He had some serious qualms about the War in Iraq. He said he couldn't reconcile the thought of sending thousands of Americans to their death for no purpose that he could see. He didn't understand the planning--how can you "shock and awe" an entire country with a relatively small contingency of troops, especially when the enemy is made up of cells that can disappear at a moment's notice. Iraq was beginning to remind him of Vietnam: it is becoming nothing more than a growing quagmire.
He went on, without interruption, for a few minutes (it was a long lift). I was surprised, since Idaho is about as red as a state can be, and he had indicated earlier that he was a resident, and wasn't just on vacation. He saw my look of surprise, which led to the following exchange:
Him: "I'm sorry, I'm making you uncomfortable, it's just a sore spot with me."
Me: "Oh no, it's no problem."
Him: "I just wish that we had a president who had the balls to admit his mistake and pull our troops out before anymore Americans die."
Me: "It's too late for Bush to do anything, and he wouldn't anyway. He believes in the war and our purpose there. And if he did pull out, it would be a defeat for him, even if it isn't for America. By admitting he made such a big mistake, he would doom himself, historically."
Him: "Yeah, guess you're right. I've given up hope that any action could possibly be taken toward with drawl before the next president is sworn in."
Me: "But the vast majority of candidates won't fully extract forces until 2013, at the least. And the leading Democrats seem to waver on the issue depending on the latest opinion poll. Very few candidates are committed to a nearly immediate with drawl."
Him: "Who is?"
Me: "Bill Richardson, among a few others. But of those few, he has the best chance at winning the presidency, and the best strategy for pulling our soldiers out. He would take the troops out within a year, and already has an extensive plan for how to do it. As a former negotiator, he would leave a strong diplomatic presence to help the Iraqi government adjust to being completely in power."
He nodded, but didn't say anything. He looked off into the distance, contemplating what I just presented. We stayed silent until the end of the lift when, as we prepared to disembark, he said, "Richardson. He's the governor, right?" I nodded. "I'll have to give him a closer look," he said. "If what you say is true, he might just have my vote."
With that, he skied off to the right, and I went left. I paused for a second. For the first time since I canvassed Pennsylvania for John Kerry all those years ago, I felt like I had directly influenced someone's vote. He may not end up pulling the lever for Governor Richardson, but at the least, he'll educate himself about him, perhaps tell a friend or two. When you're running a grassroots campaign, that's a definite sign of progress.