In the race for a four-year term in the White House, four-term Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and his running-mate Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) are facing off against one-term Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and his running-mate Senator Joe Biden (D-DE). They are joined on the Virginia ballot by Bob Barr/Wayne Allen Root (L), Chuck Baldwin/Darrell Castle (IG), Cynthia McKinney/Rosa Clemente (G), and Ralph Nader/Matt Gonzalez (I).

Nader, running this year as an independent, can be dismissed outright. He is wrong on nearly every important issue. He wants a nationalized health care system, even though they have failed the people of every country that has established one in the past. He wants to drastically cut our military budget, leaving us open to attack or even invasion from foreign enemies. He opposes nuclear power, even though it is the most viable solution for moving our power infrastructure away from environmentally un-friendly gas and coal. He seeks a rapid withdrawal from Iraq, though it would destabilize the region and create a new Al-Qaeda hotbed (putting U.S. security at risk). He seeks to impeach President George W. Bush (R) and Vice President Dick Cheney (R) or prosecute them for invented crimes after they leave office (news-flash: implementing unpopular policies is not illegal). He seeks to actively interfere with businesses through forced unionization and government interventionism, though these policies will further destabilize our economy. A vote for Nader, my friends, is a vote against your self-interest as an American.

McKinney, running on a Green Party ticket, can also be easily dismissed. Her record in Congress (as a Democrat before recently switching to the Green Party) is one of sheer insanity. She rose to national attention in 2001 when, after the September 11 attacks, she claimed that the Bush administration had advance knowledge of that terrorist act. This conspiracy theory has been repeatedly debunked, and you can debunk it yourself in less than ten minutes of research. She again made national news in 2006 when she entered a Capitol office building without wearing her House member’s identification pin and assaulted the Capitol Police officer who stopped her. She then proceeded to publicly accuse that officer of being a racist. This laughable insanity is merely a slow-news-day distraction when she is one of 435 members in the House of Representatives, but the very idea of sending the perpetrator of these immature hijinks to the White House . . . well, I shudder to think of the damage she could do. Her socialist campaign platform merely reinforces this opinion.

Baldwin, representing the Constitution Party but appearing on the Virginia ballot under the Independent Green banner, presents a viable campaign platform marred by isolationism and an over-dependence on religion. On the plus side, he calls for a return to Constitutional government that does not overstep its limited authority, and thus seeks to eliminate clearly-unconstitutional federal agencies like the Department of Education. He seeks to reinforce our right to keep and bear arms, to secure our borders and deport illegal immigrants, to vehemently protect personal freedoms, defend the sanctity of life, preserve choice in health care, and withdraw the U.S. from the counterproductive ‘United Nations’ organization.

It’s not all positives though. Baldwin follows in McKinney’s conspiracy-theory footsteps and questions whether we have been told the whole story of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks. He makes no clear statement on an Iraq disentanglement plan, though he clearly wishes to keep U.S. troops on U.S. soil. He seeks to end free trade agreements—though they strongly benefit our economy—and seeks to roll-back the clear separation of church and state. In the end, Baldwin’s platform is intriguing but it is wrong for America.

Likewise, Barr’s campaign under the Libertarian Party banner presents an intriguing but wrong choice. Holding fast to the Libertarian battle cries of eliminating government intervention in our lives, Barr stands for a significant reduction in unnecessary government spending, elimination of entitlement programs, a free-market energy policy, a free-market health care policy, protection of our right to keep and bear arms, protection of our property rights from ‘eminent domain’ abuse, meaningful reform of the tax code, strict enforcement of immigration laws coupled with more legal immigration, leaving marriage laws to the individual states, and reforming the Federal Reserve monetary system. So-far-so-good.

Again though, a viable platform is marred by being terribly misguided on a few key issues. Barr would roll back Presidential war-time powers necessary to prevent terrorism on U.S. soil. He would pursue a misguided quick withdrawal from Iraq, though he also recognizes that a concrete timetable would empower our enemies. He would bring U.S. soldiers home from bases worldwide, focusing instead on home defense—though, in this interconnected world, our safety requires stability worldwide and it is thus in our national interest to foster that stability. I am sympathetic to the Libertarian cause, but limited foreign interventionism is an unfortunate necessity for our safety in the modern world and our next president must recognize that fact. Our next president must also recognize the necessity of Presidential war powers in staving off attacks from Al-Qaeda and their sympathizers on our soil.

Thus, we are left—as we so often are in our two-party system—with the same choices we usually have: a Republican and a Democrat.

There are several issues that are of central importance when considering your vote. First and foremost, our next president must be willing to do whatever is necessary to protect our citizens from Al-Qaeda and other elements of radical Islam that seek to either subjugate us to their religion or destroy us. Second, but closely tied to the first, our next president must establish a comprehensive energy plan to end our dependence on foreign oil. This should be done through a combination of immediate offshore drilling, significant federal investment in alternative automotive fuels, and significant growth in the use of nuclear power. Third, our next president must establish economic policies that do no harm and leave the market to recover on its own merits over the coming years without undue government intervention. In addition, federal spending must be reduced—the Bush deficits are not sustainable, nor should they be. Fourth, our next president must appoint Supreme Court justices who will honestly interpret the Constitution—staunchly defending our enumerated rights (including freedom of religion, freedom of speech, property rights, the right to life, the right to keep and bear arms, and protection from unreasonable search and seizure) without fabricating new ones (like the right to redefine marriage, the right to have your property stolen by your local government, the right of enemy combatants captured on foreign soil to be tried in U.S. courts, and the right to never-ever be offended by anything anyone else does).

Finally, our next president must work hard to bring Republicans and Democrats together for the common good. This might be a pipe dream, given the culture of political bickering and insults that took hold primarily among Democrats after the election of President Bush in 2000 and has since become an integrated part of the fabric of our discourse. After all, Bush came to office with a proven record of uniting the two parties in Texas . . . he was unable to do it in the current Washington culture. It is disgusting to watch politicians of all stripes clamor for votes—accuracy, history, and concrete evidence be-damned—using our economic well-being, religious and moral beliefs, the lives of our troops, and the safety of our citizens as partisan weapons.

Senator Obama, the Democratic nominee, seems to present a solution to our degraded political discourse. On the campaign trail, he has been civil and respectful. His speeches and advertisements, minus some more-recent negative ads, fill the heart with hope and optimism. Obama is a top-notch orator and an impressive personality for whom I have much respect. While he has been criticized for his relative lack of experience, Obama has shown that he has many strong leadership qualities—enough so that he defeated entrenched, prominent Democratic politicians for his party’s nomination. He has also been morally consistent, opposing the Iraq War from the beginning rather than supporting-it-before-opposing-it like erstwhile 2004 Democratic nominee Senator John Kerry (D-MA) . . . or, for that matter, Obama’s Democratic Primary opponent Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

But, beneath this impressive gloss, there are warning signs of what a President Obama would have in store for America. Diving deeper into his policy stances and record, it becomes more and more clear why Obama shies away from in-depth oratory on his views or detailed explanations of his plans.

Obama, after striving as long as possible to avoid taking a clear position on the socialist Wall St. bailout package, ultimately supported the ill-advised interventionist policy. He has criticized McCain for stating, truthfully, that the fundamentals of our economy are strong, but he has provided no clear solution for the problem he insists exists. Obama would establish a windfall profits tax, creating a Robin Hood-like situation where those who are most successful are penalized for the benefit of those who have failed to make prudent financial choices. He would also establish broad federal programs for infrastructure improvement, broadband deployment, health care, and more. These programs, aside from being unconstitutional, are reminiscent of Roosevelt’s failed depression-era ‘New Deal’ programs. These new or expanded federal programs will inevitably result in increased federal spending and higher taxes, which will directly result in a further depressed economy.

With regard to energy, Obama proposes to apply the aforementioned windfall profits tax to oil companies and use it to provide $1,000 ‘emergency energy rebates’ to all Americans. In addition, he would raid the Strategic Petroleum Reserve—intended for use in a dire emergency—to offset the price of oil. These efforts would be tied to mandates to eliminate oil imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within ten years. For all his talk, however, it is unclear how he intends to accomplish these noble goals. Further, he fails to grasp the urgent national security reasons for immediate offshore drilling as part of a short-term solution.

According to Obama, the U.S. remains unprepared for a potential terrorist attack—despite seven years of evidence to the contrary. Obama openly states that he would engage in incentive-based diplomacy with the belligerent leaders of Iran, Palestine, North Korea, and elsewhere—a policy that smacks of the ineffective appeasements that led to World War II. He would move toward nuclear disarmament just as some of those very same belligerent powers are moving to create their own nuclear weapons. He provides no clear plan for destroying Al-Qaeda and the influence of radical Islam worldwide. He supports a politically-expedient but ultimately damaging withdrawal from Iraq, and continues to refuse to admit that Bush’s troop surge—which he opposed—has been a resounding security success on the ground.

Finally, Obama—a tried-and-true liberal member of the Democratic Party—is unlikely to appoint judges who will uphold rather than rewrite the law. Obama supports the fabricated right to end an unborn human life. Obama supports unconstitutional limitation of the right to keep and bear arms. Obama supports opening the U.S. courts to enemy combatants who have never in the history of the world been granted such right. Obama supports the establishment of federal programs that are Constitutionally invalid. With these facts in mind, it is unlikely that Obama’s nominees to the Supreme Court will correctly interpret the law.

Senator McCain, the Republican nominee, presents a much better suite of solutions. His economic plan includes common-sense action. He would keep tax rates low, lowering the corporate tax rate and establishing a research & development tax credit. These tax reductions will encourage business growth and economic stability. McCain is also a supporter of mutually beneficial free trade agreements. On the government side, he would work to balance the federal budget before 2013, reduce or eliminate pork-barrel spending, eliminate failing or useless federal programs, and reform entitlement programs like Social Security to make them more self-sufficient. This plan will help to stabilize the economy and put it on a stance for growth without requiring costly government intervention.

McCain also presents a stellar energy plan he calls ‘The Lexington Project’. This plan encompasses immediate expansion of domestic oil and natural gas production, providing major incentives for businesses and individuals to develop and use alternative fuel technology, committing federal money to clean coal technology and the establishment of new nuclear power plants, and providing federal incentives for use of wind, hydroelectric, and other ‘clean’ power technologies. Only McCain proposes to end our dependence on foreign oil by attacking it on all fronts simultaneously, and only McCain recognizes the national security necessity of doing so.

McCain is also the only candidate in the race who seems to have a clear understanding of the nature of radical Islam and the need to fight it with the full military force of the United States when necessary. As a former military man himself, McCain is no war-monger. He will hesitate to risk the lives of our brave soldiers, aviators, and seamen except when absolutely necessary, and he will treat the decision to go to war with appropriate solemnity and seriousness. However, McCain is no idealistic neophyte who believes that every problem can be solved with earnest diplomacy. There are times when war is an unfortunate necessity, and the fight against radical Islam is a prime example. The fight against belligerent dictators like Saddam Hussein is another. McCain would also pursue a rational plan in Iraq, where any withdrawal is contingent upon the stability of that county and our own security.

Finally, McCain has committed to appointing Supreme Court justices who will interpret rather than rewrite the law. He is a strong supporter of the right to keep and bear arms, a strong supporter of a federal government with a limited scope, and a strong supporter of a clear, Constitutional separation of powers. This is, perhaps, the single strongest argument in McCain’s favor: he wants to uphold, not rewrite, the U.S. Constitution that guarantees and protects our rights as citizens.

Having said all that, McCain is no perfect candidate.

The crowning achievement of McCain’s Senate career—the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (also known as ‘McCain-Feingold’)—is among the most offensive examples of the federal government overstepping its authority that I have ever seen. The law limits how much money you can donate to political campaigns, which is a clear violation of your Constitutional right to engage in whatever political ‘speech’ you wish to engage in. It requires all candidates’ ads to include the words, ‘I’m [so-and-so], and I approve this message’—another violation of the First Amendment right to free speech. Another provision—that no corporation or labor union may mention a candidate’s name in any advertisement within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election—has already been ruled unconstitutional, as was a provision that granted candidates special fund-raising privileges if their opponent had spent over $350,000 of their own money toward their campaign. McCain didn’t just support these blatant affronts to Constitutional law; he wrote them.

McCain was also one of the architects of the ‘Gang of 14’, a bipartisan group of 14 senators that forged a compromise on the Democratic Party’s unconstitutional use of the filibuster to hold off President Bush’s judicial nominations. The brewing constitutional crisis that the abuse of the filibuster was leading to should have been allowed to proceed. Because of the actions of the ‘Gang of 14’—or, rather, their inaction—the legality of filibustering presidential nominees remains unresolved. Having said that, the ‘Gang of 14’ does illustrate McCain’s willingness to join with both Republicans and Democrats to get things done.

McCain also supports providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, though this would be coupled with stronger immigration enforcement. While I agree with McCain that unskilled immigrant labor is an economic necessity in the United States, I am firmly opposed to any reward for people who flaunted our laws and entered this country illegally. Amnesty for illegal immigrants is simply appeasement—which McCain rightfully opposes in international politics—on a personal scale. He is right that English should become our national language, and right that we should increase legal immigration, but wrong on amnesty.

Worst of all, McCain was an ardent supporter of the socialist 700 billion dollar Wall St. bailout package architected by leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties. This unprecedented, unconstitutional, and downright offensive legislation is being defended by all corners in both major parties, despite being broadly opposed by the American public. The fact that McCain and Obama each supported this ill-advised monstrosity is almost reason to ‘throw away my vote’ on a third-party candidate, except that the third party candidates that are right on this issue are wrong on Iraq. If elected, McCain must oppose any further moves toward socialist interventionism by our government and must defend the free market economy.

Even with these negatives, the choice between Senator Obama and Senator McCain is clear. Only one candidate provides a positive option for American voters as we continue facing the threats of radical Islam and belligerent dictators overseas and an overburdening federal government at home. Only one candidate will appoint Supreme Court justices who interpret rather than rewrite the law and defend our civil liberties. I endorse the election of Senator John McCain as the next President of the United States.

Scott Bradford has been building web sites and using them to say what he thinks since 1995, which tended to get him in trouble with power-tripping assistant principals at the time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, but has spent most of his career (so far) working on public- and private-sector web sites. He is not a member of any political party, and brands himself an ‘independent constitutional conservative.’ In addition to holding down a day job and blogging about challenging subjects like politics, religion, and technology, Scott is also a devout Catholic, gun-owner, bike rider, and music lover with a wife, two cats, and a dog.