I’ve been following the Chicago Tribune editorial board’s presidential election endorsements since 1988, when I was but a child. (Ahem.) Until this year, the quadrennial October endorsement for president was little more than a rubber stamp for the Republican candidate or incumbent, who was “Bush” in four of the last five elections. The natives—the Tribune’s loyal readership—became increasingly restless over the last few years, and in 2004 their anger boiled over, bashing the Tribune with cancelled subscriptions and complaints that the board should not endorse candidates at all, especially candidates for president. The Republican endorsement had become so predictable and automatic I was tempted to agree with such arguments. The only side benefit to the endorsement was what transpired when the Tribune’s endorsee was actually elected. The board then spent the president’s entire term criticizing him. That didn’t seem to make much sense, but the centrist board considered both Bushes to be extreme disappointments.
After encouraging Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill.) to run, the board probably would have felt uncomfortable turning its collective back on a candidate it had long supported. I am surprised it seems to be comfortable with Obama’s experience and how he would apply that experience to the Oval Office. Did the editorial even mention terrorism? If not, it shares that sentiment with voters, only 4% of whom consider terrorism a serious problem. (How idyllic.) I believe one of Sen. John McCain’s (R.-Ariz.) best attributes is that if our country suffered another large-scale terrorist attack during a McCain Administration, the president would know what to do. I can’t be so sure of his opponent. Instead, the editorial board focused on McCain’s choice of Gov. Sarah Palin (R.-Alaska), who comes across as untested, unprepared, and as far as Troopergate goes, a wee bit sleazy. I strongly believe that the vice presidential choice is the most important decision for a presidential candidate. How he handles it goes straight to his character and judgment. Is his choice a seasoned veteran of politics capable of handling the presidency (Biden, Gore, George H.W. Bush)? Or is s/he a political neophyte and intellectual lightweight, chosen in hopes of currying favor with white female voters (Quayle, Palin)? It’s a critical distinction when one considers the consequences of a poor choice if that vice president does indeed take over, G-d forbid.
When predicting probabilities, a coin flip or roulette wheel spin is considered an “independent event”: the next event is not affected by the previous event(s). A blackjack hand, however, is affected by previous hands, as a deck loaded with 10’s and face cards favors the player. Conservative radio talk show host Michael Medved seems to think vice presidential succession is like blackjack. In a July sequence surprising for its poor taste, Medved said he thought Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-Ill.; I mean, D.-N.Y.) would take the v.p. offer from Obama because it’s been 34 years since a vice president has taken over the presidency, and “Something bad is bound to happen.” The average time between vice presidential takeovers is only 11 years. So Medved thinks the event of a vice president assuming the presidency (other than via election) is long overdue. Is that like betting on “00” in roulette? For everyone’s sake, let’s hope he is wrong.
I still think McCain would be better for America than Obama for a number of reasons. I’m disappointed that he has come across this month as angry and whiny rather than the elder statesman he is and should exemplify. I was initially very pleased at his pick for vice president mainly because Gov. Palin was not former Gov. Mitt Romney (R.-Olympics). I can’t stand Romney. I know he is going to run for president in the first election that McCain does not run (looks like 2012), and I didn’t want him to have the inside track of the vice president’s office. Many of us recall that Vice President George H.W. Bush effectively used his office to spend four years running for president, achieving his goal in 1988. He never should have been president, and neither should Romney. Back to Palin: so I was delighted her first name wasn’t “Mitt.” But as a political cartoonist cleverly put it, portraying her as a flower, “The bloom is off the rose.” I am pro-choice but understand and respect her “no exceptions” anti-abortion view. If abortion is murder, then it’s murder regardless of the circumstances surrounding conception. I just wish she had articulated her position better for Katie Couric. Here is where Gov. Palin and I part ways:
· Shooting wolves from helicopters. I’m against it.
· ANWAR. I agree with Sen. McCain and the oil companies, which don’t want to drill in ANWAR anyway.
· Inhaling congressional pork courtesy of the taxpayers of the Lower 48. I’m against it, and I deeply resent it. Pioneers? Hardly. Those Alaskans are living off federal government largesse while complaining about government intrusion. That’s not Alaskan. That’s Southern.
· Bridge to Nowhere. I was always against it. Gov. Palin was for it before she realized it was politically untenable. Then she was against it and lied about her position, claiming she was always against it. In fact she lied to the American people about it in her Sept. 3 Republican National Convention speech and for several weeks thereafter on the campaign trail. I find that dishonesty aggravating and irritating. She could have told the speechwriter when she first saw the speech, “Oh, no, that’s not true. I’m not going to lie up there.”
I’m a big fan of admitting mistakes, apologizing, and moving past them. After the Bridge to Nowhere and Troopergate, Gov. Palin seems to be a big fan of cover-ups. That’s a shame. How Nixonian!
In October, 2004, I carpooled to Madison, Wis., to see a rally featuring Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.), Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl with a group that included a guy who insisted the polls weren’t counting all the young voters. There was going to be a surge on Election Day, he believed, that would push Kerry over the top. I’m sorry that he was wrong. Either the current polls are very, very wrong, or we can start planning the Obama victory party in Chicago on Election Night. The polls won’t swing six points in two weeks.