Watching the Democratic presidential candidates on MSNBC last night, I found it truly alarming that one of them may well be the next president of the United States. To outward appearances, they seem to think that the most serious threat faced by the United States is the Bush administration. On this point there is no disagreement apparent among them. As Bertie Wooster used to say, what a crew! I have a hard time evaluating the field except as prospective opponents. Here are my impressions of the candidates as they presented themselves last night.
Ms. Hillary: Her approach to these multicandidate forums is consistently evasive. Her answers are finely calculated not to commit her to anything. She conceals the radicalism of her true views to further the impression that she is a traditional liberal Democrat, perhaps in the mode of Mr. Bill. Her public persona is so synthetic it should be patented by Dupont. I’m sure that her true views are completely compatible with those of the Democrats that form the base of what has become a radical party. Her awkwardness in evading the Clinton archives and immigration questions last night was unusual only in its transparency.
Barack Obama: A complete cipher. A windbag of grating vacuity. I thought at one point he was pulling his punches and running for vice president, but I now think he doesn’t know how to throw a punch. Despite his apparent intelligence, he has yet to say something smart. He holds himself out as the sunny alternative to politics as usual. His flat gibe at Romney (if he dressed up for Halloween, he would wear a two-faced Romney mask) was not the least bit endearing. He could and should be a happy warrior, but he is neither happy nor a warrior. He has gone further on less ammunition than any of the Democrats.
John Edwards: Last night he was the credible left/populist alternative to Ms. Hillary. Unlike Obama, he has a visible competitive streak and appears to be running to win the nomination. He is only slightly less synthetic than Ms. Hillary, but his fake populism would make him a weaker national candidate. He seized the moment to call out Ms. Hillary as a phony last night — she doesn’t altogether forthrightly support the illegal immigration platform like he (and Obama and Biden and Kucinich) does.
Christopher Dodd: What is he doing here? He looks the part and talks a good game, but his candidacy lacks any rationale. Afflicted with a major case of senatitis: Is competitive with Joe Biden in the love of his own voice.
Joe Biden: What is he doing here? He does not look the part and does not talk a good game. He believes his own press clippings to the effect that his purported foreign policy expertise has something to offer. Afflicted with a major case of senatitis: Is competitive with Christopher Dodd in the love of his own voice.
Bill Richardson: Running for vice president. Takes a daring stand against Iran using the nuclear bomb. If he becomes the vice presidential candidate, will probably have to “fine tune” his stand on that issue. If he mattered as a candidate, his putative opponents would call him on his resume padding. Could benefit from the Huck thin weight-loss plan. Not an angry man, and therefore out of sync with the Democratic base. Of this crew I like Richardson personally the most, by far.
Dennis Kucinich: Forthrightly in tune with the radical base of the Democratic Party — a bit like the late Paul Wellstone, but without Wellstone’s normality. Indeed, he’s goofy, although his goofiness is slightly misleading. He’s a serious player in the eyes of the far-left National Lawyers Guild crowd. Are we completely sure he was not piloting the UFO he claims to have seen?
UPDATE: A friend comments in a variation on William Norman Ewer: “How odd, of Dodd, to make the News.” Ewer is the British journalist responsible for the couplet (which I originally attributed to Ogden Nash): “How odd of God/To choose the Jews.” Thanks to my learned friend Martin Dworkin for the correction.
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