Monday, July 30, 2012

Cheney, Clinton: Ghosts of Elections Past

As voters sleepwalk toward November, apparitions from their troubled history rise up to remind them of past errors.

Dick Cheney, the vice-president who picked himself, proclaims that naming Sarah Palin to succeed him was “a mistake,” while Bill Clinton emerges for a marquee role in the Democratic convention to nominate Barack Obama for a second term.

Such Scrooge-like emanations may serve, not only as the inspirations they are intended to be, but as warnings to the electorate to mend its ways in deciding the future.

In dismissing Palin, Cheney echoes Lloyd Bentsen’s classic putdown of Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice-presidential debate: “I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.”

“I like Gov. Palin,” says Cheney. “I’ve met her. I know her. But based on her background, she had only been governor for, what, two years? I don’t think she passed that test of being ready to take over. And I think that was a mistake.”

When Cheney ended his search for George W. Bush’s running mate in 2000 by looking in the mirror, he was more than ready to take over and did--in an imperial vice-presidency that led to doctoring espionage reports for Colin Powell’s UN speech to justify a needless war in Iraq and dispatching Scooter Libby to out Valerie Plame as a CIA agent when her husband raised questions Cheney didn’t like.

As Mitt Romney ruminates about his tax returns and picks his VP, Tim Pawlenty, Rob Portman et al may look like safer investments.

On the other side is the perennial Comeback Kid. Says Obama strategist David Axelrod, “There isn’t anybody on the planet who has a greater perspective on not just the last four years, but the last two decades, than Bill Clinton. He can really articulate the choice that is before people.”

Just so. But the former president may also remind voters of other events in those two decades: impeachment that brought him thisclose to being ousted for unzipping in the Oval Office as well as reckless attacks on Obama only four years ago during the 2008 primaries.

Yet, in the “Christmas Carol” spirit, redemption may be what counts. By the time the Ghost of Elections Future arrives four years from now, a gifted-wrapped Hillary Clinton may be ready and waiting.

Update: A new Gallup poll shows 66 percent of Americans now have a favorable opinion of Bill Clinton.

How far does nostalgia go? How many would want Cheney back, too?

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