On the Republican side, I am interested primarily in Giuliani, McCain, and Thompson.
All politicians have a moment of crisis that defines them and their political careers. For some politicians, that moment is in character or out of character, in line with previous history of their careers or out of line. You know in a blink, viewing them in this moment, whether they have "the right stuff."
For Giuliani, 9-11 was the moment--an existential moment--and he responded in character and in line. His view of the issues facing the nation now, as expressed in the Wall Street Journal interview today, are grown-up, don't pander to anyone or any interest group, and accept responsibility. I like his style. Direct, prepared to be combative, strong leadership, management experience, hint of charisma in crisis. And he is very bright. He sees global terrorism as the great issue facing the nation now and in the near future. I read his semi-autobiographical book on leadership and found myself underlining and starring passages that struck me as true. Giuliana has the right stuff.
McCain continues to have my respect and interest, despite several of his political positions.
- I think his campaign finance reform bill was and has turned out to be a disaster; I think all restrictions should be taken off political speech, including money donations. What the hell are we doing regulating political speech?
- I disagreed vehemently with his torture bill. It was a terrible mistake that will cause problems down the line. Even he admitted that the definition of torture was too broad. When asked what a first responder, knowing the torture restrictions of McCain's bill, would do when s/he captures a terrorist who admits to setting a nuclear device in a city and refuses to state where, McCain answered (as I recall) simply, "whatever he has to." That reflects political hypocrisy about the bill.
- The immigration bill and debate surround it was a nightmare. No one seemed willing to separate the issue of legal immigration from illegal immigration, but tried to cast the debate as for or again immigration or immigrants, which it was not. I think immigration is great and I want a lot of legal immigration from many countries. But I think laws need to be obeyed and persons who disobey laws not excused. Illegal immigrants can return to wherever and then apply to enter the country legally. That's how we should start to understand the issue, then we can add complications, such as how to deal with minor children of illegals who are citizens.
These are three big faults, from my point of view, for McCain. But McCain has physical, moral, and political courage. He sees terrorism as the leading issue for the nation and he sees, understands, and won't back away from why the war in Iraq is noble, is right, and must be prosecuted and won. That keeps him in the ball game. McCain has the right stuff, just somewhat askew here and there.
I know little about Thompson, but I like that he has kept his mouth shut, and has been thinking. I look forward to hearing his views on issues. He's in the game.
On the Democratic side, there is no candidate who interests me. Hillary is objectionable and unacceptable, because she remains a woman frozen in the 1970s time warp of feminism. She's not an original thinker; more to the point, she doesn't recognize original thinking. I don't like her instincts, particularly her reflexive adoption of Leftish politbureau views on most any issue. I don't like her Leftish intellectual inclination to kill debate by killing debaters you don't like, whether by killing their ideas or shutting them out. I give her credit for hanging tough for a long time on the GWOT and Iraq; but she has started to cave to the Left, which is an expected gesture for her. Hillary doesn't have the right stuff.
Obama is unseasoned. He doesn't know enough about anything. Most of his views are uninformed. His appeal to American Blacks harkens back to the 1960s and would, if actualized in policy, take their social progress back two generations. He might end up as a vice-presidential candidate, but I doubt it. Ninety percent of Blacks will vote for the Democratic ticket anyway, so he won't bring any constituency to the Democratic Party who isn't already there. He should stay in the Senate and grow up. He doesn't have the right stuff.
Edwards is not a significant candidate. His populism is forced and silly. He doesn't have the right stuff.
Democratic candidates have resurrected a pre-9/11 mentality and culture that got us into the mess of 9/11. If there are no major national security incidents before November 2008, a Democratic candidate might win. This is the bet the Democrats are making. If there is a major national security incident before the election, a Democratic candidate probably will not win. I--and I am sure most Americans--don't want to gamble with the nation's security or Americans' lives, including the lives of my children, who live in New York City.