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Friday, May 12, 2006

Nixon-Gore, more and more ...

I received some great feedback on the Gore-Nixon discussion that pre-dated its posting on Arguably So. Not knowing how else to account for these thoughts, I’ll just let ‘er fly, with the requisite excerpting and initialing to protect the innocent …


C suggested that I check out, a blog by Gore backer Bob Somersby. He wonders what it will take for Gore to overcome the media bashing he suffered in ’00, i.e. “Love Story, inventing the internet, Earth Tones, etc.)

He balked at the Nixon comparison, if only because of the stigma attached to the Nixon name: “Nixon was really such a prick that I don’t care to equate Gore with him, even if its just political positioning or whatever.....” He added that “both guys sort of had a falling out with their presidents” which hurt them in their first respective runs. He added that he read part of the Ambrose biography but set it aside after gauging it too sympathetic.

My response:

I'll check out the howler.

I haven't found the Ambrose bio to be too sympathetic, but then, I'm only reading volume 2 -- years 1961-1971. The intro chapter basically says he was a brilliant, yet soulless and ammoral policymaker – that he was a paranoid who had no friends and whose shortcomings aren't attributable to anyone but himself. If Ambrose is sympathetic to him in any way, it's in regard to his political abilities -- triangulation, use of public opinion, and use of his extensive overall intelligence.

Comparing Gore-Clinton and Nixon-Eisenhower – the only apparent difference is that Nixon thirsted for Ike's validation, where it was Clinton who thirsted for Gore's (in the end). In the Gore (’00) and Nixon (’60) elections, Nixon begged for Ike's endorsement and only received it very late, after all other GOPs were out (Goldwater, Reagan, and Rockefeller), whereas Clinton couldn't get Gore to ask for his endorsement or any other form of support. Completely reversed.

K responded that “Gore is done,” due to all of the ridicule he’s suffered since his defeat. He thinks that the Republicans will either tap McCain or Giuliani. He noted that “McCain has two disadvantages: age and the fact that the Republican base loathes him. Giuliani is a bit too socially liberal for the base, as well as having a somewhat messy personal life,” but added that Giuliani’s “near iconic status drawing from the way he handled 911 in NYC can overcome that.” One possibility he considered is a Giuliani-Rice ticket: “Rice would add foreign policy gravitas, as well as a leg up on the black and female (vs. Hillary) vote.”

My response:

Regarding Gore, I think many Dems in 1966 were equally skeptical about Nixon. It’s worth noting that after losing to Kennedy in 1960, Nixon lost the race for Governor in 1962 to Pat Brown. Nixon’s rebirth was huge and occurred largely in spite of the kind of ridicule that Gore suffers today.

Incidentally, consider the following comparisons between the GOP in 2008 and the Dems in 1968. Rice surely would bring foreign policy gravitas as the heir apparent of the Bush Administration ... much like Hubert Humphrey did in 1968. But more on that in a minute.

McCain suffers from age disadvantage AND distrust from the extreme in his party. He also represents the guy who challenged the current GOP president in the last inter-party struggle as "the guy who is really a member of the other party". Bobby Kennedy -- the guy whose positions weren't terribly different than the President’s, but whose style was much more public-friendly and who bore the public image of being much more centric.

Giuliani suffers from distrust from the extreme in his party and the geography of being from the wrong part of the country (in the eye of the party’s geographic center). In 1968, the same role was held by George Wallace. He represented the "old Democratic party," i.e. the Solid South and all of its Dixiecrat inclinations -- states' rights with the economic pump-priming elements of the New Deal. Wallace represented those who were marginalized by the New Frontier/Great Society types who pushed through civil rights and strengthening of welfare. I'm not saying Giuliani is going to split off and form his own party after being rebuffed from within. But, it's worth noting that Giuliani represents the "old Rockefeller wing" of the Republican Party, i.e. northeastern pro-business, market-first Republicans, who have been marginalized by the Evangelical, Neo-Con types.

The Giuliani wing, which is probably ambivalent about faith-based initiatives and openly hostile to tax cuts enacted without any corresponding spending cuts, might feel marginalized enough going into ’08 that they make waves like Wallace’s southern Democrats did in ’68. So, who becomes Hubert Humphrey, i.e. the heir apparent to the outgoing President, who can be expected to stay the course? Is that Condi Rice? If so, it's fair to say she'll spend all of her campaign time articulating the reason why the unpopular regime should continue. And her articulation should, as Hubert Humphrey's did, yield about 45 % of the vote -- the folks who won't vote Democrat regardless of who the Republicans choose. I read more and more lately that George H.W. and his elder son are both injecting Jeb Bush’s name into the fold as a possible heir apparent.

More importantly, who becomes GOP version of Eugene McCarthy, i.e. the guy from the extreme wing who says that Condi Rice isn't really the heir apparent to the Bush legacy OR that the Bush legacy isn't the pure vision of Republican-ism it should have be. Who is the guy from the right who will hold this banner? The Abramhoff scandal eliminated a few of the likelies, so it's a tough question to answer quickly. Bill Frist? Not likely – Senators don't win.

My darkhorse as the “McCarthy figure” is Haley Barbour – Governor from Mississippi. He shined in the wake of Katrina as the example of how to manage in the midst of an emergency, especially in light of Dem. Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s failings in neighboring Louisiana. If not a true believer, he is certainly the appearance of a true believer – Southerner, Clinton-hater, former RNC head, Christian, Moral absolutist, etc.

Again, then there's always Jeb – who might appear to be more of the RFK type, if it weren't for his obvious kinship with the current regime. Either way, political memories are long and he's not going to play nicely with McCain (or McCain's possible proxy, Chuck Hagel) in any primary fight.

We’ll need to watch over the summer and into the fall/winter as Gore begins to look less of the figure of ridicule from within the Democratic circles. To get the nomination, that's all he needs. And while all true believers on the Republican side will continue to ridicule Gore, the same can be said of all true believers on the Democratic side regarding Nixon in 1968. And those folks voted for Humphrey. The silent majority, who voted in part for Kennedy in 1960 and in large part for Johnson in 1964 didn't ridicule Nixon – they just didn't vote for him. Unfortunately for Humphrey, the large chunk of "the silent majority" who sided with LBJ in 1964 went for Nixon in 1968. And the same ones are up for grabs again in 2008.

G said he had read much about Gore, his prospects, and the impact weather, disease, and storms a la global warming will play out. He added that “I haven't seen h the leaders of the rest of the world, as he's actually friends with most of them, and has real experience in foreign policy.”

My response:

If I'm going to continue to tease out the Nixon comparison, I don't think you will see "that" Gore until later in 2007.

Nixon's global warming was LBJ's Vietnam policy – especially between 1964-66. He argued that LBJ was soft on communism and was frittering away the USA's dominant position in world politics, yielding on the domino theory, etc. The main difference was that LBJ adopted all of Nixon's policy suggestions – i.e. escalation – and only differed in matters of degree.

But I think that Nixon's urgings weren’t substantively important, but rather they cemented his status as the leader of the opposition. He traveled through Europe and espoused the anti-LBJ, yet still American position to the rest of the world. The imagery of these photo ops was "guy with gravitas" and achieved the kind of "better preparedness" quality without patently saying so.

I suspect that Gore will engender the same imagery in the wake of the film's release, as he shifts from the lecture podium to the press conference podium and takes his message to other world leaders as the alternative American view. By this, he will achieve the very thing you mention and perhaps hope for.

We'll see.


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