Meanwhile, in Iowa
Archived Articles 04 Jan 2008 Justin PetroneEWR
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Well it looks like Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee are the winners tonight. As you may have sensed from reading below, I feel pretty ambivalent about the presidential candidates on both sides, though I feel the Democrats have superior candidates. I am really glad I am not an Iowa voter who had to be first to choose.

But Obama's "victory" seems a tad misleading. In the end each of the top three candidates got around a third of the vote, which actually tells us very little. I am glad there's a race though. If Clinton had waltzed right through the nomination process, I probably would have tuned out all together.

As for the Republicans, it appears that for the first time since 1976 there will neither be a Bush nor a Dole on the ticket. Or maybe Huckabee will choose Neil Bush as his running mate. Who knows.


I haven't written much about the US presidential election this year because a) this is a blog about Eestimaa and b) I haven't paid that much attention to the topics of Barack Obama's Kindergarten essays. But it's on the global mind, so why not discuss it.

To understand my perspective, you must grasp that I am 28-years-old, and the first presidential election I recall with crisp, almost like yesterday clarity, was between George Herbert Walker Bush and Michael Dukakis in 1988.

That is to say that the contests of 1972 (Nixon versus McGovern) or 1980 (Reagan versus Carter) don't weigh heavily on my mind. And in some ways that might endear me to Senator Barack Obama, because he too has been calling for a new American dialog that isn't stuck in 1968.

But for me, the most important factor is foreign policy experience, and for that reason, even though I like Senator Obama, if I was in Iowa I would *probably* be supporting Hillary Clinton. I used to like the relatively youthful Clintons in the '90s. Like I said, my country was run by Ronald Reagan, a man who was older than my grandfather, until I was 10 years old. But overtime I have tired of them, Chelsea, Socks the Cat, discussion of Bill's extramarital affairs, and, who could forget the Bridge to the 21st Century? Yuck.

But still, Hillary perhaps has the greatest experience. Among the Democrats I would trust her decisions over Senators Obama and Edwards because quite frankly, Hillary spent eight years traveling from country to country to meet and great the global elite. Hillary's done shots in Estonia. Hillary has visited the hospital where my first daughter was born in Tallinn.

I don't necessarily feel a strong affinity for her, nor do I enjoy listening to her speeches, but I do not fear her or find her incompetent. She's been my Senator for the past seven years and partially due to her political sensibilities and partially due to the disorganization of the New York Republican Party, she managed to do her job with limited criticism. Some have criticized her as "too liberal", but Hillary was once upon atime a supporter of Barry Goldwater.

This is not an endorsement of her, and I am actually quite torn between Clinton, Edwards, and Obama, but if I got in that tent, foreign policy experience would be on my mind.

In terms of the Republican side, their party is undergoing a period of disarray, mostly due to Bush's policies, but also due to generational changes in the party. The Republican generation of 1994 -- Tom DeLay, Rick Santorum -- has aged out of office. The "Contract with America" is done. The days of "America, applie pie, and Oliver North" are aged and sepia-toned.

So who is best to lead this motley crew of religious conservatives, 'don't tread on me' gun owners, Wall Street investment bankers, and 'blow 'em all to hell' foreign policy hawks?

The short answer is that I have no idea. I will say that in 2000 I went door-to-door in New Hampshire on behalf of Sen. Bill Bradley and of all the Republican voters I met, the John McCain supporters were the most convincing. That's not to say that Yankee Republicans aren't terrifying in their own 'fire and brimstone' way. But I respected them. I cannot say as much of the New Hampshire Bush supporters who chased me off their lawn.

Another "Yankee Republican" is Rudy Giuliani -- 'America's mayor.' People credit Giuliani for cleaning up New York City. It's endearing to see an Italian-American do so well. And yet Rudy's tenure at Gracie Mansion in New York was riddled by a police brutality scandals not to mention his high profile divorce from Donna Hanover and his use of police escorts for his then mistress, now wife Judith Nathan. There's just so much "New York only" political baggage to Giuliani that I just don't see him winning the nomination. In New York he could win, but in New Mexico? No.

A final Yankee Republican is Mitt Romney. His religious beliefs (he's a Mormon, a follower of a religious sect founded by a New York treasure finder in the 1820s after he translated golden plates written in "Reformed Egyptian" text) have raised eyebrows among some, but we'll leave that aside to just say that Romney can't even win his own state -- Massachusetts -- and he was never really popular there (he served one term).

In terms of the others, everybody loves Ron Paul. I liked Ralph Nader in 2000 too. I mean he was a wonk. He asked plenty of great questions. And in the end we wound up with George W. Bush. Paul has around $20 million in his "war chest" -- I have read that he may launch an independent campaign. Then there's Mike Huckabee. He's from Arkansas and enjoys preparing red meat to feed to religious conservatives during stump speeches. I have nothing else to say about him.

So if I was in the Republican tent, I'd probably have to choose McCain based on my foreign policy concerns. After all, it was McCain who did shots in Tallinn with Hillary.

(Itching for Eestimaa, neljapäev 3. jaanauar, 2008)
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