Columns, Opinion

RILEY: John, why have you forsaken us?

As the deadline for submitting my column this week came closer and closer, I somehow allowed my mind to wander toward what I might talk about in next week’s column. I had known for a while that it might be a tricky one, considering next Wednesday is the day after Election Day. What am I supposed to say? It would be impossible to write 800 words about the winner of the election and get it to print on time, since the winner is unlikely to be decided before midnight on Tuesday. But I can’t just babble on about an election that has already been decided. Nobody is interested in reading that.
Maybe I’ll just go ahead and try to predict the future, hoping I have good luck. Right now, the money is certainly on Barack Obama. I could cross my fingers and congratulate him on his probable victory. This is exactly what the New Mexico Sun News did by prematurely declaring ‘Obama Wins’ in its headline. They are in a similar predicament, since their bi-monthly issue will be in circulation both before and after the election takes place. And maybe we will see on Nov. 5 that this wasn’t such an outlandish prediction at all. Maybe we will have realized that it was never a question of if Obama would win, but instead by how much he would win.
But if the race gets a little tighter, then maybe I’ll go out on a limb and predict an upset victory from John McCain. Stranger things have happened. As Obama himself said, ‘Don’t underestimate the capacity of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.’
There was a time not all that long ago when I would not have minded writing about a McCain victory. While I knew that I would probably vote Democratic in the fall, McCain was my guy for the Republican primaries, though I suppose that’s not saying much considering the weak competition McCain faced. Mitt Romney may have looked presidential, but his willingness to flip-flop on the issues made him look even slicker than his hairdo. Rudy Giuliani expected to win by talking about Sept. 11 for the entire campaign season. And Mike Huckabee sounded like he was running for pastor of the United States, not president.
McCain was pretty much the coolest 70-year-old in Washington ‘-‘- he even hosted Saturday Night Live. The media had always loved this straight talking guy from Arizona, and I figured if the Democrat’s couldn’t win this year, I’d gladly accept President McCain.
But for some reason during this general election campaign, John McCain has not been the John McCain we know and love. Instead, Obama looks like the seasoned and experienced candidate while McCain’s campaign has been erratic and sometimes hypocritical. While McCain spends plenty of time attacking wasteful spending by Democrats, the Republican National Committee spends $150,000 on Sarah Palin’s wardrobe. McCain tried to sell himself as the candidate that would offer experience in these trying times, but instead went ahead and picked one of the least experienced vice presidential nominees in American history.
In my opinion, how candidates run their campaign often speaks louder than whatever record they are running on. I don’t care how long McCain or Obama has been in the Senate; the reality is that being commander in chief is nothing like being in Congress. Selecting a running mate is one of the few opportunities a candidate has to show how they would lead the country. For someone who claims to always put his country first, McCain’s choice seemed to be for a purely political gain.
Many pundits, including me, thought it was a brilliant move and would score him some big political points by solidifying his conservative base. But as it stands now, going after the shrinking conservative base just wasn’t worth it. In the end, McCain should have known that even the hard-core conservatives would have eventually supported him just for the sole reason of keeping a liberal out of the White House.
If McCain had just been McCain, maybe he would have picked a fellow independent like Joe Lieberman. That could have helped him a great deal. Sure, the Republicans would have grumbled, but it would’ve shown the moderates in America that McCain was serious about bringing bi-partisanship to the highest office in the land. Unfortunately, instead of going for what’s right, the McCain campaign decided to go for ‘right now’ and they might just pay the price.
I know it sounds like I’ve written the McCain campaign’s obituary, but in many ways, they dug their own grave. I still don’t know what I’m going to write about next week, but McCain better hope the title is not: ‘Obama to White House, McCain to nursing home.’

Neal Riley, a freshman in the College of Communication, is a weekly columnist for The Daily Free Press. He can be reached at

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