“More military spending, no blow jobs.” If these six words make it onto Slate’s home page, I will drop everything, fly to Berkeley, and concede defeat. (And as for your certain sense that some commentator will respond to Bush’s speech by saying he “did what he had to do,” let me sweeten the wager: That commentator will be Jeff Greenfield.)
The GOP may have something to run against after all. There’s a story on the wire today, based on a report by NBC’s Claire Shipman, that Gore has narrowed his veep choice to five, with three more likely than the others: John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and John Edwards are in the top tier, followed by Dick Gephardt and Evan Bayh. Dear God. The Democrats’ reponse to Bush’s “retro pick” (their phrase) is a rich white guy? Where are all the women, the African-Americans, the Hispanics? (In the Republican Party, apparently. What I wouldn’t give for Condi Rice.) Let’s deconstruct this for a minute. If Gore picks Kerry, the response will be that Kerry is a freak liberal who supported the nuclear freeze–a contrast to Cheney’s moist-eyed Pentagon patriotism. If he picks Edwards, the fall campaign will be a massive attack on trial lawyers, since Edwards is one. I don’t know that I can quite stomach three months of debate on the pros and cons of tort reform; the larger problem is that the trial lawyers are the Democrats’ campaign-finance albatross. If Gore picks Lieberman, I suppose he could make the case for independence from Clinton, since Lieberman famously attacked the prez on the floor of the Senate post-Lewinsky. That’s not much to build a campaign on, though I suppose … (“Gore-Lieberman: We ain’t no oral-sex-loving hillbillies.”) If Gore picks Gephardt, the Republicans will trot out those ads from ‘88 featuring a Gephardt look-alike gymnastically flip-flopping on every single issue that’s ever come before Congress. And there’s Gephardt’s ties to Big Labor, an albatross of another kind, though I’m not so sure that energizing the left-wing of the party is such a bad idea; this is an election that will turn on turnout, and a labor lover like Gephardt might steal some of Ralph Nader’s thunder. If Gore picks Bayh, he may get Indiana, a swing state, and he can play the youth card. Plus, unlike Edwards, Bayh is experienced in government. He’s a moderate–he supports partial-birth abortion, a stance that the majority of voters agree with. And he has a nice wife (she’s on the board of the company that owns my magazine). The downside? His name is Evan. Bad karma, dude.
I just got back from an off-the-record lunch with a Democratic congressman, and we were both marveling–me with my outsider’s perspective, him with his insider’s perspective–at how poorly the Gore campaign has been run. Whatever you think about Karl Rove, W.’s svengali, he’s clearly a competent strategist with a hunger to win. Contrast that to the double-A-level folks managing the Democratic effort. It’s baffling that there aren’t better people out there. Five minutes ago, it seems, James Carville was so hot that you needed an oven mitt to shake his hand. He could do no wrong. Now his won-loss record is roughly equal to David Cone’s, and he’s so busy pimping for every advertiser in the phone book–what, no Garden Weasel?–that his party and his preferred candidate are going down the toilet right before his eyes. Your wife probably knows him, Erik, so please pass along this message for me: Now is the time for all good lizard-headed Cajuns to come to the aid of their country.