Friday, August 22, 2008

McCain vs Obama

So who are these guys running for President? Despite a vigorous primary season, voters apparently still don’t know.

From the Wikipedia, John McCain had a mixed college career at the Naval Academy. He apparently was well regarded, sometimes stood up for students being bullied, but also had conflicts with authority and while he worked hard at literature and history, didn’t work as hard at other subjects. He graduated with a low class ranking.

McCain then became a naval aviator. I guess he was somewhat typical as a navy pilot, doing some hard partying apparently. He apparently was not real talented at flying planes off and landing planes on carriers, although he did well enough to have flight status, and that is saying a lot. He was shot down in Vietnam while flying a jet on a ground attack mission (those are the types of missions most likely to be shot down by surface to air missiles). He was injured, taken prisoner and tortured for six months. The Vietnamese then offered to release him, because his father had been made commander of all US forces in Vietnam. It was an offer probably made for propaganda purposes, and McCain refused it, and as a result he remained a POW for a total of five and a half years. As a result of his torure, he is not able to lift his arms above shoulder level today. The quality of resisting authority that he should as a cadet was also one he showed as a POW. It is brave, but kind of questionable in terms of showing judgment.

I am going to leave McCain’s political career and personal life for a different time and glance a bit at Obama. Obama was born in Hawaii (although conservatives like to question that), and spent his first six years there. He then moved with his mom and step dad to Indonesia. He came back to Hawaii for high school, living with his grandparents. I get all this again from the Wikipedia; from there I see no sign that Obama ever lived in Kansas (FWIW). He started college at Occidental college, apparently a small but good liberal arts school. After two years he transferred to Columbia. Anybody he has ever looked at transferring schools knows that the admissions people generally hold you to a higher standard (although Luke Ravenstahl maybe the exception to the rule). So that Obama was able to get into Columbia two years in speaks well of his scholarship. He studied political science with a concentration in international relations there, which may have equipped him better equipped to handle foreign relations than the Republicans have claimed. After graduation, he spent five years out in the working world, a year at a corporation, a year at a public interest group, and then three years at Chicago non-profit. Then he applied to Harvard Law.

I remember reading that Harvard Law gets so many talented applicants that it is not enough to have perfect grades and LSAT’s, you have to be interesting. Well, here was Barack Obama, a mixed race child raised for a while by a single mom, who had lived in Indonesia for a while, and who had worked for non-profits. The thing is, Obama justified the “you have to be interesting” policy. He got elected president of the law review and graduated magna cum laude.

One conservative commenter over at the Burgh Report suggested that Obama had a privileged education. As far as I know, he was not a legacy (unlike the current President) and he paid his own way (thousands of dollars of loans, probably couldn’t even do it today). Now, some say Obama is too good at playing politics. Maybe, but isn’t a pragmatic and smart individual better than someone who fights authority when it would be better in the long run to go along. Do we want someone who might be able to persuade people like Putin that the economic consequences of alienating the west out weigh the domestic (in Russia) benefits of occupying Georgia, or do we want someone who calls him a bully?

I hope Hillary Clinton goes to Texas and Ohio and Pennsylvania, and tells the people who voted for her that Obama is for health care and social security and jobs. Obama is polling behind McCain because some people will seize on any reason not to vote for a black man. But McCain is scary, he has drifted to the right (instead of to the center) and it also appears his mental faculties may be showing signs of impairment.

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