August always marks the launch of tornado season, and today is especially poignant for it is the anniversary of the single most deplorable act in world history: the genocidal bombing of Hirsoshima -- an event that incinerated over 100,000 people in one atomic instant. Ominously August is the month when Democratic candidates traditionally meet their doom in a wasteland of presidential dreams.
It was August, 1968 when Mayor Richard Daley ordered the police to beat the Yippies in the streets of Chicago. Five hundred civilian casualties resulted, and Abraham Ribicoff addressed the Democratic National Convention to condemn Mayor Daley for his "Gestapo tactics." The Humphrey campaign dropped precipitously in the polls but valiantly fought back to a photo-finish with Nixon who barely eclipsed his rival in the sordid precincts of Daley's Chicago where the election was finally decided.
On August 1,1972 Thomas Eagleton withdrew from the Democratic ticket following embarrassing revelations about his medical history that included electroshock therapy.
In August 1984, rumors began to circulate about the unsavory business dealings of Geraldine Ferraro's husband, John Zaccaro, that destroyed her credibility and led to a massive Democratic defeat in the Reagan landslide.
In August 1988, George Bush, Sr.'s campaign launched the notorious "Willie Horton" TV spot that demonized Michael Dukakis who behaved like a deer caught in the headlights and failed to respond to the unscrupulous attack that drenched of racism.
In August 2004 the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth launched their scurrilous attack on John Kerry reversing the polarity of the election in one dreadful week when Robert Shrum vetoed any response while awaiting polling data that delayed the rebuttal for two tortuous weeks.
In August 2008 the Republican attack machine is zeroing in on Barack Obama with their brazen plan to finish him off this month by destroying his standing in the polls. This August the Republican method for executing another Democratic challenger will be a textbook political dissection. Karl Rove and his acolyte Steve Schmidt who is currently directing McCain's strategy unit have elevated character assassination to an art form.
At this point, the Republican attack on Obama appears to be working. Over the past eight weeks, Obama has dropped from a commanding double-digit lead to a dead even horse race that is now within the margin of error - or worse. If the campaign continues on this course, McCain will command a large lead by Labor Day.
However, the news is not all bad for there is still time aplenty for Obama to change the course of history and turn the tables on McCain. But the stakes are high and bound to go much higher next month when a flotilla of Republican 527s will launch simultaneous attacks on Obama from emails to websites to TV spots to a full length documentary designed to redefine his campaign as a dangerous cult of personality -- a mere fabrication of the mainstream media -- a puff of smoke -- a cavalcade of hype -- a particle of trivia -- nothing more, nothing less. In the Republican master plan, Obama's political demise will be a Pre-Columbian sacrifice by ritual mutilation -- a death by one thousand cuts inflicted via flickering images flashed across screens in our palms, our living rooms and our offices.
Barack Obama is on a remarkable journey. On his journey, he has to make a crucial decision. In the game of presidential chess, Obama must decide who shall become his Vice Presidential running mate -- a person capable of steering the ship of state should presidential succession take place during his term of office.
The Democratic National Convention convenes in two and a half weeks. Since the Olympics begin on Friday, there is little time for either Obama or McCain to make the selection of their Vice Presidential running mates public without the overbearing distraction of the Beijing Olympics.
Both candidates have deployed starkly different searches for their potential successors. McCain has openly considered a group of Republican hopefuls from Charlie Crist and Bobby Jindal and Mitt Romney.
Obama has observed the traditional ritual in his own way that is remarkable for its silence and mystifying in its obscurity. Word has leaked out that a few grandees are being vetted including: Evan Bayh, Joseph Biden, Tim Kaine and Kathleen Sebelius. While Hillary Clinton was being seriously considered, official word came last week that she would not be the nominee.
While each of these people have their merits, the most important characteristic for each of them is their strategic viability -- their unique abilities to help McCain or Obama win the election.
In a little studied and very under-reported poll by John Zogby, we learned that there is a very interesting method for determining the strategic viability of each of the Vice Presidential hopefuls.
On the Republican side in Zogby's poll, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney were virtually tied as capable of helping John McCain win the November election. For months the smart money has been on Romney for a constellation of reasons: personal rapport with McCain plus his immense personal wealth and his acceptance by the Bush Dynasty -- still the royal factor in the GOP.
But Zogby's results for the Democrats were much more interesting. While Hillary Clinton led the other Democrats, she brought the largest dollop of negatives to the ticket, in effect canceling out her positive impact. Bill Richardson had the same problem, while Joe Biden's negatives more than cancelled out his benefit to Obama. The results for Sebellius, Bayh and Kaine were just as depressing. They brought more negatives than positives to the ticket.
One person towered over the field of potential running mates for Obama, but he presents a mysterious paradox. Colin Powell was overwhelmingly the most popular potential Vice Presidential running mate for Barack Obama. Powell was the only candidate that would bring a net gain of circa thirty per cent to the Democratic ticket. A shift of this magnitude would cover the electoral map in a much deeper shade of blue and transform several states including: Virginia; North Carolina; South Carolina; Georgia; Colorado and New Mexico from red to blue.
The fact that Powell has been a Republican for the past decade or so is actually quite trivial. Powell is as apolitical as an American of his stature can be. A military commander tested in wartime, a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, a Secretary of State -- Powell strengthens Obama's candidacy more deeply and more consummately than any other American. If he were to select Powell, Obama would reinforce public confidence in his role as a unifier, a uniter, a unique presidential candidate capable of redefining American politics at a critical juncture in world history.
Over the past two months Powell has made it known that he is now counseling Obama. That tantalizing fact suggests that -- at the very least -- Powell will endorse Obama in what would be a devastating reversal of fortune for McCain. Powell's role as counselor opens the door to his potential role as Vice President.
August is the cruelest month for Democratic tickets, but Obama has the opportunity to reverse the polarity of a troubled nation and to inaugurate a new era of world history. Whether Obama will select Colin Powell or Evan Bayh or Joseph Biden could seal the fate of his rivals or liberate them to follow their tried and trusted formula of August demolitions followed by September desecrations and the surprising events that are bound to come in October.
In one fell swoop, Obama could press the button and change the course of history. Perhaps that is why he has so conscientiously shielded his vice presidential contemplations from the gaze of his staff, his confidants, his loyalists.
Time will eventually tell what the thunder said.
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