- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 28, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Few doubt Barack Obama’s considerable abilities. For many, he represents a final, healing chapter in the nation’s long battle for civil rights. And he epitomizes the dreams of many African Americans who identify with him as Catholics did with John F. Kennedy - add to that his confident speeches, his charisma and his charm.

We would urge our readers to step back from the polls and press coverage, and soberly weigh the experiences and stands of Mr.Obama and John McCain.

Experience. We do not hold Mr. Obama’s lack of national experience against him. Abraham Lincoln was one of America’s greatest presidents and yet he never served in the Army or Navy, and he sat for only a single term in the federal legislature. What concerns us is the kind of experience that Mr. Obama has had. Throughout his adult life, he has sat at a law-professor’s desk or a committee table. Never has the mantle of responsibility weighed on his shoulders alone. He has never run a city, a business or even a government agency. As Joe Biden reminds us: “The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training.”

Mr. Obama has never had the kind of heartbreaking failure that steels leaders. Instead, others have cleared his path, from changing the rules for electing the president of the Harvard Law Review to wiping the names of rivals off the ballot in his first state Senate race. He has always enjoyed the hoist of a friendly press and benefited from rivals reluctant to fault him. Is he ready to lead when people or events turn against him and he alone must decide among a cacophony of advice?

By contrast, Mr. McCain’s experience is impressive. In the Navy, he commanded pilots amid the boom of enemy guns and, as a prisoner, suffered five years of torture and trial that would wreck a lesser man. As a leader, he has bucked president and party while reaching out to old enemies, like Vietnam and Sen.Ted Kennedy.

On immigration, campaign-finance, global warming and other issues, we have profoundly disagreed with the Arizona senator. But in his 21 years in the Senate, we have seen a leader emerge who is not guided by the polls but who is informed by his critics. That is a rare and valuable combination of experience in any leader.

Now let’s turn to the philosophies of these candidates for the nation’s highest and hardest office.

Taxes. Mr. Obama has candidly promised to raise taxes, which can only wound our ailing economy. He says he will increase taxes only for those making more than $250,000 per year. Few have noticed that the $250,000 he cites seems to be gross household income. So two married senior civil servants could be considered rich and taxed accordingly. Or a dry-cleaner married to a school teacher. Or you. And, of course, “soaking the rich” means that we will all get wet. Mr. Obama’s Social Security plan calls for higher taxes on everyone making more than $97,000 per year. And, of course, he favors letting the Bush tax cuts expire - raising taxes across the board. Despite Mr. Obama’s talk, he considers every one not receiving a handout to be a target for taxation.

Mr. McCain opposes higher taxes.

Spending. The budget deficit has all but vanished as a political issue. The Republican-led Congress arrested it in the Clinton years and let it out on parole in the Bush years. Now the Democrat-led Congress is outspending the feckless Republicans. Public anger is beginning to build again. Mr. Obama plans nearly $5 trillion in new spending, if you add all his far-flung promises. Five trillion dollars is a pillar of dollars 335,000 miles high. (By contrast, the moon is 247,000 miles away.) Boosting deficit spending will only strangle economic growth, deflate the dollar and put future generations in debt to foreign central banks that are venturesome enough to buy American treasury bills.

Mr. McCain has vowed to cut spending over the next four years - a step in the right direction.

Supreme Court. Court watchers expect the next president to name two nominees to the high court. The judicial philosophy of those appointees will shape America for decades to come. Mr. Obama will almost certainly nominate jurists who will sweep away the laws of elected legislatures and results of popular referenda in order to serve the interests and policy preferences of a rarefied liberal faction. And we know that Mr. McCain will not appoint such judges.

War on terror. American intelligence agents and commandoes have killed or captured more than 5,000 al Qaeda terrorists in 102 countries since the September 11 attacks. The homeland has not been attacked since 2001. Only a vigorous effort can keep terrorists at bay. Mr. Obama has faulted the Bush administration and seems to favor the lawyerly approach of the Clinton years, which led to attacks on our embassies, military bases, warships and finally our skyscrapers. Mr. McCain understands that public safety is one part of the Bush legacy worth keeping.

Iraq. Tellingly, Mr. Obama talks about “ending” the war, not winning it. America has defeated insurgencies before (such as in the Moros) and is prevailing now in Iraq. Yet, Mr. Obama has not retreated from his view that America must withdraw in 16 months, with the advice of his generals. Withdrawal timetables usually increase violence, as the Soviets learned when they announced that they would leave Afghanistan in one year. 1988-89 proved to be among the deadliest 12 months of the Afghan-Soviet war. Withdrawal dates only embolden our enemies and risk American lives. Mr. Obama’s timetable in Iraq seems imprudent and dangerous.

Israel and Iran. Mr. Obama says he supports Israel while pledging to meet with Iran “without preconditions.” Yet, Iran is a nation that has sworn to “wipe Israel off the map.” Iran’s vast nuclear program sprawls over 24 sites and consumes tens of thousands of man-hours per year. The progress of its long-range missile program continues to astound intelligence officers. Mr. Obama has offered no serious plan to meet the Iranian threat. Instead, he calls for a renewed commitment to “multilateralism,” which is a continuation of a failed Bush policy. Israel is our strongest democratic ally in the Middle East. Israelis and the many American citizens who live among them - as well as approximately 300,000 American soldiers and contractors living within missile range - have real reason to fear that Mr. Obama’s inaction could lead to tragedy. That’s why the Jewish Press and other pro-Israel publications have endorsed Mr. McCain.

Gun rights. While Mr. Obama said he supports the Second Amendment, the National Rifle Association predicts that he will be “the most anti-gun president in American history.” In an April 2008 mailer, Sen. Hillary Clinton said largely the same thing. Mr. Obama supported the D.C. gun ban, which the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional; he favors increasing federal excise taxes on guns and ammunition by 500 percent; and, in 1996, he endorsed a complete ban on handguns in Illinois. Mr. McCain supports gun rights.

Union elections. Since the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, workers have had the right to choose a union by secret ballot. This reduces the potential for intimidation and abuse from employers and organized crime. Mr. Obama supports “card check,” which requires that a union be recognized if just over half of the workers in a bargaining unit sign a card publicly supporting unionization. Obviously, a worker’s name is visible on that card and those who refuse to sign could be threatened at work or at home. Today, employers and their fellow workers can communicate with employees about unions. Under card check, employers and co-workers may not even know that some are considering a union until a final decision is forced upon them. Card check deprives workers of the right to make an informed decision under democratic principles. Increased unionization will smother the economy, as it has in Europe. Unions, which have suffered decades of declining membership, want it badly and Mr. Obama wants to give it to them. Mr. McCain is opposed.

Abortion. “The first thing I would do as president,” Mr. Obama said, “is sign the Freedom of Choice Act,” which would sweep away all federal and state restrictions on abortion (including parental consent for minors and the partial-birth abortion ban). It is no wonder that Princeton professor Robert George, a member of the President’s Council on Bio-Ethics, concludes that “Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States.” By contrast, Mr. McCain is strongly pro-life.

On balance, Mr. Obama represents a radical break with laws and policies of the past 50 years. Mr. McCain has the experience and judgment to lead America through economic turmoil and to safeguard this nation from terrorists. We heartily endorse Sen. John McCain.

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