It’s an election year again, and if you want to know a little more about the candidates running this time around, pick up a copy of Slate's Field Guide to the Candidates 2004. This slim volume offers up some interesting facts, position statements and trivia about the slew of Democratic contenders, and the one sole Republican who dares to run.
From Wesley Clark and his heroic military record, to Howard Dean’s amazing popularity with grass-roots folks, to John Kerry’s Kennedyesque appeal, to the sole female contender – Carol Moseley Braun - to Dennis Kucinich as the little engine that could, and Joe Lieberman, John Edwards, Dick Gephardt and Al Sharpton thrown in to round out the pack, this book gives names, ages, marital status, military history, net worth, medical history, religious affiliation…oh, and something we will all need to make our best decision – favorite song. The staff of Slate has also supplied us with various position statements of the candidates, including Pres. G.W. Bush as the lone Repub (who dares run against him, or Karl Rove?), and their major flip-flops over the years on everything from abortion to military spending to whether or not they supported the Iraq war.
There is even a section on Bob Graham, who has since dropped out of the race, but is worthy of considering what might have been nonetheless. This book reveals the scandals each candidate has been embroiled in, their bravest moments and their biggest gaffes. I learned quite a bit about the man I am throwing my own heart and hope behind (Dean) as well as the others, and found myself thinking in new ways about candidates I had previously ignored. The flip-flops some of these folks have made on certain positions over the years surprised me, especially total reversals of thought about a woman’s right to choose her own destiny.
The book is written mostly by Slate.com’s chief political correspondent, William Saletan, with input from the entire staff of the popular website, and there seems to be a great underlying sense of amusement beneath the anecdotes chosen to portray each candidate. I also got a real kick out of the photos and body language descriptions – boy, will I be watching those debates a LOT more closely.
The book is a must-have for anyone who wants a quick education before the onslaught of primaries, starting January of this year. I did find myself wanting a little more meat and substance on each candidate, but this book did the job of intriguing me just enough to go off on my own to do more research.
I’m still standing by my man, though.