Who imagined less then three years ago -- of four giants battling for national office -- only Joe Biden would stand alone today, his reputation intact? Well, not AS tarnished. Yes, the least obnoxious deserves to run for president.
Of course, it's a trick question. Noteworthy for rocking few boats, and no Alaskan ice flows, Biden's countless terms as an intellectually mediocre, party hack immunized him from the worst fallout of a failed presidency. Charmingly gaffe-ridden, this average Joe ends up the most likeable of the crew, unsullied by displays of bad faith, broken promises, ineptitude and, for Repugs, truly crass, off-the-wall pandering.
But likeability doesn't cut the hard irony: Obama's uphill chances improve by dumping Biden for any beguiling Dem from Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, or Virginia. Obama owns Delaware's three electoral votes, but hardly the others.
McCain, Bottom Feeder
Greatly diminished, John McCain has self-detonated, the sham "maverick" pose now aptly trashed forever. So frantic not to lose again, he seized every racist, nativist slingshot within reach. McCain's the walking dead, any legacy soured by scurrilous, anti-Hispanic hallucinations. And idiotic-Cheneyesque "bomb everyone" militarism. Yes, McCain would have been worse -- and is, senility aside.
Which leaves us with Palin and Obama, so different in biography and personality, yet whose comparable, star-crossed destinies repay study. What? Who dares compare an illiterate, uncompromising, whining V.P. loser-quitter -- reduced to Twitter catcalling -- with an educated, Nobel Prized, smooth-talking, compromise-loving, stay-the-course presidential winner?
First off, Palin and Obama overlap as the young, attractive, inexperienced class of hustlers born nationally in '08. But fresh, charismatic faces, propelled by catchy oratory, came alongside big promises, thus the speed and magnitude of parallel falls from grace. Unlike McCain, they're still in the game, fighting for respectability, if not legacy, adoration, and comfortable retirements. Their rapid plunges follow similar meteoric rises, becoming classic models not only of media hype but what happens when juicy promises betray products NOT delivered. Politicians lose face when they're clearly in over their heads.
Palin's '15 Minutes' Never Ends
Admittedly, Palin is unelectable nationally, though polling mid-teens against primitive Repugs. Unlike Obama, who still boasts a whopping 50% chance of re-election, depending how off-kilter or crazed is his opponent. Sideswiped by more calculating Tea Party nuts Bachmann and Perry, Palin looks not likely to transcend media celebrity, Christian cheerleader, or cash-cow "author" much diminished as king-maker, she can still, however, channel takings into SarahPAC. While a tiny 8% of surveyed GOP leaders want Palin in, her mission continues as Tea-vangelist preacher for the lucrative church of Palin. In 2012, Palin could help in the boonies, as Perry will in the deep south and Bachmann in the 19th C. Midwest heartland. Be a rogue: run, Sarah, run.
Without doubt, whatever slick, media-friendly pitches Palin and Obama foisted on us in '08, almost all are discredited, thus their collective, precipitous plunges in approval. However Palin differs from Obama, heart-driven loyalists show little mercy when slapped by: 1) bad faith losers or quitters, 2) hypocrisy, 3) craven ambition, or 4) betrayals of great and explicit promise. Don't blame me: I am just the messenger.
Buyer's Remorse -- or Reality?
Even "fool me twice" right-wing numbskulls won't abide chronic losers, keen for stupider sound bites but from fresher sources. Did not Palin and Obama proclaim, above all, "we're different -- up from, by and for the people, not self-interested, money-driven politicians." Oops, as treasure totally rules Palin while Obama hunts up a billion-dollar war chest. Quitting office, like knowing how to fight hard, is not for Obama, but both newcomers stay true to their highly pragmatic, even bankable "objects of desire." It ain't about helping poor, sick, or oppressed.
Frankly, mass revulsion against unsuccessful hustling made visible is perfectly rational (a rarity in our times). Voters just got stung with how phony, ill-prepared politicians operate, especially under stress. Even two high-quality, political "performance artists" must face the music when the gaps between supply (their skills) vs. demand (reality) are broadcast far and wide. Well, perhaps Palin never agreed to learn the art of politics, or get beyond sound bites. Enough voters have learned (or were forced to learn) who Palin and Obama were all along (ambitious lightweights, easily bored, eager for some next gig) and what they're likely to do -- and not do, like risk political capital to satisfy principles. Rogues and mavericks, every one.
Does Obama Get Ignition?
Truth is, the mock debt-ceiling crisis, combined with right-wing attacks on Social Security and Medicare, look like GOP general election death traps. The Repug irrationality to pitch only ideological "2010 voters" will backfire, as big majorities, however pissed off, reject extremist blather about "good" defaults. Hogwash. With the right boxing itself into tighter corners, the incredibly inert Obama hasn't lost it all yet, and Andrew Hacker finds positive trends: