||Tucker Carlson is a CNN political analyst and contributes to The Weekly Standard and Talk magazines. He is providing exclusive analysis to CNN allpolitics.com during the election season.|
Tucker Carlson: Bradley, McCain offer differing 'goodbyes'
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- If only Bill Bradley could have given a concession speech every day of the primary season, he might be the Democratic nominee by now. As he withdrew from the race Thursday morning, Bradley the Loser was all the things Bradley the Candidate too often wasn't: witty, gracious and at ease. He smiled. He told jokes at his own expense. He pledged his support to Al Gore in a way that seemed neither grudging nor bitter.
It was an impressive performance, if at times marred by Bradley's
trademark political delusions. His underdog campaign, Bradley announced at
one point, marked the beginning of "the New Politics" -- "a politics that is
about lifting people up, not tearing them down."
Appealing as the sentiment might be, it is exactly wrong. If anything,
Bradley's doomed campaign is evidence that the Old Politics -- the politics of
tearing down rather than lifting up -- is not only still in fashion, but as
effective as ever.
Al Gore won the nomination not simply because he was a better candidate, but because he spent a great deal of time savaging Bill Bradley. In other words: Gore went negative early. Voters bought it. Gore is now the presumptive nominee. As political formulas go, there is none older.
If there was a depressing familiarity to the rhythms of the Democratic
race, the Republican contest continues to hold potentially explosive
surprises. "I am no longer an active candidate for my party's nomination for
president," John McCain announced Thursday in a speech delivered from his
weekend house in Arizona. And that, essentially, was all he announced. McCain
did not rule out running for the nomination of another party. At times he
seemed to hint at it. After a few sentences about his devotion to the GOP,
McCain added a subtle but unmistakable kicker: "I am also dedicated to the
cause of reform."
Whether a dedication to reform will evolve into a place on the Reform
Party ticket remains an open question, and at this point must be considered
unlikely. But it is not unimaginable.
The Reform Party has roughly $13 million in federal matching funds, ballot access in about half the states, and -- most significantly -- no viable candidate. So far, Pat Buchanan and John Hagelin (formerly of the transcendental meditation-inspired Natural Law Party) have announced their Reform candidacies. Both are products of the fringe, and neither has the support of Reform Party founder Ross Perot. Perot, meanwhile, is known to admire John McCain. In the past few weeks, at least one of McCain's fellow former POWs has been in regular contact with Perot.
Will McCain leave the GOP? Neither McCain nor his staff is saying, though at
the end of his speech today the Arizona senator made this appeal to his
supporters: "Stay in this fight with us -- we need your service more than
ever." Moments later, as he left the stage, a reporter shouted a query.
"Sir," she yelled, "would you consider running as a third party candidate?"
McCain walked away without answering. But the question hung in the air.