"It's only 2006," I wrote way back in March of that year over at Editor & Publisher, "and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has already written off Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential race. She warned that Democrats "are racing like lemmings toward a race where, as one moaned, 'John McCain will dribble Hillary Clinton's head down the court like a basketball.'"
But she yearned for Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. At 44, Obama, she pointed out, was already a year older than John F. Kennedy when he became president.
"The weak and pathetic Democrats seem to move inexorably toward candidates who turn a lot of people off," she advised. "They should find someone captivating with an intensely American success story... and shape the campaign around that leader....
"The Democrats should not dismiss a politically less experienced but personally more charismatic prospect as 'an empty vessel.' Maybe an empty vessel can fill the room."
She added that it may be true "that Americans, as one Democrat told me, 'will never elect a guy as president who has a name like a Middle East terrorist.'" But the Democrats, she said, do not "stand for anything" and they have "no champion at a time when people are hungry for an exciting leader, when the party should be roaring and soaring against the Bushies' power-mad stumbles.
"They should groom an '08 star who can run on the pledge of doing what's right instead of only what's far right....Democrats think Senator Potential's experience does not match Senator Pothole's [but] Republicans won with Ronald Reagan and W. by taking guys with more likeability and sizzle than experience."
For some time, Dowd promoted Obama before, inevitably, criticizing that very lack of experience and calling him "O'bambi." But at the start she had sketched the scenario that followed pretty damn accurately.
Oh, in the same column she wondered if Tom Brokaw might fit the bill for the Dems. Oh, well, there's always the VP slot. But could Tom help them carry Ohio?
Greg Mitchell's new book is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq. It features a preface by Bruce Springsteen and has been hailed by Bill Moyers, Glenn Greenwald and others.