For once a presidential contest turns out to be morality play: The candidate
who stuck by his principles won.
And he did it on a bare budget. Mike Huckabee was outspent in Iowa (as he
says over and over) 20-to-1. His last-minute decision to pull a TV spot
bashing Mitt Romney cost his campaign something like $150,000 - which is how
much it had invested in the ad campaign.
That's a big hit when you're a Republican candidate for president not named
Mitt Romney. But the Huck decided to stick to the high road. His decision
may have come late, it may have been clumsy and costly, but it was the right
one. He outpolled his wealthier, smoother, harder-hitting opponent by a
decisive 35 to 24 percent while turning the other cheek
If this had been a movie, the ending election night would have been too
sappy to be credible. But that's what it happened: a Frank Capra screenplay
turned real. Hey, what a country. Hey, what a state Iowa must be.
Mike Huckabee's show of character didn't seem to hurt him at all. It may
even have helped. Any move that upsets a cynical old pro and brass-knuckles
fighter like Ed Rollins, his campaign manager, can't be all bad. Good for
him. He deserved to win on the strength of that one decision alone.
Sacrifice is the seal of principle.
The big winner in Iowa last Thursday was Barack Obama. Why not? Americans
love a presidential candidate who's brand new even though we may not be sure
what he stands for except novelty.
As for not knowing exactly where such a candidate stands on a multitude of
issues, or what kind of chief executive he'd make, Americans may not really
care, bless our hearts. If a candidate's politics are vacuous, then maybe he
can unite all of us around that vacuum.
Hey, don't laugh. Didn't they say the same thing about Eisenhower before he
was nominated and elected in 1952? Who knew how Ike stood on a multitude of
hotly contested issues? ? (Not even after he'd been in office for eight
years.) And yet he proved one of our most successful presidents.
Of course, unlike this junior senator from Illinois, the general did have
some executive experience - as the German high command discovered after June
6, 1944. When he became commander-in-chief, it wasn't as if he were a buck
But none of that detracts from the romance of Barack Obama's story. The
still racially fixated couldn't get over the results from Iowa Thursday
night. Des Moines and Keokuk aren't Atlanta and New Orleans, you know. How
much of Iowa's population is black - 2 or 3 percent? Yet a black man running
for president stomps the competition.
The race-is-everything-in-America crowd couldn't get over it. Maybe they
hadn't noticed that A.) times have changed, or B.) Barack Obama wasn't
running as a black candidate - the way Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton do -
but as an American
candidate. The result? He
received 38 percent of the vote. John Edwards and Hillary Clinton couldn't
crack 30. In snow-white Iowa.
God bless America. Don't you love it when she surprises the kind of pundits
who think that only race and/or racism count in this country?
What race is Barack Obama, anyway? Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
Like many other Americans, I stopped caring about that biographical detail
one way or another long ago, even before Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice
and Clarence Thomas were coming onto the national political scene.
So when the Iowa caucuses go for two winners - one an Arkie and the other
with a grandma in Kenya - so what? This is America. Here it's who you are
that counts, not who you were. It's the content of your character, not the
color of your skin, as a black preacher from Atlanta named Martin Luther
King Jr. once prophesied.
The victory of both these candidates in Iowa showed the importance of
personality in an American presidential race. Hillary Clinton is doubtless
searching for one at this very minute. But she's been through so many
different personas during her long career and life, which in her case seem
to be largely equivalent, it won't be easy to find one. Once again she may
have to pick a ready-made self off the rack instead of developing one of her
It might turn out to be an interesting election year after all. Even a
satisfying one for those of us who like morality plays.