What's wrong with the ("viable") candidates

PHOTO: Aircraft carrier passes under the Golden Gate bridge.

(Update: Obama and Huckabee win in Iowa)

In just a few hours we should know which two candidates can claim victory in Iowa. If polling means anything, the winners will likely come from this pool: Clinton, Edwards, Obama, Romney, and Huckabee.

Given the ongoing disaster in Iraq, it’s disappointing that none of these candidates have been willing to challenge or even address the basic premise of our foreign policy. Namely that we can rule the world by force, and that our military budget should be practically unlimited.

Glenn Greenwald recently wrote about a report that shows our “military spending exceeds the rest of the world’s spending combined, and we spend almost 10 times what the second-place country, China, spends.” With that in mind why do “anti-war” candidates like Edwards and Obama both talk about making the military even larger on their websites?

Edwards: I will double the budget for recruitment and raise the standards for the recruitment pool so that we can reduce our reliance on felony waivers and other exceptions. In addition, I will increase our investment in the maintenance of our equipment for the safety of our troops.

Obama: We should expand our ground forces by adding 65,000 soldiers to the army and 27,000 marines […] We must also consider using military force in circumstances beyond self-defense in order to provide for the common security that underpins global stability.

Now, to be fair, neither explicitly state they will increase the budget to “double recruitment” or “expand our ground forces,” but I think it’s beyond likely that they will. All of the Democratic candidates should come out and say whether or not they are for expanding, reducing or re-prioritizing the military budget. They don’t have to make blanket promises, but we should at least know with certainty where they stand. I have a hunch that, beyond Ron Paul advocates, there isn’t much support for a reduction in military spending, despite their conservative roots.

Even with this disappointing consistency among the front-runners, Greenwald maintains optimistic, because we still elect our leaders by voting. Chris Floyd, on the other hand, thinks it’s a sign that our country is a democracy in name only. I think Floyd reaches the wrong conclusion. We do have the choice of picking small military and anti-war candidates like Paul, Gravel, and Kucinich, we just don’t. As long as we have those options, and fairly counted ballots we can reverse course.

Flickr Photo by Telstar Logistics


  1. Ian

    Not defending the “big military” people, but you should know that all of the front runner candidates just say what they think will get them votes. Just look at Romney and his abortion stance. These guys generally represent what polls of American opinion says they should. Your issue isn’t then with the candidates so much as it is with the average American mentality.

  2. Chris

    Matthew Yglesias contends we don’t really have any other choice but to take these candidates at face-value for a couple of reasons:

    1) It’s tough/impossible to divine what these candidates really mean or what they’ll really do

    2) The same pressures that are forcing them to take these positions now will exist when they are president. So if they’re caving to them now, why wouldn’t they later?

  3. Ian

    I agree that we have to take them at face value. But I don’t believe I should have faith in a word or promise any politician makes about their own character. Bush said he would bring accountability back to the White House. Politics is like salesmanship. A salesman will say anything to make the sale (See Borat’s car salesman for example). Once they are in office, they can be who they want, unless they want re-election.

    To address each point:

    1) Precisely, which is why in general, their voting record is about the only thing you can trust when judging a candidate’s policy. Even that is flawed though. Its a dice roll at best.

    2) They only care about public opinion as far as it gets them elected. Assuming a candidate won, they wouldn’t have to cave to public opinion unless they were up for re-election. A president can be unpopular, but not be kicked out of office for that. Take G W Bush for example.

  4. Pardon me for asking, but what makes you think we have “fairly counted ballots”?

  5. Chris

    I don’t know if we do have fairly counted ballots. All I do know is that there is cheating in every election. Largely because we can’t make requirements too strict because it will disenfranchise large number of voters, but we can’t make the too lax otherwise there will be chaos.

    What we should be really vigilant about is those electronic ballots. Not having a paper trail is just ludicrous.

  6. Cameron

    Why worry about fraud? I figure Dems and Reps are equally likely to cheat, so it should balance out in the great scheme of things.

  7. Ian

    Yeah… except DieBold is owned by a Republican, and when the machines “malfunction” they seem to always do so in favor of the Republicans. I don’t care who cheats, it just shouldn’t happen.