Monday, September 24, 2012

2012 Election Primer: Obama and Romney

Obama and Romney (Politico)
So after a bunch of requests (read: 3) to write up an election primer, I decided that it is time to give the people what they want: to know what a random 20-something in New York who thinks he knows more than he does feels is the best candidate to cast your ballot for in November.

I began this election season promising myself that I would vote for neither candidate and instead write someone in. President Obama, in my opinion (and I can't explain to you the amount of flak I've received for this) has been an underwhelming president when compared to the candidate he was in 2008. And that last sentence fragment is important: when compared to the candidate he was in 2008. All in all, Obama's done some good things domestically (repealing DADT, his better-late-than-never support of marriage equality, healthcare reform).

That's only one side of the coin, however. I've chronicled my disappointment with President Obama numerous times on this blog (here, here, and here to begin with). One thing that you'll notice about those articles (and most of my gripes about Obama) is that his foreign policy is, in a word, horrible. It is unfathomable to me that those who derided Bush's war mongering will defend Obama for 2012.

Obama is leading this country in the wrong direction, but not in the way that Fox News would have you believe. Precedents are being set in the Obama White House that could have dire consequences down the road.

For one, take the drone program (a program that is technically entirely classified). We have drones flying over many countries - countries with whom we are at war and countries with whom we are not at war. This sets a serious precedent for other countries who may want to fly drones over the United States when they get the same technology we currently have.

Moving beyond the precedent it sets, however, is the diplomatic damage that drone strikes carry given their civilian casualties. We conduct drone operations in countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia; countries we are not at war with. This comes back to the precedent setting: can you imagine if Islamabad began flying drones, making strikes and killing American civilians?

A drone equipped with weapons and a camera (Wired)
But it's not only about the drones. It's about extralegal killings of American citizens in non-war zones. It's about a dubiously legal "kill list," despite a longstanding executive order against such assassinations. It's about not closing what will certainly be viewed as a black-eye on this nation in the form of Guantanamo.

Going back to precedents, Obama seems to be making the same, if not similar, mistakes his predecessors made in Afghanistan. During the Libya non-war, I decried the support for the untrained rebels fighting Colonel Qaddafi. Throwing supplies and intel at a group not ready for it is not good foreign policy. In fact, when I heard that the attack on the late Ambassador Chris Stevens was coordinated I wondered if any of the attackers were former Libyan rebels who had received training or materiel from the U.S. or other NATO nations. We've seen similar problems with green on blue attacks in Afghanistan in which US-trained Afghan forces attack US soldiers.

It is for these reasons that I simply felt that I could not vote for Barack Obama come November. That view is beginning to change, however, and it has nothing to do with anything Obama is doing.

I knew I was not going to vote for the Republican candidate no matter who it was. The post-Reagan conservative is simply too beholden to the religious right (cue the famous Barry Goldwater quote). You look at candidates like Rick Santorum or Rick Perry and you shake your head wondering what has happened to the Republican Party.

Now, Mitt Romney would appear to be the most palatable of the Republican candidates. Having lived in Massachusetts while he was governor and seeing the good things he did during that time (near-universal healthcare, turning around a large deficit), I have been amazed to see Romney backtrack from his accomplishments. In 2008 I asked a good friend his opinion of Romney and he replied that he was spineless and would say anything to get elected. His prescient statement has more than proven true.

We could get into the issues with Romney, but one problem is I simply don't know where he stands on anything. It changes so frequently that it makes Obama's flip-flop on gay marriage look like, well, evolution. Romney simply cannot choose one side of a position and keep it.

One thing I like in a president is transparency (this is another arena in which I've been disappointed with the Obama administration). Needless to say, the fact that Romney refuses to release his tax returns (a tradition started by his own father, to boot) does not sit well. The fact that he and his campaign allowed it to become a months-long campaign issue indicates to me that whatever he wanted to hide in the returns was worth hiding.

I was never going to cast my vote for Romney; that was decided well before he won the Republican nomination. But what Romney has done through his ridiculous missteps - the Egypt and Libya embassy attacks statement, the utter lack of specifics in any of his policy, the 47% irrationale - has made me so angry that I might actually vote for Obama out of spite for Romney. Romney's seeming ineptitude has moved me in such a way that I might actually vote for a president who I think is setting this country up for a very difficult foreign policy environment in the near and long-term future.

So to sum it up: I do not want to vote for Obama, but if voting for neither candidate would give Romney any kind of advantage (no matter how small) it actually may be irresponsible of me, given my worldview, to not vote Obama in November. I felt that the 2008 election was the first one in a while that gave the American people a chance to actually vote for a quality candidate, as opposed to the lesser of the two evils. And I maintain that Obama was a good candidate; he just could not live up to that candidate as president. This election will definitely fall into the "lesser of two evils category." I'm just angry that Romney's horrendous campaign may actually force me to choose one.

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