Quick, what do these people have in common: Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, Tommy Thompson, Tom Vilsack? If you’re into politics, you’ll have recognized that each of these guys was a candidate for the U.S. presidency last year.


 


  Quick, what do these people have in common: Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, Tommy Thompson, Tom Vilsack?   If you’re into politics, you’ll have recognized that each of these guys was a candidate for the U.S. presidency last year.   Each joined in some of the debates. Each of them eventually folded his tent without most Americans even knowing he was a candidate.   They failed because they, along with better-known candidates including Joe Biden, John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani, Bill Richardson and Fred Thompson, were unable to drum up enough public – or financial - support for their bids.   What’s really unfortunate, it seems to me, is that most of these candidates have histories of political success at least as solid as the handful of candidates still in the race.   Despite this, they’re gone without a trace – more importantly, they’re gone without most of us actually learning what they hoped to accomplish as president.   For this we should largely blame that ubiquitous mass known as the media.   To learn about the candidates and their positions, we should be able to rely on newspapers. To see and hear them, we must rely on television.   All of these candidates were “covered” by major national newspapers while they were in their race; all of them appeared on one or another of the Sunday news programs.   But most of the coverage they received consisted of stories about how they were doing at collecting campaign contributions and where they stood in the polls.   We heard and read too many reports that expressed some reporter or pundit’s opinion on the viability of a candidacy and precious little about what the candidate hoped to do for the country.   There are currently four candidates still standing with legitimate chances to win their party’s nomination.   All of them seem competent enough, and any of them might make a decent president. But I can’t help wishing some of the folks who have already left the field had become better known.   For instance, neither of the two remaining Democratic candidates for the office of chief executive of the United States has a bit of actual executive experience.   Hillary Clinton has been running on her “35 years of experience,” and she actually seems to be an effective U.S. senator. But most of the past 35 years, she’s worked as a corporate lawyer – not necessarily the best preparation to become our nation’s leader.   Barack Obama just received an important endorsement from the heads of the Kennedy clan, who likened him to John F. Kennedy. Obama is a gifted and inspirational speaker, just as Kennedy was. But those of us who were alive during the nearly three years of Kennedy’s presidency remember that, while he was likeable and very well-spoken, he wasn’t particularly effective.   Despite enjoying a Democratic majority in Congress, Kennedy wasn’t able to pass any significant legislation. In addition, his inexperience in foreign affairs resulted in some serious missteps, such as his sending 75,000 U.S. troops to Vietnam or the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.   Meanwhile, the Democrat with the best resume in the field has long retired from the field. Bill Richardson has been a successful state governor for the past five years. Prior to that he served in Congress, was U.S. Energy Secretary and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He has personally led successful U.S. negotiations with the leaders of Iraq, Cuba and North Korea.   On the Republican side, the leading candidates are a one-term governor with an extensive private industry background and a decorated former navy pilot who has served in Congress since 1982.   There is some executive experience between them but the most impressive resume in the Republican field this year belonged to Tommy Thompson. Thompson served as governor of Wisconsin for a record 14 years before being appointed U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services.   As governor, he created Wisconsin Works, one of the nation’s first welfare reform programs. Under his leadership, Wisconsin became one of the first states to guarantee health care to the families of its working poor.   It seems to me that newspapers, news magazines and the electronic media would have done voters a lot more good this year had we expended more of our resources explaining what candidates such as these were hoping to accomplish and less of our resources reporting who had collected the most financial backing and who was leading in largely meaningless polls.   Contact Jules Molenda at jmolenda@lakesunleader.com.