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Sunday, July 15, 2007
Paging Hal Holbrook
It's Sunday afternoon, and I was laying on my bed watching television. Specifically, I'm looking at NBC's Meet The Press, which I had TiVo'ed from earlier this morning.
Go on, shake your head sadly, I'm doing it, too.
I had recently returned with full belly from Wienerschnitzel, the air conditioning was on, and I began to drift into that half-awake/half-asleep state which characterizes so many of my afternoons. There was a round table discussion of political pundits, including Bob Novak, who of course, was the first to put into print that Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife was a CIA agent. Novak has a memoir coming out, from which I have no doubt he will profit handsomely.
The panel was discussing Novak's involvement in the 1972 presidential race, and in particular, Novak's part in labeling George McGovern as "triple-A candidate: Acid, Amnesty, and Abortion." This quote, published in March of that year, was made anonymously by Thomas Eagleton, a senator from Missouri. Four months later, McGovern would pick Eagleton as his running mate. It gets worse.
Apparently, ten years earlier, Eagleton had, on two or three occasions, checked himself into hospitals with mental and physical exhaustion, and received electro-shock therapy. This information naturally hit the press, and just three weeks later, on August 1, Eagleton withdrew from the ticket. The damage to the Democrats was done.
Which is not to blame Eagleton for the ensuing landslide. Nixon was still fairly popular, Watergate wasn't in the national consciousness, and McGovern wasn't exactly a formidable candidate, given the state of things in 1972. The Republicans got the opponent they wanted in the election, and the Eagleton fiasco was merely icing on the cake.
Back to today. I'm still in my half-conscious state listening to this, and then I sat up very suddenly. The Republicans have revealed their game plan, and I understood it clearly, I suspect because my questionable subconscious was at the fore.
Any Republican I speak to off the record thinks the 2008 elections are going to be a miserable, historically bad time. Every time Bush talks about progress in Iraq, and 70% of us know what a crock that is, support trickles away. Every time he talks about the stock market surging, and the rest of us see our health care and housing costs skyrocketing, another conservative voter starts to wonder what it means.
Republicans also don't like their candidates very much. They have Giuliani, who is pro-choice, for gay rights, and pro gun control. They like the fact that he had a really great day on September 11th, 2001 while the rest of us were lining up at blood banks. But they know, or at least suspect the amount of personal and political dirt that he is hiding would dwarf the pile at ground zero. And of course Mit Romney is a Mormon, so he's out.
When you have to turn to Fred Thompson to ignite passion, you are a party in trouble. If I may quote his old high school football coach:
"He was smart, but he was lazy. He probably could have been a straight-A student if he'd applied himself."
Big deal, Fred was lazy in high school. I didn't get to me the head of thoracic surgery at Harvard Med myself, in large part due to the same affliction. But when one of his advisers while in the Senate says this about his, erm, lightweight record of accomplishments during eight years in the Senate:
"While the Senate is filled with ambitious men who aren't in a rush to get home at night, Senator Thompson kept a lean formal schedule, did the bare minimum to get by and then hightailed [it] to the Prime Rib or the Capital Grille."
There will be more to come, rest assured. The man made his bones in Hollywood. You got your freebie with Reagan. Thompson will be crucified from the left, and the right. Go ahead and declare, Fred. I dare you.
But don't worry, the Democrats will screw it up and give you a chance.
It's a good-looking field, in large part. You have, just at the top, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards. All three are pretty good candidates in varying degrees. Someone asked me about five months ago who I liked, and I said Edwards, mainly because he had actually outlined his plans for universal health care. Lots of candidates were talking about it, but no one had laid out specifics.
All of the press, of course, has been with Hillary, and Barak Obama. She's got great poll numbers and Bill, Obama is a rock star and raises money like gangbusters. Edwards has more time in the Senate than any of them, is an accomplished legislator, and probably should have been the nominee in 2004. But what do we know about John Edwards, or at least what are people saying in the press this year?
John Edwards has a giant house. Oh, sure, he talks a good game about dealing with poverty, but how dare he have an enormous home that he paid for with his own money!
He gets expensive haircuts. $400 dollars for a haircut? How can he possibly understand what I go through when he can drop four yards on a trim? Right, like Sean Hannity gets his mop varnished at SuperCuts. Please. If this was Romney, people would be rushing to the head of the line to talk about how great the economy must be to spend 400 bucks on a haircut, and furthermore, how this clearly gives the service sector huge incentive to show up for work. And where Rudy is concerned, they'd simply be happy if he had hair.
The sandbagging of McGovern got me thinking about Edwards.
The Democrats could run almost any politician in the party and take 60% of the overall vote next year, especially if things continue as they have, and Bush persists on dragging his feet on Iraq. Unless...
Unless you nominate a woman, or an African-American. Yes, I said it.
I like Clinton and Obama in varying degrees, although not as much as Edwards. I think Hillary would make a good president, as smart as she is, but she has been known to pander, and I'm sick of Bush/Clinton/Bush/etc in the White House. Obama, on the other hand, I just need to learn more about. What I know of him, I like a great deal, and his inexperience doesn't register for me as an issue. This guy is beyond smart, and appears to have common sense as well. What he doesn't already know, he'll learn. Thus far, however, he has not been a great campaigner.
The press has been content to feed us the "fact" that Hillary and Obama are the top tier Democrats, and everyone else is just muddying the waters. They can't bury Edwards yet, because he is a legitimate candidate with a great political infrastructure in place, and learned a few things in 2004. But they are sure as hell trying.
I'd like to think that at this point in history, a woman, a black, a Hispanic, Jew or gay could run for office and no one would really give a damn about it. I know better.
The press will continue to anoint Clinton and Obama as the legit candidates until one of them is the Democratic nominee. That is when it will get interesting, to see how the Irrational Right will spew out ugliness without resorting to gender bashing or race-baiting.
"Barak! Call me!"
My guess is that if Hillary gets it, it'll just be a non-stop Clinton bash-fest, and we will see endless streams of Lewinsky photos and the like. If it plays that way, Hillary will win, this country still loves her husband. Don't worry, Roger Ailes will come up with something that will work.
An Obama nomination will be more interesting. How will the GOP call a spade a spade (Whoops! Means nothing!), without being so painfully obvious? And is obvious the way to go because maybe this country, despite all of its protestations to the contrary, may simply not ready to elect a black president? I hope I'm wrong.
What I do know is that the GOP will face the candidate they want to face. A race that should not be remotely competitive will be a nail-biter. Allegations of mental illness and poor health that ruined Eagleton will not be needed when the largest "flaws" the Democratic frontrunners have are written in their genetic code.
You think it won't get that bad? It'll be even worse.
posted at 5:07 PM
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