Saturday, February 02, 2008

Sorry, Senator

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As I've written before in this column, I've never been a supporter of Hillary Clinton. But some of the attacks on her have been so absurd ("Oh, my God! She didn't tip her waitress! Oh, my God! She tipped too much!") that I've found myself rising to her defense more often that I ever imagined I would.

Recently, however, Sen. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, reminded me why I have a problem with her candidacy. And it's not for the reasons you might think.

See, I don't care that she's ambitious. It's more than a little disingenuous to criticize a presidential candidate for being ambitious. If you claim that Hillary Clinton is ambitious and that, say, Rudy Giuliani is not, then I submit that you don't know what that word means.

I also don't care that she's supposedly not "likable." I don't demand that the leader of the free world be cuddly. We've had seven years of a president that some people have said they'd like to have a beer with, and where's that gotten us?

All that said, my problems with Sen. Hillary Clinton are twofold.

First, as I've said quite a few times, Clinton is Republican Lite. From her enabling vote for the Iraq War to her recent support of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which pushes us that much closer to a similar disastrous mistake with Iran, Hillary Clinton has been all too quick to roll over and play possum whenever she thought there was a chance the Republicans might say she wasn't "tough" enough.

The second problem is similar: When it comes to the way the political game is played, all Hillary Clinton offers is a Democratic version of the same "gotcha" politics of the last few years. By way of example, all you have to do is look at the way the Clinton campaign is treating its closest rival, Sen. Barack Obama.

Here's a quote from a recent interview with Obama:

"I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people -- he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."

Later, Obama said "The Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10, 15 years."

Now, this is a perfectly legitimate appraisal of the appeal of Ronald Reagan and the Republicans for several years. They may have been dead wrong, by golly, but they were never unsure. They had some bad ideas, but at least they had ideas, not to mention energy.

Obama did not, you will note, offer a blanket endorsement of Reagan's policies. But you couldn't tell that from listening to Bill or Hillary Clinton or their surrogates.

Obama, Bill Clinton charged, "said President Reagan was the engine of innovation and did more, had a more lasting impact on America than I did. ... and then the next day he said, 'In the '90s the good ideas came from the Republicans.'"

Clinton radio ads were more explicit: "Aren't those the ideas that got us into the economic mess we're in today? Ideas like special tax breaks for Wall Street. Running up a $9 trillion debt. Refusing to raise the minimum wage or deal with the housing crisis. Are those the ideas Barack Obama's talking about?"

I think that, considering Clinton's record of enabling Republican mischief, slamming Barack Obama for making an accurate comment about how Reagan changed America (not necessarily for the better) is more than a little hypocritical.

I think what really worries the Clintonistas is that Obama radiates the same sense of optimism that made Reagan a successful candidate. Obama's speech at the Democratic National convention in 2004, in which he called upon people to set aside the notion of "Blue" and "Red" states and actually be one country again, was absolutely stunning, and so far, his campaign has followed that path as well. Barack Obama has the optimism and energy of a Democratic Reagan. He may very well be the Democrats' own "Great Communicator," and that has to have the Clintons worried.

So what do they do? They engage in a smear that would do Karl Rove proud. I don't want the same old smear-and-distort politics out of the Republicans for the next eight years, so why would I want it from the Democrats?

Sorry, ma'am. After this, you're on your own.

4 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think I could have gotten behind her until the antics of the last two weeks. And using Bill as the "bad cop" is really sad. And it's also really strange to hear people speak of the Clinton's returning to the White House, like it will be dual presidency.

Keith Raffel said...

I have fingers and toes crossed for Barack on Tuesday. The Democrats are at a crossroads in which they get to decide whether they (and the country) have the courage to move forward.

James O. Born said...

Dusty,

You have a dead eye on the accuracy issue.

See you in a couple of weeks.

Jim

Kate Hathway said...

I, too, think that this 'trading' back and forth, as if was some kind of perverse popedom (a la, the Medicis), needs to be stopped right now. G.H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, G.W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush... how can anyone think this a good plan?