Lou Dobbs' commentary appears weekly on CNN.com.
Lou Dobbs says the candidates for president have not intelligently addressed the key issues.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Remember how excited everybody was just a short while ago that this presidential campaign was the first in 80 years to be wide open, without a president or vice president in the campaign?
Remember how excited we all were that American presidential politics had matured to the point that a woman and a black man were winning primary and caucus votes that allowed both to claim front-runner status?
Now Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are ensnared in petty racial and gender politics and that does neither of them credit.
But at least the ugly spectacle that Clinton and Obama created should serve as a reminder to all of us that group and identity politics have outlived their effectiveness and that pandering to socio-ethnocentric interest groups and special interests, whether as large as corporate America or as small as the construction company in a congressman's district, has no rightful place in 21st century American politics.
The Democratic and Republican candidates for president have done hardly better than President Bush and the Democratic-led Congress on the issue of the war in Iraq. The candidates trip over one another to bring more of our troops home faster than the other candidates, or refusing to withdraw our troops from Iraq until the job is done; policy choices not dissimilar to the simplistic White House's false choices in either staying the course or cutting and running.
But these presidential candidates, both Republican and Democrat, obviously would prefer not to discuss the war in Iraq in their campaigns, nor to state clearly whether they would secure our borders and ports as an absolute first condition before taking up the issue of immigration reform.
Both parties and nearly all of their candidates continue to drive false choices for the illegal immigration debate as well. The centrist and appropriate policy response to this crisis is to secure our borders and ports, and enforce current immigration laws.
Now that the economy has become the number-one issue for primary voters of both parties, we can expect the candidates to come up with new economic programs that will solve every problem in our society. Economic stimulus packages will soon be the order of the day, with more false choices: The Democrats will offer handouts to every man, woman and child and the Republicans will give drastic tax breaks to large corporations and the wealthy as the panacea for what ails us.
These candidates will not have addressed the causes of our economic malaise: The critical issue of the faith-based free trade policies of the past decade that have been devastating to working men and women and their families, policies that have enlarged our trade debt to more than $6 trillion.
And while presidential candidates of both political parties talk about our public education system in terms of globalism and American competitiveness, they fail to recognize the crisis in our public schools and they fail to prescribe urgently needed solutions.
This partisan nonsense and predictable platitudes of this presidential campaign does not augur well for the nation, and I fear none of the candidates of either party is capable of extricating us from the mess their partisan politics have created.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. E-mail to a friend