Sunday, June 10, 2007


Alright you Presidential candidates, it’s time for you to look the Empathic Rationalist in the eyes, make some commitments, and suffer consequences if you fail to honor them. You may have noticed that only some of you have been chosen for this mission. You might soon curse that fact, but you shouldn’t. As any knowledgeable Son or Daughter of Jacob can tell you, being part of the “Chosen People” doesn’t entitle you to privileges, it burdens you with responsibilities. But with the ability to honor those responsibilities comes a priceless sense of satisfaction. If you take the pledge and live up to your promises, I can guarantee that you will gain self-respect and my admiration, for all that’s worth.

First of all, please notice that only eight of you have been invited to participate in this process. This isn’t CNN or Fox News. I don’t see the need to encumber obvious losers with any more duties. Let them waste air time during the debates with their blather about “ending the war” (if they’re Democrats) or “fighting for the right to life” (if they’re Republicans). I get the distinct impression that, if elected, they won’t be ending any war, and they won’t be stopping abortion either.

No, I have called out today only those politicians with a real honest-to-God chance of winning the Presidency. In order to win, though, you must be worthy of victory. And in order to be worthy of victory, you must pledge to do what I assign you and honor that pledge, no matter how embarrassing or frustrating it may be.

OK. Here we go. I’ll call your names one at a time, and give you your assignments. Good luck, lady and gentlemen:

First, could Messrs. Giuliani, McCain and Romney come forward? I swear to God I can’t tell you people apart. I’ve followed your careers and thought I had a sense of who you were, but right now, you all seem like the same person. The same authoritarian, militaristic, pandering bore.

Yes, Mr. McCain, I understand that you, at least, are staking out some different ground on immigration. And yes, Mr. Giuliani, I get that you’re somewhat pro-choice on abortion (that is, to the extent you care any more about the issue). But on the big issue of the day, Iraq, you’re all indistinguishable. And on most of the other hot button issues as well, you are obviously taking care to demonstrate that you are as a right-wing as the next guy. Congratulations, guys. You are making total fools of yourselves. I hope you enjoy it.

Here’s the pledge – and Freddy boy, you get up there with them, because I’m concerned that you might be heading down the same hole as your friends. “I, the would-be GOP nominee, will start from this point on honoring the memory of Ronald Reagan. I’m going to say what I really believe, whether it’s popular or not, and not just kowtow to the political winds.”

Reagan, you see, was a flip-flopper. He was once a liberal, and then he became much more conservative. But he made that change relatively early in his career and by the time he sought the Presidency, his conservative bona fides were well established. By contrast, the firm of Romney, McCain and Guiliani look about as authentic as Paris Hilton at a philosophy conference. Nobody believes a word that any of you say about anything, and while one of you will probably win the nomination, unless you take this pledge and honor it, you have barely a prayer of winning the election. You might want to remember that most of the voters are either Democrats or Independents. Heck, if you don’t watch out, almost all of us will be either Democrats or Independents.

OK. Who’s next? How about Madam Front Runner. Madam Inevitability. The Goddess of Self-Righteousness herself. Come on up here.

Here’s your first pledge: “I, Hillary Clinton, pledge never again to attack anyone else for their own mistakes on a particular issue until I first have owned up to all of mine.” That’s right, for perhaps the first time in your life you will actually blame yourself for the consequences of your own mistakes, and not someone else. What? You can’t imagine how that would feel? You’re scared at the prospect? Well, if you break that pledge, you’re about to find out how the rest of us have been living our lives -- with a combination of pride some days, and guilt on others. Only in your case, you’ll be feeling guilty most days. And all the Carville’s, Begala’s, and pseudo-husbands in the world won’t be able to save you.

Now for the second pledge: “I, Hillary Clinton, pledge never again to send my country into a war based on an intelligence report that I chose not to bother to read.’ If you break that pledge, I assure you that it will rip away at your conscience. We’ve now implanted a conscience in your brain – we had to do so to enforce the first pledge. This pledge is so fundamental that anyone with a conscience – even a politician – will feel all sorts of shame if they violate it. No longer will you be able to look the Code Pink ladies in the eyes and say things like you voted for war only "after carefully reviewing the information and the intelligence that I had available." I saw on You-Tube that you made that statement just before the war started, and yet it has now come out that you never read anything more than the executive summary of the intelligence report. Spin that, Hill. Spin that!

Barack Obama. You’re next! Before the last debate, I was only going to require you to take one pledge. Now you must take two.

Here’s the first: “I, Barack Obama, pledge not to accept a nomination for Vice President if I do not win my party’s nomination for President.” We announce this pledge because we’ve noticed that while you continue to trail Ms. Clinton in the polls by double digits, you seem unwilling to take her on in any of the numerous ways that she can be attacked effectively. Why is that? Do you want to be her subordinate? Or were you serious about fighting for the job of President?

You see, she has a huge advantage over you in terms of experience, name recognition, and party-insider support. You have little chance of beating her unless you take the fight right at her, by pointing out the various and sundry ways in which (a) she can’t be trusted and (b) would fare much worse in a general election than you would. So? What are you waiting for?

Listen, Mr. Nice Guy. If you lose to her and than accept a job on the ticket, that will tell us that you pulled the punches because you were hedging your bets. We don’t need a weasel like that running Washington. Consequently, your punishment for breaking your pledge will be to lose this election to the GOP, and then give up your chance to claim the Presidency in the future either. That would be a real shame, because this world needs you more than any other politician in the race. You are the most talented. But with talent comes responsibilities. Fight, Barack. Don’t play it safe, fight!

Wait. Did I forget your second pledge? It’s closely related to the first, but there is a difference. Prior to the last debate, I was enjoying your candidacy, Barack. All that I could ask is that you wouldn’t become Hillary’s running mate should she take the nomination. But that last debate drove me to distraction. On the morning of the debate, the New York Times Magazine printed a devastating expose about Hillary’s conduct with respect to Iraq. And you were given one opportunity after another during the debate to take her on, and hold her accountable for her God-awful record on that topic. And who did you take on? John Edwards! Are you kidding me?

Look, man. You’re taking millions of dollars from people. I mean zillions of millions. You have no right taking that money if you’re not willing to fight for your donors. Hillary is mopping the floor with you right now. She doesn’t have to say anything other than “we Democrats are closely unified, those Republicans are bums.” It’s up to you to explain to the world that as far as the critical issue of our time, her record is more in line with the GOP than with the Dems, and she shouldn’t be able to lie her way out of that and blame others for her own faults. (“Lying” is a strong word, but read the New York Times Magazine article and then tell me it’s too strong.).

So here’s the second pledge: “I Barack Obama will either powerfully criticize Hillary about Iraq – not just her votes, but the way that she has explained her votes – during our next debate, or I will pull out of the race and stop taking people’s money.” Please – if you won’t run against Hillary, step aside and let someone else do it.

John Edwards. You’re damned lucky you were invited here today, you do know that, don’t you? I’m so close to simply shutting the book on you and treating you like your colleagues, Biden and Dodd. But you’re different. You’re younger than they are, better looking than they are (as if I had to tell you, you little narcissist you) and you actually have a cause that goes to the heart of your party. That’s right, Mr. Economic Equity, your message resonates with your fellow Democrats, including the Empathic Rationalist. That’s why, despite being in the single digits in terms of your chances of winning the Presidency, you’re still invited to this particular party.

So here’s a pledge for you: “I, John Edwards, pledge to stop talking like Robin Hood and living like Daddy Warbucks.” Yes, I know. You want to be the leader of the Democrats, whose greatest heroes are aristocrats like the Kennedys and FDR. They lived like kings, why can’t you?

Well, you can. But you’ve got to ask yourself, why would you? You’re trying to be the most powerful person in the world and staking your claim to that position on your passion for fighting poverty and helping the working class. And yet you have demonstrated no particular sacrifices for the cause – not even the willingness to sell your 25,000 square foot home at a time when the words “carbon footprint” are on everyone’s lips.

Why should anyone believe that you’re sincere? Just because you’ve said so? You also supported the Iraq War when your fellow liberals were marching against it. You seem, so far, to be simply another ambitious politician who simply has staked out a different cause than most.

And while we’re at it, here’s another pledge: “I, John Edwards, pledge that next time I’m caught taking zillions of dollars for doing work that isn’t socially useful (like working for a hedge fund that supports sub-prime lending), I won’t defend myself by claiming that it was a good learning experience.” Do you want to learn more about finance? Take a class. Pay for the privilege of learning, like the working men and women you claim to care so much about.

John, if you violate either pledge, your “punishment” will be to work for the rest of your days as the host of “Family Feud.” You are, after all, a game show host by all appearances. And Family Feud will give you a vehicle to kiss the common folks you purportedly love. If that job doesn’t satisfy your gargantuan ambitions, we’re sorry about that. You had your chance. You may have blown it when you wimped out on Iraq, but we’re at least willing to give you more chances – hence the pledges. Violate them at your own peril.

So who’s left on the Democratic side? Al? Is that you? Get on up here, big guy. And I do mean big guy. You’re not looking very Presidential these days – Taftian, yes, but not Presidential.

Look. You know your pledge already. “I, Al Gore, pledge to either enter the race by July 4th or shut my pie hole about it once and for all.”

Get that? It’s time we know who the donkey candidates are going to be. No more flirting. I mean seriously, who wants an overweight, egotistical, recovering depressive to flirt with them? If you need to provide someone who can flirt with the American public, stay home, and send one of your daughters. Your job is to fish or cut bait.

Don’t kid yourself Al. You’re not that transcendent. We still remember how wooden you came across back in 2000. We still remember how you appeared willing to stretch the truth when telling your little stories. We still remember how you took the mantle of the incumbent party at a time when the economy was healthy and lost (sort of) an election to a guy who studied like Vinny Barbarino, drank like Foster Brooks and looked like Alfred E. Newman. Say all you want that you won, but you got crushed in your home state, and all your whining in the world won’t change that.

So take the pledge, Al. Tell us soon why you’re the man you obviously think you are. Talk to us like you respect us this time. Make us know that the election is about us, and not you. And if you don’t honor this pledge -- if you join the race, say, in September -- you’ll regret it. For the consequence will be that you will have to nominate, as your running mate, Joseph Lieberman. Again. And then, you can spend the entire general election campaign engaged in an Ultimate Fighting-type struggle with your own running mate from the first day until your final loss – which will once again happen despite a victory in the popular vote.

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