by Mel Griffith
It looks like the Democratic primary is over for all practical purposes. I am sorry to see it go. I was hoping it would go all the way to the convention and have a few all nighters there. It was the best show around, far surpassing the Super Bowl in entertainment value, despite Janet Jackson's efforts to make half-time memorable. After all, most people watching the Super Bowl had seen a breast before, so Janet's wasn't all that interesting except to radio and TV people who have to fill up air time with some kind of trivia, and have already rehashed the Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant cases about 400 times. However, nobody ever saw anything like Gov. Dean's screaming fit after he got unexpectedly clobbered in Iowa. The Super Bowl only had two teams, but the primary had eight or ten contestants, about half a dozen of whom were seriously trying to get the opportunity to be blown away by George Bush next November. The others were only running for the entertainment value, sort of the political version of the half-time show, except they focused on weird political ideas instead of weird behavior. Besides the suspense of who was going to win, there were other fascinating mysteries, such as wondering what incredibly stupid thing Gov. Dean would say next, or trying to figure out when some of the losers would figure out that they were losers and go home and get out of the way.
The biggest loser in the recent turn of events in the primary wasn't even running this time. That's Al Gore. Al has become a has-been, rarely mentioned in the present campaign. That's not a good situation for somebody who has been dreaming of being president since he was about two years old. Since he was swamped in Tennessee in the last presidential election, it's not likely he could get his senate seat back again, the way Hubert Humphrey did in Minnesota after he lost in '68 or Barry Goldwater did in Arizona after he lost in '64. Therefore his best bet for comeback try is to get in good with the Democratic nominee. For it to really count he needed to get on the bandwagon early, when his influence, if he has any, could make a difference. That way, if the Democrats somehow win, he could be in line for an important appointed position, perhaps Secretary of State, or given his eagerness to destroy the economy in order to save the environment, perhaps head of the EPA, where he could focus on taking away what few rights the EPA hasn't already taken from us. If the Democrats lose in 2004 as expected, he would have built a record as loyal party supporter for another run for president at a later date, just as Nixon did after he lost in 1960.
As soon as it appeared that Gov. Dean was the sure nominee, Gore did what looked at the time like a smart move and endorsed him. Then Dean self- destructed, the victim of his own big mouth, leaving Al out in the cold with the new Democratic in-crowd, who won't soon forget he jumped on the wrong bandwagon. Al's only hope now is that Kerry will lose so badly that he and his crowd will go back to Massachusetts and never be heard from again, the way the last Mass. liberal who ran for president did.
The primary campaign is pretty much over, but we still have the general election campaign to entertain us, and we still have the conventions to look forward to. There was a time when decisions were actually made at the conventions, but now they are just publicity events to give candidates for lesser offices around the country their five minutes of fame while they tell us how great the nominee is. The decisions are now made in the primaries, and that's not a bad thing, because conventions sometimes used to be examples of back room politics at its worst. Election years always keep life interesting, and this one promises to be even better than usual. Let us watch the campaign closely and enjoy it.