Saturday, April 19, 2008
Back in late 2006 I began predicting, incorrectly, that the Democratic nominee for president would be Al Gore. That 2008 would present him--an ambitious politician who's been dreaming of the presidency for 30 years--the best opportunity to come around in years. I suggested, correctly, that the economy would be ravaged, and that the Iraq war would still be raging, both crisis affording Gore a golden entree into the White House. For some strange reason (self-preservation? cowardice?), he elected not to join the race. So then I predicted, incorrectly, that he'd simply wait it out; wait for Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to cancel each other out and then leapfrog over the carnage and become the party's frontrunner. In fact, I think if I had a penny for every time I mentioned the term "cancel each other out" with reference to Obama and Clinton, well, I'd have many pennies. And here we are, in April 2008, just seven months from the general election, and Clinton and Obama have in fact cancelled each other out. Neither has been able to unify voters around them. Neither has presented enough of a compelling message that resonates with a majority of the party. Neither will obtain the minimum number of delegates to win the nomination. In short, they have both failed, and failed miserably. The scenario I had laid out for a Gore candidacy has indeed arisen, yet a Gore candidacy is, to-date, but a passing fantasy. Or is it?
I'm not normally a David Brooks fan, but I think the conservative nailed it Friday with his NY Times op-ed "How Obama Fell to Earth." Commenting on this week's Democratic debate, and Obama's campaign in general, Brooks wrote:
"He sprinkled his debate performance Wednesday night with the sorts of fibs, evasions and hypocrisies that are the stuff of conventional politics. He claimed falsely that his handwriting wasn’t on a questionnaire about gun control. He claimed that he had never attacked Clinton for her exaggerations about the Tuzla airport, though his campaign was all over it. Obama piously condemned the practice of lifting other candidates’ words out of context, but he has been doing exactly the same thing to John McCain, especially over his 100 years in Iraq comment....He’ll win the nomination, but in a matchup against John McCain, he is behind in Florida, Missouri and Ohio, and merely tied in must-win states like Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. A generic Democrat now beats a generic Republican by 13 points, but Obama is trailing his own party. One in five Democrats say they would vote for McCain over Obama."
It should be noted that Brooks is no fan of Clinton either, and just a few weeks ago predicted she has but a 5% chance of winning.
Adding to the Democrats' woes, liberal columnist Bob Herbert wrote in Saturday's NY Times:
"The Democrats are doing everything they can to blow this presidential election. This is a skill that comes naturally to the party. There is no such thing as a can’t-miss year for the Democrats. They are truly gifted at finding ways to lose. So what are the Democrats doing? The Clintons are running around with flamethrowers, gleefully trying to incinerate the prospects of the party’s leading candidate, Barack Obama....Senator Obama, for his part, seems to have lost sight of the unifying message that proved so compelling early in his campaign and has stumbled into weird cultural predicaments that have caused some people to rethink his candidacy....Voters want more from Senator Obama. He’s given a series of wonderful speeches, but he has to add more meat to those rhetorical bones. He needs to be clear about where he wants to lead this country and how he plans to do it. That’s how a candidate defines himself or herself. Instead, Mr. Obama is allowing the Clintons and the news media to craft a damaging persona of him as some kind of weak-kneed brother from another planet, out of touch with mainstream America, and perhaps a loser."
He's got that right. At this point, both Obama and Clinton look like sure losers. And what a shame that is, as this year should've, and could've, been a cakewalk for the Dems. But also as I've been saying all along, the party and its ineffectual candidates have this nasty habit of tripping over themselves. And if they are defeated in November, it'll rank with the 2007 NY Mets' collapse as one of the biggest chokes--and heartbreaks--of all time.
To be sure, if Obama does lose, it will not be, as his supporters claim, because Hillary "did him in." That her relentless attacks brought him down. If that's the case, and his campaign was so weak and unable to withstand her wrath, then he deserves to lose. If he was a strong enough candidate...if he was able to connect with women, seniors, Hispanics and the white working class...if he was able to debate as effectively as he can deliver an inspirational speech to 20,000...if he didn't get stuck in the muck surrounding his controversial relationships with Rev. Wright, Tony Rezko, and Bill Ayers...if, as Herbert (a big Obama supporter, btw) writes, he had been able to add "more meat to those rhetorical bones"...perhaps he'd be victorious.
And should Hillary lose, it will not be because she was "ganged up on" by the media or because she's a woman or because she's a Clinton or because of Michigan or Florida's delegate controversies. It'll be because she's a hardened, shrill, calculating operative who is viewed by way too many Dems as untruthful, untrustworthy and disingenuous. Both Obama and Clinton are, simply put, lousy candidates. They have no one to blame but themselves.
But it's not too late for the Democrats. There is one solution out of this campaign catastrophe. And his name is Al Gore. He is the party's big hope. A deal needs to be struck immediately with Clinton and Obama, by DNC chair Howard Dean and other party leaders, as well as Gore himself, to send the campaign to the Denver convention in August where, on a second ballot, Gore can head the ticket. He'll make Obama his VP, give the State Department to Clinton, and the three of them will spend the next 2 1/2 months unifying the party and trouncing the GOP's presumptive dinosaur, Sen. John McCain. And if somehow this deal can be brokered sooner, even better.
While I have not thrown in the proverbial towel just yet, I am growing increasingly skeptical that either of the Dem's current two losers can somehow deliver a victory in November. They are both abysmal candidates, unable to cross over and appeal to the others' constituencies. To be sure, voters are fed up with Republicans, and want more Democratic leadership/control in Washington, and as such, they'll give the left an even greater majority in the House and Senate. But they'll give the White House to McCain--the "moderate"--to balance the power. Sadly, Democrats have given voters zero reason to do otherwise. Al Gore, are you listening?