There’s a time in every presidential campaign when the only thing left to do with it is to take it out and shoot it. Not necessarily the candidates, just the campaign.
We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting close. Maybe it’s the view from the seashore, the clear air and the salt breeze, but this campaign looks and sounds like it’s over, or should be.
We’re already well into goofiness, over-the-top claims and underdone conspiracy theories. An Internet headline cries that “Buffet says Obama can spread fairness and prosperity.” That’s either the view from Omaha (Warren Buffet, the stock-market speculator) or Margaritaville (Jimmy Buffet, the singer of hymns to the pleasures of sloth).
Karl Rove, reputed to be the Rasputin of Republican evil but who would never be taken for a priest, pronounces Hillary Clinton “fatally flawed,” which her wise men think is good news because Karl fires up the nuts on the left who energize the party. John Edwards has discovered that either you love Hillary or you hate her, an insight that occurred to everyone else years ago, even in Arkansas, where it’s not nice to think ill of ladies. Barack Obama is cluttering the airwaves with a “what if?” game for grown-ups: “What if there was hope instead of fear? What if there was unity instead of division? What if we had a president who believes that we are one nation?” (Why not a knock-knock joke?)
This is the kind of sentimental drivel — like promises to process peace, hustle happiness and spread brotherhood above and across the fruited plain — that we expect from contestants in the Miss America Pageant, but drivel tolerable only when delivered by a pretty girl in a bikini.
Not only have we heard all this before, but the Democratic candidates are all saying the same thing, speaking only in four-letter words. The only four-letter word they know is “Bush.” How tiresome is that?
“By and large the themes are similar to those of four years ago,” Evan Tracey, who tracks political themes and cultural trends, tells Politico, the Capitol Hill political journal. “Republicans equal Bush equals bad. Evil special interests in Washington are the cause of global warming and the reason we don’t have health care for all.”
Since there’s only a year to go before the national nominating conventions, so called, all that’s left to do is choose a vice president for the candidates, even if they never need one. Newt Gingrich has already chosen Barack Obama for Hillary, and some players see a Baptist preacher in a Mormon’s future. In the spirit of the day, and since nobody asked, here’s an idea for the Grumpy Old Party:
America’s voters, nobody’s fools, have cooled on the idea of looking to the U.S. Senate for a president. Not since John F. Kennedy nearly half a century ago has a sitting senator been elected president. Governors who became presidents have ranged from awful (Jimmy Carter) to unpopular (George W. Bush), and there’s no Ronald Reagan on the horizon.
So why not an All-Mayor Fusion Ticket? By choosing Rudy Giuliani of New York and Douglas Wilder of Richmond, a Republican and an independent Democrat, an ethnic and a black, a Yankee and a Southerner, the son of an immigrant and the grandson of a slave, both outsiders but neither too far outside, the Republicans would rattle the environment right down to the ground with the story of America writ large.
The public-opinion polls are screaming that the public wants something different, that more of the same is a prescription for defeat. The fading national infatuation with Barack Obama suggests that Americans are not only willing, but eager, to elect a black man. But not just any black man. Mr. Obama’s succession of policy blunders suggests that he’s not black, but green. His future lies in the future. Doug Wilder was the first black man elected governor of any state, and Virginia at that. He’s a war hero (Bronze Star in Korea) and a Democrat who speaks to conservatives. He’s a bit old at 76, but 76 is the new 56.
Not an endorsement, necessarily, just a thought on a summer’s afternoon.
Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.
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