Who should be our next President?
By Steve Kirsch
Some people tell me that they want to wait to make a decision on who to support in the primary. I think that's wrong.
My experience has been that if you look at what the candidates did prior to the start of the primaries as well as early in the primaries, you'll get the most accurate picture of how they will perform in office if elected. The closer you get to the primary, the more useless and noisy the data. For example, before the election in 2000, I correctly predicted Bush would twist facts, ignore science and reason. Few believed that then. Of course, everyone believes it now. My accurate prediction was all based on his actions prior to 2000; you simply could not have made that prediction based on what he said and did just prior to being elected.
The same is true here. If you want to determine who you should vote for, look closely at the evidence that is available to you right now...it is unambiguous, consistent, and more accurate than data you will get closer to the election.
Others I know say they are sitting on the sidelines for a while. But that is not what our democracy is all about. If we are happy of how things have been going, it's probably OK to sit on the sidelines. If you are not happy with the war in Iraq, our (lack of) progress on global warming, then sitting back doesn't make a lot of sense unless you believe that other people are better informed and smarter than you are or you believe that there are no differences between the candidates.
Ultimately, to summarize the months of research I did, I ended up concluding Edwards was the best choice. My three top reasons were:
In early May 2007, I was an undecided voter. The one thing I was sure about is that, because global warming requires us to act immediately, this election is critical to the future of our country, more so than any other election in our history. So I spent almost a month doing research on the top 3 Democratic candidates since none of the Republican candidates had a viable position on global warming. What I found surprised me; I found that my choice in the primary mattered. We cannot just elect "any Democrat" because only one of the top three candidates has clearly demonstrated, time and time again, the leadership ability required to tackle the big problems that must be solved now. History has shown that what you see before the election is always better than what happens after the election, i.e., if you aren't thrilled with your candidate before the election, you are going to be very disappointed after the election.
Ultimately this race comes down to one word: leadership. We need leadership to get out of Iraq. We need very strong leadership to solve global warming. We need leadership to solve our domestic issues such as health care.
The evidence I found was both clear and consistent. Throughout this campaign, only Edwards has consistently demonstrated the strong leadership skills our country needs. I found that Clinton and Obama have not. In general, they have refused to take strong positions on the top issues, they have been followers on the top issues, they have failed to speak out and express their opinions on some of the top issues facing our country, and they have not asked others to follow them on key issues. These are key leadership traits that are all lacking when I looked at their actions on Iraq and global warming. I documented many clear examples of all of this in the full analysis. I've included one such example below. It is evidence that is hard to ignore.
Edwards was also the most electable based on polling info in the battleground states (which is the only polling that matters).
If I could describe each candidate in just two words, here's what I'd use:
Example #1: Rating the candidates on their leadership in getting us out of Iraq
Nothing demonstrated the disparity in leadership abilities to me more clearly than how the candidates handled the Senate's Iraq "blank check" funding vote on May 24, 2007. We all want out of Iraq. All the Democratic candidates say they want out of Iraq. But I'm on all three candidates' mailing lists and I can summarize the emails they sent to their supporters after Bush vetoed the original "end the war" bill on May 1. This was the critical time for Congress to make a key decision: stand firm or cave. As you look at the lists, ask yourself who was the leader here: Who took a courageous stand to demand that Congress force President Bush to end the war? Who asked others to support that stand by putting pressure on Congress? It's a tough call...look at each list closely. I swear, I am not making this up.
Making matters even worse is that Obama and Clinton did not announce which way they would vote on the "blank check" Iraq bill before they voted. What was the point of that? Why didn't they do what Edwards did: announce his position and try to get others to join with him and help the cause? Instead, Clinton and Obama remained silent on Iraq until the vote was all over. Do you think that was an effective strategy to convince other lawmakers to vote No? Of course not. The only thing that moves lawmakers is hearing from their constituents and if Obama and Clinton really wanted to end the war, they would have done exactly what Edwards, MoveOn, and others did: ask people to call their representatives and tell them to vote No before the vote.
Remaining silent until after the Iraq vote was over is not the kind of leadership this country needs. That kind of "leadership" will not get us out of Iraq. That kind of leadership will not solve global warming. And they had no excuse for not leading. They had the opportunity. But they did nothing to encourage people to call Congress to urge them to stand up to Bush. They chose not to speak out and let people know their opinion until it was all over. They voted last; after they could see how everyone else voted. After the vote, I asked Senator Clinton why she did not speak out on the issue beforehand and she said she wanted to avoid a media frenzy. I think that's a perfectly reasonable position for a Senator to take. I also applaud her for her candor and honesty. But a leader would do the opposite: a leader would capitalize on the media attention to get his/her message out to the broadest possible audience so we can end this war and bring our troops home. It's not an easy transition to make. If it was easy, she'd be there. She isn't yet (there are other examples in the full analysis).
Ask yourself this question:
By contrast, Edwards made his position clear from the start, he ran newspaper ads, he ran TV ads, and he even asked his supporters (multiple times) to urge their Representatives not to send Bush a blank check that would extend this war without bound. Some people told me, "oh, that's because it's different if you aren't in the Senate and don't have to vote." But that logic is untrue as on other votes, Clinton and Obama have made their positions known before the vote. And on the votes where Clinton and Obama didn't make their position known before the vote, other Presidential candidates who are also in the Senate did.
This Washington Post article summed up Clinton's position pretty nicely: "in Clinton's case, she is dead center in American public opinion, foursquare for what's popular and courageously opposed to what's not." In short, she follows public opinion, she doesn't lead it. This seemingly "safe" strategy is a loser; former California Governor Gray Davis religiously followed public opinion; he was the only governor in California history to be recalled. This Huffington Post article points out A New Poll Suggests That Play-It-Safe 'Centrists' Are Weakening the Democratic Party. In the case of global warming for example, most people know it is important to fix, but less than 1% of the public realizes that unless we must make very deep cuts before 2020, the entire planet will suffer very severe irreversible consequences. Similarly, Clinton understands global warming is important, but she has positioned it as a "moral" issue on both her website and speeches. She is not yet willing to lead the country to take bold actions now to fix the problem. She will join efforts once they are sufficiently "safe" for her to move there, e.g., she signed on as a co-sponsor of the Sanders-Boxer climate change bill after Obama signed on to the bill and four months after 11 other Senators signed on. She signed on to the bill silently without any press release. As of June 10, she still has never sent any emails to her supporter base on how important this bill is even though the Union of Concerned Scientists calls it the "gold standard" of climate change bills. That is hardly the leadership we need on such a critical issue for our nation and the planet. Clinton also has been known to make up her mind pretty quickly on issues and then stop listening. I heard that when she met with doctors when she was doing healthcare during the Clinton administration that the doctors complained that she didn't seem to care what they thought.
Obama is a great speaker. His approach to problem solving is to "meet in the middle" which results in compromised goals and this is reflected in his legislation. It's not clear that he'll change this if he is elected. Great leaders determine what the right goal based upon the public's best interest and then figure out how to get it done by negotiating the how and not the what. Obama negotiates both leading to bills that are not likely to accomplish much. For example, Obama has a bill to raise fuel efficiency standards, but the Sierra Club's analysis of Obama's CAFE bill concluded it was nearly useless. They wrote: "it is likely that this bill will not do much to raise CAFE" due to all the loopholes. Secondly, nobody will follow a leader who says one thing and does the opposite. Although Obama says he wants to fight global warming, at the same time, he is the leading advocate in the Senate for switching to transportation fuels (coal to liquids) which emit twice the greenhouse gasses per gallon as the fuel it replaces! His position is totally inexcusable; the discrepancy has been brought to his attention by many environmental leaders I've spoken with who told me he just shrugged it off when they raised the issue with him. There are cheaper and cleaner alternatives, e.g., biomass to liquids, that emit hardly any greenhouse gasses and, in some cases, actually absorb CO2! Here's a link to the New York Times editorial referring to the legislation Obama is championing in the Senate. Fortune magazine writer Marc Gunther's column also criticizes Obama directly for supporting coal to liquids. And here's the urgent email MoveOn.org sent to its members entitled "Turning every Prius into a Hummer" calling the coal to liquids legislation that Obama is championing "the greatest single threat to solving the climate crisis in a decade." His poor judgment on the most important issue facing our country today disqualifies him in my mind. Still, Obama does have a lot of outstanding qualities: he's brilliant, a great speaker, his heart is in the right place, he outshines any other candidate in terms of telling people the truth even if it is not what they want to hear, and he has a 100% League of Conservation Voters voting record. I give him a lot of credit for all this. I can even rationalize his legislative "meet in the middle" approach since he is a legislator currently and that is how you get legislation passed. But his refusal to back down on coal to liquids and continue to defend it when I questioned him about it in June, 2007...that's hard to justify. And his failure of leadership on Iraq as detailed below is also hard to justify (he deflected the question when asked).
June 3 update
These examples are not isolated incidents. My full analysis comparing Clinton, Obama, Edwards on the top issues has other examples showing the differences. If you are short on time, see the chart comparing the top 3 Democratic candidates which summarizes the strengths and weaknesses I found for each candidate.
The decision you ultimately make in this election is going to be a personal one, based on your own criteria. I urge you to choose wisely and I hope the information I've provided in these pages is helpful to you in making the right decision. If you found this page useful, please let your friends know using this sample email you could send.