YouTube Debate Thoughts

Now that the Republican debate is over I’ll post a few thoughts and reactions.

1) I enjoyed the candidate videos from Ron Paul and Mitt Romney and the other candidates who did not show attack ads. Fred Thompson attacked Romney and Huckabee while other candidates attacked Sen. Clinton. There are too many issues to address in campaigns; candidates do not need to resort to attacking other candidates.

2) Mitt Romney came across as wishy-washy in some instances (especially when asked about water boarding). You have to understand his personality and modus operandi to understand why he came across that way. Mitt Romney is very analytical. He likes to have all sides of issues presented to him before he makes decisions. So even though there were a couple times that he did not appear to answer questions directly (e.g., water boarding and gays in the military), I think he did the right thing even if it appears to be dodging questions. He basically said that if he is elected president, then he’ll make firm decisions; it is hard to make good decisions without all the facts.

3) Ron Paul made some good points but did not present himself well. I actually was not very impressed with him during the debate. I want him to do well, he could make a lot of positive changes in the country, but he just might not be political enough.

4) John McCain made a great point about water boarding. He has good moral ground to stand on regarding the use of such interrogation techniques.

5) The three candidates who stood out the most and came across the most positively were Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and John McCain. Fred Thompson did relatively poorly and Tancredo just didn’t stand out. Huckabee and Romney both have a lot of charisma though. John McCain is just too grizzled. He’s a great guy but he just does not have the polish of the other two candidates and unfortunately image matters a lot in politics.

I thought the debate was good overall but not enough issues were addressed. The final question was about Giuliani supporting the Red Socks. There are too many real issues to talk about to spend time on that, no matter how humorous it is. We needed to hear about education, science (not just space exploration), and other important issues. Granted, immigration, taxes, and the Iraq War are major issues but I would have liked to hear more.

YouTube/CNN Republican Debate

The YouTube/CNN Republican debate is tonight. Expectations are high for both Republicans and Democrats. It provides both camps the opportunity to learn a little about what each candidate stands for and how each candidate responds to “average” people (granted, the video questions are selected by CNN staff and potentially censored as well as fit to specific candidates to potentially create controversy – after all, that’s what the media does best, report and create controversy).

Hopefully everyone remains level-headed and reasonable. Anything less than that makes them look silly, albeit human. However, we don’t expect our leaders to be human; we want them to be more than human – infallible.

I’ll post my thoughts about the debate once it is over.

Romney and Giuliani

The Thanksgiving weekend proved to be active for two leading Republican Presidential candidates: Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. They traded comments about their past performance in office (gubernatorial and mayoral, respectively). Giuliani’s attacks proved to be juvenile.

Romney had appointed a judge during his tenure who allowed a man out of prison. This man has been charged (since his release) with the murder of a young married couple. Romney asked for the judge to step down. I don’t know all the circumstances regarding the release of the prisoner but it does seem a little harsh to call for the judge’s resignation after one poor (albeit, major) decision. This particular judge could have a history of other poor decisions though – I don’t know. On the other hand, judges are placed in positions of great responsibility and should be held to higher levels of conduct and judgment. In any case, Giuliani’s barb at Romney was puerile.

Giuliani questioned Romney’s judgment in the appointment of this judge: “The governor is going to have to explain his appointment.” So now Romney is personally responsible for every poor decision someone he appointed makes? If this is the case, he must be responsible for every good thing that his appointees do. Parents aren’t – much of the time – even responsible for the choices their young children make and never are for their older children, let alone adult children. Romney didn’t even try to cover for the judge, he called for her resignation. Giuliani is an intelligent man but he certainly made a less-than-intelligent jab at Romney.

This just shows the problems with negative campaigning. Both sides often come across as looking a little foolish because it is easy to come back with a swift retort that isn’t well-formulated or well-researched. Slinging mud at others gets your own hands dirty. It’s the bystanders (other candidates) that usually benefit from traded barbs like this one between Romney and Giuliani. Even if the other person started it, you can’t say that without sounding childish. I think it would be best to ignore as many attacks as possible but respond calmly and certainly if the attacks are outrageous lies. Even that can be problematic though. You should certainly never come back with a, “Yeah, but you….” That’s my main criticism of and advice for Romney right now – don’t get drawn into negative campaigning. It just gets ugly and makes you look bad. Even if it wins you the election, it’s a poor way to win. Take the higher route, take the cleaner road – don’t get trapped in the gutter of mudslinging.

Why Ron Paul?

Ron Paul is a medical doctor turned Representative from Texas; he is a bit of a dark horse candidate in the Republican party right now. He has tremendous support on the Internet, especially on social sites like Digg.com and Del.icio.us. He used to be largely ignored by the media but is receiving more coverage now. What is it about Ron Paul that makes people like him as a candidate. A qualitative review of comments on Digg reveals that many people support him because he is opposed to the Iraq War. His opposition stems mainly from the point that the U.S. shouldn’t have become involved as they did in Iraq; he is also opposed to how much money is being spent to fight the war. Ron Paul is libertarian, he is a classic Republican who supports small government and small budgets. He votes for almost anything that would shrink the size of the federal government, not to weaken but to limit its scope to something closer to what the Founding Fathers established.

Ron Paul is also a social conservative: he is anti-abortion based on personal values and political beliefs (i.e., not having the federal government tell the states what to do); he favors personal property rights; he supports gun rights; he is opposed to socialized (and managed) health care; he is opposed to a minimum wage; he is opposed to affirmative action; and he is also opposed to the IRS, stating that we need a major tax system overhaul. If you look at his overall voting record he is fairly moderate but with a moderate social and strong fiscal conservatism foundation.

Could he win the election, assuming he was nominated? I think it is likely. There’s not a lot of dirt on him, he has a consistent voting record and hasn’t suffered any major scandals. However, one problem for him as President would be to try and get his policies passed through the Legislative branch. It is easy to talk about reducing the size of the government but actually doing it is difficult. No one wants their pork chopped from the budget. Welfare recipients would be upset when their checks are reduced or canceled, IRS employees would be up in arms when their jobs are threatened by tax reform, et cetera. Whether or not Ron Paul could accomplish all of his reform goals, he could certainly accomplish some of his goals.

Note: This post does not constitute an endorsement of Ron Paul.

Positive Aspects of John Edwards

Following my post about writing nice things about the candidates (regardless of political beliefs or general personal qualities), I’ve decided to focus on John Edwards. I’m not putting my support behind him but I would like to make a brief case about why he could be a good President.

John Edwards seems like a person you would like as a friend. He comes across as genuinely nice, in spite of his tort law background. Although, tort lawyers at least put on the facade of focusing on people, on being personable. After all, they are fighting capitalism for retribution when the individual is trampled by the herd stampeding to drink from the corporate water hole. So what if the tort lawyers take their own barrel-fulls from that same corporate water hole, they’ve helped the little guy.

Back to John Edwards. He is a good family man. He has a nice not-quite-rags-to-riches story. He seems like someone who makes informed decisions before he acts and is willing to listen to opposing viewpoints, after all he is a lawyer. They are successful when they know how to anticipate opposing arguments and counter then with arguments of their own. John Edwards seems like someone who would be able to work with both sides of the political spectrum while still striving towards his ideological goals.

You can visit his website here: John Edwards for President.

Note: This post, as mentioned above, does not constitute an endorsement of John Edwards.

On Supreme Court Justices

One important role of U.S. Presidents is appointing new Supreme Court Justices as the need arises. Each president in recent history has averaged 1 or 2 appointments during his term(s). Because of this, we need to elect a president who will select Justices carefully and wisely. Picking Justices shouldn’t be about partisanship or policy, it should be about promoting justice and fairness. What is the role of a judge then? Is it to change the law? Is it to interpret the law?

The great South African novelist and activist Alan Paton summed up the responsibility of judges in his classic and unequaled Cry, the Beloved Country:

“A Judge must be incorruptible. The Judge does not make the Law. It is the People that make the Law. Therefore if a Law is unjust, and if the Judge judges according to the Law, that is justice, even if it is not just. It is the duty of a Judge to do justice, but it is only the People that can be just. Therefore if justice be not just, that is not to be laid at the door of the Judge, but at the door of the People.”

We need judges who do not strive to change the law, rather, interpret according to the law. We have legislators to make the law. This is why it is important that we elect a President who can put aside petty politics and select judges who will do their jobs and make their rulings based on the law without striving to change the law. The role of Supreme Court Justices is quite specific in the U.S. Constitution: Link to Constitution.

Again, we need to be wise in our selection of President for much hangs in the balance.

The philosophy behind this blog

I want this blog to be one that provides a measured view of those who are campaigning for the presidency as well as other politicians. This means that I will try to say positive things about each candidates as well as negatives. This does not mean that I support all of the candidates – that would be ludicrous – but it does mean that I will search for the positive in each. Our political scene is more often viewed through dark tinted glass rather than rose-colored glasses. There is too much cynicism and backbiting in our political system. We need to focus on what each candidate or politician brings to the system that strengthens it, even if the only positive thing I can say about them is that they tell good jokes. I like to think of myself as an optimistic realist and will write this blog accordingly. That does mean that I will point out flaws as needed but I’ll try to do so without the caustic edge so many commentators use. Their piercing sworded remarks often are merely sordid and only leave ugly scars.

History Remembering Presidents

There is an interesting phenomenon which U.S. presidents are remembered. It’s typically the presidents who had momentous events occur during their presidencies. Abraham Lincoln had the Civil War and was assassinated. FDR had the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, and WWII. JFK was assassinated. Truman gave the go-ahead for the atomic bombs. George Washington was the first president and a great Revolutionary War general. Others come quickly to mind but presidencies in which there were wars and huge catastrophes tend to be the most salient.

This is why, like him or not, Pres. George W. Bush will be better-remembered than Pres. Clinton. I’m not comparing their presidencies or their performance; I’m just predicting who will be better-remembered in 100 or 200 years. Pres. Bush had 9-11 and the Iraq War. Pres. Clinton gets a little boost with his impeachment but what else happened during the 90s? It was a relatively quiet period of prosperity. History doesn’t easily remember prosperity. It remembers Alexander the Great, who conquered nations; it remembers Julius Caesar, who conquered nations; it remembers, Napoleon Bonaparte, who conquered nations.

So, again, whether or not you like Pres. Bush, history will remember him more than Pres. Clinton and a lot of other U.S. Presidents. Of course, no one will forget James K. Polk either and his presidency was pretty quiet (That’s actually not true. Polk was quite an effective President and did a lot of good for the country).

Who Should Win the Primaries

I have to admit, for a while I started liking Hillary Clinton. Her political views seemed more moderate than the other Democratic contenders and she seemed to get the political system. However, that turned out to be her downfall. She’s too political, too power-hungry, too driven to succeed. Some people may feel that those are essential traits in a successful politician but to me, it reveals too much about her character. I don’t feel like I can trust her. Granted, I don’t know her personally but after watching her for 8 years as the First Lady and watching her as a Senator and as a potential presidential nominee, she’s had too many scandals, too many revelations about her character for me to feel like I can trust her.

Sen. Clinton also attacks other candidates about their lack of experience. Experience (or the lack thereof) is not the problem, the problem is too much “experience.” We have too many career politicians. We need more leaders like George Washington who stated,

“The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I had been reluctantly drawn.” (Source).

He was a reluctant president. He did his job with all his heart but he was eager to return to a private life after 8 years. As long as there have been governments, there have been career politicians. However, this is no excuse for our country to have career politicians. Not all career politicians are bad, obviously, but it is too easy for those in power to love their power and seek more power. It is the love of power and control that undermines democracy.

Political experience can be beneficial to public service but you do not need political experience to be a successful political leader, even the President. That is why I have to laugh at Sen. Clinton’s attacks on other candidates for their “lack of experience.” They would be a breath of fresh air in our stagnant political landscape.

Additionally, as stated above, it’s hard to trust Sen. Clinton. I feel like I can trust Barack Obama – he seems sincere. I feel like I can trust John Edwards too but I’m having a hard time trusting Hillary Clinton. Clinton, Obama, and Edwards all have essentially the same stance on the major issues so the differences between them are minor. Thus, it is hard for issues to be the deciding factor for me. As an aside – I do not care if politicians change their mind about issues. It is good to change your mind when there is a good reason to do so (e.g., new evidence that you were mistaken). I don’t think people should change their positions in response to every little wind but having a willingness to change, if necessary is important. Whatever choice you make or whatever your stance is, take a strong stand and run with it but don’t be afraid to change course. Again, I don’t care if candidates have changed or will change their opinions (it’s a problem if they vacillate though).

Of the current three Democratic candidates, I have to put my support behind Barack Obama because he is quite new to politics (and probably not yet jaded by politics), he seems trustworthy, and he comes across as someone who will make measured and informed decisions as president.

Now for the Republican candidates. I have a hard time trusting Rudy Giuliani. He comes across as maneuvering and manipulative. I think Sen. McCain is fine. He’s been in politics for a long time so there is always a little baggage but he’s even-handed and would do well as president. However, the two Republican candidates who I think would be the best are Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.

Mitt Romney practices what he preaches. He is trustworthy, sincere, and successful. His background in business, specifically venture capitalism, and with the Salt Lake Olympics demonstrates that he is fiscally responsible. We need someone who can be fix our national debt (that’s another thing Pres. Washington despised – debt). Mitt is a good family man as well. He’s changed his views on a few issues but as I stated above, I don’t have a problem with that – I think it is commendable to be willing to change. However, if he (or anyone else) kept changing back and forth many times, that would be a problem. He’s been involved in politics (i.e., around it – with his father) for quite a while but he’s spent most of his life in the private sector. He also would be a great negotiator with other nations – able to take a strong stand but doing so with warmth.

Ron Paul is another good choice for president, although for different reasons than Mitt Romney. He is sincere and consistent. He seems like he is trustworthy. He abhors our bloated bureaucracy and hopes to steer us back towards the government of our Founding Fathers. While I think both Ron Paul and Mitt Romney would be fiscally responsible, they have different approaches. Ron Paul would reform taxes and scale back the government. Unfortunately, I don’t think he could win. His ideas are too “radical” (as ironic as that is) for most people. I think, if elected, he would do the best he could to help us reform the government and cut back waste and pork. He’s intelligent and thoughtful and honest. Ron Paul would also fight for our liberties.

To me, character, honesty, and integrity are important in a President. That’s why I can’t endorse Hillary Clinton but could endorse Barack Obama. It is why I can’t endorse Rudy Giuliani but could endorse Mitt Romney or Ron Paul.

After the primaries, I would love to see a run-off between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. That way voting would not feel like selecting the lesser of two evils.

Political Blog

This is a new blog where I’ll post my thoughts about and reactions to the various presidential candidates as well as other thoughts about politics in general. I’ll try to provide balanced and thoughtful commentary concerning the morass that is the U.S. political system.