February 19, 2008
In early months the 1984 Democratic presidential primary campaign, the charismatic intellectual Gary Hart was pulling ahead of the dull establishment candidate Walter Mondale. Some clever adviser suggested poking fun at Hart's high-falutin' New Ideas, and borrowed the slogan from Wendy's hamburgers, "Where's the beef?" Whatever the merits, the one-liner really caught on and resonated with the average voter, and the rest is history.
Now it seems that Hillary Clinton has found a weak spot in the shining armor of "Camelot" heir Barack Obama: he's all style, all talk,* and very "lite" when it comes to matters of substance. See Washington Post. Speaking of "Camelot," Doonesbury cartoonist Gary Trudeau scored another satirical bullseye by portraying Obama as the "first black Kennedy," as in Bill Clinton being the "first black president."
By the way, the 1984 triumph by the "old-school" Mondale was when I started having serious doubts about the future of the Democratic Party. At the time, Gary Hart was one of my favorite political leaders: reform-oriented, keenly aware of strategic and economic issues, but not dovish or pro-entitlement. Four years later, when Mike Dukakis took his famous stunt ride aboard an army tank, I was having very grave doubts.
* News that Obama "borrowed" some speech lines further erodes his credibility. A similar act of plagiarism was the main factor that sunk Joe Biden's presidential candidacy in 1988.
Now that Mitt Romney has endorsed John McCain for president, rather than the "conservative" favorite Mike Huckabee, there is no more suspense about who will win the GOP nomination. There is, nonetheless, a great deal of suspense with regard to whether the right wing of the Republican Party will fall in line behind the all-but-certain nominee, or whether they will sacrifice the presidency -- and perhaps some of our cherished freedoms -- on the altar of ideological purity.
Romney's recent joint appearance with McCain was about as uncomfortable and strained as when McCain endorsed Bush in 2000. Oh well, that's politics.