Jewish World Review May 18, 2004/ 27 Iyar, 5764

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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Hitching a ride, lovebug style | The Democrats, moving toward the full panic mode as the days begin to dwindle down to summer and the conventions, misjudge John McCain. The senator from Arizona is famously eccentric, but he's not nuts.

With George W. Bush's poll numbers slipping into the 40s and sinking, you might think the Democrats would be dancing on the countertops and smacking their lips at the prospect of more bad news from Baghdad.

But that smacking sound is not from Senate lips, but the noise of several Democratic senators knocking each other aside to endorse the idea of what they call a "unity ticket." Interesting phenomenon, "unity tickets." The people who peddle unity tickets always imagine that they get to define "unity"; they never volunteer to submerge themselves and their own agenda in the name of unity. What the unity-monger means by "unity" is, "sit down, shut up, and let me do the talking."

The newspaper that was formerly the New York Times, having turned to full-throated hackery in the service of saving the world from George W. Bush, is leading the Democratic demand for a McCain-Kerry "unity ticket." (Monsieur Kerry would nominally be at the top of the ticket, but with a wink and a nudge everyone is given to understand that Monsieur Kerry would be allowed to go along only to ride BB gun.)

"The enthusiasm of Democrats for Mr. McCain," the newspaper formerly the New York Times reported last week (if "reported" is quite the right word), "is so high that even some who have been mentioned as possible Kerry running mates — including Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida and Bob Kerrey, the former Nebraska senator — are spinning scenarios about a 'unity government,' effectively giving Mr. Kerry a green light to reach across the political aisle and extend an offer ...

"This kind of open speculation suggests that Democrats are so eager to regain the White House in November that they are willing to overlook members of their own party and accept a candidate who disagrees with one of the core tenets of their platform, the right to an abortion."

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This is "speculation," all right, but it suggests far more than willingness to overlook John McCain's pro-life views, which is analogous to the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church electing a pope who does not accept the doctrine of the virgin birth. What it actually suggests is that the Democratic Party is all but desperate as its saner heads realize they're once more about to take a tank ride into Massachusetts with another Michael Dukakis.

John McCain, who likes a little flattery as much as the next man but not at the price of permanent dopehood, seems to understand this. "I have totally ruled it out," he said last week. And this week, taking note of the prospect of Monsieur Kerry's finding his telephone number, said: "I will always take anyone's phone calls. But I will not, I categorically will not do it." This is just a shade this side of the full Sherman ("If nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve.") The man is not a fool.

Even Sherman Lite is not enough for some desperate Democrats. "I'm sticking with McCain," said Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, on hearing of his colleague's categorical disavowal of a prospective offer. "I think John McCain would be a great candidate for vice president." Then he added, just to make sure that no one gets the idea that he rode down from Dover behind Dobbin hitched to the turnip wagon: "Do I think it's going to happen? No."

But if John McCain is not willing to throw away his considerable reputation for mature judgment to "transform the presidential race," as the newspaper formerly the New York Times put it, the perfect storm is gathering that would transform the race in a very different way.

The Clintons are coming, the Clintons are coming. The fuse has been set alight for his book to explode in late June. The book may or may not be composed of wet powder, and the guess here is that it won't have the juice everyone wants, but with it Bill and Hillary will explode together to put the Democratic firmament aglow with fond remembrance of exciting things past. As electrifying as Monsieur Kerry may be, he will be no match for Democratic recollections of ol' "used to be."

The target, ostensibly, is for second place on the ticket, but ... If the only way Monsieur Kerry can get to the White House is to ride in backward, locked in an embrace with a running mate lovebug style, why not make it Clinton-Kerry in name as well as fact?

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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