Why I’m Voting for Barack Obama – and Why I Hope You Will Too … Reason 2

[This is part of an ongoing series. I am speaking as a private citizen and not as a representative of any group.]
Reason 2: Leadership Integrity
I am voting for Barack Obama because I value personal integrity in leaders. Personal integrity requires a leader to repudiate falsehood, hate hypocrisy, and pursue fidelity to justice and truth, in private and in public. A person shows a pattern of integrity through fidelity to his or her spouse, through his or her refusal to employ falsehood for personal advantage, and through his or her willingness to admit mistakes and forgo excuses or blame-shifting whenever lapses occur. It seems clear to me that Senator Obama surpasses his counterpart on all counts.
Sadly, tragically even, Senator McCain has not repudiated the proven dishonesty and deceit of the Bush-Rove-Cheney years. In fact, his campaign has been outstripping even Bush-Cheney-Rove in misleading the public with a straight face while claiming straight talk. Even fellow Republicans are finding McCain’s tactics indefensible. Recalling the old saying about all being fair in love and war, McCain seems to see the world through a consummate warrior narrative (see EMC, Part 5), which leads him to love winning at all costs – including the expense of integrity, which in turn makes fidelity to “the reality-based community” quaint and only advisable when it is advantageous. Yes, all of us have lapses in integrity at times; all of us need grace. As a deeply flawed yet committed Christian, I am the first to affirm this. But when you look at personal and public patterns of integrity over many years, Barack Obama shines and John McCain stumbles badly.
But my concern is not only John McCain. I’m also terribly concerned about the party that nominated him. I don’t believe that a party that rushes to war based on a false pretenses deserves to be re-elected, no matter how loudly it claims to be for “family values” or “small-town values.” Do you? Is there an integrity lapse more serious than this?

Some of us believe that the Bush-Cheney administration was sincerely mistaken about weapons of mass destruction in their build-up to war. In this view, we went to war because of a failure of intelligence. It was an honest mistake, some say – being careful to remember that the honesty of the mistake does not minimize its seriousness. Others of us believe that Bush-Rove-Cheney cynically manipulated the data – and us, the American people – to legitimize a war they wanted to prosecute for other reasons. In this view, it was a dishonest abuse of power. Either way, whether because of a deficit of good intelligence or a deficit of integrity, I believe that a party that puts so many American and Iraqi lives in harm’s way without sufficient cause does not deserve to be re-elected. They should be sent into the penalty box for at least one period or given a red card for at least one game. How can they be rewarded with another presidency?
If the Bush-Rove-Cheney party had repudiated their false premises for going to war, it might be different. If McCain had been true to his “maverick” reputation and had stood against the Bush-Cheney failure in intelligence and/or integrity, perhaps voting for him could be reconciled with a high commitment to integrity. But McCain has been the opposite of a maverick on the war’s “weapons of mass destruction” justification, and on the idea of pre-emptive war on which it stands.
Senator Obama has been the maverick. He stood against the war from the beginning. He wasn’t beguiled by “false intelligence” and he wasn’t fooled by a beguiling rationale. This reason alone would put me in Obama’s camp. I’ll raise the question once more: Does a party that creates a pre-emptive war based on false claims or poor intelligence deserve to be rewarded with another term?
Of course, we could add to the duplicity about WMD many other Bush-Rove-Cheney betrayals of integrity: hidden prison camps, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, torture, forged letters, the Valerie Plame incident, and so on. We could talk about the Republican duplicity of giving massive tax cuts to the rich while saddling the next generation with a record national debt, a classic case of robbing an unborn Peter to pay a fat-and-happy Paul. We could also lament how Senator McCain has stooped to the same kind of Rovian electioneering tactics that President Bush used against him so unfairly in 2000, and so on. Beneath all these issues, one issue is obvious: if we reward with another term in office a party that has deceived or misled us, we will get what we deserve.
I believe that Senator Obama is an extraordinary candidate. While his opponent indulges in surprisingly dishonest and divisive attack ads, Obama has resisted responding in kind, instead focusing on critical issues and “a new spirit of unity and shared responsibility.” But even if Barack Obama were merely mediocre, simply based on the failures of the Republican Party to hold their president and vice president accountable for their lack of integrity (and/or intelligence) over these last eight years, I believe it’s high time for a change.
The American people have been fooled once already in this new century. Those who fooled us should not be rewarded with another term. I hope we won’t let ourselves be fooled again.