I’ve gotten quite a few emails and blog comments lately expressing frustration or disappointment or outrage that I haven’t attacked the Obama campaign with the same frequency or thoroughness that I’ve gone after McCain. Of course, when I do attack Obama, I get email accusing me of being in the tank for McCain. But I won’t feign balance, here. I have been far more critical of McCain than I have Obama. No question.
One reason is that I’ve found McCain’s campaign to be nastier, more blatantly dishonest, and more insulting to the collective intelligence than the Obama campaign. When I see Obama campaign commercials lamenting that women make only 70 cents on the dollar of what men make, or that “all of our jobs are going oveseas,” I roll my eyes. But though Obama may be wrong, I at least think he believes his own bullshit. That isn’t nearly as insulting to my intelligence as claiming that because a mostly barren corner of Russia can be seen from a remote Alaskan island, Sarah Palin has the foreign policy cred to be president, or that she’s the foremost expert on energy in the country.
The people angry by my disproportionate attention to McCain’s campaign, though, mostly accuse me of being biased, to which I can only say . . . yes, I am. I don’t think I’ve ever really pretended otherwise. I’ve made it clear on this site that (1) I plan to vote for Bob Barr, and (2) I hope the Republicans get clobbered next month. I am very clearly biased. And not in favor of Obama so much as against McCain. I make no pretense to objectivity.
I’m not sure why, but I guess some people think that in order to prove my libertarian bona fides, I have to have an equal number of posts critical of or supportive of each campaign. I’m not USA Today. You’re reading the very opinionated blog of an openly opinionated journalist.
Obama is a seriously flawed candidate. And yes, Obama united with a Democratic Congress is a scary proposition. But on the issues I cover and that I think are most important this election, Obama is clearly the better choice. Will he disappoint, even on those issues? Almost assuredly.
But we’ve had eight years of a GOP administration, and before that eight years of a mostly GOP Congress. The result has been an explosion in the growth of government that by every measure has been the largest since at least the Johnson administration, and by some measures since FDR. I see no reason why a McCain administration would be any different, particularly given that he has made bipartisanship and deal-making the hallmark of his career (and let’s face it, “bipartisanship” is rarely a case where the parties come together to shrink the government–it almost always results in more government). In other words, the GOP has consistently been worse than the Dems even on the issues where they’re supposed to be better.
The only issue where I’m relatively confident McCain would be preferable to Obama is trade. From taxes to regulation to growth of government–on every other fiscal issue–McCain’s better only on the margins, if at all. This is the guy who teamed up with Ted Kennedy to expand federal coverage of children’s health insurance, who co-authored the worst attack on the First Amendment in my lifetime, and who once tried to ban mixed marital arts because he thought it was icky. There’s nothing in McCain’s record that suggests he’d be any better at promoting limited government policies than Bush. And Bush has been dreadful. I never thought I’d be nostalgic for Bill Clinton.
On criminal justice issues, Obama has at least expressed concern about the soaring incarceration rate, has promised to end federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, and come out in opposition to mandatory minimums for nonviolent crimes. Even here, he’s far from perfect (as I’ll explain in an upcoming article for Slate).
Obama has also been critical of president Bush’s expansive view of executive power, his contempt for the separation of powers, and his rather callous treatment of civil liberties in wartime. Obama is also far less likely to get us bogged down in another pointless war. Oh, and he so far has managed to avoid making light of dropping bombs on another country.
Is Obama perfect on these issues? Not at all. He’s not even good on most of them. But again, he’s far better on them than McCain. Moreover, a thorough rebuke at the polls would also go along way toward diminishing the influence of neoconservatives and “national greatness” types from the GOP. The Weekly Standard crowd has been pushing McCain for the presidency since 2000. A McCain victory would give them a firmer grip on power than they already have, and only bolster their influence. A resounding McCain defeat would (hopefully) return the neocons to ivory towers and their offices at AEI, while reacquainting the GOP with its limited government roots. The neocon ascendancy has basically muted the Reagan-Goldwater wing of the GOP. Look at the op-ed pages of the two most influential papers in America–the New York Times and the Washington Post. Who’s still articulating the limited government position? As far as I can tell, only George Will. Maybe Anne Applebaum, but she rarely writes on domestic issues. Every other “right” oriented columnist is a big-government conservative, including Michael Gerson, Charles Krauthammer, David Brooks, William Kristol, and the middle-right Fareed Zakaria.
I don’t think I’ve ever indicated that Obama would be good for libertarians or for limited government. I have no illusions about that. I just happen to think McCain would be a hell of a lot worse.
If that means I don’t fit your definition of a libertarian, or makes you never want to visit my site again, so be it. But spare me the comments and emails explaining how disappointed you are in me. A few of you are also treading perilously close to the line between critical and abusive. I realize tensions run high around the election, but I’m going to start deleting gratuitously insulting comments, and banning the people who write them.
The good news is, I’ve been impressed with Bob Barr, particularly his performance at the reason event a few weeks ago, where he responded in real time to the questions and answers at the first presidential debate. It’s the first time I’ll be voting in favor of a candidate for president instead of voting against all the others.