Saturday, February 03, 2007

Indecision 2008

Since the blogosphere is generally regarded as an outlet for political ruminations (save for the odd mp3 blog), I would be remiss if I didn't let this outlet serve as a valuable tool for creating an informed citizenry. In other words, it is time for this blog to do its part in shaping American politics. And I fear that I am already behind the rest of the media, which has been covering the '08 Presidential election for the last couple of years.

With that in mind, last week I e-mailed all of the candidates who have already filed with the FEC. I decided not to take advantage of this blog's influence in political circles, and simply used my private e-mail account to e-mail candidates through their campaign websites. I e-mailed one question, asking who the candidate considers the best and the worst U.S. president in history and why. I figure with 43 presidents already establishing precedent, no one will be likely to break the mold. Anyone who is elected will likely resemble somebody who has already come before; the key is to figure out what model you'd like to see repeated and which one you'd keep on the shelf. In fact, the more I think about it, if you know your presidential history, you don't really need to ask any other question to determine who you would want to vote for.

So far, six Democrats, four Republicans, and three Libertarians have filed papers. Of those, Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter from California (perhaps best known for wanting to build a fence on the border) and Libertarian Steve Kubby (known for smoking medicinal marijuana) don't have any e-mail contact on their sites. This meant that I sent out 11 e-mails.

I got the first response back with minutes. It was an auto response from Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd (D) saying, "We will get back to you with a specific response to your inquiry as soon as we can." Still waiting on that one.

My first legit response came a few hours later from Oregon Republican Michael Smith, whose only previous poltical experience was serving on a village board. He currently works for Hewlett-Packard. Here's what he had to say:

Wow Azor,

That’s a great question. Excuse me if I ramble a bit as I think it over…

I like the fact that George Washington declined a third term and set a great precedent for peaceful, civilian transfer of power.

Lincoln is often cited as great, but some argue that he was simply at a critical point in history. I think it reveals a lot about his character that he didn’t look for retribution on the South as the war was coming to an end.

I like a lot about Teddy Roosevelt; trust-buster, environmentalist; but unfortunately rather imperialist in foreign affairs.

And we recently had cause to reflect on Gerald Ford’s courage to move the country through a peaceful transfer of power, and then try to heal the wounds of Watergate. I think has been under-appreciated.

Overall, I think Dwight Eisenhower is my favorite. He showed relative reserve in dealing with the Cold War. And for an ex-general to warn us of the military-industrial complex is incredible (why haven’t we listened). He strikes me as a modest man who was driven by a sense of duty much more than personal ego. I think he was an excellent model to emulate.

The worst?

The feelings are awfully fresh, but it’s hard to imagine that history will judge George W Bush kindly. He took 9/11 and turned a terrible tragedy into a systematic tragedy of foreign policy and civil liberties. I don’t believe he has come close to his oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Philosophically, I sure don’t like FDR. He set this country on a path that might have seemed justified by the great depression, but seems flawed by today’s measures.

I hope that helps. I wouldn’t claim to be the best historian on the Presidents, but it’s a great question to examine.


Clearly, Mr. Smith's unexciting name is a detriment to his chances, but his enthusiasm for my question makes him an early front-runner in my book.

Next up I heard from George Phillies, a Libertarian physics professor in Massachusetts. He would be a natural to throw out the opening pitch at Philadelphia's home opener, but that aside, here is how he responded to my question:

These are difficult questions.

I think a good case for "best" is George Washington. After 8 years in
office, he reached the end of his term and went home rather than trying
to be made Emperor of America. You can compare this with a vast list of
other first-term presidents of new countries who soon became Presidents
for Life.

"Worst" is more difficult. I think a reasonable case can be made for
President Buchanan, whose series of bad and unnecessary decisions led to
the Civil War.

Reasonable cases can be made for other names on either side.


George Phillies

Phillies gets credit for bringing in the ultra-obscure Buchanan, famous (in a relative sense)
for being our only bachelor president.

Next I heard from a staffer for Ohio Democrat Rep. Dennis "Eat Your Spinach" Kucinich.

Sorry Azor, I don't know the answers. I know Dennis
admires FDR; but I don't know if FDR would be his favorite

In hope and peace,

Gail Heyn
Kucinich for President

This is such an utterly sincere and guileless response that I can't even be mad that it has no
substance. Plus I talked to Kucinich when he ran for President in '04 when I facilitated an
interview with him. That's not as quite as good of a story as my brother can tell, as he did
a one-on-one interview with Kucinich about steel tariffs--with beer breath (my brother had
the beer breath, not Kucinich). This was somewhat embarrassing for my brother (who had little
prior notice of the interview) since his mouth was at nose-level with the diminutive congressman.

I next heard from the John Edwards campaign, but it had nothing to do with my question. They
sent me a spam about minimum wage. They proceeded to spam me twice more during the course of the
week without answering my question. Whatever you do, don't vote for John Edwards.

Finally, I heard from Democrat Mike Gravel, a former Alaska senator (with the emphasis on
former--he last served in 1981). Gravel wants to abolish the IRS, so that might get him
a vote or two. Here is what his staffer had to say:

I do know from having talked with the Senator that he's partial to
George Washington and has an extreme dislike for W. Bush. Hope that's

Michael Grant
webmaster for Mike Gravel

I'm still waiting to hear from Democrats Biden and Vilsack, Republicans Brownback
and Cox, and Libertarian Smith. I'll keep you posted if I hear anything from them,
and I'll also be sure to contact other candidates as they become official.


Blogger Boo said...

Great blog Azor. I can't wait to see what the other candidates have to offer on this question. By the way, who is/was your favorite and least favorite presidents and why? BK

8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was going to ask the same thing Boo did. ahhh she/he beat me to it.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You would be a much better American if you were Canadian.


12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Question Azor,

Does your youngest brother have a blog? A phone number would do good too.

-A friend

1:40 PM  
Blogger Enjoy_Every_Sandwich said...

I like LBJ. He peed on his secret service agents.
I went to North Dakota for a camp and my mom and I went to order food at an outdoor kiosk and everyone stared at us. Seriously, wherever we went, people stared at us. Do you guys just instinctively know when there's a Canadian around?

1:45 PM  
Blogger Azor said...

Sandwhich, it is likely that everyone in North Dakota knows everybody else, so they knew you were tourists. And since seeing a tourist is a once in a lifetime thing, they probably couldn't take their eyes off of you.

My favorite president is Rutherford B. "Purple" Hayes, for obvious reasons. My least favorite president is Martin Van Buren because of his hair.

If you want to get in touch with Mikey, e-mail me at and I'll be sure to put you in touch.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Enjoy_Every_Sandwich said...

I just wikied Martin van Buren and his hair is freaking sweet.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Tiffany Kleymeyer said...

I think that all the candidates were trying to save faces by blaming the war on President Bush...they were all for the war when the towers went down...but they all have forgotten and now the war is wrong...I did like the candidate who atcually answered with a different response besides George Washington or Lincoln

9:08 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home