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Candid Comments Concerning the Candidates
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. 2/1/08

As I’ve said before, this presidential campaign is way too long. By now, voters know where the candidates say they stand on the key issues. Having run out of substantive things to say about the issues, they have largely descended to saying unflattering things about each other. The focus shifts from constructive debate to searching for weaknesses in their opponents to exploit. There are plenty, of course, but it gets tiresome hearing them endlessly repeated.

With Super Tuesday upon us, many Americans are still undecided on whom to support for their party’s nomination, so let me offer an interim assessment. At this writing, at least, both party nominations are still open and world or domestic events or a major misstep by a candidate could still influence the outcome.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

The contest for the elephant party’s nomination has thus far been comparatively cordial with candidates falling all over each other to express the utmost respect for each other. They probably don’t entirely mean all those nice things they say but it creates a sense of dignity and party unity. The candidates for the donkey party nomination, on the other hand, have not displayed much cordiality toward one another, with the possible exception of John Edwards who since has dropped out. He may fill a role as kingmaker and end up as a VP candidate again even though he says he won’t take second prize. Don’t believe him. The last Democratic debate turned into a food fight between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton with Edwards looking on bemused. Race got injected into the rivalry thanks largely to the heavy-handed tactics of Senator Clinton’s chief supporter who is campaigning aggressively for the office of First Spouse, entailing duties yet to be defined but frightening to contemplate.

I haven’t decided who to back for the most powerful office in the world but it certainly won’t be one of the aforementioned Democratic hopefuls. My choice will be guided by two principle concerns, to wit: (1) the threat of Islamic terrorism and (2) the advantage that executive experience brings to the job. Governing the world’s most complex entity, largest economy and only superpower requires highly developed and demonstrated leadership and management skills, intelligence, judgment and maturity. These things, I believe, are best demonstrated by actually successfully running a large government enterprise like a state or major city. Experience in a legislature provides great background in how committees work, legislation is crafted and funds are authorized and allocated but it provides precious little executive experience in running complex organizations like the United States of America.

Charisma and communications skills certainly help but they aren’t enough. If they were, I’d back Barack Obama all the way. But for all his charm and oratory skills, how can anyone argue that it can make up for his lack of experience in running anything? I suggest that he run for governor of Illinois before tackling the presidency. Yes, I know that John F. Kennedy, with whom he is often compared, lacked executive experience also but I didn’t vote for him either.

Sen. Clinton claims to have eight years of experience in the White House. So does the White House chef. By that standard, my wife has thirty years of experience as a naval officer. The only responsibility that I recall being given her beyond the usual protocol and social functions was to sell the nation on HilaryCare and we all know what a smashing success that was. As a senator, she has spent much of her time running for president.

On the Republican side, the three candidates that met my executive experience criterion were Governors Romney and Huckabee and Mayor Giuliani. Mr. Giuliani’s poorly- managed campaign bit the dust and soon also will Mr. Huckabee’s. Giuliani threw his support to Sen. John McCain who has emerged as a heavy favorite to win the nomination. Giuliani would be an appropriate running mate for him since they are both mavericks and moderates pretending to be loyal conservatives. Huckabee will probably throw his support to Romney if Romney hangs in there and would be an appropriate running mate since they are both born-again conservatives who once were liberal governors.

I personally lean toward Romney who combines experience as a governor with business acumen. He also talks and acts presidential and exudes confidence and composure. Sen. McCain, however, would be the stronger candidate in the showdown against either Clinton or Obama. He comes across as the most authentic and the strongest on defense. He is not my personal favorite because of his past posture on illegal immigration, taxes, interrogation and Guantanamo, but he is the Republicans’ best hope. Therefore, the conservative talk show hosts ought to get used to his candidacy and lay off the attacks or they may have only themselves to blame if they end up with an incurably liberal, tax-and-spend Democrat like Clinton (both of them) or Obama in the White House. CRO

copyright 2008 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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