I had a serious US Presidential Elections '08 research binge and watched both party debates on CNN so as to develop a firmer view of what each candidate, Democrat and Republican, has in mind for their country.
Given the unpopularity of Bush I would have thought it'd be the Republicans who'd be infighting over new directions, but it was the Democrats who starting tearing chunks out of each other. A rather rambunctious and petulant John Edwards got busy point scoring over Clinton and Obama whilst trying to make the former piggy in the middle by heaping praise on the latter whenever it suited - bait Obama happily hooked onto amidst his surprisingly lacklustre performance. Of them all the two who came across professionally were Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden and of them the only one to come across Presidential was Hillary.
Not to be swayed solely by a single debate I have given more thought to the value of the return of the Clintons to the White House. So often we hear of elder statesmen flitting around the world spearheading new philanthropic initiatives, trying to spend whatever political capital they've saved in the uncomfortable knowledge their tenure didn't solve half as much as they'd promised or hoped. Well a win in 2008 would give Madame President and First Gentleman Clinton a second chance to do the business. They’d have a whole load more capital to spend and the investment knowledge to do it profitably.
One thing that came across very clearly in the debates was the Democrat’s lack of a synthesized coherent 21st century worldview – the foreign policies of most candidates seems to consist solely of hysterical populist rants against Bush and the war. With her credentials and experience Hillary would no doubt manage America’s international relations in a smooth and pragmatic manner, but I do not sense any wider global vision of America’s role, a sense of manifest destiny in spreading freedom or the like. On the other hand the Republican’s main candidates, neatly labelled by the vile Tommy Thompson as Rudy McRomney, seem acutely aware and willing to work past the shortcomings of the Bush administration whilst not abandoning commitment to a global vision.
The parties have switched places – the Democrats are now the isolationists and want to see America as a self-contained nation in a multilateral world whereas the Republicans see America as the beacon of liberty in a world still in large part under undemocratic shadows of tyranny. However, the methodology of Rudy McRomney offers a more intelligent approach than their predecessor. Romney talks about failed opportunities for political engagement and the need to invest more into building the political environment to facilitate the spread of liberty. On which note McCain introduces the concept of a ‘League of Democracies’ into the mainstream – a streamlined version of the stillborn Community of Democracies binding liberal democratic nations into acting in the group interest under their guiding principles. Giuliani talks about transforming the US military into a nation building force with the resources, know how and administrative support to manage transitions to liberty, citing the lack of statistics, targets and programs for infrastructure and economy in present day Iraq. They all agree the post-war effort was badly mismanaged, they all agree Bush’s handling of the economy contributed heavily to the defeats in 2006. As one of the other candidates put it "if you’re going to elect people to spend more, you vote for the party of professional spenders", namely the Democrats. Republicans should stick to their fiscal traditions and put heart and soul into developing community based welfare solutions.
I expect the Republican ticket will be ‘Rudy - Romney 08’. I would vote for them, though I don’t think a Clinton administration would be disastrous.