Here it is. Today marks the beginning of the 2008 Presidential Election season, just days into the new year. For the next ten months, it's all insanity, as the country's biggest reality show gets under way.
Today, the horse-trading that is the 2008 Iowa Caucuses takes place.
Eight Democrats and seven Republicans (not counting the really obscure people who've filed) are fighting to be your next president. But the question needs to be asked: Who to support this time around?
Early on, the people I really would have been really excited to vote for dropped by the wayside. Russ Feingold, the great Wisconsin Senator and perhaps one of the few honest voices in Congress, played with the idea of running before bowing out. Same with Al Gore, who I felt would have been a shoo-in. I guess he got tired of the lunacy and felt he could make a bigger impact outside the D.C. scene. He's probably smart to do so.
Alas, I was left without a candidate. The slate of candidates didn't impress me much. The same old faces, political hacks, boring politicians and the like. I tried to like them, but deep down wasn't overly impressed.
Instantly, I ruled out any of the Republicans running. Hell, many Republicans have already ruled out these turkeys. Let's face it, the GOP slate is beyond embarassing. There's Rudy Giuliani, who made millions of dollars in the past few years walking over the corpses of thousands of dead people in New York. There's Mitt Romney and his Stepford creepiness and lack of conviction. There's washed-up actor Fred Thompson and his curtain-wearing wife. There's the completely neutered John McCain, who lost whatever so-called 'maverick' status he had when he publicly hugged President Bush, who 's campaign in 2000 tormented him more than any Vietnamese POW camp ever could. And there's the phony, hypocritical, racist and just plain stupid Mike Huckabee, who has his very own Willie Horton scandal waiting in the wings. Duncan Hunter? Please. The only guy with anything remotely resembling a soul on that slate is Ron Paul, and the GOP establishment is doing everything in their power to crush him, lest he shows how bad those other clowns really are. Still, Paul is just another conservative hack trying to dig up Reagan's bones.
So, my choice would obviously have to be a Democrat. And I will say, once I came out of Feingold/Gore withdrawal, some of the remains became more and more attractive. But I had to whittle it all down, via process of elimination, to get to my desired candidate.
My personal criteria is based around character. Do they have what it takes to get things done? To be fair? To actually stand behind their pledges? To avoid the usual capitol cronyism? Stances are one thing, having the ability to get it done is another. And most of all, the ability to win. Even with the awful GOP slate this year, it's still not in the bag. After all, we are talking about the Democratic party here. But who's got what it takes to earn my own vote? I'll go through the list and eliminate them, reality TV-style.
Automatically crossed off the list from the get-go was Hillary Clinton. Never much cared for her, since she's basically a shrill corporate hack who seems merely to do the bidding for any lobbyists or corporations that throw money at her. One can only look at her health care proposals to see proof of that. She's an establishment suck-up with a snotty personality and there's no way I'd vote for her, regardless of how much I like her husband (Telecom bill and NAFTA aside). In addition, as tough as she may be, she'd get shredded in the general election, since many people, from the left, the right and the center absolutely hate her guts. I know the GOP slate is butt-ugly, but do we really want to drive people over to that side? In addition, with all this back-and-forth Bush-Clinton-Bush dynasty building, it's time for a fresh face. I also feel this country is ready for a female president. Actually, I think it's the swift kick in the ass we all need. However, Hillary Clinton is not that woman, and if she is indeed the eventual nominee, I will go into the voting booth with nose held as I cast my vote for her. I just hope it doesn't get to that point. I would only delight in voting for her as a way to piss off Clinton-hating conservatives.
Next off the list was New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. I used to like him, thinking he was a reasonable sort. Then he had some cockamamie idea about stealing water from the Great Lakes to quench the thirst of the parched and overcrowded Southwest. As a resident of a Great Lakes state, I was appalled. Why the hell should our lakes be drained and our water be diverted to a section of the country where millions of people move to, knowing full well there's hardly any water there to begin with? We have to put up with high humidity all summer and bitter cold and insane amounts of snow all winter, just so we don't have to worry about water (we got tons, thank you). What are Southwesterners doing to sacrifice? Don't get me wrong, I'd love to live in a place like New Mexico. It's a beautiful state. But I'd know full well of the shortcomings before migrating. Richardson backed off his water statement soon after he made it, but let's be real - we know where he's coming from. No soup for you, Bill. And no water either.
I like former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, even though nobody else seems to. He's a take-no-shit type of guy. Unfortunately, he's the DNC version of Ron Paul, in that, like the GOP's continuous snubbing of the only Republican candidate with something resembling a soul, he's been totally brushed aside from the Democratic establishment. Are they trying to simplify things? Is it all just a popularity club? Probably. But the truth remains - Gravel has no chance. I doubt he'll even be around when the road show comes to my state. So Gravel goes.
Like Gravel, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich is also an outsider. The DNC seems to merely tolerate him at these presidential debates and such. He's the token rabble-rouser in this. I like Kucinich a lot. Of all the online candidate selection polls I've taken, Kucinich has been at the top or near the top. To top it off, our country needs a First Lady with a tongue piercing, ala his wife Elizabeth. As Bill Maher once said in his 'New Rules," whoever wins must appoint Mrs. Kucinich first lady. However, Mr. Kucinich, though a great guy with great convictions, doesn't seem like the same candidate from four years ago. He's much more bitter this time, is prone to too much grandstanding, and while he's got all the right ideas, I honestly don't think he'd make a good president. Besides, he'd be much more effective where he is right now.
Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd has been saying all the right things as of late. He's been pretty effective at standing up to the GOP. But where's he been all these years? To me, he's just another boring politician who's been part of the D.C. culture way too long. Incredibly boring centrist candidate, but unlike friend and Connecticut cohort Joe Lieberman, he isn't an asshole. Unfortunately, he's not my top choice for nominee. Sorry Chris, the tribe has spoken. You're off the island.
Another long-time beltway guy is Joe Biden. I have started to like Biden more. He's a hardass of sorts, and is probably best qualified on international issues. He even looks like a president - very tough-guy, confident alpha male. That helps in a general election. If he were to be the nominee, he'd have a strong chance of attracting Republicans and undecideds. I would have no problem with Biden as the nominee. The only turnoff in my book is that he's too much of an insider, and still smarting from the whole John Kerry thing the last time around, he doesn't excite me enough. Still, if he were to get the overall nod, I'd be proud to support him. For now, though, he's off my island.
Illinois Senator Barack Obama was the wonderboy of 2004, a man prone to giving electrifying off-the-cuff speeches and saying the right things. I wish the Barack Obama of 2004 were running, as opposed to this conceited, mean-spirited 2008 version. Four years ago, he was channelling JFK. Now he's channelling Hillary Clinton. Prone to cheap shots directed toward the other candidates, which sound overly petty. His inexperience will crush him if he were to get the nomination, even against weak GOP competition. I have no problem with an African-American president. We need one, badly. Though the Bible Belt might be a bit scared of him. I think his story is a great one. Too mean and too mistake prone, I just can't support Obama this time around. Perhaps in 4-8 years or so, he'll be a bit more mature and confident.
And that leaves one man. And this is a choice that I've warmed up to, so much that I'd be proud to vote for him and think that he'd make a great president. Granted, I was still smarting from the unsuccessful 2004 Democratic slate of John Kerry and John Edwards. Over time, I realized that they would have fared better if the ticket were reversed. Edwards came back swinging this time around, having learned valuable lessons from the last time around. This time, he waged an aggressive and positive underdog campaign. He reached out to the common people, without all the flash and high-profile celebrities thrown about by top-tier candidates Clinton and Obama. Instead, he hit mostly small towns and tight crowds with a confident populist message. And he's mostly stayed away from the Clinton/Obama mudslinging, choosing to let them fight it out. This is all cunning strategy, and could help him down the road. Some have even picked him to be the sleeper candidate once the primary season starts, as Kerry was four years ago. In hypothetical matchups with top Republican candidates, Edwards fared well. I honestly think he's got the ability to sway Republican and undecided votes.
On top of that, Edwards has little baggage. After running the Helms/Rove gauntlets in years past, the worst they could do to him was to make fun of his hair. In an election featuring the robotic Mitt Romney, who in the words of writer William Rivers Pitt, "combs his hair with sticks of butter," that isn't much.
My choice has been made. I'm proud as heck to cast my primary vote for John Reid Edwards in 2008.
Now, let's quarterback this whole thing. Who will escape Iowa and the rest unscathed? Who will be the top dogs for each side? Of the 15 major candidates, who will rise above all? I actually see Clinton and Obama bombing each other into oblivion, with Edwards rising as the victor. For the Republicans, their sorry slate is a complete toss-up. Whenever yet another faux golden boy rises to the top, they do something stupid or some big dark secret comes up that knocks them back down. Giuliani, Romney, McCain, Thompson and Huckabee have all had their fifteen minutes of fame, but dropped nearly out of site. After all this back-and-forth is all done, I predict Mitt Romney will come out on top for the GOP.
In the general election, Edwards will crush Romney.
Since I'm currently wearing my Miss Cleo cap, I'll also go out on a limb and pick the New England Patriots to crush the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLII.
In the comments below, I'll open up discussion for you. Give me these three:
1. Your personal candidate choice.
2. Your prediction for both Democratic and Republican nominee, and eventual victor.
3. Your Super Bowl pick.
Let's see how we all fare.