John Obama and Barack McCain: Two Very Different Men

mckeever's picture
Submitted by mckeever on Sat, 2008-09-06 00:59


John Obama and Barack McCain: Two Very Different Men

September 5, 2008 by Paul McKeever

For those who did not have a chance, or the inclination, to watch the coverage for the Democratic and Republican conventions over the last couple of weeks, I am happy to provide this comparison of each party’s nominee for the office of President of the United States of America, based upon each man’s acceptance speech. I am not here providing a comparison of their proposed government policies: you can find those everywhere else. What I provide here is a comparison of the candidates’ philosophies, to the extent express statements allow me to perform one. The reason is simple: many of the decisions a president will make are not foreseen years, months, weeks, or even days in advance. By knowing their respective philosophical commitments, one can at least determine the general nature of policies which are, or are not, likely to be adopted in the future.

Metaphysics: The Nominees’ Views on the Nature of Reality

Republican nominee John McCain referred to “god” eight times during his speech, out-godifying Obama, who referred to “god” just twice, 4 to 1.

Whereas Senator McCain closed with the words: “Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America”, Senator Obama took the diametrically opposed position on the facts of reality with his contra McCainian use of periods instead of commas: “Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.”

Another stark contrast can be drawn with respect to the issue of who we all are. According to McCain, “We’re all God’s children, and we’re all Americans.” Not so, says Pennsylvania’s former deputy attorney general (and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton supporter) Philip J. Berg, who yesterday served Obama and the Democratic party with a lawsuit alleging Obama lied about being a US citizen, and challenging his eligibility to be president.

Epistemology: The Nominees’ Views on Obtaining Knowledge

McCain referred to “faith” three times, including one reference to Americans having “faith in the wisdom, justice, and goodness of its people.” He referred to reason twice:

“For reasons known only to God, I’ve had quite a few tough ones in my life.”


“I’m going to fight to make sure every American has every reason to thank God, as I thank him, that I’m an American, a proud citizen of the greatest country on Earth.”

For McCain, we should have faith in others’ reason, and reasons for faith in god. In short: we should have faith in the reasons for having faith in God. Shorter still: we should have faith, but reason is superfluous.

Here, Obama’s message is clearly different. Although he used the word “reason” only once, he made his hallowed respect for it clear: “The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great, a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.” Now, sure, the sentence isn’t entirely intelligible, but we can at least gather that, when it comes to getting a presidential nomination, reason, for Obama, is indispensible.

Moreover, Obama did not use the word “faith” even once. Taking the polar opposite view to McCain, he said “Let us keep that promise, that American promise, and in the words of scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.” His reference was to Hebrews 10:23: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful”. So, for Obama, one does not need faith: one only needs hope, because we can just rely on Jesus to have enough faith for everyone.

To sum up Obama’s epistemology: one needs only to hope for a promise that is a reason…er, something like that. But faith has nothing to do with it, so he is definitely different than McCain when it comes to his epistemology.

Ethics: The Nominees’ Views on What One Ought to Do

McCain condemned the “me-first, country-second crowd”. He said he intends to honour the Stanley family for their sacrifice of their son. He told a touching tale of how he used to to do things “for [his] own pleasure; [his] own pride”, and how he “…didn’t think there was a cause more important than” himself. He explained that, thereafter, he discovered “the limits of [his] selfish independence”, learned that “no man can always stand alone”, and found that “nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself”. In short: it is right to sacrifice others, it is right to sacrifice oneself, and sacrifice will make you happy. Shorter still: dying makes one happiest of all.

Obama carved a path in the opposite direction, not referring to “sacrifice” at all. Instead, he explained, the “promise of America” is “the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper.” Obama explained that that promise “…has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west…”.

The difference is astounding. Whereas McCain says it’s right to sacrifice of oneself, Obama says it is right to move where you will be kept by others.

Politics: The Nominees’ Views on the Government’s Use of Force

Implicitly referring to Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, McCain asserted that “We’re dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal and endowed by our creator with inalienable rights.” He added that: “education is the civil rights issue of this century”, praising the gain of the civil right of universal access to public schools.

Obama did not use the word “rights” in his speech, but he did say that government should “provide every child a decent education”, that “Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education”, that he’ll “invest in early childhood education”, and “make sure you can afford a college education”.

The difference is clear: McCain believes you have a right to a tax-funded education, whereas Obama’s promise of a tax-funded education is not founded upon rights. More succinctly: McCain asserts that you have a right to other peoples’ money, whereas Obama regards other peoples’ money as something that the government can give to you if it chooses to do so.


To sum up, McCain and Obama are miles apart on what counts: philosophy. McCain is the more goddy American child of god, whereas Obama is alleged to be the periodically goddy child of Kenya…or Indonesia, or someplace. McCain has faith, whereas Obama has hope in a promise for reason in a guy who has faith (er, something like that). McCain puts himself second, whereas, in stark contrast, Obama puts others first. McCain says you have a right to tell the government to take tuition money from others, whereas Obama says you do not need such a right because he is already more eager than McCain to take that money, and more.

The media will, no doubt, spend the next two months telling you how diametrically opposed these two candidates are; how they have two dramatically different visions for America; how your vote will make a huge difference in respect of the course of America’s future. As the above comparison shows, the media will not be misleading you one bit.

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You're quite welcome.

mckeever's picture

It was my pleasure.

Lie and the world lies with you.

Tell the truth, and the world lies about you.

-Oscar Wilde

Snark Contrast

Luke H's picture

McCain puts himself second, whereas, in stark contrast, Obama puts others first.


 McKeever, that was great.  Thanks.

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