Jewish World Review March 30, 2001 / 6 Nissan, 5761
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THE U.S. Senate has 100 members and it's a sure bet that each one of them has thought lightning could -- and, if there were any justice, should -- strike and make this particular senator president.
Alas, presidential lightning has not been kind to the Senate since 1960, when two senators, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, were elected president and vice president. Of the seven presidents since Johnson, four, including the incumbent, were governors or ex-governors. Richard Nixon was an ex-senator, but 16 years gone from that office. Gerald Ford was a House member, and George Bush senior a kind of itinerant public servant.
What does tend to strike is vice-presidential lightning. The resulting wreckage has not been pretty.
Sen. Hubert Humphrey was Johnson's vice president but lost his own race for the presidency in 1968.
In 1972, Sen. Thomas Eagleton was forced to step down as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate after disclosures of a history of mental illness.
Sen. Bob Dole has the distinction of being both a losing vice-presidential and presidential candidate, under Ford in 1976 and then on his own in 1996.
Sen. Lloyd Bentsen was the running mate on the 1988 ticket that lost to Bush and Sen. Dan Quayle, but that administration lasted only one term, defeated by Bill Clinton and Sen. Al Gore. Gore, true to form, went on to lose on his own.
Has that dissuaded the present members of the Senate? Hardly. At least 10 of them, all Democrats, are considered potential candidates, and if President Bush stumbles badly you could probably make that 11 with the addition of GOP Sen. John McCain.
The most prominent -- but not the best known -- is Sen. Joe Lieberman, who, true to the senatorial fates, was Gore's losing running mate. Lieberman had the good fortune to be able to simultaneously run for re-election in Connecticut, so he is still in the Senate and actively hoping lightning will strike.
Lieberman is why American politics are so fascinating. Political junkies had always assumed that the first devoutly religious candidate who made an open show of his faith would be a Christian fundamentalist; instead, it was a liberal Orthodox Jew. He has the true politician's skill of not seeming to be a politician.
Backers of a 2004 Lieberman candidacy have been meeting informally --- and disingenuously. It's too early to begin planning a presidential campaign, said one, leaving a meeting where they already had.
The best-known of the possible Democrats is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who, if anything, has a little too much name recognition. Her upstart, upset victory in New York made her an automatic 2004 presidential possibility, but after the White House silver scandal, she may have to get re-election behind her and think about 2008.
None of the Democrats want to hurt Gore's feelings. He lost a heartbreaking race last year by a one-justice margin, and is the presumptive front-runner for the party's 2004 nomination, if only because no one else wants to be this early in the cycle. It makes you a target for all the other challengers.
If Gore ventures out to New Hampshire and Iowa, he could be trampled by any or all of his fellow Democrats and erstwhile Senate colleagues: In addition to Lieberman and Clinton, Evan Bayh, Ind.; Joseph Biden, Del.; Tom Daschle, S.D.; Chris Dodd, Conn.; Richard Durbin, Ill., John Edwards, N.C.; Russ Feingold, Wis.; and John Kerry, Mass.
With the possible exception of Daschle, the Senate Democratic leader, and Feingold, co-sponsor of campaign reform, and maybe not even them, the general public probably could not pick them out of a police lineup.
But that could change. Lightning could always
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