A recent Jazzman Chronicle described the state of American politics, on the eve of the midterm elections, under the heading: Profiles in Cowardice.
Here are the leading nominees of both parties, in alphabetical order, subject to modification:
1. George "Makaka" Allen (R VA). Here is a candidate who shamelessly played the race card and got caught on tape. Rather than coming clean, he claimed to have invented the derogatory term out of thin air.
2. Hillary Clinton (D NY). Mindful of her reputation as a liberal (whatever that means), the Senator has refashioned herself a moderate, teaming with John McCain to ban flag burning (a burning issue!). She voted for the war, for the Patriot Act, and watched the death of habeas corpus without a whimper.
3. Bob Corker (R TN). He exemplifies the awkward duplicity created by McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. The RNC takes responsibility for a race-baiting character assault while Corker distances himself from the mud -- just as he distances himself from an unpopular president and an unpopular war.
4. Mike DeWine (R OH). Another Republican taking big money from the White House political machine while proclaiming his independence. What war? George who?
5. Mark Foley (R FL). Mendacity had a new champion until the Ted Haggard revelation came along.
6. Harold Ford (D TN). He hands out a calling card with the ten commandments on the back. Fine. Another lesson for Democrats: Republican light is a losing strategy.
7. Bill Frist (R TN). Remember Terri Schiavo?
8. Tom Kean Jr. (R NJ). Start up the sludge machine and run away from the White House.
9. John McCain (R AZ). He called himself a friend of John Kerry. He was a victim of the Bush sludge machine himself, yet when it came time to pounce on Kerry for a botched joke, he could not even wait for an explanation.
10. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R CA). There is a word for remaking yourself in the image of your opposition: It is not pragmatism, it is pandering.
11. Michael Steele (R MD). Let's blame it all on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
12. Jim Talent (R MO). See Mike DeWine.
Nominees for Profiles in Courage (a short list):
1. Sherrod Brown (D OH). He came out against the war strong when it counted most: In the beginning. He remains one of the most principle antiwar voices.
2. Russ Feingold (D WI). He also came out against the war when it counted -- a lonely position in the US Senate. He has refused to take a stronger position on getting our troops out -- a position I disagree with but it takes courage to buck a growing tide that would have placed his name at the top of the presidential candidates list.
3. Bernie Sanders (VT). Bernie never pulls his punches. He has been right (left) on all the issues no matter how much derision he has had to suffer. A candidate to watch.
4. Jim Webb (D VA). A military man takes an antiwar stand and refuses to disavow his work as a novelist. Likewise, he takes responsibility for sexist statements he made decades ago. He does not look or act like a politician. Whatever our views on policy, the man possesses courage.