Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Getting serious, part one


I received a snail mail from George Phillies yesterday: A flier apparently targeted to likely delegates to the Libertarian Party's 2008 presidential nominating convention. I'm going to write a bit about this flier, because in my opinion it asks a lot of the right questions about what Libertarians should be seeking in a presidential candidate, and because it seems subtly aimed at skewing those questions to the disadvantage of my own preferred candidate, Steve Kubby. Some of those questions it asks explicitly, some implicitly.

The outward side of the flier, as folded for mailing (opposite the address side), reads:

Phillies 2008
The Credible Candidate
A Serious Man for Serious Times


... and thus presents us with our first implicit questions. What constitutes a -- let alone the -- "credible" candidate? And what constitutes a "serious" man?

As I've stated before, credibility as a presidential candidate and with the electorate is not something that any of the currently declared nomination-seekers possess. None of them -- not George Phillies, not Steve Kubby, not Christine Smith -- are sitting or former US Presidents, Vice-Presidents, US Senators, US Representatives, governors or victorious generals. Since 20% or so of American voters pulled the lever for Ross Perot in 1992, I'll add another category, one which also does not describe any of the current contenders: "Self-made" billionaire.

Since victorious general George Washington first ascended to the office, I am unaware of any president who did not possess one or more of the aforementioned credentials, i.e. "that which gives a title to credit or confidence," i.e. indicators of credibility.

This is not intended as an assault on George Phillies, of course. He's not alone in being a non-credible candidate. But let's not kid ourselves: No current contender for the LP's presidential nomination fits within the credibility parameters established by more than two centuries' worth of quadrennial presidential elections. On the basis of that objective fact, he cannot be considered "a" credible candidate, let alone "the" credible candidate. His credibility can only be measured subjectively and, unless someone who meets the usual tests pops up seeking the LP's nomination, the only real standard we have is one of comparison to his opponents for the nomination.

Since George Phillies has himself set up credibility as a criterion, let's do some comparisons:

- George Phillies has, according to his flier, "an international reputation in my field of science." I have no doubt that that claim is true. George Phillies would make a fine science advisor to any president.

- Steve Kubby has, according to his peers, supporters and opponents, an international reputation in his field of ... politics. He's appeared alongside Mikhail Gorbachev at the Presidio. He's negotiated, as a representative of the American Medical Marijuana Association, with Janet Reno. He's been a key figure in international litigation on the rights of refugees.

I rather suspect that George Phillies is better known in the academic physics community than Steve Kubby is in the political community ... but which type of international reputation do you think will prove more valuable in a presidential election?

- George Phillies has, according to his flier, "no scandals in my past. Open my closets: No skeletons fall out."

- Steve Kubby, according to the US government, has no scandals in his past, either. Oh, they tried to find some. While prosecuting (and persecuting) him for his use and advocacy of medical marijuana, the feds combed through his personal and political financial records, attempting to find any indiscretion or fraud -- and, finding themselves unsuccessful, dragged ridiculous accusations through open court as hopefully prejudicial innuendo ... before finding themselves soundly thrashed by the facts. Kubby was clean as a whistle, and the fleas couldn't bite him.

I have no doubt that George Phillies is clean, too -- as a matter of fact, he's someone I'd trust with my life, or with my young child's life. But he can't even begin to match credentials of public examination to prove that fact with Steve Kubby. Kubby's closet has already been opened, its contents swept out and examined under a microscope.

As I previously noted, "credibility" is a relative thing in LP presidential campaigns. But, given George Phillies' stature relative to at least one of his opponents, citing him as "the" credible candidate isn't ... well ... serious.

I intend to make my analysis of George's flier into a multi-part series. After all, I've so far only covered the exterior, and the first paragraph of the interior! Next time: Six questions, six answers.

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