Our Votes Will Count

For once, Indiana voters will actually have a say in who gets a major party’s nomination—and a reasonably important say, at that. As a result, many of us are pondering issues we often don’t consider until fall. What are the factors that should—and should not—drive our choice of a President?

I can’t speak for others, but my vote will depend upon the answers to two sets of questions: whose positions do I find most convincing (recognizing that there is no candidate I will always agree with)? And who has the character, judgment and management skills to get those positions adopted? 

Whatever John McCain’s merits, his fervent embrace of virtually all the worst policies of the Bush Administration means I won’t be rejoining the GOP this year. That narrows my choices to Clinton and Obama. And because there are few policy differences between them, my choice is based upon my analysis of their respective abilities to do the job.

What are those abilities?

Most Americans desperately want a President with intellect and a real grasp of policy, someone who lives in what a Bush operative once dismissed as the “reality-based community.” But much as we like to think of the President as the sole “decider,” we know that he or she will choose a team to actually manage the government. The ability to choose highly competent people, and to manage them effectively, is critical. Evidence of character—truthfulness, honorable behavior, integrity—is equally important. Good judgment is key.

Barack Obama passes those tests. Hillary Clinton fails them.

The best available evidence of a candidate’s management skills is the ability to run a large, sophisticated Presidential campaign. Obama has chosen talented, highly effective people who are still with him, while Clinton’s campaign has been an ongoing soap opera. Her first campaign manager was fired for mismanagement. The current one is stiffing small businesspeople by not paying their bills. Mark Penn’s tirades and conflicts of interest have been the subject of ongoing leaks from dismayed campaign operatives. Bill Clinton has been a loose cannon. Clinton was so sure she’d be the presumptive nominee on Super Tuesday that she had no Plan B (a la Bush’s lack of an Iraq “exit strategy.”) These problems are uncomfortable reminders of Clinton’s mismanagement of the health policy effort—her one truly substantive assignment as First Lady.

Judgment? Clinton voted for the Iraq War, and still refuses to admit it was a mistake. Obama spoke out against it when it was politically damaging to do so.

Character? Ignore the obvious sense of entitlement. Forget the repeated “mis-statements” about being under fire in Tusla. Look instead at her campaign’s willingness to play the race card and identity politics, to go back on her prior commitment not to count Florida and Michigan, to throw the “kitchen sink” at the all-but-certain nominee no matter how much ammunition that might provide to Republicans.         

Ultimately, Clinton’s campaign has been all about her, while Obama’s has been all about us.