US presidential race: will Gore run? wouldn't Jim Webb be a perfect veep? who's behind Hillary?
1. Ozone Man Sequel -- by MAUREEN DOWD/NY Times
Al Gore now has a movie with an Oscar and a grandson named Oscar.
Who could ask for anything more?
Al Gore could.
The best ex-president who was never president could make one of the most interesting campaigns in American history even more interesting. Will he use his green moment on the red carpet in black tie to snag blue states and win the White House?
Only the Goracle knows the answer.
The man who was prescient on climate change, the Internet, terrorism and Iraq admitted that maybe his problem had been that he was too far ahead of the curve. He realized at a conference that “there’re ideas that are mature, ideas that are maturing, ideas that are past their prime ... and a category called ‘predawn.’
“And all of a sudden it hit me,” he told John Heilemann of New York magazine last year. “Most of my political career was spent investing in predawn ideas! I thought, Oh, that’s where I went wrong.”
As Mr. Gore basked Sunday night in the adoration of Leo, Laurie David and the rest of the Hollywood hybrid-drivers, Democrats wondered: Is this chubby guy filling out the Ralph Lauren three-piece tuxedo a mature idea or an idea that’s past its prime?
With Hillary overproduced and Barack Obama an unfinished script, maybe it’s time to bring the former vice president out of turnaround.
Hillary’s henchmen try to prognosticate the Goracle’s future by looking at his waistline, according to Newsday; they think if he’s going to run, he’ll get back to fighting weight.
With her own talent for checking the weathervane, Hillary co-opted Mr. Gore’s eco-speak right after the Oscars, talking environment throughout upstate New York. Given his past competition with Hillary, Mr. Gore must have delighted in seeing his star rise in Hollywood as hers dimmed.
If he waits long enough to get into the race, all the usual-suspect-consultants will be booked — which would be a boon for Mr. Gore, since his Hessian strategists in 2000 made him soft-pedal the environment, the very issue that makes him seem most passionate and authentic. The same slides about feedback loops and the interconnectedness of weather patterns that made his image-makers yawn just won his movie an Academy Award.
But what’s going on in his head? Like Jeb Bush, Al Gore was the good son groomed by a famous pol to be president, only to have it snatched away by a black sheep who didn’t even know the name of the general running Pakistan (the same one he just sent Vice to try to push into line.) It must be excruciating not only to lose a presidency you’ve won because the Supreme Court turned partisan and stopped the vote, but to then watch the madness of King George and Tricky Dick II as they misled their way into serial catastrophes.
Even though Chickenhawk Cheney finally got close to combat in Afghanistan, his explosive brush with a suicide bomber has not served as a wake-up call about the danger of Osama bin Laden’s staying on the lam, and Afghanistan’s slipping back into the claws of the Taliban and Al Qaeda while we are shackled to Iraq.
A reporter asked Tony Snow yesterday what the attack on the Bagram Air Base that targeted the vice president and killed at least 23 people said about the Taliban’s strength. “I’m not sure it says anything,” he replied.
Mr. Gore must be pleased that he’s been vindicated on so many fronts, yet it still must rankle the Nobel Peace Prize nominee to hear the White House spouting such dangerous nonsense. He must sometimes imagine how much safer the world would be if he were president.
The Bush-Cheney years have been all about dragging the country into the past, getting back the presidential powers yanked away after Watergate, settling scores from Poppy Bush’s old war, and suppressing scientific and environmental advances. Instead of aiming for the stars, the greatest power on earth is bogged down in poorly navigated conflicts with ancient tribes and brutes in caves.
Surely the Goracle, an aficionado of futurism, must stew about all the time and money and good will that has been wasted with a Vietnam replay and a scolding social policy designed to expunge the Age of Aquarius.
When he’s finished Web surfing, tweaking his PowerPoint and BlackBerrying, what goes through his head? Does he blame himself? Does he blame the voting machines? Ralph Nader? Robert Shrum? Naomi Wolf? How about Bush Inc. and Clinton Inc.?
With the red carpet rolled up, the tux at the cleaner’s, and the gold statuette on the director’s mantle, not his, the Goracle is at his Nashville mansion, contemplating how to broker his next deal. Will he cast himself as the savior of the post-Bush era, or will the first Gore in the Oval Office be Karenna, mother of Oscar?
2. The Angry American
Why Democrats love Jim Webb.
by Duncan Currie/Weekly Standard
REPUBLICANS who still can't figure out the Jim Webb phenomenon need only recall the top tier of Democratic presidential candidates in 2004. Each carved out his niche with a signature trait or theme that made party activists swoon and voters cheer. Howard Dean had the Iraq war: Unlike many prominent Democrats, he had forthrightly opposed it from the start, without any hedging or equivocating. John Kerry had his Vietnam service: the mantle on which he forged his political career in the 1970s. John Edwards had his "Two Americas" cant: a populist appeal to workers anxious over income volatility and to liberals troubled by the inequities of American capitalism. Wesley Clark had his military background: Not only had he won the Silver Star in Vietnam, he later became a four-star general and Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.
Now look at Senator Webb, the freshman Democrat from Virginia. He is with Dean on Iraq: Webb was barking his opposition to the invasion way back in 2002. He has a Vietnam pedigree like Kerry: Webb served as a Marine in the An Hoa Basin. He is with Edwards on the "Two Americas" riff: "When one looks at the health of our economy," Webb said in his State of the Union rebuttal, "it's almost as if we are living in two different countries." And he boasts a decorated military record like General Clark: Webb comes from a Marine family and earned the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts in Vietnam, then ascended to Navy secretary under President Reagan.
That's the real "secret" to Webb's sudden transformation from longtime Republican to anti-Bush Democrat to liberal hero: He combines the most salient qualities of Dean, Kerry, Edwards, and Clark that Democrats found so attractive in the last presidential cycle. (Like Edwards, he also boasts proven red-state electability.) As columnist E.J. Dionne noted , Webb's SOTU rebuttal "defined the two central moral issues that animate most of the Democratic party's rank and file: the mess in Iraq and the fact that the fruits of a growing economy are not being shared by all Americans." Those themes dominated the 2006 campaigns of Democratic House and Senate winners. So despite his earlier opposition to affirmative action, and his lifelong antipathy toward liberal elites, Webb is now firmly in sync with his new party on its two most pressing concerns.
He made this abundantly clear in his campaign announcement speech last April. On Iraq, Webb blasted "the ideologues in the Washington think tanks who told us we'd be welcomed with rose petals." He had "warned against the war" early on, and maintained that it was "a strategic error." On the economy, Webb railed against "outsourcing" and free trade, insisting that the middle class was losing jobs, and that a "permanent underclass" was calcifying at the bottom, while "people at the top" were "living in a luxury never before dreamed of." His attacks on the "amoral, if not immoral" tendencies of "greedy international corporations" presaged a Wall Street Journal op-ed he published shortly after winning election to the Senate.
Titled "Class Struggle," Webb's piece captured his pronounced skepticism of globalization, free trade, and corporate America--with a few jabs at U.S. immigration policy thrown in. "The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century," Webb wrote. "Incestuous corporate boards regularly approve compensation packages for chief executives and others that are out of logic's range." Meanwhile, "Manufacturing jobs are disappearing. Many earned pension programs have collapsed in the wake of corporate 'reorganization.' And workers' ability to negotiate their futures has been eviscerated by the twin threats of modern corporate America: If they complain too loudly, their jobs might either be outsourced overseas or given to illegal immigrants."
LIKE DEAN'S, Webb's anger is palpable. His now-famous White House confrontation with Bush--where Webb responded curtly to the president's question about his son serving in Iraq--was the sort of stuff that energizes antiwar Democrats and liberal bloggers. Not only does Webb exude fury about the war; not only is his son a Marine stationed in Iraq; but he also has the military credentials that (as many Democrats see it) shield him against Republican charges of being "soft" on national security. Plus, he used to be a Republican--and who better to attack the current administration?
"It's ironic that it took a former Reagan Republican to lower the boom on Bush," wrote one left-wing blogger after Webb's SOTU rebuttal, "especially when the burgeoning crop of Democratic presidential hopefuls are stumbling over themselves to appear more antiwar than the other. Webb made them all look wishy-washy in comparison. He now joins that select group of Democratic vertebrates who speak from the heart and have the cajones to back it up."
That group, the blogger continued, includes antiwar firebrand Jack Murtha, the Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania. "If Webb's speech is any indication, the Democrats are off to a good start. With ex-Marines Webb and Murtha leading the charge, we might be able to end this monstrous bloodbath after all."
To be sure, Webb is not your typical Democratic senator. He stands to the right of most Democrats on immigration and guns. He has bemoaned "the Nazification of the Confederacy" by "revisionist politicians and academics." He once called affirmative action "a permeating state-sponsored racism that is as odious as the Jim Crow laws it sought to countermand." And he still offers a qualified defense of U.S. intervention in Vietnam. "The causes that brought the United States into Vietnam were not unsound," Webb has written. "The war was pursued with honorable intentions." When he himself returned from Vietnam and attended Georgetown Law, Webb recoiled from the leftist, anti-military attitudes of many professors and fellow students.
Webb's SOTU rebuttal highlighted his own military roots--he even held up a picture of his father, a World War II veteran--but also launched a populist fusillade at the Bush economy. It was two speeches, really. One dealt with foreign policy. The other was a cri de coeur over economic inequality. "I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century," Webb said. "America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt."
In this context, he cited another ex-president: "Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy," Webb said. "That we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today." During the 2006 campaign, Webb even dubbed himself "a Jacksonian populist Democrat."
JACKSON EPITOMIZES the ethnic group Webb profiled in his 2004 book, Born Fighting. That group is the Scots-Irish, who, according to Webb, "may well be America's strongest cultural force." (Their "cultural emblem" is now country music.) "Due to their individuality and the timing of their migration," he wrote in Born Fighting, "the Scots-Irish never really desired to define themselves by their ethnic identity." But as Andrew Ferguson observed, Webb's celebration of the Scots-Irish ultimately mutates into its own form of ethnic identity politics.
In particular, Webb defends the much-maligned "Southern redneck" from "the liberals and the cultural Marxists" who cast him as "the enemy" of the African-American civil rights movement. "The Southern redneck has been held up as the whipping boy," which Webb considers unfair. He argues that "the country club whites had always held the keys to the Big House," and that "the biggest race riots took place outside the South." So why was the Southern redneck singled out as "the emblem of everything that had kept the black man down"? At least partly because, according to Webb, "the culture so dramatically symbolized by the Southern redneck was the greatest inhibitor of the plans of the activist Left and the cultural Marxists for a new kind of society altogether."
How could a man who published those words in 2004 become the toast of liberal Democrats in 2006? For one thing, Webb softened his position on affirmative action during the campaign. His website made sure to remind voters that, in 1982, Webb "first proposed, then led the fight for, including an African-American soldier in the memorial statue that now graces the Vietnam Veterans memorial on the National Mall." He also supported abortion rights and downplayed his past hostility to women in combat. For that matter, Webb spoke far less about the culture wars than he did about Iraq and economic "fairness": two issues bound to resonate with white and black liberals alike.
And of course, his opponent, former GOP senator George Allen, became embroiled in his own slew of race problems. A poll taken shortly before the election found that 87 percent of black Virginians supported Webb, while only 6 percent supported Allen. (According to the Virginian-Pilot, "In his past successful races for governor and Senate, Allen was able to tap an estimated 12 percent to 15 percent of the black vote.") Whether or not they knew of his defense of Southern rednecks, African-Americans rallied to Webb in overwhelming numbers.
In that regard, it's worth noting what Webb wrote in the Wall Street Journal shortly before the 2004 election: "The greatest realignment in modern politics," he said, "would take place rather quickly if the right national leader found a way to bring the Scots-Irish and African-Americans to the same table, and so to redefine a formula that has consciously set them apart for the past two centuries." In 2006 Webb polled fantastically among blacks. The question is: Will his leftward drift alienate many of the Scots-Irish voters he purports to champion?
It's become journalistic shorthand to call Webb a "maverick" or "idiosyncratic" or even "conservative" Democrat. And in many ways he is more conservative--both temperamentally and ideologically--than his Democratic peers. (It says something curious that his SOTU rebuttal earned plaudits from both Pat Buchanan and Katrina vanden Heuvel.) But Webb is a robustly mainstream Democrat on Iraq and the economy. At least until George Bush leaves office, this should be enough to bond him snugly with his Senate caucus and with the liberal bloggers now trumpeting his virtues.
(Duncan Currie is a reporter at The Weekly Standard.)
3. Hillary Coronation Wanted by 'the Bigs' -- by Ed Garvey / Madison Capital Times (Wisconsin)
A billion dollars will be spent on this race. By whom? The bigs. Why will they cough up the money? Because of a burning desire for good government?The race for president is in full swing, but feel no need to get excited, contribute to a candidate or watch the debates. Selecting the "American Idol" will be a more democratic process than nominating the Republican and Democratic candidates for president.
You, my friends, are not needed. Big media conglomerates, pollsters, consultants, big drug and insurance companies, and other captains of industry will take this burden from your shoulders. You have plenty to keep you busy just making a living, so you can let the big boys ("bigs") and their bagmen make the decision for you. Rather comforting, wouldn't you say?
The bigs want a close race between the Democrat and the Republican, so that both must beg them for big bucks in their Faustian bargain.
The Democratic Leadership Council bigs decided five years ago to nominate Hillary Clinton in 2008. Sure, Barack Obama is a rising star with charisma Hillary would kill for, but he won't get the big money he needs. You say, "But people like him." So what? Too unpredictable. The bigs don't know enough about him. You will be told, "not enough experience." Translated, that means "he might have his own agenda."
He might pursue peace in the Middle East while pushing for universal single-payer health care or proposing that the bigs pay Social Security taxes on all income coupled with a progressive tax system. Yikes! Better stick with Hillary. The bigs know her game, and she plays well. Remember NAFTA?
John Edwards? Hell no. He is way too serious about poverty, and that could bring more money and smaller classes to public schools but less for the military-industrial complex. What if Edwards pushes through a living wage, health care, fewer prisons, and decent housing? One can almost hear the bigs yelling, "What about us?" Iraq? Bring 'em home. Iran? Leave it to the U.N. Besides, Edwards thinks corporations should be responsible for their misdeeds. What is he a commie?
Tom Vilsack? Too late. He dropped out because of money. Shame on him. Why didn't he select wealthy parents or join the DLC, or both? I must admit, he is a quick study. Lack of money stopped two other Iowans who should have been president, John Culver and Tom Harkin. Vilsack had the quaint notion that a person with executive experience, good values and good ideas could run for president and let the people decide. I'm not kidding; he thought this was a democracy.
His Field of Dreams campaign build it and the money will come collapsed before he could locate the cornfield. Vilsack was told that he needed $20 million by June of this year to be taken seriously. Face it, Tom. The bigs don't like you very much. I like Vilsack.
How about Bill Richardson? He is a popular governor, a former ambassador to the U.N., a seven-term member of Congress, and former secretary of energy! The man is smart, experienced, gutsy, and knows about energy needs. He was elected governor with 69 percent of the vote; he has negotiated on the international scene. He, like Vilsack, is a good man with executive experience, solid values and plenty of good ideas. Bye-bye, Bill. Bye-bye. He might make it until Easter.
Al Gore? Way too independent, and this global warming stuff please! Good for Hollywood but not for our economy. He is needlessly scaring folks into finding alternatives to our comfortable way of life. Indeed, his truth is inconvenient for the bigs. The utilities don't like him, the oil boys can't stand him, and the auto industry is more than a little suspicious. Hell, he even opposed the invasion of Iraq! The bigs don't like any of it. "Thanks anyway, Al. Good movie."
Now then, how about Joe Biden? I don't think so. So long, Joe.
Take a break, folks. They will let you know the names of the chosen ones by July.
But wait. I didn't write anything about the Republican race. Could it be that Tommy has the nomination in the bag? He says he will shake every hand in Iowa good start. He is not burdened with ideology or new ideas. He is clear about Iraq. He said the other day that they could have a civil war if they aren't careful.
Back to reality. A billion dollars will be spent on this race. By whom? The bigs. Why will they cough up the money? Because of a burning desire for good government?
Remember when we had a democracy and people like us played a role in nominating our candidates? Whom do you favor for "American Idol"?
Our democracy has been hijacked. Might as well watch TV.