Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The 2016 Election in Short Form

I began my career working in Washington for one President, one Senator, one Member of Congress and a couple of others.  I then worked in the California Legislature for a year before beginning a long career with an Association of Independent Colleges.   So politics has always been of interest to me.

This election cycle has been frustrating.   I think the country faces enormous challenges - in part because of the last two presidents (especially the current one) and in part because a connected world is more complex.  Yet I hear a lot of talk about no good choices and no one with any serious plans.  I think there are some choices who are worth looking at.   And, even though I disagree with many of them, I think there are some very clear differences in what each of the candidates proposes to do, if elected.

Let me make one comment before I explain my classification system.  There is one candidate who I do not believe has made a serious attempt to explain what he would do if elected.  That is Donald Trump.  Brett Stephens of the WSJ described him thusly - "A bigoted braggart with a laughable grasp of public policy and leering manners you would expect from a bar room drunk."   He is a demagogue and a buffoon at the same time.   I hope the American people will not be fooled.  One radio host called him the Kim Kardashian of politics.  I think that is about right.  The NY Daily News had a wonderful front page this morning.   Don't be fooled - second place will not knock him out.  If NH goes poorly, he may begin to stumble.

After the caucuses a couple of candidates hung it up - O'Malley in the dems, and Huckabee in the GOP.  My expectation is that Santorum and Paul and Fiorina will be out in a week or two.  They should be.   With fewer choices voters can begin to look at candidates seriously.  If NH is closely bunched like IOWA some other candidates might be forced out.

A friend recently expressed frustration about the debate process thus far (I've watched every one - often with a good beer in hand).  And I came up with a classification system that is handy for me to think about all of the candidates we have at this point.

Here are the classifications -

#1 - AYOOYFM (Are you out of your f*****g mind?) - I understand why some of these people think they should run but cannot understand why any person would seriously consider them.   Donald Trump has an over-sized ego with an ability to say whatever comes into his head AND never bother to consider whether what comes out has any basis in fact.   Hillary Clinton is an uninspired campaigner who will say anything to get elected, has a history of pathological deceit and a contempt for many Americans.  Bernie Sanders is simply nuts.  His economic "thinking" would continue us in mediocre growth and fewer opportunities for all Americans while at the same time bankrupting the country further.  I understand why each of them wants to be President but cannot understand why anyone would, after any serious consideration, give them the keys to the White House.

#2  IFIMHTCTs (If forced I might have to consider them) - I think Ted Cruz has not been a good senator.  Bob Dole once described Newt Gingrich in the following terms 'Why do so many people take an instant dislike to Gingrich?  It just saves time."  I think Cruz never learned the lessons of working together.  That being said, there are a lot of things wrong with Washington but that does not mean that the people we elect should not make a good faith effort to find common ground with their opponents.   Christie seems like a pretty smart guy but I've read his proposals on taxes and Social Security and I think they are wrong.   But if confronted with Clinton or Sanders - for the sake of nothing else than the potential supreme court nominations in the next 8 years - I would vote for them.

#3 - JWDYTQYTBPs (Just what do you think qualifies you to be President) - In this category I have two Ben Carson (who seems like a very nice guy and has a distinguished career as a surgeon - but seems to have no clue about the job he is applying for) and Carly Fiorina - who seems to be great at rhetoric but her corporate record was not a recommending quality.   At the same time her one other run for office showed her as an ineffective campaigner against the weaker of the the California senators.

#4 - WAYEBAIIPARs - These two are the Harold Stassen wannabes.  Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee ran a couple of times.  The voters, for a lot of good reasons, did not choose them.   Their time has passed.

#5 MLLMRAIDLMRs (Most looks like Mr. Rogers and I did not like Mr. Rogers) - O'Malley was a credible governor of a small state.  But he is not ready for prime time.  Every time I hear him I think of "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood" ringing through my mind.   And as I said, I did not like Mr. Rogers (who in the world could not like him?  ME)

#6 TMBADPs (They might be a decent president) -There are three candidates who might actually be a good President.  I want to learn more.   John Kasich was a bang up member of the House - as budget chair he helped to negotiate the budget deal at the end of the second Clinton term which allowed a balanced budget (at least on paper not counting the Social Security transfers). He was also a force on welfare reform.   He has been a good governor of Ohio.   Jeb Bush had a distinguished record in Florida and seems to be the candidate who has put out the most detailed plans on what he would do if elected.  But he has the legacy of his brother - which weighs heavily on his chances - that is unfair but a reality.   Marco Rubio has some great rhetoric (although at times he seems a bit programmed).   He also seems to have a great sense of humor- he did a recent ad making fun of his misplaced football pass to a young kid.   And yet he does not have any executive experience.

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