Wednesday, August 25, 2004

ABJA: Campaign style

If anyone is criticizing the Kerry campaign for running a "Anyone But Bush" (ABB) campaign, without offering aggressive policies, a charismatic candidate, or interesting leadership - well, I'd probably say they are right. The Senate Democrats decision not to challenge the nomination of Porter Goss as CIA chief because it might seem too partisan, is pretty representative of this desire to avoid strident debate. It's in the belief that he can't run this way that seems flawed. With a base locked up as solidly as his is (and an equally unshakeable base supporting Bush), why not appeal to swing voters in as bland a way as possible, by being just 1 tick mark to the left of Bush in all ways.

But that's just the political strategy. My question is, should he run as just a bland ABB candidate? Is it morally acceptable, or good for the country?

On one hand, there's no reason the country shouldn't have the choice that they would just rather have someone who isn't Bush. Maybe same policies, but just feel certain things are bad (Haliburton, diplomatic attitude, whatever), and would just like to get rid of those. Why should a country have to choose between a far right guy and a far left guy, if their attitude is in the center? Shrug.

And yet there's a great disingenuity here, since a Kerry Administration would enact specific policies, appoint a specific type of person, etc. Not knowing what these policies will be when we go to vote may be good politics for Kerry, but certainly not helpful to accountability in the American system.

The best analogy I came up with is, lets say we aren't electing a President, but rather an Attourney General. It's often said that the biggest thing an administration does is appoint thousands of politically like minded people (especially if facing a hostile Congress). There's no question that John Ashcroft, someone not on the slate at all in 2000, has had a really big effect on US law, and whether or not he sticks around is a pretty important issue. In fact, I'd even say the character of the AG (how they enforce the laws when the media isn't paying constant scrutiny, the various UA Attourneys they appoint, when they're willing to stand up to their political superiors like in Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre)is more important to me than that of the President (who has 24/7 scrutiny anyway).

So who are we electing as AG? Who would Kerry appoint there? A strong civil rights issue based advocate? A future presidential hopeful? A wisened judge? His best friend? Left, centrist, or diplomatically neutral? These are, uh, pretty important considerations. But instead, all we know is that it's not John Ashcroft.

No real answers here. I would just like people to consider this when saying Kerry is just running as a bland ABB. Do you feel as strongly about his various appointments? They'll make most of the decisions, we are placing more trust in them than Kerry really, and yet it's considered inappropriate for them to reveal their teams.


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