09/22/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why We Can't Afford a McCain Presidency

Let's see now, John McCain doesn't know the difference between Shi'a and Sunni, refers to a non-existent "Iraq-Pakistan border," believes that Iran trains Al Qaida terrorists (Bin Laden's Al Qaida is Sunni; the vast majority of Iran is Shi'a, less than 10% are Sunni), and doesn't know how many homes he and his wife own. That's scary.

The real problem is that McCain really does sometimes appear to be clueless. But not to worry, his handlers will reassure us, there's no need for him to be bothered with details: He will pick a running mate who be on top of the facts, just like Dick Cheney. Except for the homes. Cindy McCain keeps tabs on them. After all, they're really hers. She's the beer heiress who inherited millions. She bought the homes and pays for them. McCain just lives there.

It's easy to understand why McCain doesn't want to discuss his wealth, since it's not really his. Barack Obama bought his and Michelle's home with money he earned from books he wrote. McCain benefits greatly from his wife's inherited fortune, estimated at around $100 million. There's nothing wrong with marrying a wealthy spouse, but it does suggest (scream?) elitism. Remember all those Republican demands four years ago that Teresa Heinz Kerry disclose her assets and tax returns? Somehow, the GOP doesn't seem inclined to hold Cindy McCain to the same standards.

McCain is not the only one in his crowd who has a problem with inconvenient facts. Look at Giuliani's performance at a hastily called telephonic press conference to attack Daniel Kurtzer, a highly respected former United States Ambassador to both Egypt (appointed by Bill Clinton) and Israel (appointed by George W. Bush), who visited Syria as a member of an American Bar Association delegation. No matter that Kurtzer was not there on behalf of any political campaign, and that prominent Republicans like Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter have also visited Syria . The GOP attack machine won't pass up any opportunity to smear anyone who supports Barack Obama. But what Giuliani wasn't counting on was a reporter from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency who would dare ask him, America 's Mayor (and pal of the disgraced Bernard Kerik, erstwhile Senior Vice President at Giuliani Partners and Chief Executive Officer of Giuliani-Kerik LLC, an arm of Giuliani Partners) about his own associations. Question: Had Giuliani ever "represented Saudi Arabia 's oil ministry in a Texas court case?" Giuliani's answer: "I never represented Saudi Arabia . I've never been to Saudi Arabia ."

Actually, in March of 2007, according to a May 15, 2007 AP story, the Bracewell & Giuliani, the law firm of which Rudy is a name partner, "filed papers in a Texas case on behalf of Saudi Arabia's oil ministry -- taking sides with another energy giant, Citgo, which is controlled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a Bush administration critic."

So which is it? Did Rudy's law firm act for the Saudi oil ministry or didn't it? If it did, then Rudy, as a partner of the firm, represented Saudi Arabia . And the Republican solution to pesky questions by reporter Ron Kampeas? Disconnect him from the press conference. Yup, that's the Rudy we New Yorkers remember.

So where does that leave us on the eve of the conventions? We have two very different candidates - one is thoughtful, deliberate, and forward looking; the other sees the world through the prism of his experiences in Viet Nam more than 35 years ago. One understands the problems of the 21st Century; the other seems nostalgic for an age when most Americans were not yet born. One is sensitive to the complexities of the world we live in; the other evokes all the jingoism of the Cold War. One believes that earning $250,000 a year makes you well off; the other thinks that you need $5 million to be "rich." One understands that addressing our economic and energy problems will require hard work; the other relies on advisors like Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman who whispers foreign policy corrections in his ear, or former Texas Senator Phil Gramm who believes that we are in the midst of a "mental recession."

All in all, it's really a simple choice. If you're a multi-millionaire or billionaire and all you care about is preserving what you have, you're likely to want a third Bush term. If, on the other hand, you worry about the future, you know that maintaining the status quo is a recipe for disaster. If you want a President who knows what he is talking about, and who doesn't need his staff to tell him how many houses he owns, you won't vote for the candidate of yesteryear. If you want more Supreme Court justices like Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, by all means, vote for McCain; but if you want to preserve our civil rights and liberties, if you do not want Roe v. Wade overturned at the first opportunity, you know that Barack Obama is your only viable option.

Menachem Rosensaft is a lawyer in New York City.