Iowa, Oh Iowa

Let me say at the outset that as a United Methodist minister I am not making any suggestions to the members of my congregation regarding who to vote for. Far be it from me to put our non-profit tax status at risk.

Having said that, I’ve been thinking a bit about the caucuses tonight. By all indications John Kerry and John Edwards have pulled off a miracle and won the Iowa caucuses. While all the analysis is still rolling in, it appears that the undecided voters in Iowa made a last minute decision to support these men, ignoring the massive Howard Dean machine, and the local boy, Dick Gebhardt.

Although I still haven’t made up my mind, I have to say that I was leaning toward Dean until the last couple of weeks. There have been enough misstatements, enough questions raised that have made me nervous. As a southerner, I began to wonder if Dean could move beyond his stereotypes of the south and offer leadership to us as well. While I admire his stance against the war, and think the media characterization as the angry old man of the campaign isn’t fair, I’m not seeing enough substance to calm my fears. Dean is basically a one issue guy, and that can’t sustain an ongoing campaign

I am happy to see Gebhardt lose, and wish that he and Leiberman would bow out soon. From my perspective, the presidency has passed them by and they need to concentrate on ending their Senate careers in an effective fashion.

Which leaves me with three viable candidates (Kucinich doesn’t seem especially viable to me). Clark is intriguing. As one who worked his way through the Pentagon, he has some background in dealing with politics inside the Beltway. His criticism of the war certainly shows some courage. Yet he is not well liked in the Pentagon, which either means that he wasn’t willing to play the political game, or that he was perceived as an opportunist, overly political. He hasn’t shown me much yet, but I need to do more research.

Kerry and Edwards are very similar to me. There is a school of thought which says that senators don’t make the transition to the Executive Branch well because the legislative process is so different that managing the programs of the country. Yet, for all his faults, Lyndon Johnson was able to get some bills passed (remember the Civil Rights Act?) because he had a clear idea as to how the process works. One of the problems with outsider presidents (Jimmy Carter is a good example) is that they don’t understand that one needs some insiders to make the process work.

Both have Kerry and Edwards have good points and bad points. I think Kerry identity as a Vietnam Vet gives him a moral advantage in talking about the current war. Edwards has an advantage as a Southerner and in his decision to stay positive. The latter means a great deal to me, and makes him very attactive.

I’m still undecided. I have a lot of research to do. But of all the options, I’m probably now leaning toward tonight’s winners.

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