Coming clean before the primary
By Kyle Whitmire
In 2006, a bipartisan effort in the Alabama Legislature moved the state’s presidential primary as far forward as it could go — Feb. 5. After two decades of the lingering in late primary political oblivion, Alabama was trading up. It was a good idea, even if it didn’t last. The state has gotten some attention from the move, but it has been diluted by the 21 other states holding primaries this Tuesday.
We don’t do endorsements at the Weekly, but I believe in transparency. If I’m going to vote, readers deserve to know for whom and why.
Mitt Romney. I have blind spots and this is one of them. I don’t understand why Paris Hilton is famous, and I don’t understand why Romney is such a popular candidate. As governor of Massachusetts, he was pro-choice and OK with gay marriage. Since becoming a presidential candidate, however, he’s against both those things. He brags on his executive experience one minute and then disavows the positions of that tenure the next. What’s more, the video of Romney from MLK Day proves he might be the whitest man alive, completely oblivious to people who don’t look like him. McCain was right: He’s the change candidate. If you don’t like what he believes, Romney will change for you.
Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani’s campaign was predicated on fear and bloodlust, so it says something good about the Grand Ole Party that his campaign has imploded. As a pro-life, anti-gun cross-dressing divorcee, the only selling point Giuliani had was that he was mayor of New York during 9/11. However, it seems to me that if Americans cared that much about terrorism, the prime perpetrator of those attacks — bin Laden — would be dead by now.
Mike Huckabee. When I made a snarky comment on our blog about Huckabee’s pet issue, the Fair Tax, I got pilloried by his supporters. In that post, I said that if you want to make the rest of America more like Alabama, then pass the Fair Tax. After spending the weekend learning more about the Fair Tax, I stick by what I wrote. No matter when and how the tax is applied, it’s essentially a 30 percent national sales tax, which would replace most other federal taxes. As the son of a teacher (and an art teacher at that) I got to see up close what happens when government puts a sales tax at the center of its tax structure. Sales taxes are hypersensitive to fluctuations in the economy and too unstable to depend upon.
Unfortunately, Huckabee has made this his definitive issue.
John McCain. In 2000, McCain could have had my vote, but he never got as far as Alabama. Instead, Karl Rove ambushed him in South Carolina. However, he didn’t let anyone take him by surprise this time. When McCain supported the Iraq war — even when his Republican colleagues were getting weak in the knees — it seemed that stand might cost him the White House. With the surge working (fingers crossed), the bet with the longest odds might have paid off. What’s pleasing about McCain is his independent streak. In a recent debate, Mitt Romney implored his fellow candidates not to make prescription drug companies out to be the bad guys. “But they are,” McCain said. The Maverick still has it in him, willing to tempt the wrath of a powerful special interest group, just because he couldn’t resist the powerful urge to tell the truth. I’d vote for him, if I were voting in the Republican primary.
John Edwards. I’d really like to like Edwards. I just wish he’d spent more time trying to convince me, or anytime trying to convince me, or trying to convince anyone else in Alabama. He’s had opportunities. He’s been to our state at least three times this campaign, and this week, he’ll visit Alabama twice. But it’s too little too late. His previous visits, Edwards spent his time here raising money. On top of that, he raises money primarily from trial lawyers, and then he attacks his opponents for taking money from “special interests.” If you’re going to campaign in Alabama, please show up here more than five days before the primary.
Hillary Clinton. Hillary is the Richard Nixon of the Democratic Party. Is she competent? Sure. Shrewd? Of course. Qualified? How couldn’t she be? But does anyone like her? Or are they voting for her out of a sense of obligation to the inevitable? We’ll see. Meanwhile, what’s interesting to me about her campaign is that, no matter what the outcome, blame or credit will go to how Hillary used Bill. Call it Goldie Locks and the Three Bills. Too hot or too cold, she hasn’t found just right.
Barack Obama. Last week, when Bill Clinton compared Barack Obama to Jesse Jackson, Alabama voters should have been paying attention. This is when we come full circle. Indeed, Jackson won the South Carolina Primary, just as Bill said. And in 1988, Jackson won Alabama, too. In fact, the pols here were so embarrassed that they moved our state’s primaries to the back of the line. It took 20 years for the heebie-jeebies to wear off. And who will we support now that we have emerged from exile? We in the Deep South have an opportunity at a beautifully symmetrical redemption.
No matter his rival’s claims, Obama has proposed a sufficient platform: shifting Bush’s tax cuts to the middle class, ending the Iraq war and giving college students tuition in exchange for service.
But more importantly, he has a charisma quotient all the others lack — that ability to inspire, to persuade, to appeal to the better angels of our nature.
War on Dumb is a column about political culture.