WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Now this is progress for you and all brought to a grateful nation by the political party that considers progress its specialty. If the pollsters are to be believed, the public-spirited citizenry of Iowa and New Hampshire are about to give the Democratic Party its presidential candidate for 2004. At least that handful of Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire willing to trudge to their caucuses or voting booths is going to decide the nominee.
I have no doubt that these worthy citizens have a deep knowledge of the art and science of politics. Yet as mistrustful as the Democratic spellbinders heading the party have been lo these many years of "special interests" and other "elites," it is somewhat surprising that they now acquiesce so meekly in handing their party's nominating process over to a small group of party stalwarts in the Hawkeye and Granite states.
Where are the blacks? Where are the Latinos? What about the gays? These are the suffering situations for whom the Democratic Party has such famous solicitude. All are shockingly underrepresented in the aforementioned Democratic precincts.
After two generations of haranguing the "smoke filled room," the "party bosses," the "state organization" and almost anyone with any brains about political organization, the Democrats have so reformed their nominating process that, to coin a phrase, "As Iowa and New Hampshire Go, So Goes the Democratic Party." I suggest the Democratic National Committee move its headquarters this year from Washington to Des Moines, next year to Manchester, and then back to Des Moines or perhaps to Cedar Rapids.
And behold the field now competing in those idyllic purlieus. The apparent frontrunners are Dr. Howard Dean; Gen. Wesley Clark (the party's Wendell Willkie), Sen. John Pierre Kerry (who, lest you forget, served in Vietnam), Sen. John Edwards (who, lest you forget, wore rags until becoming a multimillionaire by lawyering misery) and Gephardt and Lieberman -- the only two candidates who remotely approximate those previous Democratic presidential candidates who actually went on to lead the nation with a semblance of success or dignity.
Democratic politics has become the only socially accepted avenue for public displays of personal wrath. All the leading Democratic candidates are really angry, and they are appealing for the vote of those who are really angry. They have their disagreements, but all agree that urgent measures must be taken to alleviate the dreadful mess George Bush has made of the country. After their united and quite stirring public displays of anger, the Democratic contenders collapse into buffoonery.
I cannot recall a field of candidates caught so often in contradiction. Clark, the Democrat, denounces President Bush and denies any connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Then it is discovered that he voted for Republican presidents, praised the president fulsomely for his leadership and in public in October of 2002 said, "Certainly there's a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda."
Dean denounces the administration's "unilateralism." Now, USA Today has produced a missive from the country doc urging "unilateralism" on President Bill Clinton. Was John Pierre Kerry accurate when he told feminists that his first vote in the Senate was pro-abortion? Non pas, Monsieur, your first vote opposed a Reagan administration military initiative.
After noting the contradictions, we might note the lies. Just for starters there is Doctor Howard Dean claiming his brother served in the military. There is Gen. Clark claiming he opposed the Iraq war. There is Kerry ... well, it was something about his Irishness or lack of Irishness or an Irish coffee he had in Vietnam -- the double-talk of these magnificoes gets confusing.
How are we to explain the clownishness of this field of political worthies? My answer is that they are political careerists, not politicians motivated by convictions. They have during their political lives -- Clark's admittedly being a short one -- said whatever was expedient at the time.
When antiwar candidates Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern campaigned in New Hampshire against war, no pro-war statements from them could be unearthed. But now even the hottest aspirant to the antiwar title has been exposed as an advocate of "unilateralism." It is time for Iowa and New Hampshire to speak and quiet these oafs for a few months.