Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Not even February yet, and I'm already tired of it all

Yeah. The primaries and caucuses. Blech.

Turning first to the Democrats... for heaven's sake, are these the best they can field? Three Senators, one of whom hasn't even served a whole term yet and the other two of whom haven't served one and a half? What have they been doing for the past eight years? Not even a governor in the bunch - not a soul with executive experience. Sure, that's what I want: a President who's never presided over anything. (I have a very hard time voting for a Senator, regardless of party; the legislative skillset is entirely different from that required of an executive.)

And then the Republican side: I could get behind Thompson, from what I know of him, except that he doesn't seem to want the job very much. Now, personally I believe that's probably to his credit, a la Groucho Marx's not wanting to belong to any country club that'd have him as a member. But as for actually getting the job, it's not a help. Romney - here's a Republican (of sorts) governor of a militantly liberal State: that shows promise. But. Will he actually employ Republican principles unapologetically, like Reagan, or will he go all Schwartzeneggar and start by couching the right answers in the wrong terms ("We should make the Bush tax cuts permanent because, really, those primarily affected are no longer the richest Americans but the new middle class - and we don't want the embattled middle class to suffer disproportionately for their hard-won success" versus the right terms, "We should make the Bush tax cuts permanent because it's in the best interests of society and the American economy to allow Americans to keep as much of their earnings as possible"), then move toward embracing less and less Republican policy because his best friends are snubbing him at parties? I do believe Presidents are human, and subject to human folly; this is why they need hard-hearted handlers. (Think how much more dignified the Clinton Presidency would have been if Bill's handlers had been more effective.)

Moving on. McCain - again, there's the Senator near-disqualification, for me. There's McCain-Feingold - another blech. Mostly what he has going for him is that he understands the stakes in Iraq and, so far at any rate, seems unwilling to throw over our, and Iraq's, mounting successes for the sake of a demagogical point scored. Huckabee - honestly I know almost nothing about him; I don't like his name, so my visceral response is yet another blech. But besides that, I keep hearing that he's a government-interventionist, and that ain't Republican in my book. Giuliani - again, he's good on national security (which is sort of a proxy for foreign policy generally for me, at present, as fighting the ongoing battle against Islamism is my single-issue issue), but is being a mayor good enough? Maybe, if it's mayor of New York City... but as my husband points out, he's a New Yorker through and through; is he too regional? And of course there's this odd "going dark" strategy of his. We'll see what happens in Florida. Though that's problematic for me too, since I equate Florida with "New York al Sur": If he can appeal to Floridians, does that only mean there are a whole lot of New Yorkers in the sun?

Kathryn Lopez at National Review Online says The White House Is No House For a Woman - more pithily blurbed on NRO's front page as "I don't want a woman President." I predict that if this piece is noticed by anyone in the Leftosphere, it'll be taken as a sign - heck, it'll be trumpeted as proof - that Republican women are self-hating and that Republicans generally are sexist. (I don't doubt that Thomas Sowell's denouncement of the Clinton/Obama Populism Wars will similarly be cast as race treachery. Sigh.) But I completely agree with Ms. Lopez: I don't want a woman President either. Or a Mormon President. Or a differently abled President. Or any other kind of President.

I just want a President: a person who understands that the office is the important thing, not the person in it, and that any descriptor of "President" other than "dignified" detracts from the office. Bush, I believe, has done a great job of keeping himself out of the office: while there are those who might call him the "cowboy" President or worse, I've never heard "Bush, the Texan President," or "Bush, the Yalie President," or "Bush, the semi-evangelical Christian President." It's easy to see that he doesn't have a lot of identity-politics labels that could be applied to him, which makes it easier for him and his supporters to avoid imposing those labels on the office, and indeed this may be why we "get" yet another white male in November: because it shouldn't be about identity politics, it should be about convincing the voters that you have the experience, character, and determination to do the hardest job in the world. Which brings me again to Clinton and Obama: what are they offering? Is either the best candidate for this incredibly hard job, or is she just the woman with the most recognizable face and name, and he the African American with the greatest across-the-board appeal? (I actually commented on his DNC speech in 2004, saying with a story like his, I didn't understand why he wasn't a Republican - but besides one great speech, why him?)

I'm reminded (again) of an old Bloom County strip in which Binkley's dad has to have an intervention. He calls Oliver Wendell Jones's dad in tears to confess that, all his liberal bona fides notwithstanding, he "just doesn't like Jesse" (Jackson, of course). Mr. Jones pats him on the shoulder, tells him it's OK not to like Jesse, it doesn't actually affect his liberal status, and that the "first black president will be a conservative." Now, I don't necessarily agree with that cartoon assessment; the first "whatever" president doesn't have to be conservative. But he or she would have to be well qualified, I'd hope - at least as well qualified as every other candidate in the field.

Which, depressingly, does not serve to disqualify either Clinton or Obama, since they're pretty much right up there with Edwards. And that, friends, is called "damning with faint praise."