Monday, February 04, 2008

Bush to Choose Next President

So much is being said these days about Barack Obama being the John F. Kennedy of today or even of 'this generation'. In the Sunday New York Times, in an article titled "Ask Not What J.F.K. Can Do for Obama", Frank Rich says that, as candidates for the presidency, as candidates touting a lofty idealism, J.F.K. and B.H.O. share weaknesses and vulnerabilities as well as strengths and charisma.

In the midst of all the hoopla, it seems Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s endorsement of Hillary Clinton means little compared to Caroline Kennedy's endorsement of Obama. From Brother Teddy to Maria Shriver, Obama is definitely winning the endorsement war (if not, currently, the delegate war).

But besides the voting pawns near the endgame, who really decides? Who really decides earlier on? The endorsers? The delegates? How about the incumbent president.

In 1960, Kennedy's margin of victory was the slimmest ever. In 1960, Richard Nixon was the incumbent VP, as was Bush Sr. in 1988, as was Gore in 2000. When an incumbent and popular president is of the inclination and in a position to get fully behind his VP, that VP can win. But if the president is not whole-heartedly a fan of his VP, that VP stands to fall, by a razor thin margin, to the up and coming Agent of Change.

Who cost Nixon the election? President Eisenhower, that's who.

Who cost Gore the election? President Clinton, more than anyone else.

Eisenhower didn't care for Nixon. Indeed, the president considered Nixon to be a commie-baiting political mercenary, blown about by his own curmudgeonly political winds, by his own suspicions and uncertain ambitions. Had Eisenhower shown more whole-hearted support for Nixon, he could have easily made up the difference. Eisenhower chose to let Nixon go down. Kennedy won thanks more to Eisenhower than to anyone else.

The incumbent VP Bush won in 1988 because Reagan was so big and because the times were flush (and because Dukakis was such a vulnerable candidate). Reagan didn't even have to go out on a limb for the senior Bush. Such was not the case for Gore in 2000. Post Monica, President Clinton was not in a position to stand tall, much less push for his VP. The two men had had a serious falling out, not to be mended in private, much less in public. As with Eisenhower, though for different reasons, Clinton cost Gore the 2000 election.

And this year, though no sitting VP is in the race, it may well be up to President Bush to decide the fate of John McCain, his prodigal opponent and back-handed ally within the Republican party. As with Eisenhower, where's the love? And as with Clinton, the incumbent president will finish his second term deeply flawed, politically wounded and marginalized. That above all else may make the difference.

Thus, Obama might win in a fashion similar to that of Kennedy, and it will have nothing to do with the endorsement charades.


At 2/05/2008 6:04 PM, Anonymous pickoffwhite said...

The African-American vote has become a major focus during this national election with the presence of the first serious black contender, Barack Obama. Black voters are largely choosing between Obama and Hillary Clinton, wife of Bill Clinton, affectionately known as the "first black president." Of those interviewed in Oakland, the vote leaned heavily for Barack Obama and no one voted Republican. Listen to their opinions in a multimedia project produced during Super Tuesday.


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