There are no Democrats on the real Mt. Rushmore — would an all-Democratic version include either of the Clintons?
Work takes me today to New York City, where a politics-related topic is the health of former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
Cuomo, age 82 and father of current New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has been hospitalized with a heart condition, reportedly spending the Thanksgiving holiday with family at his bedside.
No discussion about the elder Cuomo is complete without his fabled flirtation with the presidency two decades ago.
Having shined on the national stage as the keynote speaker at the 1984 Democratic National Convention, Cuomo took a pass on running in 1988.
By 1992, Cuomo, had taken the concept of moral agonistes to a new level. He mulled over a presidential run to great length, earning the nickname “Hamlet on the Hudson”. At one point, New York’s governor had a plane on standby at Albany’s airport, ready to whisk him to New Hampshire in time to file for the first-in-the-nation primary.
But Cuomo blinked and you know the rest of the story: Bill Clinton earned his party’s nomination; two years later, Cuomo was swept out of office in 1994’s Republican landslide.
But what if Cuomo got on that plane, went to New Hampshire, earned the Democratic nomination, and then went on to defeat George H.W. Bush and become America’s 42nd President?
Might he have passed health care reform, which eluded Clinton in his first term?
Assuming Cuomo had been elected to a second term, might he have spent his time in the White House as the most successful big-government advocate since Lyndon Johnson, if not Franklin Roosevelt?
If so, Cuomo would be on the Democratic Mount Rushmore, alongside FDR, Andrew Jackson and the trinity of the three Kennedy brothers.
The question, then, is who gets that fourth spot on the Democrats’ mountainside?
Barack Obama? Hard to see it, with his presidency failing to live up to the hype.
It’s not Bill Clinton, whose rise to power (“a new kind of Democrat”) was about moderating his party’s liberal impulses on taxes, trade and welfare reform.
At the moment, it wouldn’t be Hillary Clinton, either. And that’s a problem as she gears up for a run in 2016.
Mrs. Clinton was outmaneuvered by Barack Obama in 2008 when he rallied liberal activists to his cause — the same activists who seem hungry for the likes of Elizabeth Warren.
Meanwhile, Democratic pollster and ex-Clinton advisor Doug Shoen suggests that the problem with his old boss is she lacks “a new car smell”.
Here’s another way to look at the Hillary conundrum.
The winning Obama coalition is a stool consisting of the following legs: white liberals, single and professional women, millennials, blacks and Hispanics.
Give Mrs. Clinton the women’s vote (men, on the other hand, may prove problematic). But how many of those other blocs are guaranteed — at least, in the same numbers that Obama twice produced?
Such is the difference between being a modern Democratic icon, as is Mrs. Clinton, versus a historical giant who evoked passion.
The Kennedys had it. So did FDR.
But not the Clintons.
Which is why a second Clinton presidency is hardly etched in stone.
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