Jewish World Review Sept. 30, 2003 / 4 Tishrei, 5764

Bernadette Malone

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Will the Dems finally produce an alpha male before it's time to name a nominee who can scare Bush? | Woe to Wesley Clark. In Thursday night's Democratic Presidential debate in New York City, the West Point graduate, retired Army general, and Supreme Allied Commander of NATO couldn't even seize the title of Alpha Male.

Instead, Vermont Gov. Howard Dean — with his Yale brains, Park Avenue-born arrogance, and Burlington ruggedness — dominated the forum of 10 candidates at Pace University, nestled in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Former Republican Clark, healing from his party-change operation and showcasing his new Democrat gender, surged in polls when he announced his candidacy two weeks ago - a testament to Democrats' fears that Dean is too liberal to defeat President George W. Bush.

But the Arkansas general seemed a bit hesitant and unprepared at the podium Thursday night, as though he had wound up there by taking the Greyhound from Little Rock to the Port Authority, and then got off the subway at the wrong stop. Dean grew up nine stops away from Pace on the No. 4 and 5 trains, and his hometown advantage over Clark was obvious as he growled and sniped like a native New Yorker ordering a deli sandwich.

Joe Lieberman was the man everyone wished were a candidate for President instead of Vice President in 2000, after he debated Dick Cheney so impressively. But this time around, poor Joe wasted his time trying to sound both Republican and funny. (Everyone knows you can't be both, unless your name is P.J. O'Rourke.) His most memorable line from the debate was something about foxes guarding the henhouse and the hens getting plucked. "Plucked," he cautioned the audience to hear correctly. How embarrassing for him.

Though his defense of middle-class tax cuts and mention of New Hampshire firefighter Ted Walsh ought to be appreciated, John Kerry missed his opportunity to catapult himself back to frontrunner status. Instead Kerry made his most important contribution by nobly standing up for his weak congressional colleague against the class bully, Alpha Male Dean.

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The Vermont governor, with a flash of his infamous temper, had been barking about Dick Gephardt's comparison of Dean's position on Medicare reform to the Republicans of the 104th Congress. "Well, in defense of Dick Gephardt, I didn't hear him say he [Dean] was like Newt Gingrich; I heard him say that he stood with Newt Gingrich when we were struggling to hold on to Medicare," Kerry offered patricianly — as though he were resolving a bidding dispute at Sotheby's.

Gephardt, forever reminding his labor union constituency that he is the son of a Teamster, had a good night insofar as for the first time in his Presidential political career, he didn't look like the son of the other candidates.

Instead, the dubious honor of eternal boyishness went to Dennis Kucinich - the congressman from Ohio who was known as the "Boy Mayor" of Cleveland when he was elected in 1977. Kucinich was only 31 that year, and he appears not to have aged much. And, judging from his championing of a single-payer national health care system that would socialize one-seventh of the U.S. economy, he also seems not to have matured much since his hippie days, either.

Joining Gephardt and Edwards in the ranks of the young and restless was John Edwards, the hot-shot North Carolina trial lawyer who was only elected to the Senate in 1998 and has no prior political experience, but has been told by consultants that he is good-looking enough to be President.

The Rev. Al Sharpton was so comical with his excellent one-liners that one wondered whether he had meant to participate in the previous night's fracas between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Arianna Huffington in California, the debate in which Arianna shrieked about Arnold's sexism and Arnold offered her a role in "Terminator 4".

Carol Moseley Braun also gave a comical appearance at the debate, but not because she had any good one-liners. The ex-senator from Illinois was funny just for thinking that she should run for President after voters ran her out of Washington in 1998 for courting a murderous Nigerian dictator and having a campaign manager boyfriend who was a registered agent of Nigeria.

And Bob Graham. We almost forgot Bob Graham. But Bob Graham won't forget Bob Graham. The Florida senator remembers everything. He has been recording every waking moment of his life for the past 26 years in his diary, parts of which were revealed in the 2000 race: "8:25: Awaken at MLTH (Miami Lakes Town House); 8:45-9:35: Kitchen, family room. Eat breakfast, branola cereal with peach; 9:35-9:40: Complete dressing. Watch Meet the Press, etc."

Will the Democrats produce an alpha male before it's time to name a nominee who can scare George W. Bush? Apparently only if Washington's ultimate Alpha Male, Hillary Clinton, changes her mind and runs.

Comment on JWR contributor Bernadette Malone's column by clicking here.


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© 2003, Bernadette Malone