Hoping for win, place or show in election - Bob Paslay

I have no idea who is going to win the presidential election in 14 months.

Anyone who tells you they know is either a stupid egomaniac or a die-hard fan of one of the candidates or both.

Think about the past if you are old enough. On Nov. 21, 1963 if you asked who was going to be president in one year, no one would have told you Lyndon Johnson would win one of the nation's biggest landslides. There were even some who were pushing President Kennedy to dump him from the ticket.

Four years later if you asked, no one would have thought a little-known senator would garner enough votes in New Hampshire to eventually force Johnson out of the primaries. And certainly no one would have told you that Richard Nixon would come back from the political dead to be the next president in 1968.

Even further back in early 1863, all odds-makers were writing off President Lincoln because the war was not going well and there were other domestic problems. Along came Gettysburg in the summer and Lincoln won the next year. Just for the record, Lincoln received 83,458 votes to Democratic general George McClellan's 65,884.

I point all of this out to say that I love good and close presidential elections, which keep the late summer and fall interesting. Last time might have been a little too interesting because one of the three branches, the judicial branch, ended up picking the head of the executive branch by the decisions it made. (Just to be fair, if the Supreme Court had refused to intervene because it blurred the solid lines of separation, the judiciary would still have picked the president by its rulings n the Florida Supreme Court).

Certainly retired four-star General Wesley Clark who has entered the race, will put a lot of umpf in the primary season. If he wins, it will make for a spectacular general election.

I don't know much about the general except that he has been married to the same woman for more than three decades and that he looks like a president if you were casting one for a movie.

The Democratic nominating process is a tricky situation. You can win the primaries and nomination and end up not having a chance in November because you have conceded the middle to the Republicans.

If you are going to criticize the president on his war decisions, it doesn't hurt to have a highly decorated formerly badly wounded soldier who was an early critic of the Iraq invasion. Of course, this didn't seem to work last time in the Republican primaries in which George W. Bush beat Sen. McCain. But I would argue that the Republicans after being out of office for eight years decided early on that they were going to back a horse and ride it to the finish line regardless of any issues that came up. They more anointed a nominee than elected one.

America has had a mixed result of voting for generals. George Washington was the best. President Eisenhower was what America needed at that time although nothing spectacular really happened in the 1950s. President Grant was a disaster.

Vietnam General William Westmoreland ran for governor in the Republican Primary in my and his home state of South Carolina in 1974. He had the stupidest quote after losing in the primary to a right-wing little known dentist, who would later serve in the Reagan administration. The quote went something like this: "I could have won the election, but I couldn't get past the primary."

A friend of mine saw a bumper sticker in Atlanta that said: Redefeat George Bush in 2004.

Ephemeral is one of my favorite words. It means short-lived, transitory. It's like the dew, it looks solid and impressive until the bright sun fades it away. Often someone looks invincible and then their lead in the polls, their support, is ephemeral. That is especially true when we are months away from casting the first votes and everyone is focused on everything except picking a new president.

I am not saying that Howard Dean is a pony that will fade now that Gen. Clark has entered the race. I am saying that the bored national media will often fall for a candidate and give him or her a lot of air time and ink. People will respond by putting that candidate in the lead in the polls. But as we all know: The media gives and the media takes away. The media usually never marries, but falls in love, has an affair, gets bored and finds a new love.

If you have made it this far in my column, you can now go back to thinking about football, cool weather and all the things that will occupy your mind until 2003 fades into 2004. Just hope when you refocus that America has a wonderful horse race presidential election under way.

Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or at bpaslay@news-daily.com.