In 1980 independent candidate John Anderson delivered one of the most memorably mordant lines in presidential campaign annals when he referred to the standard bearers of the two major parties, Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter and Republican challenger Ronald Reagan, as the “evil of two lessers.” History would eventually confirm the degree of hyperbole in play. But it was a great line.
Twenty-four years later, that caustic comment is ready for exhumation. Unfortunately, posterity may bear witness to more than political exaggeration. Tragically, the stakes have never been higher.
By his administration’s deceptively conceived and ineptly implemented Iraq policy, President George W. Bush, the kept man of the neocons, has made the civilized world angry at the United States and affronted at America’s arrogance. Much more to the point, he has made the Islamofascist world even more rabidly threatening by turning Iraq into the world’s will-call window for death and depravity.
Sept. 11, 2001 is now a worldwide terrorist footnote, not a rallying cry against the fanatical forces of inhumanity. Hardly mandate material for four more years.
Problem is, there is no FDR, Harry Truman or Dwight Eisenhower waiting, deus ex machina-like, in the wings. Nor is there a Wesley Clark, Joe Biden or Bob Graham. The Hobson’s choice is the junior senator from Massachusetts, who isn’t even the best Kerrey — that’s Bob.
You don’t have to read “Unfit for Command,” which I have, to know that John Kerry has been gaming the system for years. Call it “Eddie Haskell Grabs His Super-8 Camera And Joins The Naval Reserve — After Being Turned Down For A Graduate School Deferment.” But his self-serving calculations likely date to the first realization that his initials were JFK.
While he has been typecast as a Teddy Kennedy clone, there is a least a case to be made that the senior senator from Massachusetts actually believes what he says. Few accuse Kerry of such authenticity. His Senate tenure is distinguished largely by an ideology of waffling and self promotion.
The evil of two lessers? Seems all too appropriate in a nation-defining election reduced to an incumbent heading inexorably down the wrong path and a challenger to whom all roads are forked.
Would that the choice were Carter or Reagan again.