Monday, January 28, 2008

Week of 01/28/2008

No More Presidential Draftees. Please!
– by David Matthews 2

“Draft Lou Dobbs for President!”

I couldn’t help but to roll my eyes upward when I saw that.

I don’t know what’s worse in the 2008 Presidential Campaign season… the number of hacks and wannabes that TEASE the masses with possibly running, or the ones who are being TEMPTED into running.

The teasers, at least, have a DESIRE to run. People like former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich toss their names out there to essentially test to see what kind of reaction they’d get IF they decide to run. They actually SEE themselves in the White House, as opposed to those who are TEMPTED to run because they seem to be the better candidates than the current bunch of yahoos.

The CNN commentator’s name wasn’t the only one being thrown out there for “draft consideration” either. Current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is also one of the names getting tossed about. Dobbs has said repeatedly that he won’t run, but Bloomberg hasn’t been that definitive. He’s been at least talking with people about what it would take and if he could do it.

Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart is also bantered about as a draftee choice, as is his “conservative” counterpart, Stephen Colbert… played, of course, by Stephen Colbert. Colbert took it one step further and actually ANNOUNCED his candidacy in 2007, but dropped out after his “home state” of South Carolina – the only state he was running for President in – refused to put him on the ballot, claiming that he wasn’t “serious” about running. Apparently nobody there was in on the joke. But there are still plenty of people who would put “Stewart-Colbert” or “Colbert-Stewart” bumper stickers on their cars and yearn for the time when those two would be taken seriously enough to be elected to the White House.

But, really, if you think about it, this whole business of “drafting” someone to run for office is outright stupid. Why are you wasting time and effort trying to convince people to run that really don’t have the inclination to?

First of all, getting people to run for office is not something you can do on a whim. There are documents that you have to get filled out, petitions to sign, and LOADS of campaign dollars to generate for the commercials. Boring little tidbits, but they have to be done nonetheless to get that person’s name on the ballot in all 50 states. Time is certainly not on the side of those who simply decide to run on a whim if they want to get through all of that junk.

It gets even harder if you don’t have the blessings of the party bosses. The Democrats and the Republicans are equally guilty of rigging the game so that it is next-to-impossible for independent or third-party candidates to get the kind of access they have. Ross Perot could do it in 1992, but that’s only because he had oodles of cash to call on and plenty of determined pissed-off voters to make sure he was on the ballot in all 50 states.

Then there’s a sad little reality that people like Lou Dobbs have to face when they run for higher office.

Let’s suppose for argument’s sake that Lou Dobbs succumbs to the calls to run for office. He’s currently getting big bucks doing his own show on CNN, which in turn gives him enough publicity to plug his books. The moment he announces his intention to run for president, he is FORCED to leave his cushy job at CNN. Not just because of the burdens of campaigning, mind you, but because keeping him on the air would be violating any semblance of political neutrality that CNN claims. That is, of course, even if such neutrality is only theoretical.

Remember when Pat Buchannan ran for office in 1996? He had to step down from his cushy job on CNN’s “Crossfire” show as soon as he announced his intentions. Dobbs would have to do the same thing.

Once people like Dobbs get in the running, then things can get hairy. Politics is rough. It’s essentially mental and rhetorical warfare on all of the participants, and there is NOTHING out of bounds when you’re running for the White House! Once you start running, your whole life and the lives of everyone even remotely connected to you are under a microscope. Did your spouse or relative have a nervous breakdown? Is there anyone in your family that was treated for some kind of mental disorder? Have any convicted criminals as friends? Do your children party hard? All of it is fair game as far as the Democrats and Republicans are concerned!

Let’s not forget that we have Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani in the running this time around. They BOTH have a history of some nasty dirty campaign tricks to get what they want. And also let’s not forget that Karl Rove, the dark lord of neo-conservative scheming, didn’t exactly vanish off the face of the planet after stepping down as White House Deputy Chief of Staff. He’s back working behind the scenes for one of the GOP contenders. These guys LIVE for any kind of weakness, any kind of wedge that they can use against you.

Bear in mind that not everyone who has good intentions and probably could make a superb president could pass the scandal test. Before he became Secretary of State, retired General Colin Powell’s name was being tossed around as a presidential contender in 1996. But he supposedly had to back away from that because of the scrutiny that would be placed on his family. It’s one thing to be in the public eye like Dobbs is on a regular basis through CNN. It’s another to have your entire life under a microscope and judged accordingly, as the politicians are. It probably explains why many of them work so hard to make our lives equally miserable.

It’s also the same reason why many other people who would make outstanding world leaders refuse to step up. The stink of corruption and the unrealistic demands put on those who do throw their hats into the ring are poison for any kind of quality leadership.

Okay, so let’s suppose that Dobbs decides to run and he somehow manages to get his name on all of the ballots in all 50 states as an independent candidate, AND he manages to pass the scandal test. How would he be different from the other wannabes?

I know the reflexive response to that would be “Duh! Just read his books!

And that seems to be the easy way out, isn’t it? Don’t worry about campaign speeches or commercials spots; just have everyone read War on the Middle Class and Independents Day and you’ll know all that you need to about what he would do as president!

Unfortunately, most people don’t make their decisions on political leaders based on their books. They don’t have time to read books. They’re lucky if they just get in the daily paper. Most folks will base their decisions on the sound bytes they catch of the campaigns speeches and commercial spots. They will give more credence to rumors floated about via email than from any kind of legitimate publication.

Not to mention there is an inherent flaw in the rationality that Dobbs would make an excellent candidate simply because of what he writes in his books. When Dobbs cobbled together his books criticizing the politicians and the screwed-up system we have to deal with, he didn’t do so as someone wanting to fix it from inside the system. He was doing so from the perspective of someone on the OUTSIDE looking in!

And this is where the whole “draft Dobbs” effort falls apart. It’s one thing to rally the masses up against the failings of our government, and to encourage them to break away from the static hold by the two dominant political parties and to vote independent. It is another thing entirely to actually DO something about it. And when you’re running for higher office, you can’t just spend all of your time complaining about what isn’t working. Now you have to come up with a way to MAKE it work! Now you’re trying to get INSIDE that flawed system and you’ll have to work with those very flawed and corrupt and incompetent politicians that you spent so much time criticizing and cajoling and rallying up against. You go from raging AGAINST the machine to actually BEING the machine.

And I would suspect that Mr. Dobbs knows this as well, which explains why he is so steadfast against running for office, no matter how many people beg and plead for him to do so. He knows that a populist stance doesn’t necessarily translate into a platform for real change. All he is really doing is just stirring the pudding. And that’s good to BRING about change, but that in and of itself does not equate INTO change.

Let’s get brutally honest here… we need to STOP trying to DRAFT people who have no desire to run for office and instead concentrate on those who currently WANT the job. They are the ones that have already done the legwork and the paperwork and have amassed the war chest of campaign dollars. They have the desire and the ambition for the job, even if they are some of the most unqualified people in the world. And they will GET that job if all we do is just sit around and fume about how we need “someone better”. OF COURSE we need “someone better”! But they have to first WANT to run for the job.

Besides, folks, we ALREADY had a “draft candidate” for the 2008 campaign! You may remember him. You probably saw him on “Law and Order”. Of course I’m talking about former US Senator and Hollywood actor Fred Thompson.

Thompson was drafted by those who believed that he would bring about the next era of Ronald Reagan. They forgot that the Reagan era pretty much died not long after it began. So too was Thompson’s campaign. The “draft pick” simply lacked the desire and the drive to go up against the ones that have been campaigning for over a year now.

WANTING someone to run for president is not enough. Not now. Not in today’s age of career politicians with oodles of cash and no limits to their willingness to do whatever it takes for the job. Those that run have to WANT to run as well. That’s the only way they can prove that they are the better candidates.

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