Since today's Halloween, it seems a good time to reflect on the haunted legacies of some of our nation's most notable figures.
For example, look at Ralph Nader. Instead of going down in history for his ground-breaking, courageous work on behalf of consumers everywhere, he'll probably be remembered as the "spoiler" in the Gore-Bush presidential contest.
Not only that, but watching his surly, bombastic media appearances during each of his successive, ludicrous presidential runs, the impression he's left is that of some political wing-nut, outside the mainstream of the average citizen's interests and concerns. Given his contribution to product safety and consumer awareness of corporate indifference to their customers' health, this re-tooled legacy is a real shame.
Then there's Alan Greenspan, whose near-legendary status as Fed chairman has taken a real hit these last weeks, in the face of our current financial crisis. Forget Sarah Palin and Barack Obama---I suspect more people would like to hang Greenspan in effigy than either of these politicos. Greenspan is another towering figure in the national consciousness whose legacy, if not exactly haunted, is at least tainted.
Next---though I'm not sure I agree---I wonder if many people feel that Bill Clinton's legacy has been damaged, at least in terms of his image among African-Americans. His contribution to the race-baiting ugliness of Hillary's campaign was a real blow to his long-regarded reputation among civil rights leaders. For a guy whose positive legacy as president survived even his impeachment, it would be ironic if his work on the recent Democratic campaign ultimately dilutes his memory in history.
Finally, in terms of a haunted legacy, I think the prize has to go to GOP presidential candidate John McCain. At least in his current incarnation. I kind of liked the 2000 John McCain, whose campaign was torpedoed by the same kind of divisive, right-wing attacks that he's now using against Obama.
McCain has gone from a guy who criticized the Jerry Falwell's of the world to a guy who embraces them. From a guy who prided himself on his independence from his own party to a foot-soldier in the socially-conservative "culture war." From a guy who claims to have regretted his role in the Keating Five scandal to a friend of Wall Street corporations. He's gone from being a relatively moderate statesman to someone who cynically chose Sarah Palin---pin-up girl for race-baiting, gun-toting, immigrant-hating right-wing religious zealots---as his V-P nominee.
Forget ghosts, goblins and werewolves---I think the scariest creature on the loose this Halloween is John McCain. Dragging his tattered, haunted legacy behind him like the chains that burdened Marley's ghost, he's become the candidate of anger and division. The Ghost of Bush Past.
Maybe, after the election, I'll feel badly about that. As I do somewhat for those others, named above, whose legacies have been tainted or diluted.
Then again, maybe not.