Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The House Began to Twitch

A few things that people aren't talking about enough:

1. This notion that our former President Bill Clinton is now propagating, and that, to be fair, some of the polls bear out - that Senator Hillary Clinton is winning more states against John McCain than is Barack Obama - is based on a set of unique circumstances that is harmful to Obama and easy on Senator Clinton.  Namely -- Barack Obama has, since March 5th if not a little before, been fighting two battles, on opposite fronts.  With one hand he has been battling against Senator Clinton, trying to close out someone he respectfully calls 'a formidable opponent' but who might just as easily be labelled 'a sociopath who knows not the meaning of defeat or grace or dignity'.  On the other, as the near-presumptive nominee, he has been taking on John McCain and the Republicans, who have been attacking him daily (as is their right, by the way - this is not a complaint).  Sometimes, McCain and Clinton have been attacking him on the same points (ie, 'bitter', Reverend Wright), which, though galling to many Democrats, has actually made things somewhat easier for Obama.  But more usually, she has been continuing to hammer away at things like electability and his appeal to hard working white men while McCain has been going after Obama on a host of issues, foreign and domestic.  That McCain has not been so much as mentioning Senator Clinton since the Texas-Ohio primaries might be something of a personal affront to Mrs. Clinton -- but it is also, most crucially, a huge gift to her approval ratings and her showing in head-to-head match-ups against him.  The fact is, Senator Clinton has been getting pretty much a free ride from both of the other candidates still running for President.  (I leave it to her and her surrogates to point out that she is getting continually buried in the press, but still, even there, the attacks, such as they are, have been personal and strategic -- how does she expect to win? -- as opposed to political or substantive.)  She is one of the most disliked figures in the history of American politics, and her opponents have stopped attacking her directly -- of course she's doing better in the polls!

When the Democratic race for President began shaping up in late 2006 or so, I was seriously worried.  Oh, no, I thought, here we go again.  Senator Clinton, the front-runner, had, it seemed to me, the same kind of inevitability as previous Democratic losers as Mondale, Dukakis, and Kerry.  But she had something even worse than any of those guys ever had: she was hated by a significant portion of the electorate.   I looked at the other candidates and didn't much like what I saw - and I am speaking strictly in a 'can they win' kind of way here, not a policy way or a 'do any of these folks inspire me?' way.  Edwards I kinda liked, but after losing in 2004, he seemed like yesterday's news, the Senators Dodd and Biden were surely wasting their time, and Richardson was obviously experienced but seemed off somehow.  The wild card was Obama.  When he announced he was going to run, I rolled my eyes -- too young, too green, nothing to say... and worse, the country of course was not ready to elect an African-American man.  All through 2007, as it became clear that it would be either Obama or Clinton, I was furious at Edwards for not making his move, and I knew in my bones that it simply didn't matter which of the two came out victorious in Obama vs. Clinton, because neither was electable.

The point is, that may still be true.  Iowa began to convince me that it may not be -- I started to think Obama really could pull it off, and his grace, dignity, and sheer inspirational abilities may well bring us into that future we've so long dreamed of... But nothing Mrs. Clinton has done in this campaign -- not sniper fire, not 'so far as I know,' not 'he wouldn't be my pastor,' not the 3 AM phone call, not 'Senator McCain has passed the commander-in-chief test', not anything Bill has done on her behalf, not 'hard-working Americans, white Americans,' not Zimbawe-Florida-Gandhi-Michigan, not RFK -- no, nothing she has done has made me think that she is the least bit electable when the nation turns its attention to two and only two candidates in the General Election.

Another thing is, Obama hasn't really begun to fight McCain.  If and when he does, we actually could be looking at a landslide, and the Reps know it.  Whereas if it's Hillary, they will exhale and unveil the old guns that we have seen before -- Whitewater, Monica, all of it will come back, as well as who knows how many new things like Bill's foreign ties, etc... and the end of it will be, her running even with McCain will be a thing of the past.

2.  Her historical analogies are BS.  People have in fact made this point, but it's worth repeating: Bill Clinton had sewn up the nomination in March 1992, not June; and in 1968, the primary season did not begin until mid-March, so saying (or trying to say) that the primary season was still in full force in June doesn't really work.  But the larger point, larger even than the mis-step of using the A word in polite company, is:

3.  Referencing 1968 as a way to justify anything with regard to a Democratic nomination is completely wrong-headed and stupid.  One would think that all Democrats would know this, but it bears repeating in case those who were too young, not born, or were studying too hard at Wellesley, don't remember: the 1968 election nearly destroyed the Democratic party.  The famously fractured Chicago convention left the party more split than any time before or since.  Democrats would go on to lose the White House that year and would not win the presidency again, except for the post-Watergate gimme, for 24 years!  Is that what she wants?  Why refer to 1968, ever, in giving a reason for staying in?

4.  The media is STILL not making enough of a big deal about the crap she is pulling in Florida and Michigan.  We play by the rules in this country.  You do not change the rules in the middle of the game.  Period, the end.  As such, the only 'fair' thing to do is penalize Florida and Michigan for their decision to break the rules and seat their delegates as non-voting members.  Anything else -- even the somewhat generous (to Clinton) Michigan plan of 69-59, and/or counting Florida delegates as half -- is a fairly ugly political compromise.  I assume that is what will happen, but let's not act like it's fair.

5.  As awful as this all is, even if he is smart enough to avoid picking her as Veep (by promising her a cabinet post, or a nomination to the Supreme Court), I think we have learned enough this election cycle to know: the Clintons aren't going away -- President Obama will have a Clinton problem.  Period.  Managing the powerful head of a strong dynastic brand in his own Party.... he might well want to ask Jimmy Carter for advice on what not to do.  

There's more, much more, but we all have lives to get to....

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