Monday, July 23, 2007

Debate debate

The YouTube debate on CNN tonight kicked ass. It was fast-paced, and the candidates got to cover a wide range of issues. Overall, I think the quality of the Democratic field is very high, with broad consensus on the important issues of our day. It's quite a stark contrast with part of a Republican debate I watched earlier this year, the major themes of which were 9/11, terror, 9/11, stay the course in Iraq, 9/11, fear, 9/11, surge!, 9/11, and links between Saddam and Osama.

Which video did you like best? Whom do you support? Discuss.


Blogger Qian said...

This was what, the 3rd or 4th Dems debate already? I'm not ready, damn it! At this rate in another decade or so the presidential campaign cycle will be longer than the actual term of office and we'll have people campaigning for re-election before being elected for the first time.

Anyway, so far I have positive impressions of Hillary and Obama. I read an article on Obama in the New Yorker a few weeks ago, and he seems like a rather steady, intelligent person. Hillary is a Clinton, for better and for worse. I'm pretty down on Edwards, even before the $400 haircuts. I mean, here's a guy that couldn't conclusively win a debate against Cheney. Cheney, for crying out loud! I remember watching that VP debate and thinking, hey, Cheney seems pretty genuine, down to earth. That's how awful Edwards was. If I recall correctly, Cheney went up in the polls after that debate, so it wasn't just me. Plus Edwards didn't delivery NC, so what did he add to the already weak Kerry ticket?

In the past, I've often regarded the so-called "undecideds" as the merely apathetic. But I must say that I'm so far undecided on how I'll vote come primary time. Of course the Florida primary may count for bupkis due to it being move to January (or so) over the objections of the DNC. I guess I'll just let Iowa tell us who our nominee will be and then watch Iowa not vote for him/her like in '04.

Anyhow, whichever party wins in '08 may end up a big long-term loser if Iraq blows up real bad after we pull out and it destabilizes the Middle East, leading to a spike in oil prices which in turn causes a global recession/depression. The ruling party will be so dead that we'll probably see the rise of the Whig party again.

7/24/2007 09:25:00 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

I'm actually relatively enthusiastic about the quality of both sets of front-runners. While I'd love for McCain to win it all, I'd be reasonably happy at this point with a President Obama or a President Romney (among others). There isn't one guy (or gal) that I look at an panic about the future of the free world. I'm a little concerned that Edwards doesn't look like he could buy beer without getting carded, but I suppose that isn't a deal-breaker. Of course, the bar for the minimal level of confidence has been lowered somewhat over the past few years...

I am a bit concerned that the Democrats are getting a little too detailed at this stage of the game. A hint to Ms. Clinton-- 16 months before the election, your health plan ought not require multiple volumes. No one cares, and that's just going to be fodder for the opposition in the general election. And given that there is the small obstacle of that co-equal branch of government when it comes time to actually setting health care policy, everyone knows that any bill the eventual President would support is going to look rather different than their campaign platform...

On the other hand, I'd really like to see the candidates do more to differentiate themselves and what they stand for in principle. I have to believe that if the Democrats had decided not to be afraid of looking moderately interesting in the general election, Edwards could have wiped the floor with Cheney. Edwards was a freaking trial-lawyer that was famed for his closings. Turn him lose, accept that you might lower your appeal among those looking for a totally on message automoton, and trust that he's going to inspire more folks than he turns off. Same goes in spades for Obama. Neither of those two should be bogged down in details at this stage-- they should be talking about vision and goals.

7/25/2007 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger E said...

I wish that they'd be more specific. Of course they all say they support this, that, and the other. But come budget time, we find out where their priorities really are. It would be nice to have them give us a hint before we have to vote on them. I suspect that would help differentiate them.

As far as the debate... I too was most annoyed by candidates who dodged questions. What's the point of a debate, if the candidates ignore the questions? The best part was when the questioner was in the audience and said 'well, no you didn't answer the question'. I also wish each candidate was given a chance to respond to each question. (With possible exceptions for questions that are only applicable to one candidates.)

Does anyone else find it surprising that Obama hasn't tried to spin his religious upbringing upbringing as a feature?

7/26/2007 04:04:00 AM  
Blogger Vincent said...


e wants the candidates to be more specific, and justin wants the candidates to be less so. Being specific can lead to being attacked on the specifics of a plan. On the other hand, not being specific brought us two terms of Bush the Lesser. Still, one can have the best of both worlds: Consider Edwards's tax proposal, which frames a raise of the capital gains tax in terms of the Reagan era.

Personally, the big deal breaker for me on the Republican side is that none of the candidates (other than Ron Paul) is willing to break with Bush, destroyer of the republic (irony in nomenclature, that). So long as we have an administration that denies that it is accountable to Congress or the law and a party that supports that assertion, that party will never get my vote.

Hint to justin: McCain isn't nearly so moderate as he wants you to think he is. It won't make much difference, though, since his campaign is imploding

7/28/2007 01:38:00 AM  
Blogger Justin said...

The Democrats always seem to run their primaries as if they were running for office in a parliamentary system and it always seems to come back to haunt them in the general election. If we were talking about electing the Prime Minister, I'd be cheering on long, detailed policy positions because there is a reasonable chance that those measures would pass in roughly that form should the candidates pushing them get elected. In our system, though, the chance that Hillary's two-part health plan is going to even be introduced to Congress in the first year of her term, let alone having it pass Congress in more or less the same form, is virtually nil. As a result, it seems no less meaningful to differentiate candidates based on specifics of their mythical issue proposals than on, say, their proposals for unicorn conservation.

Having the presidential candidates delving deep into specifics not only gives their Republican opponents ammunition to hit them with during the general election, it tends to magnify policy divisions within the party during the primaries, which tends to weaken whoever gets elected by ensuring that some wings of the party aren't going to support the candidate wholeheartedly. It also puts Democratic candidates for House and Senate seats in a tough position because they can often be made either to disagree with the positions of their presidential candidate or to "flip flop" on positions they held in the past.

I'd much rather get the 1 page Executive Summary of the general principles of a candidate's approach to Issue X along with a general accounting of where they would be most and least willing to compromise. Of course, even that would disadvantage whichever party was most forthcoming with voters because that would tip the balance in negotiations with the other party. At least the Executive Summary, though, would minimize the downside of giving out excessive information while still giving voters an idea about where candidates stand.

And, of course, the temporal lag between when
- detailed policy documents get written
- voters start paying attention to primaries
- primaries take place
- general election campaigns take place
- a candidate is elected
- a winner formally takes office
- the winning candidate manages to get enough functionaries appointed to start contemplating actually doing something

pretty much ensures that detailed policy documents written now aren't worth the paper they're printed on. It's going to be at least 2 years before any of these proposals could be introduced to Congress-- the facts on the ground will almost certainly have changed by then.

Vincent, as a political matter, do you really expect a serious candidate for the Republican nomination to come out and say to people that have likely voted for Bush four consecutive times (two primaries and two generals) that they elected a moron that has screwed up everything he's touched? That would not go over too well with the Republican primary voters and would tend to ensure a maximum of infighting as people try to parse out who knew what when in order to vote to support some policy that Bush later interpreted in an "interesting" manner. There is a reason that only a longshot candidate is taking that position.

As for McCain, while I'm hard pressed to come up with any issue on which I totally agree with his position, I'm more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because he's shown that he's willing to stand up for politically unpopular proposals until he can convince other people to follow him and that he's willing to compromise on other issues in the name of political expediency. If you're capable of doing those two things, and you're not a total moron, I tend to think you've got a decent shot at being a good president.

7/30/2007 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Vincent said...

For the record, yes, I think there's a market out there for a Republican candidate who will disavow the egregious disaster that we call the Bush years.

Approximately 1/3 of Republicans, and a much larger fraction of independents, are fed up with Bush's brand of Republicanism. We currently have 8 or so candidates trying to outdo each other in sucking up to Bush and Bushism to win a big fraction of that 2/3 of Republicans (who only constitute 30-31% of the country). Is it any wonder why so many Republicans are disenchanted with their Presidential field?

The only candidate on the R side trying to get the anti-Bush vote is Ron Paul, who is such an anarchical libertarian that he makes Gravel and Kucinich look mainstream on the other side. A reasonable candidate who aimed for the anti-Bush vote could easily propel himself to the 20% mark in the polls quickly, which immediately would make him top tier.

Most importantly, Republicans like to back a winner. The Republican brand is so tainted that anyone who tacks far enough to the right to win the nomination from the 2/3 who still support Bush will likely lose the general election. A moderate Republican who isn't living out in Bill O'Reilly's la-la alternate reality land may win over enough of the independents to make the general election competitive. As it is now, extreme Republicanism have caused self-identifying independents (33-38% of the public) to support the Democrats in overwhelming numbers (often 2 to 1). No Republican can win without peeling votes off of the Indycrat coalition.

7/30/2007 11:33:00 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

There's a huge difference, though, between coming out as explicitly anti-Bush and being sufficiently non-committal to ensure that they can paint themselves as reasonably moderate come the general election. While I'm sure that a rabidly and explicitly anti-Bush candidate could get up to 20% in the polls (assuming he had some reasonably electable profile), I can't see that candidate doing well in the Iowa caucus or in South Carolina. He'd be repeating the McCain 2000 trajectory-- losing Iowa, hoping to pull off the upset in New Hampshire, then getting his brains beaten in down South before trying to rally for Super Tuesday. Since we haven't enjoyed 8 years of President McCain, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that strategy isn't going to be hugely appealing this time around.

The folks that come out and vote in Iowa and South Carolina's republican primaries either support Bush or think that he's made some mistakes but is by and large a good President.

From a cynical perspective, the fact that the general election is 16 months out pretty much ensures that whatever the eventual nominee needs to do to tack right now will be forgotten by the time Election Day arrives. Heck, it's freaking traditional to visit Bob Jones University, something I guarantee no serious candidate would do within 6 months of the election. Unless they get caught on film burning the American flag, performing a human sacrifice, or injecting drugs, nothing a candidate does in the primaries has any bearing on their electability in the general election.

I think you're also vastly overestimating the power of the Republican (or Democratic) brand. While it's useful when you're talking in generalities, Americans vote for the person, not the party, when we're looking at the Presidential election. The Democratic brand, plus a pretty good economy and a reasonably popular outgoing President wasn't enough to get Gore elected in 2000. The Republican brand wasn't bad enough in 2004 to get Bush defeated then. I can't see that whoever the Republicans nominate, assuming he is vaguely competent at distancing himself from Bush's failures in the general election, is going to get hit with a whole lot of carryover because of the little R next to his name. Since the Democratic candidate is going to have to live with getting tied to Pelosi and, very likely, is going to get forced to vote on a variety of wedge bills in the Senate, I wouldn't count on a lot of "brand" votes.

7/31/2007 03:09:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home