Monday, April 07, 2008

Embracing Billary

BillaryImage source:

It is 3 AM. In the White House, a phone is ringing.

Last week Clinton released a new "3 AM" ad, this time targeting the economy and McCain. Taking a page out of the Obama campaign, the McCain counter-ad was released before most people had seen the original. They complement the previous "3 AM" Clinton ad targeting Obama and Obama's quick response counter ad. Of course, none were as good as the SNL version.

What is this 3 AM ad really all about? What does the "Clinton is ready on day one" meme really mean? The Clinton campaign code word is "experience". The McCain campaign uses the same word while the Obama campaign prefers "judgment". But neither the words "experience" or "judgment" capture the gestalt of that ad or its meaning.

The ad is being repeated because it is effective. It is effective for the simple reason we know exactly what we are getting with a Clinton administration. Net, net - it is not Hillary Clinton's experience we are talking it about. It is our experience with Team Clinton. We have already experienced eight years of a Clinton administration, and for most Americans, it was a good thing. Even more so in contrast to the subsequent eight disastrous years of the Bush administration. We had more peace, more prosperity, more rationality, better currency, better economy, and a better standing in the world. What's not to like?

After eight years of the mind numbingly incompetent, anti-intellectual, disingenuous, and incoherent Bush administration, it is easy to be nostalgic for a competent, smart, predictable, and articulate Clinton Redux. Even if it is a team effort. Especially if it is a team effort. And if a little bit of ruthless, cutthroat duplicity is part of the package? I am good with that. A far more dangerous delusion, is that there will be no duplicity in an Obama administration.

In contrast to the Clintons, a prospective Obama administration is a cipher. There is simply not enough experience there to see it as anything but an unbreakable code whose meaning is fundamentally unknowable. Now I like Obama. I like the way he talks, and I like the way he thinks. It is easy to feel very good about an Obama presidency. That does not change the fact that no one can know what an Obama presidency will bring. He might be a great president. He might be a disaster.

Now, I can hear the objection - "That is not a fair comparison, you are conflating the Bill Clinton administration with a prospective Hillary Clinton administration." Yes I am. I am doing that, because I prefer to deal in something I like to call "reality". And here we get to the source of the rampant delusion and schizophrenia infecting so many Obama supporters.

Let's use Shaun Mullen, a columnist at The Moderate Voice. as an example. I enjoy Shaun Mullen's work, particularly when he is writing about Iraq. His work is well researched and insightful. I always appreciate it, even if I disagree with it. But he is so in the bag for Obama, that like Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, like Andrew Sullivan, like Keith Olberman, or other Obamites, he has completely lost his critical faculties when writing about either Obama or Clinton.

On March 20 Shaun Mullen wrote on the subject of Clinton experience in this post "The forest, the trees, and the blue dress":
"... Her claims that her years as First Lady are "a key element" of her 35 years of experience are not borne out by the thousands of pages of records released yesterday by the National Archive in response to a lawsuit. In fact, the records show just what you would expect: The First Lady was only tangentially involved in domestic policy making, not involved at all in foreign policy making and wasn't even in Washington when many of the key events of the Clinton era transpired."
Only four days later Shaun contradicts himself in his post "Why Hillary Must Come Clean About Bill:
" There are concerns that a John McCain administration would be a continuation of the George Bush administration. But no less concerning is that a Hillary Clinton administration would be a continuation of the Bill Clinton administration, a third and possibly fourth term, if you will. The release last week of thousands of pages of Hillary Clinton’s personal records as First Lady confirms that while she did not necessarily help make major policy decisions, she certainly was a co-president to an extent that First Ladies since Eleanor Roosevelt have not come close to replicating."
Now, it is not hard to understand why Shaun, as an Obama sycophant (using the word he uses to describe Clinton supporters), feels compelled to attack the notion that Clinton has far more experience than Obama to be Commander In Chief.

Once you accept Team Clinton as the practical reality if Hillary were to win, it does completely blow out of the water any notion whatsoever that Obama (or McCain) has anything that remotely approaches the CIC experience of Team Clinton. It is not even close. The Clinton's were, by Shaun's (and others) argument - Co-Commander In Chief. Obama does not have that experience. McCain does not have that experience. To make the argument that either Obama or McCain have as much experience as Team Clinton, you must invoke a make-believe world where Bill Clinton does not exist, their marriage does not exist and further tell people that it is only fair to vote as if everyone lives in that make-believe world.

Shaun continues this convoluted rationalization of why eight years of Team Clinton experience in the White House is a bad thing:
"It is time for Mrs. Clinton to drop the blather about her independence and explain how a co-presidency is something that the American people should welcome since they will in effect be voting for two people should she survive the primaries and convention."
Nonsense. Blather is the right word, Shaun, but only by reference to your assertion. There is nothing to explain, because there is nothing mysterious about a husband and wife being each other's closest adviser. It is perfectly obvious to everyone (except possibly Shaun and other Obamites) that she has a unique close family relationship with a former Commander In Chief. This relationship is called a "marriage". Many Americans understand the concept. There is not a thing wrong with it, and it is completely clear to voters regardless of whether Shaun understands it. People can and should legitimately vote for Team Clinton rather than Hillary in vacuum, since it is perfectly clear that Hillary has no intention of locking her husband in an isolation chamber while she is President. Nor should she.

In fact, this is a great advantage for any voters (like me) who would prefer an experienced known quantity in the White House, vs. a complete unknown quantity like Obama. Bobby Kennedy was Jack Kennedy's closest adviser. If they both had lived, Jack might have been the closest adviser for Bobby's Presidency. God knows I wish that Bush43 had taken advantage of his close family relationship with former CIC Bush41 and listened to his advice before investing a trillion dollars of our treasure and tens of thousands of American lives and limbs in Iraq.

Now, some Obamites have been making the preposterous argument that a Clinton Presidency is an end-run around the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution. Some examples are Stephen Kaus at Huffington Post, Alan Moses at the American Chronicle, diarist Kid Oakland at Daily Kos, Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic. They have been joined by right of center pundits like David Boaz at the Cato Insitute, and one can even find some extreme right wing rants like this Jayson Quigham screed at The Bald Eagle making the same point. When the extreme right and extreme left agree on anything, I usually find that I am on the other side.

The 22nd amendment was passed in 1951 to limit Presidents to two terms in office. It was ratified in response to Franklin Roosevelt's incumbency as the first, and now only President to seek and serve in a third and fourth term in office. Roosevelt breaking with tradition opened the door to a permanent presidency, and the 22nd amendment slammed it shut.

Here is the problem with invoking the 22nd amendment in the context of the Clinton candidacy. The 22nd Amendment is written in simple easy to understand language, and it does not prohibit a husband wife team running for four terms as President. You can argue that it is a bad idea, in which case you can work to get 2/3 of both houses of Congress and 3/4 of all the states in the union to pas the 28th Amendment and prohibit it. Until then, the 22nd Amendment and the U.S. Constitution is perfectly fine with the concept of a husband and wife standing for four terms as president. Full stop. Nothing more to be said. Done.

As I said before, there is a lot to like about Obama. I am open to the possibility that he might be a great president. But it is equally likely, based on what we know from his experience, that he might be an academic, easy to like, but completely ineffectual disappointment like Jimmy Carter. Given the primary demographic of your typical Obamite (young), it is likely that many of his supporters do not recall the last Presidential candidate who was nominated and elected based on his likability and intelligence. Jimmy Carter's campaign theme was based on this oft-repeated stump speech assertion:
"We need a government that is as good and honest and decent and competent and compassionate and as filled with love as are the American people."
It was a considered a rare and ground-breaking campaign, and it made us all feel so good to hear a politician with a big smile, and intelligence and personal charisma talking about "love". If Obama wins the nomination, he may want to consider cribbing from Carter's acceptance speech:
Barmy Cartoma"[This] ...will not be a year of politics as usual. It can be a year of inspiration and hope, and it will be a year of concern, of quiet and sober reassessment of our nation’s character and purpose. It has already been a year when voters have confounded the experts. And I guarantee you that it will be the year when we give the government of this country back to the people of this country. There is a new mood in America. We have been shaken by a tragic war abroad and by scandals and broken promises at home. Our people are searching for new voices and new ideas and new leaders." - Jimmy Carter - Nomination acceptance speech July 15, 1976
We felt so good about Jimmy Carter, and he made us feel so good about ourselves, that we elected him president. Later we learned we had elected an intellectual who was subject to the congenital academia disease of "analysis paralysis." We elected a president who gave us - not a government "as filled with love as the American people" as he promised, but a government as filled with malaise as the American people. I didn't even know what the word "malaise" meant before Jimmy Carter was elected.

Perhaps most frightening - we knew more about Jimmy Carter's experience and ability to lead in 1976, than we know about Barack Obama's today. I will feel much better about an Obama presidency, after he has served an apprentice for 4-8 years as Vice-President.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe we don't really need a team in the White House that is willing to fight domestic political battles with arm-twisting hardball tactics. Perhaps the Republicans will also feel so good about Obama that they will simply be swept along by his oratory into a bi-partisan love fest and that is how we are going to get out of Iraq and fix the damage done by the Bush administration. Maybe foreign leaders will look into the eyes of our President, and instead of seeing a dangerous simpleton like Bush, may find a foreign policy neophyte like Obama more comforting. Maybe.

It is 3 AM. In the White House, a phone is ringing...
And I, for one, will be very happy to know that - if President Hillary Clinton so chooses - she can easily find Bill wandering around the White House in his bathrobe looking for cigars or... whatever. And we will have two good minds with a combined sixteen years of co-Commander In Chief experience to bring to bear working on that 3 AM problem. And that is indeed something to feel good about.

No comments: