Saturday, June 7, 2008

Did Hillary Try too Hard

You will note the date as being 23 January 2006 when Andrew Sullivan made these statements. It seems that he must have had some real deep insight into the problems facing Hillary Clinton and he also asked the question if the Centrist Independent would pick John McCain over another Clinton. He didn’t get his wish that she not run but the rest of his piece was spot on. Now half the answer has been given. They didn’t pick another Clinton. The question now is will these same centrist reject Obama as too far to the left for their taste and stick with John McCain. I believe the answer is yes. These independent centrist are the ones who did not like Hillary’s leans to the left nor her attempts to triangulate as Bill did in his run for President. Obama is seeming attempting to do some triangulating on his own with his moving his membership from Trinity but yet not totally denouncing the teachings which he sat under for nearly 20 years. He has attempted to remove himself from Tony Renko without totally withdrawing and leaving too many unanswered questions on the real relationship plus a lot of obvious “misstatement” or plain ole lies if you will. He attempted to remove himself from the good Father Pfleger but he did not condemn his teachings. He is attempting to triangulate his statement on meeting with terrorist with no pre-conditions to now saying that certain understandings would have to be met. He tried to triangulate on Iran by saying the military option is not off the table. But then maybe he didn’t since from his past comments military options are never on the table to begin with. It seems the LSM didn’t want to ask the right questions on this one either.

Will Obama triangulate himself enough to move the centrist independents away from him or toward him. He is slick but not as slick of the old master of slick Bill Clinton who invented the triangulation in recent American politics. Bill’s slick wore off as did Hillary’s and Obama’s slick is wearing thin. I wonder what Andrew Sullivan will write next on this situation. Here is what he said in 2006.

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*** It seems that Mr. Sullivan has had an epiphany or perhaps just an intellectual experience and has now switched his allegiance to Obama. He thinks Obama is the right “face” to put on America but says little about his qualifications other than being a brilliant pontificator , commonly known here in Texas and in the mountains of my former home as a good Bull****er. Never the less, Mr. Sullivan, who once thought Hillary was trying too hard to be President, seem to overlook the fact that he and the LSM are trying to hard to make an empty suit into something that it is not. Perhaps Mr. Sullivan’s new revelation came about since becoming a writer and blogger on the Atlantic Monthly. Wonder if he is related to the publisher of the Atlantic Monthly, John Fox Sullivan?

Now, finally, here is what Sullivan said in 2006:

Andrew Sullivan: She's trying too hard to be a contender
23 January 2006

IF there's a certain schizophrenia in the rhetoric of senator Hillary Rodham Clinton these days, it's intentional. There she was last week, at a predominantly black congregation, lambasting Republicans. She lamented that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has been "run like a plantation ... And you know what I am talking about". Republicans as slave holders? Now that's inflammatory.

Then only days later we saw the other side of Clinton's split political personality, a neo-conservative one: "I believe that we lost critical time in dealing with Iran because the White House chose to downplay the threats and to outsource the negotiations. I don't believe you face threats like Iran or North Korea by outsourcing it and standing on the sidelines.

"Let's be clear about the threat we face. A nuclear Iran is a danger to Israel, to its neighbours and beyond. We cannot and should not -- must not -- permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons."

Running to the Left of President George W. Bush and to the Right of him as well is not a feat most politicians are able to pull off. But Clinton has no alternative. And in that lies her dilemma. She has too liberal a past (and reputation) to be the Democratic Right's favoured candidate; and she's become far too conservative in the Senate to win over the Democratic Left.

Clinton's straddle between two political identities is, of course, temporarily shrewd. She knows full well that the Democrats' key weakness is the war on terror. They have yet to persuade the public that they can defend the West more effectively than the Republicans.

And so they have to do two things at once: oppose the President's conduct of the war, while explaining how they'd do better. So far, not so good. But at least Clinton is trying. It's complicated. Saying that you're in favour of wiretaps to spy on al-Qa'ida but want to have court warrants to monitor them is very sane. But it's not a soundbite. Compared with the Bush-Cheney big daddy act, it's not terribly convincing.

Clinton's strategy, in response, has been not just to deploy hawkish words but to back them with a hawkish voting record. She's evaluated as one of the more conservative Democrats in Congress. She has visited the troops and she says she won't revoke her vote in favour of the war to depose Saddam Hussein.

She's following her husband's old gamble: triangulate, triangulate. But Bill triangulated once he'd become president. Hillary is triangulating while trying to win over her party's left-wing base and more moderate voters. That is proving the tough part.

The Left loathes the war in Iraq, believes it was started in bad faith, and that it is counterproductive in the war on terror. It has gained traction from the internet as left-wing collective websites such as the Daily Kos ramp up the anti-war and anti-Bush rhetoric. Their favourite candidate is senator Russ Feingold, an independent liberal who is unrepentant in his anti-war stance and a big campaigner against Washington sleaze. If Feingold falters, there's even Al Gore, now well to the Left of Hillary and incensed by what he argues is systematic abuse of executive power.

Hillary's response has not been to co-opt the Left's rhetoric. She knows it would kill her in a presidential race with a centrist Republican in 2008. So she has tried to win over the base by raising oodles of money for local candidates, travelling the country to win points and curry favours.

Her celebrity can guarantee a big crowd at any fundraising event. So she just had a big shindig for the New Hampshire Governor. She raised a cool half a million bucks for senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan last month, raked in another $US600,000 ($803,000) for the Dems in Kentucky and is scheduled to do the same in Washington state.

In all of this she has been lucky to have lacklustre Republican opposition in New York state, where she faces re-election as senator this November.

Secure at home, she's pursuing Bush's 2000 strategy of amassing so much campaign money and so many favours that she becomes the "inevitable" nominee for 2008, regardless of her ideological blur.

Two men, however, stand in her way. The first is Mark Warner, a telegenic, youthful retiring Governor of Virginia, who turned one of the redder Republican states blue with smart governance and fiscal responsibility. Governors almost always have the advantage over senators in presidential contests because they have had to make decisions rather than simply debate them in Congress.

Warner is also -- how to put this nicely? -- fresher than Clinton. Yes, there's nostalgia for the 1990s, but not that much.

Which brings us to Hillary's other problem male: her husband. It's impossible to imagine him in the White House as a "first lady" figure, arranging state dinners and redecorating the Lincoln bedroom. Electing Hillary means re-re-electing Bill.

When Bush Jr was elected no one believed his dad would actually be running the show (although a few chastened conservatives might have appreciated some old-school moderation at the helm these past few years). Electing Hillary will be the same two-for-one deal it was in 1992 and 1996. Americans like moving forward, not backwards.

At some point, Hillary's positioning will also hit a wall of opposition. That wall will either be the Democratic left-wing base of activists, a base that rallied to her in the White House largely because of her rabid right-wing opponents, not because of her centrist policies.

Or it will be centrist independents who'd pick John McCain over another Clinton.

My own hope is that she doesn't run. She doesn't have the instinctive connection with people to be an effective national politician: she's too cold, too calculating, too distant.

Her speeches have been getting better but still make Gore seem like a good performer. And a repeat of the acrimonious culture wars of the '90s is about the last thing the US needs.

Besides, there is a perfect position for her in American public life, and it's not in the Senate, despite her eminently respectable record there. She belongs on the Supreme Court. She's a lawyer who wants to change the world. That's almost a job description for a liberal justice. But she'll need a Democratic president to put her there. Maybe some of the cash she has been raising will help bring that about.

It could fund far worse causes: Hillary's own presidential ambition, for one.

Andrew Sullivan is a writer for Britain's The Sunday Times


joejoe said...

I thought she made some bad choices about choosing a campaign manager. I have a good friend, an Obama supporter, who attended one of Hillary's open campaign speeches and found her to be quite warm and very credible--ver different from her tv persona.

I was surprised at Obama's surge as I truly thought that Hillary was almost a sure choice--I'm making no value statement when I write this.

Did she try too hard? I don't think so. What surprised me was that she ran out of money. Whe and Bill will still be a force to be reckoned with at the Democratic convention.

Ticker said...

joejoe, in that so many times she attempted to be all things to all groups did not do her any favors. Of course Obama is no different. His remarks to the elitist in SF and his attempt to change it when he addressed the "ordinary white folks" has not played well either. Hillary had the dislike of the farleft and the distrust of the centrist in the Dem Party to overcome. In attempting to so she blew it.