October 27, 2004

No, really, John Kerry for President

Looking through the Slate endorsements, I notice that no one really likes Kerry, though most of the staff is voting for him anyways. Big shock, I know. Anyways, I can't say I'm entirely unsympathetic here: My first choice Democrat would have been Wesley Clark, warts and all—although right before the NH primaries I decided to back Howard Dean, after Clark proved to be a wholly inept campaigner. But I certainly never even considered Kerry back then, who seemed "dull" or "pompous" or "wooden" or whatever. (Don't blame me; the media told me to think it!)

In the past few months, though, I've grown to like Kerry, quite a bit. I'm not going to write a formal endorsement for president—mostly because, uh, I've already voted and it's not much of a surprise whom I would endorse—but if I did, I'd want to make it mainly pro-Kerry rather than anti-Bush. Why? Two big reasons.

1) Iraq. Hopefully I'll have a long piece up tomorrow on the Mother Jones site that looks at what Kerry can do in Iraq. (I'm racing through the final edits as we speak.) Not just the usual niceties about competence and allies, but laying out some actual steps open to him, and a look at some of the good ideas he's put forward. Could he fail? Of course. Iraq's a disaster and it's getting worse. But if anyone's going to make the most of a bad situation, I think it's going to be Kerry.

2) Problem solving. Throughout the campaign, Kerry has put forward a number of clever ideas. His health care reinsurance plan is one of the best around—and it was certainly better than that of any other Democrat. Yes, the Republicans will probably kill this idea "sight unseen." But I'm just impressed by the mere fact that Kerry put forward a detailed, intricate plan that addressed two major health care problems—the erosion of employer-based insurance, and the bottom-line pressure on insurance companies to ditch the sickest. Kerry (er, and his policy shop) has figured out a good way to fix both problems.

To me, that indicates a candidate who can a) identify a complex problem, and b) propose a smart, sensible solution. The thing is, any number of unforeseen problems will arise over the next four years, and we want a candidate who knows how to do steps a) and b). That, I think, is the clearest difference between these two candidates. Kerry sees a problem and wonders how he can fix it. Bush sees a problem and wonders how he can use it as an excuse to do what he's wanted to do all along.

I'd mention a few other big considerations, but they've been covered elsewhere. Spencer Ackerman has noted that Kerry has exactly the right ideas for combating militant Islam and its offshoots. One thing I'd add is that Kerry is willing to fire and replace staffers and advisers when they aren't getting the job done. Ask Jim Jordan or Joe Lockhart. That, I think, is crucial. I'll be the first to note the benefits of Bush-like loyalty—it probably helps promote healthy risk-taking—but that principle has been taken much too far in recent months. Kerry has the confidence to shake up the status quo. He's the right candidate, and I'm happy to vote for him.
-- Brad Plumer 1:29 AM || ||