Man Without Qualities

Monday, November 10, 2003

What, Again? Already?

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts has fired his campaign manager .... Jim Jordan ... He replaced Mr. Jordan with Mary Beth Cahill, a former chief of staff to Mr. Kerry's fellow senator in Massachusetts, Edward M. Kennedy. Ms. Cahill also worked with Emily's List, a political action committee that raises money on behalf of female candidates who support abortion rights. ... The move by Mr. Kerry marks the second upheaval in a campaign that just six months ago was viewed by many Democrats as a well-organized organization that was rolling toward the nomination. A week after Mr. Kerry announced, Chris Lehane, a senior adviser who had worked for Al Gore, quit, and later joined the campaign of Wesley K. Clark, the retired general.

Does this mean that Senator Kerry ever actually thought he could get the nomination?

UPDATE: Hope under the Capitol Dome springs eternal - and usually ill-advised. An astute reader forwards this TNR article explaining that Senators run for president because, among other fatuous considerations, running for president allows a person to spend the year pretending he or she actually is president. It' sad, really.

The US Senate is a particularly strange place. I have noted previously that at any given time the Senate contains about 100 people who each think they would be a better president than the then-current resident of 1600 Pennsylvannia Avenue, but it's a place that also imposes a cautious "get-along-go-along" approach on those same 100 people that is completely at odds with the leadership and executive talents required of a good president.

To my eye, all of the Senators now running for president - other than Edwards - seem to conceive of a presidential election as some kind of gigantic cloakroom deal to be cut. In Edwards case, it's a gigantic jury argument to win. Who cares - he seems to say - what the jury thinks a week after they vote?

God help us all if any of it happens.

Dole, Mondale, Humphrey, Gore. The list of creatures of the Senate that the voters have recently rejected is long. And if Hillary Clinton hangs around the Senate until 2008, she's probably finished as a possible president because of the likely effects on her mind. But she thinks she is maintaining her prospects by serving in that body. The poor benighted fool.

An ex-governor, even one from a very small state, has a better chance (Carter, Clinton, Dean - not to mention large-state governors Reagan and GWB). Kennedy - 43 years ago - was the last person elected to the presidency out of the Senate. But he wasn't even a true creature of the Senate. He was placed there by his dad and clearly did not depend on making it work for him. His resources came from elsewhere.

Johnson was a quintessential creature of the Senate - and the course of his presidency (in my view) shows it - and not to his advantage. The course of the Vietnam War under Johnson suggests a Congressional policy amputation. He used his Senate leverage to get much ill-considered legislation passed without complete Congressional checks and balances. Some good things - like the Civil Rights Act - were passed with his pressure. But he probably could have done that if he had stayed in the Senate, and the Senate probably could have produced a better bill.

FURTHER UPDATE: More out the Kerry door.

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