Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Laughter is the Best Medicine; Trippi’s Contribution to the Comedy

Well, November has not been kind to me. My car broke down, I passed a couple kidney stones, then I got appendicitis and had to have my appendix surgically removed while America had a brain fart and elected the party of Nuance to run Congress in both houses. I mean sure, the GOP had its share of empty suits and broken promises, but putting the government in the hands of a party which thinks leadership is exemplified by the John Conyers, who held fake impeachment hearings, or Howard Dean, who publicly considered seriously allegations of direct Presidential involvement in the 9/11 atrocities is very much like letting a toddler play with your Uzi; I guess when he shoots the neighbors the Donks would sue them for being in the way, and the Uzi company for making the gun they let the kid play with. Diversity means pointing the finger, after all.

Hysteria being in fashion with Liberals these days, even in victory, it is only fitting that we turn to the words of Joe Trippi, as ever the wanna-be man of influence. Trippi’s last adventure, you may recall, was the amusing fantasy that Howard Dean was Presidential timber. Yet Trippi does open a window into the mind of the Modern Democrat, and so his article at least serves a use for analysis.

Trippi wrote an interesting article for the Washington Post on Friday, where he mused on the Democrats’ “mandate” (notice that a smaller Democratic majority seems needed to constitute a “mandate”, hmmm?). To wit, the Donkey Nod for the 2008 Presidential Race – Trippi presumes the Donk control of the House and Senate is a foregone conclusion, which arrogance I believe is as misplaced as the notion that the GOP would hold them in 2006, but that’s for another article.

Trippi’s article should be read all the way through, to catch the flavor of his rather quaint assumptions about certain persons’ credentials, and his presumption that no Republican candidate will catch the imagination and support of America, but in short, here are his candidates for the 2008 Race, in Trippi’s order:

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Barack Obama
Al Gore
John Edwards
John Kerry
Joe Biden
Evan Bayh
Russ Feingold
Bill Richardson
Wesley Clark
Tom Vilsack

Eleven names, but representing really only three notions. Clinton, Gore, Edwards, Kerry, Biden. Feingold, and Clark, are all people who either failed to win or quit the race because they learned they could not win. Obama and Richardson are the ‘formula’ candidates – someone has worked up a profile, and they fit the cutout, but the men themselves are a bit lacking. And the last notion is the ‘great leader’ notion, the idea that doing a good job at the state level equals national appeal.

Permit me a moment to digest Mr. Trippi’s considered analysis …


OK, now that I have that out of my system, here’s why this field is likely to help get a Republican elected President again in 2008, assuming we can avoid screwing up the choice on our end:

Let’s start with what wins Presidential elections. First the acknowledged charismatic greats since 1960 on each side – Reagan for the Republicans, Kennedy for the Democrats, with Nixon and Dubya Bush winning double terms for the Pachyderms, with Bill Clinton winning a double term and Lyndon Johnson the last real rout for the Democrats. Besides them, we need to consider Daddy Bush for the Republicans and Jimmy Carter for the Democrats. Four on each side, accounting for every President since 1960 except Gerald Ford, who never got elected anyway.

Reagan and JFK clearly has charisma, Bill Clinton and Dubya too but to a lesser degree. LBJ and Nixon knew the system, and Bill Clinton had that quality as well. Daddy Bush and Jimmy Carter seemed like good decent men, when that quality mattered. Reagan and Dubya took care of their people, and they deeply loved and respected the military. So let’s take those qualities and set them out plainly:

Smart system pros
Decent guy
Loyalty to the team

Add to that two more qualities; tough in the clutch and unafraid to dream. The President does not usually have all of these qualities, but the more of them he has, the better. With those qualities in mind, then, I return to Mr. Trippi’s list and sort out the crowd, starting with two obvious names; Al Gore and John Kerry.

Al Gore thinks he should have been President because he won the popular vote in 2000. The fact that he just cannot let go of that lost election is a serious problem sign for him right from the start, but there’s more. Remember that screaming rant? Remember his snotty refusal to concede in 2000 until well past all reasonable chance of victory? Have you noticed the arrogant condescension in his propaganda piece, “An Inconvenient Truth”? Here’s the Gore standing on the requisite qualities, each on a scale of 1 to 5:

Charisma – 0. Gore still makes dead wood look lively.
System – 2. Gore knows the system, but he has two flaws. He spent all his chips trying to win 2000 on an unprecedented lawsuit/recount strategy, and he has Hillary against him all the way to the party convention.
Decency – 1. Gore is known as a manipulator and an opportunist.
Team Player – 0. Gore never once made an effort to help anyone else get elected. Gore is spelled with all “I”s.
Clutch Toughness – 3. Gore is stubborn, but burns bridges.
Vision – 1. Gore has no National Security plan, he has no plan to save Social Security, he has no plan to secure our borders. But he will attack SUVs.

Overall Score: 07 out of a possible 30 (23%)

Next, we look at John Kerry. Sorry to have to remind you John, but that “botched joke” is far from your only baggage. ‘For before you were against’ is still haunting you, and no one takes a Presidential candidate seriously who depends on “magic hat” stories and false recollections (like Nixon sending you into Cambodia before he was even President?) to bolster a suspicious war resume. Here’s Kerry’s report card on the requisite qualities:

Charisma – 0. Kerry is as boring as Gore.
System – 1. As a Senator, Kerry knows the politics, but not how things really get done. Kerry has absolutely one of the worst record in bills submitted and policies influenced.
Decency – 3. Kerry seems about average for a politician, no real scandals but no clear virtues.
Team Player – 0. Like Gore, everything that comes out of John Kerry’s mouth is in praise of himself.
Clutch Toughness – 0. A good nickname for Kerry from the 2004 campaign was ‘flipper’.
Vision – 0. The only thing we ever heard from John Kerry about what he would do as President, was a vague suggestion that he would let his party tell him what to do. That’s John Kerry’s idea of Leadership.

Overall Score: 04 out of a possible 30 (13%)

Considering these two guys were the Democrats’ idea of “winners” in the last two shots at the White House, those scores are not promising for Trippi’s start out of the box.

Next up is the long-presumed Donk frontrunner, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Hillary has actually been President, you know – well, “co-President” as she reminded us in 1993. Remember Hillary Care? If she gets elected it will happen, you can count on that. Unfortunately for Hillary, the nation had an allergic reaction to her the first time they saw her up close, and for all her efforts to change her image, the ultimate Hillary remains a vicious shrew. Here’s the Hillary Scorecard:

Charisma – 0. When Hillary is trying to be nice, she comes off as fake. And when she is seen in character, the taste is truly awful.
System – 5. Hillary is shrewd, street-smart and a deft political operative.
Decency – 0. Hillary is ruthless, plain and dark. She’s hidden her skeletons under Bubba’s, but they are still there.
Team Player – 0. In 2004, Hillary made a number of appearances ostensibly in support of Kerry, but her name came first on the banners and all the money raised went into her coffers.
Clutch Toughness – 4. Hillary is junk-yard mean, a political gangsta in the mold of LBJ.
Vision – 2. Hillary knows how to speak the words, but there is no follow-through, no sense of her grasping the concept beyond her immediate gain.

Overall Score: 11 out of a possible 30 (37%)

Since we’re clearing out the oldies first, let’s just run down the list of has-beens Trippi thinks would still run well in 2008:

Joe Biden

Charisma – 0. Am I the only guy who sees a Democrat image of Joe McCarthy when I look at Joe Biden? I think a lot of people do.
System – 3. Biden knows the system. He does not seem to control it, however.
Decency – 0. Machiavelli had more scruples.
Team Player – 0. Biden is not a man to pick up the check share credit, or think about someone else.
Clutch Toughness – 3. Biden likes a fight. The bad news is, he doesn't know which ones to pick and which ones to avoid.
Vision – 0. The man can't see past his next union endorsement, and is so locked in the past he wonders why he can't find Dan Rather's newscasts anymore.

Overall Score: 06 out of a possible 30 (20%)

Russ Feingold

Charisma – 0. When's the last time anyone quoted Feingold? When's the last time a regular person indicated they knew who he even is?
System – 3. A has-been. Long ago. Nothing to indicate he is in charge for a lnog, long time.
Decency – 1. A self-serving opportunist, his chief regret in the Abramoff scandal is that he didn't make any money or influence off it.
Team Player – 2. Feingold knows how to play well, but always as a follower, never a leader.
Clutch Toughness – 1. When challenged, Feingold never hesitates to stand up immediately - and blame someone else.
Vision – 1. Feingold has ideas. Old ones, failed ones, unpopular ones, but yeah, he has ideas.

Overall Score: 08 out of a possible 30 (27%)

Wesley Clark ran on one issue; quitting Iraq. He is, therefore, already irrelevant to 2008, but Mr. Trippi does not seem to grasp that fact. Here’s his scorecard:

Charisma – 0. Clark was disliked by his fellow generals, was known as a boor in both military and political circles, and consistently failed to excite.
System – 1. Clark ran as an outsider. The problem is, he was so much an outsider, he was obviously clueless about how the government works. I gave him 1 point because as a former general, at least he is comfortable with bureaucracy.
Decency – 3. Average, nothing notable either direction.
Team Player – 0. Like everyone discussed so far, this guy demands the spotlight, even when he has nothing to add to the show.
Clutch Toughness – 0. When challenged in 2004, Clark was unprepared and looked out of his depth.
Vision – 0. Quick, what is the first thing Clark would do as President? Who would be his first cabinet appointment? Hear that silence? That’s the depth of the Clark plan.

Overall Score: 04 out of a possible 30 (13%)

Then there’s Bill Richardson. Everyone says what a great “resume” he has, and so does Trippi. Here’s the problem; Richardson has been around a lot, but his results are distinctly lacking. At least he’s been a governor, although anyone who thinks the former Governor of New Mexico would translate into Democrat wins in any other Southwest state does not understand the region.

Charisma – 2. He has regional appeal, but it’s not the ‘wow’ kind and it’s definitely not national. .
System – 3. Richardson knows how to run a small state government. No indication he is ready for the big time.
Decency – 3. Average
Team Player – 2. Supports his friends, hates his enemies.
Clutch Toughness – 3. Average, no evidence Richardson has ever been in a long, tough fight.
Vision – 2. If America is just like Tempe, Richardson’s your man. If more is required, Richardson is a poser.

Overall Score: 15 out of a possible 30 (50%)

By now you should have caught the theme. Let’s move on now to the ‘up and comers’, guys Trippi thinks are the future of the Democratic Party. The numbers get more serious in this group.

John Edwards

Charisma – 5. Edwards has flair, and knows how to speechify.
System – 0. Edwards has never yet shown he understands how to get things done. All flash, no substance.
Decency – 0. Edwards is a trial lawyer, total shark, willing to lie or smear his opponent to get his way.
Team Player – 0. Even when he was Kerry’s running mate, Edwards made no effort to put the top name first; Breck Boy was always making clear that he expected more to come for himself, and never a thought to anyone else.
Clutch Toughness – 0. Edwards got thumped in the VP Debates by Cheney. He showed his ‘wounded poodle’ side right then and there. His family herald should feature a man disguised as a woman with a white flag, running away.
Vision – 0. Edwards is paper-thin, the kind of guy to make a car salesman look like a moral paragon.

Overall Score: 5 out of a possible 30 (17%)

Barack Obama

Charisma – 5. Handsome, young, urbane and articulate, Obama shows well on television and carries himself well as long as he does not have to answer any hard questions. Reminds me of a black Gary Hart.
System – 2. He’s done well so far and is a fast riser, but he has no experience yet. No accomplishments besides being pretty.
Decency – 4. Seems like a good guy, but as yet unwilling to tackle moral issues directly.
Team Player – 4. gets along with just about everyone, and if there are rifts he does a good job of not letting them show.
Clutch Toughness – 0. Obama has never yet been tested, nor risen to a challenge.
Vision – 3. He’s not big on specifics, but Obama’s general optimism and fluent populism serve him well in general terms so far.

Overall Score: 18 out of a possible 30 (60%)

Evan Bayh

Charisma – 1. Bayh is a nice person who is generally well-respected. That does not translate into holding significant influence or being able to bring people aboard his plan. Note that there has as yet not been any “Bayh Bill” to make a major change, nor any grassroots movement to see this guy lead the country.
System – 4. Bayh knows the system, but A- he is a Senator, not a Governor, and B- Bayh acts like a follower, not a leader.
Decency – 5. By all accounts a decent man.
Team Player – 5. He really reminds me of Gerry Ford. Now is that good or bad?
Clutch Toughness – 0. Bayh has never once been in a tough fight, much less won one.
Vision – 0. What quote best sums up Evan Bayh? Anything come to mind?

Overall Score: 15 out of a possible 30 (50%)

Tom Vilsack

Charisma – 4. I hate to admit it, but Trippi may have a good candidate here. Personable and smart, Vilsack looks and sounds good. He should sell well in the Midwest and the Northeast in general, including some of the Bush territory.
System – 4. Nothing spectacular, but a good job as Governor. No mistakes to speak of.
Decency – 5. Very clean, and he looks it.
Team Player – 1. no significant alliances or major backers, but it’s early yet.
Clutch Toughness – 0. Vilsack has never yet been tested.
Vision – 1. Vilsack knows day-to-day. He has yet to show a comprehension suited to the big stage.

Overall Score: 15 out of a possible 30 (50%)

So, rated for actual qualities, here’s (back to front) Trippi’s list for 2008:

Wesley Clark – 13%
John Kerry – 13%
John Edwards – 17%
Joe Biden - 20%
Al Gore – 23%
Russ Feingold - 27%
Hillary Clinton – 37%
Evan Bayh – 50%
Bill Richardson – 50%
Tom Vilsack – 50%
Barack Obama – 60%

The sense I catch, is that Clark, Kerry, Edwards, Gore, and Clinton are out of the race but will fight that reality to some degree. Bayh and Richardson are not really suited to the job, nor have they shown the credentials they ought to have by now. That leaves Obama, Trippi’s presumed “rock star” for the Democrats, and Tom Vilsack, the Governor of Iowa. Obama will be more in the spotlight, because of his race, but Vilsack could be much more formidable when it comes down to really making the run. Both men are charismatic and intelligent, and they know how to present a clean face to the public.

The problem is, neither man has much experience in national leadership, and neither has really been in a test yet. Neither has made a statement about Terrorism, about Social Security, or about where they want to take America. It’s two years out, but the race is already underway, and these guys need to start their engines in terms of proving their place in the field. As for Trippi, I can’t quite decide if he included the nine losers along with the two strong candidates as a way to contrast the two groups, or if he really believes that people like Biden, Kerry, or Gore could possibly catch fire any more than a wet fish would.

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