Friday, January 11, 2008

On Discrimination in Politics and the Presidential Primaries

I apologize if I have ranted on some of these points before.

On Tuesday afternoon, Katie was listening to NPR. They were interviewing people who had voted in the primaries and asked them for which candidate they voted for and why. I realize that the answers to such a question are often going to make me mad because people often have stupid reasons and, even if they do have good reasons, they won’t be able to explain them in the 5 seconds they have to give their answer. According to Katie, though, several if the interviewed women who had voted for Clinton said that the reason why was something like, “It’s about time we had a woman for president.”
This bothers me more than usual. Do you know why? Because it reflects just as much sexism as the statement, “I won’t vote for Hillary because we shouldn’t have a woman for president.” We should all be deciding for whom to vote based on how we think they will perform as President relative to how we want them to perform. A vote for Hillary isn’t “a vote for womankind”. (This is the particular fallacy I have assumed upon the women described above.) Hillary doesn’t represent all women, nor can we count her as a typical or stereotypical (if we are honest enough to recognize our stereotypes) woman. Likewise, voting for Obama because “we need a black man in the white house” or for Romney because “he’s a Mormon, so I don’t need to know more” is just as unfairly discriminatory as refusing to vote for them for the opposite reason.
Going back to Hillary, I’m pretty disappointed with the media coverage of her. It seems to be endless analysis of whether she’s too cold and unemotional, or whether she’s too feminine and emotional. Sometimes a showing of emotion by her precipitates condemnation that she’s playing the gender card and speculation about whether her emotion makes her seem weak to voters. Other times a similar showing of emotion precipitates support from journalists and columnists who say there is no harm in admitting that she’s human and that voters probably are drawn to her because of it. Oh, and also all those men were really ganging up on her anyway.
Following the coverage of the race so far has been a learning experience for me. This is the first time that I have really paid attention. In 2004 I paid attention to the presidential race, but not the primaries. In general, I think the coverage is overdone and without substance – like blackened marshmallows at a campfire. There’s not enough time where the media or the candidates are talking about platforms. The reporters spend their time talking about strategy, quoting poll numbers, and interviewing uninformed voters who don’t have anything better to do in the middle of the day. The candidates tend to spend a lot of time revving up friendly crowds, misrepresenting each other’s platforms and voting records (this includes during debates), and managing expectations of results. (“I’m really confident I will win this state, but if I don’t, then that’s good too.”) I have also noticed all the stringing along by the newspapers and news reporters. I mean, they tried to emphasize how important Iowa was, but then when it was over, they admitted that Iowa has never really been as good an indicator as New Hampshire, so stay tuned. And so it continues. I have not been following the reports very closely. In many cases, all I know about a candidate is a few sound bytes and an impression. I realize this is not ideal, but I am struggling with the patience to sit through a news cast or article having to filter out the bias and come away with more than just additional sound bytes and vague impressions.
Anyway, my personal opinion of the candidates in brief:

Rudy Guiliani – He was unpopular with New Yorkers up to 9/10/01. He has a history of family issues which betray a troubling lack of self control. I get bad vibes from him which I can’t completely describe. I actually am closer to his position on gun control than I am to the NRA’s position.
Fred Thompson – He declared late, after the other candidates had well established platforms. Despite this, when he declared he sidestepped all questions asking how he was different than the other candidates, claiming he wasn’t familiar with their platforms. He seems to have little substance behind his star power.
John McCain – I disagree with parts of McCain-Feingold. And his personal life has been spotty, though he has been with his 2nd wife for several decades now. He is prone to hyperbole, temper problems, and insensitive humor. I am with him on torture, and more with him on the War on Terror than I am with President Bush. On immigration I am undecided. I see McCain’s point of view as well as the view of those opposed to his sponsored legislation.
Mitt Romney – Impeccable personal life and business career. He has impressive experience getting elected in and governing Massachusetts and “saving” the Olympics. He is also prone to hyperbole as well as combativeness in defending his idealism. I don’t like his stance on the War on Terror (“double the size Gauntanamo if we have to”) and I fear his stance on immigration is too much idealism and not enough practicality. He seems to be trying too hard to be the “conservative’s conservative”.
Ron Paul – He’s a libertarian running as a republican. He has many crazy ideas including that he thinks the civil war could have been avoided by the federal government buying up all the slaves and then releasing them – never mind that that would be a public program which the government would have had to raise revenue for, which is the sort of thing he is against. I do disagree those that have accused him as racist because of his limited government view that much civil rights legislation is inappropriate.
Mike Huckabee – He seems to have done an adequate job as governor, but I can’t stand him. The Chuck Norris business doesn’t do him credit. He gains points for creativity but loses twice as many in my mind for lowering the level of political discourse below its already low level. Others have described him as advocating “economic populism”, of which I also see some elements in his platform. He also seems to be the stereotypical anti-gay, anti-evolution, Bible thumper.

My vote: Romney or McCain
My pick to win: McCain
Likely VP Candidate: Not any of the other presidential hopefuls. Probably a sitting member of the House or Senate from the opposite side of the country as the nominee.

Barack Obama: Not much national political experience. Sometimes you wonder if the campaign is driving him of if he is driving the campaign. The main plank in his platform seems to be “change”. I presume change in the way Washington does business, but it is unclear what that means. He is genuinely charismatic and when he does propose solutions to problems (e.g. those without health insurance) they seem to be reasonable. He has almost never done anything I perceived as playing the race card.
Hillary Clinton: Too contradictory for me. Too much complaining about the war without any leadership towards alternatives to Bush’s strategy. Too much playing the gender card. Too many irregularities in her campaign funding. Inability to keep her cool under pressure. Too much doubt about her platform.
John Edwards: At least his platform is more clear. I can sum it up as “Rob from the rich to feed the poor.” “Abolish the influence of special interests (except for unions and trial lawyers) in Washington.” And, “I’m spending more for this haircut than you make in a week.”
Bill Richardson: He didn’t have much of a clear platform that I knew about. It’s a shame because he had the most impressive resume of any candidate. He dropped out recently.

My vote (if I were to vote): Richardson
My pick to win: Obama
Likely VP Candidate: Richardson seems likely for any nominee. Otherwise, same as my Republican prediction.


Ryan said...


Great points. I'm glad there are some educated voters out there who've actually looked at several candidates. Not just those who quickly skim the views of their pre-annointed nominee, so they can claim to have done research.

Regarding Ron Paul's position that the Civil War could've been avoided had the government simply bought the slaves' freedom, I found an interesting clip from Joseph Smith's 1844 campaign platform:

“Petition, also, ye goodly inhabitants of the slave states, your legislators to abolish slavery by the year 1850, or now, and save the abolitionist from reproach and ruin, infamy and shame. Pray Congress to pay every man a reasonable price for his slaves out of the surplus revenue arising from the sale of public lands, and from the deduction of pay from the members of Congress. Break off the shackles from the poor black man, and hire him to labor like other human beings; for ‘an hour of virtuous liberty on earth, is worth a whole eternity of bondage!’”

Fascinating stuff. Keep up the good fight against political ignorance and apathy.

-Ryan Fitzgibbons

Julie C said...

So, where do we find out this kind of stuff? Do the candidates actually have webpages? Do you have to spend the time to watch all of the debates? Are the debates recorded where we can re-watch them after the event? I usually assume that anything I hear or read from the news industry is at least incomplete, and probably biased. So how can I use my time well to learn about the candidates?

Julie C said...

I should have said - "Do the candidates actually have informative webpages where they clearly state their opinions and positions on many issues?"

Nick said...

I've been holding off commenting on the primaries, primarily because I read so much about them everyday that I get sick of it, and partly because I'd hate to sound like I'm just regurgitating what all the pundits tell me I should think and turn salsanight from a paragon of creativity and independent thought into a (that last . was a period, not a dot)

Here we go: I second what JonnyF says about both the coverage of the election, and the silliness of identity politics that he mentions. I vote for X because he/she is a Y, where Y is something that identifies them with a certain group whether its females, blacks, evangelicals, mailmen, cat lovers, people who like Battlefield Earth (file that one under "weird books that Mitt Romney claims as his favorite), or what have you. It is for this reason I can't support Huckawhy- one of his main weapns so far has been to subtly undermine Romney with the anti-mormon card ("Don't Mormons believe Jesus and Satan are brother?"), and play up his "Hey look! I'm a Christian just like you!" card

My big beef with how the election is covered is the odd way of looking at the primaries as some kind of basketball tournament where if you lose a game you're out of the tournament. I think I read 20 or more opinion pieces that claimed that Romney was toast after his 2nd place showing in Iowa- you know, the one where he scored 12 delegates to Huckawhy's 17. They said the same thing, only more emphatically after his 2nd place showing in New Hampshire- the one where he scored 4 delegates to McCain's 7. And then, somehow, almost the entire news-reporting and opining business overlooked Romney's Wyoming win, where he got 7 delegates to Huckawhy's 0 and McCain's 0. Funny, the Wyoming contest had as many delegates as NH, but only got 1/50000th of the airtime. So anyway, what annoys me is the media's mass insistence on covering the race like a basketball tournament, and not like the competition for delegates that it is, which Romney is winning.

Related to that is the media's obsession with "momentum". They think if you win one state, then somehow that gives you this "momentum" which makes you harder to beat in the next state. I will allow the existence of momentum in only a few circumstances. First, if a voter wanted to support someone, but was worried that he/she was supporting a losing candidate, a previous win by that candidate will encourage that supporter to actually cast that vote instead of going with someone else that they like a little less, but they believe can win. Second, and I think this one applies a lot less that the first one, is that people like to be in the winning side. So if they see someone winning, they will vote for them, even if they don't agree with all the candidate's positions.
What I don't like is the media generated "momentum", where someone like McCain wins a small state like new hampshire, and he is then proclaimed the frontrunner by all the pundits and news organizations, and all the other candidates then get the treatment of "oh, so and so now HAS to win such and such a state in order to stay in the race". This false momentum comes with headlines like "Romney faces stunning (or decisive, or upset, or fatal...) loss in New Hampshire!" and "McCain rides wave of popular support to become front runner!", even though the spread between them was like 6 points. In reality, there is no such thing as momentum (except those special cases I mentioned previously). I, as a voter in Utah, don't give a rats tail what some "independently minded" voter in New Hampshire thinks about the race. I vote for the guy I want. If I don't like candidate X who won in some other small state granted absurdly large amounts of attention by the press, then I will not only vote against him, I will try to convince others to vote against him. Hows that for momentum?

Speaking of the press getting it wrong, am I the only one to think that the press got it right on the pre-new hampshire polls? I've read dozens of articles and heard several npr stories bemoaning how badly the press got the polls wrong in new hampshire. Um, couldn't it just be that the polls were right, and that people just changed their mind when it came time to vote? It shows how the press in general don't understand what a poll is. It is not something that tell you how all the voters will vote on election day. It is not even something what tells you how those voters who were polled will vote on election day. It tells you how people THINK they will vote, or how they plan on voting, or how they want you to think they're voting. All the polls showed that Obama lead Clinton by about 8 points a few days before the election. Clinton won by 3. All that means is that the undecideds broke for Clinton, and that a bunch of Obama people changed their minds. The polls were right, its just that they were only accurate gauges for January 6th, not January 8th.

Ok, so here's my opinion of the candidates. When I pick a candidate, I disqualify anyone who has not run a large organization. That gets rid of McCain, Clinton, and Obama. (and Thompson, but I'll get to him later). That qualifies Romney, Giuliani, Huckabee, and Richardson, and uniquely qualifies Romney in my opinion because he not only governed a state, but led a corporation and was wildly successful at it. Second, after Bush, I am decidedly anti-folksy. If a candidate is basing their candidacy on their appealing to a segment of the population because of how folksy they are, then I'm out. That disqualifies Huckabee (and Thompson, again. But I'll get to him later). Next, I look at how successful those leaders were in their previous leadership experiences. Again, Romney comes across as uber-competent, and so does Giuliani by any measure of the progress NYC made under him. What concerns me about Giuliani's leadership history is his pattern of valuing loyalty over competence. That smacks too much of Bush. One thing that concerns me about Huckabee's leadership experience is his mixing of his religion into his governance. There have been many people in Arkansas that admitted that many of Huckabee's pardons were granted because the governor thought that the convict had found Jesus. I don't want a president forgiving Osama even if he finds Jesus and opens day camp for disfigured retarded kids on welfare.
Next, I look at how a candidate has run a campaign. A presidential campaign is like a microcosm of running a country. It is extremely rigorous, expensive, requiring you to lead and inspire not only your workers and volunteers, but the people who will be voting for you. In that respect, Clinton and Obama do very well and somewhat make up for their no leadership experience. Again, Romney shines, since he has put together an organization almost unparalleled by any other, and to lesser extent Giuliani. McCain fall flat here, since he was not able to successfully manage a campaign for the better part of last year. If a guy mismanages a paltry 20 million while running for president, how can I trust him with a federal budget of 2 trillion? Thompson also does poorly in this regard for his sheer laziness (the media hopped on the Thompson-is-lazy bandwagon, but or once they got it right. It is downright shocking how little he does on the campaign trail). I like Romney also in this regard because of his work ethic. McCain claims to be the hard worker, but looking at campaign schedules for a given day, its always like Giuliani- 5 events, Huckabee- 6 events, McCain- 8 events, Romney- 18 events, Thompson- 1/2 an event (I exaggerate a little, but not much).
Next- temperament. Is the candidate graceful? Does he/she have a temper? Are they self centered or arrogant? Do they hold up under pressure? What are they like when they lose? When they win? Have they changes their position, and if they havem are they up front about it? On these, I give the following grades- Giuliani- B, Romney - A, McCain- D+, Huckabee- C, Thompson- B, Clinton- B, Obama- A. This is one reason Obama is doing very well- As Joe Biden put it, he "is clean and articulate". He carries himself very well.
Lastly, we get to issues. I alluded to changing positions a few sentences ago. When a candidate runs for office I expect them th change a position or two, because when you run for president you are representing a lot of people and should theoretically do their wishes. You can't please everyone, but you should at least try. I can't stand the ones that claim they are firm on their positions to the point of arrogance. (Read: Bush, McCain). I also can't stand the ones that change their position but deny it (McCain voting against the Bush tax cuts, claims he would still vote against them today, but in fact, supports them!!! Huckabee for being gentle with immigrants, then harsh, then gentle, then harsh, etc. Also, Huckabee being against the surge in January, but for it now, and denies ever being against it.) Romney changed on a few things, but was usually up front about it. He said he was "effectively pro-choice", and that "he was wrong". I like that in a leader. A leader gathers new information, and should be willing to recognize that he was wrong and change his ways. McCain- F, Huckabee- D-, Giuliani- C, Thompson- A, Romney A-. Democrats- To be honest I'm not too sure on them with the issues. Whenever I hear them speak, its always some populist rhetoric that I just sort of tune out. I get the general idea that they want to raise taxes on the rich and give to the poor, yada yada yada. Some want to have tough foreign policy, some don't but want to seem tough, yada yada.

One thing that gets me about Obama, is his theme of uniting and healing. What in the world is that supposed to mean? Are you going to campaign on a theme of division and hurting? (openly, that is) Seriously, just what is he going to do to unite and heal? Will half his cabinet be republican? No. Will he adopt some conservative agendas? No. Where's the uniting then? End mini-rant.

So needless to say, I'm for Romney. Second choice- Thompson. Thompson?!? Well, that just because I can't stand McCain and Huckabee, and like Jon, I just can't shake that icky feeling about Giuliani, even though he's been a decent leader.

I was once only somewhat anti-McCain and Huckabee, but only to the extent that I would still vote for them in the general. After their recent behavior in the past month though, I will vote dem if either of them gets the nomination. I'm getting sick of the personal attacks from both of them on Romney. Romney's "attacks" were pure issue ads. Their attacks are purely personal. McCain calling Romney a "phony" in an ad is just too much. I can't vote for a name-caller.

Nick said...

Man- I just re-read that, and realized that I am an incredibly bad writer when I don't at least read it once over before I post.

I realize I didn't talk about my predictions. I think the Republican race will be decided at convention. Even if Romney loses Michagan, he's be a fool to drop out (what the media is saying he has to do). Huckabee doesn't have much appeal for republicans beyond evangelicals. McCain has pissed off far too many republicans to win outright, and Giuliani has lossed nearly all his support beyond the large states like florida, new york, new jersey and California. Romney has sizeable support in nearly every state, and just might come away with the most delegates, even if the number of his outright wins is small.

Dems- no idea. I think Clinton will still take it, but not by much, and only because of her "superdelegates"- the delegates who are just democratic dignitaries and can vote however they want.

Nick said...

Oh my, re-re-reading, I realize I started talking about issues, but got off on a tangent about changing positions. All I was going to say was that I tend to agree the most, like 85%, with Romney, maybe 83% with Thompson, Giuliani 80%, McCain 75%, Huckabee 40%, Clinton and Obama maybe 20%, I think- I'm not too sure what they would actually do as president, I just usually hear the stale populist blather and class warfare rhetoric. My main point with rating the repubs so close together on issues is that they effectively are nearly the same on the issues, except for McCain's arrogant stick-them-in-the-eye mentality on certain republican issues, and Huckabee's silly populism.

Ryan- I see you read bycommonconsent. How do you feel about that?

Nick said...

Julie- "Do the candidates actually have informative webpages where they clearly state their opinions and positions on many issues?"

The answer is: no. Not one candidate has a webpage that portrays an accurate representation of what they will be like as president. Not even the one I want to win. As soon as someone wins, they will change. Sure, some broad stuff will stay the same- A Romney or a Giuliani might lower some tax rates a little lower. Clinton and Obama and Huckabee and McCain might raise the highest tax rates. But once a candidate becomes president, they tend to forget a lot of their promises. See Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, for some recent examples.

I go with a candidate's record. Were they an effective leader in the past? Did they exhibit the qualities you value in a leader in their other leadership posts? Knowing their record and their history of what kind a leader they were can help you get a feel about what they will actually do in office, but they will all change from what they say they will do right now. Thats politics. Not even Mr. Politics-of-Change Obama would be any different.

One website that has been helpful to me has been Everyday they aggregate a bunch of political articles and opinion pieces from just about every political persuasion. Many of those articles link either explain or link to articles that explain the candidates records and positions, from several points of view. Its a lot of reading, but I am a politics nerd- this is like my world series, to culminate in my superbowl this november. (and yes, I know the world series and the superbowl belong to different sports.)

erin said...

Wikipedia has good links to political positions of the candidates, too. They also link from their page to the the candidate's page.

I got to be part of our county's caucus for Wyoming which was pretty cool, but at the last minute they wouldn't let me vote because I didn't show up as a registered Republican. I went to check it out at the courthouse and found out I was registered as an Independent, so I didn't get to vote, but it was neat anyway.

I hope Romney wins, but I don't know if I can vote for him. I don't like his stand on Guantanamo and the war, but for family values and fiscal conservatism, I think he's great. But when it comes to the war, it sounds to me like he's another Bush with his foreign policy, and I think the whole policy of Guat. Bay and this extraordinary rendition is wrong and we should not be doing it. He's not a turkey, though, and he'll be able to get things done. I really like a lot of what Ron Paul has to say...other that thinking we should get out of the UN and abolish the IRS and a couple of other things. He believes in the constitution and that's kind of rare these days, it seems.

The other thing about Mitt Romney that bothers me is his relative combativeness in his politicking. If he has a good point (and he has a lot of them) he should let that stand for itself and let another person express their views, I think. We need a president who can get along with others and who can listen and then who can make good judgments and lead our country. I don't like the defensiveness and even sometimes kind of attacking that I see sometimes. I know he's not always like that, but enough that I don't like it. I think I'd better write him another letter.

And for all of you, I hope you're all well and doing fine and had some great Christmases and Thanksgivings and everything.

Ryan said...

"Ryan- I see you read bycommonconsent. How do you feel about that?"


I actually haven't read it before. I just happen to love Ezra Taft Benson's politics, so I figured, why not find out if Joseph Smith's old campaign platform is available? And bycommonconsent was where I found it. Other than that is it a worthwhile website, or should I not waste my time?

I've got to admit, from what I've studied so far I'm a big Ron Paul fan. But while I do spend some time looking at both sides of the argument, I spend a lot more time searching for quotes that support my pre-conceived notions of truth. :)

You seem very politically astute. Any thoughts on Paul one way or the other?

JonnyF said...

I think you are giving me too much credit. My indecision and long-windedness are not to be confused with education. In fact, I have deliberately avoided (is that redundant?) some of the debates and op-ed articles because the empty rhetoric bothers me. As I said, it’s hard for me to have the patience to sit through a speech or debate and have to filter out the substance from the rhetoric. Ever since the 2004 general election I haven’t really liked sitting through debates or stump speeches because it required so much concentration to distill the meaning from the yap, yap, yap. Actually, I consider myself pretty good at that part, but I never remember a speech I heard from a candidate that was more than 30 seconds long that didn’t make me like them less. So maybe the real reason I don’t want to follow the coverage more closely is that I’m afraid I’ll lose the motivation to vote because I’ll hate all the candidates.
Regarding freeing the slaves by buying them: The first problem with Paul’s solution is that all his other policy stances seem to be concentrated on a weak federal government with low revenue and low expenditures. Paul doesn’t seem to support a way for the federal government to raise the revenue to free the slaves in the first place. While that quotation from Joseph Smith does provide a source for the money it would cost, it is hard to say whether you would be able to raise enough money (and without overly burdening the northern states) to pay a fair price for every slave. (How would a fair price even be determined? Would you use the then-current market rate?) Whatever the decided price, the government would have to invoke eminent domain to force all the owners to sell what was considered private property. I am unconvinced that war could have been avoided that way. My second problem with the solution is that even if the plan got that far, now you have a few hundred thousand (actually, I have no idea how many slaves there were) homeless, unemployed people that don’t necessarily have traditional family structures – social chaos. Any solution to this problem would require more government money and make the first problem worse. As a disclaimer, I may have heard this position of his second hand. For all I know, he may have a more complete idea of how it should have been done. But from my current information, it sounds fanciful and is typical of his other stances. Another example would be his tax policy. He wants, as does Huckabee, to “abolish the IRS” and institute a federal sales tax. I don’t actually have a problem with the sales tax, it’s the “abolish the IRS” business that turns me off. There would have to be a federal agency regulating and enforcing the national tax, why not the IRS? They almost never mention their respective sales tax plans without mentioning abolishing (usually that word) the IRS (to lots of cheers) as if the IRS were the reason for the way our taxes work. (I squarely blame every member of congress who doesn’t do their own taxes.) It sounds like they want to produce the emotional charge of saying “abolish the IRS” more than they want to convince people that the national sales tax is a good idea.

I figured that this post would get a long response from you. I was sure you were following the Republican race and had a lot to say. I echo your basketball tournament point. I also agree with you about the New Hampshire polls. I agree with much of what you said about the candidates. I have had similar thoughts about Obama’s “unity” theme. It sounds an awful lot like President Bush’s call to stop all the partisan politics. They both seem to be saying, “I’m right, so stop arguing with me.”
As far as McCain goes, I feel compelled to defend him a little bit. McCain has many flaws, and I too would like to say that I won’t vote for a name caller, but I’m not sure that’s true. I don’t view many of the traditional complaints about McCain as that bad. I said above that I don’t really like McCain-Feingold and I am unsure about McCain-Kennedy. However, I highly respect him for trying to fix widely acknowledged problems, instead of accepting the Reid-Pelosi-McConnell-Boehner-Hastert-DeLay-Frist- strategy. (Step 1: Complain about status quo. Step 2: Do nothing to change it.) He has taken his job seriously to help craft legislation, not just debate and vote on it. (This is more than I can say for Thompson.) I hesitate to condemn him for votes for which others have condemned him because the legislation is never as simple as it is reported to be. (e.g. the Patriot Act.) Tax legislation is always complicated and so it is not as simple as wanting to lower taxes or not. Which taxes are we lowering? Can be do it in a better way? It’s also not as if he changed is mind on a moral principle like whether or not he thinks murder is bad. It’s a tax bill for heaven’s sake. Congress debates about whether to pass a bill based on what they project will happen if the bill is enacted, which may or may not be what actually happens. If what actually happens (in this case, the economic benefits) turns out to be different than what you thought, then you should be allowed to change your mind.
I am also skeptical of complaints that McCain is arrogantly firm on some of his convictions – that he won’t listen to the popular party line. If you agree with the politician and you both disagree with the popular line then you tend to applaud the politician for holding firm to his principle. If you disagree with the politician who disagrees with the popular party line (assuming this is a logical dichotomy, so if A disagrees with B, who disagrees with C, then A agrees with C), then you tend to criticize him for being arrogant. If you agree with the politician who agrees with the party line, then you tend to applaud the candidate for being representative of his electorate and doing his job. If you disagree with the politician who agrees with the party line, then you tend to criticize him for being an opportunist, or a sheep that won’t do anything he’s not told to. Anyway, I went through all that so I can ask you about your problem with McCain’s arrogance – is it really the arrogance that bothers you or the fact that you disagree with him about the things he’s arrogant about? (I personally have no love for the Republican Party. As soon as a politician deviates more from my philosophy than the alternative, I will vote against him or her, whether or not they are toeing the party line or have the stick-em-in-the-eye mentality.) Someone who is pro gay marriage could say that Romney is a sheep, toeing the party line. Or the many Republicans who are against a major federal government investment in the American auto industry could say that Romney is arrogant for advocating such an investment. So I have a hard time with the “arrogant” label that has been applied to McCain by some people because I wonder if it comes from disagreement rather than judgment of character. In the end, with McCain, I am troubled by his tendencies to be abrasive and to exaggerate, and his mismanagement of his campaign. I am troubled by is positions on many issues, but I am not going to make too many judgments based on his voting record on bills about which I know nothing except their names or nicknames. I am neutral on his position on the war on terror. (I don’t think I substantially agree with any politician currently serving or running, I will have to devote a post to it.)
As far as Romney goes, I don’t think as highly of him as you do. While it is true that McCain, Huckabee, Giuliani, and Thompson have unfairly attacked Romney in ads, speeches, and debates, I believe that Romney is guilty of the same. He unfairly simplifies their policies or actions, then criticizes his simplifications of what they’ve done. A perfect example is during one of the debates last week when he wouldn’t stop calling McCain-Feingold “amnesty”. When McCain tried to defend himself, Romney interrupted him to call it “amnesty” again. It was combative and intellectually lazy cheap shot. (Though I blame all involved in the immigration debate for never defining the term amnesty. It is a great source of confusion. There are elements in the Republican Party which would consider anything amnesty, including Romney’s plan, if it doesn’t involve deportation of all illegal immigrants. Hmm, I guess I’ll have to make a post on my views on the immigration debate. Maybe I’m going to need my own blog.) Also Romney’s ad criticizing Huckabee either stupidly or intentionally/disingenuously confused pardons with parole recommendations with regard to the paroled prisoner who killed someone after his release. Anyway, my point is I don’t think Romney has been victimized by any of the attack ads any more than he’s victimized the other candidates. He is in no way above the political fray. Another example is a conflict that arose a few days ago between McCain and Romney. McCain, in a stump speech, (just a few miles from here at the Grand Rapids airport) was talking about Michigan’s economic woes. He said something to the effect of, “Let’s face it. Michigan has lost a lot of jobs, and they’re not coming back. The people who have lost their jobs will need to retrain and get more education so they can get jobs in a modernized automotive industry, the growing health care industry, or one of the other jobs in the state that will require more education.” He then went on to talk about some federal program he would propose that would help the unemployed get education. Romney responded to this with a speech the next day where he essentially said, “One of my opponents has said that the jobs that Michigan has lost aren’t coming back. I’m not willing to buy into that defeatism. There’s no reason the auto industry has to die in Michigan. I will propose a federal program to help modernize the auto industry to compete globally. I propose training programs for the unemployed so they will be qualified to work in the modernized auto industry as well as the health care industry and others.” This is what I mean by Romney being combative. He and McCain have very similar views on how to help Michigan’s economy, but Romney tried to pick a fight anyway. I am also concerned with his position on the war on terror. I fear he is limiting himself to the Bush Administration paradigm concerning said war on terror. (Like I said, I may have to write a post on my views.)
Romney is overall pretty good, though. He is no doubt smart, and I am a fan of his wit. He is an effective manager of other people and is willing to craft and propose innovative legislation. His management experience might win me over in the end. I have to decide because I’m going to go vote in the primary right now.
As far as the general election I will probably not vote for Giuliani or Obama or Edwards. I will definitely not vote for Huckabee or Clinton. I will vote third party if I have to so I can make that all work.
Anyway, having said all that (and what a lot it was), I don’t consider myself particularly informed. I mean, I would like to know more about all the legislation proposed and vetoed by Giuliani and Romney. I would like to know more about the voting records and the associated bills of Thompson, McCain and Paul. But I really have a hard time motivating myself to do it because of the lack of good, comprehensive, unbiased information sources.

Nick said...

When I talk about his arrogance, I don't just mean that he is firm about policy positions that I disagree with. Its that he not only takes a different point of view on certain issues, he's very combative and, well, arrogant about it. Here is but one of several examples that come to mind. In the committee meeting that this news article refers to, this senate committee had been crafting immigration legislation policy for months. McCain, who had been absent for all those months, shows up to the meeting, and after another senator questions the advisability of the legislation that McCain wants, he erupts into a tirade of profanity and yells "[Expletive] you! I know more about this than anyone else in the room," So when I talk about arrogance, its things like this that I'm referring to. Now, everybody, politician or otherwise is entitled to losing his temper a few times, but with McCain it seems to be a pattern. That is not he temperament of a president.

For the other points you bring up about Romney, I must admit they are all very valid. I realize that I, after looking at all the candidate histories and positions, came to a decision on my candidate, and once I made my decision he became MY candidate, so its easy to overlook the criticisms that people bring up about your candidate. As for the negative campaigning, yes I realize that Romney has heavily invested in negative ads and constantly attacks his opponents on issues, but thats my point- he sticks with the issues (fairly characterized or not). Both McCain and Huckabee however do the personal attacks. As far as I can tell, Romney has never engaged in a personal attack. He may be muddling his opponents' positions, but he sticks to the issues. Whats more, whenever he does mention their records, they whine and complain about negative campaigning, and then turn right around and do the same thing themselves (except they add the personal insults).

Anyway, aside from all these small relatively unimportant details, my main concern is the competence and intelligence of a candidate. I want a guy who can sift through data, hear opposing points of view, effectively work with people who he disagrees with, and can effectively lead a large organization. Once I decided those things were the most important to me, then my choice was clear. And he's Mormon- of course I have to vote for him!

Ryan- I used to read them pretty regularly, but they started to get old and stale, and whenever I commented on any topic, they were very combative and wouldn't allow any dissenting viewpoint, so I stopped reading. They are basically a bunch of self proclaimed liberal mormon intellectuals.
As for Ron Paul, I've never really taken him seriously, either his positions or him as a candidate. Some of what he says is very appealing- ie stick with the constitution. But I'm skeptical of the candidates who are extremely ideological- the Pauls, Kuciniches, Buchanans, Naders- they all have these platforms that are very specific and oftentimes very appealing, but they are too narrow and don't appeal to a broad spectrum of americans, and as a voter I want someone who at least mostly shares my viewpoints, but is also a good leader and can win a general election. Paul is not a consensus builder and not a leader. And its kind of weird how he attracts all these fringe white supremecists and other crazies. Whats up with that? That alone makes me a little skeptical. Sorry- not too specific on his positions, but I admit I haven't studied him in detail.

Ryan said...

Hey guys,

Well said. One minor clarification on Ron Paul (I've spent way too many hours reading up on him), he actually doesn't want to implement a federal sales tax to replace the IRS. That's as you correctly point out, Huckabee's idea. Paul's exact quote: "I want to abolish the IRS and replace it with nothing." He goes on to explain that spending has gotten so far out of control during the Bush administration, that if we simply cut government spending back to 2000 levels, we could completely abolish the income tax (accounts for 40% of the government's revenue), and break even. You may or may not be interested, but I compiled several clips of Paul that I think best represent his positions. Everyone I've sent them to whose actually watched them has either told me they'll vote for him, or they agree with him, but want to vote for someone whose got a better chance of winning (ie. Romney). I'd love to hear a critique of his positions, and whether or not they'd work. You guys have been the only ones to mention issues so far, not just "he won't win, so why bother," so I'd like some feedback. I plan as running as a delegate in NV in a few days, and I'm still open to persuasion.

An email I've sent to some friends:

I’ve found a Presidential Candidate this year whose views remind me of some of my greatest heroes, our founding fathers. I spent about 8 hours compiling these video clips that I think give a good overall perspective on Republican Candidate Ron Paul, and what he stands for.

I’ve had the chance to meet him and hear him speak a couple times. One of the subjects he talked about was how he got the nickname “Dr. No” in Congress. “When you read about a vote in Congress that goes something like 412-1, odds are pretty good that the sole "nay" came from Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.” (Radley Balko, Fox News). Along with sharing the “Ronald Reagan Medal” experience (video clip below), Paul also explained how congress will often receive 70-80 page bills via email as little as 15 minutes before a vote. Other congressmen simply vote as they’re told by their party leaders. Paul’s position is simple: “If I haven’t read it, I just vote NO.” He then asks, "Does the Constitution authorize Congress to pass this law?" Most of the time, the answer to that question is "no." And so Paul votes accordingly. Needless to say, his refusal to play the political game has made him a great thorn in the side of Congress. To sum up his political views, simply read the Constitution. Nothing more, nothing less.

Paul recently shattered a US Political record by raising over $6 Million in a single day (a small portion of which was mine) on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. The campaign had nothing to do with it. It was simply a group of citizens who banded together to bring about change.

I’ve posted some clips below, and in the spirit of patriotism, friendly and intelligent political discussion, would love to get some feedback from you guys. Are there topics you agree with? Policies that you disagree with? Topics covered by Ron Paul that you wish other candidates would discuss? Or factors that make another candidate a better choice?

Ron Paul’s views in writing on his website:

Who is Ron Paul?

Ron Paul: Stop Dreaming

Ron Paul: Restore the Republic:

Ron Paul: Debate results:

Ron Paul & Mitt Romney:

Ron Paul Debate Highlights:

Ron Paul on Ronald Reagan Medal:

Colbert Report:

Paul:Comedy Central:

Ron Paul: $6 Million in one day:

Ron Paul on Abortion:

Ron Paul on Healthcare:

Ron Paul: Immigration:

Ron Paul: Homeschooling

Ron Paul: A New Hope:

Ron Paul: Nation Going Broke:

Ron Paul: Debate Highlights 2:

“It does not take a majority to prevail... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” -Samuel Adams

“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” -John Quincy Adams

“They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security” –Benjamin Franklin

“The Constitution will hang by a thread.” –Quote attributed to Joseph Smith

“In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.” -Mark Twain

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.” –Samuel Adams


Ryan Fitzgibbons

Nick said...

Ryan- I tried to watch a few of them, and I'll try to watch more, but my initial impressions are:

Immigration, healthcare, welfare, a few others: his positions appear mostly consistent with most of the other republicans. It looks like his main points of departure from the other candidates on policy are taxes (abolish the irs), and foreign policy (US isolationism). I found both of those positions of his incredibly simplistic. On taxes, I've evolved a bit over the years on this, but I've come to think that there should be some progressivity to the tax code- ie that the rich should pay a somewhat higher percentage in income taxes than the poor, simply because that comes with the privilege of living in America and getting all the benefits of peace and prosperity that go along with that. They should be low, however (to discourage rampant spending- something Bush and the Repub congress did poorly on), and when there is a surplus, there should be tax cuts for those who pay them, and the rich tend to be the one that pay the most. I don't buy all the self-righteous constitution speak coming from Paul, and many in the constitution party. The claim the income tax is unconstitutional, which is complete BS. The constitution allows us to amend it, and it was amended to allow an income tax, so it is now constitutional. End of story. He may not like the income tax, and it sure wasn't constitutional in 1796, but it is today.
His other weak point seems to be foreign policy. I don't get this thing he has with no alliances. Did he forget how we stopped Hitler? It took an alliance. How did we stop Saddam in 1992? Alliance. Soviet Union? Alliance. I just don't buy into an isolationistic foreign policy which he seems to be advancing. I could be misinterpreting his foreign policy, but from what I've heard him say, I don't like it.

I'll watch more and maybe comment again later. I should say that a good 75% of what he says sounds very reasonable to me, and I wish the republican field would spend more time talking about rampant spending, like he does. But its that last 25%, plus the fact that he has never run anything that disqualifies him for me.

Joe said...

Nick- I don't think I would have too much of a problem with Osama Finding Jesus and opening a day camp for disfigured retarded kids on welfare as long as he did it as a non-profit organization or if he made money on it, paid a good 30% tithe.

I think the only reason you support Willard is because when you rearrange his full name, it spells I am Lord Voldermort!

Admit it

Nick said...

Who is this Lord Voldermort you speak of?

And we're all just dying to know how you voted last night. Did you join the bandwagon that it appears most michiganders joined? And what do you call michiganders?

By the way, if you do rearrange the letters of Willard Mitt Romney, you get "Trendy Immoral Wilt"

JennyW said...

Nick, I think you've confused Jon with Joe. I'm no longer certain I can trust anything you say.

Nick said...

Joe and Jon have never been in the same room together, so they could very well be the same person. (for those who don't know, Joe=brother, Jon=former roomate)

apyknowzitall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
apyknowzitall said...

Mmmm... trendy and immoral...

jenn w said...

I'm voting for Hilary. Because she wears pant suits.

Nick said...

Rudy wears dresses, but I'm not any closer to voting for him.

apyknowzitall said...

Hey that's funny. I'm voting for Hillary too, not because she wears pantsuits but because Ellen wears pantsuits.

apyknowzitall said...

I dunno Nick. He looks pretty saucy in that outfit to me.

Joe not Jon said...

Sorry Nick, I was just trying to dumb down the conversation a bit. Since I live in Washington I have to vote Democrat or we are not allowed certain tax breaks on our tax returns. One year they even threatened to take our second born, Now that Ian has long curly hair I would not be too bad I guess... the nerd.

Muriel said...

Matt says he's voting for Hilary just so he can call Bill the first lady.

Warren said...

I mostly agree with Ron Paul, although I disagree with him on a few points (immigration and the gold standard for starters). As for some of his more out there points, the thing is he has to go through Congress. He may say he wants to abolish the IRS (and the Fed-something else I disagree with) but let's be honest, it won't happen. It won't make it through Congress. He's the candidate most against government spending, so he's the best bet to actually cut spending. For his crazier notions they won't happen.

JonnyF said...


Katie and I both voted for Romney. (There was much rejoicing in the Leslie household. My mother-in-law called us on Sunday night to make sure we knew how much she liked Romney and didn’t like McCain.) As far as issues go, I don’t agree with him any more than I agree with McCain. I thought Romney would be a better overall national executive, taking into account the diplomacy and leadership aspects of the job.


Overall, Paul seems to have a pretty well reasoned platform.
I didn’t watch the videos, but I read through the website. A few problems I found with his views: He wants $3,000 tax credit for school expenses for every school aged child in America. This is essentially a national voucher program which would be immensely costly and doesn’t fit in with the low spending and “abolish the IRS” stances. He also wants to mandate that home-schooled children be given equal consideration at colleges and universities for education and scholarship, even though he talks about getting rid of federal education mandates and reducing federal influence and grants to higher education. He advocates some good free market solutions to problems which could reduce the need for federal regulation – a good thing. But he never addresses or acknowledges the failings of the free market (e.g. when both parties to a transaction don’t have the same access to information) which would be obstacles to (and opponents would use to fight) those solutions. He talks about how we should withdraw from the U.N. and the WTO and reduce foreign aid, but that we should also have good diplomatic relations with all other nations. This means that he either doesn’t know what he is talking about or is planning on single-handedly changing the way international politics is done in his tenure as president. There is a not-so-fine line between ambition and delusion. I disagree with him on gun control, (I think there is necessarily a difference between regulation and “infringement”.) though I disagree with many Republicans. I also disagree with him on immigration (though once again I disagree with many Republicans). I do applaud his advocacy of low spending and taxes and a small constitutional government and I appreciate that he makes the distinction between “participating in foreign wars” and isolationism.
I see in him some of the same failings as other Republicans who are Libertarian wannabes. They are willing to advocate extreme policies, like cutting spending in half or limiting the power of the federal government, but are not willing to live with the consequences. They are not willing to give up the power of the federal government to do what they want done, but they want to give up the power of the federal government to do what other people want to do.
Most of his other views were not objectionable, but there were a few other red flags which I can’t remember now. Relative to my views, he is actually no worse than as Romney and McCain, though he might be approaching from a different direction. On issues, I can argue for Paul or against him as I can with Romney and McCain.
I also agree with Nick, though, that there is more to a President’s job than trying to get bills through congress. He should be diplomatic, charismatic, and able to influence foreign governments and congress towards his point of view – otherwise his stance on issues is meaningless. He needs to be a leader. In short, I think “voting your conscience” involves more than just deciding how much a candidate agrees with you on policy issues, but also how well you think he/she will do his/her job as commander-in-chief and as a diplomat.
John Quincy Adams says that we should vote on principle. I reject the idea that that means we should only look at issues. I think the principle that should be used is voting for the candidate you think will do the best job in that office. It is up to you to define what a good job is as well as to decide who you think will fit that definition best.

Ryan said...

Alright! Finally some legit criticism of Ron Paul. I'll give it some thought. While I agree with a lot of what other candidates say, I find I'm most bothered by what they don't say. Issues like inflation, government spending, and whether or not our country should be involved in the affairs of foreign countries(even to do good). I don't care whether Republicans believe Jonah was literally or figuratively swallowed by a whale, or whether Hillary prefers pearls or diamonds (yes, both questions were brought up during the debates). I've never heard any candidate (aside from Paul) discuss the real issues mentioned above. Who knows, I might agree with them! But I feel that they're arguing over priorities 4-10, while Paul's discussing 1-3.

My political views have been largely influenced by Ezra Taft Benson. While I don't view his politics as "prophetically definitive", I like the idea of learning from an apostle who spent 8 years serving in the White House. Here are his takes on foreign policy, and the economy.

“There is one and only one legitimate goal of United States foreign policy. It is a narrow goal, a nationalistic goal: the preservation of our national independence. Nothing in the Constitution grants that the president shall have the privilege of offering himself as a world leader. He is our executive; he is on our payroll; he is supposed to put our best interests in front of those of other nations. Nothing in the Constitution nor in logic grants to the president of the United States or to Congress the power to influence the political life of other countries, to ‘uplift' their cultures, to bolster their economies, to feed their people, or even to defend them against their enemies.'

(The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 614; see also p. 682 & 704)

From the Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson we read:

"The pending economic crisis that now faces American is painfully obvious. If even a fraction of potential foreign claims against our gold supply were presented to the Treasury, we would have to renege on our promise. We would be forced to repudiate our own currency on the world market. Foreign investors, who would be left holding the bag with American dollars, would dump them at tremendous discounts in return for more stable currencies, or for gold itself. The American dollar both abroad and at home would suffer the loss of public confidence. If the government can renege on its international monetary promises, what is to prevent it from doing the same on its domestic promises? How really secure would be government guarantees behind Federal Housing Administration loans, Savings and Loan Insurance, government bonds, or even social security?

"Even though American citizens would still be forced by law to honor the same pieces of paper as though they were real money, instinctively they would rush and convert their paper currency into tangible material goods which could be used as barter. As in Germany and other nations that have previously traveled this road, the rush to get rid of dollars and acquire tangibles would rapidly accelerate the visible effects of inflation to where it might cost one hundred dollars or more for a single loaf of bread. Hoarded silver coins would begin to reappear as a separate monetary system which, since they have intrinsic value would remain firm, while printed paper money finally would become worth exactly it's proper value--the paper it is printed on! Everyone's savings would be wiped out totally. No one could escape.

"One can only imagine what such conditions would do to the stock market and to industry. Uncertainty over the future would cause the consumer to halt all spending except for the barest necessities. Market for such items as television sets, automobiles, furniture, new homes, and entertainment would dry up almost overnight. With no one buying, firms would have to close down and lay off their employees. Unemployment would further aggravate the buying freeze, and the nation would plunge into a depression that would make the 1930s look like prosperity. At least the dollar was sound in those days. In fact, since it was a firm currency, its value actually went up as related to the amount of goods, which declined through reduced production. Next time around, however, the problems of unemployment and low production will be compounded by a monetary system that will be utterly worthless. All the government controls and so-called guarantees in the world will not be able to prevent it, because every one of them is based on the assumption that the people will continue to honor printing press money. But once the government itself openly refuses to honor it--as it must if foreign demands for gold continue--it is likely that the American people will soon follow suit. This in a nutshell is the so-called 'gold problem.' (An Enemy Hath Done This, p. 218.)" (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson p 639-640.)

Ezra Taft Benson, speaking of the upcoming economic crisis quotes Hamilton, but then also gives us hope to move forward and rebuild a monetary system and healthy economy which shall be a model once again for all the world. Benson states:

". . .it is even possible that some of the government manipulators who have brought us into this economic crisis are hoping that, in panic, we, the American people, literally will plead with them to take our liberties in exchange for the false promise of 'security.' As Alexander Hamilton warned about two hundred years ago: 'Nothing is more common than for a free people, in times of heat and violence, to gratify momentary passions by letting into the government principles and precedents which afterward prove fatal to themselves' (Alexander Hamilton and the Founding of the Nation, p. 21.) Let us heed this warning. Let us prepare ourselves for the trying time ahead and resolve that, with the grace of God and through our own self-reliance, we shall rebuild a monetary system and a healthy economy which, once again, will become the model for all the world. (An Enemy Hath Done This, pp. 220-21.)" (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson p 640.)

When Secretary of Agriculture, Ezra Taft Benson met with USSR Nikkita Cruschev he stated:

“I have talked face to face with the godless communist leaders. It may surprise you to learn that I was host to Mr. Kruschev for a half day when he visited the United States, not that I’m proud of it. I opposed his coming then, and I still feel it was a mistake to welcome this atheistic murderer as a state visitor. But, according to President Eisenhower, Kruschev had expressed a desire to learn something of American Agriculture — and after seeing Russian agriculture I can understand why. As we talked face to face, he indicated that my grandchildren would live under communism. After assuring him that I expected to do all in my power to assure that his and all other grandchildren will live under freedom he arrogantly declared in substance:

“ ‘You Americans are so gullible. No, you won’t accept communism outright, but we’ll keep feeding you small doses of socialism until you’ll finally wake up and find you already have communism. We won’t have to fight you. We’ll so weaken your economy until you’ll fall like overripe fruit into our hands.’

“And they’re ahead of schedule in their devilish scheme.” (Ezra Taft Benson “Our Immediate Responsibility.” Devotional Address at Brigham Young University. circa 1968.”) [access the audio file on this page.]

Be it remembered this statement attributed to Vladimir Lenon:

“The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency”

Nick said...

Hey Warren, aren't you doing a PhD in economics or something like that? Whats your opinion on the gold standard?
Regardless of my feelings about the gold standard (I don't like it), I think I'm of the JonnyF school of thought on this one. A presidential candidate, once he is president, will have to go through congress to get his ideas implemented, and there are certain things that Ron Paul advocates (such as the gold standard) that don't have any backing whatsoever either in congress, or from the majority of mainstream economists, or from mainstream America for that matter.

My main question for you is: when do we get to see pictures of this year's front yard christmas tree from you guys?

Ryan said...

Excellent, on to the important stuff. :) I'll ask Amy to post some pictures of the tree on our blog. LEDs sure helped on the power bill this year, but I kind of missed the "brighter than the noonday sun" glow of the old fashion lights.

Warren said...

I'm not a fan of the gold standard. What I want to say is it it fixes the money supply (MS) to exogenous factors. In other words, inflation and deflation are controlled by how much gold is found around the world, not by internal factors (this does have its pluses and minuses). Deflation in general is bad, and a sudden massive deflation is disasterous. One of the biggest (if not the biggest) causes of the Great Depression was a massive drop in the MS. Milton Friedman called the Great Depression the Great Contraction to emphasize the point the problem was deflation (contraction in economics means the MS dropped). I understand the arguments for the gold standard and am sympathetic to some of them, but overall I don't find it to be a good idea. If the US were pegged to gold now and it caused deflation, it would be a disaster.

Deflation is a big problem because prices and wages are downward rigid, or they don't move down very well. Even if you know prices fall, you still don't like a pay cut. There are pschological/economic studies on this, and it seems to hold for about everyone. But if there is deflation wages should drop, but since they don't it results in higher unemployment.