THE SAD TALE OF LAMAR ALEXANDER
George Bush is going through Republican dollars like Bill Clinton in a vat of chicken-fried interns. Consequently, other GOP candidates have been forced to shed campaign workers just to stay afloat. Dan Quayle has cut loose a couple of fundraisers and Lamar Alexander unloaded pretty much everyone but his Iowa team and a few top advisors.
This raises one of those difficult ethical questions that people who agonize over difficult ethical questions agonize over. I know some of the Lamaranians. I like the Lamaranians. Some of the Lamaranians are avid G-File readers. My you-know-who-I’m-talking-about-don’t-make-me-say-the-word was, until recently, Lamar’s policy director (she left, of her own will, before the bloodletting). So do I call ‘em like I see ‘em? Do I speak truth to power?
Well, fortunately Lamar’s poll numbers are within the margin of error of zero, so I wouldn’t exactly be speaking truth to power per se. Still, I reflexively cringe like a prison-house snitch at the cafeteria when I speak ill of the man. That’s as close as the ombudsman at the GFHQ (known around the office and hardware stores as “The Toilet Plunger”) will let me get to full disclosure.
So here’s what I’ve got to say about the man. He’s an honorable, smart, good-government type. He seems to have gotten more conservative over time which is good — but not that hard considering he wasn’t exactly the Rock of Gibraltar of the Right in the Bush administration. He had an “innovative Republican governor” schtick before you heard all about the innovative Republican governors. He is clearly stiff and not quite inspiring.
But what is most annoying about Lamar isn’t Lamar. It’s his press coverage. I know several reporters who’ve written about Lamar and I used to read Lamar coverage a little more closely than most because, well, you know why. Anyway, the disdain for Lamar among the Washington press corps is a little weird. It seems like every reporter has to take a turn referring to him as “Lamar!” (yes, I did it too some months ago, until I noticed that everyone else was doing it). He is constantly referred to as the “perennial candidate” as if to distinguish him from a pack of first-timers. Lamar ran once, in 1996. Steve Forbes ran once, in 1996. Pat Buchanan ran in 1992, 1996, and now in 2000 and probably 2004, 2008, and until intelligent apes enslave the planet. Alan Keyes started his official announcement speech in 1996 and he won’t conclude it until his run in 2012. In fact most modern Republican presidents have run more than once for the job. But for some reason Lamar gets the little jabs about being the Energizer Bunny of the GOP.
The reason I think the press hates him is that he ran against Washington and the establishment in 1996, though he was decidedly part of it. They hated how Bush the Elder had managed to parlay eating pork rinds (hmm, pork…hmm…rinds) into populist appeal. Lamar sort of got away with it again in 1996 with that plaid shirt and the press said, “no more!” Indeed, the plaid shirt would have been brilliant if we were gearing up for President Alexander’s re-election campaign. Instead, when he lost, he severely damaged himself in a way a conventional candidate wouldn’t. You can’t be a little populist. So in the hindsight is right school of Washington scoring, the shirt was stupid.
His problem with the voters is a little different. Alexander’s assaults on compassionate conservatism (which I applaud and which his former policy director championed) notwithstanding, he is a Bushie. He looks like a Bushie. He talks like a Bushie. He worked in a Bush administration. To the extent that George W. is less Bushie than his father only hurts Lamar. W is a Southern moderate-to-conservative governor; so was Lamar. Why go with the imitation?
Lamar is the second choice of many Republicans; the problem is that he never gets promoted to the #1 spot. He is a “we could do worse” candidate.
Still, there’s hope. He will do far better than expected in Iowa, because he actually does have the best staff and organization there. Bush and McCain want to dismiss Iowa. But if that happens, Lamar is toast. So, he’s calling for debates there to test the mettle of the GOP candidates and draw Bush into a defining fight. On this, undecided Republicans should root for Lamar (and Steve Forbes). If Bush succeeds in leapfrogging Iowa, the campaign could really be over before we know what anyone thinks.
But what must truly rankle Lamar is the fact that Bush is succeeding with his 1996 argument. Lamar used to use the (annoying) phrase, “remember: ABC — Alexander Beats Clinton.” He was ridiculed for being too concerned with “process” and not enough about principles — as if Bob Dole were a champion of unadulterated Republican principles. Today, the chief explanation for the mad rush to Bush is that he can beat Gore. But for some reason that’s not considered too procedural or mercenary — it’s just considered good hardball politics. Lamar was right in 1996 and, like it or not, Bush is right today.
BILDERBERGS? NO. BELGIANS.
While I don’t want to offer any more glimpses into the strange world of my mailbag (please, no more advice on how AOL works), I think its fair to say I get a lot of “tips” about how the Council on Foreign Relations, the Jews, the Catholic Church, Col. Sanders, etc., are running the show behind the scenes (if you want to see a great nutbag website go to www.4rie.com). Now, except for Scientologist-bashing (something we need a lot more of in the G-File), I don’t normally buy any of this sort of stuff.
Over the course of the G-File, I have hinted at something called “the Belgian Hegemony.” And perhaps now is a good time to expose it. As we all know, it is good to hate the French. But has it occurred to anyone that maybe there’s someone behind the bidet calling the shots?
Yes, it’s as frightening as it sounds. Ronald Reagan or Harry Truman or somebody else said that if you don’t care who gets the credit you can accomplish anything. Belgium is the headquarters for NATO, the European Community, and zillions of other international organizations. And yet nobody wonders why. We watch as the U.N. and the WTO and the EC and the Nielson families expand into every nook and cranny of our lives — and yet no one blames the Belgians. Why?
The Belgians are as famously inept at business as they are brilliant at bureaucratic in-fighting. (How do you teach a Belgian to run a small company? Give him a big company and wait six months). But give them a few sheaves of paper, a Xerox machine, and some rubber stamps and they’ll slap a tariff on anything that moves. I take a back seat to no man in my disdain for the French, but what if it turns out the Belgians were pulling the strings all along? In The X-Files, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency, also known as CHADDG, Clinton’s hack and donor dumping ground) is a hotbed of conspiratorial activity. Does any doubt that the Belgians would have ample opportunities to mess with things from within the bowels of the EC and NATO? Now who’s being naïve?
I don’t pretend to have proof of this, but I think they are a strange and elusive people. Not quite French, not quite Dutch, and not exactly German. But they speak all three languages. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I understand that they eat waffles covered in syrup and fruit because they like the sweet, sweet taste. Does that sound normal?