Tuesday, March 04, 2008
How Hillary learned to start worrying and love the bomb.
Clinton is losing, and suddenly she's Dr. Strangelove. She and her team (I just listened to an interview on NPR with her campaign manager Howard Wolfson) are pushing the message that the most important issue in this campaign is that we need a President who's ready "from day one" to be commander-in-chief. She, rather than her fellow senators John McClain and Barack Obama, is that person.
Huh? When was Hillary commander in chief? Being First Lady is the same thing? Is she now telling us she was down there in the bunker with her husband? If so, wasn't that illegal?
And FWIW, her husband was extremely unpopular with the military. She probably is too.
Channeling her inner Cheney, Hillary Clinton dropped a fear bomb, as Michelle Obama might call it, implying in a new ad that if her opponent is elected, your angelic, innocent, sleeping children could die in a terrorist attack.
Only she has the wise head to go nuclear, should that Strangelovian phone call from a power-mad Putin come into the White House at 3 a.m. Her ad shows how composed she would be at the dread moment when she picks up the phone. Her nuke look is feminine, in a tailored camel-colored jacket and gold necklace, yet serious, in Tina Fey black reading glasses.
Clinton rode the passion of the crowd and delivered an energetic battle cry. And in many elections that sort of speech, delivered around the country, would clinch the nomination.
But this is a country in the midst of a crisis of authority, a country that has become disillusioned not only with one president, but with a whole system of politics. It’s a country that has lost faith not only with one institution, but with the entire set of leadership institutions. The cultural context, in other words, allowed for a much broader critique, a much more audacious vocabulary.
And Barack Obama leapt right in.
He spoke after 11 p.m. The crowd had been sitting for four hours. In the previous months, Obama had been criticized for being bland on the stump. But this night, he unleashed a zealous part of himself that has propelled his candidacy ever since.
His first big subject was belief itself. Instead of waging a partisan campaign as Clinton had just done, he vowed to address “not just Democrats, but Republicans and independents who’ve lost trust in their government but want to believe again.”
Then he made a broader attack on the political class, and without mentioning her, threw Clinton in with the decrepit old order. “The same old Washington textbook campaigns just won’t do,” he said, in a now familiar line. He said it was time to “finally tackle problems that George Bush made far worse but that had festered long before George Bush ever took office — the problems that we’ve talked about year after year after year.”
Obama sketched out a different theory of social change than the one Clinton had implied earlier in the evening. Instead of relying on a president who fights for those who feel invisible, Obama, in the climactic passage of his speech, described how change bubbles from the bottom-up: “And because that somebody stood up, a few more stood up. And then a few thousand stood up. And then a few million stood up. And standing up, with courage and clear purpose, they somehow managed to change the world!”
For people raised on Jane Jacobs, who emphasized how a spontaneous dynamic order could emerge from thousands of individual decisions, this is a persuasive way of seeing the world. For young people who have grown up on Facebook, YouTube, open-source software and an array of decentralized networks, this is a compelling theory of how change happens.
UPDATE: From Wednesday morning's Times, after Clinton's victories in Ohio and Texas: As she spoke, the crowd responded with chants of “Yes, she will!” — apparently an orchestrated response to Mr. Obama’s trademark “Yes, we can!”
"Yes, she will," versus "Yes, we can." "I have so many opportunities from this country," Clinton said when she cried in New Hampshire. "I just don't want to see us fall backwards. This is very personal for me.... Some of us put ourselves out there and do this, against some pretty difficult odds.... Some of us are ready, and some of us are not. Some of us know what we will do on day one, and some of us really haven't thought that through enough."
Clinton wants what she thinks is best for America, but she is a top-down power player who doesn't understand Obama's bottom-up message.
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But didn't she win?
Posted by: steveo at Mar 5, 2008 9:22:18 AM
Yes she won, by introducing this issue at the last minute, so that Obama didn't have time to properly deal with it.
But there's a lot of time before the next primary, and this issue won't withstand scrutiny. I think Hillary would be a poor commander in chief. Her expertise is domestic.
Posted by: john massengale at Mar 5, 2008 9:25:39 AM
Congratulations, your blog is finally the top item displayed when you Google "venustas". Now I can use the "I'm feeling lucky" button.
Posted by: Chris Burd at Mar 11, 2008 3:41:08 AM
Thanks, every time you do that it will improve the Google rating for it.
Posted by: john massengale at Mar 11, 2008 6:18:41 PM