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President Obama


On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama and Joe Biden will be elected president and vice president of the United States. On Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009, Senator Obama will become the nation's 44th president. The victory of Senators Obama and Biden will also see the Democratic Party win decisive margins in both the House and Senate.

Normally I don't believe unitary government is healthy for a republic, but given the extraordinary challenges confronting America after eight years of the Bush Administration, an unwavering and resolute political effort will be essential to fix the staggering problems we face -- and even then there's no certainty of success.

The nation is in crisis and it happened on George W. Bush's watch. Even in a country of the casually observant, people know something is terribly amiss.

Is it wholly George W's and the Republican's fault? No, the Democrats are not blameless, but the greatest blame lies with this president and his party on Capitol Hill, the party that controlled Congress six of the past eight-years.

From Iraq to Afghanistan, from Katrina to America's crumbling infrastructure, from the fall of Wall Street to the collapse of capitalism as we know it, and other failures beyond counting, George W. Bush will go home to Crawford, Texas (or maybe Dallas, but do we care?).

On the day of Barack Obama's inauguration former president Bush's plane will lift off the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base in the nation's capital and follow the sun west to Texas; his eight-years mercifully over. But as he goes home he leaves behind a dark legacy; for the odds are strong he will end his second term the most unpopular president ever.

The pages of history reverberate with the evil doings of evil men, the consequences of their rule writ large in blood, death and destruction. George W. Bush is not evil, but his presidency has cost America enormously -- so good or bad man, the consequence are the same.

Bush's presidency will be defined by the war in Iraq. Since it began in '03 America's treasury has been depleted by more than $738,000,000,000 (at year's end). But misspent treasure matters little when weighed against the number of Americans killed in battle -- 4,667. In addition, 31,863 of our soldiers have been seriously wounded in action -- and will bear the scars of battle, in both body and soul, for the rest of their lives.

But if you're a person of conscience, if you believe God created all men and women equal and loves them equally (as the Christian New Testament affirms), you cannot allow the 687,079 dead civilians and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to escape your conscience, for it should weigh heavily upon the hearts and minds of all decent Americans.

But while its' okay to hate what's happened to the land we love, it's not okay to hate George W. Bush. Each of us share some blame for what's happened, because -- and here's the hard, unforgiving truth -- too many of us stood by and watched it happen -- and we did so in silence. Or, as Pogo put it, "We've met the enemy... and he is us."

A democratic society requires citizen involvement. Its vitality is dependent upon that involvement; and when, as happened four-years ago, 100 million Americans of eligible voting age did not vote, George W. Bush happens; war happens; death and destruction happens; loss of respect in the world happens; a grave economic crisis happens.

But there's a general assessment of blame, and there's a specific assessment -- and in that regard John McCain is hardly blameless.

In a desperate attempt to turn the election his way, an election he's clearly losing, McCain has been asking, "Who is Barack Obama?" But the more important question is, "Who is the real John McCain?"

In the 2000 presidential primaries, in the face of a vile campaign against him in South Carolina by Bush's political operatives, McCain admirably said he would not take the "low road to high office." He evidenced then an independence of spirit many found attractive, Democrats and independents among them. But that was then and this is now and this John McCain is not the man we thought he was.

There was a time, before St. Paul and the Republican National Convention, when McCain was the political figure most adored by the national media -- yes, that media, the "liberal media elite." But the McCain who emerged after St. Paul is not the same person the media once knew, respected, and yes, even loved -- the John McCain of the "straight talk express."

He began to lose the media with his choice of Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate, a person singularly unprepared to be president of the United States, which is really the only job requirement of a vice president, as Colin Powell pointed out when he endorsed Obama on "Meet the Press." But it wasn't just Palin's selection that raised doubts in the media's mind about McCain, but his innuendos about race and terrorists and Muslims -- all intended to question, with barely disguised subtly, Barack Obama's patriotism -- and thereby his unfitness for the highest office in the land.

But while those innuendos and Palin's appalling attacks on the character of Obama, "He pals around with terrorists", may have satisfied the hard core, right wing, fundamentalist base of what's left of the Republican Party, it did not impress the rest of America. And those two factors, Palin's selection and McCain's unmasking by John McCain, will results in an Obama/Biden victory.

Søren Kierkegaard wrote, "There comes a midnight hour when every man must unmask." But McCain's unmasking took place at high noon, in full view of the American electorate. It was sad and disheartening, and, in the end, tragic. For no decent person takes pleasure in the decomposing of an American hero.

Finally, if the choice Election Day were still unclear to me, if I were still undecided between Senators McCain and Obama, if I thought both men could govern effectively, what would I do? I would vote for Barack Obama (but you already knew that).

Here's why:

However slight his political resume versus McCain, on the defining issue of their political careers, the war in Iraq, it is the rookie senator from Illinois who opposed it (two years before his election to the U.S. Senate), and the veteran senator from Arizona who wanted it. On the most disastrous military/foreign policy blunder of our lifetime Barack Obama was right and John McCain was wrong. That speaks to judgment, profound judgment, moral judgment -- and Obama was right.

On the second defining issue separating McCain and Obama there is the matter of their choices for vice president. Obama evidenced wisdom in choosing Joe Biden, one of the ablest of U.S. senators, while McCain chose Sarah Palin, an unknown governor from Alaska. McCain could have chosen senators Olympia Snowe of Maine or Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas, or ex-Pennsylvania governor and -Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge, individuals with impressive political histories, but instead, for reasons apparently only McCain understands, because his best friends have yet to figure it out, he chose Palin.

Even if John McCain had been right about everything else, his selection of Palin makes him unfit to be president. He said often during this campaign that he always puts America's interest above his own, but the choice of Palin argues otherwise. And, in what will one day be seen as the ultimate in political irony, McCain's pick of Palin secured the presidency for Obama. It also did something else: it means that for the next four years Sarah Palin will be the face of the Republican Party in America.

There are other major issues dividing McCain and Obama, issues involving foreign policy, the restoration of civil liberties, the crash of Wall Street and the reverberations on Main Street, immigration, health care, education, the need to restore America's collapsing infrastructure, and, not least, equitable tax reform. (McCain loses big on that because he intends to continue Bush's tax cuts, which overwhelmingly have benefited the wealthy while gutting the middle class, whereas Obama promises tax relief for 95 percent of Americans).

But, assuming as I do, that you have been paying attention to this very long presidential campaign, the issues that divide McCain and Obama are well known to you. Therefore, I choose to close by citing an issue you may not have considered.

Here it is:

The Civil War may have ended at the courthouse in Appomattox, but race still stains our land. One hundred and forty-three years after General Lee surrendered to General Grant, many black Americans remain alienated from the country they love. The election of a black man to the nation's highest office won't cleanse the stain nor absolve the alienation, but more than any other event it will help redeem our history; it will change the United States of America -- forever!

Maybe that is what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned when he stood that epic day on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., when he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Remember what he said:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character...

With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together...to stand up for freedom together....

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring...."

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Dr. King's speech that day, when he spoke with such eloquence and power of his dream and the dreams of many people in this country, black and white together, stands as one of the most memorable ever delivered in our history. The election of Barack Obama will represent a profound step towards the fulfillment of Dr. King's dream.

On Election Day, therefore, we have a chance to set a new course for America, to reclaim our greatness, and to once more win the admiration of people the wide world over -- and that's why November 4 a majority of voters will elect Barack Obama our 44th president.

George Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader. He can be reached at: gmitro35 AT gmail.com