How Much Substance Do You Really Expect From Candidates (1 Viewer)

RJ in Lafayette

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The recent complaint about Obama is that his speeches have little substance--or as Hillary lamented the other day, "Where's the beef."

But seriously, how much substance do you really expect from the candidates?

I think we have a right to expect the candidates (1) to address in an intelligent and clear way the great issues of the day, (2) to show they have adequate knowledge of all the principal and nearly all of the tertiary public policy issues, (3) to communicate their basic philosophy on the role of government in our society, and (4) to discuss why they believe they can effectively make government do those things they most badly want government to do--that is, their style of governance.

I do not expect a definite prescription for every conceivable problem that exists (though I do want to know that they are aware of the problem and the options for government).

The most worthless information communicated by the candidates is the long position paper answers with 18 points on most issues. The devil may be in the details, but in real life, lots and lots of people are going to have input drafting and negotiating and shaping and finally determining the details.

And events can quickly change the perception of issues. In the 2000 presidential campaign, George Bush and Condi Rice were critical of our efforts in Bosnia and the use of American military forces to police another country. What we didn't learn in the 2000 presidential campaign is that with foreign policy George Bush really didn't have a strong view on how actively America should intervene abroad and and how George Bush planned to govern as president.

And it is not entirely correct that presidential candidates campaign in poetry but govern in prose. Without the poetry, Lincoln and even FDR would have had far less success.
 

Saint by the Bay

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I think when people talk about substance they really have other problems with the candidate but that sounds more sophisticated than "his name sounds funny" or "but he's a mooselim."

Look at Kerry last year. Few candidates ever have had as much substance and specifics in his speeches and people constantly complained he was boring people. It's not hard to find candidates actual proposals if you care in the age of the internet. Most people don't really care though. "No substance" is a crutch that gives you a convenient reason for not liking someone because frankly nobody talks "substance".
 

Saintshizzle

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Unfortunately, you also have to account for those that do not want "greens and chicken" in the White House. They will never admit that in public (well, maybe some), but it is a reality. They will try to pick him apart on any minuscule subject, idea or topic. Often times, they are the less-educated in the society, but there are many that are educated and it has been instilled in them since birth.

For others, that have an issue with his "experience level" you have to give the BOTD. It is all subjective anyway.
 

Pure Energy

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I think when people talk about substance they really have other problems with the candidate but that sounds more sophisticated than "his name sounds funny" or "but he's a mooselim."

Look at Kerry last year. Few candidates ever have had as much substance and specifics in his speeches and people constantly complained he was boring people. It's not hard to find candidates actual proposals if you care in the age of the internet. Most people don't really care though. "No substance" is a crutch that gives you a convenient reason for not liking someone because frankly nobody talks "substance".
Agreed that Kerry had a lot of meat in his platform and speeches and bored people. However, that election was super close with Bush only getting 2.4% more of the vote...I think Kerry failed to identify with voters in the South. I'm not in the camp that only criticizes one candidate. I'm not hearing much substance from Guliani or Thompson and even Romney is light (maybe people don't believe he's truly committed to his platform and will change depending on the political winds).

Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee are running on what I believe to be dramatic change platforms, and therefore are unlikely (in my opinion) to withstand the might of the Establishment. As I read Obama's platform I find it very fluffy, filled with generalities and vague enough to safely remain within the Democratic party boundaries of the status quo. On one hand we claim to want candidates who will implement change, but on the other, we are frightened to death of them.
 

'79 Saints

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Because the more substance you offer, the more you give people to pick your opinions apart.

You're trying to appeal to the largest audience, so you're going to say things as generally as possible (i.e. "I will tax the rich" -but who qualifies as "rich"? "I will give the middle class a tax cut" -but what constitutes the "middle class"?), so as to make it sound like you are talking about everyone's interest.

If you get too specific -i.e. "I will eliminate Social Security for young Americans, and allow them to take that money and invest it in portfolios of their own choosing for their retirement"; it becomes, "I will eliminate Social Security" for a campaign ad for their opponent and so forth.

Despite the rhetoric, there are two things Americans want in a political campaign: preservation of the status quo (you can say the word "change" but don't say what you will actually change, nor don't actually change anything) and negative campaign ads.
 

saintfan-n-alex

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Because the more substance you offer, the more you give people to pick your opinions apart.

You're trying to appeal to the largest audience, so you're going to say things as generally as possible (i.e. "I will tax the rich" -but who qualifies as "rich"? "I will give the middle class a tax cut" -but what constitutes the "middle class"?), so as to make it sound like you are talking about everyone's interest.

If you get too specific -i.e. "I will eliminate Social Security for young Americans, and allow them to take that money and invest it in portfolios of their own choosing for their retirement"; it becomes, "I will eliminate Social Security" for a campaign ad for their opponent and so forth.

Despite the rhetoric, there are two things Americans want in a political campaign: preservation of the status quo (you can say the word "change" but don't say what you will actually change, nor don't actually change anything) and negative campaign ads.
to take it a step further any plan that includes any detail is sure to leave someone out or cut into their bottom line, so in order to not loose votes they cant say before hand what you are going to get if you actually vote for candidate X - you have to wait till after they are in office to find out if you are one who gains or looses with their plan.

you elect the person, not their policies\plans - it should be the other way around, as i could care less who the president sleeps with - just because he is loyal to a female wife doesnt mean he is good for the country
 

JimEverett

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People really don;t care about details. They want someone they trust and are comfortable with. Oftentimes that means voting for someone who reflects their demeanor or, in some vague way, projects their values. That explains why George Bush is constantly clearing brush on his ranch when cameras are around, or why Fred Thompson hid is expensive luxury import and rented a pickup truck when he ran for senate in Tennessee.
 
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RJ in Lafayette

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Can I say I agree with Jim.

I like Obama. I totally dislike Clinton. And the reasons are that Obama makes me feel good--his best rhetoric sounds like the best of Jed Bartlett in the West Wing episodes; and that I trust Hillary as far as I can throw her and cannot imagine another four years of a president named Bush or Clinton. Probably not a great gulf in stated policy positions between Obama and Clinton. But except for the desire to order military intervention abroad, I am less interested in what the candidates say they want to do than I am on what the candidates communicate as to how they will govern.

Perhaps I just have practiced law too long, but especially this time around, I am interested in process. As upset as I am over some results Bush 43 has sought, I am much more upset over how Bush has gone about trying to reach those results. And I am upset over the tone our politics has taken over the past 20, if not 40, years. Regarding how ugly politics has become, both parties are responsible. And the Democrats with the tearing down of Supreme Court nominees moved the process to a new level, and the Republicans in the last 12 years have pushed it to an even higher level. Of course, there are the systemic changes caused by the regions becoming more polarized and redistricting that have made matters worse. However, we just do not need a third Clinton term.
 

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