A group of prominent Republicans supporting Barack Obama took to a conference call Tuesday morning to tout their preferred candidate, make the case for other GOPers to cross party lines, and warn about the dangers of John McCain's foreign policy.
Hoping to fill a void in news with Senator Obama on vacation, former Rep. Jim Leach, former Sen. Lincoln Chafee and Rita Hauser (a national intelligence expert who served in the Bush administration), offered at times sharp lines of criticism for the presumptive Republican nominee.
"I served with Sen. McCain, and he and I were the only two to vote against the Bush/Cheney tax cuts," recalled Chafee. "During this campaign it is a different John McCain. He is saying he would make the tax cuts permanent. He is advocating more drilling whereas he voted against drilling in ANWR. It goes to his credibility. And that is such an important issue for this country... plus his foreign policy has been consistently with Bush/Cheney and I know from my perspective that is a huge issue for the United States."
Hauser, meanwhile, pivoted off current events to highlight why Republicans like her viewed McCain's foreign policy as shortsighted and, quiet possibly, at odds with international interests.
"I think the little flare up we are witnessing in Georgia is another illustration of the different approach these two men are taking," she said. "McCain is bellicose: threatening to kick Russia out of the G8, use force if it is required. Obama is far more of the traditional position: turn to international institutions, call for reconciliation, call for an end of hostilities, but also be firm in his words. And that's the kind of leadership we need."
Reflecting disenchantment over the Bush/Cheney years, Leach, Chafee and Hauser all touted Obama's pledge of post-partisanship as a defining aspect in why they were crossing party lines. As for the true test of Obama's bipartisanship -- whether he would appoint a Republican official as vice president or to his cabinet -- the officials on the call deferred to the candidate. But Leach did give a nod to Sen. Chuck Hagel, a prominent Republican who seems tailor made to endorse Obama.
"There are a number of very impressive vice presidential candidates and this is a singular decision for one person and that is Sen. Obama. But I would be hopeful that among the serious list of people to be considered would be Chuck Hagel," said the Iowa Republican. "I think Chuck would be the type of Republican who will represent well this country."
As part of their Republicans-for-Obama effort, the group said they would be launch a website in the next few days that would, primarily, contrast Obama's positions against McCain's through a Republican lens. "It will encourage others to come on because they will see that there is a growing number of Republicans around the country that support him," said Hauser.
The imperative was there, said Leach. It was simply a matter of showing Republicans the shortcomings of the current administration and convincing them that Obama was within their political mainstream.
"This is not a time for politics as usual," said the former congressman. "The portfolio of issues passed on to the next president is as daunting as any since WWII. The case for inspiring new political leadership and the social ethic has seldom been more evident. Barack Obama's platform is a call for change, but the change that he is articulating is more renewal than departure. ... It is rooted in very old American values that are very much part of the Republican as well as the Democratic tradition. ... The national interest requires a new approach to our interaction with the world -- including the recognition that a long-term occupation of Iraq is likely dangerously destabilizing."