Sunday, August 19, 2007

Porridge Politics

Jesus H. Christ. This is exactly the sort of political writing I've been on about, the sort of mushy pablum that oversimplifies and infantilizes people, candidates, and policies so that none of it has much substantial meaning.

DES MOINES, Iowa - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is too experienced, Sen. Barack Obama too raw. Listening to Democrats give their Goldilocks view of the 2008 presidential campaign must make voters wonder: Will any candidate be just right for the White House?

"Senator Obama does represent change. Senator Clinton has experience. Change and experience," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Sunday, making a balancing gesture with his hands. "With me, you get both."

Richardson may be a long shot for the nomination, but his crack underscored a question that dominated the latest presidential debate: A change versus experience dynamic that almost surely will determine who represents the Democratic Party next year.

Cutesy fairy-tale metaphors do nothing to helpfully describe the dynamic at work here. We get that candidates will use whatever contrived toehold they can gain on one another; that's expected. Why do the media feel this need -- this pathetic, bizarre compulsion -- to fit these contrivances into a hastily-cobbled narrative?

It should be a given that all Democratic candidates, given the utterly catastrophic nature of the past eight years of mangled policy, are agents of change. So right off the bat, the notion of "change versus experience" doesn't fly. Richardson, as an old Clinton hand, understands her perceptive weaknesses as well as anyone in the race, and thus uses this artifical characterization to what he feels will be his own advantage. Fair enough. But it is unhelpful to merely transcribe it and transform it into a shopworn meme.

(Incidentally, I think Richardson got a bum shake out of the "gay" debate, simply because he supposedly bobbled the "choice question". Richardson merely admitted that he doesn't know why, from a scientific standpoint, how exactly people come to be of a particular sexual orientation. He doesn't know why some people are gay, and he doesn't care -- he has been proactive in addressing equal rights and marriage issues. That oughta be enough, especially since it seems that it's always the candidates that ventriloquize the most politically-correct sentiments who punt on first down when comes to actually doing anything. And if Richardson's answer isn't good enough for you, folks, then vote for Hillary and get your chain jerked for eight more years. Better yet, vote for Fred Thompson -- at least you know exactly where he stands on the subject. Feel better now?)

"The thing that I wished had happened was that all the people on this stage had asked these questions before they authorized us getting in," Obama said.

"I make that point because earlier we were talking about the issue of experience," he added. "Nobody had more experience than Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney."

By putting his rivals in league with Bush's vice president and former defense secretary, Obama was telling voters that experience does not guarantee sound judgment.

He also used a discussion about the mortgage crisis to make his case for change. "This is where special interests have been driving the agenda," Obama said.

These are actually very good points, and they certainly merit higher coverage than some inane "Goldilocks" riff. One of the things about Hillary Clinton that I find both fascinating and frustrating is how adept she has been at portraying herself as a competent idealist. And she does seem to be highly competent, I'll give her that. But she is a cynical game-player, through and through, selling out to the flag-burning and video-game violence goofballs in a heartbeat, and is up to her eyeballs in every level of the corporate lobbying that actually decides which of the candidates we get to choose from. She is idealistic only in comparison to the current crew. So, as it turns out, are my dogs.

Even so, Clinton would indeed be far superior to these guys. But after the focus-tested victory song is played, and the bunting is taken down, what are you actually getting? More triangulation, and more ethically-challenged henchmen (seriously, how about Sandy Berger for NSA chief again?), more hollow promises, more genuflection to people who don't merit the time of day. And a further tilt to dynastic politics, a potential 28-year span of Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton. Even a benevolent despotism of that nature is undesirable, but this has the pattern of an abused wife running back and forth, to and from her abusive spouse. One smells the set-up of Jeb! for '12 or '16. Maybe he could pick Liz Cheney as his running mate then, save on printing new swag.

Does this mean I wouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton if she is the eventual Democratic nominee? Not by a long shot, but that's what the primary/debate phase is for, to sort these things out. They're not sorted out efficiently with these weird gluten-free ledes; they merely get snowballed into a lazy narrative, so that come time to vote in the ever-earlier primaries, we can be gulled into endorsing whoever shows the most (rhetorical, one hopes) cleavage.

[Update: I should probably check myself before I wreck myself -- contrary to popular misconception, Hillary merely co-sponsored a bill to ban flag-burning, thus enabling her to simultaneously oppose amending the Constitution to achieve the same end.

December 05, 2005

Senator Hillary Clinton is supporting a bill that would ban flag burning, but she is opposed to a constitutional ban on the act.

Clinton is co-sponsoring a bill that would make it a crime to destroy a flag on federal property, intimidate anyone by burning a flag or burning someone else's flag.

Sweet. That's entirely different. Forget what I said about triangulation and shit. Especially the part about "burning someone else's flag", which, unless I am completely mistaken, is already illegal. Indeed, this is nothing short of inspired leadership.]


Anonymous said...

Please check your facts. HRC voted against the Flag Burning Amendment.

Anonymous said...

Here's a helpful link...