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A 10-Point Primer for Wavering Voters

By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers

October 21, 2008

I've sent the letter below to relatives and friends around the country who I know or suspect still are on the fence or are leaning toward the Republican candidates. You may know friends and kin who likewise are undecided or leaning toward the McCain/Palin ticket, and if you think this list might prove useful in perhaps leading them to vote for Barack Obama, feel free to pass it on.

I do a lot of political writing on the internet and for books, but I don't normally express my political views directly to others outside of my immediate family and intimate circle of friends in the city where I live. But this 2008 presidential election is just too important to America's future to remain silent. Hence, this personal-letter approach. So here it is:

Dear ---------:

I'm hoping that you're considering voting for Senator Obama. I have a number of reservations about some of his policies but I am enthusiastically supporting his candidacy for a variety of reasons, and I think some of them may resonate with you as well:


Obama seems to me to be the more reasonable and stable of the two major candidates, solidly grounded in the values he picked up from his mother, grandmother and other relatives, and from his early community-organizing work. He seems much more connected to ordinary citizens' concerns, because he grew out of the American middle class.

McCain, who has seven homes and thirteen cars, doesn't seem to understand how most Americans struggle economically; in addition, sometimes, especially in the past month or so as he's gotten more desperate, McCain seems less stable, more flaky, and more willing to flirt with those, including his running-mate, who by their incendiary comments wind up inciting violence and hate. (Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited some of these reasons in his full-out endorsement of Obama the other day.)


Obama's views on universal health care seem more inclusive. For example, McCain would grant a health-care tax credit but would make your health-care benefits taxable income; the average family pays $7000 to $12,000 in premiums per year, so you might well wind up losing money. Also more inclusive is Senator Obama's dedication to helping all kids who want to go to college more financial help to do so.

Obama's attitude towards women is much more humane, open, forthright and equitable. McCain voted against equal-pay-for-equal-work bills, called his wife in public the four-letter "c" word, and demeaned women who, out of concern for their own health and survival, opt for terminating pregnancies. In the final debate, McCain suggested that the "health of the mother" (he gave the word "health" a sarcastic spin) was a ruse, not deserving of serious consideration.


Obama would appoint justices to the U.S. Supreme Court based on qualifications and not partisan politics. McCain and Palin both have indicated they would appoint jurists from the far-right wing of the Republican Party. Those appointments could unbalance the court and lock in potentially dangerous precedents for decades to come.

Obama's judicial appointments, he's made clear, would be much less ideologically-based, oriented more toward the mainstream of contemporary jurisprudence.


Obama chose his running mate, Senator Biden, largely because he is ready to step into the presidency based on his 26 years in the U.S. Senate and his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. McCain selected somebody who has admitted she had no idea what the Vice Presidency is all about and, judging from her know-nothing comments about national and foreign-policy experience and knowledge, clearly is unqualified to serve as President should the occasion arise. No wonder the McCain campaign will not let her appear before a news conference where reporters would ask questions.

Obama's choice speaks of competency and solid judgment; McCain's choice reeks of desperation and political gimmickry.


McCain's choice of Palin is not only suspect because of how and why she was selected: namely, to fire up the GOP base and make sure they vote on Election Day, and to lure angry ex-Hillary supporters to the cause. It's that she also brings her extremist politics and her abuse-of-power scandals into the race. It was clear almost immediately after McCain nominated her that Palin was never truly vetted on her background and positions, nor was the McCain staff aware of her inability to respond intelligently to political questions from the national news media.

While Palin continues to dump on Obama for his past ties to ex-radical William Ayers, it's important to remember that Palin and her husband Todd have connections with the extremist, anti-U.S. Alaska Independence Party, which preaches hatred of the federal government and has been advocating for secession from the Union. Todd, until just a few years ago, was a member of the party; Sarah Palin, who attended a state convention of the party but who apparently was not a member, in her role as governor has praised the party and wished it well in fulfilling its aims.

She tried to get books not to her ideological liking removed from the Wasilla library. She is categorically opposed to all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. While she was mayor of Wasilla, she OKd having her administration bill sexual-assault victims as much as $1200 for their rape-kit examinations. The Alaska legislature had to pass a special bill outlawing such mean-spirited billing.

After a lengthy investigation (which Palin tried to stop), the Alaska legislature last week found that Palin, as governor, abused her power by firing state officials who would not support her vendetta against her sister's ex-husband, a state trooper. By doing so, the legislative investigator concluded that she violated the state's ethics laws. She, Todd and numerous other officials time and time again tried to get the trooper fired, even though Palan had been warned that this was inappropriate behavior for a governor.

In short, Sarah Palin might be acceptable for small-town politics, or even as a governor of a tiny-population state, but she's an embarrassment on the national stage, and reflects poorly on McCain's judgment in naming her. It's clear that were something to happen to McCain if he were elected, as President she would be, if it's possible to imagine, even worse than George W. Bush.


Obama would never use war as the first option, but only the last. Obama spoke out against the war on Iraq before it was launched, and supplied prescient warnings for what might happen if the U.S. attacked and occupied the country. McCain voted enthusiastically to authorize that war, and passed on all the lies about the supposed "weapons of mass-destruction" (which didn't exist) and alleged ties of Saddam with the terrorism of 9/11 (which didn't exist).

The U.S. Treasury is shelling out $10billion a month right now for an occupation/war in Iraq that all experts agree cannot be "won" by military force. McCain, still hoping for a military "victory," says we might be there for a hundred years and that that's fine with him. Obama wants to start withdrawing troops over a 16-month period, and putting that $10billion a month to better uses inside our own country.


Our financial system, which was essentially unregulated (thanks largely to Republican ideology), has collapsed, and we are heading into a long recession, which potentially could slide into another Great Depression.

McCain, like Bush, wants to cut taxes for the rich and corporations in an effort to stimulate the economy; Obama seems more willing to grow the economy from the bottom up by creating more jobs, thus keeping the middle-class and poor from the depredations of poverty and hopelessness.


McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam and thus spoke with moral authority, for years led the opposition within the Republican Party to the Bush Administration's torturing of "enemy combatants" in U.S. custody, calling torture illegal and immoral. That is, until McCain was told that position wouldn't go over well with the rightwing GOP base in his race for the presidency. At which point, earlier this year, he flip-flopped to permit the CIA to utilize what is euphemistically referred to as "alternative interrogation techniques" when questioning prisoners in U.S. care, including "waterboarding," i.e. near-drowning. (Neither Obama nor Senator Clinton were in town to vote on the bill.)

Obama, who has taught constitutional law, has been much more forthright in adhering to the moral pronouncements of the Constitution. (But his hands are not totally clean: He caved also when it came to approving of warrantless domestic spying.) Still, overall Obama's defense of civil liberties tends to be much stronger than that expressed by McCain, who is more willing to bend to "military necessity," even if torture is involved.


The Republicans are notorious for their voter-suppression dirty tricks. Terrified of all the new voters who have registered as Democrats, in state after state they have made it more difficult for these voters and others to cast their ballots. In addition, millions nationwide have been "purged" from the voting rolls -- some in mean ways, such as, in Michigan, attempting to remove from voting rolls those who have lost their homes as a result of foreclosures or storm damage and thus had no proof of current residency in their voting precincts. Students were lied to by GOP-friendly registration officials in Virginia, Colorado and South Carolina that they couldn't vote in their college towns if they were still listed as dependents on their parents' tax forms.

Other voters, especially those in minority communities (which, again, are assumed to be more inclined to vote Democratic) are told the wrong date, and the wrong precinct, for the election. Others are warned not to go to the polls if they have any outstanding parking citations as they will be arrested. Last-minute computer-generated "robocalls" go to likely Democratic and Independent voters, filled with outright lies that are impossible to adequately respond to just days before the balloting starts. And so on. Best advice: Don't even listen to last-minute negativity, from any candidate regardless of party. And do not reward those practicing this kind of dirty politics by voting for their candidates. (As I write this, the McCain Campaign has launched robocalls in at least 17 states, which are filled with smears and lies about Obama -- this at the same time that McCain talks about wanting to run a more "civil, positive" campaign.)


As a result of a myriad of GOP/CheneyBush Campaign dirty tricks, it is reliably estimated that the ballots of 3,000,000 voters were not properly counted in the 2004 elections. This altered the tallies just enough in key battleground states to throw the election to Bush, despite exit polls showing that Kerry won handily.

Even eight years after the 2000 vote-counting fiasco in Florida, Ohio and elsewhere, the U.S. continues to avoid dealing seriously with its underlying electoral problems. Vote-tabulation is still outsourced to a handful of private (and in this case Republican-supporting) corporations. They manufacture the voting machines, write and control the secret software that both records the votes and tabulates them later. (Stalin famously said: "It's not who votes that counts, it's who counts the votes.")

One third of the country next month will vote on touch-screen voting machines, which are notoriously unreliable, provide no paper trail for possible recounts, and are easily hackable. (for example, often you vote for your candidate but the name of the opponent is recorded). All votes, whether recorded on a touch-screen or fed into an optical-scanner machine are tabulated by the same Republican-leaning companies that make the machines; the possibility of corrupted totals is built into the system. It has been publicly demonstrated that a company technician or outside hacker can within 45 seconds enter the software, manipulate the vote numbers, and leave no evidence of tampering.

Certainly the Republicans have no desire to alter the current system. Why should they? It works well for them, and they've rarely been charged with crimes in this area. But an Obama/Biden administration and Democratic-controlled Congress might well be more amenable to reforming the electoral process to make it more transparent, less corruptible, less corrupted.

Well, those ten will do for starters. I'm hoping some or all of those reasons will help convince you to consider supporting Senator Obama's candidacy. But if you can't, I'm quite open to hearing from you as to why not.

Finally, please be aware that it's not just lifelong Democrats who are urging support for Senator Obama. Lifelong Republicans, many of them generals and admirals (including Colin Powell), anxious to reshape their party away from its current extreme right-wing focus so that they can win future elections, are abandoning Senator McCain in droves.

Some are doing so because they feel McCain's been a very poor candidate, much too closely tied to the Bush policies with which most Americans disagree, some because they are appalled at his judgment in choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate, someone not even remotely qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

If you are going to be voting for Obama, please consider volunteering to help the campaign in these final weeks. A landslide vote is what's called for to lessen the impact of Republican dirty-tricks and to better ensure that major reforms can be initiated in Washington that will help get our country back on track. Thank you.

All best wishes, Bernie

Copyright 2008 by Bernard Weiner


Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught government & international relations at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor at the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment: crisispapers@comcast.net .

Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances