Up Front

Does Jenna swing?

Is Jenna Bush -- the blond half of the once hard-partying Bush twins -- a swing voter? One of the horde of young women upon whom pollsters tell us the fate of the Democratic Party could depend this November? On Larry King Live in late April, the president's daughter, accompanying her mother for an interview about their new children's book, surprised Larry by saying that "of course" she would consider voting for a Democrat this election year. "Who isn't open to learning about the candidates?" she continued, as her mom sat by with a forced smile. Laura, for her part, had said that if compelled to choose between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for president, she couldn't. "My favorite is the Republican," she insisted.

There's been evidence for some time that Jenna's apple fell at least a few feet left of the Bush tree. After college she taught low-income kids in a Washington, D.C., public charter school, and last year, she published a book about a young girl living with HIV/AIDS in Panama. In the book, Ana's Story, Jenna frankly supports comprehensive sex education and condom distribution, policies her dad firmly opposes. Here's hoping that Jenna's views influence her new husband, Virginia GOP scion Henry Hager, a former aide to Karl Rove. It's too late, alas, for her heresies to trickle up to President Pop.

Shy McCain

In a recent column, the newly punditized Karl Rove bemoaned John McCain's oh-so principled refusal to discuss his heroic war record. If only, Rove moaned, people knew just how noble and brave McCain is. Of course, back on planet Earth McCain has in fact run his entire campaign on the basis of his biography. One incident Rove discussed at length concerns a North Vietnamese prison guard who drew a cross in the sand in front of McCain as a discreet gesture of sympathy and faith. Never mind that the same exact event is described in one of McCain's numerous biographical Web-ads. Other ads reference different aspects of his captivity; far from being shy about his record, McCain practically has "I'm a war hero!" tattooed on his forehead. The Arizona senator even uses the font on the Vietnam War Memorial in his campaign logo.

So Karl Rove misrepresented facts for polemical purposes? We're just as shocked as you are.


F. Scott Fitzgerald may have famously opined that there are no second acts in American lives, but he failed to account for the effect of third parties on second acts. Consider Alaska's Mike Gravel, who left the Democrats in March to seek the Libertarian Party nomination and who has argued that his status as a former U.S. senator gives him a leg up on other Libertarian candidates. "They'd had Ron Paul and Bob Barr," Gravel noted in an April interview. "Two congressmen do not make a senator. Four congressmen, maybe, make a senator, but not two congressmen." But Barr, who also is running for the Libs' presidential nod this year, and whom the libertarian Reason magazine reckoned "can capture some of the Ron Paul mojo and avoid the fringy appearance of the [2004 Libertarian presidential candidate Michael] Badnarik campaign," does have the advantage of having served in Congress in this century. (Gravel left the Senate when Jimmy Carter was president.) Elsewhere down the food chain, perennial candidate Ralph Nader, who declined to seek the Green Party's nomination and is soldiering on solo, has managed to raise $10,000 from 159 donors, according to his Web site. Alan Keyes, after losing the Constitution Party's nod to Chuck Baldwin in April, has collected 5,512 pledges of support for his own do-it-yourself campaign as of this writing. On the skid row of American politics, characters, as usual, abound.

Beer upscales

Is beer a beer-track drink anymore? Start with the rerouting of corn into ethanol, add soaring fuel prices and bad weather, mix in a fire in the warehouse holding a significant chunk of America's hops stock, and voilà! The price of hops, a key ingredient in beer-making, has risen by as much as 400 percent over the last year. Barley, another key ingredient, has increased by almost 45 percent. This all adds up to a crisis for beer-drinkers, brewers, and bratwurst cooks, but let's not forget the pundit class, which for four decades has persistently, and at times exclusively, relied on beer drinking to explain the class system in America. Long the journalistic shorthand for the mine-laboring, quiche-hating man on the street (they don't call him Joe Sixpack for his love of Coca-Cola), however, beer may soon be marketed at wine-like prices. The most familiar, well-worn political metaphor of our time could soon become about as relevant a signifier of economic status as the top hat, the monocle, or the full dinner pail.

This could, of course, force journalists to deal with issues of class more seriously.

Just kidding!

The Question:
"Wine track" is passé. What food better symbolizes the elite?

"The blood of the working class."

-- Eric Rauchway, professor, University of California, Davis

"After my first game at the new Washington Nationals stadium, I have to say hot dogs."

-- Michael Gehrke, research director, Democratic National Committee

"Organic caviar. It's certainly not arugula. The rich like to generate envy, and no one is jealous of salad."

-- Dr. Larry J. Sabato, professor, University of Virginia

Parody by T.A. Frank

MEMO FROM: McCain '08

TO: McCain '08

Feedback for the Jindal idea has been positive, but our polling shows Sen. McCain to have vulnerabilities that go beyond mere age. Therefore, we must consider more vice-presidential remedies.

ACTION ITEM: When campaign staffers provide Bill Kristol with guidance for his column this week, please be sure to float some of the following vice-presidential pairings that we think might help, as it were, to "plug the ship."

Sen. McCain and Raila Odinga

In a change election, voters may perceive Sen. McCain as a somewhat white candidate, closely tied to Washington, and therefore failing to "turn the page." Prime Minister Odinga of Kenya, however, has not been corrupted by Washington and is entirely Kenyan, thus offsetting the opposition. As Kristol might want to phrase it: "You want half-Kenyan? You can get it with McCain-Odinga."

Sen. McCain and Jallgor

Since terrorism and the war in Iraq are major issues in this election, some voters have indicated reservations about Sen. McCain's inability to distinguish between Sunni and Shia Muslims. We do not presently know who "Jallgor" is, except that is the screen name of someone who left a comment on a blog saying, "I learned the difference between Shiite and Sunni when I was 15." With Jallgor on the ticket, Joe Lieberman would not need to stand by Sen. McCain to correct him. The pitch to Kristol's readers could be: "You want a president who knows the difference between Shiites and Sunnis? Look no further. Jallgor has known the difference for years. McCain-Jallgor is ready for office."

McCain and Evan O'Dorney

Gov. Jindal would bring youth and brains to the ticket, but the average age (53) would still be somewhat high. By contrast, Evan O'Dorney, 14, the 2007 champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, would bring the average age down to about 42. Plus, you should see this kid. He's really brainy. Kristol might try floating the following: "You want young? How about a speller? Just tell us. We'll give you whatever you damn people need to stay away from that other guy. How about a puppy? Just tell me. No, not that. McCain stays."

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