Thursday, June 12

OBAMA'S VETTER BLEW MONDALE'S RACE

CRAIG CRAWFORD On so many fronts, I knew there was trouble for Barack Obama when he picked Jim Johnson for his vice presidential vetting team. Not only is Johnson a big-business Democrat with icky ties to even ickier businesses, like mortgage lending firms in trouble. But the longtime party insider is also firmly entrenched with Democratic losers going back to Walter Mondale, whose pathetic 1984 presidential campaign was run by Johnson.

If Obama is about a break with the past, he could find no one more counter-intuitive than Johnson. Already, Johnson is under fire for his own sweetheart loans. More than likely Obama will eventually come under intense pressure to dump his VP vetter.

For a clue about Johnson's questionable political acumen, here's what I remember from my own experience as a field operative in Mondale's presidential campaign. Johnson blew the only moment when it looked like Mondale might actually have a chance at overcoming Ronald Reagan's reelection bid.

Following Reagan's disastrous debate performance against Mondale, when the media began to seriously question the president's mental fitness, many Democratic insiders counseled their nominee to go in for the kill in the next debate. But Johnson, apparently believing that Mondale had a lock on the election, advised his candidate to back off, counseling that it would seem mean-spirited to do otherwise.

Johnson could not have been more wrong, as many of us in the campaign thought at the time. Still, Mondale followed his manager's advice and Reagan won the day - and probably the election - at the subsequent debate as the Democrat foolishly held his fire.

For some reason, Democratic nominees ever since - except Bill Clinton - have thought Johnson was some sort of genius. And it is no accident that Clinton is the only one to win the White House.