Monday, December 17, 2007

Primary Colours

I was surprised by an online discussion that I saw over at Adam Daifallah's blog regarding the GOP primaries.

I gotta tell you, I'm usually a guy that takes sides - I like being partisan, and I don't hesitate to back a horse in an electoral contest. Which is why I'm glad I am not voting in the primary or in the general election.

I don't really like any of them.

Now, this is not to say that I haven't looked at many of them closely. Not as close as many CH readers, I'm sure. But often you have to go by how you feel and your perception of a candidate. However, some of the techniques or factors people are using to decide who they will support just shows us how far down the destructive path we have gone.

Firstly, to the Daifallah discussion. There was much teeth gnashing over the supposed decline of Hillary. We Conservatives want her to do well, so the argument goes, so she will become the Democratic candidate - which makes it easier for a GOP victory. Now, I'm certainly no fan of Hillary, but is this really what we really want? Are we willing to settle for any Republican president as long as they are Republican?

As a conservative, I for one have been embarrassed by the whole lot of GOP candidates running for the party's nomination. The mainstream candidates seem to be happy to continue the Bush-Cheney tradition of puffing up their chests and taking an aggressive and absolute foreign policy position, all while pandering to monied corporate interests. At the same time, each one seems to be "out-praying" the other, with faith being the ultimate measurement on whether they are right for the job.

As religion eclipses all other considerations, frontrunners include candidates who have been investigated by ethics commissions (Huckabee), flip flop on almost all major policy positions (Romney) misspent public funds (Giuliani) or something else.

As I said, I'm not enthralled with any of them, each for different reasons:

GIULIANI: I have NO idea why he went into the race. He had a reputation former politicians would kill for and something he could have dined off of for decades. He has a very successful lobbying practice and commanded huge speaking fees. People batted aside tough questions about how he ran New York in the post-9/11 years, how he prepared for and managed 9/11 itself and the treatment of first responders because he was "America's Mayor."

Now, for the privilege of running for the nomination, he will be subject to intense scrutiny about his business relationships, his leadership practices, his ethics, his personal life and his views on policies. And that review has been revealing. I already knew and was disappointed by Rudy's ongoing relationship with Kerik which I think says a lot about his character: loyalty over judgement. I'm also not happy with his Bush plus foreign policy views.

I'm a huge fan of what he did for New York (despite the grumblings) and how he displayed leadership in the face of a monumental national crisis, but he has a lot of personal and professional baggage that leaves his candidacy tainted.

ROMNEY: Slick flip flopper. He is the politician's politician, and I just don't like him. I don't think American voters will either. I don't give a rat's ass about his Mormon beliefs, but much of the red states will. Is this seriously the best the GOP can do?

HUCKABEE: Hell, I just love his Chuck Norris ad. In fact, there are lots of things to like about "Huck". I like the fact that he talks about helping the poor and low income folks. I like how he's not tied into the elite Republican establishment and brings a folksy touch.

But he doesn't hide the fact that his faith essentially defines him and guides him, no matter what the issue is at hand. Saying his rise in the polls is due to divine influence? Enough. I'm not a fan of using your religion to club your opponents with. And I especially don't like it when "Christians" routinely act decidedly "un-Christian" like. He berates employees. Screams at his peers. Expects favours due to his position. Uses public money for his own uses.

I don't subscribed to the Europeanesque, nuanced, "sophisticated" style of leadership you get from the Joe Bidens of the world who have clearly spent WAY too much time in office. But I do believe you need a clear understanding of the challenges that lay ahead for the US and have some workable solutions. "The Almighty will provide the answer" or "My faith is my advisor" is not an acceptable policy position - on anything.

MCCAIN: Too old. Not a candidate for a 2008 election. Maybe 2000. Maybe never.

THOMPSON: I think the calibre of a candidate is decided by how you handle challenges. Fred was all the talk over the summer when he was going to run an "outsider" campaign and become the second coming of Reagan. Instead of using that massive expectation (and resulting attention) from the media and the political community to his advantage, he completely underwhelmed everyone. Now he's in a "lazy" narrative that he can't escape.

I was initially drawn to Thompson. I like his plain speaking demeanour and his basic conservative values. And the media and punditry might be treating him unfairly. But its up to him and his team to play the hand their dealt. And they have busted thus far. Bucking the system might be a good move, but you have to have the juice to go at it on your own. Fred doesn't have the horses - which is too bad; I think he would have been a great candidate.

I don't think the future bodes well for the Republican Party. Not since the federal Liberals has a Party been so in need of a timeout to do some soul searching and figure out what it is they stand for.

Hilary would be an awful President. But I'm not sure any of the current candidates on the GOP side would be any better. Glad I don't have a vote.

Rudy will not hesitate to kill terrorists. He is tough on crime as you note from his clean up of NY.

Who cares who he has fun with.
I do.

If you cheat on your wife, what else will you cheat on?

If your (ex) wife can't trust you, no one can.
Huckabee has a lot bigger problems than the primacy of his faith. He has a penchant for parolling violent criminals who go on to rape and murder. Huckabee's surge in the polls will be short-lived. And when he cools off, the evangelical support will most likely spill over to Thompson.

And I don't think Thompson is inescapably locked in a "lazy narrative," as you put it. Anyone willing to subject themselves to the rigours of the presidential nomination process is pretty much precluded from accusations of sloth. That persona will melt away in a hurry when January comes around. His performance at the last debate (refusing to do "hand-shows") won him a lot of support and he was widely seen as the winner of the debate. I see Thompson as the strongest all-around candidate (Duncan Hunter's got some great policies too but he's under-funded and I think it's too late for him to break through into first tier territory).

I also think you were a little unfair to Romney. He does come off a little too polished to be genuine, I concede, but his policies are strong and he's stayed on point in every debate so far. Plus he just looks presidential.

Don't write off the Republicans just yet. I think the nominees are quite strong. If the choice is between Hillary! and Thompson/Giuliani/McCain/Romney I would take the Republican nominee every time. And I think American voters will as well.

Good post.
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