Archive for the ‘John F. Kennedy’ Tag

Some trivia on presidents and President-Elect Obama

Well, Senator Barack Obama is now President-Elect Barack Obama, albeit unofficially until the electoral votes are counted in a joint session of Congress on January 6th.  Obama will be the second U.S. President from Illinois; the first, of course, being Abraham Lincoln.  But here is some useless presidential trivia that you may not know.

He is also the first president to be elected from outside the Sun Belt since John Kennedy in 1960.  (Note that Michigander Gerald Ford was appointed, not elected.)   When he assumes office at noon on 20 January 2009 he will be 47 years, 5 months, and 16 days old; that will make him the fifth youngest person to become president, after Theodore Roosevelt (42 years, 10 months, 18 days); John F. Kennedy (43 years, 7 months, 22 days); Bill Clinton (46 years, 5 months, 1 day); and Ulysses S. Grant (46 years, 10 months, 5 days).  He is the fourth youngest person elected to the presidency, since Teddy Roosevelt, as Vice President, took office upon the death of President William McKinley.

Perhaps surprisingly, Obama is just the third sitting U.S. Senator to be elected president.  The other two were Warren Harding and John Kennedy.  Thirteen other presidents had previously served as a U.S. Senator, but not immediately preceeding their becoming president.

Obama is the first Democrat to win a majority of the popular vote in 32 years; the last one to do so was Jimmy Carter, who won 50.08% of the popular vote in 1976.  (Due in part to the participation of Ross Perot, Clinton received only 43% and 49.24% of the popular vote in his two winning campaigns.  Though Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000, he also didn’t get an absolute majority, securing only 48.4% of the vote, due to Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan being in the race.)

Had John McCain won, he would have been the second U.S. President to have spent time as a prisoner of war; the first was Andrew Jackson.  McCain, who is from the Sun Belt state of Arizona, would have been the oldest president to assume office, beating out Ronald Reagan by over two years.

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My presidential endorsement: Barack Obama

With five days before the election, I have decided to come out and endorse a presidential candidate. During the Republican primaries, I endorsed, voted for, and contributed financially to John McCain—moves that I do not regret, as I think he was the best candidate in the GOP field. However, further developments have convinced me that he is not the best man to lead our country at this point in history. I am crossing party lines and endorsing Barack Obama for the Presidency of the United States.

I hereby endorse this man to be the next President of the United States of America

I hereby endorse this man to be the next President of the United States of America

This move will, undoubtedly, surprise and puzzle a number of my friends, family members, and associates, who, if they know anything of my politics, know me as a life-long Republican and a self-identifying conservative, so I will briefly state the reasons for my decision.

First, Obama is, like Kennedy, a tax-cutting Democrat.  According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, Obama would cut taxes by $2.9 trillion over the 2009-2018 period.

The Obama plan would reduce taxes for low- and moderate-income families, but raise them significantly for high-bracket taxpayers. By 2012, middle-income taxpayers would see their after-tax income rise by about 5 percent, or nearly $2,200 annually. Those in the top 1 percent would face a $19,000 average tax increase—a 1.5 percent reduction in after-tax income.

McCain’s tax cuts would be about 30% larger but are targeted differently, mainly assisting those already wealthy and, undoubtedly, contributing to further economic inequality, which is already approaching all-time highs.

Unfortunately, both of them would lead to bigger deficits, but Obama is the slightly less reckless of the two.   The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the nation’s debt will increase by $2.3 trillion by 2018 under current laws. The Tax Policy Center estimates that Obama’s tax package would add $3.5 trillion to the total, while McCain’s proposals would add $5 trillion. That is, McCain would add 25% more to the national debt than would Obama. That is not conservative.

Arguments that the wealthy will stop working as hard and stop investing in their businesses if their taxes go up need to be addressed.  Those arguments, while they may seem intuitively right to many conservatives, do not hold up. Right now the top marginal tax rate is near its all-time historic low, set in the 1920s—just before the great depression hit. In the 1990s the top right was higher than it is now—and the economy did quite well. It also did just fine from 1950–1963 when the highest rate was a whopping 91% (note: not a typo).  The wealthy will be just fine under Barack Obama, just as they’d be fine under almost any president.  They can pay a bit more in taxes so that lower- and middle-income people don’t need to sacrifice saving for retirement, college, childcare, health care, et cetera. The wealthiest people, however, usually end up sacrificing what can reasonably be called luxuries. Taxing the richest people now will lead to fewer poor people in the future, which is good for everyone—including the rich.

Additionally, I think Obama would be the better man to handle our nation’s foreign policy.  While McCain has more experience in the field, he is fundamentally hawkish, and I tend to be dovish.   In my view, while McCain is not likely to get the country involved in another armed conflict he is considerably more likely to do so than Obama, and less is much less likely to be able to build international support and an international coalition to share the military and financial burdens of any such action.  Many of the great issues of our day—terrorism, climate change, trade—cannot be effectively handled at the level of the individual nation-state; they must be handled at the international level.  And I think Obama would have more clout and could get more done on that front than McCain.

One specific area where I think McCain is wrong is in his refusal to conduct even low-level talks with Iran and North Korea, both dangerous countries. During the Cold War we never broke off relations with the Soviet Union; Kennedy and Reagan, to of the best Cold Warriors, talked with the Russians constantly.  As a side note: people often object here that we’re not going to change Ahmadinejad’s mind about anything. That’s almost certainly correct. However, the point of negotiating is not to show the other guy how right you are and have him admit the error of his ways.We didn’t convince Khrushchev or Gorbachev that our system was better than theirs. But the contact helped to relieve tensions and lead to useful diplomatic breakthroughs which quite possibly helped avert more bloodshed than occurred during the Cold War.

Lastly, like most Americans, I find Sarah Palin to be significantly under-qualified to be Vice President, let alone President of the United States if anything happens to McCain (a 72-year old cancer survivor).  According to actuaries, there is approximately a 10% chance that McCain would not be able to serve out 4 years in the White House.  With Palin as Vice President, that would be disatrous in my view.  That McCain would put the country in such a position for political reasons—and I firmly believe she was selected only to get votes, not for governing ability—gives me great concerns for his approach to the presidency and how he will govern.

See also my blog posts discussing Obama being endorsed by the New York Times and by several notable conservatives.  Check out Republican Congressional candidate Joel Haugen’s endorsement.  And take a look at this blog post which details how the country seems to do better during Democratic presidencies than Republican ones on a number of conservative metrics.

He is not my ideal candidate and I have a number of disagreements with him, but for all of the above reasons and more, this blog is endorsing Barack Obama for president.  God bless America.