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GOP delegates ponder that unsettling 'what if?'

Image: John McCain
Republican presidential candidate John McCain waves to the crowd as he goes on stage at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., Thursday, Sept. 4, 2008.Charlie Neibergall / AP
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Invigorated by vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s bravura speech Wednesday night, Republicans felt, as Sen. John McCain gave his acceptance speech Thursday night, that maybe they are heading to victory as they leave St. Paul.

At the very least, they feel confident it’ll be one hell of a fight with the Democrats from now to Election Day.

But just hours before they begin the rush to Nov. 4, here’s one question that may keep Republicans up in the wee small hours of the morning: What if Barack Obama wins?

Last week at the Democratic convention in Denver I spoke to delegates at a breakfast of the Iowa delegation. I asked them about their concerns that some Americans might not see in Barack Obama the presidential qualities they saw.

This week, I walked the convention and listened to what Republican delegates said about Obama.

So, what exactly is it that delegates most fear Obama would do as president?

As one would expect in a convention which chose an unyielding military hawk as its presidential nominee, several delegates and guests voiced fears Thursday of what Obama would do, or fail to do, as commander-in-chief.

Worried about his grandchildren
“My major concern is national security: I’ve got six granddaughters and a grandson. I want them to be absolutely safe in this country and to have the same freedom I’ve experienced,” said Rex Early, an Indianapolis insurance agency owner.

“We just don’t know enough about him,” complained Early about Obama.

Early sported a baseball cap with the words “U.S. Marine Corps Veteran” stitched on it. He served in the Marines in Japan from 1954 to 1956. His first GOP convention was the 1968 one that nominated Richard Nixon.

Delegate Ed Failor, a low-tax state government lobbyist from Muscatine, Iowa, said his worry if Obama is elected was not what he would do, but rather that “Obama would not do those things that will keep our country safe. His willingness to negotiate with terrorists to sit down at the table with them with no expectations — that scares me. I have four kids, 13 to 18, and it scares me more than anything else.”

Delegate William Diamond, a real estate investor from Palm Beach, Fla., said his anxiety was both financial and military.

If Obama wins, “there will be a whole series of actions, redistributing wealth in this country, as well as changing our foreign policy to accommodate interests that are inimical to the United States, in the Middle East,” Diamond fretted.

Delegate Marilyn Ware from Strasburg, a town in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, said she had been out of the country for two and a half years, serving as United States ambassador to Finland.

Asked what she feared about an Obama presidency, Ware said, “I’m not a fearful person. In a democracy the word ‘fearful’ does not apply. In the long haul, we have all the checks and balances, so the system works well. In the short run, we have a series of immediate world challenges that John McCain is far better prepared to address” than Obama.

She asked, “What about Pakistan? What about India? What about China? What about Russia?”

Of Obama, she said, “We know he is skillful but we don’t know the level of proficiency and we certainly know he does not have the institutional memory” needed to be president. 

'More of the same'
Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., voiced her concern that an Obama presidency would revert to old-style liberal government.

“I think about his message of change, but it’s more of the same in what liberal Democrats have wanted for this country for a long time, the  same old liberal polices we’ve seen from the likes of Joe Biden and other liberals in the Senate. It’s packaged in very attractive way and spoken very eloquently, but more of the same.”

Conservative activist Gary Bauer, who ran for the Republican nomination himself in 2000, was lingering in the hallway off the convention floor with Musgrave and some friends before McCain gave his speech.

Not settling for the one thing he most feared about an Obama presidency, Bauer insisted on one domestic and one foreign.

“On domestic policy, his Supreme Court appointments could be a disaster.” Obama appointees to the Supreme Court would, Bauer predicted, “continue the trend of social engineering that the federal court have been doing now for three decades.”

“On foreign policy I just don’t think he gets it: I’m afraid not what I’m going to think of 2:30 in the morning, but what he would think of at 2:30 in the morning when he gets the phone call about a crisis. I think his instincts are all wrong and I think America would be tested very badly under his administration.”

Seattle bookstore owner Phil Bevis, a delegate from Washington state, said “As an employer I understand how hard it is to create jobs…. I am concerned that Barack Obama, a man who has never worked in the private sector, does not understand where jobs come from, how difficult it is for small businesses to create jobs and the impact of even small changes in taxes and regulations.”

An unconstitutional approach
Chris Peden, a certified public accountant from Friendswood, Texas, said he fears Obama would wreak constitutional havoc.

“For most of the problems he talks about, most of the solutions he has are just unconstitutional.”

For example, Peden said, “he talks about AK-47s and hunters having rights at the same time. But the Second Amendment has nothing to do with hunters. The Second Amendment is the right for every citizen to bear arms. The Supreme Court upheld that.”

Peden said, “If he doesn’t like that and he thinks the country has moved to a place where the Second Amendment no longer applies, there’s a process to fix that. It’s called amending the Constitution. My single biggest fear is that he will try to do to the Constitution through executive order what the Constitution allows you to do only by an amendment.

But whether it is Obama or McCain who wins on Nov 4, the oath will be the same in January: to protect and defend that Constitution.