A party in a panic

Democrats cast a lov­ing eye on the crazy un­cle in the at­tic

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den wants to be pres­i­dent. Good for him. But twice bit­ten, more than a lit­tle shy. The only mem­o­rable mo­ment in ei­ther at­tempt was the speech he swiped from a Bri­tish politi­cian and gave with­out read­ing it first, de­scrib­ing him­self as the son of a Welsh coal miner. (Who knew, in­clud­ing Joe him­self?) Just a year ago, he seemed re­signed to be­ing re­mem­bered as only a vice pres­i­dent.

That seemed rea­son­able. Hil­lary Clin­ton was not just the slam-dunk fa­vorite of most Democrats, but widely re­garded as the only can­di­date worth con­sid­er­a­tion. Her re­sume as a for­mer first lady, a for­mer sen­a­tor and a for­mer sec­re­tary of state with a for­mi­da­ble gift for rais­ing money seemed qual­i­fi­ca­tion enough. Giddy Democrats imag­ined a first woman fol­low­ing the first black to the White House. Even as Pres­i­dent Obama was be­ing sworn in, her friends and fol­low­ers an­nounced them­selves “Ready for Hil­lary.”

She would be car­ried in a sedan chair to her coro­na­tion. The party tweaked the rules to make pre­tenders throw up their hands and climb aboard the Hil­lary wagon. Money flooded in and ev­ery­one said she would easily de­feat what­ever sec­ond-rate Jasper the Repub­li­cans nom­i­nated.

But the idea of Hil­lary Clin­ton was more at­trac­tive than Hil­lary her­self. Eight years of re­sume build­ing had done noth­ing to im­prove her or­a­tory. None of Bubba’s rogu­ish charm had rubbed off on her. She wrote a for­get­table au­to­bi­og­ra­phy that couldn’t sur­vive the book tour. She grew testy when­ever any­one, even if tug­ging his fore­lock, ques­tioned her about any­thing. It turned out that not ev­ery­one was ready for Hil­lary, af­ter all.

And then came the email scan­dal, and worse, her re­ac­tion to it. The com­mand­ing lead she en­joyed in the spring evap­o­rated when she con­tin­ued to re­mind ev­ery­one of who she was. Amer­i­cans be­gan telling poll­sters they didn’t trust her and they just didn’t like her very much.

True be­liev­ers in the party and in the media tried to re­as­sure them­selves that she wasn’t re­ally so bad as all that. She would be OK be­cause, af­ter all, she had a lot of money in the bank. Wasn’t money the mother’s milk of pol­i­tics? Hadn’t the party rules been cooked for her? Be­sides, who else was there?

There was only Bernie San­ders, a quirky old so­cial­ist sen­a­tor from Ver­mont, and no one could imag­ine Martin O’Malley, the for­mer gover­nor of Mary­land, as a se­ri­ous con­tender. Even when Mr. San­ders be­gan to cut into Hil­lary’s “in­sur­mount­able” lead, he was dis­missed as an ex­ile from a sum­mer’s day­dream.

But now, as the au­tumn leaves be­gin to flut­ter and fall, he has taken the lead in Iowa and New Hamp­shire. Match­ing Hil­lary against al­most any Repub­li­can, even Don­ald Trump, is enough to send chills down the spine of ev­ery Demo­cratic loy­al­ist. Maybe it’s time for a good man to come to the aid of the party.

Maybe that good man could be Joe Bi­den. His two aw­ful cam­paigns for pres­i­dent have been stuffed down the mem­ory hole. The ami­able un­cle who says crazy things can come down now from the at­tic. His friends think he’s pre­par­ing to run and he’s bidin’ his time, with an oc­ca­sional prayer that Hil­lary’s wounds, all self-in­flicted, will be mor­tal. He can step in at the last minute to save the party with­out hav­ing to de­bate or deal with vot­ers in the early pri­mary and cau­cus states. He’s said to be think­ing he can wait un­til af­ter Thanks­giv­ing to de­cide.

It’s a smart new strat­egy, but there must be a smart new Joe Bi­den be­hind it. Oth­er­wise, the party could be trad­ing one flawed con­tender for another. It’s still early, with the elec­tion more than a year away, but it’s get­ting later by the day.

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