Tuesday, February 22, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 100

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About the Cougar

Vote for the best-sounding candidate

R. Alex Whitlock

The Republican and Democratic primaries are upon us. By and large, Americans have two Democrats and two Republicans to choose from. On the Democratic side, there is the born-again New Dealer Bill Bradley versus Clinton surrogate Al Gore. On the Republican side, there is media darling John McCain versus former media darling George W. Bush.

Though I know who I am going to vote for, I'm not writing this column to endorse any particular candidate. Instead, I'm writing this column to plead that when you do make your decision, be honest about why you made your choice.

A friend of mine once told me that experience was paramount and that was why she was voting for Al Gore. I asked if she had voted for George Bush in 1988, knowing that the answer was no. We sometimes like to think our decision for whom to vote for is an objective one and find reasons to back this up, but we really choose candidates subjectively because we simply like what they're saying or what they say they stand for. Experience, for instance, doesn't make a good president, nor does relative inexperience make a bad one.

Two examples of underqualified presidents are Abe Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. Lincoln was a one-term Congressman and a failed senatorial candidate. Kennedy, though a senator, was known throughout Congress for being a playboy do-nothing. The most qualified non-incumbent in recent U.S. history was George Bush the elder, a one-term president who lost to a considerably less-qualified Bill Clinton.

Some say that they're going to vote for McCain because of his valor during Vietnam and because he's an honorable person. Do honorable people make good presidents? Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover were of impeccable character, yet both unsuccessful presidents.

This works the other way around as well.

Some say that they would never vote for George W. Bush because he is the child of privilege who never would have gotten where he was if his last name weren't Bush. The same applies to John F. Kennedy, though, who used his family name to garner power all the way up to the presidency. Gore also thrived on his family name.

I'm voting for my candidate because he's campaigning on issues that matter to me and saying the least to offend my sensibilities. If he doesn't make it, my No. 2 pick agrees with me the next most, and so on.

That's not to say that experience and character aren't important. You obviously want to avoid someone so corrupt that he'll throw our country into years of civil strife (two recent presidents come to mind).

You also don't want to put someone in office who has no experience to draw on if he is elected. If you look at it with a modicum of objectivity, none of the four candidates fit either of these categories. They all have their share of scandals, but none appears to have the complete and utter disregard for the truth that marked Clinton's presidency nor the sheer, reckless ambition that marked Nixon's. Additionally, all four candidates have at least some political experience under their belts to draw from. 

Governor Bush, the least experienced, has used his weak governorship to pass through an impressive amount of legislation. Experience and character are also indicators to how successful a candidate will be at getting his legislation through. But what good is a candidate with good credentials who is going to spend his time passing laws you disagree with?

Whitlock, an information systems junior, 
will give a cookie to anyonewho can guess who he's voting for. 
He can be reached at Whitlock@eastmail.com.


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