Our long national nightmare is nearly over. With Barack saying he might run, with Hillary reported to "be making phone calls to New Yorkers," with Evan Bayh and Sam Brownback getting less coy by the day and with Tom Vilsack actually announcing his candidacy (the correct pronunciation of his name "that's vill-sack, not vile sack"), the 2008 presidential campaign is about to start. The nightmare of not having a national campaign to talk about -- now into its hideous 29th day -- is almost over.
And what a relief. The cycle of election period followed by governing period followed by election period was getting seriously out of proportion. Election cycles may be vulgar, demagogic, hypocritical, mudslinging exercises in misleading the American people and corrupting the democratic process -- but they are essentially harmless. Those governing periods, however, are downright dangerous.
I think all Americans can agree that a month of it this time was quite enough. Even with Congress having been largely out of town and the president having been largely abroad, this last month has been a perilous period of bad policy formulation and ill-considered congressional leadership selections.
Far better that we spend the next 25 months selecting the next scapegoat to be sacrificed on behalf of our refusal to admit to our genuine national problems. And, defying reason and common sense, once again our best and brightest are elbowing each other furiously to be selected for the sacrificial honor.
Actually, in logic and grammar, all the candidates cannot be our best and brightest. All but one could only be considered our better and brighter. And, as one looks down the list, not many of even those seem to be available. But, there is a national media consensus -- concurred in by the candidate himself -- that the best and brightest is walking amongst us even now and may soon audaciously condescend to throw his oversized hat into the ring.
Barack Obama is before us. All rise. And remember, his name spelled backward is Kcarab Amabo -- which sounds better than my name backward -- Ynot Yelknalb (to which I might respond " I sure am yelknalb).After two grueling years legislating in the Senate, this man, whose seasoned judgment the world will be relying on for its very survival, assesses that this is the optimum moment for him to lead the world. Everything he has done and thought in the last several months has prepared him for this moment. He is now at the peak of his experience and sagacity.
Apparently his strategy for victory is to rely on his undoubted open-faced good looks and his high natural intelligence. Men have certainly been elected with less. (e.g. Warren Harding). They have also been elected with more (e.g. about 35 of the other 42 presidents).
Presumably he believes that his life is an open book (if a short one). For his sake, I hope it is. But even if he has lived a blameless life (as I presume he has), in the coming months his opponents will be busy scribbling in their own addendums. One opponent in particular is surrounded by a team of operatives who, over long and successful careers, have mastered the art of drawing mustaches on their opponents.
If Hillary Milhous Clinton begins to believe that Sen. Obama is a threat to her inheritance of the White House -- it will not be long before his own mother will not recognize the public image that Hillary's operatives will have drawn of him. He could ask Paula Jones (and all the other innocent women "her husband" attempted to seduce and abandon), or Ken Starr (one of the nation's most admired jurists before he was assigned to investigate "her husband."
Or consider my old boss Newt Gingrich -- Clinton's primary political opponent in the 1990s. Clinton's IRS very publicly opened an investigation of Newt for tax fraud. They kept it open for years, and then, a few weeks after he retired, the IRS quietly announced the investigation was complete and he was innocent. But not before Democrats spent years using that phony investigation as a basis for calling Newt a tax cheat. That's the way the Clintons play the game. They call it the policy of personal destruction. For Obama's sake, I hope he is ready for the game he is so anxious to get into.
But I'll say this for Sen. Obama. If, over the next 25 months, the young paladin can fend off Hillary's bad boys, Arianna's crazy boys and the GOP's back room boys, he may in fact be ready for the big game against Bin Laden's murderous boys.