What bothers me about Hillary

By Joe Campbell
January 12th, 2008

The only times I believe her – really feel the conviction and weight behind her words, actually believe she is speaking from her heart, instead of uttering poll-tested phrases designed to manipulate – are when she is talking about herself.

Her new ad airing in South Carolina is a great example.

via Marc Ambinder

I’m wondering who this quote is supposed to refer to:

Over the last week I listened to you and in the process I found my own voice. You helped remind everyone that politics isn’t a game.

Which couple has been accused for the past twenty years, by liberals mainly, of believing politics is just a game? Barack and Michelle? John and Elizabeth?

Peggy Noonan had an interesting point (via Andrew Sullivan) backing this point up:

Was what is called sexism part of the story? I suppose, and in a number of ways. When George Bush senior cries in public, it’s considered moving. Ditto his moist-eyed son. But in fairness, they have tended to appear moved about things apart from themselves, apart from their own predicaments. Mrs. Clinton was weeping about Mrs. Clinton. If a man had uttered Mrs. Clinton’s aria – if Mr. Obama had said, “And you know, this is very personal for me . . . as tired as I am . . . against the odds,” and gotten choked – they would have laughed him out of town.

Even one of Hillary’s other breakthrough moments before the New Hampshire primaries was about her:

The other moment from last Saturday’s debate that got a lot of airtime also demonstrated my point – at least to myself.

For me, the drama in this is not the idea Hillary is presenting, or the message. What is interesting and compelling is that Hillary is talking about herself. Obama and Edwards talk about the changes they want to make – and they use their life stories to illustrate their commitment to change, and why they believe what they believe. When John Edwards talks about how his father worked in a mill – and he does often – it’s not that interesting. What is interesting is how this “son of a mill worker” has dedicated his presidential campaign to helping those like his father. When Barack Obama tells his stories – of his unlikely candidacy, of his traveling to South Carolina and getting fired up – he is using them as an example of the idea he is trying to get across. When Hillary Clinton finally “welled up” – the subject was herself; her “new” campaign is about her finding her voice; when she talks about change, aside from her nakedly strategic attempt to get Edwards to join her in attacking Obama, she is touting herself.

In order to be a politician, one is required to be at least a little narcissistic. As one of the candidates said: “I think if you don’t have enough self-awareness to see the element of megalomania involved in thinking you can be president then you probably shouldn’t be president.” Certainly Barack Obama, John Edwards, and the rest of the candidates for president feel this election is the culmination of their lives and careers. Each of them acts as if they were meant for this moment, as if they were made for it. There is no other reason they should be running.

The problem with Hillary is that ambition and narcissism and megalomania are not some of the factors pushing her to run. They are all she has.

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