The Dems want a War Admiral, while the GOP longs for a Terminator

If Bush keeps evaporating in the polls, look for Karl to play the Rudy card.

Topics: 2004 Elections, George W. Bush, Rudy Giuliani, Arnold Schwarzenegger,

Arnold’s win in California has unsettled political consultants everywhere. It’s forced them to rethink the baggage issue. Perhaps baggage is good. Perhaps in the post-embarrassment era it’s actually an asset in American public life to have survived a protracted period of hideous and shaming revelations about your private life, and still be standing after a tidal wave of trash has rolled over your head. It worked for Bill Clinton — he’s never been bigger. It works for Hillary — she’s never been better. Now look at Arnold. When it came to the vote, who did California want? The Masher or the Mushmouth? The guy who copped the feel or the guy who blew the deal?

It gives Democrats pause about Wesley Clark. He looks so perfect on paper. The four stars. The keen mind. The neat head. But where’s his baggage? The great thing about having survived a media gangbang is that it quells the need to answer questions. Anything bad can be dismissed as an old story.

New York’s “progressive” Democratic power players are getting frantic. Until a few months ago they were still numb from the one-two punch of 2000 and 9/11. Bush’s decline in the polls jerked them awake. Their loathing of Bush has risen to such a crescendo they will take any candidate who looks like a winner. A lot of them are excited by Dean, but they’re ready to ditch him the minute he looks like a loser. They don’t want to dick around with noble lost causes. They don’t have time for self-appointed Seabiscuits. They want a War Admiral — and they trudge from chic little soirees for Wes Clark to gilded breakfasts for John Kerry hoping to find one.

At a “political brainstorm” supper the other night, hosted by a brand-name author who’s also a Democratic activist, a bunch of West Side legends with plenty of cash to spare sat with dinner on their laps and harangued each other about the need for action. In truth, the host had convened them so he could put the arm on them on behalf of the DNC, but they wouldn’t have come if he’d told them that. “Money’s not the issue here,” one of them thundered (to the host’s chagrin). “Everyone in this room has given at least half a million bucks to the party in their time.” No, they wanted to talk ideas. They wanted to talk tactics. Most of all they wanted to talk winning.



One recurring theme was the longing for a rapid-response war room to beat off Republican “disinformation.” When Rush Limbaugh’s OxyContin habit hit the airwaves, for instance, Democrats lacked what Republicans would have had in their shoes: a ready-to-go bullet-point list of all the times Rush had mouthed off about how drugs are all the fault of permissive liberals. “I’m happy to give money to that!” shouted a theater producer.

“We don’t have a bulldog to run it!” cried a former prime-time star. “We need a bulldog!”

“Why can’t we get James Carville back?” demanded a Broadway actress.

“He’s doing ‘K Street’,” replied a screenwriter, matter-of-factly.

Another James Carville then!” said the actress, rising restlessly to her feet and pacing the room.

Another bulldog!” cried the prime-time star.

Al Franken has become the Democrats’ messiah. His well-publicized row with Fox’s bloodhound Bill O’Reilly — as much as anything to do with Iraq — was the magic wand that broke the Republican spell and turned Roger Ailes back into a frog. Any Manhattan dinner party you show up at these days feels like a Franken publishing party, with a pile of “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them” sitting on the hall table as a shiny guest giveaway. Franken was the star — greeted with shrieks and yodels of delight — who followed Al Sharpton’s Little Richard routine at the DNC dinner at the New York Sheraton after the Pace University debate.

At Bruce Springsteen’s tour-climaxing concerts at Shea Stadium last week, the Boss prefaced “Born in the USA” by telling the mammoth crowds, “Pick up Al Franken’s book!”

New York Republicans talk privately about the need to crank up the other big stars on the GOP bench if Bush keeps heading south. Arnold may be the biggest of them all by the time of next year’s convention in New York — or else he may be the party’s biggest embarrassment.

Meanwhile, there’s Rudy Giuliani — and, unlike Arnold, Rudy is constitutionally eligible for a spot on the national ticket. Friends wonder if Rudy is gearing up to be ready when — O.K., if — Bush dumps Cheney. His friends say he spends an inordinate amount of time on the phone with Karl Rove. Rudy would be W’s ace in the hole, should he get scared (and brave) enough to play it.

The current V.P.’s ominous scowl doesn’t do much to lift the nation’s spirits. On “Meet the Press” he looked so freighted with administration secrets he seemed to be addressing Tim Russert from a low crouch position. Cheney’s Halliburton connection clings to the administration like a gust of halitosis. Rudy would be political Binaca. And his 9/11 halo would help the president shift focus away from Iraq misadventures and back to fighting the terrorists who actually attacked us.

Rudy stands in the public mind for lionhearted crisis management. His new Churchillian receding hairline gives him more gravitas than ever. As V.P. he could bigfoot the homeland security portfolio without the political hazards that have sidelined Tom Ridge. And as the corporate scandals revive with a slew of high-profile trials, Rudy brings credentials as a Wall Street crime buster.

Maybe New Yorkers love the Giuliani-for-veep scenario because of what it promises for the presidential election in 2008 — a revival of Rudy vs. Hillary. (The original version of that show closed in out-of-town tryouts, though the female star triumphed with a solo act.) The two of them may have more baggage than the hold of a 747, but they have prevailed.

Tina Brown's column appears every Thursday in Salon.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>