Tradition dictates that when we vote between presidential candidates, we are voting for polar opposites. Our statements are usually along the lines of "So and so will protect children and so and so will support a woman's right to privacy." However, this has become less true in recent elections. Now I am convinced that in 2008, though the two candidates appear to be quite different, there are few distinguishing characteristics in their policies. Lets explore a few statements.
Note: Since Obama has all but locked up the nomination, we will compare Obama and McCain.
False: John McCain will win the war. Obama will get our troops home.
McCain believes that going into Iraq was the right thing to do. Obama believes that we should have stayed out of Iraq in the first place. However, that is all past now.
McCain said in a speech about his first term, that his goal is that, "By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom. ... The United States maintains a military presence there, but a much smaller one, and it does not play a direct combat role."
Obama was also asked if we could reasonably expect to have troops out of Iraq by 2013. His response was, "I think it’s hard to project four years from now and I think it would be irresponsible. We do not know what contingency will be out there. … I don’t want to make promises, not knowing what the situation‘s going to be three or four years out"
True: Neither candidate has major plans to get the troops out of Iraq within their first term.
False: McCain will protect the unborn. Obama supports a woman's right to control her own body.
The latter statement is certainly true. Obama is rated 100% by Planned Parenthood and always supports pro-choice measures. However, McCain is not so consistent on the right-to-life.
McCain supports embryonic stem cell research, alongside Obama. He also would allow a woman to abort a child conceived in rape without require that such a claim be tested. McCain is rated at 75% by the National Right to Life Council, which means he is more pro-life than Obama, but not all the way. He find abortion to be necessary and needs to be available for certain occasions.
True: McCain is not pro-choice, but not entirely pro-life
False: McCain supports warrantless wiretapping, "detaining" possible terrorists, and other Bush war-related policies. Obama would protect civil liberties and end all of these policies.
This is wrong on both ends of the spectrum. Both McCain and Obama supported the Patriot Act, which allows the executive branch more options in the pursuit of terrorism. However, both candidates are actively opposed to warrantless wiretapping, torture (including "waterboarding"), and the detaining of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay (violating habeus corpus). While both are adamant about our national security, neither want to see the violation of (too many) individual rights to achieve that security.
True: Both support the Patriot Act. Both also want to protect basic human rights.
False: John McCain will protect our borders. Obama will protect illegal immigrants already in the country.
This is yet another issue that both find agreement on. Both support a border fence with Mexico to prevent further illegal immigration. However, both have voted for plans that would allow illegal immigrants to become citizens without first achieving legal status. Both support a physical barrier to illegal immigration, but they will not support additional legal consequences for those who have violated the law in this way.
True: Both candidates will vote for a fence yet not provide additional deterrents to immigration.
False: McCain could get us into a war with Iran. Obama wants our troops out of the region entirely.
In fact, both candidates say that military conflict with Iran is a an option, especially if they attack Israel. McCain would also be likely to confront the nation if they obtained nuclear weapons, and he would not support negotiations with the country.
True: Neither candidate has spoken of completely removing our troops from the region, ever.
There are some significant differences between the two candidates, but not as many as one would expect. Really the only issue upon which they differ significantly is heathcare.
If you're happy with their agreements, then you win either way. If these positions frustrate you, maybe you should consider other options, like this guy.
Also, please see this post for their beliefs on gas/oil prices.
Sources: The New American
New York Times
Barack Obama On the Issues
John McCain On the Issues