I've been keeping close track of numerous television and radio talk shows over the past couple of weeks, (yes, I know, I have to get a life) and the trend is crystal clear - most of the DC and Manhattan-based pundits have decided that the only viable matchup of presidential candidates pits former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani against current New York Senator Hillary Clinton.
Regardless of the candidates' finances, positions on matters that matter, stance on the War on Terror and the Battle for Iraq, performances in these nauseating made for television 'debates,' or even popularity with the voters, if you put any faith whatsoever in the pundits' opinions the only candidates who can or should run for president are the two New Yorkers. (Should we call this the Subway Campaign?)
Personally, I don't buy it. This race marks a major departure from previous campaigns in that the candidates have gone straight into the full campaign mode a year earlier than had been the norm, giving us virtually non-stop campaigning from election to election.
The concept that you never really stop campaigning for the office you are seeking certainly isn't new. Ronald Reagan targeted the presidency years before he achieved it, and those years weren't spent sitting by the fireside wishing and hoping.
But seeing a full complement of candidates on both sides of the political fence waging full-scale campaigns a full year before they even start the state level primary votes to select the party candidate is not the norm. Frankly, it has become so loud, so raucous, so intense that it has blended into background noise and I seriously doubt that most voters will really start paying attention until just before their own state's primary next year.
Did anyone note for instance, that Delaware's Democratic Sen. Joe Biden was the only one to answer honestly in the Dems debate last week when asked about withdrawing from Iraq - that it simply can't happen, and won't happen under the conditions constantly being discussed by Democrats and turncoat Republicans in Congress?
Score one for Biden! But how often do you see or hear of him on national television?
Has anyone taken a serious look at former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's position on replacing the Income Tax, Social Security tax, Medicare/Medicaid tax, gas tax, cigarette tax, beer tax, and tax taxes with the Fair Tax? It is a viable proposal that could drastically scale back what we all pay in taxes each year without negatively impacting government operating funds, but Huckabee is making little to no headway in getting his message across.
Then we have the Fred Thompson phenomenon. Voters like what they see and hear so far, and he is right on Giuliani's heels even though he hasn't officially declared his candidacy. So the DC and Manhattan insiders and elitists are closing ranks around Giuliani to make sure Thompson doesn't upset their well-ordered little world.
First the left takes shots at Thompson's wife Jeri, a lawyer and accomplished political strategist, for being too attractive. Then, on Saturday night's Beltway Boys commentator Mort Kondracke literally sneered that the macho-appearing Thompson is letting his wife run his campaign.
Well, we just can't have that now can we? It's fine for Elizabeth Edwards to have a major role in her husband's campaign, and there is no question that Hillary Clinton should be running her campaign, amid debates on whether she is the most manly of Democratic candidates.
But Jeri Thompson? Having a say in her husband's campaign? Doesn't sound MANLY to Mort!
But answer this please. If you are running for president and your wife not only is smart, is an accomplished political strategist, has a shot at being the First Lady, and is attractive, who would you defer to on matters involving your campaign? Your closest associate who has nearly as big a stake in your victory as you do, or a paid consultant who may or may not have alternative political ideals and agendas?
The smart candidate would defer to his wife in those situations. And smart campaign staffers would make damn sure that one way or another they are on the same page as the potential First Lady! But when Thompson reveals another facet of his makeup that probably will appeal to the voters, suddenly he isn't manly. Yeah.
I have a suggestion. How about if Jeri Thompson arm wrestles Mort Kondracke on national television and if she wins, every pundit who has criticized her looks or her husband's manliness has to shut the hell up for the next 18 months?
My money is on Mrs. Thompson.
I did see one glimmer of hope on the horizon this week on Fox News Sunday and in an update from NewsMax.com.
About two months ago I sent an email to a DC Republican strategist who is working on the Thompson campaign. I have corresponded with her since before the presidential election in 2004 on issues of mutual interest, and this time I suggested that perhaps Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich could discuss running as a team.
I think Gingrich is probably the most intellectually capable of all the candidates, and that is not taking anything away from the other candidates. I am just making the point that Gingrich is brilliant and has an encyclopedic knowledge of government, society, economics and history.
But Gingrich is pulling major baggage behind him from his years as Speaker of the House during the Bill Clinton Administration. Whether he will run for president has been widely discussed for some time now, but I think he would have a long difficult campaign, despite his enormous capabilities.
Gingrich made the point himself on FNS that the system for selecting presidential candidates and by extension the president, is broken. I agree, but it is what it is, at least for the moment and that is what has to be considered.
This week news started leaking out that Gingrich had met and dined with the Thompsons. Whether that meeting had anything to do with my email from two months ago is probably known to only a few insiders, and whether they discussed running as a team was not addressed on FNS.
Gingrich neatly sidestepped the issue when queried about it by Chris Wallace. But it is at least obvious that they are talking, and frankly I see that as a good thing.
San Francisco radio talk show host Lee Rodgers on KSFO, who can be, how should I put this, caustic, in his assessment of politicians on the entire political spectrum, made the point last week that we shouldn't "fall in love with a politician." That, he said, can and usually will end in heartbreak.
He is right and his advice is well heeded. But I am not about to throw in the towel on Fred Thompson, or Mitt Romney, or Mike Huckabee, or Joe Biden any of the other candidates for that matter, based on the opinions of a group of professional commentators who both geographically and politically have a vested interest in seeing their favorites leading the races.
There are issues arising with the Thompson campaign to be sure, but most of them appear minor and seem to be centered on the decision not to make a formal announcement until Labor Day. I don't see that as a bad move. It is still July, a virtual dead zone for politics as NPR commentator Mara Liasson pointed out on FNS this week. The only people paying close attention to the races are the people involved in them, the political media, and party workers.
Waiting until September may not set well with the commentators, but it is a smart move politically. Thompson has gotten far more press in the past two weeks than anyone else except Clinton and Barack Obama. That is not working against him.
I haven't decided who I will vote for yet, and it will be some time before I do. I like what I see in Thompson, I want to see what Gingrich is going to do, Romney still is a contender and I don't give a hoot about his religion, and I'd like to see some more coverage of the undercards on both sides.
But for the moment, I'll leave you with one burning question that we all must answer for ourselves before election day 2008. Would you rather have Jeri Thompson as First Lady or Bill Clinton as First Husband?
Sunday, July 29, 2007