For eight years now, the overarching strategy of Bush and Cheney has been to condescendingly bludgeon the public, the world and even members of their own administration with the notion that "you're either with us or you're against us." There has been no room for questioning or discussion, no transparency and no room for dissenting opinion. Any administration official (however highly credentialed) who voiced an alternative point of view was either marginalized or kicked out and became the focus of a campaign to discredit them (Powell? O'Neil? McClellan?). And where exactly has that gotten us?
We are more divided and polarized as a country than we have ever been, the gap between the "haves and the have-nots" is greater than any time in recent memory and we are mired in two wars without a clear exit plan. Our economy is in shambles, we have tens of millions without health insurance, our deficit is astronomical, our environment is in jeopardy and our respect in the world is pathetic. And while China, India, Korea and other so-called "developing" countries are teaching nanotechnology to their second graders, we have gone back to debating evolution in high schools and are overly focused on "pressing" issues like abortion. So last night's debate should have been a real eye opener about which candidate will lead us into the future with a clear change in philosophy and direction. The one who actually has a vision for our country.
During last night's first debate, Senator McCain constantly chided Senator Obama, saying he "just [didn't] understand", was at times bordering on rude and tried to paint Obama as naïve and inexperienced. McCain never once looked Obama in the eye (or that of the viewing audience for that matter) and appeared bothered by the sheer audacity of this newcomer in thinking he had the standing to question any of McCain's actions or opinions. Sound familiar? By contrast, Obama was gracious, took the opportunity to show where the two had common ground by saying he agreed with McCain on several points and demonstrated that he would be a president who wouldn't attack just for the sake of attacking, but would instead work to bring people together to solve problems. In this case, style is substance. Something we desperately need after eight years of being lied to, divided and conquered, pillaged, and gridlocked. Real change where we wipe the slate clean and "throw the bums out".
One definition of "insanity" (widely credited to Einstein) is "doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different result." If after witnessing the debate last night, the people of this country do not elect Barack Obama as our next president after eight horrific years of Bush/Cheney, then I fear that we, as a nation, will have gone truly and perhaps irreversibly insane.
That said, I am hopeful that we have finally reached the breaking point, where enough people in this country are awakening from their slumber, discovering that they have been misled by people who do not really care about their best interests, merely their own. And last night they saw, in a side-by-side comparison, that John McCain is just more of the same thing from the same party and people who created all of the damage in the first place. Arrogance coupled with disdain for those who would question them or suggest a different path; their "my way or the highway" mentality.
For those who do not yet fully grasp how necessary this change is, imagine the day early next year when Barack Obama walks into the United Nations and says to the world, as promised: "America's back." In the next 40 days, we need to do all we can to make that day a reality because the stakes for our and our children's future, and that of our nation are just much too high for the alternative.