Tough choices

September 3, 2008
By: Vicki Bell

It's been a rough couple of weeks in the Bell household. While we normally have difficulty finding anything we care to watch among the gazillion stations available on satellite TV, for the past two weeks, we've found ourselves having to choose between watching the political conventions or the U.S. Open.

For me, the Open won out, and here's why. I decided that I would bypass the hype, glitz, placard waving, and pundit analyses associated with the conventions and read the speeches online as they are posted. I'm more interested in substance than packaging, and I really don't care to hear from the talking heads who feel compelled to tell us how we should interpret what we hear. In my opinion, no one is truly objective—including me. I find myself talking back to the commentators and saying, "That's your opinion."

When I watch a politician speak, I'm immediately put off if the speaker's style is highly rhetorical. I don't want preaching, pandering, tear-jerking, or mudslinging. Give me plain ole "this is the issue and here's what I intend to do about it."

Why is it so difficult for a politician to deliver straight talk minus theatrics? Maybe it's because speechwriters have to earn a living too, or because we take more into account when choosing our elected officials than what they have to say.

In each presidential election, I strive to study the candidates' positions and vote accordingly—taking into account body language and my gut feelings about a candidate's sincerity, which means I lose my objectivity. My gut feelings stem from my life's experiences and make it very difficult for me to be truly objective.

When writing this blog post, I revisited a site I've used before to research and compare candidates, This site allows you to read and compare the candidates stated positions on myriad issues, including the economy, trade, environment, gun laws, legalization of marijuana, abortion, social security, education, immigration, and the Iraq War.

According to the site, on the issue of trade, Republican candidate John McCain is a " free trader." Democratic candidate Barack Obama "has a mixed voting record of trade issues. Voted for free trade agreement with Oman. Voted against implementing CAFTA for Central America free-trade."

If you visit this site, you can view the candidates' positions on the issues, along with ratings from various organizations and the sources of the information.

While this information is helpful, it falls short of fully answering my questions, such as what is your step-by-step plan for improving the U.S. economy? Just how do you propose to protect U.S. jobs and create new jobs? What specific actions will you take to help U.S. manufacturing remain viable in this global, non-level playing field? More details, please!

Don't give me what you think is the popular, election-winning answer. Tell me the truth.

I sometimes think it would be refreshing to hear a candidate say, "You know, this is a complicated issue, and I really don't have the answer, but I'd like to assemble the best minds in the country— irrespective of party—to put our heads together and come up with a plan we can articulate and explain to the public."

Wait—isn't this the role of Congress?

I could stand on this soapbox all day, but the hook is beckoning from the wings. also provides a Presidential Candidate Selector, a means for you to see how closely your views match all candidates.

I know who I'm leaning toward in this election, but according to the selector, my beliefs are more closely aligned with his opponent's, albeit by a slim margin (59 percent for my guy; 62 percent for the other guy).

What does this tell me? I'm not completely objective in choosing who will get my vote in November. My gut is making up for the three percent difference and then some.

I'm not a dyed-in-the-wool anything. In one presidential election, I was unable to cast my vote for any of the candidates on the ballot and wrote in my preference. In another, I voted for a third-party candidate, and in countless others, I have voted for whom I believed to be the less substandard of two substandard choices.

My husband remarked just today that we might be better off going back to an earlier practice in the U.S., one in which the candidate who received the most votes was president, and the second highest vote getter was the vice president. (This might eliminate any vice presidential vetting concerns.) Doesn't sound like a bad idea to me.

Vicki Bell

Vicki Bell

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8209