Friday, August 10, 2007

In Search of Substance

After becoming frustrated with the media's superficial coverage of the Presidential campaigns, I recently decided to visit the websites of the top six presidential contenders (Clinton, Edwards, Giuliani, McCain, Obama, Romney).

Before looking at any of the sites, I decided to pick a single issue that is important to me and examine each candidate's stance.

I wanted to pick an issue that I felt each candidate was likely to discuss thoroughly on their site.

I chose energy policy because I reasoned that whether it was due to its link to our national security, climate change concerns and/or simply the 3 decade old mandatory call for "energy independence", each candidate was sure to have something to say.

I'm going to include a link to each site, but I'm also going to share my observations in alphabetical order by the candidates last name.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary starts with an intelligent and amazingly rare (among the other candidates) statement that concisely articulates the impact this issue has on national security, economics, health and the environment.

She then goes on, in language undoubtedly approved, if not written by, a political consultant to promote her past efforts to "champion" progressive policies in on this issue. Unfortunately, from the available material on the site, I'm not sure if she just made speeches on an empty Senate floor or actually drafted and fought for a tough but necessary policy.

Clinton does advocate repealing oil company tax breaks and endorses limiting carbon emissions and increasing fuel efficiency. I give her credit for looking in the right direction, but there is nothing courageous or bold about these proposals.

This issue demands bold leadership. There are many vested interests that will fight what the country needs. Hillary fails to convince me here that she is up to the job, only that she has found the "optimal" political answer.

My grade: C-

John Edwards

It takes Edwards a little bit to lay out an actual idea, but he does get there.

He pushes a cap-and trade program with specific short and long term goals, similar to what America's business leaders are advocating. He also proposes allocating new funds to support an alternative energy industry by repealing oil company subsidies. Sensible ideas. A good start, but I'm not blown away.

Finally, I am rarely impressed by catchy political rhetoric, but I did like a line from the introduction. " is time to ask the American people to be patriotic about something other than war."

Yes it is.

My grade: B-

Rudy Giuliani

Rudy gets points for the breadth of his ideas to diversify our energy portfolio. Unfortunately, there is virtually no depth to the ideas. He gives obligatory and largely trivial nods to renewable energy, conservation and biofuels and every type of fossil fuel as well.

With the exception of his call for increased nuclear power, this page could have been on the website of any political candidate.... in the last twenty years (let's pretend websites were around in the days of the Reagan Administration).

The site is essentially a laundry list with something for everyone. Although it has a much different feel, it seems, like Senator Clinton's, to be clearly designed to promote a political agenda.

It is not a vision statement - and certainly not even the beginning of a new strategy.

Yes, I know that websites are first and foremost political marketing tools. But that is not what I am looking for, and its not what everyone else should be satisfied with anymore either.

Grade: D+

John McCain

Senator McCain discusses energy in his "Environment" issues section (which is nice to see on a Republican's site).

Unfortunately, although he invokes the right high level concerns of security, inter-generational equity and economic competitiveness - he does not support a single idea except expanding nuclear power.

He does take the time to cite the "liberal live for today" attitude that he associates with our failure to act more aggressively on this issue. Is he serious? That remark is beneath him - especially if he is not going to couple it with his own plan.

Grade: D-

Barack Obama

I did not start this post with the intention of promoting the Obama campaign, but frankly, it is hard not to after reading this site.

Obama lists multiple specific ideas that address the concerns of all stakeholders in this issue: fuel consumers, car manufacturers (yes, car manufacturers) and energy companies. He even makes an innovative proposal to engage disadvantaged and educationally under served youth in a sector of renewable energy that is certain to be one of the greatest growth engines of the coming generation.

As a both an Ivy League trained policy wonk and a pragmatic idealist, I was thoroughly impressed with this site.

The candidate without the necessary experience? Well, Obama does look like the candidate with the least political experience. This site appears constructed with the intention of communicating a vision and a plan - not just selling a political candidate.

He also looks like the first serious contender for the White House that we have ever had that is serious about making progress on this vital issue.

Grade: A

Mitt Romney

I kicked Mitt pretty hard on this blog the other day and I don't regret it.

He's a brilliant man with two master's degrees from Harvard who created and grew a $4 billion company and later convinced Massachusetts to elect a Republican Governor. Wow. Seriously.

This ability is precisely the reason why it is absolutely unacceptable for him to lower the level of debate in this election. My evaluation of his energy site? I'll let you decide. Here is the entire thing (minus a video)and a 14 month old quote:

"We must become independent from foreign sources of oil. This will mean a combination of efforts related to conservation and efficiency measures, developing alternative sources of energy like biodiesel, ethanol, nuclear, and coal gasification, and finding more domestic sources of oil such as in ANWR or the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)."

I would give him an F, but that would imply a failed effort. I fail to see the effort.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

That remark is beneath him

How many times does McCain have to do something that is "beneath him" before you realize that it isn't beneath him at all because he's actually way down there?