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Political Animal

It Ain't Happening

By Brian Morton | Posted 1/22/2003

This may be folly, but I'll attempt the exercise anyway.

Richard Gephardt will never be president.

The last president from Missouri was Harry Truman, and boy oh boy, Gephardt is no Truman. Gephardt lost in the primaries in 1988, was in the House leadership when the Democrats lost the House in 1994, was in the leadership when Al Gore lost the presidency in 2000 (only electorally, of course), and was in the leadership when the Democratic Party, against expectations, lost more seats in the House in 2002. Milquetoast Gephardt is to elections what the Yankees are to the Orioles as of late: You see them coming, and you know there's sure to be a loss right behind.

All Gephardt has in his corner is Big Labor. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, having it as his only thing is a giant albatross flapping around his neck. Gephardt has made watering down policy, not being out in front on any bold initiatives, and pandering hallmarks of his political career. Just as his reddish-blond eyebrows blend into the rest of his face, Gephardt is tailor-made to blend into the rest of the pack. Anybody who spends his entire career trying to offend nobody isn't going inspire anybody.

One example of why it's harder to get elected president after a career in the Congress was just pointed out by the charming, thoroughly nonpartisan zealots (will the sarcasm in that last phrase make it through to you intact from the page?) at the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. Right when President Bush decided to go to Pennsylvania to, as one staffer put it, "whack John Edwards" on medical liability tort reform, the Journal pointed out how, back in the 98th Congress, Gephardt sponsored legislation that would make a patient lose the option of going to court and suing for pain and suffering if that patient took an "early recovery" settlement deal that covered economic loss, loss of income, and legal fees.

With little time bombs like that lurking around in a lawmaker's past, it makes it easier for opposition-research goons to resurrect votes and bills and mischaracterize them in the media echo chamber. And heaven knows, the fact checkers at The O'Reilly Factor never let the meat of reality get in the way of a good sensational snack.

If the old political axiom about the presidency, "The job seeks the man," is true, one wonders, in what universe did Richard Gephardt ever get the phone call saying, "Dick--wake up. It's your turn."

And, sorry, folks, but Hillary Clinton will never be president.

Pay no attention to the many talking about how "she'll run in 2008" and how "she's letting the current group run themselves out in 2004." One wag even ventured that hoary old cliché of the past, a "brokered convention," allowing Clinton to slip in and become the nominee in 2004.

Say it with me: "Oh, please."

The days of capturing the center of the electorate from a place like New York are history. That same genius, Bill O'Reilly, predicted that Clinton would lose the Senate race to Rick Lazio in 2000, but luckily, nobody pays much attention to what TV shouting heads said yesterday; otherwise, they'd have less credibility than they already do. Most of the time you see someone predicting a Hillary Clinton run for president, they're coming from someplace like the Murdoch-owned New York Post, a George W. apologist like Fred Barnes, or from Rush Limbaugh, who needs to fill up three hours of hot-air time every day.

The reasons for this are two-fold. Conservatives in the press love it because it gins up the ire of the Great Unwashed Dittoheads--"Lookee, another Clinton to kick around! What's Ken Starr doing in 2008?" And for GOP direct-mail fund raisers, raising the Hillary specter is like money in the bank.

The fact is, Sen. Clinton most likely will become the ideological heir to Ted Kennedy--someone who will spend a career in the Senate holding the liberal line against the tide of hard-right conservatives making up the Congress.

Lastly, and not like you didn't know this (and he knows it too), Al Sharpton will never be president. This filled us here at Animal Control with great relief. Unfortunately, the fact that he will run is almost as problematic as the remote idea that he could win.

Sharpton has been convicted of slander and tax evasion. He's never run anything of note in his life. He came to prominence parading a teenage girl's lie on his shoulders. He is running solely for "a place at the table"--this is bravado and shamelessness of the highest order.

He almost prides himself on being a career spoiler, having wrecked New York consumer advocate Mark Green's Senate campaign against Alfonse D'Amato in 1986 and state attorney general Robert Abrams' 1992 Senate campaign against D'Amato. And he tried to take down the venerable Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1994 by running as an independent after Moynihan took 74 percent of the primary vote.

And the sad fact, is, simply by running, he forces African-Americans to defend his right to run, due to the "he may be an SOB, but he's our SOB" factor.

There are, of course, no certainties here--but in all reality, for these three, it ain't gonna happen.

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