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Jewish World Review Nov. 15, 1999 /6 Kislev, 5760

Chris Matthews

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Econophone

Next president: Male, WASP, self-selected


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- The American voter does not enjoy free will in selecting a president, only free choice. We don't decide who should run for the country's highest office, only whom among the self-starting runners we'd like to see win.

Four candidates now stand a solid chance to be the major party candidates.

The list of Democratic prospects is limited to two: Vice President Al Gore and former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley.

The same polls show Texas Gov. George W. Bush in a strong first place for the Republican nomination, with Arizona Sen. John McCain his most impressive rival.

This is the litter from which we, the voters, will most likely choose the person who will take the oath on Jan. 20, 2001, to lead our exuberant democracy into the 21st century.

Don't look for novelty in this quartet. Four white Protestant men with backgrounds ranging from upper-middle class to elite. Graduates of Yale, Harvard, Annapolis or Princeton, they include the son of a president, the son of a senator, the son of an admiral and the son of a banker. Their pedigrees do little to celebrate the age-old American myth that "anyone can grow up to be president."

Where are the women?

Elizabeth Dole, an early entrant to the field, will be remembered as an early retiree.

The same will be said of the one, lonely applicant from America's working class. Ohio congressman John Kasich, son of a postman, also left the fight after a brisk, but unpromising try.

There are other missing pieces of the American tapestry in this emblematic contest. No racial minorities: No Jesse Jackson, no Colin Powell. No "ethnics": No Catholics, no Jews, no members of the religious right. No ideologues of any kind, no candidate with any opinion whatever that might risk harsh judgment from the mainstream American media.

One reason is that the four Washington Squares who now loom as the best bets for 2000 are all political professionals, all men who discovered their hankering for the White House long before they admitted it publicly.

Al Gore grew up in the Fairfax Hotel, a prestigious Washington address featuring the Jockey Club. The son of a U.S. senator from Tennessee, he went to high school up Massachusetts Avenue at St. Alban's and now lives in between, along the same avenue where he was raised and educated.

George Bush grew up the grandson of a senator and the son of a congressman who would become president. As eldest boy, he learned first-hand the benefits and costs of political life at the highest level. Those who know him say he is a political natural, someone who learned politics the way other kids learn baseball, that he lives and breathes the game.

John McCain, the son and grandson of admirals, also grew up in the Washington area. His courage and exploits as a Navy pilot in Vietnam, especially the character and self-sacrifice he displayed as a prisoner of war, place him in that same patriotic family tradition. Raised for command, he was running for, and winning, political office by the early 1980s.

Bill Bradley is another lifelong professional. Upon leaving the New York Knicks, he lost no time running for a Senate seat in neighboring New Jersey, where he had been a basketball star at Princeton. Long before he entered the Senate, he was known to harbor political ambitions that pointed to the White House.

The question voters need to ask is: Does this country benefit from a presidential election process based primarily, if not exclusively, on self-selection? A process not of parties picking leaders but of ambitious individuals from a narrow Washington-centered cadre of white, Protestant men of upper-middle class to elite backgrounds, picking themselves?

If that's an important question, then now, a year before final balloting, is a good time to start talking about it.



JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

Up

11/10/99: Backroom Bill
11/08/99: Please don't feed the 'pander bears'
11/03/99: Battle of the Bubba clones
11/01/99: Pat Buchanan, kamikaze candidate
10/27/99: The year of the woman... voter
10/25/99: The Curse of the Bubba
10/21/99: GOP gives Clinton his finest hour
10/18/99: Clinton's last hurrah
10/13/99: Rough seas for Capt. Ventura
10/11/99: Gore targets Bradley's strength
10/06/99: Bradley's got the right Rx
10/04/99: Buchanan, Churchill and Hitler
09/30/99: Who'll spin political gold in Golden State Gore or Bradley?
09/27/99: Here's a millennial checklist for candidates
09/22/99: The biography battle
09/20/99: Buchanan's new book is a must-read
09/15/99: Don't rule out Beatty
09/13/99: The man with the sun on his face
09/08/99: W. vs. Jr. on dope and the draft
The FALN: Hillary's Willie Horton
08/26/99: Bill's guilt fuels Hill's race
08/25/99: The seemingly inexhaustible strength of America's free enterprise
08/23/99: GOP candidates are weak also-rans
08/16/99: Bubba on Bubba
08/11/99: Hillary's agonizing attempts to understand
08/09/99: With warm regards, Richard Nixon
08/04/99: Weicker: real third party is on the Left
08/02/99: Dubyah's last hangover
07/27/99: Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; capitalism is gonna win

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