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Three Elephants in the Room

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As the 2008 presidential campaign enters its final two months, there are several "elephants in the room," big issues being ignored. One is race; the fact some Americans won't vote for Barack Obama because of his skin color. Another is John McCain's health; the reality he's likely to become senile or die if elected President. The third is the truth that McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, represent the worst kind of family values.

Obama's Race: At the Denver Democratic Convention, Southern delegates were candid about the impact of race on the November presidential election. Florida Dems felt it would be hard for Obama to carry their state because of the number of voters who say they "will never vote for a black man." Delegates from Georgia and North Carolina made the same observations.

But racial prejudice isn't restricted to the South. Dems from swing states, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, said Obama will have a hard time with certain demographics because of his skin color. Here in Northern California there are voters who will not support Obama because they've heard he's a Muslim or they don't like Michelle Obama opinions that serve as proxies for "I won't vote for him because he's black" because bias isn't politically correct.

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that thirty percent of voters admitted to some feelings of racial prejudice. Yet, "nearly nine in 10 whites said they would be comfortable with a black president." Two factors may explain these contradictory results. Large numbers of voters may be unwilling to admit they won't vote for Obama because of his race. Recent elections indicate there's still a "Bradley effect" a polling phenomenon named for former L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley, a black man who polls showed was ahead in the California Governor's race, but lost because voters weren't honest about their prejudice and, at the last minute, switched their vote to his white opponent. But polls also indicate that racial prejudice increases with age; younger voters are less likely to consider skin color when they cast their ballot and Obama has attracted millions of young voters.

On November 4th, wherever Obama has a narrow lead in the polls, the final results may be reversed because of racism.

McCain's Health: John McCain is 72. According to Social Security actuarial tables, the odds of the Arizona Senator dying before he finishes the next four years are one in seven; they increase to roughly one in three by the time he's eighty. But the odds are actually worse, because McCain isn't a normal 72-year-old American male: he's a former POW who has survived several plane crashes and skin cancer. His paternal grandfather died of a heart attack at age 61 and his father succumbed at age 70. Recently a fellow Vietnam POW, Phillip Butler, noted: "Most of us who survived [the POW] experience are now in our late 60's and 70's. Sadly, we have died and are dying off at a greater rate than our non-POW contemporaries. We experienced injuries and malnutrition that are coming home to roost. So I believe John's... survival expectation [is] not good for being elected to serve as our President for 4 or more years."

Given his health history, there's a significant possibility McCain will suffer a debilitating stroke in office. Writing in "Free Ride: John McCain and the Media," David Brock and Paul Waldman document McCain's explosive temper. Recently, observers have noted his erratic conduct on the campaign trail. CNN reporter Jack McCafferty observed: "[McCain] no longer allows reporters unfettered access to him aboard the "Straight Talk Express" for a reason. He simply makes too many mistakes. Unless he's reciting talking points or reading from notes or a TelePrompTer, John McCain is lost."

Columnist Ruth Rosen wonders if McCain currently suffers from senile dementia, "People are whispering about his confusion, his slow delivery, his deterioration... McCain's failure to think and respond quickly should worry every American." His abrupt selection of Sarah Palin is further evidence of McCain's poor mental health.

On November 4th, voters who support McCain are likely electing Palin President.

Family Values: After President Bill Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, Republicans routinely accused Democrats of "sixties' values," promiscuity and disdain of traditional family values. Nonetheless, in 2008, the GOP presidential nominee is an acknowledged adulterer who abandoned his maimed wife, Carol, in order to live with an attractive woman seventeen years his junior. A family friend, Ross Perot recalled, "After he came home, [John] walked with a limp, she [Carol] walked with a limp. So he threw her over for a poster girl with big money from Arizona [Cindy McCain, his current wife]." John left his wife and three children.

We see a similar pattern of abandonment in the life of Sarah Palin. Three days after giving birth her special-needs son, Trig, Palin returned to work. Now we learn that her seventeen-year-old unmarried daughter, Bristol, is pregnant. Nonetheless, Palin will leave her distressed family behind while she campaigns for the Republican ticket.

In this election, the candidates who actually support family values are Barack Obama and Joe Biden. If either was an acknowledged adulterer or a runaway father, Republicans would hammer them with it every day.

In November, voters will ultimately decide if Obama's race is more important than the McCain's mortality or the hypocrisy of the Republican ticket.

 

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.

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