Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Who to vote for?

Guest Perspective/Burt Cohen

As is the custom in New Hampshire this time of year, I recently asked a woman in a coffee shop who she was supporting for president.

Her answer: “The last candidate I heard speak.”

The point is we have a remarkable group of candidates, so it’s no surprise most voters remain undecided. As the date gets closer, more and more people have asked who I’m with. After many months consideration, I’ve finally made my choice.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich deserves to do well in New Hampshire. His bold and uncompromising vision needs to be heard. Gov. Bill Richardson would make a great chief executive, with his unmatched experience. But inspiring personal presentation (also called charisma) is a job requirement which is not his strength. Sen. Chris Dodd is consistent on every issue, and is a terrific speaker. I wish his numbers were at least as high as Kucinich. Same goes for Sen. Joe Biden: Great on the issues, a captivating speaker too. Just not connecting enough.

That leaves the “top three.” Before the Republicans have laid a glove on her, Clinton starts out with 50 percent of Americans saying they would never vote for her. She’s relied on an engineered aura of inevitability. She buys into the all-things-to-all-people style, the course laid out for Sen. John Kerry by his political director Jeanne Shaheen in 2004. Straddling everything doesn’t win.

Some people say it’s time for a woman. Martin Luther King hoped we would judge people by the content of their character, not by their color, or by extension, their gender.

A new direction? What about support for the war in Iraq, her prideful refusal to accept that she made a mistake, her unconscionable vote declaring part of Iran’s government to be a terrorist organization (giving Bush the carte blanche to attack). Her commitment to keeping combat troops in Iraq and her refusal to say she’d get them all out by 2013. Her blatant pandering to the right on flag-burning and on late term abortions. And then there’s planting softball questions for himself to answer. Experience? Aside from spouse of the president, I can’t seem to remember her cabinet post.

New Hampshire voters, at crunch-time, consider both issues and win-ability. She’s got neither. The GOP knows her nomination would be a gift to them. Two recent polls showed Clinton is the only Democrat all five Republicans would beat. New Hampshire has an enormous responsibility now. We owe it to the country to select a stronger candidate.

I’ve always liked John Edwards very much. His vision of two Americas is dead on, his values are exactly what we need. His dedication to health care reform is a shot in the arm. His wife Elizabeth is a huge asset. She’s the better candidate here.

So here I am: Sen. Barack Obama. His star didn’t fade, as I worried it might. Young people remain enthusiastic, an advantage which can hardly be overstated. And it’s important to remember that he clobbered his Republican opponent in southern Illinois, which is indeed The South.

Obama was a constitutional law professor. Wow, do we need that. Yes he’s young, just three years older than John Kennedy was. Sure, others have more experience, like his distant cousin Dick Cheney. But he has vision, he has sincerity, and he’s got amazing momentum and steadiness.

Barack Obama may not be perfect, but as state Rep. Marjorie Smith once told me, "Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

Barack Obama can, and I believe, will win. He can unite all patriotic Americans, and make us proud to be Americans in the world once again. With a boost from New Hampshire, he can dramatically help achieve the as yet unrealized potential of our nation.

Burt Cohen served the Portsmouth area as state senator from 1990 to 2004 and now hosts “Portside,” a radio talk show now heard on the Progressive Radio Network.

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