Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bush v. Clinton Showdown 2008?

I hope not. Last Sunday during an interview on Larry King Live, Vice-President Cheney floated a test balloon that Laura Bush may consider a run at the office held be her husband to face another contender whose husband at one time also occupied the White House. I oppose any nomination of Laura Bush to the Presidency of the United States. The GOP will not win, if they nominate her.

2008 offers America an opportunity to take the country in a different direction. Given the acrimony over the Iraq War, the sentiment of the country certainly is leaning toward change – specifically someone other than Bush. But if the Republicans are going to put up a Bush to face Hillary, why not Jeb Bush? Jeb Bush is even more conservative than the current Bush and a Roman Catholic. Certainly whoever the Bushies anoint Laura, Jeb or even Frist, that person will have to face McCain just as Hillary will have to face backlashes from non-contenders such as Ted Kennedy and Howard Dean.

But less tactically, I oppose the Laura Bush nomination on a strategic basis which in part deals with her qualifications. Laura Bush is a mother, an educator and a librarian. She demonstrates poise and a graciousness that is very reminescent of Jackie Kennedy. But other than withstanding the slings and arrows of the “I Hate America” protests in Egypt and Israel, what are Laura Bush’s qualifications to lead the most important country? Certainly, Hillary Clinton is more qualified than Laura Bush is to lead. After all, Clinton is an attorney, New York Senator, child advocate and the chief architect of the failed but politically bold and still viable Universal Health Care. Such a plan still resonates with key constituencies and could be resurrected and reconstituted as policy in a new Clinton II Presidency. Moreover, though universally hated in right wing circles, Hillary has taken controversial stands, withstood an uphill Senate challenge and further I know what Hillary stands for, what would Laura stand for?

If anything that the Clintons taught me, it is that it is not enough to be against something – you have to be for something as well. A lot of conservative pundits – most conspicuously Rush Limbaugh have lambasted Hillary as beatable in a national election citing that Hillary is so unpopular that people who normally do not vote would vote against her. But Limbaugh has been wrong about Hillary just as he was wrong about her chances of winning in the New York Senate against Rick Lazio in 2000, just as Limbaugh has been wrong about Bill Clinton in 96 and in the Democrats congressional gains in 98. The fact is that Hillary has cultivated her own mystique. Those vulnerabilities and strengths are unique and independent of her husband’s political prowess and casting her as in the American Spectator Magazine’s rendition of Lady Macbeth has proven a failed strategy – ask Rick Lazio.

In the absence of a substantive policy debate, one dubious strategy to beat Hillary points to making it personal. But whether on policy or personlity, one must choose to beat her on her own turf or at best energizing the base on the red states to counterbalance traditional blue state strongholds.

One of two things has to emerge in order to beat Hillary on the issues. Firstly, the Bush Administration has to move its stalled agenda forward. Secondly has to sell to the American people that these policies will affect a prosperity not yet felt. Americans felt prosperous under Reagan and Clinton, though the economy is strong, we do not feel prosperous. If we cannot feel prosperous, then Bush the Younger will inherit the air of Bush the Elder that his Presidency was a failure – ultimately hindering the future leadership of the Bush dynasty.

If Bush the Younger cannot affect all this in three years, then the failures of the Bush Administration have to be captured and answered by a conservative within the party – repudiating the Bush election machine – enter the reprise of John McCain. McCain would essentially enact the Clinton domestic agenda of fiscal discipline – maybe even raising taxes or at best not cutting taxes and not affect change socially or entangle himself in major foreign policy commitments.

Running Laura Bush would be a way to get around the 22nd Amendment, which in light of the new political actors on the stage – Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, perhaps should be repealed as well as revising the birth requirement. Such an audacious end run around the Constitution would not sit well with most Americans. Such a cynical interpretation of the Constitution would likely offend those Americans vociferous in their protests against judicial activism.

Running Laura Bush is not the same as accomplishing what you set out to do. Granted the late arrival of the Bush political doctrines promulgated on his second inaugural address is ambitious, worthwhile and are more likely to see fruition in three decades much less three years. That said, in failing to meet the mark in three years, the way to bring continuity is to run your Vice-President as Reagan and Clinton did.

Cheney may not be inclined personally or physically for such a task. In which case, Bush should groom a successor. If he has to run a woman, which I think would be insulting for the electorate and women who aspire to high office alike, than he should groom Karen Hughes or Condoleezza Rice. And if Cheney desires only to be Chief Consigliere, Cheney should resign as Vice-President, having served his purpose in re-election and allow this successor to intern as President. Cheney could still serve but also lengthen fortunes of the Bush doctrines as viable in 2008. For running a politically cosmetic Laura would appear at worst like banana republic style usurpation and at best a tacky marketing scheme.

But most importantly, running Laura Bush would be destroyed her appeal as the anti-Clinton of First Ladies. Laura Bush, like Barbara Bush and Lady Bird Johnson is a “stand by your man” First Lady. That is a very important point culturally. It may be fun every once in a while to have Laura come out of her shell and wise crack at the expense of her husband at a couple dinner parties. But overt political statements would be to imitate Hillary and to imitate Hillary would essentially help elect Hillary.

Such a Clintonization of the role of First Lady offends cultural conservatives like myself who was raised, just as George W. Bush was raised by a stay at home mother. Counterintuitive in our day where public spheres crowd out private ones, the old adage still holds that “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” But for Laura Bush, stay at home mothers – much maligned for being desperate housewives - still occupy a low social position. At best, some less culturally conservative view stay at home mothers as the supine bonbon popping soap opera devotee or at worst a bovine baby machine in sweat pants.

Laura Bush would be miscast as a modern day Judith or an American Maggie Thatcher where her role is more akin to the Biblical Mary, Ruth or Esther. Prior to the sexual revolution, most of our mothers for generations occupied this status proudly and craved it above the public spheres once occupied solely by men. Families, the basic unit in society traditionally consist of two parents, a husband and a wife, rearing their own or adopted children compose the basis of our society. In the words of a nineteenth century feminist Catherine Beecher, Mothers, primarily through self-sacrifice, shape the moral character of the next generation. Great families depend on great mothers. Thus great nations depend on great mothers – especially those who give their undivided attention to the fruit of their loins. Laura Bush exemplifies all that in spades.

When we allow others to malign stay at home mothers, we discourage motherhood the nurturing of the next generation to assume the mantle of leadership. Should we fail to do that, we risk living in a less secure world. Therefore, we must make every effort to esteem stay at home mothers if we want to ensure a secure future. And that is really what Laura Bush stands for – a submissive wife and a doting mother who in turn makes up the bedrock of our American character. It is an altogether different role – than the office of the President requires.

To defeat Hillary, one strategy, in the absence of winning on the issues would be to attack her Hillary as a woman. Hillary felt the humiliation of the Lewinsky affair most keenly. She must have felt that her femininity attacked as her husband rejected her sexually for another younger and more attractive. Second, Hillary’s daughter, Chelsea is showing signs of instability as a young adult. Demonstrating that Hillary an unfit, career and ultimately self-absorbed woman culpable dereliction in her primary responsibilities as a woman could possibly damage Hillary’s political ambition. Such a strategy would not be an honorable one and would divide and embitter Americans and cheapen any political capital gleaned from electoral victory. Further such a strategy would in all likelihood strengthen Hillary’s nomination and radicalize her administration resurrecting feminist thinkers best laid to rest in the Lewinsky affair.

If any Republican wants to be President, then let that person declare himself now. The President should anoint and groom his candidate in the absence of Cheney. Bush must continue to push his agenda. And if he should fail, then perhaps we should resign ourselves to a second eight year Clinton Presidency.

1 comment:

Florence said...

Whew, Jabber, I still think you should be a freelance journalist, or political analyst--- thoughts like these should not be wasted in mere blogs. =) I haven't had the chance to read the others just yet, but this one interested me the most because I just recently heard a discussion on it. While they didn't mention Laura Bush as a contender, they had talked about McCain instead, who, I, as a more moderate Republican slowly leaning towards the ideals of the Democratic Party, do prefer as a candidate. You're right though: Laura is not fit for the position, and will likely lose. It'd be interesting to see which of the two Bushes from the dynasty will be next, but I do believe that Jeb is the more likely contender.

=) Hope all else is going okay! We haven't chatted lately, but lookin' forward to reading more of your opinions. (I blog, too, but it's more casual, personal, and narcissistic.) =) Talk to you later!

Your cousin,