Clearly part of what should drive anyone's decision about their candidate of choice is the issues. However, what constitutes an issue is clearly at least somewhat a matter of personal choice. During the next 58 days I will from time to time muse on issues without too much specific attention to candidates' positions. So, what are my issues? The following list is a first attempt at a brain dump of what I think some of the major issues are:
International: the war on terror (or whatever your personal choice for the name might be) is clearly a major issue, with its current components in Afghanistan, Iraq, and possible future components who knows where. The need to express a consistent approach in this is paramount. This also includes dealing with all the fun stuff like North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, and of course, the whole West Bank, Gaza, Palestine mess. Oh yippee.
The Economy: Which, by the way, seems to be doing very well, although the current value of the dollar (which is resulting, at least in part, in high oil and gold prices) is a bit troubling. This is an interesting issue, since by and large there is not a lot a president can do about it, except for one area, to whit:
Taxes: I want a President who will make the Bush tax cuts permanent, get rid of the Alternative Minimum Tax, and ideally reform the whole damn tax code so that one single person of reasonable intelligence can understand all of it with less than one hour of study. That should not be impossible to achieve, and if achieved would do a great deal to stamp out corruption in congress. Which raises another issue:
Pork: I want a President who will veto bills that are sent to him (or her) laden with pork. If President Bush had done this consistently from the start of his administration we would for sure have less of a deficit than we do right now, and we might even have a Republican congress and senate - sigh. But I'm not done on economic issues, because there is always:
Social Security: and let's not forget Medicare, but for now we can focus on Social Security. And kudos, by the way, to Senator Obama for being willing to raise this issue. We have to address this and the sooner we do so, the better. I'm willing to consider any plan, as long as it is clear and honest. I would prefer not raising taxes, and my own preference would be (in the absence of some sort of personal account system) to delay the age at which people can start to take benefits, and also to choose a more suitable index for the annual inflationary adjustments. But, I need to see a plan.
Immigration: I think that this is going to be a really crucial issue in the election next year. I will likely be proved wrong, because a week is a long time in politics, never mind a year, but there does seem to be a genuine need for a change in the current way that we are dealing (or rather, not dealing) with illegal immigration. It is no surprise that states like Arizona are taking draconian measures, and I expect to see more such local actions. First step has to be enforcement. And that has to include holding employers responsible (as they are right now - every employee must produce an I-9) for the people they hire. Yes, there are problems with however this is done, so some sort of appeal process would be needed, but we have to start enforcing the law here. In the long term, it would be good to consider why it is that so many people from Mexico (which seems to provide the lion's share of illegal immigrants, although I could be mistaken) want to come to the US. What is Mexico doing wrong? Mexico is a country blessed with amazing natural resources - they should be as wealthy, on a per capita basis, as the US (or at the very least, as wealthy as Canada). Are there systemic issues that hold people in Mexico in a position of poverty? Don't know, but this may be one of those questions that never get asked because it is somehow not right to ask them... Anyway, immigration or more specifically illegal immigration, is a key issue.
I do have some other issues (and some of you might say I have a whole host of them, but that's your problem not mine!). Those would include health care, education, the environment, maintaining and improving the crumbling infrastructure of the nation, and one that will not be on most people's radar screens but is definitely on mine, namely the technological singularity! I will muse on these on another day!