I tend to stay out of Three Stooges-style pie fights. For this reason, I have tried to stay away from getting into a discussion about which candidate I prefer from the Democratic field to be the presidential nominee.
The eve of the Iowa Caucuses has me feeling bold as a cold snap embraces me in Wisconsin, a state without a true say in the presidential race. For what it’s worth, I offer that as it was in the 2004 election, my primary choice to be the Democratic nominee is John Edwards.
Since he entered the national stage, Edwards’ mantra of "Two Americas" has resonated with me. Our country, through a series of governmental moves friendly to large American corporations, is coming apart at the seams. Edwards is the only candidate in my belief with a long and well-documented history of fighting for the poor and middle class. While I would have liked to have seen him fight to retain his former Senate seat in North Carolina rather than run for president in 2004, I was with him then in both his presidential and vice-presidential runs, and I have seen no reason to reverse my original decision.
I did take into consideration that fact that he voted for the authorization to use force in Iraq. I like the fact that he has come out and stated that he was flat wrong, rather than mincing words about how George W. Bush corrupted the UN Inspections process. I don’t hear politicians admitting when they make mistakes. While this was a fairly huge mistake, I like a person who sincerely admits his mistakes and learns from them. In my mind, Edwards has done that.
For me, it was also a process of elimination. Mike Gravel is an important man in the history of this country for his leadership in cutting off funding for the quagmire that was the Vietnam War, and his value system remains intact. I believe that anyone who wants to run for president should have a chance to be heard. Because of the orchestrated "debates" conducted by the various news outlets, Gravel barely got a word in. Perhaps because of that it’s pretty clear from poll numbers that he has no traction, so I wrote him off.
The same goes for Dennis Kucinich. From a policy standpoint, I agree more with Kucinich than any other candidate in the race. He didn’t have traction in 2004, and he still doesn’t today. It looks like he may disappear completely from the public eye in the next year, as he’s being primaried in his district in Ohio. So, Kucinich gets scratched off my list.
I was willing to listen to Bill Richardson up until the moment he stated that Byron White was his ideal Supreme Court justice. It’s a shame, because he has more foreign policy credentials than anyone else in the race. Next time, Bill Richardson should remember the name Harry Blackmun. Off you go, Bill!
Then there’s Joe Biden, a windbag with a great deal of useful and insightful knowledge, but a windbag nonetheless. I had my fill of Biden when I lived on the Delaware border on the Pennsylvania side. He should go back to the job of grooming his son to be his successor. Someday, he’ll be remembered as a visionary when I look at a map and see three countries where Iraq is now identified. He just won’t be remembered as a president.
Chris Dodd came close. He has done everything right in the latest congressional session. I agree with a number of his stands on important issues and, unlike his fellow Senators in the race, he’s showing real leadership on the floor of the Senate. Then he appeared on Don Imus’ new radio show on the first day that the old weather-beaten bigot was back on the air. This is an incredible lapse in personal and professional judgment. It has the smell of political calculation and has become a deal breaker for me. Dodd remains my second choice among the field behind Edwards, but I don’t think he has a chance.
Then there’s Barack Obama. I don’t have anything against Obama politically, and I do admire his purity with regard to his consistent opposition to the war in Iraq dating back to 2003. He has moments when the substance of his stump speech reaches inspiring heights.
I have three problems with Obama, two of which become one big problem. For one, Obama is very new. For people like me who have been stumbling in the dark for a long time in search of someone politically palatable, Obama’s born-on date has a lot of appeal. And yet how new is too new? As a junior Senator, I’ve yet to see him grab the saber and charge up the hill for something he believed in. This goes hand in hand with the fact that the only election Obama has won on a national stage was a 50-point drubbing of Alan Keyes to win his Senate seat. To be blunt, a trained musk ox wearing a Brooks Brothers suit could beat Alan Keyes by 50 points. The third reason is Obama’s recent embrace of right-wing talking points, such as pot shots at "trial lawyers" and the last two standard bearers of the party from 2000 & 2004. Throw in his rather alarmist view of Social Security, and I have to conclude that Obama, while new, simply isn’t ready for the new political realities that surround him.
Bringing up the rear is Hillary Clinton. I am rather unique in the world at large, as I am a two-time Perot voter. I didn’t vote for Bill Clinton. I’ve always been a left-leaning independent, but there was something about Bill Clinton that I never truly embraced. Based on who the Republican nominees were in 1992 and 1996, history has mellowed me into saying that Bill Clinton was a hell of a lot better than the Republican alternatives offered. I do feel that he has a lot of explaining to do with regard to globalization in general and NAFTA in particular.
As much as Hillary Clinton wants to be regarded as her own person, neither Bill nor Hillary has adequately explained how her presidency would be radically different from what we saw with Clinton Version 1.0. If there was nothing compelling to me about the message the first time around, what is the difference with Version 2.0? I will concede that most of the low points of the Clinton Administration were the product of manufactured right-wing outrage. Economically, with the salient exception of some segments of Silicon Valley, the economy as a whole was in incredible shape compared to now. Yet I didn’t want Bill Clinton then, and I still would rather not have Hillary Clinton now. If I want a good package deal, I’ll go to my local Wendy’s and buy a number 6 combo.
My distrust of all things Clinton is rooted in the belief that these two represent Big Business more often than the people who truly need help in America. The Clintons have always talked a big game with the "It Takes A Village" sales pitch, while at the same time putting American villages out of work as a result of globalization. If you’re looking for someone to stand up to Corporate America, Hillary Clinton isn’t the go-to general for the planned assault. For these reasons, Hillary didn’t make my cut.
Having said all of the above, I can at the very least state that in the absence of a nude picture of the nominee with a farm animal, my vote for President in November will be for the eventual Democratic nominee. Any one of the people above is miles above the unvarnished insanity that passes for the Republican Party. Although I am now a registered Democrat (thank you George W. Bush), I still value my independent streak. I value it so as to not want to sully it with a vote for Michael Bloomberg or any other stiff exhumed by the hacks in Unity ’08. The Democratic Party with all of its flaws still offers the best hope for improvement in the American Condition.