Friday, August 08, 2003


Calpundit has some thoughts about deciding whom to vote for which I largely agree with. They key graft:

"Detailed policy proposals from candidates are close to useless, I think. After all, circumstances change, brilliant policies get turned to mush as they pass through Congress, and — let's be honest here — plenty of policy proposals from candidates are just sops to interest groups. It's hard to tell which ones are really priorities and which ones are just being served up pro forma ... As long as a candidate's heart is roughly in the right place, what I really want is someone who I trust to do the right thing when the unexpected happens, someone who demonstrates good judgment when the pressure is on, and someone with the political skills to push his agenda through Congress. "

This is pretty much the way I look at things. I despise the way Dick Gephardt is running his campaign and find some of his policy proposals simply amusing, but consider him a strong possibility to get my vote because I trust him on the above reasons. By the same token, Howard Dean, another possibility, talks a much better line, but I'm still judging what I think of him, a process which might continue right up until February.

This is, incidentally, an even bigger deal to me in Presidential elections, where you have to remember that the area Presidents influence most strongly is foreign policy. And foreign policy is a field which I don't think you can boil down to position papers and general political philosophy: Personal touch, experience, and execution are far more important. If President Bush had planned out a careful aftermath to the Iraq war or handled the diplomacy differently, our chances for succeeding in rebuilding Iraq would be much better, while if a President Dean had not attacked Iraq, it still could have eventually become a crisis depending on what Iraq policy he did follow and how effective he was at following it.

As I've said before, the broad question of foreign policy is in my book the major mark against Dean right now. Conventional wisdom holds that people elect governors to the White House, and judging by the constant first-term learning process, I'm not sure it's that good an idea. Jimmy Carter had the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Iranian Revolution. Reagan had the Lebanon fiasco, which could have been avoided with a more nuanced understanding of the situation there. Clinton had the Blackhawk Down affair and non-policies in Bosnia and Rwanda. President Bush's administration has produced such wonders as invading a large Middle Eastern country and alienating many allies without bothering to figure out what would happen next. All of these Presidents also had successes, but when the U.S. is by far the most powerful nation in the world, that's expected.

Just some thoughts...


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