Monday, February 25, 2008

Mud Slinging...

Andrew Sullivan slings some well-aimed mud back at the Clintons. Yet, as far as I can see it, all of it sticks!

[Hillary Clinton says]:

"I'm not asking you to take a leap of faith on me. I’m asking you to look at the record."

The record is that the senator's one single attempt at policy implementation - healthcare reform - was an enormous failure in which her own arrogance, secrecy and paranoia derailed universal healthcare for a decade. On the most critical foreign policy decision of her career, Iraq, she was disastrously wrong. And in terms of management experience, she clearly can't run even a campaign half-way competently. I think she'd be better off asking people to take a leap of faith, don't you?

and this, for those wishing to really dig in...

Watching senator Clinton attempt to regain some lift as she paraglides into history is almost enough to evoke pity. Almost. The Clintons come with their own boundless reserves of self-pity so further reinforcements seem unnecessary to me. And I suppose they could somehow still find a brutal, soul-grinding path to the nomination. But we've learned something important these past couple of weeks.

Clinton is a terrible manager of people. Coming into a campaign she had been planning for, what, two decades, she was so not ready on Day One, or even Day 300. Her White House, if we can glean anything from the campaign, would be a secretive nest of well-fed yes-people, an uncontrollable egomaniac spouse able and willing to bigfoot anyone if he wants to, a phalanx of flunkies who cannot tell the boss when things are wrong, and a drizzle of dreary hacks like Mark Penn. Her only genuine skill is pivoting off the Limbaugh machine (which is now as played out as its enemies). Her new weapon is apparently bursting into tears. I mean: really.

It's staggering to me that she blew through so much money for close to nothing (apart from the donuts). Without that media meltdown in New Hampshire, she would have been forced to bow out much earlier. She didn't plan for contests after Super Tuesday. She barely planned for any before that. She was out-organized in Iowa and South Carolina, and engaged in the pettiest form of politics in Florida and Michigan. Her fundraising operation was very pre-Internet. She has no message that isn't about her and the Republicans. Her trump card - Bill - managed to foment a 27 point loss in South Carolina. The Clintons, we can now safely say, got lazy. Or rather their old and now forgotten lackadaisical attitude toward governing returned like a persistent flu to campaigning. We tend to forget that their entire governing agenda after 1994 was essentially finessing Gingrich and battling impeachment. (Their entire agenda before 1994 was successful Eisenhower economics, and disastrous Hillarycare). It's been fifteen years since the Clintons actually stood for a coherent message, and it turns out they had forgotten that you kind of need that for a presidential run.

How did they come this close to losing this? They had all the money, all the contacts, all the machine levers, the entire establishment, the biggest Democratic name in decades, and they've been forced into a humiliating death-match by a first-term black liberal with a funny name. It seems obvious to me that the Clintons blew this because they never for a second imagined they could. So they never planned to fight it. Once put in a fair contest, they turned out to be terrible campaigners, terrible politicians, bad managers, useless executives, wooden public speakers. If you're a Democrat, that's good to know, isn't it? All that bullshit about Day One and experience? In retrospect: laughable.

Whatever happens in this campaign, if it finally puts the Clintons in our rear-view mirror, it will have been worth a great deal. We're not quite there yet, and the moment you feel any sympathy for a Clinton, they will use it to their own ends. But I'm enjoying the backward glance, however long it lasts. We're nearly free of them. Nearly.


Chuck said...

Ouch, ouch, ouch. Mr. Sullivan hits the nail on the head here. I've been thinking the same thing: if Hillary is such a winner, where's that universal healthcare we were supposed to get starting in mid-1993? And who's been taking money from the health industry since she began in the senate? Feh. Hillary + Nader + McCain = McCain, and the supreme court heads south for another generation.

Barry said...

People can rewrite history on universal healthcare as much as they want, but solutions to hard problems don't fast or easy. There isn't daily vilification on Bush's failure to "fix" Social Security, a major highlight of two early state of the unions. To also put the blame on the failure of universal healthcare on the first lady is like faulting Laura Bush on the failures on No Child Left Behind.

Clinton's campaign has obviously not gone as planned and is certainly subject to criticism of mismanagement. But, the level of that criticism and the way it is delivered is only acceptable because its at Hillary. Nobody frowns upon hating Hillary. This in the end is the reason behind her failed campaign.

Mr. Sullivan takes the easy pot shots at Hillary Clinton ignoring 6 years in the Senate that has been highly regarded by her peers in both parties. Obviously the Iraq vote was mistake in hindsight, but she had good company in that vote. A vote that Obama didn't cast.

Chuck said...

Barry, you are right that many attacks on Hillary are unjustified, and the level at which some despise her is surprising. I don't hate Hillary. Years ago I was actually looking forward to voting for her (and I still might, depending on how things work out with Obama), but I still remember her husband's missteps - Don't ask, don't tell, the Defense of Marriage Act: if she's going to run on his record, then she should be held accountable for the crap as well -- including her personal failures (and subsequent sell-outs).

I'm very thankful that Bush failed to privatize Social Security, but there were few people cheering for that except Wall Street. And as far as the First Lady goes, I wouldn't hold her accountable for anything but her selection of Butterick patterns for her lime-green polyester pantsuits.

Any time people want to talk about McCain, I'm willing to jump on board (who's beholden now, Mr. Straight Talk?). It won't be as satisfying as piling on America's Mayor, but what the heck.

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