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Issues and “character”

August 29, 2008

I have heard it said that if presidential elections were decided solely on issues, the Democratic candidate would win every time. The reason that Republicans often do win is because they always try to make the election about something else: Character. Perceived character, I should say, because the odds of getting an accurate assessment of someone’s character through observing a political campaign is about as likely as finding mystical enlightenment while watching a rerun of Gilligan’s Island.

I haven’t seen any recent polls, but I believe the American people prefer Obama’s health care reforms over McCains. I think they also prefer his Iraq strategy, his economic plan, his tax reforms, his views on reproductive rights, and so on. If elections were chiefly about issues, Obama would have a 20 point lead over McCain right now, and he’d keep that lead right through November, winning a landslide victory.

What do you think? Which party’s policies on health care reform, education, taxes, the economy and Iraq are more in line with public opinion? Which party is sewing the most doubt about the other candidate’s character?

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  1. Well, we know your candidate is devoid of character…and so do you.


  2. Exhibit A, ladies and gents. 🙂


  3. Says the guy who ran away from the evidence that (and, therefore, presumably doesn’t care about it) his candidate refused to do anything about newborns being starved to death in hospitals….


  4. Yeah, newborns being starved to death in hospitals is positively epidemic, and is an issue that affects the lives of every American!

    Except for the fact that when the charge was investigated it was found to be completely and totally unsubstantiated. Not one person was found who could verify that such a thing had ever happened.


  5. Huh. Then it’s awfully curious that the House Judiciary Committe Report points out that Christ Hospital admitted it:
    http://www.nrlc.org/ObamaBAIPA/BAIPA2001HJCreport.pdf

    Every single talking point on this issue in Obama’s defense has been shown to be a lie. You should know–I gave you all the documentation on Boots & Sabers.

    Do you really think it’s a good idea for you to be demanding that other guys repudiate their own candidate’s lies when you don’t practice what you preach?


  6. Calvin, do you have any comment about the post above? Or have you come here to derail that discussion by, uh, raising character issues?


  7. Uhh…you opened the door to character. You demanded that Owen repudiate McCain’s ad.

    Given that, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to hold you to the same standard, especially when it’s about “Issues and Character.”


  8. “What do you think? Which party’s policies on health care reform, education, taxes, the economy and Iraq are more in line with public opinion?”

    Well.. I think this really is subjective. For instance, here in Madison, I’d be willing to bet that Obama’s are more in line with public opinion. But go to some place down in the deep south, or Texas, or the bible-belt and I’m betting you’ll get polls that say McCain’s are more in line with the public opinion.

    Overall, I agree with Obama. But I don’t represent popular opinion… I’m a firm supporter of the Democratic party, and the only time I didn’t vote for the Dem it was the Independent guy who was promising to clean up Rockford. (No clue how he’s done, since I moved shortly after his first year in office.)

    “Which party is sewing the most doubt about the other candidate’s character?”

    I’m not sure… I’d have to say the Republicans are doing a hell of a job at trying to swift boat Obama. The key is, though, Obama is not Kerry and he’s smart enough to nip things in the bud before they have a chance to hurt him. Oh and I’m sick of all the fucking comments from those damn right wingers that keep saying “Obama is a radical Muslim extremist.” Really? Prove it. Oh wait, you can’t? (or the “change the ‘b’ to ‘s’ in his name” comment I heard tonight.)

    -Adam


  9. I disagree with your premise. Character has nothing to do with my decision in this election. I do not agree with Obama’s ideas on health care reform, taxes, the economy, “reproductive rights” (which is a euphemism, call it what it is, abortion) or Iraq. I don’t want to have to wait in line before I can get necessary health care, like people in other countries who have socialized medicine. I do not agree that a confiscatory tax policy will help the economy. Quite the opposite. I do not believe that an artificial deadline can be set to pull out of Iraq if we want to see their fledgling Democracy flourish. I do not believe that anyone has a right to “choose” to kill a baby, (although I think every adult should have the right to choose if they have sex or not). In other words, my decision in this election has everything to do with the issues, and I give the American voting public enough credit to think that theirs does, too.


  10. To judge the candidate simply on his speeches and promises, and to ignore character, would be foolish and dangerous.

    Character tells us whether or not we can actually believe what we are being told. I must violate Godwin’s Law and bring up the Nazis now. They just make such juicy examples.

    In the 1932 German presidential campaign, one candidate ran on the slogan “Freedom and Bread”. He promised an end to partisan political squabbles, jobs for the unemployed, cars for every German, new infrastructure…..in short, hope and change. Now, if we simply ignore his megalomania and murderous hatred of Slavs and Jews, his ideas seem to be sound.

    Perhaps the Germans should have paid MORE attention to character than promises.

    There…. “I mentioned the war, but I think I got away with it.”
    –Basil Fawlty–


  11. ………………………………..
    Anybody else hear crickets? They tend to pop up whenever debates don’t go Scott’s way. Well, that and f-bombs…


  12. I think this really is subjective. For instance, here in Madison, I’d be willing to bet that Obama’s are more in line with public opinion. But go to some place down in the deep south, or Texas, or the bible-belt and I’m betting you’ll get polls that say McCain’s are more in line with the public opinion.

    it’s really not subjective. Polling data does exist. Nationally we can determine whether more people prefer Obama’s plans than McCains. My guess–having not seen recent polling data–is that more people do prefer his plans. Does anyone have data? I should search for some when I get a chance.

    “reproductive rights” (which is a euphemism, call it what it is, abortion)

    It’s really not a euphemism, as we’re talking not only about abortion, but also about federal funds being used for contraception, sex education, and HIV prevention.

    I don’t want to have to wait in line before I can get necessary health care, like people in other countries who have socialized medicine.

    You’re premise is wrong: in aggregate, people don’t wait longer for their health care than we do. What, you didn’t know that?

    I do not agree that a confiscatory tax policy will help the economy.

    No one is advocating anything like “confiscatory” tax policies. Except straw men employed in your blog comments…

    I do not believe that an artificial deadline can be set to pull out of Iraq if we want to see their fledgling Democracy flourish.

    I don’t think we have the power to make democracy “flourish” in Iraq–only the Iraqis can do that. And so far, they don’t seem to be putting forth the necessary political effort to do so. Perhaps if we made clear that we’re not going to defend their government against its detractors they’d get serious about doing something.

    my decision in this election has everything to do with the issues,

    So I see. But it just so happens that your take on the issues is not in tune with what the majority of Americans think.

    To judge the candidate simply on his speeches and promises, and to ignore character, would be foolish and dangerous.

    That seems sensible, sure. But as I said above, the idea that you’re really going to learn something meaningful about a candidate’s character by watching his or her opponent make nasty ads about them is ludicrous. I say we just take as written that each candidate at least meets the minimum of character to hold public office and stick to the policy issues that we actually can know something meaningful about.

    Perhaps the Germans should have paid MORE attention to character than promises.

    So I guess what you’re saying is that liking a candidate’s message of change when your country is heading in the wrong direction leads to the election of a Hitler. Heh. It’s good to know that we have such levelheaded political analysis here in the comments of my blog.

    Anybody else hear crickets?

    I think what you’re hearing is the stunned silence that follows some really breathtaking partisan ranting.


  13. Heh. You really have a lot of nerve lecturing others about intellectual honesty if this is what passes for ethics for you.


  14. I think I like you, Calvin. heh.

    As for the rest:

    “we just take as written that each candidate at least meets the minimum of character to hold public office”

    Clearly a dangerous idea. We should just assume that everyone is honest? Good Lord, look around you at all the political corruption in your very own city. Or the County Board. Forgotten about Chuck Chvala already? Congressman William Jefferson? Our government is loaded with scoundrels and you want me to assume that they are honest? Now that is simply ridiculous…..I doubt ostriches will ever have a successful democracy.

    “if we made clear that we’re not going to defend their government against its detractors they’d get serious about doing something”

    A very naive statement. No government can get traction in an atmosphere of terror. Many Iraqis were simply too afraid to stand up and be counted while the danger of a visit from Al Queda thugs was all too real. Now that the surge has been such a huge success (wasn’t “The One” against that plan?), things are finally starting to gel for the Iraqis. Of course, now that we are seeing success, some people want to play politics and leave the Iraqis to the tender ministrations of Iran and religious extremists. Stay, and finish what we started. There is no other moral or ethical thing to do.

    “people don’t wait longer for their health care than we do. What, you didn’t know that?”

    Well, now you are simply making things up. People don’t only wait MUCH longer to receive treatment for major illnesses, they are more likely to be denied care, and have lifestyle choices dictated to them. If you think socialized medicine works, the you’ll have to disprove the studies and stories to the contrary. My relatives live in Germany, and they are forced to take out private health insurance to make sure that care is available for them. Canadians often wait months for surgeries that are performed here in days or weeks. Many times, long waits for care result in complications that could be avoided with prompt treatment. Don’t make the mistake of confusing a quick appointment with your doctor and actual major medical care.

    Scott, it seems that you are a reasoned person, but you seem to assume that your theories are correct, and then filter through only the evidence that supports your world view.


  15. People don’t only wait MUCH longer to receive treatment

    Wrong. Americans wait plenty. Sometimes more than people living in countries with universal coverage. This I get from the ultra liberal pages of Business Week.

    they are more likely to be denied care

    For a minute there it seemed like you were saying that people in those other countries are much more likely to be denied care than their American counterparts–but surely you’re not that misinformed. Perhaps you’d like to clarify what you’re really talking about before we move on?


  16. Ok, so we are dodging the character thing and focusing on health care. Ok, well let’s look at this article the way that you taught me, Scott.

    First, the author (Catherine Arnst) is a columnist. I seem to recall being pooh-poohed by you for citing an opinionated columnist. Well, no matter. Catherine seems to swing to the left on medical care and often uses her column to promote mandatory health coverage for the uninsured.

    Second, she admits “There is no systemized collection of data on wait times in the U.S” and then uses a survey by a liberal think tank to support her opinion. Someone once told me “I think it behooves us all to ask about the people who work for think tanks”. Who was that now….oh, yes, it was you, Scott. Good advice really. The Commonwealth Fund (cited in the article) works on behalf of minorities and the uninsured. Not likely to be a fair and balanced accounting.

    Third, you assume that citing some column in the evil bastion of hardhearted conservative thought, “Business Week”, would sway me. Don’t pigeon hole conservatives or their values. We are not cold “let them eat dog food” types. Many of us are former liberals who were intellectually honest enough to be open to new ideas.

    I’d say that being open to “change” in ideas and “issues” would certainly be a mark of “character” in a political candidate.



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