It's Official ...
Don't get me wrong. I agree with Bob Schieffer's take on Representative Gephardt:
Every time a nice guy finishes first, someone says, `Well, that just shows that nice guys don't always finish last.' But the truth is, plenty of nice guys do finish last. And politics lost one of the nicest last week when Dick Gephardt, the longtime congressman from Missouri, gave up his long quest to be president after a miserable finish in Iowa.
I could always find an issue on which we differed but over the years I found many more reasons to admire him: his doggedness, the straightforward way he led his party during very tough times. when it was in the congressional minority, the way he treated his staff, his seeming inability to lie, and most of all for the loving relationship he had with his family.
A nice guy stepped away from politics last week, scarred from a thousand battles. No, he never got to be president, but he played the game honorably, the way it should be played, and that made the game better, and those who covered him and those who competed with and against him respected him for it. I wish him the best.
However, the fact remains, the voters soundly rejected Mr. Gephardt as their candidate because his time had passed; he is 'old school' and had become increasingly ineffective. However, unlike John Kerry, whose lack luster Senate career is that of a dues-paying member; Dick Gephardt was a party leader.
Why then, are the party establishment, the DNC (Terry McAuliffe) and the media rushing to anoint a candidate for the Democratic Party who carries all of the baggage of too many years in Washington without the benefit of a demonstrable record of 'leadership'? If they wanted to select a politician from the Washington establishment, would Dick Gephardt not have been the better choice?
Do they believe Kerry's single enlistment during Vietnam, thirty years ago, is a sufficient argument for his leadership skills? Do they not realize that most of the issues being raised with regard to the current administration's failures are a result of this primary? That once a nominee is anointed, less attention paid by both the voters and the media will be the result?
The DNC in its desire to have a nominee identified early, already short-circuited the usual process (one in which the 1992 nominee, Bill Clinton, wasn't named until June) by scheduling 17 primaries/caucuses into February. Why is it they are unwilling to allow the voters the time to assess the candidates and determine the nominee? McAuliffe makes bold claims that the under his leadership, the Democratic Party is in the best position ever for this election - then why the rush?
Democrats can do better than this. We need to do better than this.
It's no secret that I believe Wes Clark is our best hope for President. I support him not merely because I believe he can beat George Bush but because he has a breadth of experience unmatched by any of the other candidates. Yes, the majority of that experience is within the context of a military career. However, as a base commander he had to deal with the same issues, on a similar scale, as the mayor of a large city or governor of a small state.
He has over thirty years of demonstrated leadership. He has built international coalitions, fought on the frontlines and orchestrated entire operations. He understands economics; he's taught it, as well as teaching philosophy. He has strong proposals on healthcare, jobs, tax reform, and needless to say, as a general and Rhodes scholar, on national security and education, as well as other areas.
Like his rivals, General Clark has an ego, but stronger than his ego is his desire to serve. Wes Clark is not just a warrior, but also a fighter. He was not born with a silver spoon, afforded opportunities few of us know, but, like most of us, he had to work hard to earn his positions and honors. Service to country has been a hallmark of his career and his life. Between now and November he could build a national coalition with broad appeal that would bring in the votes necessary to defeat George Bush.
This is not to say that Wes Clark is the only quality candidate. In fact, any of the Democratic contenders represent a better choice than the current pResident; in reality, this doesn't translate into votes. John Edwards is a good candidate and a great salesman. Howard Dean has his gubernatorial experience and has brought many people into the process through his campaign.
Of the viable candidates remaining, I suggest that John Kerry is the weakest, the weakest candidate for this election and a serious step backward for the party. I had to laugh on Tuesday night when I saw a clip of Kerry on the news stating (and I'm paraphrasing as I couldn't find a video clip or news article that referenced this particular quote) that the voters had decided; they want a candidate with ideas rather than slogans. This from a man who says,
"If George Bush wants to make national security an issue in this campaign, I have three words for him that I know he'll understand, Bring it on!".,However, the fact that I find this man to be unimaginative, regressive and nauseating as well as ill-qualified to lead based on his legislative record, matters only to me, an individual voter.
“send George Bush back to Texas” in November, so that Democrats could claim “Mission Accomplished.” ,
"I predict today, like father like son, one term only, Bush is going to be done,", and
"I pledge to you tonight," he added. I have just begun to fight."
The real problem is, that in this DNC-designed, compressed primary season, the individual voter isn't going to be afforded sufficient access or exposure to the candidates themselves or sufficient time to filter/digest the material being thrown at them to make an informed decision. So, they'll rely on Terry McAuliffe who, while of course remaining neutral, states he can't wait for the Bush-Kerry debate, the party faithful who come out in an attempt to ensure Kerry's anointment with their endorsement, or the media pendants and polls (those that crowned Howard Dean before a single vote was cast) that now say, it is Kerry who is electable, that he'll do best head-to-head with Bush.
Once again, it's the voter who loses. Some Dean supporters suggested after Iowa and New Hampshire, that the results meant the Democrats didn't want, or were afraid of, change. I don't think that's the case. I think there are many among us who want change, it's just that, unfortunately, most voters let the information come to them rather than seek it out. Given that, there wasn't sufficient information for them to examine the available choices for change that Clark, Edwards and Dean all represent. So, voters took what they viewed as a safe route in choosing the establishment candidate. It's sad. Regardless of who the eventual nominee would have been, he would have been a stronger candidate having gone through a primary season in which his positions were actually examined and challenged.
Is the anti-Bush, anybody-but-Bush sentiment strong enough to get Senator Kerry elected? Maybe. More likely, however, is that while that sentiment may be strong enough within Democratic ranks, it will prove insufficient to draw crossover voters to this candidate. As I alluded to in my previous post, with the predictive 2006 Pew data, I think the party will also be a big loser, regardless of whether we manage to oust Bush.
The DNC and Washington establishment continue to be out of sync with the Democratic voters. Many are tired of a Democratic Congress or Whitehouse that merely slows the middle-class descent. They are desperate for both change and strong leadership. This is the election. If they don't see it this time, we'll see more defections.
This week, Teresa Heinz Kerry noted, "I do not know if we can afford any third party right now."
We learned that lesson in 2000. The question is, will the Democratic party become the unaffordable third party?