Trust and the 2008 Presidential Election Posted by: Billy Hollis
on Tuesday, May 22, 2007
I’ve spent most of my life not trusting politicians. No surprise to most of you, and I'd wager a majority of our readers feel the same way. But it's worse now than it's ever been in my lifetime.
Despite the "culture of corruption", which I find as disgusting as anyone, I don't think the typical politician is a dishonest sleazebag. I think the average politician honestly believes he is doing the best he can to serve the people. But I still don’t trust them because they are just too disconnected from the real world that they govern.
They usually think they’re doing the right thing, but they’ll change their mind about what the “right thing” is at the drop of a public opinion poll. They have an unlimited number of rationalizations for changing their mind and screwing the citizenry. As long as they can get re-elected by bring home enough pork or keeping the special interest groups happy, they honestly don’t think they’ve done anything wrong when they screw the citizenry as a whole.
Politicians also rationalize that they must do certain things that even they know are wrong just to maintain and increase their hold on power. They tell themselves that the present screwing of part of the electorate is necessary to do greater things later on. Somehow the later things never appear, but apparently politicians can’t honestly look at themselves and their colleagues and realize that.
Politicians have been that way as long as I’ve paid attention to politics. Lyndon Johnson was as nasty a character as any in Washington today. (See the scene about Johnson in The Right Stuff for what I’ve been told is a picture perfect rendition of a Johnson temper tantrum.)
Of course, the bigger government gets, the more opportunities they have to screw us. Therefore, where once my distrust of the politicians was atypical, now it seems to be the norm.
I hope I’ve established my point. I don’t think politicians think of themselves as dishonest or untrustworthy. But I don’t trust them, and many (most?) of my fellow citizens agree. The current fight over immigration and the opinion polls that have both Congress and the president below thirty percent approval are good indicators.
If we apply this lack of trust to the 2008 presidential election, it leads to some interesting conclusions. I believe our next president will be someone who best inspires the voters to trust them. I think that in 2008, for the average voter, the issue of trust will outweigh any policy issues that come up.
I believe voters are craving the opportunity to vote for someone they trust, especially considering the current atmosphere in Washington and the lack of trust we've had in recent presidents.
Bush I, Clinton, Bush II – none of them has inspired a lot of trust. Bush I told us “Read my lips”, then abrogated that agreement, and he lost his second term because of it. Clinton told us “I did not have sexual relations with that women”.
And then we have our current president. He called himself a “compassionate conservative”, and then signed laws such as the federal education bill, the prescription drug program and McCain-Feingold, which are all diametrically opposed to conservatism. He said he liked Supreme Court justices such as Scalia and Thomas, and then nominated his crony Harriet Miers.
I think people are sick of such behavior on the part of their presidents. If I’m right, trust will be a big factor in the 2008 presidential elections. Let’s look at the candidates and see how they stack up in the trust department.
Democrats first. Hillary is a clear loser there. Besides her association with Bill, she is perceived as opportunistic and cold. She has high negatives, and I don't think "trustworthy" would be the first word anyone would use about her.
John Edwards has forfeited much of his ability to inspire trust by yakking about poverty while building a 40,000 square foot home. His $400 haircuts and his dissembling about them are indicative of his problems in getting the electorate to trust him.
Obama hasn’t entirely lost the ability to inspire trust, but the longer people look at him, the less different he seems to be from the typical liberal pol. He doesn’t seem to really take any firm stands. He just dispenses pabulum and hopes that will get him through by not offending anybody. In a typical presidential election cycle, that would be probably be OK. Right now, I think people want and expect more than that. Yet, of the three Democrats, so far, he seems to lead in the potential to generate some trust in voters.
Republicans next. McCain is the big loser here. He is not trusted by the Republican base, not by a long shot. His association with the current immigration bill is digging him even deeper into that hole. I used to believe it would be very unlikely for him to claim the GOP nomination. Right now it looks impossible to me.
Rudy Giuliani looks OK in the trust department, and I think that’s why he’s doing pretty well despite the fact that several of his positions don’t align with classic conservatism. Rudy has a certain bluntness that people associate with being trusted.
Mitt Romney doesn’t have any major problems in the trust area of which I’m aware. But I perceive that he just looks a bit too plastic. So he doesn’t seem to have any special strengths on the trust side either.
And then we come to the guy who really benefits if trust is a major consideration: Fred Thompson.
First, he simply has a presence that inspires trust. Whether or not the trust is deserved, his looks, voice, and demeanor come across as trustworthy.
And he has some actions to back up that perception of trust. He was one of the good guys in Watergate. He walked away from a Senate seat he could have easily kept. That suggests that power for the sake of power is not one of his character traits.
The more this campaign plays out, the more it looks to me like Thompson is the one whom circumstances favor. He plays well with the GOP base. That allows him to be a serious contender for the primaries. He also is perceived more broadly as trustworthy by independent and Democratic voters. They see him on TV, and he just comes across as likable and honest. That makes him a formidable opponent for anyone the Democrats put up.
I’ve never seen the level of trust in government as low in my lifetime as it is now. I think the voters are hungry for someone who inspires trust. Of all the current candidates, Fred Thompson looks to me like the one to do it.
I pretty much agree with your analysis...but didn’t you forget Bill Richardson?
I think of Richardson as a minor candidate, because the big 3 have the money and resources tied up. Richardson doesn’t have anything special in the trust category, but he’s certainly ahead of Hillary and Edwards. But only if he can break into the first rank of candidates can that come into play.
(SOrry for the overly long comment...had to get it out of my system...)
I think America (and the world, for that matter) needs a POTUS who is a strong LEADER above all else. Trust is important, but is difficult to define and increasingly hard to hold onto, the more you listen to any candidate, or the longer they are in power. As soon as they do something or say something inconsistent, oops, there goes the trust.
LEADERSHIP is a characteristic that doesn’t change easily (if at all). You have it, or you don’t.
My biggest beef with Bush is that he isn’t a strong leader. Whether one agrees with him or not on any particular issue, he just doesn’t grab the ball and run with it. He has vision - but doesn’t SELL it well. And this lack of leadership from Bush - in this critical time of war - has been especially damaging.
The US needs a strong, forceful, articulate, media-savvy president.
Now, the thing that is required to win the general is to be palatable to the centrists/independents. It’s no easy task to be both popular with the core (fringe) to win the primaries - AND - still appeal to the middle (voters who will vote for the person rather than just down the party line) in the general election.
I will tell you this much: there is absolutely *NO WAY* that a socially conservative white man is going to be POTUS following Bush. The vast majority of the US is sick and tired of being preached to, and don’t care very much about the social issues. And if Republicans make the mistake of nominating someone like that (e.g. Newt Gingrich) - the next POTUS will definitely be a Democrat.
So...who appeals to "the other side" while not being totally unacceptable to their own side?
I think the GOP is starting to remind me of the GOP of old, i.e. inflexible and cutting off their own noses to spite their face. If you’re going to let a guy like Dobson determine the nominee, you are going to lose in the general. It’s that simple. Why? Because that "base" of the GOP is a small minority in terms of sharing values with the majority of Americans. There is very litle overlap.
The smart Republicans (read: flexible) understand that even though Guiliani is not a social conservative, he is a)strong on the WoT, and b)appeals to the other side.
You can either adhere to the core conservative principles, nominate someone who represents those ideals, and lose the election. Or, nominate someone who can appeal to the other side too, and probably win. I’m not sure which is better, but it’s obvious to me that that is the choice. Is there a candidate who can do both? Thompson might be the only one. But I think Guiliani has a much better chance against ANY of the potential Dem nominees than Thompson.
McCain - too old, and a bit scary. Too much of an insider too. He can’t win the primaries. Think abot it - if your’e going to vote for a guy who won’t uphold your conservative principles, then why wouldn’t you vote for Rudy instead of McCain? Rudy is the McCain killer.
Romney - flip-flops, a bit unknown, possibly too "good looking" (slick), Mormon. I think he has a good chance of winning the nomination and the general ticket. NOT a "southern boy". Doesn’t have that angry white conservative guy look. Young. I could see lefty women voting for him.
Guiliani - well-known, strong on WoT, leadership, articulate, good speaker, polished.
Thompson - independent thinker, popular (TV exposure), media savvy, strong character. Negatives are he’s a bit on the old side, too "fatherly/grand-fatherly". Southern.
Newt will probably run, but he has a serious image problem with the other side.
Who could the swing voters in the general accept from the GOP? Obviously, Rudy is the easiest for them to vote for. Competent, strong on WoT, fiscally responsible, socially liberal, strong leader, media-ready.
My advice to the GOP: nominate Rudy. Win the election.
Hillary is the strongest (read: biatch) of the 3, but her negatives are so high, she won’t win a general - let alone the primaries. The anti-war left knows she’s full of sh*t. That leaves 2 lightweight, inexperienced candidates. It’s remarkable how shallow the Dem bench is. If they had anyone decent, they’d be a shoo-in.
Edwards is going to be the Dem nominee. Perhaps O’Bama for VP.
Question: Would they be palatable to the swing voters who lean right? Maybe, but much less so than Rudy would be to those who lean left.
I can see Romney, Thompson, or Rudy winning the general against any of the Dems.
I think America (and the world, for that matter) needs a POTUS who is a strong LEADER above all else
Slick hits it on the head for me. I was formulating a post while reading your article Billy and was trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to say. Then I saw slick’s line and said ’that’s it!’. We haven’t had a true leader in this country since about 1986 (or whenever it was that RR started to become a lame duck).
Man - I swear there is a such a vacuum of leadership in this country that if ANYONE (with credibility) were to harness it, great things will follow.
The hue of our bias always colors our preceptions. I am leaning towards Romney and consequently I dont buy into the flip-flop meme.
But more importantly, I also want leadership. Of the realistic candidates only three have proved this quality: Romney, Guiliani, and Bill Richardson (Billy’s comments not withstanding). And recent history certainly supports this. But there is another issue in play that both Billy and slick allude to. Negatives. Both Clinton and Gingrich (49% & 48% unfavorable) are dispised by the opposition and if nominated, the opposition would likely rally around anyone just to prevent eithers election. In other words, honesty and leadership become secondary.
Although he is a 1 percenter and prone to shooting from the hip (a tactic that often ends up with a shot up foot), I favor Joe Biden for trustworthiness.
I am sure someone will bring up the BOGUS plagiarism accusation, and perhaps this would have an impact in the PERCEPTION of trustworthiness, which is relevant, if a sad commentary that the apearance of honesty is more important than genuine honesty.
I just can’t get behind any of the frontrunners, and Fred Thompson... come on, this is just the desperation that results from the realization that the Republican field has little chance of inspiring people to show on election day.
Let’s play a game here. Say you work in a Democratic think tank and your assignment is to come up with the first draft of the LN on Senator Fred Thompson.
OK. We pretty much know who he actually is. Who he turns out to be after the campaign depends upon what you can come up with. That the liberal media and other liberal forces will buy into it goes without saying. Nevermind doing research on any actual factual stuff, that comes later. What we need now is the concept. If the facts don’t back it up, we can make up and have our minions sell what we need to fill out the picture.
The obvious choice is: “Thompson is Bush II”. Another strong contender is what we have informally been calling “The Trifecta”: “Thompson strongly supported the war”. (That gets the netroots). Couple that with: “Thompson then flip-flopped”. (Note: keep on that with Romney; it’s working) (that turns off the Republican base) and tie it up with: “Thompson is really a traditional Conservative”. (turns off the independents). Finally, “Thompson is a closet homosexual”. (obviously that will cost us huge amounts of pork later and should be saved for emergency use only – say if we go with “Thompson is Bush II” and the insurgency gives up in Iraq).
Once we get the concept, next step is to list facts that will sell it. Later we can cross items off this list if we find actual facts, leaving us with the “creative” items. Next, we cross off the items that spin can handle, leaving the hard nuts (the blatant lies – think “Bush lied” or “Cheney blew Plame’s cover) that cost us the big pork to get everyone on board.
So, which do you like? The Trifecta or Bush II? We have to put this to bed early; The Times has been calling and the AP wants to be early on this. We have also had a memo from the Counter-Spin guys (who are working on the LN for how the rightwingnoisemachine is lying to America about our guy – or gal). They need to sound different from our stuff or the Onion folks can make both of us look pretty silly. If we can give them an early heads-up they can avoid “The Echo” (sounding just like the LN).
What do you guess the real LN will be on Senator Thompson? Well, I shouldn’t use the word “real” here, I guess.
I can see Romney, Thompson, or Rudy winning the general against any of the Dems.
I don’t know about Romney, but I have to agree that both Thompson and Rudy have broader appeal than anyone the Democrats can put up. Only Obama comes close to potential broad appeal, and his lightweight nature makes him vulnerable.
And, Cap, you see desperation on the GOP side, but how about the Democrats? I mean, come on. A candidate whose main qualification was that she was a president’s wife? A rich ambulance chaser who is trying class warfare as a campaign theme? A half-a-term senator whose main qualification is that he looks good and speaks well? That sums up the Democratic field, and I’d say it more clealy shows desperation than the GOP field.
No, that sums up the current frontrunners, the field, which I expect to change, with some of the frontrunners falling back and some darkhorses pulling up.
I agree that the current frontrunners in the Democratic field are weak, but the field is strong, consider Richarson and Biden, almost certainly better candidates than any of the frontrunners. The Republican frontrunners are weak and the field behind them is weaker.
Rudy is not going to inspire conservatives to show up, McCain is not going to inspire anyone to show up.
The best chance that Republicans have is for Hillary to get the nomination, because she will inspire more conservatives to show up at the polls than any Republican candidate could.
It’s not who would win if everyone voted, it’s who wins when the people that show up vote, and then tends to be a few points (crucial points these days) different.
Other than your own bias, on what objective grounds can you claim this?
I would hope that my current bias is a result of my previous objective review of the candidates. I have no special bond with Richardson or Biden, I have simply determined that they are more qualified than any of the Democratic frontrunners to be President.
Biden and Richardson are objectively more experienced in dealing with the kinds of issues the President has to deal with....
Biden - experience
Long serving member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and serves as chair in the 110th Congress. He is considered one of the Democratic Party’s leading voices on foreign policy. And his assignment on the Senate Judiciary Committee has given him experience on immigration, citizenship, and international narcotics regulation.
Richardson - experience
Worked on congressional relations for the State Department
Staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In 1995, he traveled to Baghdad with Peter Bourne and engaged in lengthy one-on-one negotiations with Saddam Hussein to secure the release of two American aerospace workers who had been captured by the Iraqis after wandering over the Kuwaiti border.
This was one of several times that Richardson went overseas during the Clinton years to negotiate the release of American prisoners. He was also successful in this task in Sudan and North Korea.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
Secretary of Energy
He also joined Kissinger McLarty Associates, a "strategic advisory firm" headed by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Clinton White House chief of staff Mack McLarty, as Senior Managing Director.
In my opinion, Mitt is an unmitigated disaster. He has made remarks that lead me to think he is racist, that he is a liar, and, like so many other politicians, he is saying only what he thinks is most popular wrt positions. I find it remarkable that the author writes "no major problems" for Mitt - please go read up and watch some videos of what this guy has said.
Well, now, there’s this amazing invention on teh Intarwebs called the "hyperlink". If you wish to acquaint us with those remarks and videos that show Mitt as a racist and a liar, have at it.
I guess I wasn’t clear, Capt, in my request. If you take the top three (in polling) candidates from each side, the GOP has far more experience. When comparing all confirmed candidates (excludes Gingrich, Gore, Thompson...) in the top spot (in experience) i’d give Richardson the lead vs Romney, Biden vs McCain is a toss up, but they are merely Senators. Mayor Guiliani vs who? Govenors Gilmore, Thompson and Huckabee vs who? Sen. Brownback vs Sen Clinton? Rep. Hunter vs Rep Kucinich? And which GOP candidate has only half his first federal level term?
As far as I can see, the GOP field has far more elected executive experience than do the Democrats. I am unpersuaded as to your contention that the Democrats have far more experience than do the Republicans.
You forgot to mention the only guy that seems to say what he thinks, instead of trying to say what everyone else says with a different twist.
Ron Paul’s got my vote. Rudy & McCain are horrors waiting to happen.
McCain’s opinion varies with the direction of the wind; nearly all his legislation is based on "what will generate press for me" rather than a core ideology. Voters didn’t want him in the last 2-3 elections, and it’s high time he stop trying to pollute the presidential race.
Rudy isn’t even remotely a conservative, except -perhaps- economically. In the social sense, he’s more than willing to take away your civil rights if it gets him what he wants. It appears that he thinks that as long as he lets you keep your money, you’ll agree to nearly anything he wishes to ban.
Romney is only better than those two, because he isn’t as obviously bad.... and "Who Sucks Less" isn’t exactly the kind of leader I’m looking for. ;)