A YOUNG inspirational senator with little experience but a message of change and hope for America looks set to take on a former Vietnam prisoner of war and undisputed American hero in the US presidential election.
Barack Obama, 46, and John McCain, 71, are in many ways polar opposites and likely to clash on everything from Iraq and national security to the economy, all key issues in the 2008 race so far.
Obama has described it as a battle between the policies of yesterday and the party of tomorrow, while McCain has said he will “fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change”.
Obama, who would be America’s first black president, has said the US cannot afford to allow McCain serve out President George W Bush’s “third term”.
He described his rival as “out of touch” with America’s core values and said McCain, who would be the oldest ever first term US president if elected, offered nothing more than “the failed policies of the past”.
“When he embraces George Bush’s failed economic policies, when he says that he is willing to send our troops into another 100 years of war in Iraq, then he represents the policies of yesterday and we want to be the party of tomorrow.”
Obama wants to end the “rash war” in Iraq and bring US troops home, while McCain staunchly supports the war.
Obama has vowed to “engage in aggressive personal diplomacy” with Iran in a bid to help stability in Iraq, and would also hold talks with Cuba’s new leader Raul Castro. McCain has denounced this foreign policy approach as “confused” and an example of his rival’s inexperience.
On the economy, Obama believes Bush’s tax cuts, which McCain would try to make permanent, benefit only the wealthy, while he is calling for tax relief for the middle classes.
Obama would create a subsidised public healthcare plan, which he claims would provide coverage for anyone who wanted it, while McCain wants to bring costs under control.
A staunch supporter of abortion rights, Obama is also in favour of relaxing federal restrictions on stem cell research and has called for a “sensible” approach to gun control.
McCain also supports stem cell research funding, but in contrast to Obama is pro-life, and supports the second amendment right to bear arms.
On immigration, Obama wants to fix a “broken” system, enforcing the border but reuniting families, while McCain favours comprehensive immigration reform, with a path to legal status for undocumented workers.
McCain has frequently questioned whether his Democratic rival would have the strength and experience to respond to the challenges facing America and the world.
“Or will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested bombing our ally Pakistan and sitting down, without preconditions or clear purpose, with enemies who support terrorists,” McCain asked.
But despite leading in the general election polls, McCain has said he faces an “uphill battle” with a “tough fight ahead”.
The temper-prone Republican, with his offbeat sense of humour and a record of breaking with his party to work across the aisle, irks the conservative wing of the party that he will need if he is to enjoy success later this year.
He insists he has the conservative credentials necessary and said Americans will have a choice between a conservative Republican and a liberal Democrat — a sign that the general election campaign will be framed primarily by ideology as he casts his Democratic rivals as big-government, soft-on-security liberals.
But McCain’s affiliation with the Republican party and years of experience in Washington appear at odds with the resounding call for change coming from the American public.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved