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The Dems: Is This It?

Against The Grain, RKF, 010208
CBS/AP
Want to build your own Democratic ticket? In his latest Against the Grain commentary, CBSNews.com's Dick Meyer offers some additions to the menu.


Every true politics fan (at least every politics fan who used to be a sports-crazed little boy) dreams of a draft.

The college drafts in basketball and football are irresistible to fans because they proffer hope that your hapless team can instantly become a winner with one brilliant selection. So with politics.

But the true fan of politics doesn't care about which team has a draft. In politics, a fan is different than a partisan. And all fans of politics want to see a successful draft just once in our lifetimes. We know it will never happen. We know it's deeply uncool to admit that's what we want. It's our dirty little secret. One of them at least.

We all know the Democrats are in deep, deep trouble in '04. So they should draft someone fresh and at least make the election year interesting and fun for the fans.

I've taken the liberty of compiling a basic draft list. The only requirement to be on the list is negative -- sitting members of Congress are ineligible because since the end of the 19th century they always lose, except for John Kennedy. (Hear that Kerry, Edwards, Graham, Lieberman, and Gephardt? You're already toast. Sorry.) Willingness to run, prior elective office, ability to win Democratic primaries, actually being a registered Democrat -- these things are absolutely irrelevant. We're talking entertainment value and pure what-if, 'who would you pick if you could?'

Colin Powell. Long the ultimate draft pick for either party. But Powell would be a turncoat running against Bush so for the first time in years, he's not the dream candidate.

Hillary Clinton. Yes, I know: Hillary is a Senator and doesn't fit my rules. Tough, they're my rules. Hillary is tops for marquee value and political theater. But the idea of Hillary is so much more interesting than the actual Hillary, at least the inscrutable, sanitized Hillary that is presented to the public. She's not my choice. But I do think it's very possible that it will take a Margaret Thatcher-scenario to save the Democrats: a tough-as-nails woman who scares the boys in the party into obedient coherence and who has a philosophy that she can articulate. It takes a dragon lady.

Bob Rubin. He's got name ID, an almost mythical reputation, great credentials and height. Downsides: the economy tanked soon after he split, his news company, Citigroup, is tangled up in corporate scandals and he would probably make Al Gore look frisky working a crowd. The Clinton years created virtually no Democratic stars; it's a telling legacy. Rubin could be the exception.

Wesley Clark. Democrats have fantasized about running a general since Dwight Eisenhower was up for grabs. Clark is this year's general, with a Rhodes Scholar twist. I think his Hamlet-act and TV punditry dimmed this bulb. Anyone know of any other good general's laying around?

John McCain. OK, another rules violation. But no recent presidential candidate has spewed less BS per spoken word than John McCain. For that reason alone, all political junkies must root for a return of the Straight Talk Express. Most issues aside, he'd be a great Democrat. And some Democrats have seriously tried to get McCain to run. Keep hope alive.

Carly Fiorina. She has already won one national campaign, the Hewlett-Packard and Compaq merger deal. She has a great story as a teacher turned saleswoman who worked here way to the very tip-top of the corporate man-archy. She has been untouched by scandal so far. And from what I've seen and read, she's hugely charming. She is almost certainly overqualified for the Democrats.

George Mitchell. Amazing credentials: prosecutor, judge, Senate Majority Leader and diplomat. He's also a smart campaign tactician (he engineered the Democrats' recovery of the Senate when Ronald Reagan was in office). Sadly, he can make a person feel lectured at just by saying, "No lettuce, please." There are some real charisma issues here; not the stuff of drafts.

Sam Nunn. See George Mitchell.

Bill Cohen. Republican, former Clinton Defense Secretary, poet, married to an African-American woman -- Cohen offers immense marketing potentials. But he's not, as Elaine on Seinfeld might say, draft-worthy.

Howard Dean. You may think Dr. Dean is a regular candidate, but really he has been summoned by a spontaneous, populist e-draft. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. If I don't, the Dean Defense Force will bombard me with spam and stink bombs.

My choice? Powell-Rubin. Or McCain-Fiorina.

I wonder if Warren Buffet would ever run?


Dick Meyer, the Editorial Director of CBSNews.com, is based in Washington. For many years, he was a political and investigative producer for The CBS News Evening News With Dan Rather.

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Against the Grain


By Dick Meyer