STEVE BOUSER: GOP Has a Dream Ticket Under Its Nose
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The 2008 election will be the first since 1928 when neither major party has a sitting president or vice president on the ticket.
This wide-open quality is one of many factors that promise to make the next go-around a dilly. With neither President George W. Bush (two terms and you're out) nor Vice President Dick Cheney (who has eliminated himself as a candidate because of precarious health and other concerns) in the race, the power of incumbency will largely have evaporated -- unless you count the indirect status of someone like a Condoleezza Rice.
With the mounting unpopularity of Bush and his Iraq war, it is unclear whether being an insider would help or hurt a candidate, anyway. It could end up being a kiss of death. A lot could -- and no doubt will -- happen in the next couple of years to swing things either way.
But the realities of modern politics dictate that no one can afford to wait and see. Anyone who wants to be in the running had better have a strong power base up and functioning within a year at the latest. (I'll never forget how things seemed to have already been mysteriously sewn up for the relatively unknown Bush the Younger before the opening bell had even rung in 2000.)
Yet despite the seemingly golden opportunity represented by the absence of anyone with an inside track, neither party seems to be able to arouse much excitement with any of the candidates currently being mentioned by the Great Mentioners in the media and elsewhere. Al Gore? Hillary Clinton? Jeb Bush? Mitt Romney? Bill Frist? Our own John Edwards? Nah, I don't feel the national pulse quickening over any of them. Must be somebody else.
As it happens, there is.
I don't know about the Democrats. If past experience is any indicator, they are likely to go stampeding over the cliff like lemmings once again with somebody like a Hillary or a retreaded Gore. But if the national Repub-licans were to ask my advice (an admittedly unlikely prospect), this registered independent would tell them that they have a dream ticket right under their noses, waiting to be plucked: Powell/McCain. Or alternatively, McCain/Powell.
Though nobody will believe me now, I have been thinking about this since before both men were catapulted into the headlines a week ago -- Sen. John McCain because he was one of three prominent Republican senators to break publicly with Bush over legislation regarding the treatment of detained terrorism suspects, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell because he publicly sided with the three dissidents, dramatically going up against the president he used to serve.
I think most Americans have tremendous respect for both Powell (who, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was the architect of the brilliantly successful First Gulf War) and McCain (a former Navy pilot who suffered terribly and bravely as a POW in North Vietnam).
Neither man takes a back seat to anyone in his support for the American military. They oppose Bush's tendency to play fast and loose with the Geneva Conventions not because they are soft on terrorism but because they fear such tactics will backfire on American prisoners held by other countries in the future. Most people, I imagine, believe they acted not out of political expediency but out of heartfelt conviction and love of country.
Though neither man seems all that hungry for the presidency -- OK, maybe McCain is salivating a bit -- I'll bet that both would be susceptible to a draft if they felt that duty called. Powell might be the more reluctant of the two -- since, if memory serves, his wife opposed his getting involved in the 2000 campaign out of fear for his physical safety.
Powell might also be vulnerable as the point man who sold Bush's weapons-of-mass-destruction case to the United States in the runup to the invasion of Iraq, something for which he must have spent the past few years kicking himself. McCain's health also might be an issue.
But think what a team the two of them would make. Both are deeply experienced in the ways of Washington. Both are very strong militarily -- but it is a quiet strength born of years of experience instead of the shrill posturing of an insecure man with something to prove. No one can paint either of them as a liberal, yet neither has "drunk the Kool-Aid" of rabid neocon extremism. Both are thoroughgoing gentlemen. Both inspire trust.
And we haven't even touched on the effect that Powell's presence might have in bringing large numbers of minority voters, whom Bush has smugly written off, into the GOP fold for the first time in a half-century or so.
Yep, it's a dream ticket, all right. The Democrats had better be hoping the Republicans -- who also have displayed a past tendency to go off in unfortunate directions at nomination time -- don't wise up to that fact.
Steve Bouser is editor of The Pilot. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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