Why I'm voting for Obama

I'm a ticket splitter, but this year's choice is clear.

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It's that time of year, my last column before the elections on Tuesday. I have tried hard to keep an open mind throughout the campaign, balancing evolving opinions, the fact that I consistently vote a split ticket and the fact that both my father and mother were lifelong Republicans. They would probably roll over in their graves up on Rose Hill if they were to see this column.

My decision to vote for the re-election of Barack Obama has five poles.

• The first is the position stated two years ago by Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. that "the single most important thing we want to achieve" is to make Mr. Obama a one-term president. Mr. McConnell did not say he would work to pass legislation in the best interests of the American people. He said he would work most of all to get rid of Mr. Obama.

Yet Mitt Romney, the Republican Party's presidential nominee, even when he is trying to sound reasonable and bipartisan, has never said Mr. McConnell should step down as the GOP leader in the Senate. That is a reason not only to vote against Mr. Romney, but also to vote against Republican Senate and House candidates.

• The second problem is Mr. Romney's private talk with rich donors in Boca Raton, Fla., in which he wrote off -- inaccurately, by the way -- 47 percent of Americans as "victims," as "dependent on government" who wouldn't vote for him. His comments -- such as "my job is not to worry about those people" -- were those of a rich person who never has had to look with dismay at a pay slip with its deductions for Medicare, Social Security, federal, state and local taxes and believes that the only taxes that count are those that even he can't avoid by stashing his money in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands, or by taking deductions such as the $77,000 for his wife's dressage horse.

It is important to remember, on the eve of the elections, that Mr. Romney still has provided only a limited, edited report of his recent taxes. The information he has yielded is far short of what I had to provide federal authorities in 1989 and 1995 to win Senate confirmation of my appointments to be U.S. ambassador to the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

What, exactly, is Mr. Romney hiding? What does he not want the American people to see as they consider his candidacy for the nation's top office, the one where honesty really counts?

• The third reason to vote for Mr. Obama is the astonishing effort on the part of Republicans across the country to roll back the electoral franchise, seeking to hinder voting by the poor, those with limited literacy or bureaucratic skills and those who have moved often, frequently as a result of poverty or unemployment. I quote Republican Pennsylvania House leader Mike Turzai on the subject in June: "Voter ID, which is gonna allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done."

I have lived in many countries overseas -- in Africa, Europe and the Middle East -- and I have never seen politicians try to roll history backward in this way, as Republicans would take us back almost to the Civil War with 2012 versions of Southern poll taxes, literacy tests and other barriers to voting so as to improve their electoral prospects. Even the most corrupt governments normally take the public position that they want to increase participation in their elections, not decrease it by erecting barriers to voting. I keep listening for Mr. Romney to criticize these Republican efforts.

• The fourth concern is the makeup of Mr. Romney's foreign-affairs team. Its shortcomings showed up first in his July trip to the United Kingdom, Israel and Poland.

In London, on the eve of the Olympics, he took a cheap shot at America's best friends, the British, over what he professed to see as their lack of security preparedness for the games. He did this to make himself look good by comparison as head of the Salt Lake City Olympics. In the event, the London Olympics took place with no security problems.

Mr. Romney then took fundraisers with him to Israel, looking at Jerusalem as a potential land of milk and honey for campaign contributions. I guess he went to Poland to use it as a platform to substantiate his questionable claim that Russia is America's "No. 1 geopolitical foe."

Mr. Romney's international-affairs advisers are a collection of Bush-era, failed neoconservatives -- those wonderful people who brought us the Iraq war -- such as the comical John R. Bolton, Dick Cheney liaison Eric Edelman, ex-CIA counterterrorism officer and Blackwater security firm executive Cofer Black and former ambassador Richard S. Williamson. The thought of any of these people occupying key national security positions -- secretary of defense, secretary of state, national security adviser -- is enough to make one say a prayer while humming "Speed Our Republic."

• Finally, I cannot get past the impression that the only thing Mr. Romney believes firmly is that he should be the first Mormon president of the United States, and that it is morally acceptable to say anything to anybody to achieve that goal. The whole series of his appearances and statements, through the Republican primaries and his campaign against Mr. Obama, leads me to that conclusion.

For that reason, if for nothing else, I don't want Mitt Romney to be elected president and will vote for Mr. Obama.


Dan Simpson, a former U.S. ambassador, is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (dsimpson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1976).


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