I have heard from a number of my friends that if the 2016 presidential ticket pit a Clinton against a Bush, then they plan to sit this one out. I don't blame them.
I think many of us are suffering from Clinton-Bush fatigue. Do we really want another four or eight years of Clinton intrigue, questionable ethics and corporatist ties to Wall Street, with Bill in the role of first husband? Do we need a third Bush in the White House in a 30-year period? In a country of 320 million, are these the only candidates we can muster?
I am especially disappointed in the Democrats, who appear to have the weakest bench in memory. Who wishes to tilt against Hillary? Former Rhode Island Senator and Gov. Lincoln Chafee? Impressive resume, but political party hopper. Joe Biden? Nice guy and smarter than you think, but a bit beyond his "sell by" date. Our own Martin O'Malley? Feisty of late, but charisma-challenged, a thin resume and communication skills that would serve him poorly in a debate with the buzz saw that is Ted Cruz. Elizabeth Warren? Impressive ideas and someone with a potent message, but she has already opted out. Besides, after watching the current president struggle to get up to speed after a short and less-than-stellar Senate career, I don't think it is wise to allow on-the-job training for the most powerful office on earth. (Do you hear me, Mr. Rubio?)
All things being equal, and after holding the presidency for going-on two terms, the Democrats should be touting a formidable line-up of successors to Obama. After all, didn't their party save us from going over the economic cliff in 2008, bring troops home from two unpopular wars, rescue the auto industry from bankruptcy, and pass the first comprehensive health care reform bill in history? Isn't the stock market at record highs? Wasn't 2014 the strongest year for job growth since 1999?
That's all good news, right? If so, then why did many Democratic candidates distance themselves from Obama in the 2014 congressional and senate races? Neither Alaska's Democratic Sen. Mark Begich nor Allison Grimes, Mitch McConnell's opponent in Kentucky, would admit to having voted for the leader of their party in the 2012 presidential race. Why this timidity, if not a total lack of courage? And why do the apparent Republican candidates appear to be the only ones with fire in their bellies?
Many of the big domestic issues of the day — income inequality, a higher minimum wage, the rise of an American plutocracy, corporate oligarchies — fit the progressive mold, but aside from Obama, Warren, and Bernie Sanders, I see few Democrats approaching the podium. What I do see are Republican candidates, like Bush and Cruz, co-opting the Democrats and claiming income inequality as their own, despite their party's history.
There's no wizard to give Dems a heart, but what other barriers keep them from aspiring to the highest office in the land? Herculean fundraising requirements loom the largest. Obama raised over $715 million for his 2012 race. Who else but Hillary is up to this challenge?
Another barrier is an unwillingness to have your personal affairs scrutinized under an electron microscope. For example, Andrew Cuomo, New York's Democratic governor, has been suggested as presidential timber, but he has a live-in mistress. That wouldn't play well in the heartland.
Perhaps the scale and pressures of the job have simply become impossible. Note how Obama's hair turned gray in just six years. So what's the answer?
Barring a roll back of the Supreme Court's Citizens United campaign contribution decision, perhaps we have to think outside the box, as Milton Eisenhower once did. When I worked in television, I had the privilege of interviewing him in the 1980s. Milton was the brother and advisor to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower and a special consultant to presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. He was also a former president of Johns Hopkins University. Eisenhower believed the presidency too big for one person and suggested that the president appoint two vice-presidents, one for international affairs and the other for domestic affairs. He also advocated limiting the presidency to one six-year term.
There's wisdom in this. The presidency has gotten too complex and demanding for one individual to handle, and the challenges of getting re-elected for a second term waste much time, money and attention. Rather than catering to an endless succession of fundraisers and rallies across the country, a one-term president would be freed-up to better focus on the people's business. Imagine that.