How the 2008 Presidential election shapes up
Here we are 17 months away from the 2008 Presidential election, and we have already been swamped over the past half-year by candidacy declarations, polls, campaign speeches, debates, and excessive political punditry. I cannot recall when there have ever been so many candidates running for the Presidency over so lengthy a period of time. When the actual voting finally takes place next year, I fear that much of the electorate could be too weary to go to the polls.
The major reason the campaign is dragging on so long is the candidates' need to raise cash to pay for soaring electioneering costs. The media--and particularly the cable news channels--also benefit from the prolonged campaigning. It provides lots of raw material to fill TV's air space between commercials and copy for the print media.
Last January I declared that retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark, a Democrat, was my favorite candidate. As a non-politician with distinguished military and diplomatic credentials, I thought he would have elevated the level of campaigning and, if elected, would have provided the kind of world-class Presidential leadership that has been absent since 2001. Clark has failed to obtain much financial support and to attract significant media attention, however, and I am disappointed that he is not running.
As a registered Democrat, my current favorite is Al Gore, who has yet to declare his candidacy. There is considerable pressure on him to enter the race, for he would be a formidable candidate. Need I remind any one once again that he received more popular votes in the 2000 election than George W. Bush?
If Gore does not decide to run, the Democrats are blessed with an exceedingly impressive lineup of candidates. But none of them would be as strong a candidate as Gore. I wonder whether the two leaders in the Democratic polls, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, are as electable. Sadly, I am uncertain that American voters are ready to accept a woman or an African-American as President.
Aside from the gender and racial issues, both have other handicaps. For reasons that I have never understood, there is a widespread, almost pathological hatred of Hillary. (What other Presidential candidate since "Ike" Eisenhower ever enjoyed such first-name public familiarity?) Perhaps it is a matter of the envy of other women of her success and the resentment of reactionary men that a female should aspire to become President of the United States.
Although I recognize that she is as well-qualified--maybe more so--as her Democratic opponents, I am unenthusiastic about her candidacy. I admired Bill Clinton, but I am turned off by what I regard as a dynastic, Clinton-overkill quality to his wife's candidacy. I would prefer to see a fresh face in the White House.
Obama is one of the most charismatic and exciting new politicians to appear in years. But I believe he lacks the gravitas and political accomplishments to qualify him to become President in 2008. Maybe it's because I'm an old grouch, but his boyish persona would make me uncomfortable that a guy almost young enough to be my grandson is sitting in the White House.
If Gore does not enter the race, I think that the Democrats' most electable candidate would be John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator and John Kerry's running mate in 2004. I have confessed to my wife that I am bewitched by Mrs. Edwards, a charming and brilliant lady who would be a valuable campaign asset.
The other serious Democratic candidates--Senators Chris Dodd and Joe Biden and New Mexico's Gov. Bill Richardson--are all excellent, experienced men well suited to be President. Each one would be a better President than any of the 10 announced Republican candidates--or actor/politician Fred Thompson, who at this writing is expected to throw his hat into the race.
That Thompson has suddenly become a major factor in the election demonstrates that the Republican establishment lacks enthusiasm for any of the party's formally-announced candidates.
Their anxiety over winning next year is so palpable that Thompson seems to be regarded by so many Republican stalwarts as a political messiah. He probably would be a better President than any of the other Republicans seeking their party's nomination.
I once admired John McCain for his maverick qualities. But I cannot understand his unrealistic call for more troops in Iraq at a time when we should be withdrawing from the civil war there. I am also disappointed by his pandering to his party's religious right wing, which unfairly demolished him when he sought the Republican nomination in 2000.
As a panderer he is outclassed by Mitt Romney, who as governor of Massachusetts favored gun control, embryonic stem cell research, and the civil rights of gay men and lesbians and of women seeking abortion. As a Republican Presidential candidate, however, he has found it necessary to reverse his position on each of these controversial issues. I was especially amused that he "outed" himself as a fervent hunter and suddenly joined the National Rifle Assn.
In contrast, Rudy Guiliani has shown great courage in sticking to his positions on these sensitive issues, and I admire him for that. But I think the importance of his leadership role as New York City's mayor after 9/11 has been exaggerated, as has his expertise on terrorism. And, at the risk of sounding naive, I am offended by his exploitation of these issues in his run for the White House.
In fact, some New York police and fire officials have criticized him for locating the city's crisis management center in the World Trade Center and for his failure to assure that the two departments operated on the same radio wave lengths. Their inability to communicate during the 9/11 attack had disastrous consequences.
Thompson, McCain, Romney, and Guiliani are regarded as the "first-tier" candidates for the Republican nomination, and the others are highly unlikely nominees. During the past two Republican TV debates I was impressed by Jim Gilmore. He came across as a smart and articulate politician with relatively moderate social and economic views (for a Republican). Moreover, he had an outstanding record as governor of Virginia. But he is not as well known nationally as his first-tier rivals. I would not be surprised, however, to see him selected as the Republicans' Vice-Presidential nominee.
Only 17 months to go until the election. Meanwhile, it's a great time for political junkies like me.
Labels: Presidential election