You can't pay a public figure these days to handicap the 2012 election. I was at an event on Friday where Evan Smith from the Texas Tribune offered Lindsey Graham a hundred-dollar donation to the organization of his choosing if he would pick apart the frontrunners... nothing going. Lots of horses lining up, no one wants to pull the trigger. Couple that with the contentious tone in politics today - hyperbole, over-statedness - and suddenly we've got a full field, daggers at the ready. Seems to me that someone who would've itched to get into this fight would have been one of Sen. Graham's fellow sons of South Carolina:
I've just finished Bad Boy: The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater. Atwater, whom many credit with exacerbating the contentiousness we've all come to know as the-cost-of-doing-business, made such an indelible mark on his chosen profession (political consulting) that, appreciate it or not, you almost have to respect it. He "fell in love with politics at an early age, and gravitated to the Republican Party; there is little evidence that this was motivated by ideology or anything else remotely resembling conviction, merely that the GOP seemed fertile ground. He became a protege of various South Carolina politicians, on whose behalf he developed a political style heavy on ad hominem attacks and what came to be known as "wedge issues," i.e., "simple, impressionistic issues that appealed to attitudes, created a reaction, not a thought." He moved to Washington... and found his way to the Reagan White House. He helped Reagan win re-election in 1984 and guided the singularly ignoble albeit successful 1988 campaign of George Bush, who rewarded him by making him head of the Republican Party. He died while in the party's service."
... at 40. Yeah, the kid did alright. Bad Boy takes you through to the bitter end, chronicling his torturous battle with the brain tumor that would kill him.
In many ways, Atwater represented one of the most uniquely defining characteristics of Washington: Power (perceived or otherwise) and one's ability to exploit his proximity to it. The town is teeming with folks who are rich in ambition yet completely bankrupt with the self-awareness to realize that it's not the man who's invited to the party, it's the title. And once your power depletes, well, best of luck pal. I think this sums it up best...
"Washington was a southern city in some ways: it was mannerly - you called the hostess the next day to thank her for a lovely party. But Washingtonians were much more self-absorbed than Southerners ever were. They might tell you if your hair was on fire, but only if you asked." (p. 87)
God I miss that place.
Certain parts excerpted from Jonathan Yardley's review, A Strategist's Final Campaign (Washington Post, 1/19/97).