Friday, January 25, 2008

Toughness and the Democratic Candidates

Being able to stand up to a hailstorm of Republican attacks is an important qualification for a Democratic candidate. Both candidates have demonstrated that they can give as good as they get on that score.

The Republicans, for their part, have already demonstrated that they are gearing up to slap whoever wins. Hillary bashing has been a favorite Republican pastime for more than a decade and a half. And I've heard some things said about Obama by Republican media personalities that I don't care to repeat here. The Democratic candidate is going to have to deal with (and already has been dealing with) incessant negative attacks, so he or she may as well get used to it.

It is absolutely puerile and more than a little boring. On the other hand, it seems to be what the American people demand in a candidate and a campaign. I think that the Democrats are tired of nominating people who wilt the first time that somebody distorts their record.

Unfortunately, the Republicans seem to have forgotten how to run a substantive campaign altogether. Vague promises of tax cuts with no thought of what to cut to balance the budget seem to be the order of the day. Once they have power, they auction off tax breaks to the highest bidder, letting only token amounts trickle down to the bulk of the taxpayers. (The bill just gets charged to our childrens' credit card.)

The Democrats haven't been able to find their soul for decades now. They have a vague memory that they used to have one, but they can't quite remember what it felt like to take a principled stand. The Republicans know exactly where their soul is--on the auction block.

I'd like to believe that McCain is different. (I know I've admired him for some time now for his stance on campaign finance reform.) I just have to wonder whether he has enough gas left in his tank for one presidential term, let alone two. I'm also unclear about his plan to wrap up Iraq so that we can be prepared for the next international crisis, but I do think that he is likely to act in a moral way to try to reduce the impact on our servicemen and women.

Romney's "Mr Fix-it" campaign resonates with me, but my concerns with him are basically the ones expressed more forcefully by Odie. I haven't made up my mind about him.

And I find both Hillary and Obama to be compelling people, for different reasons. I think that Hillary is an interesting combination of someone who is smart as they come, tough as they get, and with a strong understanding of what is possible and how to get there.

And I defy anybody to listen to a full Obama speech without being inspired to look for a brighter future. Hope is not a bad thing. One of Reagan's greatest strengths was in being able to present a vision in a compelling way.

Both candidates come from the center-left tradition of the DLC (their stands are so similar that the campaign was bound to get personal at some point). I don't see either in the mold of the "Santa Claus" tax-and-spend liberal.