for the presidency. I don’t believe that he’s as volatile as his political opponents are painting him but I do think that he has a sort of Top Gun streak to his character.

Don’t take away the impression that I think that Barack Obama is any better. I don’t.

The consolidated case against Barack Obama has been stated pretty well at Hot Air. When stripped of partisan persiflage and guilt by association it can be stated pretty simply.

First, if Sen. Obama’s advice on Iraq had been heeded two years ago it’s my assessment that the world would be worse off than it is now. That cancels out his judment on Iraq of six years ago (which I agreed with). He has repeatedly demonstrated that he’s a foreign policy tyro, from his feckless ideas about trade liberalization, about which the best thing that can be said is that he’s merely being an opportunist, to the dumb policy he’s lurched into and tried to talk his way out of on negotiations with Iran. I also have a concern that a President Obama will be so eager to prove that he’s tough and willing to use force that he’s going to pick the wrong fights.

Second, much of his fiscal and economic philosophy seems to be based on equality of outcome, a notion of fairness which IMO is manifestly unfair.

Third, like Sen. McCain he has never run a business, met a payroll, or had budgetary responsibility. My assessment, based on what we’ve seen in the campaign, is that his management style leaves something to be desired. His subordinates apparently do not have a clear idea of their roles or the position of the campaign on issues and, when they exceed their bounds or their usefulness ends, are cut off too quickly. I have no reason to believe that Sen. Obama has ever taken a course in management, business, or economics.

Fourth, Sen. Obama’s resume is very, very slim. Yes, I’ve read the lists of legislation that he’s authored produced by his supporters. I’m not impressed by proclamations, sense of the house legislation, or bills that were never passed into law. When you exclude those there isn’t a great deal left.

Finally, I don’t have any idea whether Barack Obama has the temperament to make a good president. I don’t know whether he’s able to make difficult unpopular decisions. There’s a difference between a consultant and an executive and, while I’m pretty sure Sen. Obama would make a good consultant, I just can’t tell whether he’s an executive and I think that people who say they know are just engaging in wishful thinking.

I think that both Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain are good, decent, honorable men. I think that they’ve found their milieux in the Senate.

In previous elections when I’ve faced such a situation I’ve sometimes voted for third party candidates to register my lack of support for either major party candidate. The situation today is sufficiently serious that I can’t do that in good conscience.

Illinois will undoubtedly go for Obama and, consequently, my vote doesn’t really matter. That that’s the judgment of the campaigns can be inferred from how few campaign posters I see and how little advertising there is here. I suspect that what television advertising there is is actually meant for Indiana voters. Why waste money, time, or energy on Illinois?

But I take this stuff seriously and it makes a difference to me.

13 comments… add one
  • Brett Link

    One thing that turned me off from McCain was that it struck that he’s kind of like a political “firefighter”. Throughout his career, he’s taken a number of widely varied stances on different issues on different occasions, ranging from immigration to campaign finance. That’s where his “maverick” status comes from.

    The problem is, though, is that he doesn’t seem to have a corresponding, overarching political philosophy or task that defines him and his campaign. Reagan had it, FDR had it, Teddy Roosevelt had it (mostly), and many great Presidents do (other ones have it defined for them, like Abraham Lincoln). He’s like a soldier who has fought in pitched battle after battle, but who has never been a general, or someone who thinks in the overarching strategic concerns.

    That raises the question – do you want a President like that? We already know that McCain can be a bit shoot-from-the-hip.

  • Andy Link


    I agree with your post so much I wish I had written it. I sums up my feelings on the candidates exactly. I really do think you’ve summarized the flaws of each candidate fairly and accurately – better than anyone else I’ve read.

    Unfortunately for me, I’m voting absentee (Florida) and mailed my ballot on Friday to ensure it arrives in time to be counted. I ended up voting for Obama and I’ve been second-guessing the decision ever since.

    Florida has a total of 13 candidates running for President including the two majors. Like you, I’ve voted for third party candidates before and for largely the same reasons. I spent a lot of time researching the alternatives and came to the same conclusion you did. I couldn’t, in good conscience, vote for any of them this year. Bob Barr was perhaps the best possibility (since I have a libertarian streak). It’s really too bad there isn’t a Bloomberg or Perot running this year to shake things up and provide us with another option.

    It was even hard for me to take a “lesser of two evils” justification in my Obama vote. God what an awful election.

  • Katie Link

    Excellent post Dave. I think you pretty much summed up a lot of people’s frustration (?) with the two candidates.

    It’s only a week away from the election and I *still* haven’t made up my mind completely, and I follow political news almost obsessively. Both candidates are pretty darn scary when you think of it, just in different ways. Right now I’m leaning toward Obama mostly because of Sarah Palin, who while I think she’s a pretty good governor, scares the hell out of me when I think of the possibility of her being president.

    Then again, being in Alaska, a vote for the democrat means I might as well stay home on election day! Just the opposite of Illinois.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Well said Dave. My finger drifted over the third-party names on the ballot and I couldn’t see how I could object to say Obama’s experience or either candidate’s ideological quirks and pull the third-party lever.

    I’m about 35% Obama, 30% McCain and 30% no one.

  • Like a former co-blogger of mine, I’m considering sitting this one out: Not voting anyone at the top of the ballot, or else finding a third-party name or a write-in.

    Most of the reasons you list are mine as well. With tweaks for personal differences. I’d also add Obama’s rawness in politics for a different reason: He comes up through the intensely corrupt Chicago machinery. But he’s been chased away from most of it by subsequent revelations. Which means he comes to power with no circle of capable managers. And the Democrats in Congress are not necessarily his Democrats. They will have their own agendas, and after the election, it will show. That means he is likely to govern as Woodrow Wilson did — perhaps the only other man who went so quickly from non-politician to president: By direct appeals to the emotional mass sentiment of America. I don’t look forward to that.

    But what makes me hesitate is 1. that would be the thing I could do that would most please the people I find most dangerous in both parties; 2. I almost did that in 2000, too, and would have ended up voting for Nader (shudder).

    Using PDShaw’s formula, I’m probably a straight 33 across the board.

  • kreiz Link

    Hey, Cal- how’s tricks? Sitting this one out sounds like a winner. Wish I could bring myself do it.

  • Tricks are uglier than treats. The newsroom is in a frothing frenzy over that evil liar hypocrite McCain and that unmentionable (but never-shut-up-about) cartoon character Sarah Palin. I walk through the door every day with the tight grimace of a man walking out into a blizzard. Nobody you know, I guarantee you, looks forward to November 5, 2008, more fervently than I do.

  • Remmington Link

    You should vote for Bob Barr, despite having no chance of actually winning. Both major candidates, Obama and McCain, support enlarging the national debt, enlarging government control, and taking away personal liberties. Bob Barr, a Libertarian, supports smaller government control, as he is the only candidate that does not support the $700 billion bailout bill (which will actually cost tax payers over $1 trillion). I do agree with you, both candidates suck.

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