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Oglesby: In this election, experience counts

POSTED: March 18, 2008 5:00 a.m.

This is my last column before the day of actual voting in the presidential preferential primaries. To meet deadlines, it’s written before the South Carolina and some other important primaries. By the time you’re reading this, many may already have voted. I’d promised the results of my pre-vote winnowing of candidates for both parties.

This is premised on my strong belief each party ought to nominate its candidate best equipped to enact its agenda according to their philosophies of government. That equipment includes abilities to recognize problems, articulate proposed solutions, motivate to reach principled compromise to solve at least part of those problems, and have experience demonstrating actual accomplishment of such. Only then can the country select the course its electoral majority wants to follow. I narrowed it to my top three in each party.

Democrats first. A surprise to many, my top three are: (1) Clinton, (2) Clinton and (3) Clinton, by the simple process of elimination.

Barack Obama is the most charismatic in either party, the best orator and may be the most inspiring. He’s a definite comer. The key word here is "comer." He’s simply not yet ready for the presidency. He’s long on rhetoric, short on substance and experience.

The reality is, rightly or wrongly, we are in Iraq, and to defeat terrorism we must prevail on Iraq. The fact Obama says he’s been against the war from the start is not a qualification for solving the existing problem, the most important issue in this election. A first-term senator with no foreign policy experience, he has no executive experience. We’ve had lightweight presidents before and certainly don’t need one now.

John Edwards is technically more qualified than Obama but is defined by much of the liberal media and establishment as the "true believer" of the basic Democratic philosopher of heavy governmental involvement in everything, not limited government. That inevitably leads to more expense, more tax and massive wealth transfer. While he’s true to that philosophy, he’s been all over the map on most other issues, including Iraq and terror.

That leaves only Clinton, and the only reason I list her is I believe she’s the most right on Iraq and terror, our most important problem. I couldn’t vote for her because she’s even more of a big government, big taxation, income-transferring believer than Edwards or Obama. She’s right on one issue, wrong on all others.

Were she to win the general election, I’d hope and pray she succeeds on Iraq, that the GOP retains enough congressional power to temper her inevitable efforts to further involve government, and that no Supreme Court vacancies occur on her watch.

Now to Republicans. As of this writing and subject to change, my top three preferences are: (1) McCain, (2) Romney, (3) Giuliani.

That leaves Huckabee out. I like his Christian credentials, but we’re electing a president of all Americans of all faiths and without faith. He has no foreign policy experience. His executive branch experience reeks of big government tendencies and taxation. He’s so far been what I consider weak on Iraq. While far more acceptable than Clinton, he trails the first three Republicans.

Giuliani has executive experience, was an accomplished federal prosecutor and proved leadership and motivational abilities in 9-11’s aftermath, trailing only McCain in straight talk.

Romney comes in a strong second with successful executive branch experience and an excellent business resume. I don’t subscribe to his religion, but believe he would execute our laws faithfully even if against those beliefs.

His biggest void is foreign policy. He is a proven conservative. His numerous position changes cause some worry, though they, as with the others, could be a natural maturation process we all go through or a principled pragmatic compromise or change of course to accomplish a realistic doable good. Representative government is the art of compromise.

I was only half kidding when I wrote in my last column of my dream ticket of McCain and Joe Lieberman. Lieberman as a running mate is probably totally unrealistic in this real world. I do believe such a ticket could have the best chance to actually solve real problems with workable solutions, abandoning the partisan gridlock that has crippled us so long and expensively.

McCain is a known party maverick with a record of dumping partisanship in favor of real solutions. He is most right on Iraq of all candidates of all parties and has legislative and foreign policy credentials with a solid military record. With the right running mate, I believe he would be the most electable GOP candidate if he could get the nomination. I have some doubt on that because I’m not convinced the hard right is willing to accept anyone failing to meet its litmus tests.

If at the convention he hasn’t proven he can count on them, I’ll pragmatically be satisfied with the next best. We can’t afford continued gridlock or another Democratic administration with no better than offered.

Ted Oglesby is retired opinion page editor. Reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503. Originally published Jan. 22, 2008.




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