January 26, 2004

Edwards or Bush

All Democrats All the Time is the new nightly news fixation. (Iíll take it over All Michael Jackson any day.) Iíve spent more time watching Democratic candidates for president on television in the past few days than in the previous two months combined.

John Edwards impresses me. Heís Bill Clinton without the sleaze. (At one point Bill Clinton was also Bill Clinton without the sleaze, but I see no reason to believe Edwards will follow him down.) Heís smart, articulate, decent, and convincing. It helps that my own views line up with his rather nicely. But I also actually like him. I rarely like politicians as people even when I like what they say and do.

Itís also nice that Edwards is the only one, aside from Joe Lieberman, who doesnít come across like a hectoring leftist. He doesnít wallow in Bush-hatred, nor does he attack the other candidates. He is optimistic, cheery, and focused on the future instead of the past.

He hardly utters a peep about foreign policy. And I think I know why. His authentic hawkishness is a liability in the primary. Maybe this will change if Joe Lieberman drops out and he can run as the only real liberal hawk in the bunch. But for now he sticks to other subjects. That is probably wise.

Heís not a cipher on foreign policy, though. In September 2002 he wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post about the problem of Saddam Hussein. All hawks should read this and know where he stands. A year and a half later, heíll still earn my vote for this as long as he doesnít backpedal.

As for the rest of them:

I donít particularly like Joe Lieberman. His sanctimonious moralizing is just too much. Iíd take him over Bush even so. Not that it matters. He has little chance of winning the primary. Heís a protest vote.

John Kerry, for the most part, is a decent and reasonable man. I donít loathe him and I doubt I ever could or will. He would be preferable to Bush in many ways. (The fact that heís a so-called ďMassachusetts liberalĒ is not a big deal for me.) Still, the only foreign policy ideas Iíve heard from his mouth can be boiled down to Bush lied and Bush was rude to France. Iím not getting behind anyone who thinks thatís a defense policy.

Kerry will earn credibility if he can address this problem seriously. But he needs to convince me in my gut that he can overthrow a tyrant while Europe screams. I donít think he can do that, but heís more than welcome to try.

Wesley Clark is just bizarre. He seems to be trying to prove he is a Democrat, but he comes across as a man who is conforming to a caricature because he doesnít know how to be a real one.

Howard Dean is probably toast. Iíve moved on.

Dennis Kucinich is the Pat Buchanan of the Democrats. He doesnít help the partyís image. But heís out of the mainstream and canít do any real damage. I do like the fact that a goofball like him can run for president.

Al Sharpton doesnít deserve a response.

And so. While subject to change and revision, at this point in time I tentatively support John Edwards for president. Failing an Edwards win the primary, this blog in all likelihood will plug its nose and endorse George W. Bush - for reasons of national security.

Strong arguments for others will be considered. And I reserve the right to flip-flop as needed.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 26, 2004 1:06 AM
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