Thursday, January 31, 2008

Some rambling thoughts

At what point does a candidate's past mistakes accumulate to the point that he or she is no longer worth consideration? I don't know the answer. Obama's got his Rezko ties and signing Donnie McClurkin up to help the campaign. I'm sure there are other missteps as well.

Clinton's got the vote for the war, voting for Kyl-Lieberman, and this troubling stuff from her time on the Wal-Mart board of directors. In her defense, it doesn't look like she was actually out busting unions herself, but she could have refused to be a Democratic fig leaf for the company's virulent anti-labor policies. She has repudiated their behavior, though. But she hasn't repudiated her Iraq war vote, nor her Kyl-Lieberman vote. That's troubling.

We can't expect perfection-mistakes will be made. Errors in judgment are unavoidable for even the wisest people. But at a minimum, I think we are right to expect an acknowledgment of the errors. It looks like Obama's campaign is working to shed the Rezko donations, and while he didn't kick McClurkin off the stage of his event, Obama did clarify that he doesn't agree with McClurkin's views about gays. And more importantly, Obama went to one of the most visible black churches on one of the most important days of the year and upbraided (albeit gently) the congregants for their anti-gay bigotry. That's at least something.

I'm just wondering where the point is at which the errors in judgment pile up enough to not trust a person to be president (or mayor, or school board member). I've essentially reached that point with Hillary Clinton (though again, I'll gladly vote for her in the general if it comes to that-Supreme Court Supreme Court Supreme Court), but not through any mathematical formula. This isn't precise, it's very subjective, and I have cast my lot with Barack Obama.

Looking around the liberal blogs, I find that people are so passionate one way or the other (or the other-to be fair, most people I've been reading preferred Edwards), and they largely talk past one another. I don't know what goes into this peculiar alchemy of making a decision, or convincing someone (if I did I guess I'd be some candidate's right hand man). It's endlessly fascinating, though, to read and hear people whose values I share coming to such different conclusions.

One way or another, I hope that the hard-fought nature of this primary doesn't kill the record turnout we've seen, or embitter newly engaged voters. Politics can be nasty, but engaging it is also the only way we can exert a measure of control over things that really do have a measurable impact on our lives. I hope that whatever happens, people who have not been engaged up until now carry that lesson with them and stay aware.

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