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The challenger for Edwards

By Bruce Walker
web posted July 12, 2004

The selection of John Edwards by John Kerry shows just how shallow the Democrat bench has become. Consider the handful of serious candidates. Dick Gephardt has been around forever and he is a dull, liberal cipher who seldom deviated from the mainstream party line. The Governor of Iowa - what's his name? - looked like he might not even be reelected two years ago.

And Hillary? Really!

Compare that with the Republican bench. Colin Powell, who could have won the nomination of either party in 1996 and won the general election as well, is a potential candidate. John McCain, a moderate conservative genuinely admired by Democrats, is another potential candidate. If Arnold Schwarzenegger could run, he too could be a formidable candidate.

Behind these obvious choices, however, lie even more attractive candidates. Rick Santorium, an attractive and very popular Pennsylvania Senator who is pro-life, would deliver Pennsylvania, energize social conservatives and give a very youthful image to the ticket.

Norm Coleman

Norm Coleman, once a liberal Jewish Democrat from New York and now a moderately conservative Republican from Minnesota, could also deliver his home state and make Republicans very competitive in states like Illinois, New York and California. Coleman is also young, articulate and smart.

Or how about Mitt Romney, the popular Governor of Massachusetts? He would not carry the state against its Senator Kerry, but he could certainly put the Northeast in play and bedevil Kerry throughout the campaign. Young, moderately conservative and very articulate and likeable, Governor Romney is a rising star in America.

Everyone considers Rudy Giuliani a man to watch, and even conservatives who do not agree with him on social issues agree that he speaks honestly and fights evil, whether it is organized crime in New York or terrorism abroad. He is a powerful voice and a popular figure.

Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is genuinely popular in the critical swing state that polls show already going Republican. He is also a strong social conservative who would energize the Republican base and Santorum is very youthful and very articulate.

All this assumes that replacing Dick Cheney is good politics. Events may prove that wrong. Cheney utterly destroyed Joe Lieberman in the Vice Presidential Debate of 2000. High expectations that an experienced and handsome trial lawyer would beat Cheney may well backfire badly if the calm, quiet, brilliant, wise dignity of Vice President Cheney utterly destroys Edwards as he did Lieberman. Democrats have fallen victim to underestimating President Bush, just as they underestimated President Reagan, again and again.

There is a reason why Dick Cheney became the youngest Chief of Staff for any president in American history. There is a reason why Dick Cheney was also the number two Republican in the House of Representatives at a young age as well. There is a reason why Desert Storm, conducted when Cheney was Secretary of Defense, went so flawlessly. There is a reason why Dick Cheney is comfortably and happier married to the most brilliant Second Lady in America history, Lynne Cheney.

Dick Cheney is very, very smart and very, very strong. Let Democrats think otherwise - let them think so to their regret. Still, the talk about replacing Cheney will continue, and so let me offer my two top choices, should that become more likely to happen than not.

Bill Frist

And my first choice? Who best to counter a pretty trial lawyer than a great doctor like Bill Frist, Majority Leader of the United States Senate and a heart surgeon who has donated big chunks of his life doing volunteer work to fight AIDS in Africa? Frist is every bit as persuasive as Edwards, and also a Southerner whose presence on the ticket would keep North Carolina and Florida in the Republican column.

But most importantly, the selection of Frist would focus sharply the debate between healers and stealers in the American professional structure. Frist saves lives and Edwards takes money. Let Frist, decent and kind and intelligent, dismantle the mumbo-jumbo of the trial lawyer, Edwards. Let Americans see why their health care costs are so high and why so many doctors are giving up their practices.

Gallup/USA Today/CNN had a poll in November 2003 which asks which professions people trusted most and least. There were twenty-three different professions that were mentioned. Second from the top were medical doctors, whose ethical standards were rated "high" or "very high" by sixty-eight percent of the American people. Lawyers were below politicians and businessmen with an anemic sixteen percent of the American people considering them ethical.

Let that be the vision Republicans present to America - a heart surgeon against a trial lawyer. Two men from adjacent states, both successful men, but in very different ways. Then let America decide which vision seems more like the American Dream and which more like the American Nightmare.

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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