Sunday, May 14, 2006

World Wrestling and Political Federation

Conjecture about the next presidential election makes me think it might have the tenor of a professional wrestling show: lots of hardworking Americans looking at some very familiar faces -- faces that have played both hero and villain depending on the day's script -- and trying to figure out who the hell they're supposed to be rooting for.

I'll start with the fact that there's a camp pushing for Jeb Bush as the Republican nominee. Poor Jeb, if this happens. Not only was he (and his career of political service) passed up in 2000 for his more photogenic Everyman brother, but now he'd be running into the stiff wind of Dubya's asymptotic approval ratings.

Of course, "Bush vs. Clinton" would have such a massively depressing ring to it that I'd be tempted to throw up my hands and admit that we're a dim populace of dynasty-loving fools after all. I really don't want to do that.

But Clinton's not the only familiar name being bandied about by the Democrats. How about -- Al Gore? Dan Savage over at The Stranger asks if he's alone in wanting Gore to run. I suspect the answer to Savage, a smart, funny guy, is, "No, but you should be." It's amazing what the Cult of Losing can do to people. For some, all of Gore's earnest lectures about global warming and his many self-deprecating public appearances (only funny, insofar as they are, because they play on him as deserving pity) evidently have the power to wipe out memory of his inability, no matter how smart or well-meaning he might be, to connect to people, which is, like it or not, a pretty crucial component of political skill. My sense is that Gore falls perfectly in between the political and professorial roles that people like to envision for him -- he lacks the charisma to be a great leader, and no matter how many times a New Yorker reporter tries to make him sound like a modern-day da Vinci, I'm not convinced I would hire him to head my humanities department either.

So: Gore, Clinton, Bush. We're trapped in a seriously distressing cycle of talent here. The Republicans' best hope, I'm still convinced, is McCain, no matter how many speeches he gives at conservative universities. First of all, those speeches, locale be damned, tend to be impressively diplomatic and dignified. I'm not saying he's incapable of disappointing me, but he's been saying a lot for the past four years or so, and I'm OK with him to this point.

As for the Dems, I can't shake the feeling that, despite his inexperience and no matter how often he says he won't, Barack Obama's going to play a big role before the nomination is handed out. For starters, his speech at the '04 convention came across as twenty or thirty times more impassioned and authentic than Hillary's. If the party starts thinking she's unelectable, and they want another rock star to replace her (sorry, Mark Warner), I can't think of anyone who better fits the bill.

Part of me wants an Obama-McCain face-off because, even though I have reservations about each of them, as of today I would feel perfectly comfortable having either one address me as my president, and I can't remember the last time I thought that about both major nominees. (Granted, I'm young...ish.)

OK, enough rambling. I'll leave you with an excerpt from McCain's recent commencement address at Liberty University, and with the thought that it would be awfully nice to have someone this believable and eloquent in office during wartime:
War is an awful business. The lives of the nation’s finest patriots are sacrificed. Innocent people suffer. Commerce is disrupted, economies damaged. Strategic interests shielded by years of statecraft are endangered as the demands of war and diplomacy conflict. Whether the cause was necessary or not, whether it was just or not, we should all shed a tear for all that is lost when war claims its wages from us. However just or false the cause, how ever proud and noble the service, it is loss -- the loss of friends, the loss of innocent life, the loss of innocence -- that the veteran feels most keenly forever more. Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes war.

Americans should argue about this war. It has cost the lives of nearly 2,500 of the best of us. It has taken innocent life. It has imposed an enormous financial burden on our economy. At a minimum, it has complicated our ability to respond to other looming threats. Should we lose this war, our defeat will further destabilize an already volatile and dangerous region, strengthen the threat of terrorism, and unleash furies that will assail us for a very long time. I believe the benefits of success will justify the costs and risks we have incurred. But if an American feels the decision was unwise, then they should state their opposition, and argue for another course. It is your right and your obligation. I respect you for it. I would not respect you if you chose to ignore such an important responsibility. But I ask that you consider the possibility that I, too, am trying to meet my responsibilities, to follow my conscience, to do my duty as best as I can, as God has given me light to see that duty.



Anonymous Philly Dem said...

I like Barack Obama too, I think he's only major handicap at this point is inexperience-- he just hasn't been out there long enough, and the Senator label is a problem as well. But he's a dynamic speaker and actually thinks through things.

I'd say Mark Warner does have a very strong shot. He's progressive on very important things, retired a deficit from his predecessor Jim Gilmore in Virginia, signed some of the strongest environmental protection legislation in decades, all the while remaining popular even with conservatives. He'd be extremely tough. I suspect that Al Gore would win the nomination, probably the general election if he runs. We'll see what happens with that.

3:45 AM  

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