Monday, June 16, 2003

Security Issues

I'll go over my currently-preferred Democratic ticket in another post (it's Dean/Clark), but first I want to try out an idea I've been kicking around since January.

Whoever gets the nomination should quickly snap up Gary Hart and tell everyone that he will be their National Security Advisor if they win.

Now, granted, National Security Advisor is not an office you usually see a Presidential candidate talk about filling on the campaign trail; it certainly is never a major campaign theme. If they give any thought to it at all, people usually rely on the perceived national security credentials of the candidate, and assume that they will fill the various government posts with like-minded people.

However, for an election that will be as much about national security and terrorism as it will be about anything else (and let's not fool ourselves into thinking that it will be all about the economy, eh? Played that game in 2002. Didn't go so well), it seems like it would not be a bad idea to shove every bit of security street cred the Democrats can muster in everyone's face.

Even though I never mentioned it in this space, I actually like Gary Hart a lot. Unlike other Hart supporters, though, I didn't actually want to see him make a Presidential run (I'm looking at you, Ezra). Here's an excerpt from an email I sent to a friend of mine discussing Hart's potential candidacy:
If I were a Republican, I couldn't pick a better Democratic candidate. Not because his ideas are worse than those of the GOP. They're better. Not because the majority, if they understood, wouldn't support Gary Hart in a second over any Republican. They would. But because the GOP political apparatus is geared primarily toward massive smear campaigns and character assassination, and Hart has a giant bullseye on his chest. This is what these people do. Take, as only one example, Bill Clinton. A man who I have mixed feelings about, but, regardless, was a brilliant and very competent President, with a relatively minor character flaw. Over the years, the GOP has succeeded in painting him as a cesspool of immorality and vice, who set a "moral tone" which caused everything from the Columbine shootings to the Enron-led fraud epidemic. I am not making this up: They blamed Enron on Bill Clinton getting a blowjob.
Clinton at least had the courtesy to try and hide the fact of his adultery. Hart paraded it in the country's face, a particularly brilliant move given the power of the various televangelist empires at the time.
Fortunately, Hart decided against a run at the Presidency. When he did, though, he made sure to emphasize the fact that he still had a great desire to serve the American people in some capacity. Some people have suggested that he should run for the Senate again- an interesting possibility that would ultimately be doomed, for much the same reason as a Presidential run. People care where politicians stick their widgets, even if it was 16 years ago.

But Gary Hart's biggest strength this time around -- national security and anti-terrorism -- is both a desperately sought-after commodity in the Democratic party, and something that, in the proper office, can be divorced from an ancient character scandal. Nobody cares about the National Security Advisor's sex life.

For the nominee, making Hart the visible architect of their national security platform would be an ideal theme-crafting move.

We all learned in 2000 that the prevailing themes among journalists can make or break a candidate (Al Gore and the internet, anyone?). By bringing Hart onboard as an important side-figure, the Democrats can capitalize on the media's perception of him as a terrorism-psychic and a national security guru without being weighed down by his baggage.

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