Wednesday, March 26, 2008

McCain may be the last man standing

03/25/08 -- The political whispers get stranger and stranger.

Now gossip is surfacing that Hillary Clinton would just as soon have John McCain win if she loses the Democratic nomination, figuring at his age he’d only last one term. I sure hope this rumor is false. But it does seem as if both Democratic campaigns are intent on stealing defeat from the jaws of victory come November.

A Barack Obama surrogate compared Bill Clinton to Joseph McCarthy (could Strom Thurmond be next?). Hillary marches around saying that she would pick her pastor with care and that McCain is better prepared than her opponent to be commander-in-chief. Suddenly a Bloomberg-Hagel third-party ticket is starting to look pretty good.

This Democratic primary campaign, one that started with so much excitement, so much anticipation, now has the feel of two lumbering prize fighters sleep-walking through the 14th and 15th round. They throw wild, wide punches that nick and sometimes cut but ultimately do nothing to change the outcome. The winner will be the last one standing. But how much of the audience will have thinned by then?

McCain, meanwhile, is waltzing through Tennessee, Iraq and anywhere else he pleases, largely unscathed. He’s taken the lead in several national polls against Obama and Clinton. And a new Gallup poll finds that he'd win the support of one in five Obama supporters should Clinton win the nomination and a whopping 28 percent of Clinton backers should Obama win it.

At this point, anyway, McCain is the frontrunner, a fact that is absolutely amazing given an incredibly unpopular Republican president who is spending the rough equivalent of 350 to 400 full, four-year private college scholarships per day on a war that John McCain believes we should stick with in perpetuity.

Meanwhile, our dollar, our housing sector, our health care sector and (less obviously) our democracy continue their collapse. Yet neither Democratic candidate has done much to connect the $500 billion cost of the war (so far; it will at least triple) and the debt-ridden society that is America today.

Will someone speak up please? The war is the economy, stupid. Look at it this way. If every time you ran out of money you took out a new credit card, don’t you think the time inevitably would come when you’d be in big trouble, when you’d reach the limit on borrowing and creditors would begin asking for repayment?

But that is today’s America – the big, muscle-bound, proud, patriotic and pawned super power. We're propped up by foreign investments from places Saudi Arabia and China. And it keeps getting worse, thanks in large part to those war policies that John McCain supports 100 percent.

I don’t believe either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton support them. But they – Hillary in particular – are so intent on bloodying each other that they seem to have completely forgotten the task they set out on: to lead America.

Yes. I, too, think it’s time for Hillary Clinton to step aside. In last week's New York Times, columnist David Brooks gave her a 5 percent chance of winning the nomination. Even if the odds are 10 percent, even if she does somehow win, by that point the Democratic Party will be so shredded I sincerely doubt she would be able to win the presidency. Soon the same will be said of Obama’s candidacy as well. Certainly, even if Obama can’t be convinced to give Clinton the vice-presidency, he could be convinced to make her his health care czar or housing honcho. Heck, he might even let her sit up at night to pick up the red phone when it rings at 3 a.m. Certainly there have to be enough goodies to go around in a new administration to salve wounds, enough Neosporin to disinfect them.

Sending out hound dog James Carville to howl that Bill Richardson is a Judas on Easter’s eve just can’t be a good thing for Democrats – whether you support Clinton, Obama or Chris Dodd, for that matter. I, for one, would vote for any of them over John McCain, a proud man, a largely honest man (for a politician, at least), but ultimately a misguided militarist who is still trying to win Vietnam or any other war down the pike.

Empires throughout history have collapsed when their appetite to control the world exceeded their reach. The United States is edging perilously close to repeating that error. And it’s starting to look as though no one capable of changing our course will be at the helm when the next administration’s begins Day 1.