Campaigns/Elections

"Mike Huckabee has a four-word slogan and a YouTube link"

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That's heavyweight political columnist Michael Barone's summarization of the formerly fat, formerly gubernatorial Arkansan who is now running for president of these United States.

(If you're that interested in the 2nd Man from Hope to be eyeing the White House, don't miss the disturbingly named website exploremikehuckabee.com, which promises to do for politics what The Opening of Misty Beethoven did for porn).

Barone isn't simply shooting razorbacks in a barrel–he surveys the current crop of both A-List and Z-List candidates and asks, mustering all the righteous anger of Norwegian charismatic Walter Mondale and Wendy's pitchgal Clara Peller, Where's the Beef?:

Presidential candidates have the opportunity to set the national agenda by bringing forward new proposals and innovative policies.

Some do this: Bill Clinton in 1992, George W. Bush in 2000. Others don't. Like most or all of the 2008 candidates.

Click through their Web sites. You find pretty thin gruel. Especially so from the two leading in the polls. Hillary Rodham Clinton's home page links to her recent Senate speech on Iran, but not her 2002 speech backing the Iraq war resolution. She calls for putting "some of the oil industry's windfall profits into a fund that would help develop practical new sources of renewable energy," but with no details. You might find out more by clicking on her "Let the Conversation Begin" Web casts.

Rudy Giuliani tells you even less….

Barone concedes that "it's early yet" and "the candidates haven't had time to get issue shops up and running" (his whole column is here). You might be excused for wondering why pols who have no idea what they think about major policies feel that nonetheless they should crowned god-emperor of Dune. But leaving that aside, Barone's larger point, I think, is a sound one that will hold true the entire excrutiating length of Campaign 2008: None of the current candidates, even or especially the top tier, is likely to come up with any sort of wide-ranging vision of what America (much less the world) needs right now and why he or she alone can deliver the goods. (Other than that old political standby, megalomania.)

Maybe that's a hopeful sign that politics is continuing its decline as a major factor in everyday life, that politics has retreated from significance because the real action in American life is decidedly (and blessedly) elsewhere.

Or maybe it's just a sign that current pols are midgets standing on the kneecaps of dwarves.

Or maybe it's a combination of both.