Run For President, Lose Your Soul

What is it about running for President that turns normally brave people into lily-livered cowards?

As expected, the senate voted overwhelmingly to continue to fund the troops without any surrender poison pill. The vote was 80-14. That means even many democrats decided that abandoning our troops was wrong. Yet Presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama decided that Al Queda was less threatening to their future than those good folks at, who seem unable to move on past the 2000 election.

Make no mistake about it. This was not a vote based on principle. It was a vote based on fear…fear of losing an election. This is why John Edwards has gone from being a uniter in 2004 to a raging populist in 2008, a handsomer less angry version of Howard Dean.

In 2002, the democrats voted overwhelmingly against the Iraq War. Yet John Kerry, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton all voted for it. This was strategy at its finest. Now some might say it is unfair of me to criticize them for voting yes and for voting no, meaning they cannot win either way. Wrong. I am criticizing them for using polls to determine what to believe. They learned that in 1992. Sam Nunn saw his Presidential aspirations collapse by voting no on the first Gulf War. Al Gore and Bill Clinton learned from his mistake. This cynicism was highlighted perfectly in the 2004 Vice Presidential debate when Dick Cheney asked John Edwards “How can you stand up to Al Queda when you can’t even stand up to the Howard Dean voters?” Edwards did not recover from that blow.

By trying to be all things to all people, one risks losing everyone. President Bush won two elections by telling people exactly who he was, what he believed, what he was going to do, and then doing it.

It is not just the Iraq war that turns politicians into pretzels. Abortion seems to take pro-life democrats like Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Jesse Jackson, and get them to become pro-choice. The reverse journey happened to George HW Bush, Mitt Romney, and others on the right. Yes, sincere conversions are possible, but the timing of these conversions can create a lot of suspicion, often justified.

Rudy Giuliani is handling the abortion issue perfectly, after some initial stumbles. His first option would have been to become pro-life. He didn’t. The second option would have been to denounce the Christian right, which has not benefited John McCain, Arlen Specter, or anyone else trying to win a republican primary. What Rudy Giuliani understands is that many Christian Coalition members will forgive disagreements on issues such as abortion as long as they are treated with the same respect and dignity that all other human beings want. He can be pro-choice without calling them zealots. Time will tell, but by sticking to his principles while respecting those with opposing principles, he is succeeding in a way that he could not if he merely became pro-life. Contrary to popular liberal opinion, Christian conservatives are not imbeciles. They can spot a “pander bear” when they see one. The late Paul Tsongas referred to Bill Clinton as a pander bear, and he was right.

John Kerry is a particularly troubling example. Here is a man who claims to be unafraid of taking bullets in combat, but yet he was terrified of the voters. He was proud of being a war hero, and he was also proud of being an anti-war protester. This incomprehensible and contradictory position on a defining issue rightly painted him as a flip-flopper.

Some would say that this strategy of pleasing everyone can work, and Bill Clinton is proof of this. While Clinton did win in 1992, he had made so many promises to so many people that he was unable to govern, and the democratic coalition cracked under the 1994 republican revolution and Newt Gingrich. The last six years of the Clinton Presidency will be remembered for its unwillingness to actually do anything. In a world where famous politicians have legislation or ideas named after them, such as Reaganomics, Pell Grants, Roth IRAs, and the Bush Doctrine, can anyone name anything significant that was specifically because of anything Bill Clinton said or did? The argument that he let others take credit is laughable and a nonstarter for our oxygen sucking ex-president.

The bottom line, is some people want to “be President.” Others want to actually “do things.” In some cases, these things are bold and world changing. To do bold changing things, you have to risk ticking some people off. It is one thing to compromise and cut deals to pass legislation. It is another to compromise the core of who you are to try and add a few more wingnuts to your coalition.

Bill Clinton had his Sister Souljah moment. Rudy Giuliani is refusing to back down on his abortion position. John McCain is refusing to back down on torture or campaign finance reform. I happen to fiercely disagree with McCain on both of those issues. I think he is wrong. However, I have the utmost respect for his willingness to take a position that is against what many republicans believe. He is also doing so in a respectful manner (although his temper is legendary), proving he learned from his mistakes in 2000.

The bottom line is Rudy Giuliani and John McCain will be able to look in the mirror, as George W. Bush does, and realize that they became President the right way. John McCain has said that he would rather lose an election than lose a war. These are men that are comfortable in their own skin. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards refuse to allow themselves to let people see who they are and what they believe. They are afraid of the voters. Can they win? Sure. Anything is possible. However, what is the point of winning the White House if it comes at the price of losing one’s soul? Why achieve power if one is unable to govern?

The answer is because for some pretzel twisted politicians who are for and against every controversial issue, power is the end, and not the means. At this stage in history, the democrats running for President are running from themselves, and losing their souls by the day. They are followers. Thankfully the top republicans running are more concerned with the War on Terror. They are leaders.


No Responses to “Run For President, Lose Your Soul”

  1. wil says:

    Good post. And very good comment on how tone and demeanor in disagreement matters. That has been the hardest thing on the immigration issue, it is all taken so personally, that no matter what side you come down on, the discussion gets very nasty and disrespectful. If we aren’t careful, this is an issue that could rip the party apart. Just like the war has so nearly ripped the country apart.

  2. Kid Neutron says:

    Nice post. I’m dissapointed it took me 4 months to find it. I disagree with McCain often – but I’ve always respected him. There is something about the “Career” in career politician that we could all do with less of. And I also agree that Immigration, Race, and the War on Terror will continue to be topics that need careful attention to tone, demeanor, and tact or the challenges will turn even more challenging.

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