Picking the Prez – Part I

The bumper stickers say, “Had Enough Yet?”

With Iowans set to caucus tomorrow night, officially kicking off the campaign for America’s Next Top Decider, I’m pleased to put 2007 in the rear-view mirror, though I admit I’m not sanguine about the degrees of insanity and mean-spirited fear and loathing we could yet face in the coming year.

One thing we have going for us is the arrival of Rat year on February 6.

I do fervently hope the cosmic propensity for prosperity and good fortune in the coming cycle will visit upon as many people as possible relief from the incredible uncertainty, danger, and fear washing over the planet in recent times.

I’d like to greet 2008 with a quick survey of the cast of characters vying for their chance to win the Presidential election currently scheduled for November 4.

The caucuses in Iowa and next week’s primaries in New Hampshire will likely winnow the field to as few as two or three candidates from each of the Democratic and Republican parties, and may possibly give rise to a third-party candidacy or two. No matter who ends up getting to choose the new Oval Office rug next January, he or she will no doubt be stepping into a role not unlike one on an episode of Lost, or perhaps Survivor.

Long-time readers of this blog will recall my belief that Dennis Kucinich has the most intelligent understanding of what we require in a leader.

We are each poorer for the lack of coverage his campaign has received. I am sad a man of such obvious thoughtfulness and good will has been unable to catalyze a more well-rounded, effective base of support for his ideas.

Perhaps it remains true things must get worse before they get better.

And get worse they will should any Republican candidate find himself donning the mantle of #44.

I’d like to say I could support a Ron Paul candidacy, for he is a straight shooter who has stood for laudable principles in his tenure as a U.S. Representative. In the end, however, I think he’s too committed to the idea of “less government” for the party of Ronald Reagan.

His impressive Internet fundraising data indicate the widespread grassroots resonance of his message, however.

G.O.P. poobahs should use the next eight years out of both the White House and the majority in congress to study Mr. Paul’s ideas, and attempt to re-frame the party’s meta-message accordingly.

It would be a great surprise to see him on the campaign trail come the Ides of March.

Avuncular Fred Thompson, the former Senator from Tennessee who made a name for himself on the popular television drama Law and Order, might possibly one day say, “I’m not a president, but I play one on TV.”

His candidacy was eagerly anticipated by a handful of people, most notably Chris Matthews of Hardball fame (who apparently has unresolved father-figure issues), and he got a ton of coverage when he finally entered the race several months after his fellow Republican competitors.

Once in the glare of political klieg lights, however, he put everyone to sleep with sonambulent speechifying and inexpressible ideas about running the country.

At the other end of the spectrum, the candidacy of Mike Huckabee has tongues a-wagging all over the map.

The former governor of Arkansas with a pedigree as a Baptist preacher hails, incredibly, from Hope, Arkansas — the hometown of President #42, Bill Clinton.

Mr. Clinton’s ascent to the presidency would appear to have already made the Jack beat the Queen — how many Rhodes Scholars is a settlement of just over 10,000 in one of the poorest states in the nation likely to produce?

The odds of it producing 2 presidents in a generation might seem a steep obstacle for Mr. Huckabee’s campaign to overcome — but his background as a fundamentalist, repressive religious mouthpiece should prove in time the greatest impediment to his possible election.

While Mr. Huckabee enjoys a curent bump in Iowa polls, should he do well in that state’s caucuses and finish in the top three days later in New Hampshire’s primary, closer inspection of what it means to have been a Baptist preacher should take him out of running for the Republican nomination next summer.

Another major Republican candidate toting religious baggage across the nation is former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, whose chiseled good-looks and vast personal fortune have thus far proved effective counter-measures to his background in the Mormon church.

It’s not entirely clear to what degree Mr. Romney is personally committed to the tenets of a faith founded on patriarchy and polygamy, but it’s not difficult to imagine the same base of true believers and born-again Christians who helped keep George W. Bush in office four years ago might pause before converting their religious fealty into support for Mr. Romney on faith alone.

What should doom Mr. Romney’s bid in the end is a combination of his inability to decide what principles he stands for, and his apparently congenital mendacity.

As governor of Massachusetts, he staked out public positions in favor of a woman’s right to choose her reproductive destiny and he supported the idea that sexual orientation is irrelevant to the consideration of fitness for employment or the benefits of domestic partnership.

Now, as he seeks the approval of a more diverse and (in his handlers’ estimation) more conservative electorate, his positions on those issues have tacked decidedly rightward.

Of greater concern is his lack of compunction about telling the bald-faced lies his audience wants to hear, and his frightening propensity to pose a military solution to just about any problem one can think of.

The most egregious dissembler among the Republicans, and the scariest would-be Thug-in-Chief, is the onetime front-runner, Rudolph Giuliani. The former mayor of New York City is the wrong answer in so many ways, it’s nearly surreal to take his candidacy seriously at all.

One can only hope he finishes so far out of the money in the early primaries that he’ll be too broke and embarrassed to go on. However, it seems his advisors (a veritable who’s who of America’s most reactionary xenophobes and armchair warriors) are already planning for his rejection by the voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, and are focusing instead on scaring the bejeesus out of people in Florida, who will take to the polls on January 29.

If by some miracle Mr. Giuliani remains in contention past Groundhog Day it will signal the threat of many discontented winters on the collective horizon.

Which leaves the senator from Arizona, John McCain, putative captain of The Straight Talk Express and the man who gave George W. Bush the strongest run for his money back in the primary season of 2000.

Mr. McCain has a certain fatherly appeal born of his experience in government, his military heroism, and the vaguely iconoclastic distance at which he keeps the rest of the field, drawing a portrait of himself as the man uniquely qualified to bring courage and resolve and strength to the job of protecting America’s shoppers.

I think he would be the Republicans’ best choice to lead their ticket next fall, but my hunch is he’d end up faring no better than another senator from Arizona did back in 1964.

Picking the Prez — Part II will consider candidates from the Democratic party after the Iowa caucuses.


  1. Aron Roberts - January 2, 2008 @ 9:01 pm

    Enjoyed reading your succinct zings in sizing up the Republican candidates!

    Here’s a shout-out from the East Bay: it was heartening to see your mention of John Anderson in your comment on Andrew Leonard’s Salon article on Ron Paul. Anderson was the first Presidential candidate for whom I ever voted, as a young man in 1980. That also happened to be the last time I’d registered as a Republican, to vote for Anderson in the primaries some time before he launched his run as an Independent.

    However quixotic it may be, 28 years later, I’ve once again registered as a Republican to vote for Ron Paul in the February 5th California Primary. If nothing else, whether or not Paul is out of this heavily front-loaded race by March, I’m hoping the excitement over the ideas he’s bringing to the table doesn’t lose momentum after the primary season and the General Election.

    Some thoughts in this vein, from some others’ blog comments:

    You’re not contributing to a candidate, you’re contributing to a message. For those nay-sayers who say Paul can’t win, give anyway. His opinions in the debates are keeping the flame of freedom lit, a message that no one else on either stage (left or right) has the nerve to speak about.

    Ron Paul is making ground because he’s not afraid to stand for something. Whether that policy is good, bad, or indifferent isn’t the point. He’s not hedging his bets, and that’s popular. Makes you wonder what the hell the mainstream candidates are waiting for. America is thirsty for real leadership. I don’t know if Paul is the guy to do it, but he certainly knows what he wants, and he isn’t afraid to say it.

  2. lonbud - January 3, 2008 @ 7:23 pm

    Well, it looks like a huge win in Iowa tonight for Huckabee on the Republican side. If I wore Republican colored glasses, I too would be supporting Ron Paul (he’s my friend on MySpace; does that count?), and if I swung from that side of the plate, I would be very concerned about a Huckabee juggernaut. The theocrats must be kept at bay not only in Arabia, but right here at home.

    Iowa doesn’t mean much in my view. But in the glaring light of play the media will give it, some people may have difficulty forming their own thoughts and opinions about who might best lead the country forward.

    For now, I’ll stand by my call for McCain on the G.O.P. ticket and see what develops.

  3. Buddy - January 6, 2008 @ 6:41 pm

    🙂 this has made every person I sent it to feel very, very guilty.

    your blog is dead-on about our political state-of-play.

Leave a Reply