The Dems: No Valentine yet 

Last week a friend triumphantly reported he had found the bumper sticker he’d been looking for: Re-elect President Gore in 2004. There are, indeed, lots of people who think that will happen almost automatically, given that the election was stolen, Bush Two is a sawdust head, and the economy looks shaky.

Guess what? Barely 1 percent of his term has passed, but if I had to guess now, I’d bet that barring a huge recession or equivalent disaster, the nation will easily re-elect Bush. I want that about as much as I want prostate surgery without anesthesia. But unless we are very lucky or very smart, that’s what we are likely to get.

Consider: Democrats thought the election of the unsavory Richard Nixon in 1968 and of the (then) far-right Ronald Reagan in 1980 were historical accidents, which in many ways both were. They counted, both times, on taking them out after one term.

And in both cases, Democrats managed to carry precisely one state. Granted, it is hard to imagine that horrible a result again, but never underestimate this party’s ability to sink its own boat. And since the swearing in, Team Bush has done a politically masterful job of maneuvering, and especially at wooing the media.

When Secretary of Labor nominee Linda Chavez turned out to be tainted, she was dropped as swiftly as Cesar Chavez would pitch a rotten grape. When Andy Card either misspoke (unlikely) or got an unexpected negative reaction to his “announcement” that the White House AIDS and race-relations offices would be closed, Bush backed down pronto.

Instead of nattering about incompetence, the media, led by USA Today, wagged its tails in furious praise at such decisiveness. Part of this is normal “honeymoon” stuff. Part of it, however, is a feeling that Bush, whatever his own lightweight qualities, has put in place a trio of certified, highly experienced adults — Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and Don Rumsfeld — to run things while he’s at the gym.

Naturally, Bill Clinton has helped too. The good news is that on his last day polluting the White House, Bubba settled for all time the tormenting question as to whether he was basically a good man who just couldn’t say no to sex, or an opportunistic sleaze.

By pardoning Marc Rich, the “fugitive financier” whose ex-wife coughed up $450,000 for Clinton’s library, he proved what he is, and gave Bush and the Republicans the moral high ground, free of charge. Even Democrats last week found themselves mightily pleased he was gone. Later, they will began slicing and dicing themselves over who “lost” the election, and many will blame the often wooden Gore.

What they need to do is come up with a plan to defend us, from everything from bad court nominees and help-the-rich tax schemes to another risky and expensive Star Wars boondoggle, barely mentioned in recent months, but a real threat to world peace.

And they need someone to inspire us. Unfortunately, this team doesn’t have much bench. Hillary Clinton looks like the logical choice if they want another shot at losing 49 states. Some new hero may ride out of the 2002 elections and electrify us all. But nobody’s hearing hoofbeats yet, and we may be in for a grim bunch of years.

Mayor: On the home front, however, City Councilman Nicholas Hood III’s decision to run for mayor is a breath of fresh air, and hints at a genuine debate over the issues, like Detroit’s rotting neighborhoods. Ten years younger than Archer, Hood (49) is at least as sober and serious, and a runoff would be short on the wild and crazy.

But he has a famous name, a quality education, eight years of council experience, and it will not be easy for Dennis the Menace (assuming he runs, and Hood stays in for the long haul) to dismiss him as just another rabble-rouser. Charlie Beckham has some fine qualities, and may indeed have gotten a bum rap from the feds. Yet even if his candidacy raises timely issues and offers intelligent solutions, it is certain to be hampered by the two years Beckham spent in the federal pen, and the question of whether he would mean a Coleman Young restoration. I am not saying Nick Hood should win. I am saying he might make it a worthy contest.

Governor: Why are people obsessing over this a year ahead of schedule? Because redistricting and term limits have complicated things. David Bonior never had any thought of running for governor till it appeared his seat in Congress might disappear; now he’s in the race, at least unless and until it turns out his seat is preserved after all.

Curiously, the best man well might be someone whose name made eyes roll a year ago: Jim Blanchard. Yes, yes, he blew the election to John Engler in 1990. But he was actually a pretty damn good governor for eight years, and since then, in my judgment, has gotten broader and deeper, and served admirably as ambassador to Michigan’s biggest trading partner — Canada. He has ideas about the new economy too.

The smart money is betting on Jennifer Granholm, who is, indeed, attractive, warm and charismatic. But at the risk of improperly interjecting content into our political process — what has she done, aside from being state attorney general for two years?

What does she stand for? What has she accomplished? Other than being the Dems’ only statewide officeholder, is she even as qualified as the term-limited state senators also running, Gary Peters and Alma Wheeler Smith? I know, I know. That’s why I never get invited to the good parties. But damn it, someone ought to ask such questions. When they don’t, we get Howard Wolpe. He seemed like a good idea at the time too.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]

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