Thomas Friedman delivers again, expressing many of my thoughts about this crisis. By crisis I mean the political crisis, which is much more threatening than the financial crisis. Our national political system is broken.

(By the way, I really don’t have much of an opinion on the bailout legislation. I don’t think there are many people in the country that have a valid opinion — it is very complicated and no one can see the future, especially for the economy. I think that people who see the bailout as rescuing Wall Street and punishing Main Street don’t really understand how tied together the two are {see Friedman link above}.)

Before the House voted on Monday, Pelosi got stupid and gave an uncalled for partisan speech. She’s part of the problem. Then after the House Republicans and some Democrats voted against the bailout bill, Boehner blamed Pelosi’s speech for the Republican’s vote. This excuse was even stupider and more transparent than Pelosi’s speech. Boehner is part of the problem. Congress is a big, big problem.

I was talking to a good friend about what to do about this crisis. He is of the mind that because the political parties are a large part of the problem (fact!), that we should not vote for anyone of either party. I don’t think that helps. Bush got in office because A LOT of people in Florida voted for Nader (fact!).

So what should we do? Consider this:

1. You have to vote. It is your voice. If you don’t vote, you really have no place complaining.

2. I like my vote to count.

3. I prefer to vote FOR someone, but usually end up having to vote AGAINST someone. If you don’t have a candidate you want to support, you should cast your vote so that it is most effective at keeping the lesser candidate out. This election I get to vote FOR Obama. In 2004 I voted AGAINST Bush by selecting Kerry.

4. Be realistic about what issues are actually important for choosing a President.

  • Picking a President based on the running mate is NOT a sound plan. A Vice President should be judged on how they could take over an existing administration as care-taker if something happened. Their policy stances are nearly irrelevant because they follow the lead of the President, and if they took over, would likely keep on the same track until the next election. Of course, this argument is invalid if you consider Cheney, but hopefully that type of VP is a one time event and not precedent.
  • Choose based on the issues that the President will actually be able to influence. The most obvious tent-pole issue that people use is abortion. But the reality is that no President can create laws (that is for Congress), and will not sign laws that obviously go against the Supreme Court’s rulings.  And even if a conservative court got a relevant case, most likely it would not overturn Roe v. Wade. Plus, Republicans do not want to loose their most effective issue but making abortion illegal — then all those people who default Republican would be free to vote based on actual issues! For a time, Bush had all three branches of government lined up with Republican/Conservative control. But neither he nor the Republican party made any move to make abortion illegal. Having all three probably won’t happen again for a long time. I believe basing your vote on abortion is wasting your vote.
  • Taxes: there is no longer any validity to the “belief” that Republicans are any more fiscally responsible or conservative than Democrats. In fact, the case can be made that over the last few decades, Democrats are — in practice  — better at spending our money. Platitudes are one thing. Look at the record of spending, earmarks and deficits.
  • Foreign Policy is probably the area in which the President has the most direct affect. We have lost much of our moral capital around the world the last eight years. I believe Obama has a much better chance of regaining some of that very important and valuable capital. The people the President chooses in the cabinet and other positions is VERY important in carrying out foreign policy (Secretary of State, DOD, National Security Advisor, Ambassadors, UN Representative). Recruiting and selecting quality people may be the President’s most important job. The choice of VP running mate is the first serious Presidential decision and is an important guide for how a future President will make decisions.

5. What about the VP? I think Palin might have been a good choice for McCain in order to get elected, but the way he sprang her on the national scene at the last minute has contributed to the controversy of the pick. As the VP she will bring little-to-no value to his administration. Palin was picked to pander to the evangelical base, and it has worked on that front. But she has turned off many other people including swing voters. I think Biden may be the opposite – he won’t win many votes but his foreign policy experience is impressive and he will be valuable advising Obama. Plus he will be very helpful on Capital Hill and as President of the Senate. The VP selections say to me: Obama is running to be President; McCain is running to get elected.

I’m voting for Obama.

He offers hope for change from and for a new generation. He can’t deliver on all his promises; no candidate can. Is experience an issue? Sure, but no one has the experience needed to be President of the United States. It is a job that only can be learned on the job. I trust intelligence and his judgment.

I appreciate his approach, his ability to inspire, his ability to recruit top people, his character, his ability to communicate, his level demeanor — all important roles for the President that have been sorely missed the last eight years.