The Best and the Brightest?

As my friends and family back in Iowa head to the caucuses today I am half a world away. This year, of all years, with the most wide-open and potentially interesting presidential campaign of my lifetime in progress, I am overseas and will miss the entire show.

Mercifully, today will draw to a close a season of relentless television political advertising that has turned Iowa’s quadrennial moment of fame into a ruthless, multi-year long battle of attrition. Those few voters left standing after the mind numbing media assault will provide an early measuring stick of which candidates remain viable contenders.
Over the last year I have been following the race from afar, hearing the distant rumble of the campaign artillery, and occasionally taking in the rhetoric on CSPAN. Contrary to my nature and past practice, I have not followed the daily cut and thrust of the campaign. Thus, I do not profess to have intimate knowledge of the candidates.
Nonetheless, on this initial day of reckoning, I offer up the following candidate assessments.


(Full disclosure: I am a lifelong registered independent. I have voted both parties at different times, usually on the same ballot. I have friends who are active workers and leaders in both parties. I have friends who are strident partisans on both sides. I also have a lot of friends who are still, amazingly – in this bloodthirsty partisan age, moderate. I have voted in every election since I turned 18. I have worked closely in the political process in corporate lobbying, non-profit lobbying and public policy. In short, I have seen how the system works from the inside. My resulting judgment is the current system produces nothing but a ruling class of influence peddlers. Thus, I know, with certainty, the only hope for the country is publicly funded elections.)

I’ve spent most of my scant political investment in this presidential election evaluating the Democrats. My reasoning was that unless they completely screw this up, they’ve probably got this one in the bag, so best to rack and stack the likely winning party.
Joe Biden
The most qualified candidate in either party in this election cycle. Has more foreign policy contacts, relationships, knowledge and experience in his left pinkie fingernail than the other candidates from both parties combined. He is pragmatic, knowledgeable, experienced, well respected and has proven ability to produce bi-partisan results. Of course, none of that matters in the current form of American electoral politics. From the electability and timing standpoint, history will probably show him as the right guy in the wrong year, much like McCain was in 2000.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
The candidate of the Borg. There hasn’t been a better manifestation of the machine candidate since Boss Tweed or the original Chicago Daley Machine. She is the anointed one, and the message so far echoes the Borg, “Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.” Remains the odds on favorite in my book because I don’t see any way the Democratic leadership will let anyone threaten her.
Chris Dodd
Not afraid to tell the electorate what they don’t want to hear. Thus, unelectable.
John Edwards
In the last few years I’ve spent a lot of time around people with little to nothing. Their collective net worth probably wouldn’t surpass 1/1000th of one percent of John Edwards’ multi-million dollar net worth. John Edwards is running as the candidate of the poor, the downtrodden, the people with little to nothing. From what I’ve seen from being around these people, the only thing John Edwards has in common with them is that he’ll tell them anything they want to hear to get their vote. He’s a classic political charlatan. Luckily for us, he’s not the anointed one this year.
Dennis Kucinich
Says what he believes and believes what he says. Especially the part about the UFO. Has a very limited grip on reality. For instance, it would be physically impossible for the U.S. to get out of Iraq in 90 days. Unelectable, but not so much for the limited grip on reality and UFO bit, he’s unelectable because he says what he believes and believes what he says. That is not relevant to modern American politics.
Barak Obama
America really needs re-branding. In fact, America desperately needs re-branding. We need new packaging, a new logo and we acutely need a new tag line. Barak Obama would be the best re-branding imaginable at this point in history. He’s a fresh face in politics, has had limited time to be corrupted, and most importantly, reflects in his face, his life and his perspective what America is: a nation of immigrants. I wish him the best. I think he’d be a lot more moderate than my conservative friends fear and could be a very good thing for this country. I’d probably vote for him just for a re-branding and a fresh start, but I cannot imagine a scenario where he will have a chance. The machine, hand in hand with the Democratic leadership, would push this guy in front of a train before they’d let him seize the reins of power.
Bill Richardson
Mr. Sound Byte. A champion panderer. But most of all, he’s Exhibit A for the low standards of quality, intelligence, leadership and ability in our ruling class. He’s a poster child for my tired refrain of “The best and the brightest are not running this country.” This guy has been secretary of energy, ambassador to the U.N. and is a sitting governor. His strategy on spent nuclear fuel is to keep piling it into already full local storage sites and “have the scientists figure a way out of this.” I’ve worked on projects related to this challenge. Scientists have been working on this issue since the first chain reaction under the Stagg Field bleachers in 1942. And that is Richardson’s solution? More science? And he was secretary of energy? Worse yet, his foreign policy initiatives reflect a level of naïveté that are downright frightful. They wouldn’t pass the hurdle for relations with his neighboring states, much less other nations. And this guy was our ambassador to the U.N.? I had high hopes for him when he announced. I think it would be great to have a Hispanic president, but let’s get one who’s qualified. Thank god he’s not electable.
Unless they somehow pull this one out of the fire, I’m not sure the Republican party, as we know it, will survive the aftermath of this election. The politics of partisanship have led the party into an internal polarization between the Christian fundamentalist, who view the party as their last safe haven in the political process, and the moderates, who dominated the party for most of its current incarnation. The Republican nominee will represent either a moderate re-positioning of the party or a continuation of the fundamentalist strategy of the last two election cycles. Either way it goes, if the Republican Party loses the general election, I believe it’s possible it could split into a fundamentalist wing and a moderate wing.
If the Democrats win and drift as far left as the Republicans bolted right in 2000, the newly minted moderate party could attract a lot of independents and disaffected Democratic moderates. Personally, I think a multi-party system would be healthy for the country, so this could turn out to be a good thing.
Rudy Giuliani
Proof that when faced with great challenges politicians either rise to greatness or are ground into the dust of incompetence. Would any American outside the five burroughs even know his name if not for 9/11? Can the nation look past his many human failings? Can he rise to the massive challenges this nation faces in the near future? We’ll see. Electable if expertly packaged and marketed.
Mike Huckabee
The fundamentalist candidate for this election cycle. Electable in a fear driven campaign against Obama or Clinton.
John McCain
Timing is everything in politics and he probably missed his best chance in 2000. It was heartbreaking for me to watch him pander to the right early in this campaign, groveling to gain favor, and in the process selling out nearly every position he took a stand on in the past. I found it heartening when he, nearly alone, had the conviction and personal courage to stand fast in support of the “Surge” war strategy. I am glad that he was vindicated. In these times America could use a real “Straight Talk” leader and president, but I’m not sure he can still sell that story. In the end, timing and his age may rule him out for this election. Possibly electable, but victory would require optimum campaign circumstances that feature his best attributes.
Ron Paul
A fascinating story for students and fans of electoral politics. Rising from nearly complete obscurity, his Internet funded campaign has resonated with an electorate weary of the same old partisan warfare. If the Republican Party splinters, he’s a probable leader of a new party formed around his core beliefs. He’s unelectable in this cycle, but he, or one of his successors, could triumph in a future campaign, especially if things continue to deteriorate for America.
Mitt Romney
The closest thing Republican to the über-packaged Hillary, he appeals to anyone seeking the familiar and the comfortable, and who can look past his religion. He is the litmus test to see if America can rise above the maxim “Every religion but your own is a cult.” He is a proven leader and problem solver, but like McCain, he destroyed his credibility and integrity by flip-flopping on key positions to pander to the far right early in the cycle. Vulnerable due to his religion and flip-flopping, he would still present a comforting, familiar and reliable alternative for those seeking safe harbor from the specter of a Clinton or Obama presidency. Electable.
Fred Thompson
Hey, somebody wake up Fred, it’s time for the campaign! The hobby candidate. I’ve never witnessed a candidate less engaged than this guy. He’d make a super grandpa, uncle, neighbor or possibly small town mayor, but I don’t see anything credible about this candidacy. Not serious and not electable.

5 thoughts on “The Best and the Brightest?

  1. pete king

    This is very savvy stuff. Disclosure-Author and I are old friends. My plan is to stand up for Biden tonight and if he doesn’t get 15% go to Obama. Obama, of the big three, attracts more independents who usually vote republican.
    If secret societies have hand picked every president for the last 50 years, one can only think Obama is not on the agenda. Neil Young said, ‘oh, Alabama, you’ve got the weight of the union(on you) Boy tonite it feels like
    the union is resting on Iowa, count on us to winnow the field and once again prove that going negative doesn’t always work.
    My 6th graders voted today. It was Obama in a landslide. Don’t worry. People who need the young don’t get elected. Only 5% admitted to being republican. And in a “south of grand” neighborhood. It is a new world.

  2. Jimmy Sones

    Reg. Independent…… Please GOD anyone but Hilary !(few words are necessary for those who understand)
    RE: this election cycle…… it’s gonna be a wild ride…..gird up your loins and hang on !

  3. Larry@FMB

    Great observations.

    Lately I’ve been suffering from electile dysfunction.

    Electile Dysfunction:
    The inability to become aroused over any of the choices for president put forth by either party in the 2008 election year.

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