Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Best Use of Primaries

Part of Thomas Sowell’s column today gets at the best use citizens can make of presidential primaries. I add a few words to what Sowell says. They’re about how I misjudged two presidential candidates:

[…]With all the media attention to the various political rivalries in both parties, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that all of this is ultimately about choosing a President of the United States.

The question of what kind of President each candidate would make is infinitely more important than all the "horse race" handicapping that dominates the media.

By far the best presentation as a candidate, among all the candidates in both parties, is that of Barack Obama.

But if he actually believes even half of the irresponsible nonsense he talks, he would be an utter disaster in the White House.

Among the Democrats, the choice between John Edwards and Barack Obama depends on whether you prefer glib demagoguery in its plain vanilla form or spiced with a little style and color.

The choice between both of them and Hillary Clinton depends on whether you prefer male or female demagoguery.

Among the Republicans, there are misgivings about the track record of each of the candidates, especially those who have shown what Thorstein Veblen once called "a versatility of convictions."

There are fewer reasons for misgivings about Fred Thompson's track record in the Senate but more reason to be concerned about what his unfocused and lackluster conduct of his campaign might portend for his performance in the White House.

When it comes to personal temperament, Governor Romney would rate the highest for his even keel, regardless of what events are swirling around him, with Rudolph Giuliani a close second.

Temperament is far more important for a President than for a candidate. A President has to be on an even keel 24/7, for four long years, despite crises that can break out anywhere in the world at any time. (emphasis added)

John McCain trails the pack in the temperament department, with his volatile, arrogant, and abrasive know-it-all attitude.

His track record in the Senate is full of the betrayals of Republican supporters that have been the party's biggest failing over the years and its Achilles heel politically.

The elder President Bush's betrayal of his "no new taxes" pledge was the classic example, but the current President Bush's attempt to get amnesty for illegal aliens, with Senator McCain's help, was more of the same.

President Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon probably cost him the 1976 election and cost the country the disastrous Carter years.

McCain's betrayals include not only the amnesty bill but also the McCain-Feingold bill that violated the First Amendment for the illusion of "taking money out of politics."

His back-door deal with Democrats on judicial nominations also pulled the rug out from under his party leaders in the Senate.

The White House is not the place for a loose cannon.
Sowell's entire column is here.

We often look for significance in what are contrived or incidental gestures while failing to assess the importance of candidates’ temperaments - the combination of mental, physical, and emotional traits that determine behavior.

I let myself get suckered in 1976 by then Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter because, among other things during the primaries, he insisted on carrying his own luggage and stayed in private homes.

Those were sure signs he’d make a great president, right?

And I counted President Ford’s pardon of former President Nixon against him.

It was the pardon that tipped me into the Carter column on Election Day.

In time I came to realize Ford’s pardon of Nixon was best for the country and a courageous act.

The pardon was a product of Ford’s temperament. He had the sound judgment to realize a Nixon trial would do the country little good and possibly much harm.

Ford had the courage to issue it because at a very deep emotional level he felt his duty was to do what was best for the country, and put his own political well-being aside when it conflicted with America’s welfare.

Ford was a person “who more than self his country loved.” Carter’s something else.