Of all the president-wannabes who emerged from their thickets, mole holes, burrows, and termite mounds last week, the funniest was Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas who told a campaign kickoff audience that he was setting off on "the yellow brick road to the White House." Which raises an interesting question: is Brownback running for Wizard of Oz or for president? Brownback represents the Mid Western suburban evangelicals, a sort of death cult composed of people unaware that their own lifestyle has driven them crazy. Unbeknownst to those inside the Beltway or up in Manhattan, though, the heartland of America is in deep enough despair to elect a closet maniac like Brownback. Let's hope that he is found to be connected romantically to a male prostitute specializing in sadomasochism and humiliation.
Next out is Hillary, who looks as though she is going to jettison her surnames in the manner of Oprah, Madonna, and Paladin. Her kickoff announcement video was all medium and no message. She wants to have a presidency of feelings, and the main feeling is that America needs Mommy. The psychological failure of masculinity in this nation is that acute. Between the millions of lumpen "baby daddys" who impregnate their "shorties" and disappear, and the hundreds of loot-crazed corporate CEOs (not to mention the hapless President Bush), the male ethos has just about lost all credibility in this country. Mommy runs most of the households in the US, so why not the government, too?
In case you can't tell, I don't like Hillary. I regard her as a monster of ambition. I voted for her husband twice, but concluded sadly that he had accomplished little in relation to his supposed abilities. Bill Clinton now looks like just another wreck on the shoals of male egotism, and seems fated, in the classically tragic sense, to creep behind in his wife's footsteps until he is taken offstage by infarction or aneurysm (or perhaps she will just chew his head off, in the tradition of the more powerful female mantis).
My original beef is that Hillary virtually hijacked the New York state Democratic party in her 2000 senate bid -- as if there were no actual New Yorkers qualified to represent their state. Mommy was so powerfully entitled that the state party brass and the media bigwigs rolled over and didn't even question her poor residency qualifications, which were glaring. Since then, despite all her plaudits for seizing senatorial leadership, she has done little but grandstand in preparation for this moment of launching to higher office.
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Hillary's presidential campaign kickoff announcement was saturated in phoniness, from the illusion of personal warmth to the bizarre leafy-green exterior background that suggested the announcement had been taped back in August and put in the freezer since then. Worldwide, Mommy leadership has not necessarily been such a great thing. Margaret Thatcher got more credit than she deserved for turning around the British economy (when, in fact, it was the North Sea oil bonanza that did it, and that's over now). Otherwise, the "Iron Lady" presided over more internal rot, including a disastrous open-door immigration policy and the dismantling of the railroad system. Indira Ghandi demolished civil liberties and presided over an extravaganza of grift before she was assassinated. Benazir Bhutto was run out office in Pakistan twice, most recently for money laundering.
Now, it still might be the case that America would benefit from a Mommy president, but please not this particular Mommy. Behind the WalMart smile sits Nemesis, the remorseless spirit of vengeance, obsessed with smiting enemies. That might work to advantage against the oriental despots lined up to eat America's lunch. But I'm more inclined to think that Hillary would use it against her own countrymen.
It's interesting that her out-of the-box campaign slogan is "In It to Win It," which sounds a bit like Gerald Ford's old "Whip Inflation Now (WIN)" button, which is to say the war cry of a loser. Check the "no" box on Hillary. Then check it again. And again.
Barack Obama blindsided Hillary last week, pretty much forcing her hand and making her look artificially spontaneous. I like Obama pretty well. What I like best about him is that he seems to be a genuinely normal human being. He wasn't born with any advantages and he doesn't resort to any false claims of disadvantage either. There's nothing puffed up about him, which is to say, nothing presidential. His popularity so far is based on this genuineness combined with an exceptional ability in writing and public speaking. He appears capable of talking straight. It's even possible he can see straight. He looks very young compared to his rivals, but in 2009 he'll be older than John F. Kennedy was in Dallas on November 22, 1963. The ominous note is struck because such a clear-eyed individual would seem to be naturally fated, in this nation of dangerous cranks, for assassination. Were he to get elected by some miracle, and then rubbed out by some cunning tattooed moron, you could probably kiss this nation farewell.
Then there is Bill Richardson, who I also like pretty well. Whatever else he represents, he emits a sense of gravitas, of a purposeful, accomplished, and intellectually-honest person. He's been on the world scene as an effective crisis negotiator and America's UN ambassador. He's been a Secretary of Energy, so it's possible he has some grip on the nation's fossil fuel problems. If nothing else, he will inject some seriousness into the debates.
Then there's John Edwards, who has essentially remained a candidate since his defeat for Vice-president in 04, babysitting the odious John Kerry. I like Edwards pretty well, too. His origins were humble. Despite his movie star exterior, he seems capable, decisive, and sympathetic. He has his finger on the pulse of the biggest not-yet-articulated campaign issue: the demolition of the middle class.
Deep in the background stands Al Gore. He seems to have overcome his "previously-owned" aura, but perhaps not his fear of the arena. He put out a great movie last year, but America needs something beyond a great movie producer.
There's no point in even discussing Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd, whatever their merits as husbands and fathers.
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