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The Tentacle


November 27, 2007

Superbly Qualified for President

Roy Meachum

Politics' infection has not reached the center of my consciousness. As the Friday morning visits with WFMD Radio's Bob Miller demonstrate week after week, I believe there is much more to life than tracking officials and keeping tabs on wannabes.

Take the presidential primaries, for example; they got underway much too early. For goodness sake, we won't have the name of the Oval Office's next occupant for nearly a full year from now.

The jostling to stage the very first primary strikes me as both absurd and demeaning to the image of this great democracy. The respective state parties seemingly have surrendered their common sense to the drums of their big boosters. The Chambers of Commerce seem more a factor than the need to choose a capable leader.

Weighing the candidates is less important in this sense; but it becomes increasingly apparent that the party nabobs already decided. Measure the flood of money to the leading names on the tickets. Those low on the lists scarcely receive wooden nickels.

The Republicans are afflicted with the same indecisiveness as their split up approaches to the vital national and international issues. This year Will Rogers' famous quote applies with a twist: The GOP candidates do not belong to an organized party. They're Republicans.

The impulse to move the voting right along to choose a nominee is strictly a Democratic tendency for the 2008 White House challenge. Fred Thompson's late appearance in the race should be attributed to the man's towering ego and the total confusion in his Republican party.

In any event, Rudy Giuliani shows second to Massachusetts' ex-governor Mitt Romney on funds collected, but only a smidgen. At the same time, New York's former mayor tops Mr. Romney by double digits in at least one survey.

Ron Paul leads the eight other GOP wannabes, whose ranks include John McCain. The Vietnam hero wreaked havoc with his public standing by taking up the charge for the American presence in Iraq. Without challenging President George W. Bush, the other Republicans have soft-pedaled the war. The other side possesses its share of oversized self-estimations, but no one jumped late into the pool, to match Mr. Thompson. In the first place confusion disappeared from the git-go.

In the 2008 Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton has always been the frontrunner, sailing along and wanting the fuss over so she can move into the White House. This time she knows the Oval Office key will rest firmly in her hand and not the pocket of her less worthy mate. Her plan is working, at full tilt.

After all, Ms. Clinton can summon up the organizations and individuals that backed husband Bill, to the knife. Furthermore, unlike the first Clinton battle for the White House, she has a base in New York, not Arkansas. The senator won re-election last year with 67% of the vote.

Her not-so-secret weapon is the former president, who mainly stays behind scenes, surfacing only when his political clout and his beguiling charm are needed.

Recently the Clinton campaign has come on hard times; her darling media have started asking questions that are not cream puffs. Reporters have uncovered tricks pulled off by her assistants that the senator has speedily disavowed.

Nevertheless, Barack Obama has staged a meaningful rally, threatening his fellow senator's ceremonial parade up Pennsylvania Avenue. He's actually come out swinging at their debates. His switch has not completely flustered the front runner, but she had to abandon her smiling composure.

Mr. Obama has brought the only truly fresh face to the national race. His style and thoughts apparently resonate with people, including some party loyalists. He poses at least a hindrance Ms. Clinton must deal with.

By the way, the pair comes out almost even on wallets they've tapped; she's only slightly ahead and that surprised me. Going down the list incumbent members of Congress have collected tribute from their constituents and special interest.

Out of the also-rans, the party's 2004 vice presidential nominee stands out in the financial category. He sits on $23 million, which could be a helluva dowry for the second spot on the presidential ticket, once again. I don't see that happening. But he simply cannot muster enough muscle to get him into the biggest mansion in Washington.

Going into next summer's Democratic convention, it's entirely possible that neither Senator Clinton nor Senator Obama will muster enough votes from the primaries to win outright. Neither would release delegates willingly to the other. That's a given.

The contest between them does not boil down to her female minority against his African American status. The real fight comes down to the old Democratic leadership against the new.

The Clintons, between them, are very capable of whistling up all the elements that once made their party a champion. In his Midwestern brogue and youthful face, Mr. Obama brings a fresh presence to the scene.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson registers the same way; the man who has worked as mediator under both Republican and Democratic administrations shapes up as the individual capable of putting the party's disparate forces together. And not so incidentally, this fractured nation.

I can't imagine Hillary Clinton agreeing to play second fiddle to Mr. Richardson, but it might very well come down to that. Barack Obama could and should; he would make a splendid stand-in for any new president. He can't afford to bypass history as the first African American a heartbeat away from the Oval Office.

Moreover, while Ms. Clinton has said the nation needs someone who can begin the first day in the White House, she simply does not have the qualifications. Watching your husband does not cut that mustard.

Her barb was aimed at Mr. Obama whose experience on a school board and a state delegate matches her single foray as a candidate for U.S. senator.

Bill Richardson carries credentials to shame them both: a congressman, a cabinet official and a governor, the superb mediator would make the most experienced president since the nation began.

Conventional wisdom holds, however, that the best qualified candidate is doomed to lose the race.

I sit here pipe dreaming, of course.



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