Saturday, January 26, 2008

Election thoughts

My long-ago predictions for the primary winners were that Hilary would rule the Democrats, Giuliani the Republicans. These weren't my hopes, don't get me wrong. Just the way I suspected things would happen. Hilary still looks likely, Giuliani less so. But neither would be my ideal. On the Democratic side, I don't see any candidates I think are ideal for the job. In terms of issues, it's really hard to tell them apart. Probably Obama comes closest to what I'd like to see in a candidate, but I'm not entirely comfortable with him either. As a rule, the Democrats seem to be united in their support of pulling out of Iraq as soon as possible. Sorry, guys -- the time to oppose the war was before y'all voted for it. The fact that we're in Iraq in the first place is a national embarrassment, and our utter lack of post-invasion planning was unforgivable. But we really need to finish the job we started. We're stuck in Iraq, even though it'll keep costing us lives and capital. Stop talking troop withdrawal, start talking about how to fix what we broke. And everybody has their poorly-explained health care plan, but nobody has a plan to execute it. It galls me, but there really are no Dems I can stand behind 100%. There aren't even any candidates I like.

On the Republican side of the election, we run the gamut from the scarily religious to the Putin-esque corrupt to the impulsive and juvenile. The only bright star in the Republican sky is Mitt Romney. He might be the most sincere and trustworthy of the candidates, which should mean something to the largely values-based party. One bit of evidence: all of the Republican front-runners have been married in a church, with an oath involving things like richer/poorer, sickness/health, 'til death do us part, and all that. Romney is the only one who meant it. Not that divorce should preclude running for office, but really. The "values" candidates didn't even value their own marriages, and most of them had affairs. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, tends to live by his values. Too many fundamentalists in office fall into the trap of behaving badly, then asking (often publicly) for God's forgiveness. This crutch is built into the faith. This is one thing I really respect about Romney (and Mormons in general, really): they don't buy this. The concept of instant, unconditional forgiveness makes it easy to do whatever you want, knowing that you will always be forgiven. The general Mormon attitude seems to be that forgiveness is fine, but a huge leap better is to not sin in the first place. Romney has demonstrated this sense of responsibility and ethics in his life; unlike the rest of the candidates, he has no skeletons in his closet, no gross hypocrisies he needs to cover up. He's the only Republican in the race (and possibly the only candidate in either party) you couldn't define as corrupt, one way or another. I'm doubting he'll get the nomination; to a lot of the Republican base, Mormon is no different than Scientologist. But it'd be nice to see him do well.

Since it's looking like he's our likely Republican candidate, I should mention that while I like John McCain, he scares me a bit. I like a lot of things about the guy; he's definitely not a party robot, he's plain-spoken (for a politician), he's practical, and he tends to do what he feels is right, regardless of who he'll piss off. He seems to be reluctant to play politics, and he's willing to take unpopular stands if he feels he's right. I like that he's always pushed for campaign finance reform and fiscal responsibility, and he's been on the correct side of a lot of issues. On the other hand, I suspect he'll have little patience for diplomacy as a foreign-policy tool. And that's the President's real power: foreign policy. Any kind of tax plan or health care plan or spending bill is subject to congress's whim. But how we deal with the rest of the world rests strongly in the hands of the President. And I think his predilection for pissing people off, while fun to watch in the senate, won't serve us well in the rest of the world. American foreign policy over the next few years will largely be about undoing George Bush's damage, and I don't think McCain is the guy for this job. Also, his age worries me a bit. He's a survivor -- tough and scrappy. But he's also been through a lot. If he's elected president, he'll be the same age when he takes office as Reagan was when he left office. While I like McCain, I wouldn't be comfortable with him in office unless I really liked his VP too.

One thing I'd really like to see from any candidate is some straight talk about what to do about the really scary issues, with the utterly terrifying national debt a good place to start. But it's not an issue that sound-bites well, so we'll probably hear nothing about it.

How will I vote in November? That's a tough call. A lot can change between now and then. And I'm convinced that Democrats are on the right side of more of the important issues than the Republicans. But a Hilary/Edwards ticket, versus a McCain/Romney ticket? That'd be a tough call....

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