Tuesday, July 1, 2008

What Sort of President?

Today two points about how we should pick a president, and who we should pick:
1) I was surprised over the past couple of days of a revival of speculation in the media that Hillary Clinton would after all be chosen as Barack Obama's running mate. Even Chris Matthews seemed to be into the idea (remember the guy who snubbed you all senior year and then decided to be friends at the graduation party?). I was surprised by the level of enthusiasm, of course it requires too much kremlinology to figure out (what are their conversations like?), but it is an unexpected occasion for me to reiterate my own thinking on why Obama should choose Clinton as his running mate.
She got half of the primary vote. Not only that, but the Democratic rules of proportional allocation and a mix of primaries and caucuses, the product of the populist Dean faction at the DNC, did exactly what it was designed to do: it forced the party into more of a consensus-based process. To me, small-"d" democracy requires more than just asserting opinions: we also need to understand compromise. When Bush I got 25 percent in the Republican primaries in 1980, Reagan didn't hesitate. He was old-school: Bush came in a strong second, Bush was on the ticket. And the math is still there: Clinton took the big electoral-count states, Obama has an uphill struggle cracking 25 percent of the white vote. So yes, my position continues to be, as always, put Clinton on the ticket.
2) There is discussion of Obama's resolve to pull US forces out of Iraq. Reality check: no president is going to just pull everything out if that would result in some sort of humanitarian catastrophe. Maybe that will be difficult, maybe not; nobody really knows that. So the question is not, what will Obama or what will McCain do in Iraq in the first three months, say, of taking office. The question for voters is, who do you think should be in charge of this: McCain, who is not only comfortable with the idea of garrisoning US soldiers all around the world for the indefinite future, but appears to assume that some such scenario will go on, or would you prefer Obama, who understands that the "lone superpower" routine is bad for the US and unhelpful to out relations with the world? My view is that this is precisely the wrong time to have a military man. We badly need to step back and try to have a more subdued international profile, like Canada or Australia. We need to make real cuts in military spending, not just cuts in the rate of increase in military spending.

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