Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Goodbye Gephardt

And I have to say, good riddance. His poor showing, and Howard Dean's weak finish, seem to signal a Democratic Party shift against the sort of shrill, ultra-negative politics advocated by the likes of Paul Krugman. Perhaps we'll now have a real political debate about the big issues, rather than "Dr. No" style grandstanding.

ES MOINES, Iowa Jan. 19 — Rep. Dick Gephardt signaled his withdrawal from the Democratic presidential race Monday night after a devastating fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.

"My campaign to fight for working people may be ending tonight, but our fight will never end," Gephardt said in a post-caucus speech that sounded like a political farewell.

The Missouri lawmaker offered his congratulations to his presidential rivals, and in a campaign concession, said one of them would wind up with the party's nomination to challenge President Bush this fall.

He pledged he would support that person "in any way I can," but did not indicate whether he would endorse anyone while the nominating campaign proceeds.

Nor did Gephardt say whether he intends to serve out his current term in Congress, his 14th and last.

The conventional thing to do at a moment like this one is to emphasize the good things about a politician's career while playing down all his failings, but I'm going to buck that convention and say that I'm glad Richard Gephardt's career is over. His political legacy has mostly been a negative one, and one can only hope (probably in vain) that the protectionist and anti-market forces in the Democratic Party will be weakened by his departure. There've been far worse politicians in recent times (Jesse Helms and Strum Thurmond spring to mind), but as Democrats go, Gephardt was pretty bad. Don't let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya, Dick.