While the Democratic race between Tweedledull and Tweedleduller settles into its Mutual Obfuscation Society phase, the two perceived Republican front-runners have a barn-burner on their hands.

In some ways, this is a good thing. With John McCain apparently anointed as the one obstacle in the path of the George W. Bush juggernaut, the remaining Republicans in the race are being forced to demonstrate that they aren't really marginal candidates after all, despite the best efforts of the media. Gary Bauer pointed out, with measured gravity and demonstrable correctness, that he's "not trying to make people feel good after one of my speeches." Orrin Hatch has attempted to position himself as the skinny alternative to the GOP "fat cats". Steve Forbes still reminds you that he made his money the old-fashioned way — he inherited it. (I did like his barb arguing for an elimination of the estate tax — "No taxation without respiration!" — but I remain convinced that wealthy spoiled brats are even more of an annoyance than middle-class or poor spoiled brats.) As for Alan Keyes, well, I see him getting his own sitcom on UPN in 2001. It has to be better than Shasta McNasty.

That leaves George W. Bush and John McCain. What keeps McCain in this race is his constant hammering on the need for campaign finance reform, and the media's constant reportage on the vast sums of money raised by the Bush campaign. You'd almost think McCain's campaign was depending on the kindness of strangers. Not so. In his position as chairman of the Senate committee on Commerce, Transportation and Science, McCain is in a position to shake down all manner of folks with big bucks, and if there's anything the former POW understands, it's how to make the best of whatever position he's in.

And so we're back to George W., and the more I look at him, the more I think the Republicans have figured that the only possible replacement for Bill Clinton is, yes, Bill Clinton. Bush has the same lack of commitment to issues, the same semi-clouded past, the same urge to procure cash. About the only thing the Shrub's Clinton impression seems to lack is a girlfriend on the side. For the sake of all of us, let's hope he doesn't go there.

The Vent

#180
9 January 2000

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