Democrats' Brown cost his party their best candidate

MIKE ROYKO

December 30, 1991|By Mike Royko | Mike Royko,Tribune Media Services

RON BROWN HAS the single most important qualification needed to be national chairman of the stumbling, bumbling, modern-day Democratic Party. He's dumb.

I'm not sure what the procedure is in choosing a party chairman. But I wouldn't be surprised if a screening committee asks applicants:

"Do you believe that you are dumb enough for this job?"

If so, Brown must have said: "Absolutely. You can search this wide world over, and you won't find a dumber guy than me."

Just give it some thought. The majority of Democrats in this country have known for a long time that Mario Cuomo would be their strongest presidential candidate.

The Republicans sure knew it. About 18 months ago, Richard Nixon talked about Cuomo's gifts as a speaker and his leadership qualities. And said that if the economy was in trouble in 1992, the one Democrat who could beat George Bush would be Cuomo.

So here it is, almost 1992, and the economy is in trouble and is going to get worse.

And what is the status of the man described by Nixon as being the most threatening to the Republicans?

He has, in effect, been asked to step aside by Ron Brown, the national Democratic chairman.

Brown told Cuomo that if he couldn't enter the New Hampshire primary, he should drop out and let the other candidates get on with the job of establishing which of them would be the least hapless.

This shows that Brown has the mind of a bureaucrat. On his desk, there is a schedule. And the schedule shows that New Hampshire will hold the nation's first primary. So with the bureaucrat's need for order, even if it is a stupid need, Brown decides that all the candidates must be in that primary.

It doesn't matter that the New Hampshire primary is a nickel-and-dime contest. As I have mentioned before, the winning Democrat in New Hampshire will get about as many votes as are cast in 1-1/2 of Chicago's 50 wards.

And it doesn't matter that every poll, every survey, every way of measuring opinion, shows that Cuomo is the choice of the majority of Democrats. And with jobs being lopped by the tens of thousands almost daily, the choice of a lot of independents, some Republicans, and anyone else who thinks this country is quickly going belly up.

If Brown wasn't as dimwitted as he appears, he might have said something like this:

"Gov. Cuomo has a unique problem. He is not a senator, as some of our potential candidates are. So he doesn't have the luxury of campaigning while his congressional staff runs the Washington office.

"Because he is the governor of New York, he has to deal with a bunch of Republican dinosaurs in that state legislature. And at the request of the White House, these Republican legislators are doing everything they can to cause a budget crisis, keep the crisis going, and prevent Cuomo from becoming our presidential candidate.

"But we're not going to let those Republicans dictate who our candidate is going to be. We will go on with the primary process, yes. And in the meantime, Gov. Cuomo can try to straighten out the budget problems in New York.

"If and when he does this, he can then declare his candidacy. There should be more than enough time to determine who the rank-and-file Democrats prefer. If that person is Cuomo, so be it. If it is Paul Tsongas or Jerry Brown -- please stop giggling -- that's OK, too.

"But the point is that New Hampshire isn't the whole ballgame. It isn't even batting practice. So let us not do anything rash or close any doors."

Is that hard to grasp? Of course not. Any Chicago precinct captain would do it that way. Of course, Brown probably couldn't find a precinct, much less work it for votes.

So I have a suggestion for Ron Brown. He should do the honorable thing and stick his head in a kitchen oven.

Or if he thinks that is extreme, he should merely resign as party chairman.

And I have a candidate to replace him.

Over the weekend, I took a call from Phil Krone, who is a political consultant and an old friend.

Krone said: "I'm going to hold a press conference and announce that I'm forming a committee to draft Cuomo and get a write-in campaign going for him in New Hampshire. This is ridiculous. Brown is supposed to be chairman of the party, and he shoots down our best candidate."

I told Krone that anybody can hold a press conference and anybody can form a committee, but who outside of Chicago has ever heard of Phil Krone?

His response: "Who the hell has ever heard of Ron Brown? Do you think those workers getting laid off at General Motors want him calling the shots for them?"

He has a point: Who has heard of Ron Brown? And what has he done, besides follow the modern tradition of goofing up the Democratic Party's chances of winning a presidential election?

Besides, Krone used to be a Chicago precinct captain.

And unlike Brown, he knows that in politics, as in golf, the question isn't "how?" but "how many?"

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