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Sunday, October 19, 2008

In Ike's Words, why some conservatives like Obama

Colin Powell's endorsement today adds muscle to the growing conservative chorus for Obama.

President Eisenhower’s words in his televised farewell to the nation seem even more prescient today than they did last February when his granddaughter, Susan Eisenhower, reprised them for her pre-nomination endorsement of Barack Obama.

"As we peer into society's future, we must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow."

“Today we are engaged in a debate about these very issues," said Susan Eisenhower. “I am not alone in worrying that my generation will fail to do what my grandfather's did so well: Leave America a better, stronger place than the one it found.” In the spirit of the crossover voters who were inspired by Ike’s “pledge to bring change to Washington and by the prospect that he would unify the nation”, his granddaughter, a lifelong Republican, pledged to work to get Obama elected.

Susan Eisenhower’s was the first, to my knowledge, of what has become a flood of endorsements and/or defections by conservatives and Republicans.

Wick Allison, former publisher of the National Review (considered the intellectual center of the American Conservative movement), endorsed Obama in September, before the economy crashed. He said McCain's brand of “conservatism, which is not conservative at all, has produced financial mismanagement, the waste of human lives, the loss of moral authority, and the wreckage of our economy that McCain now threatens to make worse.”

"Barack Obama is not my ideal candidate for president. (In fact, I made the maximum donation to John McCain during the primaries, when there was still hope he might come to his senses.) But I now see that Obama is almost the ideal candidate for this moment in American history. I disagree with him on many issues. But those don’t matter as much as what Obama offers, which is a deeply conservative view of the world. Nobody can read Obama’s books or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers.

Most important, Obama will be a realist. I doubt he will taunt Russia, as McCain has, at the very moment when our national interest requires it as an ally. The crucial distinction in my mind is that, unlike John McCain, I am convinced he will not impulsively take us into another war unless American national interests are directly threatened.

“Every great cause,” Eric Hoffer wrote, “begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” As a cause, conservatism may be dead. But as a stance, as a way of making judgments in a complex and difficult world, I believe it is very much alive in the instincts and predispositions of a liberal named Barack Obama."

There are many more, to be sure, but in the interest of brevity, I will end with excerpts from the Chicago Tribune endorsement, their first for a Democrat since the paper's founding in 1847. (All three mentioned here deserve to be read in full.)

“Many Americans say they're uneasy about Obama. He's pretty new to them.

We can provide some assurance. We have known Obama since he entered politics a dozen years ago. We have watched him, worked with him, argued with him as he rose from an effective state senator to an inspiring U.S. senator to the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

"We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions. He is ready."

The Tribune expected more of McCain and endorsed his nomination. Now they say,

"McCain failed in his most important executive decision. Give him credit for choosing a female running mate--but he passed up any number of supremely qualified Republican women who could have served. Having called Obama not ready to lead, McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. His campaign has tried to stage-manage Palin's exposure to the public. But it's clear she is not prepared to step in at a moment's notice and serve as president. McCain put his campaign before his country...

"It may have seemed audacious for Obama to start his campaign in Springfield, invoking Lincoln. We think, given the opportunity to hold this nation's most powerful office, he will prove it wasn't so audacious after all. We are proud to add Barack Obama's name to Lincoln's in the list of people the Tribune has endorsed for president of the United States."

Look for more endorsements from Conservative and Republicans in the days to come in the section at the left titled "Conservative voices for Obama".

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