A talk show host once said that voting is like choosing the lesser of two evils. No one president can meet all one's needs, share with one the same exact opinions and live up to all one's expectations. Some people vote for or against candidates because of one particular issue they may hold. Others look at the big picture and vote for candidates whose values more closely resemble their own. I fall into the latter category because I see a danger in one-issue voting. For instance, my mother never voted for Republican Congressman Connie Morella because of her pro-abortion position. I told her, "yes, she may personally be pro-abortion, but overall, her values may more closely reflect your own. Not voting for her (or any other candidate) may mean that another person (whose values less reflect your own) may win the congressional seat." It makes sense, right? The Florida presidential election of 2000 is a perfect example of this – the results may have swung in Gore's favor had 300 or so Floridians voted for, in their opinion, the "lesser of two evils" instead of abstaining from voting altogether.
I chose President George W. Bush and retired Army general Wesley Clark as my top two favorite candidates. Bush seems to be the only big-name conservative candidate in the race; I doubt that the Republican presidential nomination will be seriously challenged because no one has yet come forward. Bush seems to have rallied his base in ways that Gore didn't do in 1999/2000, and Clark/Dean/Kerry/Edwards/Kuchinich/Sharpton/Leiberman/Mosely-Braun/Gephardt/et cetera haven't done yet. Howard Dean and Wesley Clark seem to have potential; the former has the campaign contribution advantage, while the latter has added appeal as a retired four-star general. Senator Joe Leiberman, despite added notoriety as Gore's running mate in 2000, will most likely not be nominated; his views are a tad bit too conservative for the Democrat party. In fact, Leiberman had to compromise some of his conservative beliefs to fit in with the Democrats. There was a time when he was pro-life and was unashamed to let his religious views govern his stance on policy issues.
Commentators can easily discount Democrat presidential candidate Wesley Clark as being a political novice, but his 34 years in military service atone for this (clark04.com). His career highlights are almost overwhelming in their magnitude. NATO Supreme Allied Commander — Commander in Chief of the United States European Command — Director for Strategic Plans and Policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff – West Point graduate – Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University — Managing Director – Merchant Banking of Stephens Group, Inc. – best-selling author – et cetera (draftwesleyclark.com). The only experience he doesn't have is serving in public office.
Clark may appeal to Republicans because of his military experience. His view of the military is not in line with conservative thought: that the purpose of a modern military is to win wars, not act as peacekeepers or nation builders. Clark, as late as 2001, praised Ronald Reagan for his influence in building up the military during the waning years of the Cold War: "...He helped our country win the Cold War. He put it behind us in a way no one ever believed would be possible. He was truly a great American leader. And those of us in the Armed Forces loved him, respected him, and tremendously admired him for his great leadership."(drudgereportarchives.com) Clark, before the 9-11 attacks, also praised the current administration for its leadership: "...and I'm very glad we've got the great team in office, men like Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice... people I know very well – our president George W. Bush. We need them there." (drudgereportarchives.com). These comments may definitely sway some conservatives, especially if Clark publicly backs up his statements.
Clark is a liberal who has flirted with the Republican party but presently has found more in common with the Democrats. Clark also felt that "[Republicans] didn't have a vision. They didn't understand what America was about. They put their interest of the party above the interest of the nation." (politicsnh.com). Clark is pro-welfare, pro-affirmative action, and believes human-induced global warming is taking place. Clark is libertarian on issues such as abortion and homosexuality but wants a ban on assault weapons. (draftwesleyclark.com ; footnote: An assault weapon can be defined as any semi-automatic weapon. This differs from assault rifles) Clark words speak louder than his actions because he has never held public office. Only time will tell if his words can materialize into a successful presidential race.
Draftclark.com contains information on where Clark stands on the issues. "Clark is an internationalist: he would live up to our treaty obligations, expand trade, expand contacts around the world, and work through international institutions by effective diplomacy." (draftclark.com) The wording is relatively vague and brief: what is meant by expand trade? Does this involve the removal of tariffs on imports, such as steel, or does this involve the expansion of a more "fair" trade? Work through international institutions could be a reference to the United Nations; and this lends one to ask: why would a retired four-star general of the US Army want to embrace the United Nations when direct US involvement in conflicts is preferred?
His impressions of the federal income tax are flawed. This June, on the television show Meet the Press, Clark talked about progressive taxation: "I thought this country was founded on a principle of progressive taxation. In other words, it's not only that the more you make, the more you give, but proportionately more..." The United States was not founded on a principle of progressive tax code; in fact, up until the 1910s, there was no federal income tax. A fair tax code would be flat, but would encourage (with tax breaks) the redistribution of wealth by voluntary means, such as donations to charities, churches, and urban programs.
Momentum seems to be shifting away from Dean and toward Clark — in the press at least. The public has yet to come around. Clark has recently been the media darling, replacing Howard Dean in that respect. He has landed key newspaper covers, such as the latest edition of Newsweek, where he is featured on the cover as the man "who believes he can defeat Bush." (Newsweek)
George W. Bush
Speaking of which, I voted for Bush in 2000 and have been mostly proud of his policy decisions as president. Bush was born in Connecticut in 1946 and grew up in Texas. He received his bachelor's degree at Yale, then followed in his famous father's footsteps and served as an F-102 fighter pilot in the Texas Air National Guard (whitehouse.gov). After earning a master's in business administration, he had a stint in the oil-drilling business, in which he was not too successful. In 1989, he became part owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, and in 1994, was elected governor of Texas (whitehouse.gov). He remained governor until announcing his presidential aspirations.
Highlights from Bush's term in office include the passage of tax cuts to improve a sinking economy, increased pay and benefits for men and women in the military (whitehouse.gov), successful wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to curb terrorism, a bi-partisan education bill, and increased prescription drug coverage for seniors. Current priorities include rebuilding Iraq, strengthening Social Security and Medicare, and by and large, handing more power to the states and local governments. In the past two years, Bush has seen sustained popularity among the people – at times it reached unprecedented levels (in the 80% and higher range). America rallied around Bush after the 9-11 attacks; only recently has his popularity waned to a more normal level (50-60%)
In publications and on talk shows, Bush has been accused of being a "big-government conservative" (National Review). Budget items such as health care, Social Security, education, and the military have seen substantial increases; the war in Iraq is getting the most negative coverage as being too costly.
Bush is pro-life, and he has a no-nonsense approach to the issue: "Every child born and unborn ought to be protected..." (issues2002.org) His position on taxes is now well-known; his recent tax cut bill reminds some of Kennedy's and Reagan's similar tax cut passages. Bush and Clark clearly disagree on drilling for oil in Alaska; Bush, in a presidential debate in October 2000 said that it is better to drill [in Alaska] than import oil from Saddam Hussein." (issues2002.org) Clark believes any oil independence we get from drilling in Alaska will be negligible and not worth the effort. Bush also differs from Clark on affirmative action: Clark is all for it; Bush want to "end [the] soft bigotry of low expectations..." that is embodied in affirmative action (issues2002.org). Bush believes it is necessary to reach out to minorities without using quotas or racial preferences.
Bush's military mission before the 9-11 attacks was to deter terrorists by using counterstrikes and counterintelligence. He meant what he said because "...[a]lready, the United States military and a great coalition of nations have liberated the people of Afghanistan from the brutal Taliban regime and denied al Qaeda its safe haven of operations. Thousands of terrorists have been captured or killed and operations have been disrupted in many countries around the world." (whitehouse.gov) The public was generally behind Bush and his mission in Iraq. A recent nationally televised speech outlining the need for nearly $90 billion more for the war effort may cost the president some public support.
Whom do I support? For lack of a better candidate, my support lies first with the president. As a young twenty-something, I have had the chance to voting in three election cycles: the 2000 presidential election and the 1998 & 2002 Congressional elections. I consider myself first and foremost a conservative and try not to identify myself by a party label. My loyalty to principle will overrule my loyalty to a political party any day. I am not impressed with the current crop of Democrat candidates, with the exceptions of Clark and Leiberman. Leiberman seems to be the most conservative of the group, yet Clark has experience in a field (military) that has traditionally been dominated by Republicans. The military card is a good play for Democrats; they desperately need credibility in that area. Compared with Bill Clinton's failure to use real force against the Taliban and bin Laden, Bush seems like the only one willing to risk himself politically by going to war.
Clark would probably be the best Democrat alternative to Bush. If he were to win, he would still have to contend with a solid Republican House majority and most likely a Senate majority as well. Leiberman would be the second best Democrat alternative. If I were Jewish, Leiberman may have my support – he appears to be the only candidate willing to express his faith openly and use it to shape policy decisions. It is an injustice that many Christian politicians would feel excluded if they behaved similarly.
While Clark's liberal views are not appealing to me, as president, he would no doubt be effective, regardless of his views or policies implementations. He comes off as a liberal version of Bill Frist, a learned man serving his country, not necessarily aspiring to be a career politician. Nevertheless, I would vote for the president if Bush and Clark were the respective nominees for their parties.
National Review (5 Oct 2003[?])
Newsweek (5 Oct 2003[?])