Here it is again, that most American of contact sports, election season. Every four years we engage in the practice of selecting the person whom we collectively will grow to dislike during the ensuing 4 or 8 years, depending on how quickly we reach our limit of tolerance. I discount the possibility of death by disease or other more dire machinations as I am convinced that the only persons who possibly would run for US President are in fact golems. Everyone knows you can't kill a golem because they're already undead. Shoot them, burn them with napalm, run them over with a rampaging vehicle of public opinion, all that is needed for their instant resurrection is the smell of campaign cash.
I have to admit my viewpoint wasn't always this jaundiced. I can remember a time when I had the (however misguided) belief that whomever we elected as our Chief Executive desired what was best for the nation. I could blame my cynicism on my own advancing age. I've lived long enough to realize the futility of many of my best intentions. I figure the President is heir to his or her own ineffectiveness. In short, I no longer believe that the President of the US has the ability to do great good. I do, however, believe the President is capable of doing great harm.
We arrive at the crop of contenders for the 2008 race. There are at this point three survivors. On the Republican side we have John Sidney McCain, on the Democrat side are Barack Hussein Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Getting to this point has been a slugfest, to say the least.
On the Republican side McCain has won out over a field which included Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Sam Brownback, and Tom Tancredo.
First, let's eliminate the weak sisters. These candidates may have had some good selling points but for various reasons failed to gain traction with the voters.
Sam Brownback- ok, who the hell is Sam Brownback? Nobody knows, so Brownback goes down for a quick 10 count.
Tom Tancredo had a following among those conservatives who want a real US immigration policy, but he failed to get attention.
Duncan Hunter is from California and has serious conservative street cred, but again he is a national unknown. His last political foray was running for California governor against Arnold Schwarzenegger, a contest in which he was soundly terminated by Arnie's star power. Californians never learn, but they got what they wanted, so they should be happy to have their RINO (Republican In Name Only) in Arnold.
Rudy Giuliani, former New York City mayor during and after the 9-11 attacks, failed to play west of the Hudson River. Actually, he did ok in New Jersey too, but what's the difference between New Jersey and New York? He had a few problems relating to his marriage, (what New York politician doesn't?), and his choice of police chief (who had his own problems), translated into weak skills in filling important positions. Giuliani chose to wait until the Florida primary to enter the fray and by then the thundering herd had passed him by, displaying the poor tactical leadership of his campaign. So long, Rudy.
Ron Paul, Congressman from Texas, is an advocate of actually doing what the US Constitution mandates. He believes in a federal government which strictly adheres to the limits imposed on it by the Constitution. That, along with his isolationist stance, has gotten him portrayed as the crazy old uncle who comes out of the bedroom with just his jammy top on. Damned funny, good for a laugh, but for God's sake don't bring him out when we're having guests over.
The heavy hitters
That leaves the serious contenders, the heavy hitters. Everyone waited for Fred Thompson to engage, but like Maverick in Top Gun he seemed to freeze at the stick, and when he finally got going it was too late. I enjoyed hearing Thompson speak inasmuch as he appeared to be the only real adult with thoughtful answers. He refused to play the sound bite game, a move I also appreciated, but it didn't earn him the love of the media. Fred went down from a TKO in the third round.
Next was Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor. He was a serious contender, having real world experience as a successful businessman. He managed to reform Massachusetts budget, putting them on a much more sound financial footing, a considerable feat for a Republican governor in a Democrat stronghold. He also demonstrated his managerial abilities by bringing the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games to a successful conclusion. He has impeccable political pedigree with his father being former Michigan governor and Presidential candidate George Romney. Mitt is a family man, he's wealthy, successful, telegenic...and a Mormon. The media gave him a continuous rectal examination regarding his faith, enough to rouse the suspicions of the Fundamentalist Christian wing of the GOP. They had their suspicions that Romney actually believed his religious tenets, making him a puppet of what they regard as a cult. The fundamentalists ignored the fact that several Presidents have less than fabulous credentials when it comes to living out their Christian claims, some being arguably completely godless. Romney still had widespread support from many in the conservative and business wings, enough so to be a fly in McCain's ointment.
Romney also suffered by the continuing candidacy of Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor. Huckabee siphoned away a substantial portion of the evangelical and socially conservative vote due to his credentials as a former Baptist minister. Had Huckabee conceded his bid, Romney may well have had the strength to evict McCain from contention. Romney shocked many with his withdrawal from the race. People speculated about his motivation, thinking he may have withdrawn for the good of the party, or perhaps by demonstrating that he is a team player, he gets to go to the head of the line next round.
Finally, we have former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, inheritor of the office from Jim Guy Tucker who in turn succeeded Bill Clinton. Huckabee seemed to be very opportunistic, doing and saying whatever was expedient instead of embodying the tenets of his mainstream Christian pedigree. This unappealing quality, along with his role as ankle biter to Romney, enabled John McCain to finish at the top of the GOP heap. What Huckabee succeeded in doing is splitting the conservative GOP vote, making McCain winner by default. Huckabee also, by continuing his run until McCain had numerically locked up the nomination, alienated the GOP movers and shakers. This has made him to some degree persona non grata, almost assuring that he will not be in line for the next Presidential nomination by the Republicans.
John Sidney McCain is the most unlikely person to become standard bearer for the 2008 Republican Party. Part of McCain's portfolio is his rebel stance in regards to party loyalty. It wasn't so long ago there was serious speculation that McCain might jump to the Democrat side of the aisle following his defeat by George W.Bush for the GOP nomination in 2000. McCain has repeatedly crossed the aisle to co-sponsor legislation with Democrats. McCain-Feingold was legislation which sought to limit the influence of money in presidential politics, legislation which has proven to be a cure worse than the disease it sought to end. McCain-Kennedy was the so-called illegal immigration amnesty bill which went down in flames amid a huge public outcry this past year despite President Bush's wholehearted support. McCain-Lieberman was a failed bill to limit greenhouse emissions by electric utilities, industrial firms, and refineries at a hefty cost to the economy. John McCain, one of the famous 'band of 14' who helped to remove the teeth from the threat to filibuster over judicial nominations, thereby stopping much needed action on judicial appointments. John McCain, who for a time was seriously courted by John Kerry as a potential Vice Presidential running mate for his 2004 White House bid.
John McCain seems to suffer from an identity crisis. He spends most of his time disguised as the gopher in the Chucky Cheese arcade game Bop the Gopher. He stays hidden until he pops up only to issue an apology for something said by one of his supporters, and has even apologized for his Democrat rivals on one occasion. The other part of the time John McCain is working to establish himself as The Invisible Man, a task at which he seems to be succeeding admirably.
A brief aside...
This is the GOP nominee, John Sidney McCain. I remember the last election cycle when John Kerry was the nominee of the Democrat party. He was the beneficiary of an effect called 'cascading'. He won a couple of the initial contests and the others quickly fell into line for him, a cascade of acclaim which gave the Democrat party a very weak candidate. Notes were taken by political operatives. In what had been an inadvertent cascade in Kerry's case lay useful information. What if a willing press could create a deliberate cascade? If it were possible to so influence the primaries and caucuses, the press could then select who the nominee for either party might be. Is it a coincidence that John McCain had nothing but love and hugs from the press until he stood alone at the helm of the GOP ticket for 2008? McCain was endorsed by no less than the New York Times, a newspaper not known for its conservative leanings. Why would they choose to endorse McCain unless they believed he was the weakest candidate in the Republican stable? It seems like an amazing set of coincidences, but in politics at this level there are NO coincidences.
Let's switch sides of the aisle and have a look at the Democrat hopefuls for 2008. This side of the aisle has produced much more sound and fury than their GOP competitors. As of this writing there are 2 contenders still vying for the crown, Barack Hussein Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. To be where they stand is the culmination of a hotly contested battle, one which has produced many casualties.
The Dem contenders
The field started out with Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, Tom Vilsack, and Mike Gravel. The Democrat race is as notable for its absentee candidates as it is for the ones running. Absent is Al Gore, the man who lost to (some say won over) George Bush in 2000. John Kerry is also AWOL, as is Evan Bayh, General Wesley Clark, Tom Daschle, Howard Dean, Russ Feingold, Al Sharpeton, and Mark Warner. Let's look at the candidates for a moment.
Joe Biden is a long time Senator and according to many the most qualified nominee of the Democrats, but he failed to gain traction.
Chris Dodd, another long time Senator had the same result as Biden.
Dennis Kucinich, ultra liberal escapee from the mothership provided comic relief until he retired to defend his Congressional seat in Ohio.
Tom Vilsack is a non entity to the public, a non-factor in the race.
Bill Richardson was a serious contender from his credentials but working from New Mexico, a state with a small population, found himself with too small a base to be viable.
John Edwards took a swing at the Presidential pinata, but missed badly when Clinton and Obama got all the ink and the air time. He was relegated to jumping up and down on the sidelines shouting "I'm still running, y'all!" Nobody heard him and he went away.
Mike Gravel is still in the race (I think), but he's orbiting far out in the political solar system, locked in an icy darkness while Clinton and Obama bask in the light (and sometimes in the heat).
Barack Hussein Obama is a first term Senator from Illinois, and has been taken to task as being too inexperienced for the job. He has as positive qualities an impressive speaking ability while actually saying nothing. He is the candidate for change while being very nonspecific what those changes might entail. He is regarded as the most liberal Senator in a body which contains Edward Kennedy, so that statement puts Obama so far left he may be sitting in the grandstand instead of playing in left field. Obama has a lovely wife named Michelle, who has revealed a thinly veiled resentment toward the US. Her resentment is intact despite her and Barack knocking down some serious money these last several years. Michelle reaps over 300K per year in her employment. They both have come under scrutiny for their affiliation with the Trinity United Church of Christ, a church headed by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Some of Wright's sermons have been exposed, sermons loaded with vitriol against certain segments of society. Wright's congregation follows what has been termed Black Liberation Theology, a belief system which is outside the tenets of mainstream Christianity, being much more 'Afrocentric' in its teachings. Obama has sought to sidestep the issue, claiming he wasn't in attendance when the inflammatory statements were made from the pulpit. This seems incredulous considering the sheer amount of those utterances. Obama and his wife have been financial contributors to the church, an action which supports the contention that Obama is supportive of the church and its message. Obama also has his children to consider. They too are exposed to the acid from the pulpit, hearing a message that America is the reason for the plight of black people, totally negating any idea of self responsibility for ones choices in life. If you end up as a drug addict, it isn't your fault for choosing to take drugs, it's the fault of the government for bringing the drugs into the society. If you come down with AIDS, it's not your fault for having unsafe sex, it's the government's fault for developing and introducing AIDS into the black population as a means to control the number of black people.
Obama seems to be losing support, his free pass from close scrutiny having expired. His involvements with an indicted political fundraiser named Antoin 'Tony' Rezko have sullied the squeaky clean image Obama has heretofore projected. As the election process unfolds, it's a safe bet to expect further revelations regarding Obama. Never underestimate the power of a politician who can enunciate an entire sentence, especially after the last eight years.
Now, for the 'Pièce de résistance', Hillary Rodham Clinton. Where can one begin when recounting the adventures of the junior Senator from New York? The thing about Hillary Clinton is that she claims credit for being part of her husband's presidency while accepting none of the blame for its failures. Hillary has experience galore in government, being part of the Watergate Committee Hearings of 1974 early in her career. She was tasked with development of procedures to be followed in that investigation. The results were less than stellar with her work being described as 'ethically flawed'. Some of her recommendations were to deny President Richard M. Nixon legal counsel, and to 'not hold any hearings with or take the depositions of any live witnesses'.
My, how the years have flown. Who can forget Travelgate, Cattlegate, Filegate, or myriad other peccadillos concerning the former Clinton Administration? It warms the heart and mind just anticipating a return to those halcyon years.
Just these last couple weeks we have been treated to a display of Clinton's management style. While the conservative talk media has been engaged with Obama and his relationship with his flamethrower pastor, all Hillary had to do is sit back and let the conservative media do her work for her. The first rule of political combat is "When your enemy is bent on destroying himself, get out of the way and let him." Is that what Hillary did? No, my brothers and sisters, it emphatically is not. Instead of being circumspect and letting Obama take his hits she instead regaled us with the tale of her trip to Bosnia where she and her entourage had to run for cover from sniper fire. It turns out the story is a complete and utter work of fiction, a lie fashioned from whole cloth. Usually finding support from the mainstream media, imagine her shock and awe when that mainstream media recounted her visit complete with sedate stroll across the tarmac. What Hillary managed to do is pull her opponents chestnuts out of the fire and refocus that fire upon herself. Clinton has a character flaw, one she apparently shares with her husband, which says "Why tell the truth when I can tell a perfectly good lie?" That tendency, along with her poor political judgment should disqualify her for the office.
These are the choices which will produce our 2008 Presidential nominees. To paraphrase former Kansas Senator and Presidential candidate Robert Dole when he remarked concerning America's three living former presidents, (Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon), Dole referred to them as "Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil, and...Evil". Those are the choices we have.
One could surmise that if Obama wins the nomination he will alienate liberal women who support Clinton. If Clinton wins, she will probably alienate the black voting bloc, so regardless of who gains the nomination a significant portion of the Democrat coalition will become disenfranchised. On the Republican side McCain has already alienated a significant portion of the Christian/conservative wing of the GOP. The question remains then which candidate will alienate the largest portion of his or her constituency. Add Ralph Nader and shake, don't stir, for a delectable political cocktail.
At this point it remains to be seen who will win this contest, but I have a sneaking suspicion who will lose. The inevitable loser in this dogfight will once again be the American electorate.