Tuesday, January 08, 2008


The invaluable Thomas Sowell reminds us on this New Hampshire Primary day of some important realities concerning the 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.

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.

I have more than a little familiarity with choosing the right stuff, and I can tell you that when it comes to temperament, Sowell is right on. Temperament is crucial in selecting a candidate in these troubled times who is able to make sound, rational decisions that will keep the country safe and, at the same time, hold true to our precious values and freedoms.

And, only by accident do we ever get a true picture of the candidate's real temperaments during this primary season. Their personas are all pre-packaged and wrapped to perfection. The rare moments when we see the real person shining through the glitz is often so brief that it can be hard to recognize. And, even those rare moments are frequently scripted to make us think we are seeing the real person beneath, when in fact, we are seeing exactly what they want us to see.

That's why a candidate's history is so important. Because the best predictor of future behavior/performance is past behavior/performance. We simply can't trust what we are being shown now during carefully arranged and cleverly manufactured circus events.

In observing the selection process, I can't help but feel we are going about it the wrong way. The likability factor seems to wash out every other factor. A pretty face or glib words lull people into false hope and mindless support for candidates that promise them the moon.

We seem to be pleading with the candidates, "Make it all go away! Tell us anything to make us believe that everything will be wonderful if we elect you!" And, of course, the candidates oblige willingly.

It won't be wonderful, folks. We are in for a long, hard trek over the next 8+ years. There won't be any magical solutions, and the "change" that everyone is clamoring for is going to be happening anyway-- no matter who is elected. But not, I think, in the way the word is being bandied about so relentlessly.

The issue isn't change, it is what kind of change and in what direction? It is, can we live with the changes that are coming whether we like them or not?

Frankly, we need a real leader, and not a slick, media-savvy, audacious rock star preacherman to take charge and lead us through the minefield of changes and challenges ahead....And I've yet to see one that I can trust to do the right thing even when it is difficult in the current herd of candidates. It's possible that whoever is elected will be tested by events and turn out to be the person we need...but I hate to leave it so much to chance and "glib demagoguery".

There's got to be a better way for democracies to choose candidates than these orchestrated primary circuses with all the glib, reality-defying acts and convoluted clown antics.

Ah well. Sometimes we have to do the best we can with the candidates we have; and not the candidates we wish we had.

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