With less than two and a half weeks before the election, many Americans are still weighing their presidential vote.
Neither candidate has scored a knockout. George W. Bush and Al Gore both remain contenders.
The two candidates are people who have done well in their personal lives and their political lives. Their campaign statements have generally reflected thoughtful approaches to the nation’s possibilities and problems. Between them, they offer more pluses than the contending candidates have offered in many years. They aren’t perfect. If there is a lack of overwhelming enthusiasm for either, however, it is because most of us see strengths in both.
With the debates now completed, it appears to us that Al Gore is the better candidate to be president.
Gore offers experience. His foreign policy understanding, in particular, could offer America an added measure of security. As much as we would like to think otherwise, the nation faces threats that call for a firm sense of the world’s actors, good and bad. Gore has offered an impressive picture of a president who would understand the world’s increasing interconnectedness.
On domestic issues, Gore looks at education with a generally positive orientation to what the federal government can do to help. We think that as president, he would be responsibly concerned with environmental protection, not hysterical. On a host of other issues, he appears to have an excellent grasp of policy details. His experience in Congress suggests that he would be more willing and perhaps more able than President Clinton ever was to work in a bipartisan manner.
Some of the questions about Gore stem from his service in the Clinton administration. At times, too, Gore gets his facts wrong, exaggerates or even twists the truth. He has learned to live too comfortably with the underbelly of unreformed campaign finances. His campaigns have been rather sadly typical of politics today: willing to distort reality or bait an opponent in the cause of winning. Our judgment: He has repeatedly cut himself too much slack on ethics. But he is also a person of considerable character, which reflects itself in a stable family life and a career of conscientious public service.
During the long campaign, George W. Bush has presented himself well to the American public. He has expressed a commitment to both strong values and fairness. He would be an excellent, honest voice for the nation’s fundamental beliefs. On taxes and education, and most other issues, he offers clear, straight-forward ideas. Whether you agree or not, it’s hard not to appreciate his surprising willingness to lay out his position and not worry too much how it will be taken.
He demonstrated an ability to work cooperatively with Democrats in Texas. That isn’t the challenge it would be in D.C. for sure, but he can bring people together. He also shows some signs of a Ronald Reagan-style ability to delegate responsibilities to good managers while concentrating on leadership.
Still, his experience in government is less than ideal. In particular, he has no record of foreign policy involvement or even sustained interest. His choice of Dick Cheney as vice president is reassuring, but only up to a point. Bush has demonstrated no clear vision of meeting a world that has changed since his father’s administration.
Given two decent, closely matched candidates, we’d bet on experience.