Sunday, June 26, 2011


It’s Barack Obama’s world and you’re just living in it.

Spare me all the crap about what a tough hand he was dealt when he walked into the White House – the multiple wars, the horrid economy, the obstructionist Republicans. Sure, Barack was dealt a tough hand, if the game is to become one of those transformative Presidents worthy of Rushmore. But let’s say we lower our standards a bit. Let’s say Barack doesn’t need to be the next Lincoln or Roosevelt. Think of him simply as an ambitious politician with a strong desire to be loved. Now let’s look at his hand. Here’s a guy who, in January ‘09, was inaugurated in a fashion that may have made the Messiah jealous. He was then put in a strong position to be hailed as the Jackie Robinson of American statesmen, receive star treatment from Hollywood and the mainstream media alike, generate some solid legislative accomplishments, easily win re-election, and finally, when his second term is over, live out his life with the moniker of “Mr. President.” Put all that together, and I’d say he’s sitting on, if not a pair of aces, at least a pair of kings. Not too shabby.

When Barack came into office, he was indeed severely limited in his ability to generate “the change we’ve been looking for.” But those same limitations, when combined with his natural political skills, made him almost impossible to beat in 2012. To be sure, if the unemployment rate is high enough, he could lose. But it would have to be sky high, because most voters appear poised to blame Bush and the Congress for the horrid economy, rather than Barack. Even those voters who don’t think Barack is doing a particularly good job on economics seem to approve of his Presidency. Talk about Teflon.

It reminds me of the old story about the two friends who camped out in the woods. Upon spotting a bear, one immediately starts running, prompting the other to say “What are you doing, you can’t outrun that bear.” “I don’t have to,” his friend responded, “I just have to outrun YOU.”

Well that is pretty much all Barack has to do in this climate. He doesn’t have to fix the economy. He just has to look like a better economic steward than Bachmann. Or Romney. That wouldn’t exactly require a remake of Don Quixote, now would it?

In the next several months, I expect the Republican Party to reap what they have sowed ever since President Reagan shoved them in the rightward direction. Back in the day, a guy like John Huntsman may have been the type of Republican who could have caught fire in his own party and appeal to Democrats and Independents as well. But now, in 2011, he’s pretty much toast. You know the problem – he’s not Cro-Magnon enough for Rush, Beck, and the other talking heads who have the ears of the party faithful. I’m not even sure that Romney can win, or to put it another way, I’m not sure that he can win AS Romney. He might have to run as Faust like he did in 2008. And if that happens, somehow I don’t see Barack Obama losing to a chameleon who just sold his soul to Grover Norquist and the Tea Party.

Just look at recent history and all the times that a sitting President has run for re-election. Those bids were successful in 1972, 1984, 1996 and 2004 (and as horrid a President as Bush was, that says volumes). The only upsets were in 2000 and 2012, and in both of those occasions, the President had lost the support of many in his own party. If the GOP wants to win, it had better hope that the Dems lose their love for Barack. Sorry, Dittoheads, but I don’t see that happening.

This last week is a perfect illustration of why, from a Democratic standpoint, Barack truly is an untouchable. His performance was the stuff that mutinies are made of – one kiss-off to the liberal wing of the party after another. But will there be a mutiny? Don’t make me laugh.

Hell, I can just point to my own behavior as an example of the typical liberal voter. On Wednesday night, just before I sat down to watch his Afghanistan speech, I was miffed at the President for his foreign policy. Let’s leave aside my obsession with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and how ineffectual (and at times incompetent) he has been in that area. I was annoyed that he couldn’t make the case for his latest war in Libya, or at least treat the American people with enough respect to allow our representatives to decide whether we should continue our involvement in bombing that country. And I was annoyed that he was about to announce a pullout from Afghanistan at a snail’s pace – leaving twice as many American troops in that country as when he took office, and ensuring that this increasingly-pointless war would at least rival Vietnam in its duration.

So yes, I was pissed at the guy. And yet what did I do just before the telecast started? Needing to change shirts after work, I went into my bedroom closet and pulled out my “Dream Realized” T-Shirt with Barack’s portrait on the front. Pissed? Yeah. Ready to vote against him and in favor of Mitt or Michelle? Not on your life.

Nor am I alone, apparently. After the speech, which should have made any honest-to-God liberal sick, the reviews on the left were almost universally negative … but tepidly so. Absent was any effort to connect Barack’s incoherent policy in Afghanistan with his silent policy in Libya; taken together, they represent the kind of furtive Presidency that should have impressed even a Cheney. And absent was the willingness to demand a compelling explanation of why we’re embarking on a second decade of propping up a corrupt regime engaged in what seems to be a perpetual civil war, one that now has very little to do with Al Qaeda. No, the muted criticism seemed to be confined largely to the idea that the “pull-out isn’t fast enough.”

Not fast enough? Is that the most we liberals can say?

Assume that Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani had been elected President in 2008. And then assume that they would do exactly what Barack has done in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya these past 2 ½ years. Is there any question how outraged the American left would have been by this point? Is there any question that people would be protesting on the streets, MSNBC would be hurling acid-laden vitriol, and Romney/Giuliani would be viewed as war-mongers and secrecy-freaks?

President Obama essentially told us that America will stay the course in Afghanistan, but what he didn’t really tell us is why. He seemed to think that as long as he added some anti-war rhetoric and announced that instead of tripling the number of troops in Afghanistan by the end of his first term we will only be doubling that number, everyone on the left would be appeased. And do you know what? He’s right. Because everyone on the left knows that his name is Barack, and not Mitt or Michelle.

Fast forward to a bit later in the week and head a couple of hundred miles up I-95, and you’ll see the same dynamic at play. In Manhattan, 600 hundred or so gay activists paid a reported $1,250 per head to hear Barack bob and weave on the issue of gay rights. Yes, he believes in them (whatever that means), but no, he won’t commit to the cause with respect to the one hot-button issue that everyone is talking about – gay marriage.

It was the same position he has been taking for years. And each time, we hear the obligatory whines from the gay community about how Barack needs to suck it up and say what every progressive believes in his or her heart: that gay people have a right to be married. But will these activists really stay home in November 2012? Or let me ask that question this way: after what happened with Gore, Bush and Nader, do they really believe there’s an alternative to Barack?

I doubt it. Most likely, these gay activists left that fundraiser pissed off at Barack. Then they went home, put on their “Dream Realized” T-shirts, and went to bed.

There’s an old saw that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Here in America, our President -- Barack “Jackie Robinson” Obama -- is sitting on a pair of them.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


The words “sports” and “momentous” rarely go together. In fact, to say that this has been a “momentous week in sports” seems oxymoronic. The whole idea of spectator sports is to escape from the real world and re-enter a childlike state where you can concern yourself with how people run, jump or throw around balls, rather than wage wars, confront illnesses, or rearrange the tax system. Momentous? Impossible.

Yet every now and then, we sports fans live through a week that is so transformative that we simply must pause and take notice. This has definitely been one of those rare weeks.

Let’s start with the hardwood. The sports week began last Sunday night with the Dallas Mavericks winning their first-ever championship. It was also the first time that a player from outside of the Americas received accolades as being one of the game’s all time greats. And for good reason. Dirk Nowitzky, who hails from Germany, took over these playoffs with a display of outside shooting, passing, and inside toughness that was eerily reminiscent of Larry Bird in his prime.

But let’s face it – when you think about what has transpired in basketball this past Sunday, your first thoughts do not extend to the Mavericks or Nowitzky. The real story centers around the team they beat, and especially its star player: the athlete formerly known as “King James.” Talk about a fall from grace.

Less than a decade ago, the entire basketball world was ablaze with excitement at the prospect of witnessing a player whose talent was unmatched in the game’s history. Some compared him to Michael Jordan, except that LeBron James was so much bigger than Jordan. Taller and more massive, to be precise. And the story wasn’t just that James was THAT good, but that as luck would have it, he was able to be drafted right out of high school by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. That’s right, the “Mistake by the Lake” was granted the privilege of hosting the man-child to which Sports Illustrated referred as “the Chosen One.” Even if you’re not from the Midwest you had to appreciate this story, reminiscent as it was of how a sleepy hamlet in northeast Wisconsin came to be called “Titletown” because of a team that would dominate the National Football League for years.

We knew that it would take the Cavs a little while to reach the level of Vince Lombardi’s Packers, but we also felt that the Cavs’ dominance was just a matter of time. LeBron James was the Rookie of the Year in 2003-4, and by 2007, he propelled the Cavs to the NBA Finals. In 2008-09 and 2009-10, LeBron won the MVP award and the Cavs had the league’s best regular season record. But a championship continued to elude the Cavs, and last summer, LeBron announced on a 60-minute ESPN telecast that he was “taking his talents” to Miami where he would play with two other superstars and win not one, “not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven” championships. LeBron, who has sported a “Chosen 1” tattoo on his back for years, came to be the most despised man in northeast Ohio.

This past Sunday, the LeBron brand officially crashed and burned. For the second straight year, when his team needed him the most, James was missing in action. And this time, America absolutely loved it! It wasn’t just Ohioans who wallowed in LeBron hatred; fans all over the country figured that they’d stumbled onto the best comedy since Animal House. The jokes abounded: “Did you hear that someone asked LeBron for change for a dollar? He only gave up 75 cents. ‘Sorry, I don’t have a fourth quarter,’ LeBron said” (That’s a reference to the fact that in the six NBA Finals games, he averaged a whopping three points in each of the fourth quarters – hardly Messiah material.) Or perhaps you prefer this one: “LeBron was right when he said ‘not two, not three, not four …” championships. He ain’t gonna win any!”

Clearly that’s wrong. He’ll get his championship. In fact, he still seems destined to win multiple championships when all is said and done. But I doubt he’ll ever get the affection of the public. LeBron, you see, committed two sins that an athlete cannot commit if he wants to be loved. To begin, he appeared to suggest that athletes can win championships without even having to work at it – all they have to do is get together with a couple of superstar friends during an off-season party, decide to play together, and … voila, it’s celebration time! Sorry, but we fans want our athletes to have to work for their titles. We want to think that a major league championship is like an odyssey; you can’t simply inherit one the way, say, George W. Bush inherited the Presidency. LeBron didn’t seem to appreciate that.

The other thing LeBron did is celebrate his own greatness before it was demonstrated. That’s a major no-no. Fans can choose to celebrate an athlete who has never won the “Big One,” but when an athlete publicly touts himself as the “Chosen 1” or “the King” … he’d better have some rings.

Right now, LeBron is about as accomplished as Dan Fouts, but he struts around as if he’s Joe Montana. He’s got the pedigree of George Gervin, but he talks as if he’s Michael Jordan. And he’s not alone – when he joined the Miami Heat together with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, Wade proclaimed that trio arguably the greatest trio in the history of basketball. But the last time I checked, the 60s Celtics and 80s Lakers both had trios of all-time greats who each had won many championships. By contrast, the trio of Wade, Bosh and James have won a total of 1, 0, and 0 titles, respectively. Greatest trio ever? Make me gag.

This past Sunday, the sports gods had their say: “LeBron: shut your mouth. Wait until you win a championship before you start tooting your own horn. In fact, why don’t you wait until you win, not one, ‘not two, not three …’ Why don’t you just let your ball skills do the talking. It worked for America’s new darling, Dirk the German. And trust us, no sooner will you get humble than you’ll win titles. Otherwise, it’s just way too much fun for EVERYONE to watch you lose, and we do want the fans to have some fun.”

So that was Sunday’s news.

I’m going to largely skip over the news from the middle of this past sports week. But let’s at least briefly acknowledge what happened.

In talking about LeBron and Dirk, I was making the sports gods look inspired by their pursuit of justice. They see a big mouth with a whale of talent go up against a less talented, but more humble opponent, and they choose to let the first guy fall on his face and propel the second one to stardom. Love those gods!

Or do I? Because only three days after the Mavs beat the Heat, the sports gods were saying “justice, schmustice” when they allowed the Boston Bruins to defeat the Vancouver Canucks and claim this year’s Stanley Cup. This was just the latest in Bean Town’s long list of championships – it seems like between the Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins, that city has won about 100 titles in my lifetime. Vancouver? The Canucks are their one major league team in any of the big four North American team sports, and suffice it to say that despite playing in a few different championship series, Vancouver has won as many Stanley Cups as LeBron James.

Cruel, gods. Cruel. Did you really have to give the Canucks a two games to none lead before you made them fall apart yet again? That’s just wrong. Vancouver has given the world its most beautiful urban park. It deserves better.

So yes, the sports week started on a high note and, at least for me, took a dip in the middle. But it sure ended with a bang. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, there’s still time to find out: turn on your TV round about 6:00 p.m. Eastern time today, and prepare yourselves to watch greatness. You see, this week the sports world has been introduced to its latest version of “the Natural.”

One of my friends once said, in reference to Michael Jordan, “When I saw Magic Johnson play, I swore I’d never see a better basketball player. Obviously, I was wrong.” Well, folks, when I was watching the U.S. Open yesterday on TV, I found myself saying the same thing about a different sport. When I watched Tiger Woods play, I swore I’d never see a better golfer. It sure looks like I was wrong.

To be fair, I’m not predicting that Rory McIlroy, the 22 year-old from Northern Ireland who has now led after six of the last seven rounds of major championship golf, will be better in his prime than Tiger was. Nobody in golf’s history has been better in his prime than Tiger was. But what I am saying is that McIlroy seems more of a natural than Tiger – his strokes are equally brilliant, and FAR more effortless. And that means that McIlroy’s prime promises to last a lot longer than Tiger’s.

Tiger has already endured multiple knee operations. And this only stands to reason given the wicked torque in his swing. Tiger crushed the golf ball, but he was also crushing his own body in the process. If we do see him make a comeback, I predict he will become the golf equivalent of the junk-ball pitcher in baseball, who doesn’t have the fastball to strike out hitters but has learned crafty ways to turn curve balls into slow grounders. Those pitchers can be highly effective, but they’re not exactly Mount Rushmore material.

McIlroy is different. I don’t see anything violent in his swing. It all looks so gentle, so easy. And yet he’s just blowing away not only the field but the golf course. Nobody in history has reached 14 shots under par in a U.S. open, until now. Nobody had even reached 13. And the crazy thing is, he was practically doing the same thing at this year’s Masters until he choked on the last day.

Well, we’ve now come to the last day of the U.S. Open, and McIlroy still has time to choke once again. It happened to LeBron, it could happen to him, right? I don’t think so. This weekend has the feel of a coronation. And McIlroy has the feel of being the real deal. I expect he’ll do what Tiger used to do when he had a huge lead: go about his business with a workmanlike round, hitting fairways and greens on a regular basis, and making the occasional mid-range put. We’ve seen the prototype. We know how it can work. Only this time, we won’t watch a guy cussing and spitting and violently striking the ball, as if he’d rather be in the ring cleaning Mike Tyson’s clock.

No, this time, we’ll be watching a guy who looks like the golfing gods had him in mind when they created the sport. All true fans love it when that happens, and it doesn’t happen often. You won’t find a sports fan who doesn’t love Babe Ruth or Wayne Gretzky any more than you’ll find an art history buff who doesn’t love Rembrandt or Michelangelo. What’s not to love?

Saturday, June 11, 2011


While the Anthony Weiner scandal raises a number of public policy issues, perhaps the most important one is whether politicians who are caught engaging in tawdry behavior should resign from office. On this issue, I tend to stand with the Republicans. While there are some famous exceptions to this principle (see, e.g., Senator Vitter), Republicans generally tend to favor asking their politicians to go away if they are caught red-handed. But the Democrats are different – their attitude is more like “boys will be boys, and politicians are no different than anyone else.”

Well, they’re right in a sense: like any other employee, politicians have to live up the standards of their job. You can’t be a rabbi, get in front of your congregation, and proclaim Jesus as God. That would work in a church, but not a synagogue. Similarly, if you’re a politician who wants to retain your credibility, you can’t allow your sex life to be a subject of public ridicule. To their credit, the Republicans seem to understand that. It’s one reason they are able to win so many elections despite a platform that only makes sense for the well-heeled.

According to the conventional Democratic wisdom, political sex scandals are much ado about nothing, and they have no bearing on how a politician carries out the nation’s business. Turn on MSNBC in the evening, and you will hear one Democratic pundit after another trivialize the significance of Weiner’s conduct, just as they trivialized the misconduct of Bill Clinton back in the 1990s. To the knee-jerk progressive, people’s sex lives are their own business, not the nation’s, and as long as we don’t assault anyone or have sex with minors, we’re basically permitted not only to engage in deviant behavior but even to lie about it. In other words, the argument goes, since it violates politicians’ privacy to ask them if they have engaged in sexual deviancy, the only sane answer is to deny the allegation (whether it’s true or not) and get back to more important issues like the economy or foreign policy.

This is one instance where the old saw is correct that the Republicans are hard-headed realists and the Democrats utopian dreamers. From a utopian standpoint, the Democratic position is unassailable. Preferably, we’d live in a culture where everyone would ignore everyone else’s sex life. That way, if we have a promiscuous but inspired statesman like JFK, the public could get all the benefits of his leadership without knowing about his salacious private life, and we could count on the members of our media to recognize that certain topics are simply off-limits.

But now back to planet Earth. The days of the media turning a blind eye to the peccadilloes of public figures are long gone. Plus, as Weinergate demonstrates, even if the mainstream media were to play ball (which it won’t), the Internet will ensure that all the news that people care about will be widely disseminated. Believe me, as long as people care about sex (which is pretty much until our species ceases to exist), they will care about the sex lives of their political leaders. If you don’t agree, just turn on the TV and look at the crap that people watch. Sex sells and tawdry sex sells even more. Perverts enjoy it for the obvious reason, and everyone else enjoys it because it makes them feel better about themselves knowing that there are people out there even more pathetic than they are. Right now, there are few people who don’t think that Anthony Weiner is more pathetic than they are. I call that the loss of credibility.

To be sure, there is much that can be said in Weiner’s defense. First, he engaged in no blatant act of hypocrisy when it comes to sex. He is not like those right wing schmucks who publicly talk about “family values” but privately engage in extra-marital sex. Nor is he like Elliot Spitzer, who enforced the same types of anti-prostitution laws that he himself violated. So score one for Weiner on the hypocrisy front. Second, Weiner’s apologists are correct that it is a whole lot less egregious to lie publicly about one’s sex life than about the other topics on which politicians are asked to comment. As discussed above, we all recognize that in the ideal world, our sex lives would be private, and if someone asks a question that is none of their business, are they really entitled to an honest answer? Perhaps so, but it is not a frivolous issue to raise.

So no, the issue here is not about Weiner’s hypocrisy, nor is it about the lies he told to cover up his tawdry behavior. Moreover, the issue is also not about whether he technically broke some ethics law by using government facilities to engage in an inappropriate text or tweet; I’m sure that any such violations of that nature would be nothing in comparison to what Charlie Rangel did, and all Rangel got was a slap on the wrist.

In short, the issue here isn’t “the cover up.” Nor is it “the crime.” The issue is Weiner’s credibility, judgment and character. In other words, can he do his job effectively once he proves himself to be a complete horse’s ass? Because seriously, what kind of public figure responds to strangers who admire him by sending them pictures in order to show off the size of his package? It’s one thing to be the quintessential pervert. It’s one thing to be the quintessential narcissist. But when you respond to your fans by proving yourself to be the quintessential perverted narcissist … it will be pretty difficult to be taken seriously when you talk about the national debt or the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I’d just as soon have a rabbi who has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

If any of you are Weiner apologists, keep in mind that we are not talking about your average Congressman. He’s not just another back-slapping, and ultimately do-nothing, politician. And this is why progressives like me – and the women to whom he would show off his pectorals or his package – had been so impressed with him as a politician. He seemed to have balls. But it is one thing to show your balls, and it is another to SHOW your balls. And this is especially true when part of your M.O. as a politician has been to grab the limelight every chance you get.

When Weiner made himself one of, if not the single, most prominent progressive spokespeople in Congress, he gave up the right to anonymity. He gave up the right to engage in perverted acts in the public domain. In short, he gave up the right to say “sorry for what I did, but I’m not resigning” if and when he gets caught doing what he gave up the right to do. You see, the problem is that when Weiner did get caught, he acted like a man who was really just sorry that he got caught. Otherwise, why refer to the pictures he sent as a “joke?”

Perhaps what Weiner meant is that his pictures have turned him into a joke. Specifically, they have turned him into a real-life version of Steve Stiffler. If you haven’t seen the American Pie movies, Stifler is one hell of a funny character. He’s the high school boy who acts and speaks like he’s God’s gift to the vagina. It’s impossible to respect the guy, but he does make you laugh precisely because of what a total asshole he is. He is the guy the movie writers chose to get peed on precisely because nobody could possibly have any empathy for this guy. Who can empathize with someone who sends pictures of his package to girls half of his age in order to show off its size?

Sorry. That was Weiner, not Stiffler. But you get the idea.

In any job worth doing, once you lose your credibility, you’ve lost your ability to be effective. So, my fellow progressives, you can talk all you want about how Weiner has not behaved with the moral turpitude of countless other statesmen who have kept their jobs. But I suspect that those guys aren’t being compared to Steve Stiffler. And if someone peed on them in the well of Congress, we would react with horror, and not hilarity.

Sorry, Anthony. I think your 15 minutes are about up. See you in the movies.

Saturday, June 04, 2011


In recent months, when people around me have questioned whether Barack would be re-elected, I mostly just laughed. If Barack were running against Reagan in his prime, then sure, the President’s re-election would be in peril. But the last time I checked, the suitors for the Republican nomination were Sneezy, Sleepy, Dopey, Happy, Bashful, Grumpy and Doc. And I just didn’t see any of those Lilliputians having a chance to unseat one of the most talented politicians of our lifetime.

It still seems to be a good bet that we'll see a successful re-election campaign come November 2012. Now, though, for the first time, I’m beginning to see a glimmer of hope for the GOP. Ironically, I’m seeing hope for one of the dwarfs at a time when the mainstream media has been pointing out just how badly he is doing in jump-starting his campaign. Then again, his problems supposedly involve appealing to the Republican base, and this election is not likely to be won or lost based on appeals to the Republican base. Rather, it should be determined by the views of independents, most of whom are concerned about economics first and foremost. It is in that domain where this dwarf might be able to gain some traction as someone with a record of responsible stewardship and expertise. The question is, will the GOP electorate support him, one of the other six dwarfs, or will they nominate an eighth one (say, by combining Sneezy and Sleepy into Sleazy, aka Newt Gingrich)?

The dwarf I have in mind calls himself Mitt Romney, but to me, he goes by the name of Doc. He comes across as smarter than his peers, which is a good thing, but he also seems more chameleon than human, which is not such a selling point. Indeed, it has been widely reported for some time that Doc is roundly disliked by the other dwarfs, and this was borne out in the past few days. While he was in New Hampshire announcing that he would run for President, two of the other dwarfs – Happy (Sarah Palin) and Grumpy (Rudy Giuliani) – were busy addressing the media about exactly why Doc is in no position to represent the Republicans at their next convention. You get the impression that even Dopey (Michelle Bachmann) or Sleepy (Ron Paul) would be more popular candidates among the dwarfs than would Doc. Hell, even Sleepy’s father (John McCain) might be given another shot at the big prize – anything, to keep the spotlight away from the one dwarf who actually could appeal to Americans who are concerned about their job situation and their health care insurance, and are looking for someone who has experience in bringing about a responsible health care package and in running successful businesses that employ people.

It says a lot about Doc that he was elected Governor of Massachusetts. But the odd thing is that to most of the dwarfs, Massachusetts isn’t even part of the United States. If that’s the general view within the GOP, I would agree that Doc’s candidacy is in trouble. The issue is whether the Republicans will realize that their only path to the White House is to elect someone who actually believes that America has 50 states and who appeals to Americans in all 50 of them. Doc may be just the chameleon for the job.

Check out what Doc said yesterday during an appearance in New England. "I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that. It's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors."

That comes from a man who once said he supports the substance of Roe v. Wade and who signed into law the same type of health care bill that the Republicans are now lambasting as "Obamacare." So one day, Doc comes across like Gloria Steinem, the next day, he comes across like Barack Obama, and yesterday, he started talking like “Algore.” What’s next: will Doc advocate an economic policy based on the principle “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”?

Clearly, Doc is not the favorite dwarf among the Tea Partiers. And just as clearly, to the extent Doc has been receiving any traction among his party’s elders, their continued support is about to be put to the test. He is running the risk of moving away from GOP front runner status and heading towards the position not of John McCain in 2008 but John McCain in 2000 – the plain-spoken, independent-minded challenger who is willing to take on the establishment on behalf of truth, justice and the American way. Frankly, that approach worked for Reagan in 1980. But ever since then, the Republicans have demanded much more orthodoxy from their would-be nominees. Speaking out against global warming is not exactly the kind of orthodoxy I’m talking about.

Still, if the Republicans are smart, they might want to reflect a bit on just how electable the other dwarfs are. Do they really think that Happy can win the White House making statements like the following gem, which she said in North Carolina: "We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.”

Or do the Republicans think that Bashful (Tim Pawlenty) can win the White House simply by staying under the radar screen? Correct me if I’m wrong, but Americans elect candidates with name recognition. Just because Bashful hasn’t offended anyone doesn’t mean that he is even recognizable at a Vikings game, let alone outside of the great state of Minnesota.

No, my friends. The GOP has a fateful choice. Do they want Barack Obama to waltz his way into the White House in 2012? Or do they want to put up a guy who might actually beat him? And do they want the latter badly enough that they are willing to nominate a chameleon who is permitted to run away from the Rush Limbaugh party line and appeal to American centrists – to people who believe that there is a legitimate non-military role for the Government, that corporations have to be regulated, that tax codes have to be equitable as well as efficient, and that urbanites who love the WNBA are every bit as American as small town NASCAR aficionados? Because if they want the White House badly enough to put away their devotion to right-wing orthodoxy, if they let Doc change his color back towards where it was during his Massachusetts days, and if the economy does continue to remain in the doldrums as many are predicting … then, as they say in sports, “we might have ourselves a contest after all.”

Personally, I’m betting that whoever wins the nomination will be forced to toe the line … and Barack Obama will be re-elected by the same kind of margin that Clinton had against Dole. But that's just a prediction. As the Miami Heat learned on Thursday evening, it ain't over until the fat lady sings.