Obama or Clinton?

Posted: Jan 23, 2008 10:28 AM
Obama or Clinton?

Please note that if you plan to attend the historic Washington and Lee University Mock Convention this weekend, the dress code is "Lee Chapel Attire" — meaning coat and tie (go for tweed, guys) and equivalent for the ladies.

After all, the student delegates will likely be introducing the next Democratic nominee for president.

The quadrennial tradition, in which students predict the ultimate candidate of the political party not currently in the White House — a Democrat, obviously — has earned the reputation of being the country's most accurate and realistic mock convention since its inception 100 years ago.

Bottom line: 18 correct predictions in 23 attempts, but only one bad call since 1948.

It all started in 1908, when William Jennings Bryan, a presidential front-runner, visited the Lexington, Va., campus and according to the university "aroused such an interest that the students decided to hold a replica of the upcoming Democratic convention."

The Lexington Gazette reported in 1908 that the young gentlemen entered the meeting with the "zest of seasoned politicians plus the enthusiasm of collegians" — to the extent that tempers flared and several fights broke out on the convention floor.

When the dust settled, the students had made their first correct prediction: Bryan was nominated at the Democratic National Convention in Denver (he went on to lose to William Howard Taft, his third defeat for the presidency).

As for the one "misstep" in the past 60 years, that was in 1972 when the delegates picked Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy over South Dakota Sen. George McGovern. Other predictions have been on the money: John F. Kennedy in 1960, Barry Goldwater in 1964, Richard M. Nixon in 1968, Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980, Walter Mondale in 1984, Michael Dukakis in 1988, Bill Clinton in 1992, Bob Dole in 1996, and George W. Bush in 2000.

The 2008 mock conventioneers will hear in person from Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, former Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, former Texas Rep. Charlie Wilson, former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.

Not born yesterday

Speaking of Geraldine Ferraro, Washington political researcher John Lockwood can't help but hear New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama constantly defend their "lack of experience."

For the record, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama have been U.S. senators for seven years and two years respectively.

"I'm surprised they don't search the records of their own party, and bring up the example of Geraldine Ferraro," Mr. Lockwood tells Inside the Beltway. "In 1984, the party ran Walter Mondale for president and Mrs. Ferraro for vice president. She had served no more than six years in the U.S. House of Representatives, yet they were willing to have her one heartbeat away from leadership of the free world."

In fact, Mrs. Ferraro addressed the "experience" question during one 1984 vice presidential debate with incumbent Vice President George Bush. Here's her answer:

"Well, let me first say that I wasn't born at the age of 43 when I entered Congress. I did have a life before that, as well. I was a prosecutor for almost five years in the District Attorney's Office in Queens and I was a teacher. It is not only what is on your paper resume that makes you qualified to run for or to hold office. It's how you approach problems and what your values are."

Cry with Hillary

Thanks to Herb B. Berkowitz, the former Washington PR mogul who now hangs his sailor's hat in Wilmington, N.C., for sending us the definition for "Electile Dysfunction: The inability to become aroused over any of the choices for president put forth by either party in the 2008 election year."

Which caused us to pick up the phone and ask Mr. Berkowitz to expand.

"Well, over at Folk Cafe, the local Wilmington coffee shop across from New Hanover High School (whose alumni include the great Redskin Sonny Jurgensen), we've been told that if we get excited about any of the candidates for more than four hours we need to go see a doctor," relays the top communications executive at the Heritage Foundation from 1977 until 2002.

"Never have so many would-be presidents inspired so little at such great cost. It almost makes you want to have a good cry with Hillary."