The Case For McCain
John McCain has been a strong and consistent friend of India and the Indian American community.
|I first met John McCain in 1999 when I was in graduate school. Through the political union, I got the opportunity to pick him up at Logan Airport and drive him to my campus, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he was scheduled to do a town hall with potential voters. During that hour-long car ride, I learned a lot about him. I learned that he cares deeply about helping young people get good education. I learned that he really wants to help immigrants and their families to succeed in America. I learned that the McCains have been to India many times and that strengthening Indo-U.S. ties is a top diplomatic priority for him. I learned that he loves Indian food and greatly appreciates Indian culture. I learned that the dedication to America that he showed as a prisoner in Vietnam was even more than wartime valor, it is at the core of his being and of his public service.
By the time we got to campus, I didn’t need to hear his remarks. I signed up to volunteer for his campaign the next day and later was hired on his advance team as he campaigned against George W. Bush until he conceded after Super Tuesday. He lost that Republican primary because he said and did things that right-wing Republicans disliked. Yet, even on Election Day that year, exit polls showed that if he was on the ballot, he would have won.
Eight years later, many things have changed in the world. But, to me, the important, “presidential” strengths of John McCain have not changed.
Ever the thoughtful and collaborative statesman, he continues to work with both parties in Congress and with the White House to get things done. He is still willing to challenge his own party when he believes it is the right thing to do. He has done it on campaign finance reform, immigration reform, and environmental reform. This time, he is the nominee and is in the position of reforming the Republican Party as well.
His willingness to disagree with his party and think for himself makes him unpopular with entrenched interests, but by doing what he believes is right, I believe he will gain America’s respect and will prevail – with Americans generally – and with Indian Americans specifically!
John McCain has been a strong and consistent friend of India and the Indian American community. He knows and understands India’s importance and he is the most prominent proponent of India joining the “G-8” group of industrialized nations. He has always been a strong advocate of the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement, which would help India with its lack of adequate energy sources. The Financial Times recently interviewed several leading Indian scholars who all agreed that a McCain presidency would better for U.S.-India relations. John McCain also supports comprehensive immigration reform, fixing our healthcare system without creating more federal bureaucracy for doctors and patients, and keeping taxes and government regulation low so that our entrepreneurs and small-businesspeople can continue to innovate, compete, and create jobs and valuable products and services. All these policies are particularly helpful to Indian-Americans.
Barack Obama’s commitment to our community, however, is highly questionable. In Congress, Senator Obama voted for an amendment to the U.S.-India civil nuclear bill that would have effectively killed the deal by making it impossible to pass in India. Thankfully there were many senators of both parties who opposed Obama’s efforts, and his “poison pill” amendment did not pass. “Most Democrats came out and supported the deal. But Obama stood up and went after India,” said C. Raja Mohan, one of the scholars in the Financial Times piece. Obama also repeatedly has refused to challenge his fellow Democrats who oppose the agreement.
But even more worrisome, during the primary, the Obama campaign prepared a shameful memo that attacked Hillary Clinton for having strong support from the Indian American community. The memo mockingly calling her the “Senator from Punjab” and criticized her work with Indian Americans and with India. It also negatively portrayed trade with India and hardworking Indian American businesspeople who do tremendously valuable work with India – making both countries better off.
While Senator Obama has tried to distance himself from these comments, those who wrote the memo were never dismissed – and could end up in his potential administration. For Indian Americans, that potential scenario should be a deal-breaker! This is particularly the case when we have, in John McCain, a proven, tested, experienced leader who is a long-standing friend of India and Indian-Americans. He is the better choice.
And, in choosing Sarah Palin, John McCain is running with a Governor that appointed an Indian-American, Anand Dubey as Chief Information Officer, as one of her first few acts in office. Contrast this with Obama, who among all the people he had to choose from, chose the only other man with a history of Indian American stereotyping – Joe Biden, who in 2006 joked publicly about Indian accents at 7-11s in Delaware.
I hope my fellow Indians will declare their independence this fall, learn more about John McCain, and help elect him the next U.S. President.
Kishan Kumar Putta is a co-founder of