With the national media focused squarely on the superficial (polls, pile-ons, UFOs, cleavage, etc.), The Nation Magazine this week focused on the substantive: An affirmative look at each of the eight Democratic presidential contenders.
The Nation invited eight progressive commentators to make their best case for their chosen candidate. From an introduction by the editors:
These comments do not represent the magazine's views; rather, each reflects a complex and personal calculus that weighs varying measures of ideology, integrity, competence, experience and electability. Some of these essays are outright endorsements, while others are more cautious assessments of the strengths of particular candidates. But all serve as reminders that this remains an open and exciting race, even as the window for considering the qualities of the candidates is rapidly closing.
It is the hope of The Nation, and the HuffPost's OffTheBus project, that these commentaries are a chance to view each candidate with fresh eyes. It's far too early to close off debate about a contest in which the stakes are so great for the Democratic Party, the country - and the world.
Below is an excerpt and the main point from each of the eight, along with a link to the full commentary.
Joe Biden: The best fighter, the most quick-witted. "No Democrat with an eye on the 2008 prize failed to thrill when Biden used an otherwise forgettable October debate to kneecap the GOP front-runner. While the other Democrats poked one another to uninspired effect, Biden ridiculed Rudy Giuliani for waging a campaign based on 'a noun, a verb and 9/11.' This was Biden at his best: fast on his feet, muscularly partisan, devastatingly effective at tossing barbs." -- John Nichols, Washington Correspondent for The Nation.
Hillary Clinton: A progressive who can win -- and govern. "Democrats must win in 2008. We must take back the White House with a candidate who adheres to core progressive principles but is also able to build coalitions and sustain majorities across ideological and partisan divides--first to win and then to govern successfully. Hillary Clinton is that candidate." -- Ellen Chesler, author and distinguished lecturer, Hunter College.
Chris Dodd: Strongest on human rights and civil liberties. "Dodd--like Clinton, Edwards and Biden--failed the great political leadership test of the Bush era, voting for the Iraq War. But in ways far more specific and uncompromising than his rivals, and without a breath of Clintonian equivocation, Dodd has been fighting to redeem himself and undo the damage of the 'war on terror.' On human rights, war crimes and civil liberties issues, Dodd has been laying down all the markers. " -- Bruce Shapiro, contributing editor to The Nation, and executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma.
John Edwards: Like FDR, he's the real deal. "For my money, there is no other candidate who will work as hard as Edwards for the nation's low-income families, the working poor, struggling students and the 47 million Americans who desperately need health insurance. Organized labor sees him the same way, which is why he has garnered [SEIU's] seal of approval and the boots on the ground that it represents--even in the face of the Clinton juggernaut." -- Katherine Newman, co-author of The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America.
Mike Gravel: An inconvenient truth-teller. "Today, even as the nation experiences an eerie déjà vu, it seems to have forgotten the most crucial lessons of Vietnam. Mike Gravel has not. He is every bit as resolute in his resistance to war now as he was then, and of all the presidential candidates he is the most steadfast critic of the principle of American imperialism, which spawned both catastrophes." -- Richard Kim, Associate Editor for The Nation.
Dennis Kucinich: A farsighted populist and pacifist. "Ever eager as I am to shed light, I sometimes drop the name of the least publicized applicant to the creaky throne of the West: Dennis Kucinich. It takes a moment for the name to sink in. Then genuine applause begins. He is very much a favorite out there in the amber fields of grain, and I work him into the text." -- Gore Vidal, a longtime contributing editor to The Nation, and author, most recently, of Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir.
Barack Obama: A visionary candidate for a new America. "For a clue to what makes Obama stick and tick, one need look no further than his training in the trenches of community organizing. As Ronald Reagan practiced what Vice President George Bush would call 'voodoo economics' --supply-side theories wrapped in tax cuts for the wealthy--Obama exited the Ivy League corridors of Columbia University in 1983 and, after a brief and unsatisfying stint on Wall Street, headed straight for the 'hood. ." -- Michael Eric Dyson, Georgetown University scholar and author, most recently, of Know What I Mean?
Bill Richardson: The Broadest experience, smart on Iraq. "If ending the tragic, self-destructive occupation of Iraq is indeed a line-in-the-sand issue, only Bill Richardson stands out among the leading candidates as the choice for President." -- Rocky Anderson, human rights activist and mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah.