by Albert Paschall,
Senior Commentator, Lincoln Institute
Enough already. Five months before anyone casts a vote that means anything we've learned more about the Presidential candidates than we should ever need to know. From Senator Clinton's intentions in donning hardly risqué apparel to the brand of purse Mrs. Giuliani prefers, before it's begun the White House race of '08 has already worn out its welcome.
In the quest for the most powerful office on the globe we've examined the candidates' spouses, children, siblings, pets and even what Senator Edwards' barber charges. A lot of hullabaloo over the cost of ten cans of Rogaine.
The most important questions of our day are left to pieces of sound bites, often apologies for perceived mistakes or misquotes and then the utterly clichéd domestic positions on health care, immigration and, of course, the 'American Dream.'
Months before the candidates schlep through the meaningless snows of New Hampshire the court of public opinion, as generated by the electronic media, have dubbed Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani as the candidates. It might be the trend this far out but remembering Senator Gary Hart, human foible or folly might change that.
The most imperative issue in the race to put a new name on the Oval office's door is our safety. In the shadow of the Iraq War, military manpower, readiness and capability in our nearly trillion dollar defense budgets hardly gets a word. Opinions of the war span the spectrum of get out now to bomb them back to the Stone Age. The answer hopefully is somewhere in the middle.
That's where Dr. Joe Sestak enters the fray. The freshman Democrat from Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional district chides his own party to seek solutions in the Middle East not raise rancor over Iraq. In a round table discussion with a business group last week Sestak, who earned a PhD from Harvard, said that it was time for the Democrats to turn from merely opposition to the war to a framework of a comprehensive Middle East security plan. Just walking away in Iraq isn't possible. He warns that when any course of action is taken to leave Iraq from day one of planning it will take at least 15 to 24 months to move out. That planning according to Sestak would begin to address the concerns expressed by the Bush Administration's Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he told Congress in May that he has “great concern” about the toll Iraq is taking on our troops.
He ought to know. Thirty years after graduating from the US Naval Academy he was Admiral Joe Sestak commanding over 15,000 Sailors and Marines on the bridge of the George Washington Aircraft Carrier Task Force. An international battle force of 30 American and allied ships assembled for the Iraq war
During his career Sestak's ideas on manpower, readiness and capability didn't always win him friends in the Navy. As director of Defense Policy in the Clinton Administration his call for more efficient management of Naval manpower and equipment were discarded by the bureaucrats. Yet he still glows when he talks about tossing outdated equipment to provide funding for new technologies that can warn our troops of potential danger and pinpoint the enemy with deadly accuracy. In a world that has a dangerous horizon beyond the morass of the Middle East he talks of new strategies in the western Pacific. A region that is rapidly becoming dominated by China's economic and military power.
If the die is cast and the year ahead sees the struggle of Clinton versus Giuliani undoubtedly the former First Lady will try to turn the debate to her traditional strengths: domestic issues. But if this war continues at this pace Giuliani won't let her off the hook and national security will be his battle cry. With the legacy of her husband's occasionally strained relations with the military, if elected she's going to need to cure her positions carefully to mend old wounds. Someday if Doctor Joe Sestak is her Secretary of Defense she might just do that.
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc.