Throughout the course of the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy was seen as a candidate of the future, while Richard Nixon was the candidate of the past. Now, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and Republican nominee John McCain are walking along the same path. At least that’s how Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean described the 2008 presidential election at a rally Wednesday in Eau Claire.
Comparing Obama to Kennedy and McCain to Nixon, Dean reiterated the campaign’s message of change as he discussed Obama’s positions on the economy, Iraq War, health care and the United States’ position as a world power. He also talked about changing the hostility of the political environment, but wasn’t adverse to a few jabs at Republicans.
“Change is always hard,” Dean said to a crowd of around 75 people. “Change also requires courage and overcoming fear of change and at this point in American history . we cannot afford four more years of what we’ve just been through.”
Tracy Radunzel, of Eau Claire, said he agrees with Dean and was very impressed with the presentation.
“It was very powerful, he just gets right to the heart of every matter,” Radunzel said. “Dean’s very common sense and I agree with him 100 percent.”
Dean said Obama’s economic policy would favor tax cuts for the middle class, as opposed to McCain’s plan giving tax breaks to the rich and large companies. Obama’s tax plan would be aimed at people who make less than $150,000 a year.
“Obama believes that if we want to have a strong economy, it’s time to cut taxes for the middle class, people who actually make the country work,” he said. “That’s where the emphasis should be.”
If someone makes $40,000 a year and is fortunate enough to work for a company providing good benefits, Dean said McCain would tax them as part of his health care reform.
“There are things you can do in health care reform that can make things worse,” Dean added. “Obama wants to bring (the United States) to the 21st century and join every single other industrialized democracy in the world and have health care for all our people.”
There are a lot of people who like parts of the U.S. health care system, he said. They may not like the cost but most like the care, and Dean said the trick is to have a system that doesn’t force people who like it to change, but does make the choice available and controls the cost.
“(Under Obama’s plan) you get to pick your own health care, whether you prefer the federal government or the insurance company,” Dean said. “John McCain calls it socialized medicine. That’s Medicare, and what’s good for people over 65 is good for people under 65.”
Regardless of the outcome of the election, there are two things the next president needs to address, Dean said. First, healing America and doing away with negative politics is a must if the country wants to move forward.
“We’ve had 30 years of ugly, bitter, divisive politics based on anger and hate,” he said. “They’re great to win elections but crummy for the country.”
The second change, Dean said, is restoring American moral authority across the world. He added that it has been a long time since a U.S. presidential candidate went to Europe and saw 200,000 American flags in the crowd.
Dean said moral authority isn’t just important because people should like us, but is necessary for the country’s national security. He used the examples of Harry S. Truman’s post-World War II Europe economic bailout, Jimmy Carter’s Camp David Accords and winning the Cold War.
“If we want to bring people to the peace table, we have to have the moral authority to do it,” he said. “It doesn’t come because you demand it, it comes because you earn it and we need a president that can earn back our moral authority. You have to live it at home, you can’t preach it abroad and that is why we’ve lost our way.”
Radunzel agreed, adding that the economy is his biggest concern heading into the election.
“I think the moral authority of the U.S. has eroded pretty badly,” he said. “The economy and collapse of Wall Street affects us in ways we’re not all fully sure of yet, but the bailout needs to happen to get things back on track.”
Dean described Obama as a strong, inquisitive and calm leader, which would fit perfectly with the current world state, he added.
“(Obama) is steady, thoughtful and he doesn’t panic,” Dean said. “At times like this, you need a president . who doesn’t promise more than they can deliver and who will patiently explain to the American people why we sometimes have to do things we don’t want to do. That’s my definition of a great leader and Barack Obama is a great leader.”
He added that Obama believes he’ll be president of the entire country, not just those who voted for him.
“When I was governor, I used to say ‘if you voted, you’re my boss’ because they participated in the hiring process,” Dean said. “Everybody has good ideas, whether they’re Democrat or Republican.”