We have become the Land of the Waffling Prima Donnas.
Brett Favre continues his Hamlet-like indecision about returning to the Packers. All eyes remain fixed on the solitary man on the tractor in Kiln, Mississippi, wrestling with his destiny. Or not. Who knows? Maybe he just likes pulling the media's chain.
As Favre proved last weekend, jerking the media around has all of the entertainment value of bear-baiting. Plus it's a lot easier, and you don't have to feed them.
Meanwhile, Tommy Thompson waits in the wings, all dressed up, stage makeup on, waiting for someone to tell Mr. DeMille that he's ready for his close-up.
Like Favre, Thompson revels in the spotlight, clearly relishing the speculation that he might answer the call to return to the governorship, a call that apparently only Thompson is hearing.
Here's the deal: These are both guys we loved, guys who were huge in the '90s, and who are going to have stuff all over the state named after them. We're grateful, and we want to do right by them.
But both these guys have a problem with the ego thing. They are so used to thinking the world revolves around them that they haven't noticed it's not the '90s anymore.
Maybe Favre has another season in him, but it's a farewell lap, not a road to the Super Bowl. In the meantime, every day that passes without a decision, he pisses off more fans and makes it harder to say goodbye in a nice way.
Thompson is another problem altogether.
Republicans desperately need a candidate to run against Sen. Herb Kohl this fall, and they would like it to be Thompson. Instead, he's apparently dreaming of putting his feet up on his old desk in the Capitol. Tommy doesn't realize he's the political version of '80s retro-pop, without the big hair. So he's reportedly on the phone to insiders, trying to reignite the old passions.
As gently as they can, they are trying to tell Tommy that the bus has left, the ship has sailed, the train has pulled out of the station, the parade was last week, we just sold the last ticket to that show, the ants got into the picnic basket, and Elvis has definitely left the building.
But they have to be careful. Like Willy Loman, attention must be paid. Maybe it would help if we named something really big after Thompson, like the newly reconstructed Marquette Interchange in Milwaukee. This seems only fitting, since Tommy liked building stuff so much. Plus, he'd be immortalized in every morning traffic report: "Smooth ride across the Tommy Thompson Interchange today" or "We have reports of a rollover on the Tommy Thompson."
Hell, I'd throw in the airport too, so people coming to town would land at the Tommy G. Thompson International Airport and have to take the Tommy G. Thompson Interchange to get anyplace worth going - such as Tommy G. Thompson Park (formerly Miller Park). Robert Byrd would be green with envy, and maybe Tommy would drop the whole governor thing.
If this doesn't fly, we might need an intervention. Because Thompson is probably the last Republican in the state who doesn't understand how completely the mantle of leadership has passed to Mark Green.
The withdrawal of Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker from the governor's race was an acknowledgement that Green had the nomination wrapped up. It also suggests the degree to which Green made inroads into the various factions of the state GOP, from rural moderates to the fire-breathing, tax-limiting fiscal conservatives of southeastern Wisconsin (yes, that would be me).
Republicans are as optimistic with Green as Democrats are nervous with Doyle. Until Walker's withdrawal, Doyle's best hope was for a bloody and expensive Republican primary that would leave his general election opponent bruised, exhausted and, most important, broke the day after the primary. So much for Plan A.
Green now has the double luxury of being able to raise money from donors who had been testing the winds and saving it to go directly after Doyle, who is expected to be flush with casino, union and trial lawyer cash. Even in what could be a good year for Democrats, Doyle's vulnerabilities are obvious: weak poll numbers that continue to trend south and all the charisma of a balding Richard Nixon.
Unable to make himself likable, Doyle will set out to dump every piece of dirt he can on Green's head, tying him to national congressional scandals and painting him as an extremist. You can do a lot of smearing with $10 million, but most Republicans don't think it will stick to Green.
Meanwhile, Green is going on the offensive. Next week he'll turn up the pressure on the Legislature to grow some backbone on a Taxpayer Protection Amendment, which would restrain government from hiking spending and taxes without taxpayer approval. Tommy would never do that, because he clearly liked to spend money, both in Madison and Washington.
There's been a changing of the guard, even if Tommy hasn't yet gotten the memo.