April 4, 2004

You are voting for the general trend or direction...

There's an interesting article on the difficulties senators face running for president, Breaking Out Is Hard to Do:

..."As a senator, you are used to speaking in legi-speak, and as a presidential candidate, you need to speak with a different level of clarity," said Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "When he had his back to the wall, Kerry managed to get it under control. But, sometimes he gets a little lazy or tired, and it comes back."

The transition from the Senate floor to the national campaign trail is not an easy one, said former Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., who ran for president in 1992. "It wasn't until the end of my brief campaign that I realized that, sometimes, yes or no is the best answer," Kerrey said in an interview. "That is all people want -- they want a yes or a no. They want a brief answer. They don't want a demonstration that you are very smart and capable of talking a long time."...

Personally, I'd tend to give John Kerry (not to be confused with Bob Kerry in the previous paragraph) a pass on a certain number of Senatorial wafflings. Compromise is the essence of the institution. And for any Senator there will be lots of cases where he voted "yes" and then voted "no."

Of course in the same spirit, I'd also suggest giving Bush a pass on a certain number of mistakes in the War. The nature of war demands moving fast, making decisions without enough information, and pressing your own forces to accomplish more than they think they can. No mistakes would be a bad sign. (Which is probably as incomprehensible to most people as the fact that being an effective senator means making a lot of compromises.)

It's a candidate's underlying philosophy that's important, and always difficult to discern under a million specific details. And in a presidential election you are also voting for a party, for the thousands of party members who will be drawn upon to fill offices and commissions, to be advisors and experts. You are voting for the general trend or direction you want the country to move in, though the specifics are likely to be different that what was promised during the campaign.

I have a slowly-evolving theory that a lot of the rather peculiar anger we are seeing towards both Bush and the war are happening because many people felt that the big questions of where the country, and the world, should GO had already been settled! They didn't have to think about what they believed, but could just be content that their group was "the good guys." (Most conspicuously on the left just now, but I've heard some bewildered rage from the right, too.)

Big changes force us to think about big questions, and I'm suspecting that a lot of people are outraged at being forced towards the point where they might have to look inside and admit they don't believe in anything.

Posted by John Weidner at April 4, 2004 1:05 PM
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