Des Moines Register On The Rest of the Candidates

In addition to endorsing Hillary Clinton and John McCain, The Des Moines Register has published their views on some of the other candidates. Following are portions of their comments on some of the other candidates.

John Edwards: The question on Edwards is whether a self-described fighter for change, who wants to “cast aside the bankrupt ways of Washington,” can get results in Washington. For someone trying to reunite the two Americas, would he be too divisive a figure?

Barack Obama: One board member described the case for Obama in the Clinton vs. Obama discussion as a bank shot versus a straight shot in pool. Success is less certain with a bank shot, but the gamble (in this case for a more cohesive, hopeful country) might be worth it.

Another veteran editorial writer described the choice as similar to picking Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a calculating but masterful politician at maneuvering needed legislation through Congress, versus John F. Kennedy, whose youthful vigor inspired the nation to take on new challenges. That’s not a bad choice.

Bill Richardson: He’s got good policy people. His energy proposals are especially ambitious. We like his emphasis on job growth and his willingness to borrow ideas across the party aisle. As an example, he echoes Republicans’ calls for a balanced-budget amendment and line-item-veto authority.

Though his policy proposals look good on paper, we found him less fluent across a range of issues than some of his rivals.

Rudy Giuliani: But some of his ideas for cutting the federal budget seem simplistic. Also of concern: his long association in government and private business with his former police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, who’s been indicted on corruption and tax-fraud charges, raising questions about Giuliani’s judgment. New York media also complained of secrecy and lack of transparency in his administration.

But we’re most troubled by his over-heated, fear-based approach to foreign policy. He frames today’s world as us versus them, summed up by this pledge from his Web site: “I will keep America on offense in the terrorists’ war on us.”

Mike Huckabee: We think his advocacy of a national sales tax to replace the income tax is a bit off the wall, though. And, at a time when the nation desperately needs to repair its standing in the world, he has virtually no foreign-policy experience.

Most worrisome: We couldn’t decide whether as president Huckabee would pursue the pragmatism and compassion we see in part of his record or take regrettable detours, veering toward hardheartedness or attempting to infuse his religious tenets into public policy, as he did in Arkansas through his support of abortion restrictions. He brags on his Web site, “I did all I could to protect life. The many pro-life laws I got through my Democrat legislature are the accomplishments that give me the most pride and personal satisfaction.”

Ron Paul:This obstetrician who marches to his own drummer at the fringe of the party has built an Internet army with his call for withdrawal from Iraq and unwavering devotion to civil liberties — both attractive positions.

A one-time presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party, he lists his overall goals as “limited constitutional government, low taxes, free markets, and a return to sound monetary policies.”

That sounds like respected Republican ideology, but Paul takes it to the extreme. He would withdraw from the International Criminal Court, the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade deals because he sees them as a threat to sovereignty.

He would abolish the Internal Revenue Service, thinks the Federal Reserve fosters runaway debt and wants to return to the gold standard.

We’ll repeat the word used earlier: extreme.

Fred Thompson: He, too, takes an us-versus-them approach to foreign policy. And unlike the Ronald Reagan image he emulates, he’s sometimes downright cantankerous rather than inspiring.

Clinton, Obama and McCain Receive Endorsements

Hillary Clinton received The Des Moine Register’s endorsement based upon experience:

“Readiness to lead sets her apart from a constellation of possible stars in her party, particularly Barack Obama, who also demonstrates the potential to be a fine president,” the newspaper’s endorsement editorial concludes. “When Obama speaks before a crowd, he can be more inspirational than Clinton. Yet, with his relative inexperience, it’s hard to feel as confident he could accomplish the daunting agenda that lies ahead.”

The endorsement of Clinton along with this reference to Obama’s potential suggests that they realize that their 2004 endorsement was a huge mistake. Hopefully the Register’s streak of endorsing candidates who fail to win the nomination continues, but this might stop Clinton’s recent downward slide. I was actually hoping that they might endorse one of the second tier candidates but doubted it would actually happen.

The Boston Globe also issued their endorsements, with Obama coming out ahead there. John McCain, whose campaign seemed dead a few months back, was endorsed by both newspapers for the Republican nomination.

Related Story: Des Moines Register Expected To Make Endorsement Soon

Des Moines Register Expected To Make Endorsement Soon

Hotline believes that the Des Moines Register will be publishing their endorsement for the Iowa caucus soon, possibly as early as tomorrow, and the speculation is that Obama will get the endorsement. The Register’s endorsement of Edwards in 2004 helped him take second place but hopefully they will not make that mistake again. In 2004 they liked his Two America’s theme. After seeing how he has changed so many positions based on political expediency the reality is that there are Two Edwards–and neither has the experience, the intellect, or the integrity to deserve to be president.

The New York Times has reported on the efforts candidates are making to get this endorsement. Mark Ambinder questions whether it matters as in recent years the Register endorsed Edwards, Bill Bradley, and Paul Simon with none of them winning. While none of them won, the Register’s endorsement can influence some voters, which might make a difference in a close race. The endorsement helped move Edwards into second place, helping his prospects in ultimately being selected as John Kerry’s running mate (a mistake Kerry certainly would not make again, regardless of whether the Des Moines Register has learned better.) This year the endorsement might be enough to put one of the top tier candidates over the top, or perhaps even turn someone like Joe Biden (who recently impressed David Yepsen) into a credible candidate.

Update: Clinton, Obama and McCain Receive Endorsements

Huckabee Criticizes Bunker Mentality of Bush Administration

Huckabee has no experience in foreign policy, and certainly did not look very good when he was caught unaware of the report on Iran’s nuclear program, but he got one thing right. In an article in the January-February issue of Foreign Affairs he criticizes the White House’s “bunker mentality.”

“American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out,” Huckabee said. “The Bush administration’s arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad. My administration will recognize that the United States’ main fight today does not pit us against the world but pits the world against the terrorists.”

He got that part right, but otherwise does not show any signs that he recognizes where the Bush administration went wrong. He criticizes them for not sending in enough troops but misses the point that the whole idea of the war was fundamentally wrong and that this is not a problem which can be resolved with a purely military solution:

In one specific criticism, Huckabee said Bush did not send enough troops to invade Iraq. And he accused the president of marginalizing Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, who said at the outset of the war that it might take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to control Iraq after the invasion. “I would have met with Shinseki privately and carefully weighed his advice,” Huckabee said.

He said this year’s troop increase under Bush has resulted in significant but tenuous gains, and he said – much as Bush has – that he would not withdraw troops from Iraq any faster than Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander there, recommends. The military has now slowly begun to reverse the troop increase.

I doubt that this article will be enough to end doubts about Huckabee’s lack of foreign policy experience. Huckabee is quoted as saying, “I may not be the expert as some people on foreign policy, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night” earlier in the month. I’ve taken over ten trips to Walt Disney World and spent quite a bit of time at Epcot each time. That makes me a far greater expert than Huckabee on foreign policy.

Sullivan On The Role of Religion In Political Decisions

Andrew Sullilvan watches with amusement as some Republicans panic over what has happened to their party. He writes, “It’s amazing to me to watch Rich Lowry and Charles Krauthammer begin to panic at the signs of Christianism taking over the Republican party. Where, one wonders, have they been for the past decade?”

Sullivan discusses how in recent years the Republicans have made religion an inappropriate part of the debate over public party and attempts to clarify the proper role of religion in a secular state. This is worth reading as it counters the straw man argument so frequently used by those who deny separation of church and state when they falsely equate a secular state with opposition to private expression of religion:

The theocon consensus that front-runners Romney and Huckabee both reflect is that religion is intrinsic to public life and public debate, that it is a necessary component of any political discussion – and that this does not merely mean rote invocations of Nature’s God or Providence or the kind of inclusive, vague language that the Founders believed in. It means a very thick, constant and inviolable recourse to religious argument in secular politics. If you haven’t noticed this development in the past decade, you have had blinders on.

Charles again refers to a straw man so as not to sound too much like, well, “shrill hysterics” like yours truly:

“Imposing religion means the mandating of religious practice. It does not mean the mandating of social policy that some people may have come to support for religious reasons.”

But there is a critical distinction here that Charles elides. It may well be that support for a piece of social policy emerges from religious reasons. But in a secular society, it is vital that when making the argument for your position in public, you do not deploy arguments that depend on or invoke religiously-revealed truths. The essential civic discipline in a pluralist democracy is to translate your religious convictions into moral arguments – arguments that can persuade and engage people of all faiths or none. Only a few secularist extremists are saying that people’s politics should not be informed in any way by religious faith (an impossibility in any case); most of us anti-Christianists are saying rather that political arguments should not be made on explicitly religious grounds, and political parties should not be allying themselves explicitly with one religion or another.

These guidelines are not always one hundred percent clear and sometimes there is a fine line between basing public policy decisions on one’s religion versus a more general moral argument. This does provide a framework for evaluating the positions of Republican candidates with regards to whether their policies are influenced by their specific religious beliefs.

New York Times Magazine on Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee suddenly looks like a real candidate rather than one of those guys who comes to the debates without any chance of winning. Hiring Ed Rollins makes him look more like a real candidate, and he is suddenly getting a tremendous amount of media exposure, including a profile in The New York Times Magazine. While many topics are addressed, the one I’m most interested in is how Huckabee’s religious views would affect his actions if he was elected considering his reputation for governing as a centrist. Early in the article there is one paragraph which is not very encouraging:

Huckabee’s affability and populist economic and social views have sometimes been misinterpreted as a moderate brand of evangelical Christianity. In fact, as he wrote in his book ‘‘Character Makes a Difference,’’ he considers liberalism to be a cancer on Christianity. Huckabee is an admirer of the late Jerry Falwell (whose son, Jerry Jr., recently endorsed his candidacy) and subscribes wholeheartedly to the principles of the Moral Majority. He also affirms the Baptist Faith and Message statement: ‘‘The Holy Bible . . . has truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.’’

I’ve noted that Huckabee sometimes sounds more reasonable than other conservatives such as on immigration (until he became a hard liner soon afterwards), on torture, and even on school prayer. I also wonder if this isn’t part of an effort to make his views appear more acceptable without really being moderate. Discussion of his religious views later in the article suggests this might be the case:

Nowadays Huckabee has more policy positions, but his campaign is really all about his Christian character. His slogan is ‘‘Faith, Family, Freedom,’’ which Huckabee, who was once a public-relations man for the Texas televangelist James Robison, wrote himself. Huckabee is no theocrat. He simply believes in the power of the Christian message, and in his ability to embody and deliver it. ‘‘It’s not that we want to impose our religion on somebody,’’ he wrote in ‘‘Character Makes a Difference,’’ a book first published in 1997 (as ‘‘Character Is the Issue’’) and reissued earlier this year. ‘‘It’s that we want to shape the culture and laws by using a worldview we believe has value.’’

During his years in politics, Huckabee has become a master at disarming secular audiences. Throughout the campaign he has impressed the national press corps with his ability to dodge questions aimed at portraying him as a fundamentalist. Asked in a CNN debate, for example, what Jesus would do about capital punishment, Huckabee responded that Jesus was too smart to run for public office. On another occasion, queried if only Baptists go to heaven, he remarked that not even all the Baptists he knows will get past the pearly gates. Such jokes are designed to give outsiders the impression that Huckabee couldn’t be all that religious. But they are really just witty formulations of standard evangelical doctrine, things not even the most ardent country Baptist preacher could disagree with.

The profile also notes a flaw in Huckabee:

If there are flaws in Huckabee’s personal reputation, they center on the perception that he has a preacher’s sense of entitlement. In blunt terms, he took a lot of gifts.

The Politico analyzed public records and found that many of those who gave gifts wound up receiving state government positions. Huckabee’s campaign denies any connection.