Well, a boy can dream. I’ve always liked Al. Behind that stiff exterior lies a man with a good sense of humor and a good head on his shoulders. I’m not going to rehash the travesty that was the election of 2000; suffice it to say that the past eight years would have been infinitely better for our country had Gore been in charge.
Now there is an ever-so-slim hope that he might yet mount a white horse, Nobel Prize medallion around his neck, sun block on his face to filter out the effects of ozone depletion, and ride to the rescue of the Democratic Party.
It looks like we may need it.
Not that we don’t have two good candidates -- it’s just that the longer they stay in the arena, flailing away like punch-drunk prizefighters, the more battered and bloodied and uglier they become.
On the one hand we have Barack Obama, whose ability to inspire is equaled only by what we don’t know about him. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright affair should have been a wake-up call, at 3 a.m. or otherwise. Not the obnoxious things Wright said. Not the fine speech Obama gave on race relations. But the fact that Obama knew it was coming, had known it for a year, and did nothing to nip it in the bud.
"If Barack gets past the primary," Rev. Wright told the New York Times in April 2007, "he might have to publicly distance himself from me. I said it to Barack personally, and he said yeah, that might have to happen."
So my question is, what else does Barack know is coming? What other distancing does he have backup plans for? (I am just a tad uneasy about this Tony Rezko trial, for example.) Obama is an interesting figure. He’s bright, he’s personable, he's full of potential. But I fear he could also be full of surprises. After all, he’s a politician (which will come as a shock to those of you who think he’s the Second Coming of Kennedy). Politicians spin things for the best, and they hide things they think might hurt them.
Speaking as a Democrat, it matters when these things rear their heads and hurt us as a party. (Is there a New York governor in the house?!)
Which brings us to Hillary Clinton, who has been well-vetted, and who we know, warts and all. Obama, who began this year on a pedestal, has nowhere to go but down. Clinton, who has endured often unfair sniping for almost two decades, has nowhere to go but up.
But that doesn’t mean she’s going anywhere, her campaign having blown it in the dozen or so states immediately following Super Tuesday, creating a pledged delegate shortfall that she can’t overcome without a miracle. (As Bill recently said, “It's the caucuses that have been killing us.”)
That won’t keep her from trying, of course. She plans on winning the nomination -- if not this time, then perhaps in 2012. It has been suggested, and not without some plausibility, that Clinton would rather see Obama lose the general election to John McCain than win it. This would, after all, make her the frontrunner for the party’s nomination four years hence, when Americans would be really, really, REALLY tired of Republican rule.
Is she that ambitious? I’d like to think not, but I don’t know. What I do know is that they’ll probably have to carry her out of the Denver convention in a straight jacket to get her to give up the fight. She has been waiting all her life for this, folks, and will not go gently into that good night.
Clinton’s recent approach to winning has been called the “Tonya Harding strategy” -- bash him on the kneecap and hope for the best. And the things that might still make her the nominee -- Obama’s inexperience or skeletons in his closet or a gaffe of some kind -- are the same things that the Republicans are counting on to help them win in November. So her strategy dovetails into their strategy, which is to create the perception that Obama is not ready to be president. This is not helped, of course, by anything that Obama might do to confirm that he is unprepared or too risky to take a chance on.
So we have a situation where two candidates, who are increasingly polarizing supporters on the other side -- witness the Carville/Richardson “Judas” dust-up -- will arrive in Denver without enough pledged delegates to win the nomination.
The superdelegates will have to come up with something, and I am not alone in wondering if Gore might be the answer. Back in the old days, conventions would sometimes select a dark horse on the second, third, fourth, or even later ballots.
Al Gore is hardly a dark horse. He is well known, experienced, a proven popular vote-getter, and more respected today than he was eight years ago. Al could mount that white horse, ride in to unite the party, and gain his rightful place in the Oval Office.
It probably won’t happen, of course, because politics is not like the movies. It is not like fiction. It is stranger.
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