Just When We Thought Bloomberg Was Out, They Pull Nunn Back In

With Mike Bloomberg reportedly ending his flirtations with a run for the Presidency (and I stress reportedly), it's apparently time for a new vanity candidate, another former Democrat, to let on that he's thinking about running for the White House this cycle. Jim Galloway has the story for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"It's a possibility, not a probability," said [former Georgia Democratic Senator Sam] Nunn, now the head of a nonprofit organization out to reduce the threat posed by nuclear, biological and chemical weaponry. "My own thinking is, it may be a time for the country to say, 'Timeout. The two-party system has served us well, historically, but it's not serving us now.'"

The 68-year-old former senator, still considered one of the foremost experts on national security, confirmed that he's discussed a presidential run as part of several conversations with Michael Bloomberg, the New York mayor.

More important, Nunn said he's been in touch with Unity '08, a group with a goal of fielding a bipartisan or independent ticket for president. Initial talks began with Hamilton Jordan, a co-founder of Unity '08 and former chief of staff to President Jimmy Carter.

From the AJC report it's not entirely clear whether Nunn, who flirted with a presidential bid back in 1992, is actually serious about trying to win a bid for the White House -- or even run one -- or to, instead, raise the profile of some of the issues important to him, first and foremost nuclear non-proliferation. Chuck Todd and the folks over at MSNBC's First Read write today about exactly that issue: "Nunn's interest raises this question: Why haven't other political has-beens expressed more interest in a possible 2008 candidacy? What better way to get back in the news to push a pet issue? In Nunn's case, the pet issue is a big one: nukes."

I don't have a terribly large problem with someone flirting with a run to increase the public's attention about a particular issue. On one hand I think it debases the system to an extent -- running for the Presidency should be about... running for the Presidency -- and having an excess of candidates who aren't really running to win doesn't exactly do much to limit cynicism about the system. That said, if a campaign isn't the place to raise issues, I don't know what venue is.

But the time really isn't now for a former Democrat to work to make it more difficult for a Democrat to win the White House next fall. The last six and a half years have unfortunately done much to dispel the notion that there is no difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties (I think few would argue we'd be in the same situation had the Supreme Court not coronated George W. Bush President and rather the process in Florida had played out with Al Gore securing his rightful position as President). What's more, though the notion of bipartisanship as exemplified by folks like Sam Nunn and Unity08 may sound laudable, as I've written at length before the bipartisanship of the 1970s and 1980s was a byproduct of the changing partisan leanings of the electorate coupled with decades-long Democratic dominance on the congressional level, two conditions we do not see today.

So while folks like Hamilton Jordan and Doug Bailey, who thrived under the system of looser partisanship in the late-1970s, might like a return to that era, and thus are pushing candidacies like that (potentially) of Sam Nunn or others under the banner of Unity08, I truly believe that it would be to the detriment of the country to forward the candidacy of someone -- particularly a former Democrat -- who could potentially make it more difficult for the Democrats to win back the Presidency and begin to right the wrong course charted for the last six and a half years by George W. Bush and the Republican Party.

Tags: 2008, Sam Nunn, third party, Unity08 (all tags)

Comments

18 Comments

Would Nunn really hurt us?

He's a hardcore social conservative (strongly opposed Don't Ask Don't Tell from a right-wing perspective), and very "conservative" on national security issues, while he's a democrat on issues like Medicare/Social security.  By that logic, he should do best in the south where he would take votes away from the republican candidate (especially if it's Giuliani), which would seem to love a Sam Nunn type.

by Terryus 2007-08-20 07:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Would Nunn really hurt us?

That's a very good point.  I could easily see Nunn taking lots of votes away from someone like Giuliani in the South.  The people who don't think Democrats are "serious" enough on national security are already voting for the Republicans.

by Steve M 2007-08-20 08:02AM | 0 recs
For Old Times' Sake...

by Jonathan Singer 2007-08-20 07:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Just When We Thought Bloomberg Was Out, They P
Maybe one of the frontrunners should step up and agree to take on Nunn's pet issue in order to nullify his candidacy.
by anevarez 2007-08-20 07:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Just When We Thought Bloomberg Was Out, They P

Actually, the idea that nuclear anti-proliferation should be a top issue was one of the few things Bush and Kerry agreed on in their 2004 debates.  There's not going to be a lot of space for a third-party candidate on this issue, although of course, criticism of Bush's actual record is always helpful.

by Steve M 2007-08-20 08:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Just When We Thought Bloomberg Was Out, They P

They already have. Hillary Clinton specifically endorsed Nunn's project in her major foreign policy speech.

http://clinton.senate.gov/news/statement s/details.cfm?id=265807

The common strand that draws these crises together is the threat that sophisticated terrorists operating out of Afghanistan or Iraq, or somewhere else, will be able to acquire nuclear weapons or materials. For 40 years the US provided bipartisan leadership in building a network of treaties and expectations that kept global nuclear ambitions in check. Countries like Brazil, Argentina, and South Africa, and Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus elected not to develop nuclear weapons or even gave up weapons they had giving terrorists fewer opportunities as a result.

Today we face intense extremist efforts to buy or steal either a bomb or the material to make one and it doesn't have to be very big. We are also seeing increased interest in peaceful uses of nuclear power on the part of many legitimate states. In response, we need to modernize the non-proliferation treaties and related agreements. Last year, we had the chance to start talking about what a stronger regime would look like at the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference. But while other countries sent foreign ministers or senior ambassadors, the Administration sent a mid-level official -- a clear signal it just wasn't interested. Our influence has already been eroded by our abandonment of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the administration's interest in developing two new small nuclear weapons, including the robust nuclear earth penetrator, the so-called bunker buster. The wholesale abandonment of non-proliferation efforts is a dangerous mistake. The more countries that have fissile material, the more opportunities there are for terrorists to acquire it.

American experts, some of them working here at the Council, have made innovative proposals for a 21st-century NPT. When the Senate resumes, I'll be asking my colleagues who chair the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees to hold joint hearings on the future of our non-proliferation policy with the aim of creating a new blueprint for our shared security.

And we have to increase our efforts on preventing terrorist groups from obtaining nuclear weapons or materials. You know, Sam Nunn and Ted Turner, through the Nuclear Threat Initiative, have said over and over again that we aren't doing enough to get every last bit of weapons-usable material under safeguard. I will be introducing a bill based on their ideas, which would create a senior White House advisor for countering nuclear terrorism, require a yearly report that would specify every site with nuclear material or weapons. And we would do what we have to do, working in concert with other nations, to try to make that material as safe as it can be.


by hwc 2007-08-20 10:54AM | 0 recs
Nunn would be better off

sharpening up his Vetting Suit and Cozy up with the Democratic Nominees for a Potential VP Position.

Would Help Nuetralize and/or Take the South.

by ROGNM 2007-08-20 08:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Nunn would be better off

Does anyone remember Sam Nunn?  Speaking of Unity '08 ... I thought it was a forum for the people to pick ... not have someone annointed as the Unity '08 candidate.  IIRC, the one time I checked out their site .. Obama and Feingold were the top two vote getters on their straw poll.

by Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle 2007-08-20 08:20AM | 0 recs
Good Riddance

     They're welcome to Sam Nunn. Thank God we don't have to rely on these Southern DINOs anymore. And I agree he'd likely take more votes from the Republican candidate.

by Ron Thompson 2007-08-20 08:17AM | 0 recs
unity 08

I haven't followed "Unity 08" very much at all, but has anyone looked into it to see if these guys have any idea what they are doing technologically? The idea of an "on-line convention" and "direct participation" sounds great but other than online small donor fundraising (which folks like these Unity 08 people have only just discovered in the last two years) and community-oriented blogs (which generally speaking establishment figures, especially ex-establishment figures these aren't generally too fond of), I don't know that there's a lot of clear models out there for organizing any sort of nominating process, unless you've already got a huge online mailing list or community. Even then.

Lastly this story seems to me more evidence that

a) most people, including most professional journalists and political operatives, don't have a clear idea of the difference between a community site, a single-author news site or news aggregation site, and a campaign site. They seem to think Kos got a million readers just by setting up a campaign site.

b) many of these same people confuse the appearance of online political activism outside existing party structures (like, say, this site) with their desire to go back to the supposedly less partisan days of the 60s and 70s (which were really only less partisan because the Dems had large and seemingly unbreakable majorities; look at how rancorous the 50s were when control of Congress was in doubt every 2 years).

In short, anyone see any evidence these bozos have any idea what they're doing? Or is this just a big-money response to what I'm increasingly perceiving among these supposedly serious-minded centrist types that the Democratic party is moving sharply to the left and the Republicans won't be able to stop the "populist" onslaught.

Finally, strategically, a Nunn third-party candidacy would be a huge boon to progressives because it would mean no matter who wins the Dem nom, the candidate will have to run on a very progressive economic and fp agenda, just as Perot forced Clinton to run on a more progressive general election platform (econ stimulus package, urban programs, health care) after he ran to the right of the primary field in 92.

by desmoulins 2007-08-20 08:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Nunn

Where the hell has he been the last seven years?  Just what we need -- another Democrat who chose to remain deaf and mute in the face of the relentless Republican assault on foundational values of our country.  I never heard a peep from Nunn even about his pet cause during all this time.  Was George Bush doing such a great job of containing loose nukes that Nunn felt he could sit back and relax?  Maybe, like our other fabulous Democratic leaders now in Congress, he was just "keeping his powder dry" for a real battle like reactionary Supreme Court justices, or torture, or turning the Justice Department into a patronage machine, or shredding the fourth amendment, or ... oh never mind.

by rlsumi 2007-08-20 09:27AM | 0 recs
Probably Keeping His Powder Dry

Hah!

by ROGNM 2007-08-20 09:30AM | 0 recs
Who's going to pay for this?

Bloomberg had his own money.

This is all nonsense.

Personally, I think you waste your time paying attention to this nonsense.

by Big Tent Democrat 2007-08-20 09:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Just When We Thought Bloomberg Was Out, They P

Realistically, which state can someone like Nunn carry? He won't carry a single state. This is another ego trip fantasy candidacy.

by rosebowl 2007-08-20 10:12AM | 0 recs
Sam Nunn was that piece of shit homophobe

who scuppered Clinton's attempt to lift the ban on gays in the military.  This Unity08 bullshit is ostensibly to have a MODERATE run against the two parties.  And the chief reason Bloomberg was hyped was because he is socially tolerant, pro-choice, and pro-gay.

Well, Sam Nunn is nothing but a socially intolerant, homophobic former senator from Georgia.  What makes him think that that makes him so fucking special?

A white guy conservative homophobe from the South is as common as wonder bread.

by jgarcia 2007-08-20 11:17AM | 0 recs
just askin'

Did Hamilton Jordan ever find the pyramids?

by drlimerick 2007-08-20 12:08PM | 0 recs
Mr. Excitement, right?

Sam Nunn was one of those guys whose name was dropped often in political circles as a "military expert" (really?  please demonstrate) but outside of Georgia only us political junkies even knew who the hell he was.  

He was a bore in his heyday--and nowadays doesn't even merit a yawn.  If this is the best Unity '08 can do, they are utterly irrelevant.

by paul minot 2007-08-20 12:34PM | 0 recs
Nunn won't Run

Nunn won't run, no way.  Flirting with it raises his profile a little.  Fine.  He is doing good work on a very important issue.  He is an elder statesman.

by howardpark 2007-08-20 05:35PM | 0 recs

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