Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Life after the Clintons: Mark Warner

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8/26/08

Joe Biden: He of the plagiarized speech; he of the bad hair weave; he of the long-winded and sonorous stemwinder and random aside. The one really good thing about Biden is that he is not Hillary and it is driving the Republicans crazy that she will not be VP. Rove and Co., with an obvious hand now behind McCain’s show, are as broody as Russians. Their whole game book is based on one Clinton or another poisoning the political water. It has granted them easy and unlimited access to unspeakable power. Such easy targets. Sort of how Bush & Co. thrill to invading little, tribal countries and then . . . uh-oh . . . suddenly finding themselves facing Russia.

This week Elvis leaves the building and so does the missus and nothing could be worse for Bush/Rove. Bush/Clinton is like Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty locked in embrace, going over the waterfall together. Good for America. Good for Obama.

Of course, there are and always will be ongoing problems with Bill. It is that Elvis karma and we are seeing now Elvis in winter. He is supposed to speak on Wednesday night but he doesn’t like the assigned topic; Securing America. He wants to talk about himself.

Nevertheless, the Clinton industry is in remission. Tonight Hillary will sing her swan song although she doesn’t know it yet. Even Mark Penn is trying to pitch his way out, writing an obsequious op-ed for the NYTs yesterday for no other reason than to be in new company. This time Rasputin will not go down with the Romanovs. Perhaps he could put together a dog and pony show with Karl Rove as Timothy Leary and E. Gordon Liddy did when history passes by their brief and giddy moment and work the talk shows and county fairs.

This convention rises with the Kennedy family and that light will transcend all the shadows the Clintons intend to bring in from the dark side. From what I can see, the Clintons are today pariahs in their own party. The Clintons have not changed. The people have changed. The Clintons are today as they have always been. The Democrats have matured.

And Penn’s “I told you so” campaign, already in ascent as Hillary sends out op-eds to The Wall Street Journal and The Huffington Post; complicated op-eds on economy which by her own admission she knows nothing about – she says she doesn’t even consult with those “elitists” - has no chance. Even if Obama fails, she will face Mark Warner in 2012 but this time he will raise the money.

Not since Madame Mao and the Gang of Four has a political operation held on with such veracity, and not since then has a group been so spent and irrelevant. This week at the Democratic Convention, the generation which began to rise with the internet in 2004 begins to take shape.

It is fully appropriate that Hillary speak tonight on the same night with Mark Warner, for in the space in between those two speeches the political season fully changes. The most important thing that will happen in politics between now and 2012 is that the generations will substantially begin to shift and the rising generation will begin to make its mark. Both the Democrats and the Republicans alike have to leave it all behind. But long before Monica and well after Marc Rich, the Clintons have made the Democrats apologists for the politically unimaginable and defenders for the indefensible. To get a fresh start, they need to be left behind.

Several years ago, Mark Warner, former governor of Virginia and candidate for Senate today, and Jim Webb, the new Senator from Virginia, started the new season for the Democrats. It was first identified when Markos Moulitsas, Hill commentator and founder of the original political blog, The Daily Kos, identified a generational division within the Democrats in an op-ed for The Washington Post. He mentioning Mark Warner and Howard Dean as "new Democrats" or representative of a new generation of Democrats.

These divisions need to happen. In that same period he had a post on Daily Kos asking, "Won't these Clinton-era Democrats ever go away?" Moulitsas is a representative voice of the new generation. It is a large and primarily young crowd that visits The Daily Kos and the statistics in this generational divide reveal destiny unfolding. Mark Warner and Jim Webb have always had sky high ratings with this group. Hillary’s ratings have usually hovered around zero and were never higher than 11%.

The Democratic Party is slipping its skin. It is casting off its shadow. A new party is growing. It began with people like Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, Warner, Webb and Governor John Lynch here in New Hampshire. They are a new breed of Democrat and not particularly beholding to the Clintons. Barack and Michelle have since become the catalyst and are awakening this new talent into an actual new movement. And further, the new generation – the all-important fourth post-war generation – is clearly behind Obama.

Mark Warner will deliver the keynote address at the 2008 Democratic National Convention tonight. As the Clintons close one door, Warner opens another.

Obama owes much to Hillary. If it was not for her, he would not be here as her incipient candidacy has been a creeping uncertainty for more than 20 years. As Jules Feiffer expressed it first in a New York Times picture op-ed; Obama, although we knew little about him at the time, was satisfying at first precisely because he was “not Hillary.”

Back in 2005 Hillary supporters and perhaps cultists (“The Clintons are the closest thing we will ever have to a king and a queen,” I was told by one of their major fundraisers years ago) were already drawing so much funding for her 2008 run that one Iraq war veteran running for representative in North Carolina had to pull out because he couldn’t raise money for his 2006 race.

Warner was making initial moves as well for his own run for the Presidency. Wisely, he very early on saw where this was going to go and pulled out.

His time is ahead and tonight he brings himself to the country at large and he brings with him a new generation.


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