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« Buying wings but operating rotors | Main | The next globalization- inspired religious awakening »
Sunday
May042008

Clinton - Least potential downside

In a previous column, I registered my joy in finally participating in a presidential primary that would matter, but as Indiana's vote draws near, I find myself more uncertain than ever. I must admit that - as usual - it strikes me as a choice between lesser evils.

As a conservative Democrat, I see enough in John McCain to give him serious consideration come November. But there are strong reservations, too.

McCain is simply too old for the presidency. I just don't see anyone performing that high-stress, high-tempo job in his or her late 70s, which McCain would hit in a second term. And, no, Reagan's last years give me no comfort in this regard.

I also worry greatly about McCain's temperament. I travel a lot in government and political circles, and it never ceases to amaze me how so many of his acquaintances will so readily volunteer a tale of his stunning capacity for anger, vendetta and self-destructive combativeness.

I had an old friend, as mild mannered as could be, once tell me that the only fist fight he's ever engaged in across his years was in first grade with John McCain!

That, my friends, is consistency.

Finally, as a child of World War II, I'm deeply concerned that McCain views the world primarily in terms of conflict and opposing ideologies. I simply find that vision both antiquated and highly unwelcome after eight years of Bush-Cheney.

I'm not looking to lead a league of democracies to combat China and Russia in their "rising" phases.

Instead, I'm a lot more interested in making sure America's rising anti-globalization sentiment doesn't trigger some self-destructive bout of trade protectionism.

Oddly enough, that's where I find McCain most appealing. His lack of interest in and knowledge of economics plays well with me because he seems to harbor no ambition to turn back the clock on the North American Free Trade Agreement or to start voting down free-trade agreements, unlike the Democrats running for the presidency.

Toss in the fact that both houses of Congress will likely feature stronger Democratic majorities after November, and I am highly attracted to the notion of split power.

But I'm just as convinced that McCain will be unable to go even four years without starting a war with somebody, especially Iran, and so it would be really hard for me to pull that lever in November, which gets me back to the Dem duo.

I've been drawn to Barack Obama from the beginning, primarily because of his age, which should be a weak attractor, but it isn't. I think the Boomers have produced the worst generation of national leaders this country has suffered since the late 19th century.

All the real talent of that demographic cohort went into business and technology, leaving the weakest links for politics, which is why it's so hard to name any truly significant legislation this crew has passed so far during their years in power.

But Obama does strike me as unseasoned on national security, meaning I'd instinctively like to see him as vice president for eight years because, after that, there'd be no issue about his experience base. Beyond that deficit, Obama's language so far on trade and economics scares me plenty.

With global food prices skyrocketing, we should be talking about making the Doha Round happen in the World Trade Organization, not revisiting NAFTA.

Real change would entail dismantling America's disastrous and unnecessary agricultural subsidies, not raising the capital gains tax.

So I find myself moving toward the middle ground of Hillary Clinton as the primary draws near.

I know that bringing that bunch back means we'll all be trapped in pointless Boomer fisticuffs for another four years, but strangely enough, Clinton would probably be just as good as McCain in reining in a Democratic Congress, and there's no arguing the Clinton record on trade and globalization, meaning there'd be adjustments but nothing stupid or self-destructive. Plus, there'd be little chance of America starting another war it can't afford right now.

I realize that's not much of an endorsement, but that's par for the course in this age. Clinton is a known commodity in that many Americans already dislike her intensely. You just don't know how scary McCain or how overwhelmed Obama could end up being, so you go with the candidate who presents the least overall potential downside.

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