John Edwards visited New Hampshire recently in what reporters called "the kickoff of the 2008 presidential election campaign."
Of the many things I have been called in life, "astute political observer" is not one, so I won't comment on how idiotic this is. My idea of good political theater is when Gary Hart tells the throng of reporters, "If you think I'm fooling around, then catch me," and then the next day the front page shows Gary and his bimbo on the fantail of a yacht named "Monkey Business."
And for many small-minded Americans like me, the theater can be as important as who actually wins elections. My favorite politicians are the Jesse Venturas, Arnold Schwarzeneggers ("girly men"), Wilbur Millses and Bill Clintons of the world. What scriptwriter could come up with a line like "I did not have sexual relations with that woman"?
But John Edwards stumping in New Hampshire reminds me that another Presidential Sweepstakes will soon be upon us, so it's not too early to consider what will make the most entertaining matchup. On the Democratic side, there's no question that Hillary Clinton should be the nominee.
This would carry the huge fringe benefit of bringing Bill Clinton back to the edge of the limelight. Even slowed by the passage of time and his quadruple bypass, Bill is sure to have some entertaining moments in him. If nothing else, he can play his instrument. The man is a sax machine.
The Hill-Billy duo will be trumpeted by the Democratic Party's new bantam rooster, Vermont's own Howard Dean. It took awhile, but Howard finally found a suitable stage for his best asset – his vocal chords.
How can the Democrats lose? With 16 years combined White House experience, Hillary's standing with women, Bill's charisma and Howard's ability to scream — maybe the Republicans shouldn't even contest the race.
Not so fast. Before the Democrats chortle too loudly about dominating the voting blocs of women, liberals, Hispanics and blacks — what if the Republicans nominate Condoleezza Rice? Suddenly, women and blacks would have a more textured political landscape to consider. Condoleezza equals Hillary in political experience, and she currently stands on a highly visible, international stage. She gets a sound bite a night on the evening news. Plus, she's a better dresser than Hillary, who can't seem to break the black pants suit and pink blouse habit.
On the positive side of the ledger for the Democrats, Hillary has already completed her extreme makeover phase. This is when middle-aged women become blond-beyond-their-years and start looking disturbingly like a painted-up version of Katie Couric. (Have you noticed how Jane Pauley, Diane Sawyer, Paula Zahn, Meredith Viera and even Barbara Walters now look like the same person?)
But what about personal lives? I know nothing about Condoleezza's but assume she is available. She will need an escort. And who better than an obscure humor columnist in central Vermont to do the matchmaking for the secretary of state? My criteria for a perfect mate for Condoleezza are clear – I'm looking for what will get the cheapest laugh from my audience. Remember, we're going for high theater, not responsible governance.
Considered and rejected as potential Rice-mates: Brad Pitt (too pretty, and looking for a woman who wants to have his baby), Ellen Degeneres (too politically correct), Dr. Phil (married).
Hm-m-m-m. Is Karl Rove married? How about Michael Moore? I know! What if Bill Clinton, already known for extramarital womanizing, took up with Condoleezza? That will level the playing field.
For running mate, the Democrats, again, have a clear advantage. The perfect vice presidential candidate will complement, not compete with, Hillary. This suggests young, male, multicultural and Midwestern, someone with the perfect combination of a Democratic pedigree and a life story that will make a great made-for-TV movie.
Enter Barack Obama. "Hello, Central Casting? Could you send over a vice presidential candidate who's too good to be true? African-American is fine. Harvard Law? Great. Make sure he's happily married and a churchgoer. He's spent his entire professional life championing the poor and underprivileged? Does he wear blue tights with a red cape and an 'S' on his chest?"
The poor Republicans. They are caught between a Ba-rack and a hard place. What can they possibly do to make a respectable showing for themselves? There's no two-term limit on serving as vice president, so Condoleezza could stay with Dick Cheney, who will secure the voting bloc of sour old white guys and war-mongers. Curt Schilling would be a good choice, but only if they let him keep his turn in the Red Sox pitching rotation.
But I am choosing, since this is my article, a relative unknown as Condoleezza's running mate, a dark horse from the Green Mountains of Vermont, someone who will earn the respect of men and women alike, someone who understands the rigors of hardscrabble life and why Americans are willing to fight, even to die, to protect it — Maj. Gen. Martha Rainville of the Vermont National Guard.
Think it through. She's a woman, but a woman who has succeeded admirably in a man's world. She's a general and therefore a reliable leader and administrator. Standing by Condoleezza's side, she will earn the respect of curmudgeons, the military, the blue staters and the red staters.
We have already had plenty of generals as president – from Washington to Eisenhower. Just over a year ago, even little-known Wesley Clark was running for president.
So from this point it is easy to connect the dots to the Rice-Rainville ticket. And how could anyone resist the slogan "Vote twice for Rainville and Rice"? It beats "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!"
published in the Rutland Herald on February 27, 2005
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updated 27 February 2005 : 11:38 (m) Caspar (Pacific) time
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