Democratic Prospects and the Mark Warner Withdrawal

Posted: Oct 18, 2006 12:01 AM

An interesting development in the 2008 Presidential race: Former Virginia Governor Mark R. Warner has taken himself out of the race. Guess what excuse he used? "I want to spend more time with my family."

I think we should issue an undated press release to every elected official in the United States of America saying, "I am not running for [fill in the blank] because I want to spend more time with my family." That way when they decide not to run, we will have the release. If the individual is, for example, in the House of Representatives and hoped to run for the Senate, but someone with big money has all but bought the election, the release would be ready.

To give Mark Warner his due, he does have three daughters, one a diabetic. So perhaps the family excuse might be valid in his case. But here is a reason it might not be. In the press conference in which he announced that he would not be a Presidential candidate, he left the door open for a run against Senator John W. Warner in 2008 or for Governor again. (Mark Warner ran very strongly against Senator Warner in 1996; however, Senator Warner was unopposed in 2002. Virginia is the last state which limits its governor to one consecutive four-year term. Mills E. Godwin, Jr. served one term as a Democrat, sat out a term, switched parties and returned as a Republican.)

So if Mark Warner, a co-founder of NEXTEL and a multihundred-millionaire, is so devoted to his family that he must spend more time with them, why would he consider another Senatorial or gubernatorial race? The question in my mind is this: Was Mark Warner pushed out or did he voluntarily quit?

We will probably never know the answer but we will have a big hint if Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton selects Warner as her running mate. It could just be that Hillary whispered in his ear, to the effect, why go through all of this when if I made you Vice President you would be around your family and you would not have to spend your fortune. Mark Warner was a decent Governor. He was the Governor who had a plan for solving Northern Virginia's traffic problems. But it got tied to a tax increase. That tax increase was shoved down the Governor's throat. In a referendum it lost decisively. The only other problem I had with Warner during his four years in office was his extreme position on Right to Life. The Republican-controlled Virginia General Assembly sent him a bill on life, including a ban on partial-birth abortion. He vetoed every life bill which came to his desk. That could mean that he understood that pro-life is potent in a general election and they surely would be out to defeat him.

In the Democratic context, Mark Warner is considered a conservative Democrat. In my context, Warner is a moderate liberal. But whichever label you wish, candidates who are looked upon as anything left of center really are not welcome. It is entirely possible that Warner was greeted with less than favorable treatment since the media has portrayed him as the anti-Hillary candidate. Believe it or not, Hillary has opposition from the left in her Senate bid because she supported the Iraqi War. That is the position of the left-wing Howard Dean Democrats. They want out now. So even Hillary, whom I regard as a left-wing radical on nearly everything but the war, is not liberal enough for some. And mind you, this is the Senator who is not just a politician but an ideologue.

There once was a time, it was when I was allowed to vote at 21, when you did not fear victory by the opposition party. In 1960, I worked hard for Nixon. I did everything I could to help him defeat Senator John F. Kennedy. But when the electoral votes were in and Kennedy had apparently won, I was disappointed but had no fear in my heart. Likewise in 1964, I was a fanatical Goldwater fan. But after Lyndon B. Johnson treated him to a humiliating defeat I was terribly upset but I did not fear for the country. One of the reasons was the number of conservative Democrats in the Congress, especially in the Senate. Men such as Spessard L. Holland of Florida, Frank J. Lausche of Ohio, James Eastland and John C. Stennis of Mississippi, James Allen of Alabama and others helped to pull any Democratic Administration to the right. In 1972 the real change came. The McGovernites took over the Democratic Party. It was then that I became genuinely fearful for my country if McGovern would win. Even though I had come to have a profound dislike for Nixon and his cronies, I did not believe that Nixon would sell out the Nation. I did believe that McGovern might.

Then the more moderate forces, led by of all people, Walter F. Mondale, brought the Party back a bit. Mind you, Walter Mondale is a liberal but not a leftist. Now that the radicals again are in charge, I fear for my country. It is true that Howard Dean's support in the 2004 Presidential sweepstakes collapsed at the last moment, inasmuch as it was built largely through the Internet and attracted people who had little political experience. The fall-back guy was nearly as bad. John F. Kerry, with access to his wife's fortune, not only is a leftist but a liar as well. The charges he leveled in 1973 against our troops before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were not true. Moreover, what he claimed to have happened never did. It is frightening to think how close he came to winning the Presidency in 2004. The pro-marriage campaign, run by civic activist Phil Burress, brought out a huge vote and many of the pro-marriage voters also supported President Bush and that meant the Bush was re-elected. I do not agree with the President on everything and I have reservations about the war in Iraq, but again I do not feel that Bush would sell out America. I did feel that way about Kerry.

The situation these days is serious. There are so few conservative or somewhat conservative Democrats. There is one in the Senate, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and less than a single fistful in the House. The Chairman of the Free Congress Foundation Board of Directors is Representative Ralph M. Hall (R-TX). Hall, 83, is the oldest Member of the House of Representatives. In 2004, when he was still a Democrat, I asked Hall how many Democrats there were who if Republicans fell short of winning a majority in the House would vote for an independent such as himself for Speaker. He said confidently "between six and ten." I asked him the same question a couple of weeks ago and he said, "None." He said the remaining Democrats are so browbeaten by the Party Leadership that they would not resist any longer. And without a leader like Hall, around whom they could rally? They have caved in.

Where does that leave us? Believe it or not Senator Joseph P. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) is considered a moderate. He may be the only credible candidate against Hillary. I doubt he will run. The problem is sooner or later the opposition party is going to win. The longest run of one party in the 20th Century was that of the FDR/Truman Democrats, who remained in office for twenty years. It may or may not be in 2008 that the Democrats would win again. I do not want to fear for my country if they were to win. I am afraid that emotion will be operative when they win.