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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hillary's Problem

Hillary Clinton 02/02
Image from TIME
The blizzard of analysis over the Hillary Clinton campaign, while often wanting in depth, is at the very least breathtaking in scope. I've not weighed in much, partly because every possible angle is being covered, partly because I don't have any special insight to offer, and partly because I don't feel like ducking the rhetorical pots and pans that get hurled at pretty much anyone who ventures into the debates.

(Like, for example, some might say - heh - that my metaphor is sexist in nature. Except that, since I'm referring to the punditocracy and the blogosphere and not Senator Clinton, it's not.)

Well, I have a crude, 10,000 mile, view that I'm finally willing to share, and since it appears that Barack Obama has the irreversible momentum forward (barring a proverbial dead-woman/live-boy problem), I feel safe that my enormously influential blog no longer is in danger of skewing the primaries.

It appears to me that Clinton has the same problem that Al Gore had in 2000, but for entirely different reasons. In spite of the differences, however, I see it all as of a piece, and triangulation could, fairly, be its name.

I remember when that ridiculous, albeit transfixing, kerfluffle was going on back in the day, and the single thing which angered me more than anything else, and fittingly the thing that gave said kerfluffle traction, was Bill Clinton's inability to confront the situation directly. Most of us would agree, I think, that the proper reaction would have been along the lines of: "WTF business is that of yours? STFU!!" A reasonable person could see the whole business being done with at that point. Nothing to belabour on this point - I'm just saying.

In 2000, Al Gore had an unhappy dilemma. How could he effectively ride the coattails of a largely successful presidency (I imagine even the most rabid Clinton detractors have softened their view somewhat after this fucking administration), while at the same time distance himself from a presidency tainted, ironically, by the aforementioned kerfluffle? Well, he couldn't. If Bill had said "STFU", or if Al could have found a way to dismiss the whole affair (nearly impossible, of course, after it had been so mishandled by the President), I don't think the Bushies would have had the margin in which to throw the election.

Hillary has faced a similar problem except, as I said, for different reasons (Chris Matthews aside.) This occurred to me while ruminating over Obama's resonance over the "hope/change thing." How could the Senator harness the energy of the original Clinton campaign, which was all about just that same optimism (the Man from Hope, "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow," etc.), without being also being yoked to the inevitable snides over nepotism and dynasty? Politically speaking, that was an incredibly effective meme they had going there, and I'm not ashamed to say that I felt a bit giddy about it, coming off of Reagan/Bush and all. Well, she couldn't fully harness it this time, because...

I say, because there seems to be a bit of a yellow streak, manifest in that particular constellation of the Democratic camp at least, about directly confronting situations and forcing the framing and setting the priorities. This fear factor produces the very triangulation that the Clintons have come to personify, and it is a sad thing to behold, indeed. It is especially troubling, since this tendency appears to bleed into policy formulation as well.

I would like to see the back of it, and I suspect many Americans would as well and, for now, Barack Obama allows us to pretend that we just might. His "audacity of hope" sounds like it has courage, too. Just because it sounds like it doesn't mean it does, of course, but it might. Or he may feel that so many will "have his back" that he will have a virtual spine, at least.

I think this partly explains his trajectory over the Clinton campaign.

Update: The attempts to take Obama down are really hilarious and shrill (h/t Mike Finnigan for the pointing me to the laffs.)

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