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We the Presidential Candidates 2008

I’ve been thinking about doing a post similar to this one for a while, since it’ll be useful to have to deal with the questions I get about my stance on the 2008 candidate field.

The Question: How do you evaluate the candidates?

In my mind, there’s a serious distinction to be made between the candidate best suited to make decisions about the future of the U.S. and the candidate in the best position to lead the country in a new direction. Were I to make such a decision in 2001 or 2002, the choices in the first category would be obvious: John McCain and Bill Richardson. Of this year’s field of candidates, it is the two of them who stick out as having most astoundingly served the nation, Bill Richardson as a Congressman, US Ambassador to the UN, Secretary of Energy, and Governor of New Mexico; and John McCain as naval aviator and then a POW for 5 years during the Vietnam War and, later, a Senator representing his state for 20 years.

Is in comparison to the current front runners in both parties that these candidates properly stand out – Rudy Giuliani has never served in office except as major of New York City and U.S. Attorney. Nothing about him qualifies either actually or symbolically for President of the United States. His current stance as front-runner is the sole product of his opportunism in taking something that the United States sees as one its greatest tragedies and using it to launch himself into a position of great power (if you’re a Heroes fan it’s worth noting how Giuliani’s path to Presidency oddly mirrors Sylar’s). Giuliani is also notable for a bit of cronyism and dealing harshly with those (especially the press) who disagree with him (see Ferrets). He has a lifetime muzzle award?

Obama’s lack of true qualification is slightly more benign; he was on track to take the slow and certain path to a Presidential campaign with seven years in the Illinois senate and what was sure to be a noteworthy career in the Senate. Along with this, some aspects of Obama’s biography place him in a unique position to run for president; with his book Dreams from My Father, written before his entrance into politics, he demonstrated a long-standing unique outlook on the nation’s complicated racial politics. Likewise, having chosen to work for Saul Alinsky's coummunity organizing group (which recently received some interesting press attention), it is clear that his plans for himself always involved public service. In some ways, this puts Obama on equal footing with Hillary Clinton, whose own political achievements will always be seen in the shadow of her husband’s. Obama fits into the 2nd category by which to judge the candidates - having seen him in person and followed him closely, I can say with some certainty that he has the ability to provide a type of inspirational leadership that the country currently lacks. The real question to ask is how important this type of leadership is in choosing a president.

Back to the real world: noting that Bill Richardson will probably never make it in with the Democratic front-runners due to his sad lack of charisma and public speaking ability, I have no clear preference between the top three Democratic candidates. I campaigned for John Edwards in 2004, and I like both Obama and Clinton, though I have a slight preference for Obama. My only hope for those three is whichever one of them wins the nomination and possibly the presidency will consider Bill Richardson as their Vice President or Secretary of State.

….Which leaves the Republic field of candidates. Noting my distaste for Giuliani, and considering that Romney has changed his position on every social issue the religious right cares about and has basically no integrity left to throw out the window, McCain is clearly the best candidate for the Republican nomination. Every Republican presidential candidate supports continuing the Iraq war in some form, and McCain is the only one to have clearly articulated an Iraq policy distinct from the status quo (see here). Were McCain to win the election, his career in the Senate acts as proof that he knows how and when to compromise effectively, and that his concerns are not simply partisan ones. His greatest downfall is that of his party: he supports an unpopular and unsuccessful war. With the only good option for an incoming president being to minimize the Bush administration’s damage by withdrawing from Iraq while leaving in place some type of structure that will diminish the blow to the region when Iraq eventually collapses, a Democrat will probably win the 2008 election. But the 2008 election will serve to the international community as a test of the American public on the Iraq war, and for a debate on the issue to happen, each party must put forward its strongest voice. John McCain is the only Republican who can fill those shoes. If he does win the election, those in the U.S. against the war will at least be able to live with hope, knowing that McCain has the experience and wisdom necessary to change his mind.

I know there are some problematic things about McCain's candidacy I didn't cover, but I think this post is a bit on the long side as it is.
Mystery Pollster asks, "Who won the Republican Debate?" The answer: not Giuliani, but Romney

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4 Responses to “We the Presidential Candidates 2008”

  1. # Blogger LPC

    Your post is brilliant.  

  2. # Blogger Kate


  3. # Anonymous Will

    Interesting column in Washington Post today (6/6/07) by David Ignatius. According to Ignatius: "Listening to the parade of presidential candidates repeating bromides about how to fix what's broken in America, I wish I could charter a bus and bring them all here to meet a man who is actually fixing things -- Michael Crow, the iconoclastic president of Arizona State University. . . . I wish the politicians especially could hear Crow's assault on the stovepipe thinking that keeps America from solving its problems. As he says, we have a performance crisis in this country -- sickeningly obvious in our response to Hurricane Katrina and in the chain of errors that spawned the disaster of Iraq. We tout modern America as a "knowledge society," but we are in many ways an "ignorance society," Crow argues. "Why can't we execute?" he asked at a conference here last week that was co-hosted by ASU. "We execute as if the knowledge we have doesn't exist -- because it is owned somewhere else." We have the information -- whether it is about the vulnerability of New Orleans to flooding or the susceptibility of Iraq to violent ethnic conflict -- but we don't act upon it.
    America's politicians behave like a college faculty, constantly warring over petty differences and relentlessly putting self-interest ahead of that of the community as a whole. Our great federal agencies are risk-averse and slow-moving behemoths -- better at following rules than at innovating and solving problems. We are "stovepipe America" -- with each segment of society caught in its own narrow channel while the country's big problems go unsolved. That's Crow's bold diagnosis, and I wish my busload of presidential candidates could hear it."  

  4. # Blogger Kate

    I read the column after seeing you comment, and thought it was interesting, but not necessarily effective in pin-pointing the problem.  

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