With a little help from my friends
Last Tuesday’s coverage of the merciful end of the interminable primary season – and the three candidates’ speeches – had the vicarious feel of being at a rock concert. McCain was the local act trying to break into the big time; Hillary was the regional act who’s had some success but has probably peaked; and Obama was the national headliner, the star of the show, the act everyone had waited to see.
Even the venues played into the musical scenario. McCain was early Beatles, honing their chops in the basement dives in Hamburg; Hillary was pre-Fab Four, after “Love Me Do” had hit in England but before Ed Sullivan; and Obama was Shea Stadium, girls fainting, every teenager in America buying a guitar and growing hair. Truly the differences were that stark, the polish (and in McCain’s case, lack of same) that noticeable.
Clearly, Obama is the rock star of the political season, To use one more musical analogy, if he’s the Beatles, she’s the Dave Clark Five, and McCain is Freddie and the Dreamers.
There’s only one problem: There are some tin-eared critics out there who think she’s the Rolling Stones; they’re positing that if only they would team up they’d be unstoppable, the biggest tour de force since… well, since the Beatles. And therein lies the rub. If you’re already the Beatles, why in the name of George Martin would you need the Stones on the same bill? Hey, you’re the Walrus, Barack, give her a ticket to ride. She’s a loser, she’s not what she appears to be.
Right now Obama is 10 feet tall and bulletproof; the guy is so invincible that the only way he can possibly lose is to pick Hillary as his running mate. The GOP has a Nowhere Man for a candidate and has utterly nothing to throw at Mr. Moonlight other than the pernicious lies that the Slime Machine has already floated, but if he were to choose Hillary, suddenly they got game. The focus immediately shifts to her and Bill and Monica and Whitewater and the dozens of other skeletons. And the result is that the desperately important issues that Obama is prepared to confront head on get sublimated beneath the side issues and non-issues. He’s having to answer questions that have nothing to do with Iraq and the economy and healthcare and global warming and energy self-sufficiency and immigration because he’s tied in knots explaining away her baggage. Believe it, Rove and the Swift Boat gang are salivating at the thought of Hillary on the ticket, even as No. 2.
Moreover, his message of change gets compromised by the perception, real or not, that she, being the ultimate Washington insider, represents a retreat to the past. She’s yesterday; he’s come together. For every positive that Obama possesses, she has two negatives, and the GOP is poised and ready to pounce.
Then there is the all-important likeability factor. He’s warm and fuzzy, people naturally gravitate to his orbit; she’s cold and prickly, people are naturally repelled by her. Not all people, of course, but there is a genuine, palpable, perceptible enmity toward her that cannot be dismissed. Sure, it’s not fair to her and I hate to say it, but some folks just hate her guts. Sad but true.
So where is the net gain by her presence on the ticket? I fail to see any added value whatsoever. Face it, by November the constituency she’s supposed to deliver – the women, the working class white folks, the West Virginians and Kentuckians, etc. – are going to be won over by him anyway. The 21 percent who say they’d bolt the party in favor of McCain will have come to their senses. Once they begin comparing the two candidates they’ll see there is no comparison.
Does President Obama really want Bungalow Bill grousing around in the vice presidential mansion, second guessing his every move and undermining his authority? Hillary would be bad enough, but this is a ménage a trois from hell.
Forget the Dream Ticket, this would be Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue. We’ve endured one long nightmare for eight years, we surely don’t need another one.
Even before Hillary gave her long-awaited concession speech and what I thought was a rather lukewarm endorsement Saturday in which she yakked more about the glass ceiling than her party’s nominee – and didn’t mention the GOP opponent once – Obama refused to let himself be henpecked into announcing a running mate. He said the announcement would come in due time and that anything heard from anywhere other than his mouth would not be credible. It was a portrait in presidential prudence. Dear prudence.
It’s already been a long and winding road, and if Hillary doesn’t want to spoil the party she must go. Otherwise, McCain may wind up the fool on the hill.
Ogi may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on “Triad Today” hosted by Jim Longworth on ABC 45 at 6:30 a.m. Fridays and on WMYV 48 at 10 p.m. Sundays.