Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Presidential Issues

Uh oh. I let slip that I am in favor of the (admittedly far-fetched) Dean/Clark ticket.

So let's take a closer look at that, eh?

First, in this post, a rundown of candidates whose names are not Howard Dean:

John Kerry- Can't win. Sorry. He very well might win the nomination, but if he does, I will be digging a very deep hole -- filled with cheap booze and old science fiction novels -- in which to spend the next four years, because George Bush will reign until 2008.

Why? For one very simple reason - John Kerry is boring and looks too damn old.

Simplistic, juvenile analysis? Yes. But it is absolutely correct.

Say what you will about Bush, the man is quite the young buck, as Presidents go, and his handlers are very careful to present him in small, easy-to-swallow bites to keep him seeming fresh, interesting, and exciting. You and I thought the carrier landing was excessive, but a good chunk of the populace loved it, and not just the die hard Republicans.

Kerry just cannot win against Bush’s vitality.

It's too bad, then, that Kerry, as the pseudo-front runner, is wrapping up a lot of the big campaign guns - particularly Rand Beers, who could potentially do a lot of damage to Bush while bolstering Democratic National Security Street Cred (DNSSC).

Hopefully, Kerry will get bounced out of the primaries and gracefully hand off all his weaponry to the nominee.

Joe Lieberman- Can't win. Same problems as Kerry, with the additional stench of loser carrying over from 2000. The only Democrat less trusted by the base is Zell Miller, and Lieberman's handling of the Enron investigation makes that distinction deserved.

John Edwards- The way I see it, Edwards is the only guy besides Dean who has a chance at beating Bush. Unfortunately, he has, up to this point, been a disappointment. As Kos has noted in the past, he has occasional brilliant moments followed by a week or so of mediocrity. This is no good.

Actually, for a young guy who's a relative newcomer to national politics, he's done pretty well. Unfortunately, all of the "next Clinton" talk has led to over inflated hopes – both on his part and the media’s -- which have in turn made his actual performance to date a failure in terms of expectations. Bad. Bad. Bad.

Another big chink in Edwards' armor is the fact that he was a trial lawyer only a few years ago. Now, you and I know that that does not necessarily make him a bad guy; in fact, given his record of going after major corporations on behalf of wronged individuals, it can be a big plus. The problem, though, is that people dislike lawyers, especially ones that sue. Yes, the perception of trial lawyers all being greedy thugs who help lazy good-for-nothings get rich with frivolous lawsuits is manufactured by the tort "reform" crowd, but that doesn't make it go away. Basically, in order for Edwards' previous career to be a factor in his favor, he needs to continue to "fight for the little guy" in the Senate for a few more years, so that journalists and other storyline-makers can draw a parralel between his two careers, with fighting people who take advantage of others as an overarching theme. Otherwise, the GOP can just point to him and say “trial lawyer,” and the jig is up; go home, no White House for you.

I like John Edwards. I think that, given a bit more experience and a more extensive Senate record, he could be a real contender. In fact, I'm looking at him a little like Gary Hart in '84- a young guy with good ideas and charisma who just needs a few more years of experience and a higher national profile (assuming Edwards avoids any Monkey Business-type flameouts).

So this run is good for him. Let him learn the ins and outs of national campaigning, and let him build up that all-important name-recognition. He's one of the few national figures in the Democratic party who's young enough to still be in his political prime in 2012 if another Democrat wins the Presidency next year. On the other hand, if the gods throw tomatoes at us and Bush wins next year, then Edwards will be ready to roll in 2008. Either way, this is a practice run for him.

Dick Gephardt- Can't win. Unions like him, he has a lot of legislative experience, blah blah blah. So did Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, and those two got beaten like the family mule.

The fact is, any Democrat smart enough to know who he is is also smart enough to know that he was the top Democrat in the House during a time when the Republicans ruled the House with an iron fist. Dick couldn’t keep the GOP from growing in power in the 90's (save for that little hiccup in '98 when the country decided it hated Newt), and everyone knows it. More than that, he presided over the 2002 midterms which, in terms of the House, were quite a drubbing for the Democrats. And no matter what The Note says, he still gives off a faint whiff of Loser from that election.

Yes, he has a nifty health plan, yes he is raising some good money, yes he has good support in midwestern blue states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois.

Doesn't matter. He has too much baggage, too little personality, and the unions simply can't get out the vote like they used to. God help us if he wins the nomination.

Bob Graham- Who?

Al Sharpton- Can't win without help from extra-terrestrials, and only then if they have death rays and are willing to use them.

But so what? Al certainly talks a good game, and my initial fears of the Republicans accusing the Democrats of racism for discounting him as a contender in the primaries have mostly faded away.

He's an entertaining guy, and from what I've seen and read of his speeches, he manages to make interesting some of the larger messages the Democrats have been trying to push (the Kool-Aide line about Bush’s tax cuts was classic). He is able to phrase things in a funny, memorable, sound-bite way, a skill that seems to be sorely lacking among Democrats.

He will never be President, but I say let him bash Bush to his heart's content. A few funny lines, if picked up by the media, can be devastating, and if they come from Al, the nominee can avoid any blowback that might result from negative reaction to what he says.

Al can be our wrecking ball.

Carol Mosley-Braun- Can't win. She's simply too marginal a figure. Honestly, I don't know what possessed her to declare, unless perhaps she is trying to score some points and raise her profile for another run down the road.

Dennis Kucinich- Can't win. I'm going to get flack for this, but someone needs to state the obvious.

He's too damn funny looking to win.

Again, it's a stupid, juvenile thing to say, but it's true. Compared to someone of Bush's good looks and vitality, Kucinich doesn't stand a chance.

Even if he was the most brilliant candidate imaginable, with a platform that could win over the entire country, he would still lose. For good or ill, television is a critical component of any modern campaign, and Dennis does not look good under the lights. You think they made fun of Dukakis for looking a little strange? You ain't seen nothing.


Having gone through all that, I'll talk about Howard Dean and Wesley Clark, and why I believe they could be a winning combination in my next post after I get home from class tonight.

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