Thursday, January 3, 2008

On the Quality of Candidates

The New York Times has an article about a strange phenomenon happening in Iowa. Democrats are happy with their options. Indeed, perhaps they're even too happy. While Republican Iowans seem either set on Huckabee or Romney (they've been snubbed by McCain and Giuliani), Iowa's Democrats, even those committed to a specific candidate, seem willing to consider other options. I've been experiencing much of the same, to be honest. While I consider myself part of the Obamanation, I recognize that there are other compelling candidates. This really is a strong group of candidates we've got. If the Dems can't pull a victory out of this bunch, they ought to just dissolve themselves as a party. Let's consider...

First, we have the possible History Makers, Clinton and Obama (maybe I should throw Richardson in here, but I think he belongs in a later group). Even though I am rooting against Clinton perhaps even more than I am rooting for Obama, the notion of a female President is, at the very least, interesting. It may not be "compelling," but it adds an element of excitement to the race. The same goes for Obama. The fact that we could have a black President being inaugurated in about a year is very exciting.

Next, we have the Resume (there should be an accent over that e, I know) Kings. These guys (Biden, Dodd, and Richardson) have long lists of accomplishments and probably "deserve" to be President more than the front-runners. The fact that candidates of this caliber are being snubbed should speak to the level of excitement among Democrats.

Then, we have the Wannabe RFK -- John Edwards. He's bringing back (or trying, at least) a style of populism that we haven't seen in mainstream politics since the death of RFK. I'm not too keen on Edwards these days, but I think this style of politicking is pretty compelling and makes for exciting television.

And there's the Token Kill-'em-with-Kindness, All Carrots, No Sticks, Hippie Dippie Lover of the Trees -- Dennis Kucinich. Always fun when he's around.

These folks have made for what I think is a fantastic group of candidates. Let's consider the Republicans for a moment.

First, we have Mr. 9/11. As we all know, Rudy is only in this race because he happened to be the Mayor of New York on September 11, 2001. That's his only "qualification." He claims that this "qualification" makes him the Anti-Terror Candidate. Sorry, Rudy, but having your city attacked doesn't count as military experience. You're no John McCain. Giving patriotic speeches doesn't count as valuable foreign policy experience, either. You're no Joe Biden. You're Rudy, the scumbag from New York who has grotesquely turned a national tragedy into a political windfall. For shame.

Next, we have The Latter Day Flip-Flopper who Saved the Olympics. Seriously, when your biggest accomplishment is putting on the Winter Olympics, should you really be President? Oh wait, apparently Mitt's running an ad about how he saved his friend's daughter! Mitt is a national hero!

Then there's the Varicose Frog Man. Reading about Thompson's sad romps through Iowa have made me pretty depressed. I mean, it's great that Thompson seems to be realizing that he has no business being in this race, but it's sad that even 1% (let alone 9%) of Iowans haven't caught on.

And we can't forget The Chuck Norris-Approved Pastor of Disaster. Huckabee shouldn't be lumped in with these other three, because he is slightly compelling. He brings a kind of economic populism that is unheard of in Republican circles and hey, he's funny. Kind of. Relatively speaking. Sure, generally speaking he is just a pawn of the evangelicals, but he's more compelling than most evangelical pawns.

Alas, a candidate worth supporting: John McCain. Now, if he somehow gets the nod, I sure as hell won't vote for him, but at least his candidacy makes sense. When we ask "why should you be President?" he can respond with something other than a blank stare and a line about the sanctity of family. His moderate politics are refreshing in a Republican party (and really a broader political scene) dominated by extremists.

And there are some others, but they're really not important.

So, congratulations Democrats. You've got a wide range of good choices. And Republicans, you have one, so go ahead and pick someone else. It just wouldn't be becoming to pick the good guy, right?

P.S. Here's a great op-ed about the ridiculousness of the Iowa caucuses. I was going to write a post about my hatred of the caucuses, but this summed it up better than I could.

To come: The promised discussion of primary reform and an update on Michael Bloomberg.

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