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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Getting Ready For The Man On A Horse

The Wesley Clark for President buzz is picking up.

Here is the General on "Meet The Press", June 15; and on "Crossfire", June 24. Here is an article trying to sort out his position of gays in the military: "Let's hope he gets his story straight - and his position gay."

So, with "Clark for President" as an excuse, I will now channel the conventional wisdom on the various candidates.

First, this idea that the Democrats need more candidates is silly - several of the current crop have admirable resumes, and appear to be perfectly Presidential. What is really happening is that the Democrats are trying to conjure up a candidate who can appeal to their base and sneak past the rest of us. A track record is a burden for this exercise; hence, the current muttering for new faces.

As to the individual candidates, Sharpton, Moseley-Braun, and Kuchinich will not be affected by a Clark candidacy, because their campaigns are not reality-oriented.

Graham has apparently said he will be the Presidential nominee, or retire. I believe he will not run as a "ticket-balancer" - better to reign as an elderly Senator than serve as an elderly VP. Therefore, Clark's entry will not affect his already-neglible chances.

Edwards is running for the VP slot this year, as an escape route from a 2004 Senate race he might well lose. Clark would be a more compelling VP pick than Edwards, who is almost as politically inexperienced as Clark, and has a less impressive background. We assume here that Clark, as a military type, will have Southern appeal. Edwards' strategy must now be to oppose tort reform, and prepare to re-enter the practice of law in 2005.

Gephardt is a fellow I have never had a feel for. I think he has no hope of gaining the nomination, and no appeal as a VP pick. Clark's entry doesn't help him, so it must hurt.

Lieberman at this point believes his mission is to preserve the credibility of his party on the subject of national security. Clark's entry would help Lieberman on this score. As to getting himself nominated, Lieberman may be entertaining the fantasy that, if we find WMDs and Saddam, his positions will merit a second look. We will, they won't.

Kerry has already begun his death spiral. The rest of us will be thankful if a Clark candidacy means that Kerry does not mention his Viet Nam service every three minutes, but one wonders what else Big John might offer. Self-financing of his campaign is out; eighteen years of distinguished public service, during which he annoyed us with his arrogance and issue-straddling, will count for little.

Dean will not lose one of his current supporters to Clark. However, Dean needs to pick up support amongst the Democrats who need a fresh face with whom to fall in love, and have so far resisted his charms. Clark will hurt here. Also, the fickle media will have a back-to-school crush on Clark, dumping Dean like an old newspaper. Still, on balance, a Clark candidacy hurts Kerry much more than it hurts Dean, so we score this as a plus for the eventual Democratic nominee.

Wild cards? Al Gore stepped aside last year, thinking primarily of his own situation. Now, he will listen to folks tell him that the party is on the brink of disaster, and only he can unite it, deliver the message, defeat Bush, and end the madness. It is not about Al anymore, this one's for all humanity! Gore in the balance! Groan. He may fall for this rubbish, put personal considerations aside, and give Dean even more stature when Dean steamrollers him.

Folks who remember McCarthy v. Kennedy will know what sort of resentment I am picturing if Big Al joins the hunt. Al ran a screwed up campaign in 2000, he has been damn near AWOL in opposing the war, and if he thinks he can waltz in at this late date to pick a position and claim the prize.... well, that is what Dean's folks will be thinking. And saying.

And Hillary? Hillary! versus Dean would be the brawl to settle it all, and we would pay extra to see it. Although her current ploy is to sit this one out, we remain convinced that, unlike her hubby, she will not duck the draft.

OK, dream ticket - Dean-Clark? The fiscally responsible / socially irresponsible Governor, the General, two guys that gun nuts could love - why not?

We will no doubt think of reasons as the day approaches.

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