On Saturday night, the Des Moines Register announced that it wouldn’t be releasing the results of the last poll before the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday. This has been widely interpreted as an indication that Bernie Sanders continues his surge to a decisive lead in the polling. Certain that Sanders cannot win the general election, and that he would in any case create serious problems for party unity going to the national convention in Milwaukee, the Democrats are said to be scrambling for someone to spike Sanders’s momentum.
We can assume that the Bernie problem is the main driver of this scramble. The scramble may involve as much spin as actual behind-the-scenes maneuvering. The media are as anxious as the officials of the Democratic Party to find a viable non-Sanders, non-Trump candidate. Not overinterpreting things is a good plan.
That said, as of Saturday evening, the latest was that some Democratic insiders said an arrangement with Hillary Clinton was under discussion. She might be named to the vice presidential slot on a Biden ticket – or perhaps anyone else’s ticket, as long as it wasn’t Bernie’s.
This naturally brought out plenty of jokes and cynicism. Just 24 hours later, there’s a new round of speculation, this time about John Kerry. He was overheard in Iowa talking about the possibility of a late-season bid for himself – in the POTUS nominee slot. (Think about that for a moment: he’s in Iowa, where the media outnumber the local population 2-to-1 this weekend, and this old pol just happens to be where the media can just happen to hear him as he discusses what it would take to mount a late-entry run for the nomination. Just think; that’s all I’m asking.)
Kerry vigorously repudiated the idea in a, er, language-encumbered tweet.
He deleted it. But it was beautiful while it lasted. pic.twitter.com/DNR1nDMTwQ
— andrew kaczynski🤔 (@KFILE) February 2, 2020
Which he then deleted, and re-sent without the encumbering language (the latter being a step he might well have dispensed with, if his main goal was to downplay the whole thing).
John Kerry just fucking deleted a message and reposted a cleaner version pic.twitter.com/G3fJJ8qfNN
— Mathieu von Rohr (@mathieuvonrohr) February 2, 2020
The pragmatic specificity with which he apparently discussed the possibility of a Kerry run doesn’t sound like the words of someone whose head harbors no such silly thoughts.
Sitting in the lobby restaurant of the Renaissance Savery hotel, Kerry was overheard by an NBC News analyst saying “maybe I’m f—ing deluding myself here” and explaining that to run, he’d have to step down from the board of Bank of America and give up his ability to make paid speeches. Kerry said donors like venture capitalist Doug Hickey would have to “raise a couple of million,” adding that such donors “now have the reality of Bernie.”
But we’ll take him at his word. One tweep did suggest Kerry could advertise his first act as POTUS to be offering condolences to Iran for the killing of Qasem Soleimani.
It is irresistible to ponder the vision of Kerry siccing James Taylor on the Iranian mullahs as a gesture of sympathy, singing “You’ve Got a Friend.”
(That’s the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, who brought over the microphone and held it up for Taylor when Kerry took him to help the French with their grief after the ISIS attack on the Jewish deli in January 2015.)
Meanwhile, Conservative Treehouse posits something like this: Kerry may enter the race at some point to immunize himself against any investigations related to Burisma and Ukraine, with which Kerry had a family member involved.
We could add that Kerry’s interest in immunity might extend to any investigation of his dealings with Iran since he left his post in the Obama administration.
The rule now, according to congressional Democrats and the media, is that if you’re running for president, the current administration can’t investigate you for anything because that would be a conflict of interest. It would be a corrupt activity, an abuse of power, if the sitting president were to investigate an electoral rival.
If we’re just kicking things around here, that puts Hillary Clinton’s potential candidacy in an interesting light. Of course, it also suggests a reason why Joe Biden would stick it out as long as he possibly can, no matter what the results of the upcoming primaries.
Michael Bloomberg presumably doesn’t need such immunity. Nor – as far as we know – would Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, or Amy Klobuchar.
But this is all speculation with little concrete foundation at the moment. Something we’re not clear on is when William Barr and John Durham might start laying out the kind of evidence that the aging, usual-suspect Democrats might find inconvenient to their golden years. We don’t know the timeline on that. We do know that, as regards Spygate and the 2016 election, it could involve Clinton, Biden, and Kerry (who was the secretary of state at the time, with a number of his people in the Spygate loop).
In the absence of information on that head, there’s no need to go further with this line of thought. We can assume, again, that whatever noises we’re hearing about Sudden Candidacies are impelled by the specter of Bernie Sanders.
An additional word on that. The Democrats aren’t just worried about Sanders not being electable. And the party leaders aren’t the only ones who are concerned. The problem with Bernie is that he doesn’t owe his electoral accomplishments, or his current viability, to either the DNC or the dark-money backers of the insurgents (i.e., the Ocasio-Cortez backers laboring to radicalize the broader party, through marginalizing its more traditionalist base and emphasizing down-ballot structural maneuvers).
These other competing entities don’t control Sanders. They can’t work through him to implement agendas.
At least they can’t at the moment. I’m not sure even crusty, independent Bernie can withstand the pressure that will be put on him if he manages to emerge as the obvious Democratic Party standard-bearer. Decades of being an ornery cuss from Vermont haven’t prepared him for that as well as he may think.
For now, it’s bemusing to watch. The emerging Godzilla stalking the party apparatus is 78-year-old socialist Bernie Sanders. His chief rival in the not-completely-non-viable column is 77-year-old Joe Biden. Elizabeth Warren, at 70, is the spring chicken of the high pollers, but her star is fading fast.
The cavalry lining up over the hill is composed of 77-year-old Michael Bloomberg, a candidate of very limited appeal who has trouble keeping even wonks awake, and who is strategically eschewing the early primaries; 72-year-old Hillary Clinton, who lost in 2016 and missed the party nomination in 2008; and potentially 76-year-old John Kerry, who lost the presidential race in 2004.
I’m reminded of the age-out flame-out of social democrats in Europe in the last decade, and chiefly of the abysmal showing of the social democrats in France in 2017. Someone found Emmanuel Macron to come bounding in from left field at the eleventh hour, a little known and very strange quantity. I don’t see a Macron on our horizon right now. But I wonder.