Who Do I Like

Ken AshfordElection 2008Leave a Comment

Kevin Drum:

I’m probably more genuinely undecided between the major Democratic candidates this cycle than I have been for a long time. All three of them appeal to me in significant ways but none of them have completely sealed the deal. (In Obama’s case, I’d like to see him be a little more willing to make some of the right enemies.) It’s a pretty tough choice this year.

The upside of this is that I don’t think I’ll be disappointed regardless of who wins. They’re all good candidates. And there’s still plenty of time to make up my mind.

I’m largely in sync with this assessment.  I’ll even go so far as to add Bill Richardson to the three major contenders (Clinton, Obama, and Edwards) although realistically, he doesn’t stand a chance.

If a gun were held to my head today, I think I would still lean toward Obama.  He’s something rare in politicians –a NON-panderer.  In other words, he’s not afraid to stand for what he believes in, even in front of hostile crowds:

It may not be all that unusual for a Democrat to castigate automakers in an environmental speech. But when Obama did the castigating, it was in front of the Detroit Economic Club. Nor did he help his chances of winning the endorsements of the city’s big unions by asserting that any aid Washington gives the automakers for their soaring health-care costs should be tied to improving fuel efficiency.

"We anticipated that there weren’t necessarily going to be a lot of applause lines in that speech. It was sort of an eat-your-spinach approach," Obama conceded when I asked him about the stony silence that greeted his address. "But one thing I did say to people was that I wasn’t going to make an environmental speech in California and then make a different speech in Detroit."

That kind of conspicuous candor has been part of Obama’s campaign since his announcement tour in February. When a questioner at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, wanted to know whether he would cut the military budget to make room for other priorities, Obama answered, "Actually, you’ll probably see an initial bump in military spending in an Obama Administration" to replace the equipment that has been depleted by the Iraq war and build up the size of the active forces. When a teacher asked him about the No Child Left Behind law that is so unpopular with educators and their unions, Obama agreed that it "left the money behind." But while he endorsed higher pay for teachers, Obama also talked about "the things that were good about No Child Left Behind," including more accountability. By then, his listeners were shifting in their chairs.

Regarding Social Security, the social program enshrined like no other in the theology of the Democratic base, Obama has said he is open to such politically heretical ideas as upping the retirement age and raising payroll taxes to shore up the system. Before black audiences, Obama regularly condemns violent and misogynist rap lyrics and chastises African Americans for disenfranchising themselves by not voting.

Maybe this revelation about Obama as a basketball player says a lot about him:

He is gentleman enough to call fouls on himself: Steven Donziger, a law school classmate, has heard Mr. Obama mutter, “my bad,” tossing the other team the ball.

Edwards, so far, is running an exception campaign (despite a few boneheaded gaffes) and I think he’s largely right on the issues.  And even though I’m wary of the whole Clinton-Bush co-dynasty, even Hillary is going up in my estimation.

But Kevin’s right: there’s still a long road ahead to the White House, and unlike my GOP counterparts, it’s nice to be in a position where I have so many good choices, rather than having to hold my nose and pick the lesser of who-cares.