Have you noticed the growing number of wags predicting a decade of Republican rule, essentially writing off the Democratic Party? When everyone joins the band wagon, predictions are usually wrong. Nevertheless, the realist in me is deeply concerned. While Karl Rove and his well oiled company spend all their waking hours laying the ground work for George Bush's first election to the White House (wonder if they will suggest that term limits don't apply to the unelected), the Democrats seem in total disarray.
Too many people are running. Most of them know they can't win but that doesn't get in their way. They claim to represent an important point of view, and perhaps they do, but in the face of political reality it's hard to not see more than an act of hubris. We may all pay a very high price for their self indulgence. To win back the White House my party can't continue to act like a rudderless ship. It's time to get our house in order. That means most of the want-to-be Presidents need to take a good look in the mirror, perhaps conjure up the image of Ralph Nader, and get real. I'm not suggesting that there be no contest, but that there be a manageable contest so that we can begin to sort things out without the distraction of extraneous noise.
And here is the rub. I've listened to a number of "debates" between the current candidates and have yet to find a standout. I've seen the possibilities but have failed to fall in love, which of course in the days of anti-charisma may be asking too much. Not that all the seemingly viable pretenders are not decent or credentialed, but let's cut to the chase. John Kerry, who has it all, war hero and war protester, has failed to ignite. John Edwards still seems more surface than substance. Claims of electability notwithstanding, I don't think Joe Lieberman or Bob Graham can win. I respect Dick Gephardt but, hard as he tries, the never-to-be Speaker seems yesterday, not tomorrow. Most important in the current context, none of these candidates had the courage to oppose a highly questionable war, choosing political expediency over conviction.
That brings me to the Doctor, Howard Dean. Dean is new to the Presidential game and has made a few gaffs. That's pretty common first time out and hardly a disqualification. Remember the current occupant of the White House's appearance at Bob Jones University? Some say Dean is too dovish, too left, the latter belied by his public record. His stewardship of Vermont was essentially in the Bill Clinton mode, fiscally moderate conservative, socially progressive. His State is among our smallest, but I sense he himself can grow in the absolute, grow on me and on the electorate emotionally which is ultimately what counts.
The dove issue in these hysterical times may be more problematic. It's a troubling that anyone questioning placing untold numbers of human beings in harms way without proven good reason is so discredited? Chalk one up for the heirs of the Gipper. Dean was against Iraq and so far his skepticism appears to have been more than justified. No WMD's and no post-War plan. Nevertheless, in the post 9/11 real politic that doesn't cut it. Which brings me to the General, Wesley Clark. I know there is continued talk about Clark for President, and perhaps that's where it will end out, but I'm suggesting a Dean-Clark ticket.
Promoting a Vice Presidential candidacy at this juncture may seem odd. The Constitution gave the office short shrift. Jack Garner, its one time tobacco chewing incumbent thought it wasn't worth spit. But Jimmy Carter changed all that, making Walter Mondale his full and active partner with a real role to play. George H.W. may have been out of the loop and Danny Q out of it altogether, but Bill Clinton brought the idea of partnership to new heights with Al Gore. The current Vice President, Dick Chaney is the most powerful of them all. He may be spending a lot of time in undisclosed locations but no one can doubt the defining role. Consequently, it is not too early to think running mate. I don't know how you can consider one without the other.
The truth is we don't know very much about Wesley Clark's domestic politics, but we know a lot about his record as a balanced Military man who had a fine reputation as both a thinker and administrator when he led the Alliance. We also know that, like Howard Dean, he had substantial reservations about Iraq. No one could suggest that he lacked military credentials or having led our forces in the Balkans, the will to use power when truly justified.
I don't know if Dean-Clark is a dream ticket (dream ticket and I say Gephardt is living the past), but it seems a compelling one. Two men of talent and apparent conscience. Perhaps they could win.