Friday, January 25, 2008

Memo to Bill Clinton: Just Shut Up Already

I had nice, happy thoughts going into to 2008 about politics. By this time next year, Bush will be out of the White House (and I dislike Bush more than a casting director for porn films) and thus far, it looks like Bush-Cheney's pipe dream of a wider Middle East war with Iran ain't going to happen (and what does it say about where our trust in our leaders that my first thought when I saw the Strait of Hormuz "incident" was "they expect us to be scared of this? That sounds like some drunk kid." And then it turned out it was the Filipino Monkey.) The warmongerer would be gone, and odds were, someone with a D next to their name would be moving in.
Sure, I didn't think it'd be a landslide, and odds were looking against us getting the first ever First Lady with tongue stud (incidentally, I also recently found out that Mrs. Kucinich is only two years older than me, whereas Mr. Kucinich is my dad's age. It gave me a decent case of the howling fantods.)
And after the NH debates, I came away thinking that the Democratic "Top 3" all came out looking fairly well. Sen. Clinton was actually funny, Sen. Obama managed to avoid a lot of the awkwardness that characterised some of his earlier debate performances, and Sen. Edwards displayed great heart in talking about the dwindling middle class in the US.
It was only after the NH primary that things went downhill.
First, a side note: I don't care if someone running for president "cries" (incidentally, the media now has a very loose definition of "crying" as at worst, it appeared Sen. Clinton got a bit choked up.) What she actually said, I agreed with wholeheartedly. My hope was "ok, now actually run your campaign on this: it will work with other voters too, and it's far better than offering vague platitudes about '35 years experience' but offering no examples."
Sadly, it didn't happen.
Clinton has been great lately on the economic issues, and if that was the only change made by her campaign, I'd have no umbrage nor feel the need to write this blog post.
Disclosure time: I was not a big fan of Sen. Clinton going into early-early primary season a year ago. Most of this dislike I've discovered came from two sources: my previous over-reliance on listening to and reading way too much Boortz, and association with her husband, who I still dislike.
So you can imagine how pleased I was to see Bill suddenly angrier and more vocal about his wife's Democratic competition for the Presidency than he's been about anything the Bush Administration has done.
And of all things to pick on Bill, you choose Iraq?
Best I can tell, this is playing the Rove/GOP strategy of "I'll just keep repeating a lie until people believe it."
Obviously, Bill's in a bit of bind here, as if he comes right and says "Iraq was a mistake" it contradicts statements he made around the time of the AUMF vote, as well as the fact that he bombed the country multiple times when he was President. And it looks bad to have bombed a country that wasn't a threat right as you're about to have impeachment votes taken in the House...
But what's worse about this sudden "attack dog" Bill Clinton is it's damaging the whole united "whoo-hoo a Democratic in the White House" coalition--which I think has held together quite well given the dismal results the Democratic "Majority" in Congress has offered thus far.
And the Clinton campaign apparently sees no reason to stop.

“He’s the most popular Democrat in the country; he is the most successful president in recent memory, and attacks on him by Senator Obama and his surrogates will be rejected by voters,” said Howard Wolfson, a Clinton spokesman.

Let's unpack this shall we? "Most popular?" Well, no I don't think I've seen any polls to back that up. Best known? That I'll give you unnamed Clinton spokesman, but recognition and popularity are not the same thing. A lot of people know who George W. Bush is too, but you don't see any GOP candidates explicitly invoking his name in their debates (well, I imagine you don't. I don't have the stomach to actually watch 5 angry, view-women-as-second-class-citizens, immigrant-blaming old men argue about who can help rich people the most.)

And "most successful in recent memory" isn't saying much either. Who's his competition? Dubya, George Sr.? Being more "successful" than the two Bushes is beating Chris Mathews in a Who Can Be Less Sexist contest: it doesn't take a whole lot of effort. And St. Ronnie? Well, he was successful at hoodwinking vast swaths of America into believing his "Voodoo economics" and successful at neither fatally tarnishing the Republican brand despite numerous scandals and selling arms to the very folks shooting at us in Iraq you can actually kind of see what Obama's comments about Reagan meant.

He didn't agree with the message, but he's right in that it'd be nice if the Democrats could get someone to convince traditionally Republican voters that things like corporate and governmental transparency, universal health care, and a less bellicose foreign policy are good for everyone.

But if this guy's right, maybe very little has changed in politics in 2008, and that's bad news--for either Obama or Clinton--come General Election time. Another telling NYT quote:
“Bill Clinton seems to not be in his traditional mode,” said Jack Bass, an authority on Southern politics at the College of Charleston, who has observed Mr. Clinton for more than 30 years. “I’ve just never seen these negative emotions in public before. I know he has a temper, but this confrontational attitude with journalists, and the anger itself, is surprising to me.”

Again, it's surprising to a lot of people because in the past 7 years, there've been an increasing number of things with both the current administration, and, if he really just wants to pick on Democrats, with Congress he could have gotten angry about. To me, it's the fact that he's only getting angry when his wife suddenly faces a credible challenge to the Democratic ticket that hurts his credibility, and worse, makes it harder to dismiss those Rush Limbaughian "the Clintons only care about power" memes.

Machiavellian tactics aside, Sen. Clinton is light years better than any Republican nominee (though sadly, far, far, far more hawkish and to the right of Ron Paul on foreign policy). Pragmatically, I'm stuck with her in the general because to me, it's not worth risking the courts, and potential further declines in our civil rights. But for die-hard Obama people, as well as moderates who are currently undecided, this "win at all costs" tactic doesn't bode well. Alienating part of your base when the Right already hates your guts? How do you win a general election like that?

And worse, I can see a myriad of ways you can lose.

Sen. Clinton vs. McCain: McCain simply picks Lieberman as his VP, running on a "united/bipartisan" ticket (sure, it'll be bullshit because Joe is about as liberal and as much a Democrat as Neal Boortz at this point, but you won't hear anyone on the major media networks saying it.)

Sen. Clinton vs. Romney: Sure, you think they can tear Romney apart based on his flip-flopping...but Romney can do the same to Hillary on Iraq, and worse, Romney can make the appeal of the outsider against Clinton's decades in D.C. (and D.C. isn't much liked by anyone outside the beltway.)

Huckabee, who also has a semi-decent chance at the GOP nomination, could also run as an "outsider" vs. Clinton as the "insider" and sadly his Willie Horton moment has barely registered with the hardcore GOP voters (my conclusion: they really, really hate the Clintons, and are sexist bastards to boot.)

And really Bill, like it or not, Hillary doesn't need you to win the party nomination. Her numbers were highest when you were keeping your trap shut, and didn't have to read articles about smug GOP supporters talking about a "divided Democratic party." So Bill, for the sake of the Democratic party, and America, go back to playing golf with Dubya's dad.

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