Saturday, July 12, 2008

Commander in Chief, not Orator in Chief

A small letter I wrote was published in the Star Tribune on Tuesday. Here’s the link:

I have much more to say on the subject than what was published. The letter was even shorter than originally sent and much shorter than the one I originally wrote before edititing it down for submission. It was heavily edited by the Strib; but that’s okay, they have really good editors and its substance was intact.

The letter was in response to an article published in the Strib about McCain brushing up on his teleprompter and other public speaking skills. It was the perfect springboard for me to write about something I’ve been thinking about for a long time: We’re not voting for the orator in chief, we’re voting for the commander in chief. There’s a difference.

We’ve all been hearing from the left about what a wonderful orator Obama is. I don’t disagree. I do disagree that it’s as important as the left thinks it is. Last week, while listening to liberal radio, I heard the morning talk show host gushing about Obama and how if we elected him, wouldn’t we look great to the rest of the world? He’s handsome, and really articulate, she said (I’m paraphrasing), and just think about how having him for a president would be great for our image around the world.

Our image? Really? Should that be our main concern in this election? I know it’s been a really big concern for the left, judging from the “they don’t like us” mantra they’ve been spouting ad nauseum since September 11. And yes, it would be nice if we were well liked by everyone.

Happily, conservatives and other deep thinkers understand that being the Sally Field of the world isn’t and shouldn’t be our most important goal. National security should be. These same people know that in an election between Obama and McCain, McCain is the one who will ensure our security, even if he can’t read a teleprompter as well as Obama.

Obama has rejected McCain’s invitation to have town hall meetings together. Why? Maybe it’s because he is uncomfortable without a script. He knows McCain doesn’t excel at the podium, but he excels at the town hall meeting. He is funny, engaging, intellectual, articulate and charming in this setting.

“I think the people deserve to see us side by side,” said McCain at Friday’s town hall meeting in Hudson, Wisconsin. “They deserve to see us directly between the candidate and the voter, and I hope the American people will encourage Senator Obama to come to these things,” he said.

Of the town-hall-meeting-style of speaking to the American people, McCain said, “I promise you it makes me a better candidate—and the most important thing—it will make me a better president.”

One may argue that part of being the president is to give speeches with teleprompters and podiums. While that’s true, I believe McCain is right when he says the town hall meeting style of campaign will make a better president, and that the American people deserve to see both candidates together in that setting.

Fat chance.

I guess I can understand why Obama wouldn’t want to accept McCain’s invitation, simply because Obama wouldn’t have the oratorical upper hand. He counts on vagueness (Change) and shallowness (I’m the better speaker, therefore I am the better candidate) to win this election. He can’t count on substance because he’s in very short supply.

We aren’t in need of the better looking, taller, more smooth-talking leader. Nor are we in need of a man like Obama, who appeared to lose control over his own campaign stop in Fargo last week because of his continual pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey approach to withdrawal from Iraq. We’re in need of a leader who has a proven ability to work across party lines, with a long history of service to country, who has seen his own son deployed to Iraq, and who has a clear vision of what is needed to lead America into the next decade.

I know there are voters who aren’t obsessed with whom Lindsay is dating or who Paris is wearing. Let’s show those who are banking on America’s superficiality that we are deeper than they hope we are. Let’s look at the actual substance of our presidential candidates.