The upcoming presidential election will give us the finest candidates to run for the office since George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton ran in 1992.
The Republicans are fielding a great candidate in John McCain. He has a sterling record of public service, connects with the people and has the courage to look beyond ideology to find bipartisan solutions. Whether he can tame the dogmatically frozen wing of his party remains to be seen.
Fortune seems to be favoring Senator Barack Obama but his lack of experience on the national and international stages is a huge negative. Hillary Clinton has the experience to occupy the Oval Office, but despite a brilliant intellect, eight years as First Lady and a very respectable Senate record, she is still an intensely polarizing figure who has not yet gained the trust or “likeability” that both McCain and Obama command.
However, advocating change is one thing; making it happen is something else. No candidate can predict the future. It is highly unlikely that any of them will be able to deliver a precise timetable to take our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Fixing” the economy is going to require the imposition of numerous politically unpopular and ideologically repugnant measures. Repairing relationships with our European allies and southern neighbors, as well as realizing the ascendancy of Russia and China is inevitable and must be met with prudence and will become increasingly critical to counter the rise of radicalism. Most importantly, repairing the faith of the American people in their leadership must be the guiding principle of whoever occupies the Oval Office. We cannot afford another administration that has such contempt for the democratic process that it hides its actions from its own citizenry as the current one has.
Obama has shown that he has tremendous conciliatory and coalition building skills and a backbone to stand up to pressure, but the lack of significant time in the national political arena will limit his effectiveness if he wins the Oval Office.
On the other hand, Clinton has the intellect, experience and vision to effectively set the direction of the nation, but will find her effectiveness diminished by her political adversaries in Congress and the federal bureaucracy.
McCain, the famous temper notwithstanding, also has tremendous credentials for the Oval Office, but the uncertainty over his choice of a running mate makes predictions difficult. If he is forced to choose a running mate on ideological grounds, he may be fatally weakened at the polls by the defection of moderate Republicans. If he chooses a running mate that has the conciliatory qualities necessary to liaise with Capitol Hill, he may lose financial support from the most dogmatic wing of the Republican Party, an occurrence that may prove equally crippling.
What is needed is a team whose overlap minimizes their vulnerabilities as well maximizes their abilities. Until we know how McCain will solve his dilemma, a Clinton/Obama ticket makes the best sense. With Clinton in the White House and Obama as an activist Vice President in the Senate the two will be ideally placed to lead Congress to act in the nation’s interest and undo the ideological radicalization of the Gingrich/McConnell/Daschle era that has done so much to create the gridlock we now have. If such a scenario comes to pass, the first person they should bring in is John McCain as Secretary of Defense.