Who’ll Clean Up the Bush Mess? Gore and Clinton (Bill, That Is)

In the past, faced with the Hobson’s choice of voting for a bunch of crooks or a passel of idiots,

In the past, faced with the Hobson’s choice of voting for a bunch of crooks or a passel of idiots, I’ve generally preferred the former. They cost less in the end; few crooks are capable of causing as abiding and wide a circle of damage as a bunch of idiots suddenly handed the levers of real power.

A longstanding contempt for the Bush family, to which I am related in a vague Episcopal way (my late godfather was No. 41’s uncle,) and which I consider to incarnate a combination of venality and incompetence likely to be dangerous to the public welfare, led me to vote (without much enthusiasm) for Al Gore in 2000, and (with nausea right up to here in the old gorge) for John Kerry in 2004. It was a personal thing, really. And I truly, deeply do hate Dick Cheney.

Still, when Mr. Gore was adjudged the loser in 2000, I thought: What the hell, what’s the difference? By the 2004 election, we were in Iraq—no point as I saw it in continuing to bewail why we were there, we were there—and the kind of shrill, mindless, knee-jerk Bush-bashing that had become the vogue with the Michael’s crowd, the sort of people who don’t exactly mind their tax cuts even as they keen and rend garments, seemed to contribute nothing toward answering the question quo vadimus?

The problem really gets crucial, however, when the crooks morph into idiots, and that seems to have happened. This administration has become, in Jimmy Breslin’s incomparable phrase, the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Literally, that is, and not merely in the metaphoric sense of not telling the truth.

The evidence is all about. Iraq, obviously, is a mess. The Miers nomination, whether or not the nominee is a true believer or the Second Coming of Brandeis, or whatever it is anyone expects her to be, is by any standards a mess. While I have to regard with awe the circumstances that have permitted Judy Miller, in some quarters at least (the odious boy who inherited The Times, for one), to be held up as a paragon of virtue of any kind, this Plame business is a mess. I’m not as concerned as some about the outlook for the economy—but Washington’s handling of the public capital (my term for the power to draw—or not draw—on the full faith and credit of the taxpayer) is beginning to make the Bayou Fund boys look like Warren Buffett. A mess. Jack Abramoff, “Brownie,” David Savafian, etc. Big mess. Katrina. Mess. And, of course, the clincher is the scrabbling noise made by media vermin starting to scuttle down the hawser of a ship of state they suddenly suspect to be taking on water, led by rat-in-chief Thomas Friedman of The Times and the unwatchable Tim Russert.

So then—whither this great republic? As it happens, the other day, while the President was giving his utterly meretricious, false-fronted speech on the war on “terr’r,” another speech was being given elsewhere in the land, a speech I found to be truly Presidential.

The speaker was Al Gore. You can find his remarks at http://www.tpmcafe.com/story/2005/10/5/14301/6133.

And that gave me a thought—mischievous, possibly, but perhaps also pertinent. If I were Howard Dean, which mercifully I’m not, so let’s say that if I were in Howard Dean’s shoes, I’d give serious thought to the ideal Democrat ticket for 2008, and I’d start running them now. Running hard, against this administration. Now.

That ticket?

Gore and Clinton. Bill Clinton, that is.

Hey, don’t laugh! I’m serious.

You learn stuff in the wilderness, and I suspect Mr. Gore has. For one thing, the Beltway crap washes off, but not the idealism about what this country can make of itself. That’s 50 giant steps in the right direction.

Assuming there’s wiggle-room under the 22nd Amendment, I can’t think of a better V.P. than Bill Clinton. Yes, I’m one of what I suspect must be a million people whose political heartstrings were plucked by Nora Ephron’s piece about Clinton anger. I’ve felt it—have I ever! But there’s a time to let the anger go, a realization that’s allowed me to be good friends with all three of my ex-wives. And Bill Clinton’s the schmoozemeister supreme, as good an elbow-twister as L.B.J. was. Given his incredible powers of absorption, by now he’s a walking catalog of the whos, hows, whys and wherefores of the way things work outside Washington.

In my view, a good ticket puts the candidate with the “Presidential” qualities—the looks, the resonance, the eloquence—on top, and the candidate who knows how to get business done—on the Hill, in the “awl bidness”—in the two-hole. If they’d reversed the order on the ticket, could Johnson-Kennedy have beaten Nixon-Lodge? Maybe not. Could Lodge-Nixon have beaten Kennedy-Johnson? Think about it.

It’s just an idea—but, you know, crazier things have happened. And now is always the time that the best men should come to the aid of the party. Who’ll Clean Up the Bush Mess? Gore and Clinton (Bill, That Is)