Even if you live under a rock, it's hard to escape the presidential election news blitz. The Republican and Democratic races are fascinating as the polls shoot down the front-runners every other week. So I wondered which candidate might be best for engineers and scientists.
I looked at the websites for some of today's candidates — Obama, Clinton, Huckabee, Romney, Kucinich, Biden, Thompson, Edwards, Richardson and Giuliani. Depending on when you read this, the list might have lost a candidate or two given the Iowa Caucuses on Jan. 3. My apologies to supporters of other candidates not mentioned here.
I considered issues that would directly benefit present and future engineers such as energy independence for jobs, education or direct support for technology. I stayed away from indirect issues like fiscal responsibility and the War on Terrorism which can have a big but indirect impact. Here's what I found.
With few big differences, all peg energy independence and renewables as a top issue. Romney likes renewables and more domestic drilling for oil. Obama and Biden focus on breaking the oil habit. Huckabee zeroes in on conservation and renewables. Giuliani stumps for a diversified energy portfolio. Clinton emphasizes renewables and that industry creating new jobs. Stressing a "balanced approach," Thompson calls it "energy security." Kucinich labels his energy policy "a sustainable future." Richardson wants to cut oil demand by 50 percent in 13 years.
Better technical education doesn't seem high on any candidate's agenda. The only one I found who mentions "math, science, technology and engineering" education is Fred Thompson. Romney claims to have hired 1,000 math and science teachers when he was governor of Massachusetts. And Richardson pays some lip service to "math, science and innovation."
Only Romney's site had search capability for me to probe more deeply on his positions on science and engineering, but none of the candidates address them in any detail. Most of the sites were prefaced with online campaign fund-raising and e-mail newsletter invitations.
One thing that stood out was Obama's separately highlighting "Technology and Innovation" as a top issue. His detailed position on the topic calls for a modern communications infrastructure and using digital technology to solve some of the nation's most pressing social problems. Edwards puts "Innovation" on his A list, but with almost 40 issues on his agenda, the lineup is a bit daunting.
I don't believe any of the candidates were engineers in their former lives so don't expect a real engineering candidate. Clinton, Biden, Giuliani, Thompson and Obama are lawyers. Romney is an MBA type (my sister-in-law was a business school classmate of both Romney and our current President). The only two engineer presidents were Herbert Hoover and Ulysses S. Grant III, unless you count Washington's stint as a surveyor.
Candidate bios make them out to be more American than apple pie, but one line in Kucinich's is irresistible: "(His family) lived in 21 places, including a couple of cars, by the time he was 17."
How you select a candidate will certainly be based on a much wider and personal criteria than presented here. Sometimes, I get zinged for talking about politics in a technical magazine, but I come from a very politically minded family. Who do you like? I'm leaning toward Clinton and keeping my eye on Obama. (My views are strictly my own and do not reflect the position of Design News.)
In the pat-yourself-on-the-back department, Design News provided 212 overstuffed holiday stockings for our Army and National Guard troops in Iraq through Treats for Troops — a great site for making a soldier feel a tiny bit closer to home if you don't know anyone there directly.
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