Jewish World Review Jan. 21, 2004 / 27 Teves, 5764
It's good that we live in ignorance of the future
Not having a clue about what the future holds is one of the least appreciated conditions of life. If we
knew, probably most of us would be in a constant state of despair. But in our ignorance of the future, most of
us live in hope. Certainly Howard Dean and the Republicans enjoyed living in hope these last eight or nine
Now, Howard Dean, if he has returned to rational consciousness yet, has seen the future and it is
President Deanless. Thus, he would be justified in feeling existential despair. For the Republicans, the
revealed Deanless Democratic presidential ticket evokes conditional disappointment. But, ignorant of what is
to come next, Republicans are quickly reconfiguring a plausible hopeful future.
That GOP rejiggering of modalities of hope, however, is quietude itself when compared to the orgiastic
post-Iowa Democratic dreams. Surely, for the last 24 hours, John Kerry, John Edwards and Wesley Clark
must all be subvocalizing the melody of "Hail to the Chief" (admittedly, this is probably not a new phenomenon
for Wesley Clark). But mentally concocting fantasy visions of the future is not limited to the candidates (at least
two of which will, in a matter of at most a month or two, be joining Howard Dean in the grim despair of reality).
Rank and file Democrats who a week ago saw in John Edwards only a callow, inexperienced, pretty
boy multi-millionaire trial lawyer now think they see a new Bill Clinton but without the moral squalor. The
man who only recently was seen as being unable even to get himself re-elected to the Senate from North
Carolina (the freshman senator with more ambition than sense of timing), is now imagined by a multitude (of
pundits, at least) as the man who would be king as the unblemished young cavalier possessed of both a
pure heart and golden sword who can talk to the heart of the South and the mind of the North. Yes, they live in
But let's wait a few weeks to see what Kerry's and Clark's butcher boys do to that unpocked skin.
Which of their operatives will raise the election-night image of super-lawyer John Edwards promising to
protect the public from the "lawyers. " What will Kerry's Boston mafia find in John Edwards' old court records?
Edwards has enchanted both audiences and pundits in the last week or two with his beautiful, newly
born platitudes about "two countries" (rich and poor, hard working and shysters, healthy and sick, etc.). It will
be fun to watch Sen. Kerry remind the public that in Edwards' six years in the Senate, he has done little
legislatively to alleviate the pain of the downtrodden. The Kerry camp will surely trot out the proposition that
Edwards is a show horse, not a workhorse, a talker, not a doer. We will see how well that pony can run.
The majestic ignorance of the future in which we all are consigned to make our daily calculations has
certainly been shown by the changing public assessments of John Kerry. Self-created in the image of John F.
Kennedy (replete with an episode of wartime naval heroics), he has long been seen as made of presidential
timber though suffering from an inclination to diffidence, if not opportunism. When he declared for the
presidency amongst a field of midgets, his already tall physical stature projected his image as the colossus of
the field -after which he proceeded to stumble around the stage, bump into furniture and stutter in the
senatorial style. From champ to chump, and now back to champ again. But the giddy current hopes of the
Kerry fans should be tempered by the likelihood that the Massachusetts liberal probably couldn't carry a state
south of the Mason/Dixon line.
And, as the campaign heads to South Carolina, can any of us really imagine that General Wesley "I'm
not too tightly wound" Clark won't make some bizarre accusation about John Edwards' military leadership
Meanwhile, the whispering campaign expressing doubts about General Clark's mental processes
continues apace. But as of now, we can't know whether the public as it starts to pay attention will begin to
draw any uncomplimentary conclusions from General Clark's grandiose self descriptions and conspiratorial
assessments of his many enemies' vicious actions against him in the Pentagon, the White House and
generally all around him. Will his seemingly inexplicable misstatements of facts be considered as merely of
the garden variety, or will an uncharitable explanation gain favor in the public mind?
Clark, Kerry, Edwards and, yes, Bush operatives, all live in hope on these many points. It is good that
we live in ignorance of the future. Otherwise, we pundits would be out of business, and there would be only
one candidate for president. What a lot of fun we would miss. Let the games continue.
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© 2002, Creators Syndicate