Back in 2000 I had an argument with one of my brothers who was intending to vote for George W. Bush. He didn’t dispute that Bush had the intellectual curiosity of a retarded monkey. But, he pompously informed me, we don’t elect a President, we elect a gang. And, from his point of view, Bush had assembled an A-Team of grown-ups while Gore was working from the Clinton C-Team.
Don’t worry about my brother. His plate of crow is so high that he will never stop eating it. But his point was largely true…we do elect a gang. Bush’s gang was full of lunatics and criminals, but that doesn’t change the merits of the basic observation.
Yet, while I acknowledge that we elect a gang, we also elect a commander in chief that must ultimately be responsible. So, those are the two things I look at. Is the candidate qualified to be commander in chief and what kind of gang will they bring with them?
From that point of view, Rudy Guiliani passes the first test, but not the second. How do the Democrats stack up?
I’ll start with Hillary. She is one of the most qualified people to ever seek the Presidency and she is highly electable. I reject her because of her gang, not because of her qualifications.
John Edwards has some excellent qualifications to run for the Presidency having run for the Vice-Presidency. I’m not nearly as convinced he has the the experience or temperament to actually be President. I’m open-minded about Edwards. But I don’t really have a good sense of what kind of gang he would bring with him. As that becomes clearer, my impression of him will grow clearer.
Barack Obama definitely does not have the kind of experience I would like to see to either run for President or to be President. But he has something else…something intangible. He has charisma. And he has a good temperament. If he were to actually win the nomination, my biggest question would be about how he would staff his gang. Where would he go to fill out the ranks of his administration?
Bill Richardson has the dream resume in this race. He has all the skills to be President and he holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for shaking the most hands. Seriously. He is a world class campaigner. My problems with Richardson are all related to his gang, which I assume will be staffed by Clintonite retreads like Richard Holbrooke and Madeline Albright.
Joe Biden has a lot of positive attributes. I’ve always kind of liked him. But he has foot-in-mouth-itis and I would never trust him to carry the Democrats’ banner. Not only that, but he is too wedded to traditional bipartisan foreign policies that I see as a massive failure. His gang would be as stale and unimaginative as it gets.
Chris Dodd is an interesting case. I don’t see the kind of personal campaigning skills that can get him over the top. And I assume his gang would be drawn from longtime Washington insiders. But, they would probably be the kind of Washington insiders I have the most sympathy for. The problem here is a lack of excitement. But I think he would be the most instinctively progressive candidate of the bunch. I’d like to see more from Dodd.
Wesley Clark hasn’t formally announced. My basic inclination is to reject any former military man. It’s nothing personal to Clark, but I don’t want generals becoming commander in chief. Eisenhower was a pretty good President, but I can’t think of another example. I think Clark’s gang would be pulled largely from the Clinton camp, and that isn’t very reassuring to me.
I saw Mike Gravel for the first time this morning on CSPAN. He didn’t impress me very much. I don’t think there is much profit in discussing his campaign or Dennis Kucinich’s campaign. They would both bring the most interesting gangs, but it’s hard to see how they are qualified to be President.
And then there is Al Gore. Al Gore is riding high from his Oscar victory. He’s definitely prepared to be President. What kind of gang would he bring? I have no idea. If I did have an idea I’d have a better feel for the man and his candidacy. If he’s really changed then his gang will have changed. I have no confidence in that. But, since it would require him to beat Hillary to become President, we can be sure that his gang would not be Clintonian. Would it be the Clinton C-Team, as it was in 2000? Or would it be a fresh face?
As much as I distrust Gore, I have to give him credit for how he has conducted himself during the Bush era.
Here’s my current list, in order of preference. If I could snap my fingers and make the next President, this is the order I would use.
1) Barack Obama
2) John Edwards
3) Bill Richardson
4) Al Gore
5) Chris Dodd
6) Joe Biden
7) Wesley Clark
8) Hiilary Clinton
9) Mike Gravel
10) Dennis Kucinich
Where do you come down?