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Political Grayscales

Politics is seldom black and white, especially when it comes to presidential politics. One's "perfect" candidate seldom runs, and one person's ideal president is another's worst nightmare.

Years ago I read a fascinating political thriller -- Fletcher Knebel's "Dark Horse." It's the tale of a presidential campaign where the Democratic candidate dies after the convention, and the party bosses have to choose his replacement. After hours of wrangling, they finally give up and pick a New Jersey turnpike commissioner named Eddie Quinn. Eddie is seen by everyone as a place-holder, mainly intended to keep the Democratic party machinery running -- they've written off the race to the Republicans, they just don't want to get landslided by having no candidate at the top of the ticket.

So Eddie goes out and runs the kind of campaign he wants, spouting off his random notions and intentions and crazy ideas. And then he starts gaining in the polls. In fact, as the actual election draws near, it actually becomes a horse race.

At one point, Eddie himself becomes scared that he might win, and wonders if he should withdraw from the race entirely. That's when he has a private, one-on-one meeting with the Republican nominee, a Rockefeller Republican. And the man gives Eddie the best advice he possibly can, and it's a lesson I've taken to heart.

He tells Eddie not to ask himself if he is the best man to be president. That is an impossible standard; no matter who you are, if you're absolutely candid with yourself, you can think of someone better qualified to sit in the Oval Office.

Rather, ask yourself if you're the best candidate running. Do you honestly think that you'd be a better president than anyone else on the ballot?

It's a simple application of pragmatism vs. idealism. None of the candidates are anyone's ideal. But we don't have a choice of anyone, nor can we take a bit from Candidate A, a bit from Candidate B, and so on and make a FrankenPrez out of them.

No, we have to look at all the candidates and see which is the best of the available choices.

That was foremost in my mind when I started dividing the major candidates and deciding who would get my vote and my support.

The first category was "I'd like to see this person as my president." In that field, one came to mind: Fred Thompson.

Thompson has a firm grasp of the proper role of the federal government, and the sorts of limitations it should respect. He also has a solid grip on the serious issues, and simply doesn't take seriously the questions and situations that shouldn't be taken seriously. He also has a strong sense of intellectual honesty -- back when Bill Clinton was impeached, he voted for conviction on two counts and acquittal on a third, where he thought the charge was overreaching.

Next down on the scale is the "I think they'd do OK as president." That's where I put Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. I have some problems with some of their positions and beliefs, but both men have proven themselves to be proven executives with records of accomplishments that they can be proud of.

After that comes the "I think I can live with them as president." This is where I put those candidates with whom I have some serious disagreements on specific policies, but overall I respect them and think they could be a decent president. Or, at least, a fairly harmless place-holder for four years, until we can get a fresh batch. I have low expectations for these candidates, so it wouldn't take much for them to avoid my condemnation. This is where I put Barack Obama and John McCain.

Then there's the "god help us if they get the nomination" tier. These are the candidates that I deeply, deeply hope that they get crushed in the primary, because they would bring to the Oval Office a lot of things that I think would lead to unmitigated disaster, both at home and abroad. here's where I put Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Mike Huckabee.

Finally, there's the "shoot me now" candidates. These are the ones that I will hold my nose and vote for whoever the other side puts up, just to keep them out of office. And if both of them win the nominations, I'll either sit it out or write in Fred Thompson or vote for the Libertarian. That's where I put Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich.

That's my scale, and my rankings. You can quibble with who I put where, but I think that, if most people are honest with themselves, they'll admit that they have a similar system they use, too. It might not be as formalized as my five-tiered taxonomy, but it's how people tend to think.


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Comments (22)

Wow.That's amazing... (Below threshold)


That's amazing.

Good advice from a Republican? In a book?

They only change is I would... (Below threshold)

They only change is I would put Obama in the last category. He is all fluff. Nothing inside. NO experience. AT least Paul and Kucinich have experience and I think they are nuts. ww

I think you've got it just ... (Below threshold)

I think you've got it just about right, Jay. Like WildWillie I'm a little more worried about Obama's experience, I think he has enough strength of character to work through it on that count. His policies, on the other hand ...

Dr John: It is a Rockefelle... (Below threshold)

Dr John: It is a Rockefeller Republican after all. You know, the good kind of Republican.

I would have placed them ex... (Below threshold)

I would have placed them exactly the same as Jay. Obama may be a lot of fluff, but a President is not alone. He is as good as the people he surrounds himself with as well. Obama could go either way with that though.

I know this statement will leave jp2 wide open for snark and a contradictory link or two, but hey...it'll be fun to shoot him down when he does it.

Don't forget to put McCain ... (Below threshold)
steve miller:

Don't forget to put McCain in the last category. If he gets elected (which he won't), he will be the one that further restricts our liberty by signing even more laws like McCain-Feingold, and he will run to sign a bill granting amnesty to aliens residing and working here illegally, because it's all about JOHN MCCAIN STRAIGHTTALKER.

I pretty much agree with ja... (Below threshold)
Paden Cash:

I pretty much agree with jay. Except McAmnesty.

and make a Franken... (Below threshold)
and make a FrankenPrez out of them

So THAT'S where Mitt Romney came from!!

But seriously, folks ...


For me it would be:<p... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

For me it would be:

"I'd like to see" - Thompson

"They'd do o.k." - Romney & Huckabee

"I could live with" - Guiliani & McCain

"God help us" - Clinton , Obama, Paul

"Just shoot me" - Kucinich & Edwards

I wonder, Jay Tea, if when ... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

I wonder, Jay Tea, if when you put Obama in your "I can live with" column you remembered that he wants to loose the war in Iraq?

Even though all the communist candidates and Ron Paul say "end" they mean they will "end" it by quitting before the job is done and thus handing Al Quaeda a free victory and a defeat to the United States.

Everyone I ranked in the bottom two categories wants to loose the war. Everyone I ranked in the tope three categories wants to win.

I would move Romney down a ... (Below threshold)

I would move Romney down a category, and put McCain in the "I'd vote for Hillary, all the gods forfend, first" category.

"I'll either sit it out or ... (Below threshold)

"I'll either sit it out or write in Fred Thompson or vote for the Libertarian."

If more people would Vote for a third party when the Big two give us crap candidates...

Any Third Party...

Sure, but I'd choose evil a... (Below threshold)
Opinionated Bastard Author Profile Page:

Sure, but I'd choose evil and competent over nice but incompetent. So that eliminates Edwards and Obama and means I could live with Clinton.

On the Repubican side, McCain all the way, but I'm from AZ.

I am with P. Bunyan on this... (Below threshold)
LoveAmerica Immigrant:

I am with P. Bunyan on this one 100%. Fred is also my guy in this election cycle.

I'd choose evil a... (Below threshold)
I'd choose evil and competent over nice but incompetent
Hillary Clinton should put that on her bumper stickers.
I pretty much agree with Ja... (Below threshold)
Anon Y. Mous:

I pretty much agree with Jay until you get down to the number 4 spot. Once we get that far down on the list, my hope is that whoever gets it can't accomplish any of their misguided goals. Therefore, the candidate most likely to achieve gridlock, Hilary Clinton, gets my number 4 spot. Hopefully, she would provoke the opposition necessary to stop the left from turning their whacked out theories into law.

As a Dem, I will probably c... (Below threshold)
nogo war:

As a Dem, I will probably caucus for Obama on 2/5.
I am not a hold my nose and vote folks.
I could never vote for HRC unless by some divine intervention Huckabee was the Republican nominee
this moonbat believes these candidates would be all right.

Thompson.. He appears to be a true fiscal conservative which we will need after 8 years of deficient spending.

McCain..There is nothing wrong with having a real military man as commander-in-chief.
His years in the Senate give him a better idea of how it works.

I see both Parties going into their convention with no one at 51%. It will be messy for both.
Maybe this is what is needed to move beyond the two party system, at least in the House and Senate. The spectrum of ideologies is too wide to force us to compromise more than we want just because the choices are limited to two.

Wow nogo, I agree with most... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

Wow nogo, I agree with most of your comment.

I don't think Huckabee is really as bad as many paint him to be, so I disagree with that part. And of course I don't want Al Qaeda to win in Iraq so I disagree with your support of Obama, too.

But I liked a lot of what you wrote for a change.

"I'd like to see" = Fred T.... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

"I'd like to see" = Fred T., Rudy G.

"They'd do o.k." - Romney

"I could live with" - Clinton, Huckabee

"God help us" - McCain, Obama

"I'm moving to Canada" - Kucinich, Edwards & Paul

Except McAmnesty.

That had me rollin'! Add McEnergy to that, too. McCain/Libermann energy bill would cause financial paralysis for everyone. Just a disaster. It MUST be opposed and defeated.

Sounds like you have it rig... (Below threshold)

Sounds like you have it right!

I like Thompson best, but I... (Below threshold)
Thor-Zone Author Profile Page:

I like Thompson best, but I don't know how well he will do against the Dems in the fall. Anyone have any ideas?

19 Peter F<blockquo... (Below threshold)
Thor-Zone Author Profile Page:

19 Peter F

McCain/Libermann energy bill would cause financial paralysis for everyone. Just a disaster. It MUST be opposed and defeated.

If you look at all the bills McCain has done in the last few years (Shamanisty, Campaign Silence etc) you have to wonder what kind of fantasy world this guy lives in. Why is it always "McCain / Fill in Name of Democrat here" when it comes to the bill name? Can't he do anything without getting a democrat involved?






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