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Saturday, February 2, 2008
Thoughts Toward Super Tuesday

A quick, opinionated look at the names on the ballot in Tuesday's Utah presidential primaries.

I realize that most of the nation thinks this is Groundhog Day, despite the fact that we here at the blog will celebrate Groundhog Day (Observed) on Friday, February 8. For what it's worth, had I been a groundhog possessed of at least average groundhog vision and cognition and not inclined to hallucination, and had I ventured out of doors at 9 a.m. this morning in American Fork . . . I would made and seen a rather half-hearted shadow.

Now that we have that temporarily out of our system, let us turn our thoughts toward Super Tuesday, when Utah voters will have a presidential primary, like voters in about 20 other states.

If I were to sit down with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper, and make a list of Republicans I'd like to see on a primary election ballot, men and women I think might be both electable and good presidents, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (who dropped out of the race after Florida) would likely be on it, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney might be on it, too. I'll talk about both in a moment. But first . . .

Republicans Who Don't Get My Vote

The following names which are currently Tuesday's ballot would not be on my list. Note that these are my personal views, with which a given candidate's supporters are likely to disagree. (That's okay with me.)

  • John McCain is not a conservative. He's barely even a Republican. He gets the war right, when he's not actually taking credit for leading it. But he sold out the First Amendment in his campaign finance bill, is the quintessential Beltway insider (note his fondness for the media and hostility to tax relief), likes to engage in damaging class warfare rhetoric, is far too willing to triangulate on immigration, sold out Republican efforts to nominate good judges (as a member of the Gang of Fourteen), and whines too much about dirty politics when opponents state his record accurately. Being a former POW may make him a hero and entitle him to our gratitude, but it does not qualify him for the White House or entitle him to my vote. That said, he has more relevant experience than any of the three (now two) major Democratic candidates.
  • Mike Huckabee is as slimy as another, more famous former governor of Arkansas, and twice as pious. I don't care that he's a former Southern Baptist minister; I do care that he's urging voters to impose a religious test on the candidates. I like his advocacy of serious tax reform, but he's left of Hillary on some domestic issues, and if he governed as he talks, he'd make George W. Bush's spendthrift "compassionate conservatism" look positively frugal. He's a populist, not a conservative; populism essential finds out what the people want and promises to give it to them, which doesn't sound like good government to me.
  • Ron Paul's statements on some issues (significantly, not including the war) ring true to me, as long as I consider only his current statements. But when I consider his history, any passing interest I might have had in "Ron Paul Revolution" starts to turn into Ron Paul Revulsion. He's as close to a right-wing nut job as any serious Republican presidential candidate I can recall. And even if he could get elected, I doubt he could govern; he has made rather the opposite impression in his career on Capitol Hill.
  • As regards the also-rans, who have dropped out of the race, I don't know Duncan Hunter well enough to care, really. Alan Keyes once appealed to me -- notably in a Utah presidential primary -- but even after you adjust reports of his recent Senate campaign and other adventures, to correct for BMA distortion, he looks unelectable to me, and maybe a little goofy. Tom Tancredo, the Colorado conservative, hasn't really caught my eye, and his anti-immigration stance seems impractical. I like Fred Thompson on the large and small screens, and I like his devotion to federalism, but he's just not a large enough political figure to impress me as a presidential candidate.

Republicans I Could Vote For

Until Rudy Giuliani dropped out this week, I was facing a difficult choice: Giuliani or Romney? I'm not overjoyed that the choice just got a lot easier. Here's why:

  • Rudy Giuliani has actually governed -- and very effectively -- on a large scale and in an executive role, against relentless and bitter opposition from the Left. His conservative credentials are a bit shaky, but he is the force that cleaned up New York City and made New Yorkers feel safe on their own streets again -- against that relentless opposition I mentioned. He cleaned up their fiscal disasters, too. And he gets the war. (I was a fan long before September 11, to be sure.) I trust his judgment (more than most candidates') on the international stage. I don't much care for some aspects of his personal life, and I really do believe the people who say he's not a nice person. But I can live with the former, in our present circumstances, and, as to the latter, I think not being nice (the casual counterfeit of kind) might be a good thing in a Republican president these days. I wish he had won Florida.
  • Mitt Romney, besides having been governor of Massacusetts, has excellent leadership outside of government, in the private sector and in the Olympics -- the latter being very much on the international stage. I don't really care, for the purposes of my vote, that he's a Mormon (as am I). His conservative credentials are somewhat in question, but I would trust him to govern wisely and effectively, in both domestic and international issues. I doubt he could turn the federal government's abominable fiscal condition and practices around as he has turned corporations around, but I would expect him to push the government somewhat in the direction of fiscal sanity. I think that any Republican who can get elected and then survive a full term in Massachusetts has the potential to appeal to broad spectrum of voters in the November general election and actual win -- even without the right-wing Christian bigot vote Mike Huckabee and John McCain have poisoned. The rap on Romney is that he "flip-flops" on issues -- but he doesn't do it as much or as fundamentally as his opponents claim. Besides that, he's relatively new to government; I think we have to give an intelligent person some room for views to evolve, especially when he has relatively recently come from the outside into a policy-making role.

There's no point in voting for Rudy Giuliani any more, so I'll be voting for Mitt Romney on Tuesday. I might have anyway -- I am generally well-disposed toward him, and his speech on faith and politics moved me somewhat in that direction -- but now my vote is his by default. There simply is no one else to vote for on either side of the aisle.

Republicans I Might Have Put on the Ballot

You may wonder: Who else would be on my list, if I made a list? Good question -- not that it matters, since I am no kingmaker. Here are three serious answers and one fanciful answer -- and your further suggestions are welcome.

  • Bill Bennett, probably, if I could convince myself that he's electable. I have watched and read him for years, including his superb book The Devaluing of America.
  • Tom Coburn, a legitimate conservative with a much more sensible record on the Hill than most of his Republican colleagues. He has no less experience in Washington than Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama, and Mr. Edwards, and has wielded more influence. I don't know what sort of presidential candidate he would make, but I'd like to find out.
  • Condoleezza Rice. If we're going to have our first black president, or our first woman president -- either of which is fine with me, on general principle -- I'd like to see someone who might be good at the job, someone with some credibility. I'd like to see if Dr. Rice could weather a national campaign politically.
  • Lady Margaret Thatcher -- if we could magically make her a native-born American and a little younger.

What About the Democrats?

As far as I'm concerned, no major Democratic presidential candidate (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the recently withdrawn John Edwards) has any significant, relevant experience to suggest fitness for the White House, and I don't like their politics. I do like Barack Obama's speeches. In any case, if I were to make a list of Democrats I think might make good presidents, you wouldn't see anyone on it who could get any traction with the party. I think Senator Joseph Lieberman would be decent -- better than any of the current candidates -- though he's too far left on some issues for my taste. Retired Senator Zell Miller seems to have his head screwed on straight. And John Silber has been one of my favorite Democrats since I read the first pages of Straight Shooting, before he ran for governor of Massachusetts back in the previous century. But he's probably too old now, at 81.

Don't forget to vote Tuesday. Even if your vote doesn't matter much to the overall results, it matters to you.

And have a happy Groundhog Day.

David Rodeback comments (2/7/08):

I suppose former US Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) would be on my list, too, in the continuing search for a sensible conservative . . .

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