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My Latin American view of the US Presidential election

This blog is about Boquete Panama, it is not about the USA nor US politics however since I am a US citizen I have been told I cannot comment on Panamanian politics. I can however discuss the US Presidential election with the perspective of having not even visited the US for more than two years. This is my opinion.

Over the past few months I have been barraged with email from both polarized sides of the debate in the US. Email naming Barack Obama as a spend and tax liberal. Email labeling John McCain, my Senator from Arizona as an old tired man with a temper and out of touch with reality. I voted for John McCain.

It has been enlightening to read about both of them. Equally enlightening to see how both, neither a favorite at the beginning of the primaries won their respective nominations.

The question on November 4th is where to invest your vote. The word invest is particularly relevant in light of the current world economic debacle. In a short editorial I am going to say who I would select for my vote.

Without getting into a weighty discussion of all the issues a few leap out and require thought.

1. It’s the Economy Stupid: A campaign cry from 1992 – Who is better suited to select professionals who can help turn a sinking ship around? The solution eludes my nonexistent knowledge of macro economics but it is a mess. In this I believe a well educated young man with the party that last balanced the federal budget has an advantage. Unless the economy is fixed nothing else matters. McCain is not a man to consult with others except perhaps the crew in power now. The same crew who in eight years reversed prosperity and acquired so much new debt that the national debit sign in NYC has run out of digits. Maybe Democrats are tax and spend but under Clinton the budget was running in a surplus, under a Republican the deficit is at a new high and China holds the financial keys to the kingdom.

2. War, no, two wars: Here the decision is very clear. One candidate takes great pride in his being a POW and supports the war in Iraq. The other wants to pull out and his time table was endorsed by the Iraqi government. Unless the bleeding stops, both in red and green in Iraq there is no healing for either the economy or the US. The lies that caused the war were lies and the criminals still running the US. John McCain promises four more years of the same bleeding.

3. A heart beat away: I am not sure which past presidential election used this line but it is more relevant now than anytime before. Even if you believe John McCain is the man, he is older than Ronald Reagan when Reagan ran for his second term. Joe Biden is a very experienced politician, who is Sara Palin? That is the scary question and she will be one heartbeat away. A woman with zero experience ourside of Alaska who’s religious views make G W Bush look like a heathen.

4. Seperation of Church and State: It is enshrined in the US consitution. The constitution does not say the US is a christian nation. Many supporters of Sara Palin seem to have forgotten that fact. Jimmy Carter a very devout man has been appalled at the way G W Bush has moved religion, his brand of Christianity into the White House.

5. A view from off shore: In the past year I have traveled in much of Latin America and have consistently been surprised how much space and time local media uses to discuss the elections in the US. Since the Monroe doctrine the US has played a powerful role, good and bad in Latin America. Now there is a strong movement from Latin leaders in some countries to break that hold. I am not certain if that is good or bad but the spawn of GW Bush’s policies in Latin America is Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Chavez has spawned other “populist” governments in Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua. Venezuelans I speak with call him crazy but he is El Jefe and has re-energized the Fidel Castro roll model, this time with money.

I realize that Latin American politics seems remote from the current problems in the US BUT they are not. There are huge numbers of Latin American voters in the US. These immigrants some current some for generations have families in Latin America families incuding the Cubans in Miami that know what will happen if Chavez is successful emulating Castro’s Cuba.

The Internet is a wonderful thing, so is chatting online in Spanish. I have chatted with people throughout Latin America. Cubans I speak with are hungry, cannot leave, cannot easily run a business, they cannot even have the Internet at home; they have little hope. The current administration has helped feed Chavez, a MaCain administration shows no promise of anything more.

People in all the world are effected by the US election. I did a totally unscientific poll conducted with people in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Guatemala, Panama, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, Peru and Columbia. The people I spoke with are watching with great interest and 100% of those I chatted with would, if they could, vote for Barack Obama and hope for change, so would I.

A note on point four above regarding religion.
It is the Establishment clause of the First Amendment and Supreme Court interpretations, not the body of the US Constitution:

“The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the establishment of a national religion by the Congress or the preference of one religion over another, or religion over non-religion. Originally, the First Amendment only applied to the federal government. Subsequently, under the incorporation doctrine, certain selected provisions were applied to states. It was not, however, until the middle and later years of the twentieth century that the Supreme Court began to interpret the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses in such a manner as to restrict the promotion of religion by state governments. For example, in the Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994), Justice David Souter, writing for the majority, concluded that “government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion”.

The quote is abstracted from Wikipedia, simple and to the point.

Here is a more detailed discussion. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment01/02.html#1


Comments

  1. billie surmick says:

    Breaking News here in the U.S.: Sarah Palin did not fare well in the Troopergate investigation. She abused the powers of her office, the Alaska Legislature has determined.

  2. Of course the rest of the world would love Obama to be the US President…it would bring America a little bit closer to their current state of socialist “bliss”. Working out real well in Europe, eh?? Plus, they won’t have to pay for it. Anyone with a business, or a brain, can’t be excited about the upcoming Super-Nanny State. However, people who like a handout, and can’t seem to take responsibility for things (like paying back a loan they agreed to) are looking forward to the “new deal”.

    Just keep the gates to Boquete open. I can’t wait.

  3. Fran Hogan says:

    Thank you, Lee! I agree on all your points. I voted absentee for Obama because he is the ONLY hope of saving what’s left of democracy and the Bill of Rights in the USA. Even at that, it will take a long, LONG time to repair the damage done by the Bush machine. I am particularly disgusted with the arrogance of so-called ‘christians’ and the infusion of their religious dogma into American politics.

  4. Bob McFadden says:

    Suggest a reading of the Constitution. No where is does it say any such thing about church and separation. Opinions and facts do not always work together.
    I enjoy your site and expect to be down your way soon.
    Regards,
    Bob

    Editor: You are right and wrong. It is the First Amendment and Supreme Court interpretations:

    “The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the establishment of a national religion by the Congress or the preference of one religion over another, or religion over non-religion. Originally, the First Amendment only applied to the federal government. Subsequently, under the incorporation doctrine, certain selected provisions were applied to states. It was not, however, until the middle and later years of the twentieth century that the Supreme Court began to interpret the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses in such a manner as to restrict the promotion of religion by state governments. For example, in the Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994), Justice David Souter, writing for the majority, concluded that “government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion”.

  5. Hi Lee;
    While I am still a fence-sitter regarding my vote, I agree with your comments and perceptions. The leaders that have proven to be great in the past all suffered the same politicking and scrutiny during their campaigns as these two. Only one is allowed to prove their worth. My only concern right now about Obama is not whether he is too socialist, radical, or supportive of terrorists, it is my concern as to why the radicals, socialists, and previous terrorists support him. Do they know something we don’t? And, NO, I’m not saying supporters of Obama are any of the above, just that he has a greater percentage of that support than McCain. Looks like the American people will be giving him a chance though. I hope that his common sense and intelligence will be an advantage over the experience that McCain purports. Thanks for the blog.
    greg

  6. Lee,

    Great analysis; tight, clear, and relevant. Thats for taking the time to write it all out.

    See you soon,

    Bob

  7. Silvia Maravilla says:

    If you would like to analyse the Republican leader situation, we unfortunately had 911; bad hurricanes with major disasters in the USA as well as really very bad tornadoes destroying entire areas. Two wars, one I considered a must; the second, I have my doubts but since we were in, we can go back, we must win.

    Now, the home crises. Who do you think rejected to pay attentin to these crises? There are a lot of blames to both parties, but the Democrats preferred to ignore the advice of many! Now, the current Congress, two years in power, what have they done? nothing.

    There is a saying use in Panama: mas sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo. This means, the devil’s knowledge is based on his vast experience and not because he is the devil.

    I trust McCain, even though Democrats try to link him to Bush just because he is a Republican, he is a man of principles, bi-partisan, he believes to do right, even if it hurts him.

    Obama has “shady” relationships that the Democrats don’t want to talk about. I do not think he will take America to a Socialism but to Marxism. America, be careful, analise who you would like to run your country, a charismatic man with shady friends or a man of honor?

  8. Silvia Maravilla says:

    Just a note: The channels watched, at least in Panama, are Democratic channels…this is a one-sided media, so there is not so much for these countries to learn about.

  9. May I point out to Fran that you can spell “Bush” with either a capital, or lower-case “B”, but those pesky “Christians” should always be capitalized (like “Pelosi” and “oh my God, Bush is the devil”). And to Greg…how in the world could you be a “fence sitter” in this election? There has never been a clearer choice (bigger difference) between two candidates in recent history.

    I just want it to be over and read a Boquete restaurant review again. Viva Panama!

    Saludos,

    Dan

  10. Sorry, Lee. Must’ve missed it. But the the paragraphical comment appended to your original dialogue regarding the First Amendment, that you quoted, is from…….?????????? The citation does not appear to be from the Clause or the Amendment or the Court. Just wondering…….

    Editor: The quote is abstracted from Wikipedia, simple and to the point.

    Here is a more detailed discussion. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment01/02.html#1

  11. As a Canadian, but also a long time student of American politics, I can say I haven’t been paying much attention since those lofty days of Camelot, when John F. Kennedy was President. I am older than dirt and I can still remember rushing home from school to watch his press conferences. It was a time of incredible optimism in the US and much of the world. No one since has ever set as lofty as goal as reaching the moon in ten years. A whole nation mobilized behind him and met the challenge.

    Senator Obama has renewed my spirit of optimism that the US and the World will somehow find a way back to a better and brighter course. He is a most engaging speaker and, in my humble opinion, represents the only real hope that America may once again take its rightful place of respect in the world. In these days of doom and gloom everyone could use a bit of hope. I hope the American people agree and vote for real change. McCain is just more of the “same old, same old”, that has proven not to work. His constant personal attacks on Senator Obama only show how out of touch he is with the electorate. He’s fiddling while the country burns.

  12. I’ve been telling my Republican relatives that “W” has ruined the Republican’s chances for a long time to come – I don’t see how a Repub. could get elected Dog Catcher in this election!

    I agree with Dan’s comment about getting to Boquete – I also can’t wait to get out of the USA. I’ve always said it was about “quality of life” and these days only reinforce that for me. See you all soon!

    Bruce

  13. Charlotte Newman says:

    To the commentators repeating half-truths, non-fact based rumors, and down right lies perpetuated by McCain “surrogates”, you might take the time to do a bit of research so that your opinions may emerge from a more informed foundation.

    Remember, McCain was unjustly maligned by the current administration in 2000. From being labeled as a traitor while in prison in Vietnam, to fathering a “black baby”. It’s disheartening to see his handlers propel him in the very direction that he was victimized by, and for him to fall into the same, if not more insidious, tactics.

    Here’s one article to read by Frank Schaeffer of the Baltimore Sun, who worked to get McCain elected in 2000. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.mccain10oct10,0,755751.story

    His commentary’s right on the mark re: “…feeding the most unhinged elements of our society the red meat of hate, and therefore of potentially instigating violence…”

    I have been an adamant Obama supporter. However, if John McCain and Joe Lieberman had been the selected Republican ticket, won the 2008 election, I would have felt, “Well, OK. I can live with that.” But the GOP Base did not trust McCain, and Lieberman would have been unacceptable. Instead, Sarah Palin was inserted as McCain’s running mate.

    As for Obama’s “terrorist” and “shady” associates: First, Obama was 8 yrs old when Bill Ayers was prosecuted for his association in the Weather Underground, served time, and then was released. Hello! Check your facts. He is currently a professor at the University of Illinois. The Obama, Ayers association occurred when both served on the board, along with several republicans, of the Woods Fund of Chicago, which has focused in recent years on issues impacting the area’s least advantaged.
    So does McCain’s association with the Keating Five count as “problematic” as well? Or his association with the Iran/Contra debacle?

    Obama’s former minister Rev. Wright is consumed by Black Rage. Palin’s church’s visiting minister from Kenya performed a ritual to “protect her from all witches”. He actually drove a woman out of town in Kenya because he proclaimed her a witch, and the root of that town’s problems. Hmm. Palin’s church purges its members from Witchcraft. Obama’s ex minister is consumed by Black rage. Does one outweigh the other?

    Another festering issue, finally vocalized by commentators, is the underlying fear founded in lingering racism imbedded in the U.S. psyche. To Gringos living in Panama, where the citizens come in all shades of race and religious beliefs, I only hope that you look inside yourselves and do not find this racist abscess still festering there. If so, do yourselves a favor. Lance it from your psyche. At least try. I think your Panamanian neighbors, in whose country you are privileged to reside, would greatly appreciate it.

    Fortunately here in the U.S., the vast majority of age 40 and under voters hold very little of this residual bigotry. That gives me hope. And I do hope that, and it seems that they will, come out to vote in droves.

    Many conservatives are dismayed and outraged at the turn the McCain campaign has taken. Many are endorsing Obama. That’s how appalled they are by the McCain and Palin’s recent campaign tactics. McCain and Palin have remained passive in the face of the resultant fomenting to violence, thereby condoning the lies and hate filled spewing of many ignorant and uniformed attendees a their recent rallies. Words like “traitor, terrorist, kill him. And bomb Obama”, have gone unanswered.

    Some conservatives on the list who are totally distancing themselves from McCain include: Tommy Franks, Bill Kristol, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, David Brooks, and Kathleen Parker. Check the Internet. Or in print. You will be astonished at how rapidly this list is growing.

    The Sarah Palin element is one of the primary factors in driving many Republicans away. Personally, I’m insulted that the Republican campaign handlers felt that all women are basically interchangeable. Women are not buying this. This is an insult. All Palin and I share in common is a chromosome.

    So, why not take some time to do your homework. Yes, we have free speech in the U.S. And unfortunately some of this “free speech” has unleashed the “…monster of American hatred and prejudice [that] is a peril to us all…” (Frank Schaeffer). So, come on all. Vote for your conscience, for whichever candidate you choose. But vote informed. We’re better than this. Aren’t we?

    Note: My husband and I are in the process of moving to Panama.

  14. Enhorabuena por la materia Lee! La gran ventaja de esta disputa presidencial es mostrar al mundo, que, cerca de Sara Palin, Bush es uno Socrates! Un grande filosofo! Salludos desde Grecia!

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