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Oxing the White House Lawn

--by Stephanie Cole

The state of our Union is strong, but the state of our liberty has rickets. Vampiric businessmen, masquerading as the conservators of our values, suck the nation dry. The children of our children will pay for a war whose primary purpose is to funnel money to those who will pump it back overseas. The plutocracy running our country must be defeated.

The reason and rhetoric for kicking George W. Bush out of the White House are simple. Finding a candidate to secure the vote—to unite the angry and inspire the indifferent—is much more complicated. Who is the right person to rally the people? At this point, I'd vote for Shakes the Clown if it looked like he could carry Florida, but somehow, I think he'd have issues even in Minnesota.

The right candidate must appeal to our country on the visceral, tactical, and political levels. In other words, the people have to like him, respect him, and agree with him. This is a tall order for a diverse nation, especially when part of it actually ‘informs’ itself with more than Fox News.

Glancing at the mainstream media, it’s clear that voters like to know what sport the candidate played in prep school. Dean: wrestler.  Duh. Sex appeal obviously matters; lately, Newsweek's been looking like a soft-core Playgirl, with shirtless pictures of Dean and Kerry dating from '70s. Also of great import are the would-be First Ladies' views on homemaking and fashion. Newsflash: Madame Kerry doesn't clean, and she favors Chanel (no shirtless photos so far).

Frivolous biographical data aside, The People also like to have a vague sense of what plans the candidate has for the country.  "Vague" is about as good as it gets. 

"The internet doctor," Howard Dean, first attracted people with unabashed anger spewed at the George Bush cabal. He kicked off his campaign by saying some things many people needed to hear. Channeling our rage, he probably saved millions of moderate lefties a hefty bar tab. Maybe that's why he got all those on-line donations.

Trolling around Dr. Dean's excellent web site, one sees a lot of broad ideas calculated to appeal to the modern, tech-savvy liberal: balance the budget, repeal the tax cuts, fund education, provide health care, and quit treating gays as if they hang around outside the county clerk's office shredding marriage licenses. This worked until 2004.

Then, of course, there was the ululation. Personally, I don’t understand what the fuss is about. If anything, I've enjoyed replaying that primal scream over and over again. I'm pretty sure it's been wiped from his repertoire, but people should stop pretending the president should be a wooden dummy, and instead have fun imagining the debates if Dean gets to go head-to-head with George:

GWB:  It's been a hard road for the American people, but we're all a lot safer now that Saddam Hussein is gone. 


JIM LEHRER:  I couldn't have put it better myself, sir.

Yep, the scream is gone. If you're the sort of person who reminisces admiringly about Andrew Jackson roasting an ox on the White House lawn, the world is a sadder place.

Moving on to the candidate least likely to scream…Joe Lieberman. For many, the reason not to vote for him is entirely visceral: He sounds like the butler on "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," but isn't half as funny, which is saying something. Those who can see past the "Jeeves" resemblance have good tactical/political reasons for not wanting him, and he's not going to get the nomination. Only vaguely cool thing about him: well, duh, his wife's first name, Hadassah. I do like his spin on coming in fifth, though: "it was really a three-way tie for third." No losers here at sunny Camp Primary!

Now for the current front-runner (bear in mind I'm writing this before Super Tuesday), John Kerry. After my "Shakes the Clown" comment, I guess I'd have to vote for him, but the rest of the country has a thing about Massachusetts politicians. Perhaps that's why he got off to such a slow start. But Kerry may have what it takes, tactically speaking. You have to admire someone with the street cred to appeal to both war veterans and draft dodgers.  And even though it isn't important to me, he really does look "presidential;" maybe it's his uncanny resemblance to Jackson on the twenty (back in the good ol' days, it was always the "presidential" guys who ripped up the lawn). Kerry's message is sound and, although he's fundamentally a sellout who voted us into this war, his stance on taxes hasn't inspired too much public rancor.

Wesley Clark could be the guy to beat George Bush, especially with a U.N. flagpole, but it's looking like he can't pack in Democratic votes, despite a ringing endorsement from full-fledged leftie Michael Moore. In endorsing Clark, Moore stated that he thinks Clark is the man for the here and now. Considering we have our asses hanging out of the window in Iraq, Mr. Moore may be right. However, if we lived in a world where the best man always got the job, I wouldn't be writing this article in the first place.

John Edwards was a personal injury attorney.  'Nuff said, I hope.

As the lies, the un-American determination to slash our most treasured values, and the mounting debt that will make my grandchildren hate me continue to accumulate, it's tempting to say that all we really want is someone who can beat GW. But Americans deserve better than another rich white guy whose most winning point is the ability to challenge an insular, sheltered, myopic poppa's boy. We deserve a person grounded in our traditions, able to stand on their own two political feet.

What's frightening these days, and for that matter, what's always been frightening, is that these things aren't generally what win elections. Born well after JFK was canonized via assassination, I often heard that sex appeal secured him the presidency. Mob ties and vigah probably didn't hurt, but when people in my native Utica talked Kennedy (my WASP parents with gritted teeth, everyone else with tongues on their sleeve), it always came back to dazzling teeth, thick hair, and a well-cut suit. 

Good lord, maybe it will be Edwards.  Yikes.

Stephanie Cole is a local attorney. Some of her best friends are personal injury attorneys. Really.  

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