This is part of a series of dispatches from Melinda Henneberger, who's talking to voters around the U.S. about their views on the environment and the election.
Nashua, N.H. -- Suziana Moriera does not see soaring gas prices as all bad: "It's still not hurting enough. People complain, but it's got to hurt more" before Americans will start driving appreciably less. It's got to hurt more, she thinks, before her hometown of Nashua will ever come up with public transportation that doesn't involve "waiting an hour for a bus that still doesn't take you where you need to go."
That's why Moriera, a music teacher and registered independent whose daughter makes her living as an environmental consultant, puts green issues near the very top on the list of concerns she'll be voting on in November -- right below getting the troops out of Iraq and putting the economy back on track after what she sees as the disaster of the Bush years. ("I've had enough of the Republicans!") Yet she may well vote for John McCain for president, "even though he is in the Bush camp, and they have been terrible on the environment." Why? Essentially, because she suspects Barack Obama of being a little bit too nice a guy, a possible pushover.
Though a lot of us do seem to want a president we'd enjoy grilling out with, the less-discussed fine print on the wish list is that we want him to be the kind of good-bud neighbor who is also capable of acting like a jerk sometimes -- the dad next door who'd have no problem yelling at the kids in the party house to turn the music down, and no problem calling the cops.
"He's very much a gentleman," Moriera says of Obama -- and not at all responsible for what she saw as the sexist treatment of her first-choice candidate, Hillary Clinton. But could he be too gentlemanly? She wonders: "Does he have the backbone to deal with the huge problems he'll have to face?" So far, he has just not filled her with confidence on that score. "Obama has been flip-flopping so much, I'm not sure about him. On eavesdropping, I was shocked," she says, referring to his recent Senate vote in support of the new Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Obama had promised he would help filibuster any FISA bill that gave immunity to telecommunications companies that had cooperated with the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program. But then, he went ahead and voted for just such a bill. "And if he did that," Moriera reasons, "he could do other things." Come November, she may reluctantly conclude that what she sees as McCain's strength is more important than his specific stands, many of which she disagrees with: "I'll have to see."