Holding out for a zero

The administration of the first President Bush was a rather odd duck. He ran in 1980 as the moderate alternative to Ronald Reagan, and promptly got his head handed to him by the Gipper — who promptly helped him put it back on his shoulders and made him his Vice President. After eight years, he ran again for the Oval Office, this time trying to sell it as a third Reagan term. It wasn’t a very convincing argument, but the Democrats basically conceded the election by nominating Michael Dukakis, and Bush essentially won by default.

One of the hallmarks of his administration was the first real use of the “stealth nominee.” Bush seemed eager to avoid confrontations, so he picked people with minimal backgrounds so his opponents would have as little “mud” to throw at his nominees. It first happened when he plucked a fairly obscure Indiana senator named Dan Quayle as his running mate. (I wondered, at the time, if Quayle was picked to put Bush’s own impressive resume into stark contrast; others called Quayle Bush’s “assassination insurance.”) And, as the ultimate “stealth nominee,” Bush tapped a federal appeals judge from New Hampshire named David Souter for the United States Supreme Court.

And we both know how well those worked out.

Now, it seems, the concept of the “stealth nominee” is making a comeback. This time, though, it is the Democrats who are using it and pushing it. Apparently, the lack of an established record of accomplishments and strong stands on issues are a liability to those with presidential aspirations.

And that brings us to Senator Barack Obama.

Senator Obama (D-IL) is being touted by many as the hope and future of the Democratic party. He is a superstar on the fund-raising circuit, and many call him presidential material — Time magazine even featured him on the cover recently. But just who is he? What does he stand for?

Beats the heck out of me.

Obama’s first public office was state senator, first elected in 1996. He tried to win a seat in the United States House in 2000, but was defeated. He redoubled his efforts in the state Senate, and ran for the United States Senate in 2004. He also gave the gave the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he used that platform to good advantage, catapulting himself into a national figure, and pretty much locking up his Senate race.

So here we have Senator Obama. Eight years in the state legislature, one failed House bid (defeated in the primary by a former Black Panther), two years in the United States Senate. He opposed the Iraq war from the get-go. And he’s also… um…

Hey, can someone help me out here?

What ought to be a liability for most candidates — a lack of accomplishments, of successes, of electoral victories and legislative triumphs — is apparently an asset to Obama. To many observers, those issues would simply detract from Obama’s appeal in other areas — he’s good-looking, vigorous, extremely well-spoken, and charismatic.

But to bring back another question from the 1980’s, “where’s the beef?” Where is the substance? Just what does Obama stand for, what would he do about some of the other major issues (although the war on terror does tend to be my major issue)?

I didn’t like Dan Quayle in 1988. I didn’t like him in 1992. I didn’t like him in 1996. I still don’t care for him today And I certainly won’t like the Mirror Universe version of him that seems to be the Democrats’ big hope for the future.

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