Thistles and thorns

To sort out the policy differences between the main candidates in the presidential primaries, we present here a list of the most outstanding characteristics of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. Thistles go to stances on issues that will have a positive effect on the nation if that candidate is elected; thorns go to those with negative effects.

Hillary Clinton

A thistle to Clinton for recognizing the increasing expenses of American doctors and pharmaceutical companies — and proposing universal government-subsidized health care.

A thorn to Clinton for a hazy stance on Iran. In 2006, she wanted all options on the table; now she wants to rule out nukes in favor of diplomacy, but still accuses the Revolutionary Guard of promoting terrorism.

A thistle to Clinton for reducing abortions while keeping freedom of choice, rather than trying to reduce them by overturning Roe v. Wade. She instead proposes an increased use of contraceptives under the Prevention First Act.

A thorn to Clinton for escalating campaign spending.

A thistle to Clinton for planning to decrease dependence on oil and other foreign energy sources and recognizing that global warming actually does exist.

A thorn to Clinton for sending mixed messages on the war in Iraq — initially voting for the war in 2002 and now making an end to the war a key part of her campaign.

Barack Obama

A thistle to Obama for bringing an atmosphere of change and hope to our polarized, bureaucratic government.

A thorn to Obama for planning to spend more money, through added technology and personnel, along the border.

A thistle to Obama for standing up to Detroit automakers and aiming to increase fuel economy standards. If he can, in fact, improve energy efficiency 50 percent by 2030, will his personal motorcade go green, too?

A thorn to Obama for believing in capital punishment — even if it is only for “punishing the most heinous crimes.”

A thistle to Obama for seeing immigrants as people, not just aliens, and desiring to reunite families when possible and helping solve problems that send immigrants across the border in the first place.

A thorn to Obama for sending mixed political messages. It is misaligned to at once support small businesses and be unable to regularly stand up to large corporations.

John McCain

A thistle to McCain for supporting a citizenship program for illegal immigrants who are already here because they’ve worked harder to be American than most Americans…or because otherwise he’d have to fire his gardener...

A thorn to McCain for wanting to build a bigger fence. We’re taking that first thistle back, buddy.

A thistle to McCain for putting the health and safety of citizens first while restructuring America’s heath care system, not after.

A thorn to McCain for refusing to withdraw troops from Iraq until all Iraqi armed forces and police are trained to maintain political and social stability. This from a country that waited 100 years between freeing the slaves and passing the Civil Rights Act? At this rate, they’ll be sending my grandma to war as long as she can pass the vision test.

A thistle to McCain for averting middle child syndrome by planning to lower taxes for the middle class.

A thorn to McCain for erasing 35 years of progress in women’s rights by wanting to overturn Roe v. Wade. This is not Back to the Future.

Mitt Romney

A thistle to Romney for supporting and planning to improve No Child Left Behind by increasing flexibility in student assessments.

A thorn to Romney for “personally evolving” all over the issues, from gay rights to abortion, even becoming a lifetime member of the NRA after describing himself as supportive of gun control legislation. We don’t need another waffler running for office.

A thistle to Romney for realizing and planning to downsize the bureaucracy, whose power has grown under the Bush administration.

A thorn to Romney for supporting Bush’s continuing plans in Iraq, including his proposed increase of military troops and defense spending.

A thistle to Romney for realizing that the American dependence on imported oil is not sustainable and developing a plan that centers around investing in research of alternate energy technologies.

A thorn to Romney for spending a large percentage of his own personal fortune on his campaign to outspend every other Republican.