Assessing the Presidential Candidates’ Positions on the Issues
July 13, 2008 Edition
Quotation of the week: Thomas Jefferson: “In general, I think it necessary to give as well as
take in a government like ours.”
IN SEARCH OF MUSCULAR MODERATES AS LEADERS: We know how candidates get pulled to the left or the right, by both interested partisans and by skeptical journalists on the lookout for pandering. But how do we push for passionate, principled centrists, muscular moderates rooted in core values but understanding the importance in a democracy of building a broad consensus? This Moderometer analyzes whether candidates are playing to the center – not by pandering or flip-flopping but by articulating a compelling centrist message that helps unite America by reminding us all of the many ideals and concerns we have in common.
Issue: McCain on Guantanamo
Take One: His Reaction: On June 12, John McCain was asked to react the Supreme Court decision affirming the basic rights of the detainees at Guantanamo. When first asked to react, before he had a chance to read the decision, McCain responded carefully saying, “It obviously concerned me.” A blog post on National Review Online, asked in fury: “Concerned? Concerned?” Subsequently, after studying the matter and consulting with Senator Lindsey Graham, McCain called the ruling “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.” The bloggers’ attack – as well as the Times reportage – reinforced the narrative of John McCain’s strained relations with the Republican base.
Score: McCain Practically Purple: We should applaud a leader who hesitates before condemning the Supreme Court, who studies an issue before pronouncing on it. We need people praising McCain for his initial restraint and encouraging such behavior.
Take #2: Calling the Decision: “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country”
Score McCain: Raging Red: The next day, after his initial assessment, McCain played to his base, without acknowledging his own previous concerns regarding torture and the need to preserve America’s historic commitment to liberty even while fighting the terrorist scourge.
Issue: Obama on Iraq
On July 3, Obama said: “I am going to do a thorough assessment when I’m there,” anticipating his visit to Iraq. “ I’m sure I’ll have more information and continue to refine my policy.”
Republicans pounced, charging Obama with flip-flopping and prompting him to revisit the issue later in the day saying: “Apparently I wasn’t clear enough this morning on my position with respect to the war in Iraq. I have said throughout this campaign that this war was ill-conceived, that it was a strategic blunder and that it needs to come to an end. I have also said that I would be deliberate and careful in how we got out, that we would bring our troops home at a pace of one to two brigades per month and that at that pace we would have our combat troops out in 16 months.”
Score: Obama Practically Purple: We want candidates who are willing to learn about complex issues, who are willing to “refine” their policies while keeping their defining visions.
Take #2: Score Obama: Bleeding Heart Blue: Obama’s second press conference raises questions whether his timetable for removing troops from Iraq will be dictated by the facts on the ground or his political needs, prior commitments, and ideological distaste for the war.