Salon.com asked me to join a number of other writers and bloggers to comment on the qualities we liked and didn’t in the various candidates and to disclose who we thought looked best from our vantage point before the Iowa Caucuses. I feel badly today because I actually told them I’d do it — and then kept deleting about a dozen versions of the 250 word mini-essays I had written.
I never filed the response that would have been an attempt to talk about the Hagelesque “hybrid candidate” rather than any of the candidates we were being forced to choose between. I eventually posted this on my own blog that sort of went that direction.
As I’ve written many times on this blog and elsewhere, only Senator Chuck Hagel’s approach to foreign policy seemed to match my own thinking, and he’s not running. Senator Biden came closest to Hagel’s approach but never got enough traction in his campaign efforts.
Unlike Bill Bennett, I am not predetermined in any of the candidates’ favor and just faking it when I write. I have more criticism and applause in store for Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and John McCain.
I add the last two candidates — because there are things in the portfolios of McCain and Romney that I do like. And after Tuesday, I’ll specify more about the qualities and views in the approaches of those still standing.
Overall, I’m tilting Democratic only because I think it’s important for the country to have a political shift — but not because I’m an automatic Democrat. I’m not. In fact, I’m quite disappointed in the complicity of the Democratic Party in many of our problems today and the lack of leadership in setting an exit strategy from today’s domestic and international foreign policy and economic quagmires.
But I just want to say for the record that if I post something that disturbs me about Obama’s profile, or Hillary Clinton’s, I’m not doing so as an agent for either. They both have qualities and positions I can support — but there is a great deal of uncertainty I have about both.
Fareed Zakaria has a great piece out today on something I’ve been writing about for ages — Barack Obama’s approach to US-Cuba policy. I agree with Zakaria that Obama was able to get out of the standard grooves on the US-Cuba issue, but he hasn’t used the same out of the box approach in his commentary on the Middle East. That has bothered me.
Obama has given speeches that seem to throw every foreign policy challenge from Darfur to engaging bad guys to climate change to dealing with Russia in a roster of equal challenges. I don’t see a sense of priority or an understanding of trade-offs consistent with the brilliant framing Obama applied to US-Cuba relations.
Hillary Clinton too has been holding on to many incrementalist grooves in foreign policy and national security that are very disconcerting and that, in my view, promise disaster if we continue down our current path. She supports “coercive diplomacy,” as she said in the Los Angeles debate the other night. But America’s abilities to coerce are evaporating and are not as credible any longer. There must be a new approach — and we aren’t yet hearing it from her.
So, just for the record — so that all of you can stop guessing — I’m not comfortable disclosing affinity for any of the candidates yet.
They need to work harder to get my support — and none has met my standard.
If forced to vote today, I’d write in Chuck Hagel, Joe Biden, Lincoln Chafee (on no one’s list — but I like him), or Chris Dodd.
I’ve got some positive and negative comments coming about some things I have learned about Obama and Clinton. Rather than just chasing the ethereal stuff, I’ve been doing some research into their foreign policy positions.
More on that later.
— Steve Clemons