Grading the candidates
Will John Kerry show up at Fenway Park for Game 2 of the World Series tonight? I'm sure "Manny Ortez" would be happy to see him. Massachusetts is safely in his column, so it's more likely he would be campaigning in Wisconsin, perhaps seeing a game in Green Bay's "Lambert Field." Kerry showed that he's a real manly man by going hunting in a crisp new camouflage outfit last week. Wind-surfing, anyone?
Most of the polls show a close race, with a slight lead for Bush. There's a lot of uncertainty because polls depend on telephone directories, but many young folks rely exclusively on cell phones these days, and are thus excluded from the sampling universe. Which reminds me, I've gotten into the habit of ignoring incoming phone calls unless the Caller ID tells me who it is, so any pollster trying to reach me this year didn't. That's another reason for the big uncertainty as we head for the finish line. A few months ago it was conventional wisdom that incumbents either win by a comfortable margin or lose decisively; this year may break that pattern. My hunch is that most of the undecideds will opt for Bush at the last minute, not being convinced that Kerry has anything better to offer, and perhaps a little spooked by his tactless wife. (Laura Bush never had a "real" job? How appalling. Imagine the wars that she might start by an offhand remark at an official reception.)
Meanwhile, Larry Sabato compares this election to that of 1916, in terms of the dynamic between foreign and domestic issues. See his Crystal Ball. It really shouldn't have come as such a surprise that Bush did better in the later debates which focused more on domestic policy, since that was his the heart of his original agenda during the 2000 campaign. 9/11 changed all that.
In spite of some misgivings, I strongly favor Bush over Kerry, mainly because of the war on terrorism. Here is my brutally honest, scrupulously impartial assessment:
|Issue / aspect||Bush||Kerry|
|War on terrorism||B||D|
|Other foreign policy||B||C|
|Trade and immigration||B||B|
|Civil rights & judicial issues||B||C|
As I've made clear recently, nothing Kerry has said gives me any confidence that he really understands the nature of the conflict being waged against the West by the Arab-Islamic fascists. Note that Bush's "C" grade for economic issues is not based on any blame for the recent slow economy, but rather his apparent lack of concern for long-term fiscal soundness. Kerry is slightly better in terms of rhetoric, but is basically an old-fashioned tax-and-spend Keynesian Democrat. Bush's "C" for health care reflects his pandering to AARP on the prescription medicine coverage under Medicare. Kerry's "F" grade in that category reflects his pandering to trial lawyers (the biggest single source of health care inflation) and his fatuous promise of universal insurance coverage while denying any intention to impose government controls. That is simply impossible; as Bush said, Kerry's proposals would take us a huge step toward a European state-run system. Many people think we are inexorably headed that way in any case; not me!