Demand a presidential campaign of substance
The Kansas City Star
Or perhaps that’s exactly the wrong metaphor. As President Barack Obama prepares to officially launch his re-election campaign Saturday and as Mitt Romney ramps up his campaign pre-convention, the last thing many voters want is a “game.”
Concerned Americans want less about presidential dogs, less about birth certificates and less about second-home car elevators.
They, and we, want substance.
We want serious discussions about health care, entitlements, defense spending, deficits, jobs, foreign policy and education.
Four years ago, the country was wounded. The banking system was faltering, conflicts abroad were not going well, federal deficits were high, and health care costs and the number of uninsured were rising.
Today, almost four years into Obama’s presidency, the threat of economic meltdown has been averted. But unemployment remains high, deficits are higher, Social Security and Medicare face even sooner fiscal implosions, and taxes are still unfair and too complicated.
Here are campaign discussions worth having:
While Romney and Obama may want to avoid this topic at all costs, the two actually are a good pair to fully debate the costly issue.
Americans spend more on health care than other nations, but outcomes are not tops, and in some ways, not even middling. Both men have wisely supported access to insurance, elimination of pre-existing conditions as a too-high hurdle, and an everybody-in approach. We’d like to see both return to heralding all of these priorities.
The Affordable Care Act has helped families already and it’s not fully implemented until 2014. Coverage for children up to age 26 has helped protect young adults in school or job hunting. Pilot projects with competitive bidding for health supplies like wheelchairs are saving money in Medicare.
Can the current act be improved? Of course, and we’d like to hear details from both candidates on how they propose to control the rising cost of health care before the boomers get any older and need even more care. Portable, affordable health insurance policies, unlinked from employers, would do a world of good. How would each accomplish that feat?
Things are better than four years ago. But not nearly good enough. Obama fought for and won more consumer protections on the financial industry. Romney is the anti-regulation candidate, and he must explain why unleashed from new regs, banks and investment houses would operate better and safer.
The biggest disappointment we have with the president is his unwillingness to embrace the deficit reduction plan put forward by Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, which calls for spending cuts and revenue increases. The bipartisan plan, an Obama initiative, deserves a full public airing with both candidates clearly staking out their positions on the recommendations.
As a campaigner, Obama wanted to lift the cap on earnings subject to the Social Security tax. If he is serious about taxing the rich and securing Social Security, he should go for it again.
Which candidate will step forward to offer a real bipartisan compromise on taxes? That man will win votes.
The need for more jobs for Americans will be the subject of much debate. We want to hear a good case from Obama for a federal jobs program to rebuild infrastructure, and a good case from Romney on how lower taxes could spur job growth and business confidence.
Obama can rightly claim to have improved America’s world image. The adoring crowds in Germany of four years ago may be less enthusiastic, but on many world fronts, the hatred toward America is lower and respect is higher.
To his credit, Obama has supported a wind-down in Iraq, a planned wind-down in Afghanistan, the successful raid and killing of most-wanted Osama bin Laden and support for Arab Spring movements. But his positions on Syria, Iran, North Korea and other repressive, threatening nations still need to be more fully clarified and compared with Romney’s views.
Romney’s far-too-hostile talk on foreign policy during the contested GOP primaries needs to be recalibrated if he wants to be a respected world leader of the future. Romney has to build his foreign policy credentials with voters.
Romney still has to choose a vice presidential candidate, and his public “dating” with contenders is a welcome open window into his selection process. He won’t make the mistake John McCain did with a wild card who was wildly popular among some in the GOP but also wildly unprepared for the Oval Office. Romney and the nation need a veep candidate who is smart, prepared, serious and a solid potential free-world leader should the worst happen.
In what everyone expects will be a brutal, nasty campaign, with an avalanche of anonymous donors slinging mud in political ads, Americans can make it clear to both camps that we want something different. That means frank, detailed, even nuanced conversations about the vexing issues ahead.
Go for the high road. It’s time.