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Outsiders vs. Insiders: The reemergence of Biden and Romney shows it’s déjà vu all over again

If you’ve ever been watching a horror film in a movie theater and experienced a feeling like “I’ve seen this all before,” then you probably have a good grasp of what’s going on in American politics these days.

Why? Because similar to horror movies, politics has become eminently formulaic and predictable. In the horror genre there are only so many methods to set up gullible victims to be offed by some deranged psychopath. Sure, there’s the occasional “Aliens” or “Jaws” that throws an interesting twist on the way characters are Biden Romneyeliminated in a plot, but if you get down to the nitty gritty, horror flicks are all pretty alike.

Love stories and Hallmark Christmas movies also fit the “formulaic” description. Bring the sweetest syrup you can find and that’s what they taste like every time.

Politics is just like making movies in a lot of ways. Comparable to a horror film, once you think you’ve safely “killed off” the perpetrator he pops up again wielding the same weapons and pursuing the same sick ambitions.

Such is certainly the case for former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden’s back in the news and clearly thinking about his future. Whether he’s really coming back from the political dead is open to anyone’s interpretation, however.

Edward Isaac-Devere of Politico reported, “After beginning the year both teasing a 2020 bid and ruling one out — sometimes on the same day — Biden in recent months has shifted unmistakably in favor of running, say multiple people who’ve been in touch with the former vice president and his team.

“For the first time in what would be the sixth presidential campaign that he’s either seriously flirted with or launched, Biden sees an argument for a candidacy for which he is the only answer: An elder statesman who can help repair the damage and divisions in the country and around the world, unite the competing wings of the Democratic Party, and appeal to traditional Democratic voters who fled last year for Trump.”

Talk about a “scary” proposition. It’s more than a little pathetic that some in the Democrat Party now see “Uncle” Joe Biden as their de facto leader and potential future savior. It shouldn’t be forgotten Biden has a long history in the party having run for president several times already and frankly didn’t get very far in any of those attempts.

Biden’s initial bid (1988) was torpedoed by a plagiarism scandal that was never fully publically litigated and in 2008 he didn’t win a single delegate against upstart Barack Obama and establishment favorite Hillary Clinton (Note: Biden withdrew after a poor showing in Iowa that year, but wouldn’t have been competitive anyway).

The former Delaware senator didn’t even endorse nominee Obama until June (of 2008), well after the winner was no longer in question and after all of Obama’s primary opponents had done so, even Hillary.

Obama would never admit to it but he certainly must have picked Biden to be his number two as a de facto last resort. After all, Obama couldn’t choose Hillary after what she’d done to him during the primary race and the cupboard of available potential candidates was threadbare at best. Third-place finisher “prom queen” John Edwards had already been tried in that capacity and it was likely widely known within party circles at the time that the North Carolinian’s “baby daddy” infidelity skeletons were about to burst from his closet.

Likewise, Governor Bill Richardson was a nice guy -- and Hispanic -- but he hailed from a relatively small and politically unimportant region of the country and wouldn’t bring much enthusiasm to the ticket in any case.

Dennis Kucinich was only a congressman and largely viewed as a fringe nutcase. It’s likely he was never even given consideration by Obama.

There were other possibilities but most were too closely tied to the Clintons and wouldn’t present the right impression to voters looking for “Hope and Change” against the ultimate establishment Republican nominee, John McCain.

That left Biden, the rhetorically loudmouth hard-hitting liberal who was perhaps best-known for practically single-handedly shooting down the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court and was also a leading naysayer in the confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas. During the ’08 Democrat primary debates Biden often appeared to be the “let’s all get along and beat the Republicans” voice in the party so it’s only natural he’d make a good compromise selection for Obama.

But would 2020 Democrat voters take to Biden as opposed to the bevy of younger, less-white candidates like Senators Corey Booker or Kamala Harris? “Uncle” Joe will be 78 years-old on November 20, 2020, so even before he’d take office Biden would be the oldest man to ever be president (Ronald Reagan was just short of 78 when he left the White House). By contrast Bernie Sanders is now 76 and he seems ancient.

Biden has always had enough trouble getting his facts straight even without the onset of advanced age – would Democrats seriously consider him? Biden’s foot often finds itself in his mouth, too, though the press lets him get away with saying things like “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Joe also said about Indian-Americans (in 2006), “You cannot go into a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. Oh, I'm not joking.”

Can you imagine the media storm if a conservative or a Republican said those things? At least Biden wasn’t like Harry Reid who bragged Obama was “light skinned” and didn’t have a trace of a “negro dialect unless he wants to.”

If the media’s frontrunner spotlight were on Biden long enough he’s almost sure to say something stupid; just as the sun is certain to rise tomorrow “Uncle Joe” would wreck his own candidacy. This is one horror movie that won’t have a sequel unless it’s presented as a semi-comedic goodbye tour.

The Republicans have a “horror” scenario of their own to deal with, namely the increasingly likely senate candidacy of none other than 2012 loser Mitt Romney. Alex Isenstadt of Politico reported, “Mitt Romney is edging closer to a 2018 Senate run.

“The former GOP presidential nominee is huddling with Utah’s class of GOP power brokers, contacting the state’s major political donors, and hitting the trail for candidates running in local races amid mounting speculation that the state’s longtime senator, Orrin Hatch, will retire. Romney is also raising money for House and Senate Republicans, winning him favor with GOP leaders ahead of a treacherous midterm election…

“The Senate might seem like an unexpected landing place for the 70-year-old former Massachusetts governor and two-time presidential candidate. Yet those who’ve spoken with Romney in recent days are convinced he’s prepared to jump in. After falling short in his quest for the White House and then being passed over by President Donald Trump for secretary of state, friends say Romney still has unquenched political ambitions.”

If I had Romney’s ear I would tell him to forget about a run. In a day and age where conservatives are bent on extinguishing the remaining vestiges of the discredited #NeverTrump establishment status quo, even if successful Mitt would face a headwind of grassroots hostility once he reached the senate.

Unlike with Biden, age wouldn’t be as much of a factor in Romney’s case but he still would be turning 72 a couple months after being sworn into his new “job,” a little on the elderly side for a freshman senator (Utah’s would-be “senior” senator Mike Lee will be 47 at that time). Romney may have been on top of the GOP world at one time but when he becomes just one of 100 senators with no seniority there won’t be a whole lot of deference offered to a guy who might’ve been president but in the present circumstances carries with him relatively little authority.

There’s also the issue of Romney’s open antipathy to President Trump during the 2016 Republican primaries (and even well into the general election campaign against Crooked Hillary Clinton). The two subsequently made nice last December when Romney was supposedly being considered for Trump’s secretary of state, but there’s little doubt the president still remembers how harsh Mitt was before the election.

The Democrats are the ones dominated by their line-up of decrepit has-beens. The Republicans need new blood. Mitt Romney ain’t it.

Speaking of new blood, while it may not be a horror flick scenario it looks like the White House is gearing up for more staff turnover. Andrew Restuccia, Annie Karni and Josh Dawsey of Politico reported, “Deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn — a former top aide to Jeff Sessions in the Senate who played a central role during the presidential transition — is expected to be reassigned to the Commerce Department or another federal agency, according to multiple administration officials and outside advisers familiar with plans for the staff change.

“Dearborn’s portfolio over the past year has covered high-level assignments, including helping to organize the president’s schedule. But that job has since been passed to another deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin, while Dearborn has become increasingly marginalized internally since [Chief of Staff John] Kelly’s arrival in late July.”

This development is noteworthy because it marks the departure of another principled conservative from President Trump’s inner circle. There’s no question Kelly’s presence has squelched much of the media circus atmosphere evident in the earliest days of the Trump presidency, but it’s not a positive thing when a good many of the conservative voices from the campaign are now outside of Trump’s orbit.

We’ve seen it before with people like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka. A few conservatives are still there, such as Stephen Miller and Kellyanne Conway, but Trump’s operation is looking more and more like a “standard” Republican administration rather than a top-notch swamp draining machine.

Time will tell. In the meantime, like in a low-budget horror movie, America’s formulaic political plot seems to be repeating itself. The old villains are rising from the dead to plague the system and nothing much is getting done to alter the status quo in Washington. Maybe it’s time for the film to conclude.

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