Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Senatorial Longevity and Presidential Entitlement

I cannot draw myself away from the notion, long held, that the American Presidency is not some kind of Life-Time Achievement award that is always dished out at each year's Academy Awards.

I don't know who wrote this rule about long-term Senators not making good 1st-time presidential candidates, but it's been broken - and blatantly so - only once during my political lifetime. John F. Kennedy was elected into the White House directly after having served eight years in the Senate. Lyndon Baines Johnson was a long-term senator, but he was running in 1964 for re-election, having ascended into the White House via his vice-presidency.

Look at the colossal failures: John F. Kerry (2004) 19 years in the Senate, Bob Dole (1996) after 28 years in the Senate. Very successful senatorial careers for both of them, but they were total losers as presidential aspirants. These two were the epitome of 'entitlement' candidates.

The fact of the matter is that long-term careers in the Senate bring to the presidential hustlings heavy luggage. Nice guys and careerists, like Senators Dodd (27 years) and Biden (35 years), inevitably make mistakes and enemies. Republican Maverick McCain has logged 21 years in the Senate. Senatorial trespasses are forgiven as normal and ordinary risks and hazards of political and legislative practice; but when a senator aspires to the presidency which is extra ordinary. Unless you are AWOL during those years of role call votes, day in and day out, your track record is there. And your grudge-holding enemies are bound to have better memories and recall than you.

This doesn't auger well for either John McCain or Hillary Clinton. In her case, you can add in some - not all - of her '35 years of experience'. Yes, I'm speaking of those eight years as First Lady. If John Kerry was swift-boated to death, she can anticipate being white-watered even more than she was while she was spouse in the White House. The ham-handedness of ex-President Bill after the South Carolina primary shook Hillary's campaign to its foundations. Many began to think of her candidacy as the Clintonian 'restoration' or Bill's 'third term'. As Maureen Dowd says in the NYT (13-Feb):
As a possible first Madame President, Hillary is a flawed science experiment because you can’t take Bill out of the equation. Her story is wrapped up in her marriage, and her marriage is wrapped up in a series of unappetizing compromises, arrangements and dependencies.
You could say that about McCain, too, as he embraces Bush's tax cuts and 100-year war, that he represents Bush's third term, too.

So, the bottom line question for Progressives is, as E. J. Dionne Jr. asks,
It's come down to this: Who can best beat John McCain?

12 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Peekay said...

Just watched Michelle Obama in an extended speech on CNN's web site!

Oh my goodness. I might want to vote for her instead. She is outstanding! ! ! ! ! Michelle Obama for First Lady!

2/12/2008 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger the WIZARD, fkap said...

The choice the American public will have between John McCain and Barak Obama could not possibly more clear.

2/12/2008 08:06:00 PM  
Blogger Blogging4Food said...

Methinks P.K. is suffering from an advanced stage of Obamaphilia.

2/12/2008 08:17:00 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...

Would-be Obamaphiliacs should listen to people in the know like Joe Wilson who writes in the Baltimore Sun on (February 12, 2008). Wilson says Obama's

vapid rhetoric will not withstand the winds of November. His efforts will be correctly seen by the Republican leadership as a sign of weakness to be exploited. While disaffected Democrats may long for comity in our politics after years of being harangued and belittled by the right wing echo chamber, the Rovians currently promoting Obama are looking to destroy him should he become the nominee. Obama's claim to float uniquely above the fray and avoid polarization will be short-lived. He is no less mortal than any other Democrat -- Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry -- all untouched at the beginning of their campaigns and all mauled by the end. We should never forget recent history.

In order to effect practical change against a determined adversary, we do not need a would-be philosopher-king but a seasoned gladiator who understands the fight Democrats will face in the fall campaign and in governing.

Theodore Roosevelt once commented, "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly."

If he were around today, TR might be speaking of the woman in the arena .....

2/13/2008 06:43:00 AM  
Blogger Big Yellow Forehead said...

I'm an Obamacan, and I think that he stands the greatest chance at winning a battle against McCain. Not just because he can talk trash, ("I'm skinny, but I'm tough too.") or because McCain is so old he's on the brink of death, but because he does not offer an abundance of support for our current disliked president-elect like McCain does. At this point in the game, I think it's important for a candidate to separate himself from someone who is so vehemently despised by the American public. Not only that, but he does not appear to have the drama cloud looming over his horizon like Hillary does.

I've got a fever, and the only cure is Obama for President!

2/13/2008 08:47:00 AM  
Blogger MadMike said...

Obama is bringing hope to America, not business as usual. He is the best candidate I have seen in many years and I am old; not as old as McCain but old nonetheless:-)

2/13/2008 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger the WIZARD, fkap said...

I think that Joe WiIlson is wrong (again, as usual).

Comparing Barak Obama with John Kerry, Al Gore and (gasp) Michael Dukakis is to toally misunderstand the man, his message and his potential.

In their own ways Dukakis, Kerry and ever Gore were flawed candidates (although remember that Gore did win the popular vote in 2000).

The proof will come when Obama wins in November.

A better analogy would be Nixon ~ Kennedy.

2/13/2008 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger Peekay said...

Democratic strategist Jim Duffy, who is not aligned with either campaign says that many party leaders — the so-called superdelegates — won't hesitate to ditch the former New York senator for Barack Obama if her political problems persist. Their loyalty to the first couple is built on shaky ground.

"If Obama continues to win .... the whole raison d'etre for her campaign falls apart and we'll see people running from her campaign like rats on a ship."

2/13/2008 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger Peekay said...

In the NYT, more on Michelle: Michelle Obama Takes to the Trail, doesn't do her justice.

2/13/2008 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Boris said...

Bill Clinton says

“Nothing justifies the kind of debasing language that David Shuster used and no temporary suspension or half-hearted apology is sufficient.”

Politics used to be only for tough people. The Clintons think they are entitled to genteel treatment, and Bubba entitled to Shuster's blood.

2/14/2008 05:55:00 AM  
Blogger Soros' Proxy said...

Backing up Maureen Dowd's quote, Letty Cottin Pogrebin says that maybe Hillary has the biggest spouse problem in American history. At best, WJC is problematical.

2/15/2008 07:21:00 AM  
Anonymous JFO said...

Hey Obamaphiliacs

You might have heard that there could be a wildcard in the race for the Democratic nomination.

At this summer's Democratic National Convention, there will be nearly 800 "superdelegates" who will vote alongside the more than 3,000 "pledged" delegates who are chosen in the various state primaries and caucuses. The candidate that gets a majority of all delegates (superdelegates and pledged delegates combined) will be the Democratic nominee for president.

Right now, Barack Obama is ahead in the contest for pledged delegates. And while the campaign intends to continue winning states and expanding its lead among the pledged delegates, we also need to reach out to superdelegates and make sure as many as possible support Barack Obama.

I just shared my story with Superdelegates and told them why I'm supporting Barack. I hope you'll do the same and help encourage superdelegates to cast their votes for Barack Obama!


2/16/2008 02:34:00 PM  

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