Newsweek's online edition recently featured a piece by former White House chief of staff Hamilton Jordan. He, along with Jody Powell, Jerry Rafshoon, Pat Caddell and others engineered the come-from-nowhere victory of Jimmy Carter in the 1976 presidential contest against Gerald Ford.
Jordan wrote in Newsweek: "I consider the Obama operation the most brilliant political campaign of my lifetime."
I take issue with Jordan, if for the ironic reason that I consider Carter's victory in 1976 to be the most brilliant campaign in modern history.
I recognize how amazing it is that Obama, a young African-American, is taking on the Clinton political dynasty and beating it. Still, Carter's ascent to the presidency was at least as equally impressive, regardless of how his time in the White House turned out.
In 1976, Carter was a one-term governor of Georgia. While that state today is the nation's ninth-largest by population, it was nothing of the sort back then. In fact, many Americans then looked (ignorantly) at Georgia as a home to unlettered bigots who were cultural distant cousins to "real" Americans elsewhere.
Unlike Obama, Carter had no potentially powerful demographic, be it racial or generational, that was likely to gravitate his way. He had not written a best-selling book, nor had he in tow the policy platform and political status that comes with being an incumbent U.S. senator from one of the nation's largest states, as Obama is in Illinois.
Carter was given far less a chance of so much as "getting on the scoreboard" as Obama has been given. And Obama hasn't had to enter the presidential race with most in his party totally unaware of his name. For Carter, the constant, joking refrain going into the days before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary was, "Jimmy who?"
But for a moment, let me defer to the mind of Hamilton Jordan, who I consider a political genius.
Jordan recommends that the Obama campaign turn to moderate and veteran politicos to provide him with a needed dose of gravitas experience that could turn his team into one that can win the big prize in November. He specifically names New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Georgia-based U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn as examples of savvy and reasonable key players whose involvement should be sought as soon as it becomes clear that Obama will be the Democrats' nominee.
That's good advice that I doubt Obama will fully embrace. That may be unfortunate for him -- and for John McCain -- before all is said and done.
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