The three presidential candidate debates have been concluded. With increasing confidence, the American citizens who chose to watch have formed a more and more clear sense of what each of the two candidates would bring to the office of President of the United States.
Strangely, the strongest single difference between the candidates may be demeanor. More than ever in the third debate, the steadiness of Barack Obama became evident as John McCain tried harder and harder to burst the bubble that has led Obama near to capturing the highest elected office in the country.
McCain used sarcastic comments, rolling of eyes, and derision of his opponent's positions to try to put Obama in his place. McCain had also obviously been coached, and practiced, being quite friendly to Obama before and after the debate, and in saying that our country has advanced greatly since we no longer discriminate, at least for this election, against people of different races as we did in the past.
Yet, despite these efforts, and they were mildly successful, to appear above mud slinging and personal attacks, Barack Obama continued to radiate calm and a real teflon persona when compared to John McCain's reactivism.
What can we make of that apparent detachment? In my eyes, it bodes well for this country. Why? Because the next president will need three characteristics, all evidenced by Obama:
- Sufficient intellect and flexible thinking to understand a variety of problems as well as the character of domestic and international leaders, so as to develop effective plans of action when faced with these complex situations.
- Sufficient caring for the best result for as many people as possible; the opposite of this could be called corruption or at the least, favoritism. Perhaps more than most previous administrations, the Bush Administration has favored large corporations especially oil companies and military contractors, and for narrow political and commercial reasons has wrongly manipulated the attorney general's office, the EPA, the CIA and State Department, to name a few. We badly need a government that works for all the people, with both the short term and long term in mind.
- Sufficient stability to avoid hasty judgements under pressure; enough stability to avoid being pushed by others' opinions into rash or biased actions; enough stability to carefully review and analyze a situation before taking action. These are not directly qualities of intelligence, but rather are personal qualities that control how well one's intelligence can be used in a political, commercialized world where most people do have an axe to grind, and pressures can be intense.
I strongly believe that the character of the next president will also affect the global environment. A leader whose focus is large corporations, and who sees the world with a top-down view (as expressed in the phrase "trickle-down economics") will judge success by the amount of income the largest, most visible corporations, and their executive management, can earn.
A leader whose focus is the well-being of the vast majority of hard-working individuals will care more about quality of life, stability, and opportunity for all those people. That kind of leader develops, for example, a vision of green jobs that can raise the country's economy to a higher level of productivity while providing new jobs to workers at all levels of skill - research into and manufacturing of renewable energy generating equipment, installation of those devices, and traditional green jobs such as land management and city/suburban planning, this time with a strong green tint, and more.
A leader who is not obsessed with bailing out Wall Street thinks first of those who are close to losing their homes, not of Wall Street executives. A leader who is closer to the grass roots is concerned with those who put unaware consumers into situations over their heads, and would try for economic re-equalization, if not criminal prosecution.
Scientists tell us that the time to take action on climate change and on energy independence and energy stability, was 20 years ago, but since that opportunity is no longer available, the time to act is now. A leader who takes a mechanical status quo as the best way to continue forward for the country, can not make dramatic changes to meet our dramatic new challenges.
But a leader who keeps his head, who can without bias analyze over and over the facts and figures with rates of water depletion and oil depletion, air pollution levels and greenhouse gas levels, and temperature levels, that leader can take effective action. When a leader like that speaks, the words come from solid, strongly-held viewpoints developed with much careful thought. That kind of person speaks clearly, and with energy, and is persuasive. The impression made on others when speaking from position papers created by party leaders and based on polls, those impressions don't come close. That is the "magic" of Obama.
Viewers of the debates have noticed Senator Obama speak with intellect and integrity, and with the kind of genuine stability that has not been seen in presidential races for a long time. These traits, expressed in well-articulated positions on the issues of the decade and century, may well be sufficient to carry an election. Let's hope for some real change in November and thereafter.