Posts Tagged ‘Joe Klein’

Wingnuts

Monday, April 26th, 2010

I try to focus my reading on people I find reasonable and intelligent who write about a world in which I recognize. But I also check in with some more right wing and progressive blogs that are further out there. What I often find are rather opposite takes on Obama with the final conclusion being the same: He’s not one of us.

To take 2 somewhat random examples — John Hinderaker of Powerline:

For some reason, liberals seem surprised that Americans have not warmed to the Obama administration’s policies, like government takeover of health care; bailouts and government ownership in multiple industries; wasteful and ineffective “stimulus” spending; unheard of deficits; massive tax increases slated for next year; and a foreign policy that perversely alienates our allies and caters to our enemies. There has never been a time in our history when most Americans would have approved of such policies, yet liberals are somehow convinced that today’s manifestation of longstanding voter attitudes represents a unique and sinister animus against Barack Obama and his administration….

52 percent of likely voters disapprove of his performance. Note that many of these people voted for Obama. They have been surprised and disappointed by his leftist agenda…

I think what Klein has in mind here is that Obama’s policies would make the U.S. much more like western Europe, so it is “nativist” or “isolationist” to oppose them…

Conservatives are making, every day, serious public policy arguments on issue after issue that resonate with most Americans. Liberals like Klein, meanwhile, can’t formulate an argument to save their lives, but fulminate impotently against conservatives, with invective substituting for analysis at every turn.

The evidence of bad faith in this passage is pretty clear: Bailouts are Obama’s policy? Government takeover of health care? Describing the scheduled expiration of some Bush tax cuts as “massive tax increases.” And of course, his main thesis entirely misses the point Joe Klein was making. Joe Klein was saying the anger towards the Obama administration was rooted in a “classic American…populism” (to quote from the single sentence Hinderaker does)– and then invoked a number of historical precedents. Hinderaker takes this as evidence that Klein sees the populist right’s animus towards Obama as…”unique.”  Aside from this idiocy or bad faith, the overarching message is clear: Obama is far left and alienating the country because he is so far left.

On the other side, Kirk James Murphy, M.D. over at FireDogLake takes Obama’s talk of tackling the deficit and the health care reform law as an attack on entitlements:

If someone you care deeply about depends on Social Security – or will depend on Social Security – call them up today and tell them you love them. Because Team Obama has targeted Social Security…and your loved ones are just the MOTU’s version of collateral damage.

In this telling, Obama has sold out to corporate interests and is following a stealth right-wing agenda because…well, I’m sure that was tackled in previous posts.

The underlying premise of each is that Obama and those who support him must clearly be acting in bad faith — and what they say should be discounted. So, if Obama claims he is trying to bring down the structural deficit in order to save entitlements — most everyone could agree with that goal even as they disagree with the individual steps to get there. However, who can agree with Obama attempting a radical reshaping of America into a totalitarian welfare state? Or the elimination of that most beloved entitlement, Social Security?

The crazy thing about all this is that what Obama is clearly focused on is protecting and modestly improving America’s status quo — which neither these insensate right-wingers or progressives will acknowledge.

Health Care Graphs, Cold War Deer, Evaluating Hillary, An Armey of Tea Baggers, and Rubio

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Kaiser Permanente. Ezra Klein interviewed Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson this week – and got two fascinating posts out of it so far (with the second part of the interview still to come.) The most interesting post for me was the one that included a number of graphs, including this one.  Ezra bills these charts as “An insurance industry CEO explains why American health care costs so much” – which comes down to this fact: in other countries, government set medical fees.

The Cold War Lives On. Cecilie Rohwedder of the Wall Street Journal tells the fascinating story of how several herds of deer still seem to be stuck in the Cold War.

Evaluating Hillary. Joe Klein has a balanced and insightful evaluation of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State. It is a bit early – as he acknowledges. But while the piece is worthwhile, he gives too little credit for the positive progress made by Hillary and the Obama administration in checking the deterioration of U.S. interests around the world, especially with regards to public diplomacy.

Armey of Tea Baggers. Michael Sokolove for the New York Times Magazine has a nice profile of Dick Armey, in the news of late for his Freedom Works organization and the tea parties they’ve been organizing. The difference between Armey the public speaker and Armey the man comes out in the story, as Armey the man seems like a bit of an ass, but a reasonable fellow; while Armey the public speaker is a demagogue, for example stating:

Nearly every important office in Washington, D.C., today is occupied by someone with an aggressive dislike for our heritage, our freedom, our history and our Constitution.

The trick of the organizing Armey is attempting is that he extols the virtues of the individual while trying to unite these individuals into a collective “we” who will fight to protect “our heritage, our freedom, our history.” He is speaking the language of a member of a beleaguered minority – while claiming majority support. Political pressure in the right way should relatively easily disturb the balance he is now able to so effortlessly achieve.

Marco Rubio. NPR profiles the man who – if I were betting – is the future of the Republican Party, after it escapes the Sarah Palin death spiral: Marco Rubio. (Listen to the audio of the story if you can.) He’s very conservative – and makes many political mistakes in positioning himself against common sense, which by all rights should come back to haunt him when he is chosen as a Vice Presidential nominee – for example, coming out against the fact that government spending can stimulate the economy. This betrays a basic disregard for macroeconomics, at least when put as unsubtly as Rubio does. But he keeps well within the mainstream of Republican positions on these issues, so as unhinged as those positions may be, he will be insulated from charges of kooky-ness.

But he’s Hispanic; his wife is a former cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins; he’s a darling of the far right, but seems smart enough to tack to the center in a general election campaign – and the fact that he’s already accepted by the far right means he will be able to get away with it; he speaks convincingly of America as a nation of “go-getters;” he seems to have a natural charisma and charm, and is at ease with those who disagree with him; and finally, he’s ambitious as hell and has enough self-regard to believe he can beat the extremely popular Governor Charlie Crist for his Senate seat.

An Empire or a Just Society?

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Charles Krauthammer wrote a piece for The Weekly Standard that is getting some attention – a piece apparently following up a speech he gave last week. His theme: Decline Is a Choice: The New Liberalism and the end of American ascendancy.

The criticism from liberals has been fast and furious, swatting away at Krauthammer’s many lies and distortions: Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, Joe Klein, FireDogLake, Robert Farley.

But from the right, Krauthammer seems to be finding some traction (along with the Cheneys) in creating this narrative about Obama – and his attack has the advantage of being a comprehensive critique of Barack Obama’s administration and its promise. I don’t think the responses from the liberals so far have defused the attack, which I think will gain traction as time goes on.

Krauthammer’s critique is a profound one: that Obama’s New Liberalism – domestically and internationally – makes the conscious choice to let America decline as a global empire. As Krauthammer explains it (updating Niall Ferguson’s more honest description of the choice in his Colossus), America faces a choice between creating a just society at home or maintaining an empire abroad. As a neoconservative, Krauthammer believes we must choose empire because we are the one, special, unique nation, exalted above all others. The declining dollar; the deficits; the withdrawal from Iraq; the rise of China, India, Brazil, and other emerging powers; the scaling back of the panicked urgency in responding to terrorism; the effort to engage in diplomacy; the acclaim for Obama: all of these become points in the Obama narrative being created.

Thus far, the liberal response has been tepid – swatting back the lies and distortions. (For example, most of these dire situations undermining American power are the direct result of Bush administration policies that Krauthammer supported or failed to object to.)

[Image by B MOR Creeeative licensed under Creative Commons.]

Remembering Ted Kennedy: “He lived his own large life and the ledger of it shows a substantial positive balance.”

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

The tributes have obviously been coming in. The conclusion seems to be the same one I would have come to before: that Ted Kennedy was a great, but flawed man – and like all men and women, he should be celebrated, without tears for the good he did in his life.

Here’s a few articles worth reading:

In Timothy Noah’s Slate piece he declares Ted Kennedy, “The Kennedy who most changed America.”

George F. Will argues much the same thing in a piece that reminds me of his greatness as a columnist, despite all of his bitter distortions on climate change:

Let us pay the Kennedys tributes unblurred by tears. Although a great American family, they are not even Massachusetts’ greatest family: The Adamses provided two presidents, John and John Quincy, and Charles Francis, who was ambassador to Britain during the Civil War, and the unclassifiable Henry. Never mind. It diminishes Ted to assess him as a fragment of a family. He lived his own large life and the ledger of it shows a substantial positive balance.

Joe Klein meanwhile explains “how Ted Kennedy found himself” in a personal remembrance of the man he knew for many years.

Michael Tomasky writes in the Guardian in his moving piece:

One would be hard pressed to argue that Ted Kennedy’s death was a more bitter pill for the country than the deaths of his brothers before him – John, the young president whose assassination gave Americans a hard warning about the violent age they were about to enter, or Robert, the presidential aspirant who was thought at the time to be the last leader in America who might have been able to help the nation transcend that violence.

Nevertheless, the heavens have somehow conspired to make this Kennedy death, however expected it might have been, nearly as heartbreaking as those of his vigorous younger brothers.

Charles P. Pierce writes in a long piece about Ted Kennedy’s life and career about how the events in Chappaquiddick shortly before the first man landed on the moon affected the rest of Senator Ted Kennedy’s career:

She’s always there. Even if she doesn’t fit in the narrative line, she is so much of the dark energy behind it. She denies to him forever the moral credibility that lay behind not merely all those rhetorical thunderclaps that came so easily in the New Frontier but also Robert Kennedy’s anguished appeals to the country’s better angels. He was forced from the rhetoric of moral outrage and into the incremental nitty-gritty of social justice. He learned to plod, because soaring made him look ridiculous…

And if his name were Edward Moore, he would have done time.

[Image not subject to copyright.]

John McCain’s Hip-Shooting Onanism

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Joe Klein has had enough (h/t Andrew Sullivan):

McCain’s bleatings are either for domestic political consumption or self-satisfaction, a form of hip-shooting onanism that demonstrates why he would have been a foreign policy disaster had he been elected.

To put it as simply as possible, McCain – and his cohorts – are trying to score political points against the President in the midst of an international crisis. It is the sort of behavior that Republicans routinely call “unpatriotic” when Democrats are doing it. I would never question John McCain’s patriotism, no matter how misguided his sense of the country’s best interests sometimes seems. His behavior has nothing to do with love of country; it has everything to do with love of self…

The protesters admire our freedom, but…[they] consider Ahmadinejad the George W. Bush of Iran – a crude, unsophisticated demagogue…

Certainly, Bush the Younger, McCain and the rest of that crowd have absolutely no idea who the Iranian people are. The are not Hungarians in 1956. They do not believe they live in an Evil Empire. They still support their revolution. They shout “Allahu Akbar” in the streets, which was the rallying cry of 1979. They are proud of their nuclear program…

Klein’s exactly right on all counts. Except perhaps the “hip-shooting onanism” – that’s an image too far. For those unfamiliar with the biblical term, it refers to the story of Onan who was struck dead by God for “spilling his seed” on the ground. Onan was actually having sex with his dead brother’s wife at the time – but that was okay as his duty was to impregnate her. But he attempted to avoid impregnating her by “spilling his seed” – which wasn’t okay – and thus he was killed by God.
Despite the disturbing image, I can see why Klein found it hard to resist labelling McCain’s foreign policy views mastubatory. The compelling argument for the necessity of the President taking the side of the Iranian protestors is the same as the rationale for masturbation: It feels good, so do it.

Obama, meanwhile, has reiterated his position today:

This is not about the United States and the West; this is about the people of Iran, and the future that they – and only they – will choose.

Obama realizes this is not about us – but about Iran. And though his comments equating Mousavi and Ahmadinejad may have gone too far, it is important to realize that we are not likely to see a Western-style democracy coming out of Iran. Many of the protesters in the street want more freedom – but they still support the nuclear program and political Islam and see the 1979 revolution as a positive event. But the rising up of the people helps to demonstrate why I believed – and still believe – “Iran and America are natural allies on most issues.” It’s why I find Les Gelb’s assertion that “Within ten years, Iran will be our closest ally in the region,” to be convincing despite our history of conflict over the past three decades.

A Skeptic’s Case For Barack Obama

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

When Barack Obama first announced he was going to run for president I was very skeptical – both about whether he was seasoned enough or whether this was his moment. It took me six months of reading, researching, and reflecting to finally come to decide that Obama was my choice.

I doubt anyone reading this blog over the past year would consider me to be a skeptic of Obama. But I did start out as one – and despite my strong support for Obama, I still remain one. Electing anyone as president is a risk – and those of us who are skeptical, who are less than completely taken with a candidate, who can sees the flaws along with the great opportunity – can be tempted to throw up our hands in despair and suggest – as many do – that each election is merely a choice between the lesser of two evils. But by giving up our place in politics, we cede power to those whose secular or religious convictions are certain – allowing them to drag us from one extreme to another.

There are serious issues we need to deal with as a nation in the next four years, issues which have been festering for far too long untended – global warming, terrorism, islamist extremism, the challenges of globalization, the fiscal instability, our deteriorating infrastructure, growing executive power. We need a president who can focus the country on these tasks and finally set us on the right path again.

Here are the reasons why I believe Barack Obama is the leader we need to set us on that path:

  1. Ideological Agnosticism.
    Despite the recent claims of Obama’s secret Marxist tendencies, his secret socialist tendencies, his secret terrorist sympathies, and the other extreme ideologies he is imputed to secretly profess, he is in fact a pragmatist – describing himself at one point as ideologically agnostic:

    I’m a Democrat. I’m considered a progressive Democrat. But if a Republican or a Conservative or a libertarian or a free-marketer has a better idea, I am happy to steal ideas from anybody and in that sense I’m agnostic.

    You can see this in Obama’s clear appreciation for Ronald Reagan and his belief in the power of markets (as you can see in his health care proposal [PDF] and his cap-and-trade proposal to combat global warming [PDF].) You can also see it in how he was able to find common cause and team up with one of the most conservative members of the Senate, Tom Coburn, on a bill to promote transparency in earmark spending.

  2. Post-partisanship.
    It’s a buzz word that most people have a sense of but not a clear understanding of. For Obama, post-partisanship is a campaign and governing strategy that focuses on long-term challenges, especially those with technocratic answers – such as global warming, health care, the financial crisis, and infrastructure development – while striving to minimize and find common ground on divisive social issues – such as abortion, gun rights, and gay marriage. Notice that in Obama’s convention speech he does not use the standard rhetoric about abortion or guns – but instead strives to move past these issues:

    The challenges we face require tough choices. And Democrats, as well as Republicans, will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past, for part of what has been lost these past eight years can’t just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose, and that’s what we have to restore.

    We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country.

    The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than they are for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals.

    At the same time, Obama’s post-partisanship can be seen in his many attempts to encourage dialogue with and respect for ideological conservatives – and his reluctance to criticize the Republican party as a whole.

  3. Process Revolution.
    Lawrence Lessig, a Constitutional law professor, suggests that throughout American history there have been a number of unusual “revolutions whose purpose was not to tear down the existing social and governmental structures, but to amend them in discrete ways.” He cites the Second Constitional Convention and the post-Watergate reforms as clear examples – and he suggests as a result of Bush’s legacy, we may be on the verge of another “process revolution.” Many of Obama’s proposals focus on reforming processes rather than achieving certain ends. For example, he proposes to increase transparency for all aspects of government and to allow citizens a more active role in responding to and shaping government policy. Neither of these changes in process necessarily further liberal goals – but they both help reform government in general.
  4. His Campaign.
    As Peter Beinart wrote earlier this year:

    It is this remarkable hybrid campaign, far more than Obama’s thin legislative resume, that should reassure voters that he can run the government.

    The almost flawless manner in which Obama has run his campaign has helped assuage any doubts I had about Obama’s executive leadership capability. Add to that the fact that his opponent also has no relevant executive experience, and for me, the choice became more clear. Obama proved that he could win, that he was willing to fight hard, and if necessary dirty, but that he preferred the high road – and managed to – in Peggy Noonan’s phrase – take “down a political machine without raising his voice.”

  5. Obamanomics.”
    The term sounds hokey – but it refers to the Democratic consensus about the economic steps that need to be taken to get America on the right track economically – especially to reduce the middle class squeeze and to deal with the root causes of the financial crisis. The steps Obama proposes are not radical – they are moderate. You might almost call them “tinkering.”
  6. The Right Temperament.
    Conservative columnist and curmudgeon George F. Will clearly sees that one of the candidates has the wrong temperament – as he described McCain’s reaction to the current financial crisis:

    Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama…[The more one sees of McCain’s] impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events the less confidence one has [in him] …It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

    Another conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer admitted, while endorsing McCain, that Obama has “both a first-class intellect and a first-class temperament.” It is noteworthy that even these conservative stalwarts cannot avoid noticing that Obama’s steady, patient, consistent, even temperament.

  7. A Commander-in-Chief.
    The War on Terrorism, against international islamist extremism, is one of the core issues this election is about. It is impossible to project who will be able to handle the pressure of the commander-in-chief role well – except perhaps for those with relevant experience, such as high-level generals. But even that is no guarantee (see Grant, Ulysses.) Temperament is very important when choosing a commander-in-chief – but so is judgment. Obama has consistently shown good judgment regarding the War on Terrorism – most especially by opposing the War on Terrorism as a “dumb war” and by focusing on Pakistan and Afghanistan. And unlike either John McCain or George Bush, Obama has made it clear that he will not be outsourcing his responsibilities to a Secretary of Defense or to generals. As he told General Petreaus in Iraq: “My job as a potential Commander in Chief is to view your counsel and interests through the prism of our overall national security.” As a reader on Andrew Sullivan’s blog wrote:

    We can’t let it be assumed that McCain is stronger on national defense (including counter terrorism) just because he talks with more bluster than Obama. Seven years ago the world was shocked but united by 9/11. It was an environment in which the US could have led the world not just in acting militarily against terrorists, but actually eliminated terrorism by making it too politically costly. But then Bush muddied up the waters. We need a president who understands that mistake.

    A victory by John McCain will make Al Qaeda’s job easier. A victory by Obama will make it harder.

  8. Restoration.
    After September 11, 2001, the Bush administration began a systematic attempt – perhaps initially begun in good faith – to consolidate power in the executive branch, to ignore the rule of law and the Constitution, to torture American-held prisoners, and even to commit war crimes – while in the meantime undermining the entire international system created mainly by America and playing into Al Qaeda’s plans to draw us into conflicts in the Middle East. John McCain was one of the heroes who stood up to the Bush administration and against some of it’s worst excesses. He eloquently stated:

    The enemy we fight has no respect for human life or human rights. They don’t deserve our sympathy. But this isn’t about who they are. This is about who we are. These are the values that distinguish us from our enemies, and we can never, never allow our enemies to take those values away.

    And he’s exactly right. We must fight the War on Terror in a way consistent with our values – as Israel learned during the intifada and England learned during The Troubles, it is easy to let fear become the rationale behind policy (which is precisely what the “One Percent Doctrine” entails) – but in the end, you end up losing both your values and making the situation worse. McCain, despite some fine rhetoric, is not the candidate to restore American values – as he balked at preventing the CIA from torturing and called the Supreme Court decision supporting the ancient and basic right of habeas corpus the worst decision in the Court’s history. Obama does not have a perfect record on these issues – but he has made it a major theme of his campaign to restore our American values and the rule of law. Andrew Sullivan explained how he had watched America turn away from it’s values and that:

    until this unlikely fellow with the funny ears and strange name and exotic biography emerged on the scene, I had begun to wonder if it was possible at all. I had almost given up hope, and he helped restore it.

  9. Tinkering.
    Nassim Nicholas Taleb, an author, former Wall Street trader, economist, and philosopher who predicted the current financial crisis believes the best approach to action is something he calls “tinkering”:

    Taleb believes in tinkering – it was to be the title of his next book. Trial and error will save us from ourselves because they capture benign black swans. Look at the three big inventions of our time: lasers, computers and the internet. They were all produced by tinkering and none of them ended up doing what their inventors intended them to do. All were black swans. The big hope for the world is that, as we tinker, we have a capacity for choosing the best outcomes.

    “We have the ability to identify our mistakes eventually better than average; that’s what saves us.” We choose the iPod over the Walkman. Medicine improved exponentially when the tinkering barber surgeons took over from the high theorists. They just went with what worked, irrespective of why it worked. Our sense of the good tinker is not infallible, but it might be just enough to turn away from the apocalypse that now threatens Extremistan.

    Tinkering is the best we can do in a world we only imperfectly understand. Anyone looking at Obama’s policy proposals can see that he is a tinkerer rather than a revolutionary. For example, he seeks to build upon our current health care system rather than demolish it as McCain does in one manner and socialists do in another.

As I wrote before: Obama is a liberal pragmatist, with a conservative temperament, who seeks to understand the world as it is, to identify our long-term challenges, and to push (to nudge it) in a positive direction by tinkering with processes and institutions and creating tools to get people more involved in the government.

These are my reasons, as an initial skeptic, that I support Obama.

These are not reasons to be complacent if he does, in fact, win. But they are reasons to be satisfied – if only for one night – that our country is moving in the right direction again.

The Art of Character Sketches

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Joe Klein begins his piece about “Why Barack Obama is Winning” with this anecdote:

General David Petraeus deployed overwhelming force when he briefed Barack Obama and two other Senators in Baghdad last July. He knew Obama favored a 16-month timetable for the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq, and he wanted to make the strongest possible case against it. And so, after he had presented an array of maps and charts and PowerPoint slides describing the current situation on the ground in great detail, Petraeus closed with a vigorous plea for “maximum flexibility” going forward.

Obama had a choice at that moment. He could thank Petraeus for the briefing and promise to take his views “under advisement.” Or he could tell Petraeus what he really thought, a potentially contentious course of action — especially with a general not used to being confronted. Obama chose to speak his mind….

You should read the rest of the piece – it’s fascinating take on Obama and his decision-making process.

Matt Yglesias wrote a few days ago about David Brooks and how:

a lot of this genre of punditry seems based on the idea that journalists can discern when politicians are and aren’t misleading with their presentation of self. But I have no reason to believe I’m especially good at this, and plenty of reason to believe that big-time politicians are unusually good at misleading about this sort of thing..

I know exactly what he means about how this can be frustrating. David Brooks seems to have had wildly diverging opions about Obama – which would tend to make one somewhat skeptical of his deep insight into Obama’s character.

Matt suggests ignoring character and focusing instead on policy positions – where you can more easily figure out if a politician is lying. He doesn’t seem quite comfortable with that – and leaves himself an out – despite the fact that his piece builds to this point, he concludes only by saying that “There’s something to be said for” looking only at policies.

But I think there is something valuable in what David Brooks, Joe Klein, Maureen Dowd, Peggy Noonan, Frank Rich, George Will, and many of these other columnists do as they attempt to determine a candidate’s character. They’re often wrong. And they are rarely consistent. But I believe a person’s essential character is important – and is generally revealed when a person holds power – and it affects what politics and policies actually happen.

What we need to realize when reading these columnists is that their trade is an art – not a science. It’s not necessary that these men or women be better at seeing through to the essential character of a politician – but that their job is to try to figure it out.

Mourning McCain

Monday, October 20th, 2008

If you want to know why I – like so many others – held John McCain in such high regard for so long, it had a lot to do with David Ifshin. And if you want to know why my opinion of him has plummeted, it has something to do with William Ayers.

Joe Klein mourns the McCain he used to know.

Of course, this is the same McCain who refused to take on the issue of the Confederate flag flying over the state capitol during the 2000 South Carolina primary – until after the primary was over. This is the same McCain who condemned torture – until he finally was in a position to actually affect policy. This is the same McCain who promised to run a clean campaign – only to base his campaign around slander, hiring the very people who he had so vigorously condemned for playing dirty during the 2000 campaign. This is the same McCain who – after being embroiled in the Keating Five scandal – vowed to become a reformer – and did so, but meanwhile maintained cosy relationships with lobbyists and did many favors for donors. And on and on.

Some might even call him a “make-believe maverick.”

The Price You Pay to Lead

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

A few months ago, I wrote a post called “Before we came here, we thought of ourselves as good people” using the words of Vince Foster to encapsulate the uncommon corruptions of the Clinton years. I was thinking of and looking for the video below when writing, from the conclusion of the film Primary Colors. Both the film and the book were intended to portray barely fictional representations of the Clintons. I believe that movie (slightly more so than the book) captured in a profound way both the appeal and the darker side of the Clintons. (See the trailer here).

The conclusion to the movie is pregnant with meaning given today’s current stand-off between a Clinton and a black man, especially given the arguments made at that time.

There are many issues to tease out of this clip.

Governor Jack Stanton, the clear stand-in for Bill Clinton, is trying to convince an idealistic young black man (of about the same age was Barack Obama in 1992 when the events of the novel happen) to support him as he justifies his use of scandals, smears, dirty politics to win a brutal primary against a candidate who is riding a public groundswell of support from people fed up with politics-as-usual. The governor explains why he needed to use every item in his disposal to take down the opposing candidate, despite their shared values – because the other candidate wouldn’t be able to win in November. The logic used then by candidate Clinton and his stand-in here, Jack Stanton, is the same as the logic used by Ms. Clinton to justify her tactics and continued presence in the race today.

It goes something like this:

1. The only way to win is to win dirty. (“Lincoln had to be a whore in order to call on the ‘better angels of our nature!’ “)

2. The Democrat opposing me won’t be able to win in November. (Because he isn’t willing to play dirty enough and/or because he has some other issues or scandals in his past.)

3. No one else with a chance to win would push the issues and care about the people the Clinton/Stanton candidate would.

4. Therefore, the Clinton/Stanton has a responsibility to save the Democratic party by taking down the candidate(s) opposing them by whatever means they can – because only they can win and push forward the liberal agenda.

Various news agencies have reported that this is exactly the argument that Ms. Clinton and her surrogates have been pushing in private calls to the superdelegates. It’s worth remembering that this is not the first time they have pushed this idea and used it to justify doing whatever they needed to win.

The Clintons seem to truly believe that they alone can win and save America – and that they are justified in doing whatever needs to be done to get them power. This has been their justification to the party for every betrayal, every time they have sold out their values, for every time they have taken out an intra-party opponent.

And if they can continue to make this argument to themselves, it is going to be a long summer.

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