Friday, May 25, 2007

Making a Choice

Polls of Democrats show that people are generally satisfied with the field of Democrats running for President. I admit that I am not among them, as I see serious weaknesses in all of them, either in experience, leadership, or judgment. In some cases, the problem is more difficult, with electability being the key problem, which seems unfair, since these are experienced men and woman who have won multiple elections and perhaps it would be better to not jump the gun on the impossibility of victory for some of them. Unfortunately, this is not the case, since there is less time for these campaigns to catch fire than in the past. Let’s take a look at the second (and maybe third) tier candidates.

Joe Biden: Totally qualified. Has shown no ability at all to get support outside of Delaware. In Gallup polling he is locked in a battle with Al Sharpton and Wesley Clark. As for his judgment, I don’t trust him at all – he was a strong supporter of the war, has a “solution” which while it sounds reasonable, has no support either within Iraq or in any neighboring country. His vote on the bankruptcy changes two years ago was morally reprehensible and to me, renders him unfit to be President.

Chris Dodd: Totally qualified. Seems more anti-war than most at the moment. Has even less support than Biden, although he seems to have raised a decent amount of money – it’s good to chair the Banking committee. This seems utterly quixotic.

Dennis Kucinich: Frankly, I think he’s right about most things. Unfortunately, there is little realism in either his hard-line positions or his campaign. I wouldn’t mind looking at his wife for the next four years, but unfortunately, he comes with her.

Bill Richardson: Totally qualified – has the best resume since George H. W. Bush. Stunningly dull, seems to have no base or electability. While he seems like a good VP candidate, his dullness may even hurt that.

Mike Gravel: If we change the name of the party to the Slightly Loony Party, he’s our man.

On to the real race – and in one case the unreal one.

Al Gore: Gallup has been including him in their polls and his numbers, so he has to be looked at. Easily the most qualified, in a better world we’d be in the seventh year of the Gore administration. Right on the war and on the environment, he seems very comfortable with himself and I would love to see him in the race. I don’t think he’s going to run. He doesn’t want to discuss ethanol in Iowa and whatever other crap will get votes in various states. His disinterest in joining the fray reveals the biggest weakness of our system, wherein the best-qualified are forced to compete for votes on a demeaning level and forced to beg for money for hours a day. This is not a good way to pick a President.

Hillary Clinton: Sort of qualified – has been in the halls of power, has seen how the executive branch works up close, has met world leaders, has worked effectively in the Senate. Of the top tier candidates who are running, is easily the most qualified. Her stance on issues has been troubling. Her Iraq stance was awful, has tried to join the opposition, yet it seems, like everything else she does, thoroughly calculated. Says she will end the war when she takes over, yet hasn’t given the slightest indication of how, which seems thoroughly Nixonian to me. I hate comparing someone whose positions on many issues parallel mine with Richard Nixon, yet I feel comfortable with it. A Clinton administration would take on an unpopular war which she had supported, then promised to end. Like Nixon, she would enter office with remarkably little good will and trust. It’s not just that you’re either with her or against her – many who would be with her don’t much like or trust her. Like Nixon, she seems driven by a lust for power more than a vision. Because of the front-loaded primary structure, featuring many states where she has a big advantage, combined with her being strong among the most-likely primary voters (women and the elderly), she has to be considered a serious favorite to get the nomination. I would vote for her in November, of course, but I would be holding my nose while I did it.

Barack Obama: Here’s a man with a vision. He has no real qualifications, only two years in the Senate with no leadership demonstrated on any issue. In many ways, he’s the anti-Hillary – he’s warm, visionary, with a charisma which makes you think he could be the one to both lead the country and maybe even unite it. In his writings, the man emerges as thoughtful and knowledgeable. Yet he still speaks in generalities, seems careful on everything, and doesn’t seem to want to lead on issues of substance. I’m not sure what we get with him – his best chance is for it to narrow down to him and Hillary in time for him to get the anti-Hillary vote. Head-to-head matchups with her seem to favor her at the moment, yet that could easily change if he can make that the race.

John Edwards: Like Obama, it’s hard to see his qualifications. Six relatively undistinguished years in the Senate doesn’t exactly prepare you to run the country. What must Biden and Dodd think when they see these two “back-benchers” walloping them in the polls? In no other country in the world would this sort of thing happen. He was a lousy VP candidate in 2004, with a deer-in-the-headlights performance in the debate with Cheney being the most egregious example. He seems to have learned from that experience, seems tougher and maybe better prepared for the battle. He is driven to be President, yet it seems to come from a different place than Clinton’s drive. He has things he wants to do, people he wants to help. Talking about the poor and forgotten of society is not the best way to get votes, yet he does that. This is a good man, with the ability to admit mistakes (Iraq) and the vision to see the problems that face us, not in electoral terms, but in people terms. You may not agree with his position on trade, but he at least understands, as more and more economists now do, that free trade is not a panacea and that more and more Americans are being hurt by it. The first step towards tackling a problem is seeing that it exists. Unlike Clinton, he has talked about ending the war and how it should be done – he’s been derided as naive by Biden, but he’s at least shown the leadership to have a plan. Speaking of which, go to his website, johnedwards.com, and read his health care proposal — if the Democrats were smart, we would adopt it as the official party position.
Of the three front-runners, Edwards would be my choice. He has thought about the problems and has taken the risk of making actual stands on them. I have no illusions here – his lack of experience will not help him get things done. Even more important, his poll numbers are troubling. We are still a long way from the voting, yet when I step into the voting booth on Feb. 5th of next year, I expect I will have a tough choice. Do I vote for the person I want to be President, or the person best able, based on polling data, to beat Hillary Clinton? For now, I will take the high road and hope for the best.

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1 Comments:

Blogger sam.gurka5 said...

Putting aside electability for the moment, I find your evaluation of the candidates interesting although hardly surprising. I wonder what Biden and Dodd must be thinking, watching three senators, all of whom are far less experienced or qualified, capture most of the votes. It is a commentary on our system and the star quality required to run for national office.

I like Biden (and Dodd) and don't have the problem with him that you do regarding reform of the bankruptcy laws. While I recall that that legislation proved to be a windfall for banks and other credit card issuers, it attempted correct which is a particularly unique and harmful phenomenon in this country i.e. the extraordinarily high level of debt maintained by people who can't afford it and the relative ease with which consumers can discharge that debt.

I disagree with Kucinich regarding trade (I think Edwards is much closer to being right) but I also think that his wife should be on a separate ballot for first lady.

Edwards' health care proposal is fine and, I think, not far from Hillary's proposal of 1993 which failed not because of its substance but because of the political machinery and insurance companies lined up against it using a far more effective marketing ploy.

For me, choosing a candidate is less about a specific proposal or previous vote, although they do provide some guidance, but more about instincts. Do the values of the candidate coincide with mine so that, when confronted with negotiations, compromises, etc, still unforeseen, they make the right choices. In this regard, none of the candidates have clearly stuck their nose out in front (except for maybe Gore) although a few have fallen behind (Kucinich and Richardson). Unless, and until, somebody does pull out in front for me in terms of values, I will vote (whenever my primary ultimately is) for electability.

12:10 PM  

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