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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.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Holding out for a zero:

» The Thunder Run linked with Web Reconnaissance for 10/24/2006

» La Shawn Barber's Corner linked with Why Barack Obama is Overrated

Comments (30)

First of all, Bush picked Q... (Below threshold)

First of all, Bush picked Quayle for two main reasons: to create some excitement, and to appease the conservatives, who had always viewed him with suspicion. Bush the Elder wouldn't have felt comfortable elevating a rival, and didn't intend to follow the Carter-Reagan trend of giving Veeps a bit more responsibility anyway. Remember, Quayle was regarded as an up 'n' comer in the party, although no one expected him to come up so quickly.

Quayle had, at least, served two terms in the House and was in his second Senate term when he was tapped. The general consensus was that he was insufficiently qualified by experience - to be VICE President.

Now, Obama is a potential first-tier Presidential candidate with significantly less experience? Go figure . . .

It goes to show how short the Democratic bench really is.

If W has taught us anything... (Below threshold)

If W has taught us anything, it's that you can win a presidential election with virtually no resume at all but on charisma and fund raising muscle. The rules have changed and Obama fits the new paradigm well. His lack of beltway experience, with its requesite contradictory voting record, relieves him of having to defend his stance on a single issue by justifying his vote on a complex piece of legislation, which is a trap that many Senators running for president fall into.

Bush elected on charisma? ... (Below threshold)

Bush elected on charisma? Sorry, I stopped reading right there.

He's the president you can ... (Below threshold)

He's the president you can sit and have a beer with, remember? ;)

Jay, Quayle was my senator ... (Below threshold)
Brian the Adequate:

Jay, Quayle was my senator when he was chosen to run for the Veep spot. To compare Obama's current record to Quayle's at that time is a grave disservice to Quayle.

Quayle was gaffe prone as a national candidate and VP but he was qualified at least on paper from his activities in the Senate where he was regarded as a smart Senator and a rock solid conservative. And remember he was running for VP not president.

Obama may certainly show over time that he has what it takes to make a run for President. Heck he might even make a good president. But with his record of accomplishments being that he is good looking and well spoken, he needs to accomplish something before he is taken seriously. Of course since he would run as a democrat the accomplishment bar is lower for a nomination (see Kerry, John and Edwards, John)

Obama's run could have many... (Below threshold)

Obama's run could have many reasons, or a combination.

1) One is a bait and switch act. Obama generates interest in Democrats during the Primaries and then drops out or becomes Hillary's VP.

2) Another is that he's been talked up much like McCain at one point to Superstar status. McCain has destroyed his political career with his radio remark trivializing the First Admendment in the face of his vision of Fianance Reform. The longer Obama waits, the more we will get to know the real Obama. The more likely he will be found no different from the rest.

3) He didn't vote on the Iraq War in the beginning. That gives him less liability in criticizing the Iraq War. If the '08 Democratic campaign is going to have Iraq as its center piece, Obama is in a better position to attack Republicans over it.

4) Doing the math, and assuming an elected President will likely be re-elected, if Obama doesn't run in '08, his next opportunity will be '16.

Illinois Sen. Obama (not "O... (Below threshold)

Illinois Sen. Obama (not "Osama," as Ted Kennedy once mistakenly called him) takes the liberal position on all issues. He may emerge as the anti-Hillery candidate, but only because he's not HER and doesn't carry the baggage from her husband's administration, not because they have any real policy differences. As someone that's seen his rise in Illinois, my view is that he's a pretty, new face but that everything else about him is Democrat politics as usual.

I recall polls from a few y... (Below threshold)

I recall polls from a few years back where 'the unnamed canidate' scored higher than any of the named Democrats running against G.W. Bush (Kerry, Dean, etc). Could it be that the DNC is trying to run 'the unnamed canidate' (aka the empty suit.. aka..)?

Obama would not have been e... (Below threshold)

Obama would not have been elected Senator, if the MSM had not dug up dirt on his Dem primary opponent. Obama then had it made and got the spot on the ballot.

Then the MSM went after Obama's GOP opponent and was able to get a friendly udge to open up his divorce and child-custody records. There were charges and counter-charges, but there was some 'juicy' stuff that the Chicago Tribune decided was too good not to print.

Then the Illinois GOP imploded. The leadership not only abandoned their candidate before he could mount a defense, but they ignored other qualified Republican candidates, and brought in Alan Keyes.

Obama got in without being seriously challenged, and by the Il GOP leadership being completely incompetent.

Great post. I can't help b... (Below threshold)
Lorie Byrd:

Great post. I can't help but wonder if Obama will do something to show himself "not ready for primetime" as John Edwards did in that infamous MTP interview about foreign policy and in his debate performances, particularly the one when he didn't know what the DOMA was.

First, most presidents do N... (Below threshold)
Florence Schmieg:

First, most presidents do NOT get re-elected. Clinton and Bush 43 bucked the odds there. Second, in this age of 24 hour cable news and image-driven politics, looking nice and talking a good game could actually work. I agree that he is not qualified but I expect Hillary will convince him to be her VP candidate. That way he will add the experience he needs to make his own run later and he has plenty of time since he is quite young. That assumes that Ds win in 08, not a foregone conclusion.

Oh, for God's sake. Occam'... (Below threshold)

Oh, for God's sake. Occam's Razor. The simplest explanation. He's an articulate, clean-cut black man who doesn't sound like a loony tune moonbat or a Jesse Jackson race pimp.

That's it. That's his appeal.

And if Rethuglicans say anything about his less-than-stellar resume, well that's because we're all racist knuckledragging Jeebus-freak homophobes, remember?

Bush II, Clinton, Reagan, N... (Below threshold)

Bush II, Clinton, Reagan, Nixon, Johnson, Eisenhower, Truman, Roosevelt were re-elected

The exceptions being: Kennedy, Ford, Carter, Bush I.

Kennedy is an exception due to his assassination. Ford is also an exception in light of Nixon's resignation. He was in part punished for Republican's sins.

That leaves Carter and Bush I as two of the last ten Presidencies to not be re-elected that didn't have extenuating circumstances beyond their control.

First, most presid... (Below threshold)
First, most presidents do NOT get re-elected. Clinton and Bush 43 bucked the odds there.

Also Reagan. And Nixon. And Eisenhower. And Truman. And Roosevelt...

Ever since the development ... (Below threshold)

Ever since the development of MSM as we know it, first with news reels and later TV, incumbancy is a huge advantage.

about the 2-terms - ... (Below threshold)
sean nyc/aa:

about the 2-terms -
it's extremely rare for there to be consecutive 2-term presidents. There's Clinton-GWB of course, but before that (if I remember correctly) there is only one other in history. (Jefferson - Madison maybe?). I don't think there have ever been 3 2-term presidents in succession.

How much experience did:<br... (Below threshold)

How much experience did:
Teddy R.

Just my two cents, but I ag... (Below threshold)

Just my two cents, but I agree with Florence above. I think Obama is being groomed as VP candidate for 2008. He could be vulnerable on the experience issue when it commes to a presidency run this early in his national political career. Perhaps folks like Hillary who may feel they've been gunning for the presidency a lot longer than Obama will feel they deserve THE shot in 2008. Considering that presidential losers are not likely to be attractive a second time around, the party might not want to waste Obama on the top spot in 2008. Who knows what 2008 will look like anyway?

Hillary will not be the Dem... (Below threshold)

Hillary will not be the Democratic Presidential candidate in 2008. I think there is a better chance that Gore would get it than Hillary.

Gore's candidacy will bomb ... (Below threshold)

Gore's candidacy will bomb once he finds out that the piggy bank is empty.

Hillary and Bill have plenty of cash and they continue to raise money for her 'Senate race', which she can then use to run for President. Bill has billions of dollars to jet around for his 'Global Initiative' appearances, which will make him and Hillary 'visible' ie: face time on TV without spending a dime which need to be accounted for per election laws.

Obama will get the support of Sharpton, Jackson and their campaign funds.

Kerry still has his wife's billions to draw on for 'loans'.

Gore could divest himself of his Occidental Petroleum stock, but only the moonbats will give him any money; and that will be limited because of the financial resources of the others, and the fact that Hillary, Kerry and Obama will start spouting the far-left line just enough to pull Al's supporters away from him.

Damn, Jay, you read my mind... (Below threshold)

Damn, Jay, you read my mind again. Mr. Obama a serious Presidential contender in '08? This is from the party that made fun of the candidacy of a former actor, one who had been governor of the most populous state in the union prior to running for president.

Excitement over substance and experience, it seems.

Lincoln was a representativ... (Below threshold)

Lincoln was a representative from Illinois, and a circuit court judge (which may have been an elected position at the time.) He also was from an era where campaigns were run to give your posotions on issues.

Roosevelt was a Polic COmmissioner of New York City, Asst Sec of the Navy, NY State Assemblyman and VP to Henry Harrison.

FDR was also Asst Sec to the Navy, a state rep, Governor of New York and ran for VP on a failed ticket.

This is, how shall we say it, LOADS more experience in the public eye than Sen. Obama has, and, come to think of it, this also more experience than Sen. Clinton has as well.

You heard it here first:</p... (Below threshold)

You heard it here first:

Obama bin Fadin

The guy's an empty suit who squeaked into the Senate via implosions on the part of his opponents. He may someday be a political force to be reckoned with, but not in 2008.

"But just who is he? What d... (Below threshold)

"But just who is he? What does he stand for?

Beats the heck out of me."

More crack research by Wizbang. Doesn't he have a book and a voting record? Maybe you should have read them before posting.

"Hey, can someone help me out here?"

It's gone far beyond that point...

I know his may be a shallow... (Below threshold)

I know his may be a shallow position but I belive it is a significant factor: His name sounds too close to Osama and people will make an unconscious link in their minds. Heck, even Teddy Kennedy slaughtered his name:

The Associated Press reported on January 12, "Kennedy also mangled the name of the Democrats' new star, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, calling him 'Osama bin ... Osama ... Obama.' "

Then he'd be a shoe in for ... (Below threshold)

Then he'd be a shoe in for the Democratic Primaries.

If that's all the Democrats... (Below threshold)

If that's all the Democrats have to offer is a pair of wannabe's (Clinton and Obama) in the 2008 elections they're in for a very rude awakening.
A polarizing figure and a lawyer with no experience, sure, I can see that happening in some LLL alternative universe, but not in reality. They're desperatly grasping at straws in a vain attempt to reclaim legislative dominance.
I can't wait to see the aftermath.

To many observers,... (Below threshold)
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.

I think you forgot one thing in that list of appeals: he's black. It's a known tactic of the Democrats. You ask them why we should elect candidate Y and they'll tell you, "Because then candidate Y will be the first black/female/paraplegic/midget/(some other underrepresented minority)!" This was their only argument for Geraldine Ferraro. It is their only argument for Keith Ellison in Minnesota (he's Muslim). And, at this point, it is their only argument for Obama.

I much prefer the honesty of the Republicans. If you're right on the issues, we'll elect you regardless of race, sex, et cetera (i.e. Michael Steele). If you turn out to be loony tunes, like Alan Keyes, then we'll drop you like a bad habit.

(BTW, I really liked Alan Keyes and voted for him in the 2000 Presidential primaries because he said things that Bush should have said, and Bush was my governor at that time. I still don't know what happened to Keyes in the 2004 IL senate race. Was he always that crazy or did something happen shortly before 2004 to short all of his circuits?)

You do disservice to Dan Qu... (Below threshold)

You do disservice to Dan Quayle. While Quayle should never have been a national politician, he was an excellent Senator and Representative from Indiana. Unlike Obama, he ran two VERY tough races to get where he was. He unseated an 8-term incumbent to win his House seat in 1976 and beat Birch Bahy, a Democratic powerhouse and father of current Sen. Evan Bahy, in 1980 to win his Senate seat. He was the underdog in both.

Second, Souter wasn't the only "Stelth" nominee. Thomas was one too. He had served with distinction in several administrative capacities, but his record on hard issues was very soft, and his only judge experience was 10 months on the DC Circuit Court. All I'm saying is that it doesn't always turn out bad.

Anyhow, Obama's resume is thin, you are right. That said, resume isn't everything, Reagan was a pretty-good-but-not-exceptional Governor of California. Not saying Obama's experience compares, it doesn't, just pointing out that resume isn't everything.

The other thing Obama has is that he can explain himself well. Virtually nobody else in politics right now can explain his positions and come off as reasonable and thoughtful as he can. He's a communicator that's halfway between Clinton and Reagan. I think he's more genuine then Clinton, and that he's not as in touch with the common man as Reagan, but he's got elements of both.

Here's what I'm getting at: Yes, his resume is thin, but he's very, very, very dangerous. I'm just hoping he chickens out in 2008. We'll trash Hillary and that'll lock up the SC for us. Stevens won't be able to last that long.

Speaking of SC...how will M... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

Speaking of SC...how will McCain do there this time around?
For the Republicans it seems like McCain, Rommney and Rudi right now...all of them seem pretty center.
I know a lot depends on upcoming elections.
It will be interesting to see who steps up.






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