Before deciding, ask these questions

Opinion: Columns

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Now that the Republican and Democratic conventions are over, and with less than two months till the election, only the debates stand between undecided voters and a decision on Nov. 6.

I follow the parties' quadrennial political gatherings because every four years we try to define who we are, what's important to us, and what kind of race the nation is running. Is it the loneliness of the self-reliant, long-distance runner or a cooperative, collaborative relay?

And every four years, we rehash the debate about how much government we should have. For the past three decades, the Republicans have successfully focused the discussion on whether we have too much government. This year, the Democrats have managed to change the emphasis to whether we have enough of the right kind of government.

That amounts to progress in this crazy debating society of ours.

Far be it from me, of course, to tell you who to vote for, but if you're still undecided, the following questions might clarify things a bit:

Which party is more responsible for getting us into our current economic mess?

Which party has done more to obstruct efforts to get us out of that mess?

Which party was in control of the White House the last time we had a budget surplus (1996-2000)?

Which party was in control of the White House when the economy collapsed in 2008?

Which party learned more from that collapse?

Which party supports the same policies that were in place when the economy collapsed?

Which party is more diverse and has a "bigger tent"?

Which party is working harder to register new voters and opposes efforts to make voting more difficult?

Which party is more inflexible and extreme in its views?

Which party generally favors the wealthy few?

Which party best represents the rest?

Which candidate grew up middle class?

Which has a clearer sense of what life is like for middle-income Americans?

Which is more likely to listen to, understand, and act on the concerns of middle-income voters?

Which candidate would you feel more comfortable having a cup of coffee with?

Which candidate is more likeable?

Which candidate is the more charismatic and inspiring speaker?

Which do you trust more to tell you the truth?

Which would be better at communicating with your own (or other people's) kids?

Which campaign is supported by more small donors?

Which candidate has stronger core convictions?

Which has been more consistent in his positions on the issues over the last 20 years?

Which candidate has released more than two years of tax returns?

Which acts more like he has something to hide?

Which candidate is more willing to do something that is politically risky or unpopular when he believes it's best for the country?

Which is more likely to reach across the aisle and cooperate with the other party?

Which candidate is more likely to do something to address climate change?

Which is more likely to do more to develop alternative energy sources and reduce our reliance on oil?

Which would be more sensitive to your suffering following a natural disaster?

Which candidate has said more about what he wants to do in the next four years and included details on how he plans to do it?

Which is more likely to think outside the box and take a more innovative approach to our challenges?

Which candidate is a more fully developed human being?

Which has more personal integrity?

Which makes you feel prouder to be an American?

Which has emphasized the positive more than the negative in his campaign?

Which candidate reads 10 randomly chosen, unvetted letters from ordinary Americans six nights a week before he goes to sleep?

Which candidate already has four years of experience as president and wouldn't require job training?

It's no secret, of course, where I stand, and you won't be surprised to hear that I think the answers favor Barack Obama. I didn't ask, for instance, which candidate has more experience as a private-sector businessman (actually, I just did). The Romney camp can put together their own list if they want (and we'll print it).

Questions have a way of leading to answers. If you're undecided, I recommend asking yourself these (and other) questions after watching each debate in October and before you head to the polls.

Here's to responsible citizenship.


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Reader Comments

52 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Ray Simpson from Oak park  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 10:18 PM

Note to Ken. With countless embassies under attack, a second credit downgrade (AA-), a dead ambassador and the head of your party being proved to be a liar, perhaps you should re read your list. Strike all of the obvious lies you have been tricked into believing, then check out the rest and see if there is anything left to support your endorsement. If your tough thinking reverses all of your opinions then do the manly thing and publicly endorse Mitt Romney. I will even dig up a yard sign and a hand full of campaign buttons for you to proudly display. You would then be a bigger man than Obama who NEVER admits to any errors of policy, judgement or action.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 8:00 PM

Ray, I didn't know that we were at war with Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. I got some rethinking to do.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 4:52 PM

@MichaelO Lets see, Iraq had congressional approval, Afghanistan was Obama's worthwhile war, Libya, Tunisia now Egypt How many of these can you blame on Bush?

Ray Simpson from Oak park  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 4:22 PM

Saw the Light - Well said and welcome to the big kids playground. I feel sure that many of our neighbors feel the same way you do, but, feel community pressure not to express their new understanding. We cannot afford another term, nor can we afford any more Obama Supreme Court appointments. Logic tells us that there could be 2 or 3 justices retire.

I Saw the Light. Not Obama Again. from OP  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 4:11 PM

@MichaelO: Believe what you want, the fact remains that I voted for Obama twice -- but I won't be fooled the third time. And yes, I did campaign for him as well in 2008. (I also voted for Clinton, and Gore, and Kerry). Mr. Obama has convinced me to grow up and reject the pandering to get elected, be an adult, and elect someone capable of leading, not just campaigning and later blaming others. I'm sorry that that doesn't fit with your world view, MichaelO. But it's true.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 2:20 PM

Minor correction for those purists "We have seen the enemy" 1970's earth day poster by Walt Kelly.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 2:18 PM

Saw the Light, I don't believe you when you write "I'm a moderate who voted for Obama." I don't believe you ever voted for a democrat in your life. How's that? Ray, what about those wars?

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 1:48 PM

4 Freedom - think about who elected the people who got us here. "I have seen the enemy and he is us" wisdom from Pogo comic strip I believe. If we can send them there we can, and must replace them. If we tax the top 1% 100% we could support our government for something like 8 - 12 days and all of our small businesses would dry up and go away. Most of our own jobs would fall victim. Stupid plan in anyones book! Fair share should mean that if you benefit from our government you should pay something to sustain it - that means everyone!

4 Freedom  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 12:37 PM

Meant to say "is not about the deficit."

4 Freedom  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 12:36 PM

What I don't understand is why this election is about the deficit. Do people realize it is now bigger than the entire US output? You could tax the rich to death and not even make a dent. How can we continue to fund these wars when we can't even pay for them? Government keeps investing in business like it will someday solve all of our problems. Their track record is horrible and how do we know the investments aren't fraught with corruption. Why does it feel like so few are concerned?


Posted: September 14th, 2012 11:04 AM

Should be a clear choice-Obama will continue to replace mention of God w/govt.,will continue to eliminate prayer, continue to discredit families,will further control of schools w/liberal propaganda, will continue to infiltrate the press by editing MSM before public release & will continue to redistribute wealth via class warfare. We can not morally, socially and fiscally sustain this deceiver any longer. You must know where this socialism leads us to.

Voting for Gary Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 9:55 AM

My point is that even if Gary Johnson takes votes away from either it doesn't matter because they offer little differentiation on big-ticket policies - wars, spending, privacy, cronyism etc. I am convinced Gary Johnson, will take votes away from Obama too - I unfortunately voted for Obama. I am voting for Gary Johnson to follow my conscience and take a stance against this nearly 1 party system. If no one sucks it up, how will we ever achieve change?

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 9:35 AM

Voting - How is Romney/Ryan actual written document worse than Obama's Senate no budget for 4 years and nothing in the future? Something is better than nothing- - always! A vote for GJ is just like giving Obama your seal of approval. I voted for John Anderson because I believed he brought issues to the campaign and I wanted him to get the matching funds. I only did that because I knew that RR had it in the bag. When an election is this close, a third party vote is like voting for the guy whose platform is the one you detest the most. I believe that Gary Johnson could have a meaningful position in a Romney administration, what are the chances of that happening in a second term for Obama?

Voting for Gary Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 9:20 AM

Neither right or left has a convincing argument that the world will be better when in office. Most of the comments here are just pointing fingers about things that happened in the past or arguing over fluff. What are the solutions? Both candidates just offer vagaries because they don't have any or specifics might offend someone resulting lost votes or campaign funding. Paul Ryan has taken some clear stances; some are good, but his budget is a failure. He's a sell-out just like the others.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 8:11 AM

Partisan - give Ken some air. He opens doors to get out our side of the argument that would never be printed on its own. Ken has fawned himself so far left that when he looks back he is amazed how far we have moved to the radical right. In fact our position has not changed, only the distance between our views.

Ray Simpson from Oak park  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 7:59 AM

Where is that "War on Women"? Having watched a good part of both national conventions, I compared the positions of the women speakers and their message. The Republican group, seemed to be talking, unanimously, about the opportunities we all enjoy and made their case without anger or hatred. They actually looked like people you would invite into your home. The following week we were exposed to a list of angry, complaining, rude ladies who presented endless lists of things the government owes them. If you watch the business programs that interview female CEO's, they ALL have positive, friendly strong views about business, employees and the responsibilities of management. I don't know about you but the first group left me with a good feeling and the second group left me thinking "Oh just grow up" As we approach the November elections you must consider this, are you happy working hard for your wages and then have the government take much of it only to waste half and give the other half to someone who refuses to work? A simple "Tough Love" view of that simple question should bring you to the realization that four more years have not been earned or deserved.

Partisan Tripe and Local Demagoguery. from Oak Park  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 6:57 AM

Ken Trainor demonstrates everything that is wrong with our country by producing a list of question so very left-wing biased (and apparently so clueless that he is so totally biased) that it fails to understand that other people see the world somewhat differently. That's not journalism, Ken, it's local demagoguery. Please retire and start a nice blog somewhere where no one will read it and it can't do any damage.

Contra from OP  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 6:51 AM

Apparently Personal Integrity = Unlimited taxpayer-funded abortions and an assault on the religious freedoms that our country is based on.

I Saw the Light. Not Obama Again. from OP  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 6:49 AM

I'm a moderate who voted for Obama in 2006 (for Senator), campaigned for him in 2008, but won't vote for him in 2012. Obama is a great campaigner, but not much of a President. He is pandering to the liberal base with promises in order to win, but has no real plans to fix the economy. The country is headed off a cliff financially, and he's all about gay marriage and the war on women. True leaders address the true issues of a country. Obama avoids the issues and blames others. Replace him.


Posted: September 13th, 2012 9:05 PM

Let's not forget the bribe paid by UCMC to Michelle Obama. After she had quit, they amended their supplemental retirement plan to add her to the plan. This amounted to a several hundred thousand dollar payment. They got away with it because she wasn't a reporter executive on Form 990 and the IRS never clued in.

Jim Bowman  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 7:38 PM

Ken Trainor Should Be Fired: Hardly. you set the bar too high, would empty half the newsrooms in the country or at least severely deplete staffs. Then where would we be?

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 6:39 PM

To all - our decision in November is simple. Bush is not running. Obama wants us to vote for him, but cannot tell us why. Romney is running to bring our country back to the center-right. Obama said that if he fails to resolve the countries problems in 3 years he will be a one term president and is now telling us that he needs four more years. For what? I am hard pressed to see one initiative from Obama that will make things better in 4 more years. On the other hand I see many things that will put our nation at risk. I am willing to give Romney 4 years and see if he can apply the same talent to our corrupt government that he accomplished in the revival of the Olympics. To do what needs to be done a lot of sacred cows will become bitter hamburger. None of us will be unaffected, but, our children and grandchildren will inherit a better nation. Ken Trainor's column expresses the 'Hopium' ( Thanks John Kass) that got Obama elected the first time. Many of us are smart enough to see through the cow pie sandwich that those sacred cows have been feeding us. Ken truly believes that progressive, touchy feely, Left wing drivel and his columns reflect that.Re-read his list and try to apply cool, rational examples of why Obama deserves your vote. I have decided that Obama has been a total failure and doesn't get my vote.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 5:47 PM

MichaelO, Bush did get a campaign on terrorist started and got enough people to go along with his idea of invading Irag and Afghanistan. I thought Obama was going to close Gitmo and bring the troops home. He also said he was going to work closely with Libya. It didn't take thousands of people killed and a countries bombed to get Osama. It took what it always takes. Our intelligence agency gather information and then sending in a squad of men to capture, kill or in the case of Osama, assassinate


Posted: September 13th, 2012 5:35 PM

@JBM. FINALLY - Someone is standing tall against the Rezko "house" payoff to Obama! Did UC Hospital ever find a replacement for Michelle after she left her well-paid "job?" Nope. To the $16.2M made by Rahm after leaving the Clinton Adm - see this: and "Career in Finance". Of course we have Nancy Pelosi and her multi-million $$$ husband. Hmm, and how did Harry Reid get to be a millionaire solely on a Senator's salary? I'm "standing up" with you!!!

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 5:20 PM

If you REJECT the notion that this nation's promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election. If you REJECT the notion that our government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election. I am standing up!


Posted: September 13th, 2012 4:47 PM

@MichaelO. Those "Bush tax cuts" weren't "sterile." They went back in to the economy and private spending has a much larger multiplier effect than govt spending. Or, perhaps, that money was saved by the recipients? It was then used by the bank(s) or companies for investment in to the economy - creating jobs. Any way, that's what liberals say all the time about food stamp/welfare spending. If true, we'd have 0% unemployment today! FWIW, I'd rather that the money paid down the existing debt.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 4:34 PM

Well, gee, Ray, if I accept your premise that the economic mess began in 2007 I'd have to forget about the whole war thing. You remember the wars don't you, Ray. You know the wars that were kept off the books and cost upwards of 3 trillion dollars. And how about those irresponsible Bush tax cuts? You didn't forget about those did you?

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 4:12 PM

Ray Simpson, here's your campaign slogan for running for being the president of Oak Park's board. "A Vote For Ray Is A Vote For A New Way" "Removing Butts The Ray Way" "Save Your Pay With Ray"

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 3:28 PM

Q- Thanks for the vote. Your vote would cancel out my wife's vote for the other guy since she lives in fear for the positions I have taken here. Our beat cop has offered to park his car in front of our house if we ever have problems.I guess most people here don't take me seriously and figure that tossing out a few abusive names and comments will keep me quiet.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 2:58 PM

Ray Simpson, without verifying anything you say, you are making sense, and having that ability you should consider running for board president in Oak Park, because I probably would vote for you because you want change that people can believe in and your are moving forward showing what has been done and what has been beneficial. Let me know if you are interested because I have some good campaigns ideas to make people aware of the need to vote in Oak Park's elections.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 2:56 PM

Michael-O If you check the date that the Democrats took over the 104th congress was 1/3/2007 and were firmly in command on 1/22/2009 when Obama swept them back into power. In 2009 Pelosi and Ried refused to pass a budget, but rather kept the government running on continuing resolutions, until Obama was inaugurated and then passed a massive omnibus bill which Obama signed.BTW Obama loves to talk about the mess that he discovered when he took over,Was Pelosi and Ried hiding all of this from their candidate? If they were was it from deceit, incompetence or just plain old "Chicago way" dishonesty? If you doubt my arguement - look it up - there is nothing that I have stated from secret sources - it is all in the history books, which I sort of trust.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 2:41 PM

Q- One note, the Wisconsin - Union thing was that Walker didn't decertify the unions, he just made membership optional. About 60% of the teachers had enough confidence in their abilities, skills and value to the community that they chose not to be judged by the worth of the least able teachers. The right to work states are prospering and the union mandated states are always the losers in new plant location decisions. There must be a reason!

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 2:32 PM

"Our current economic mess began 1/3/07" ??? How's that Ray? Did you just pull that out of your butt garden?

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 2:07 PM

Cont... for what they would make in their country if there were any jobs available. So who ever you go with Ray Simpson, it will not be about the general population of American's.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 2:05 PM

Cont... advantage of it or is it even available? No one knows, so what really good has Obamacare done? Now we move to Ryan who rids Wisconsin of Unions. Some people think that is a great idea. How can it be a great idea if you can have a boss who says he can pay you whatever he wants you to receive? It's not a good idea but then people can say the boss won't have anyone working for him so he will need to pay to have the work done. Not true, he can legally bring in foreigners to do the work Cont.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 2:02 PM

Cont... to assassinate Obama. America does not engage in assassination. If it wasn't assassination, read and follow the book recently released by the Navy Seal. If there was so much intelligence gathering done at the location, can you imagine how much extra there may have been if they captured Osama. Lets move to Obamacare. Great idea, and we need it, but not only do the American people understand it, the politicians who want it don't understand it. Is anyone even taking Cont...

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 1:57 PM

Ray Simpson, without verifying anything you said, I would venture to assume you are right, and the reason being is Obama has never closed Gitmo as promised. Who is being held in Gitmo? How many people? I'm going to assume the same people who were picked up 11 years ago. If we are suppose to prove they are guilty, then why has it taken 11 years? Is that correct to hold anyone for 11 years based on suspicion of being an enemy combatant? Then Obama gets Osama, by sending in a team Cont..

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 1:35 PM

Nope 2012--Sorry for the duplication - I wrote it in WORD, as a much longer contribution, and pasted twice. I hate that little box that WJ makes you type in. Q- what did I say that was verifiably untrue? Perhaps you are uncomfortable being a border plant in the Oak Park Butt Garden. I assume that you dispute my time line and the associated blame that becomes obvious.I am not parroting any talking points nor do I like it when all of the Romney spokesmen use the same phrases and well focus grouped words. Remember "GRAVITAS"? I never heard that word used in conversation yet when W43 selected DC as VP, everyone in mainstream media used that word more often than commas.We may never be able to agree how we got to where we are but logic should tell you the Bush didn't get us here without Pelosi, Ried, Frank Dodd and Obama.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 11:15 AM

NOPE 2012, Ray Simpson knows that if you keep saying it enough times people will start to take it as truth.


Posted: September 13th, 2012 11:14 AM

Woa! Trainor is voting Romney!

NOPE 2012 from Oak Park  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 9:30 AM

Mr Simpson has eloquently refuted everything Ken has written...twice, actually, since he somehow duplicated it in the comments. Or, maybe leftists need to see things written twice before the truth starts to sink in..

Ray Simpson from Oak park  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 7:40 AM

Oak Park is Obama country and if I read your list correctly YOU cannot vote for Barak Obama. Our community has its head so far in the sand that we look like a garden of butts. Your reasons are interesting in their one sided view of the world with no consideration of time lines or actual facts. - Our current economic mess began 1/3/07 and if you check you will find out that that is the date Pelosi and Reid took over the house and senate and Barney Frank took over the House Financial Services Committee and Chris Dodd headed up the Senate Banking Committee. - W43 asked congress 17 times to stop Fannie and Freddie starting in 2001 as it was prutting our economy in peril - he was absolutely correct. - The budget surplus was under Clinton who was dragged kicking and screaming after 2 years of left wing failures and t. -The Democrats controlled 2/3 of the government( House and Senate) when collapse happened. When the Democrats took over their constitutional fiscal responsibilities the DOW was 12,621, The GDP was 3.5% and unemployment was 4.6%. Where are we now? -The collapse happened in no small part from the failed policies of the Democrats who want us to go to that well for 4 more years. Oak Park is Obama country and if I read your list correctly you cannot vote for Barak Obama. Our community has its head so far in the sand that we look like a garden of butts. Your reasons are interesting in their one sided view of the world with no consideration of time lines or actual facts. -Our current economic mess began 1/3/07 and if you check you will find out that that is the date Pelosi and Reid took over the house and senate and Barney Frank took over the House Financial Services Committee and Chris Dodd headed up the Senate Banking Committee. -W43 asked congress 17 times to control Fannie and Freddie starting in 2001 as it was putting our economy in peril - Bush was absolutely correct. -The budget surplus was under Clinton and Gingrich after 2 disastrous years

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 12th, 2012 11:42 PM

Voting for Gary Johnson, you must be talking about Obama.

Voting for Gary Johnson  

Posted: September 12th, 2012 11:02 PM

Which candidate signed the National Defense Authorization Act which allows the government to jail someone without due proces? Which candidate continues to waste lives and money on wars? Which candidate invests in failed green projects? Which candidate engaged in crony capitalism bailouts. Which candidate continues his predecessors policies? Which candidate chooses policy based on a polls instead of principle? Which candidate isn't much different than Romney is these respects?

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 12th, 2012 10:39 PM

Cont... I'm sure there must be some Veteran's on these postings, and I don't think any Veteran recalls ever talking about if they are a Democrat or a Republican, their first tour of duty. Doesn't matter, they serve and go where they are told to go.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 12th, 2012 10:36 PM

Cont... That's not only logical in certain circumstances, it's the prudent thing to do." Can any politician use the excuse that we didn't know what to expect and that is why this tragedy happened? This is very sad to have so many American lives lost, our freedoms placed a little closer under security while fighting something called terrorism and still being vulnerable to attacks when you know what targets can be possiblities for terrorists to attack and nothing is set up to prevent it. Cont...

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 12th, 2012 10:36 PM

Cont... September 12, 2012 U.S.A.: The Pentagon ordered two warships to the Libyan coast in the aftermath of the attack in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three others, U.S. officials said Wednesday. Pentagon spokesman George Little said: "Without commenting on specific ship movements, the United States military regularly takes precautionary steps when potential contingencies might arise in a given situation. Cont...

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 12th, 2012 10:35 PM

Cont...August 22nd, 2011 Libya: As the dictator's regime appeared to be on the brink of collapse following 46 NATO airstrikes yesterday, independent Libyan television claimed the tyrant had 'run away like a coward'. Remember when the rebels where having problems and we decided to bring in NATO, without even knowing who the rebels were, or who they had allegiance with? They got the help the needed to end the 42 year rule of Muammar Gaddafi. Cont...

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 12th, 2012 10:34 PM

Does it really matter if you have a Democrat or Republican as President? In this political year, we have our Embassy attacked in a known area of terrorism, and Obama says he is going to reinforce Embassies. Wouldn't you have thought Embassies around the World, and especially ones that are in Countries that have known terrorist activities would have already been in place? What happened in Libya? Who is responsible for this happening? Cont...


Posted: September 12th, 2012 10:47 AM

"Which candidate is a more fully developed human being?" With the way that Progressives feel about "developing" human beings, this is a rather sinister question.

Ken Trainor Should Be Fired  

Posted: September 12th, 2012 8:25 AM

Ken Trainor is a shill for the Democrats, not a journalist.

NOPE 2012 from Oak Park  

Posted: September 11th, 2012 11:04 PM

Wow, Ken...first, the real answers to these mostly skewed questions would favor Mr Romney, but I digress. I really want you to answer & explain how you feel Mr Obama " a more fully developed human being?" Are you serious?

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