Tuesday, May 27, 2008

And What.

Hoo-boy. Last week I blog about coming out as a Hillary Clinton supporter, and the very next day she comes out with that thing about RFK. So to answer one of the questions posed in the comments, no of course I don't defend Clinton's statement.

But actually, the media reaction was a perfect example of the kind of thing I'm talking about. If those words had come from anyone else, they would have been a gaffe, a clumsy and unfortunate example of the valid historical point that primary contests can change unexpectedly well into the summer. But because it came from Hillary Clinton, Ruthless Homicidal Maniac, everyone acts like it was a call to arms for Ku Klux Klan sharpshooters.

Last week's post set a record for number of responses received. A few came in the comments, many more by email. So I thought I'd follow up by responding to the most frequent categories of feedback:

1. But she voted for the war!

Okay, let's turn back the clock to 2002. The executive branch of government is engaged in wholesale distortion of intelligence, sending no less a luminary than Colin Powell to the floor of the United Nations to demonstrate how Saddam Hussein is supposedly stockpiling chemical and biological weapons, and briefing Senators on Iraq's capability of delivering such weapons to the Eastern United States in drone aircraft. The United States has for ten years been strong-arming the UN into a sanctions regime against Iraq that is making us a pariah among erstwhile allies because of the effect it's having on Iraqi civilians, so something clearly has to give. The Bush administration asks Congress to pass H.J.Res. 114, authorizing the use of force to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq." Note that Bush does not ask for permission to invade Iraq, overthrow its government, and install an American Viceroy; nor does he ask for permission to do so without an exit strategy, nor does he ask for permission to hang around for five years as referees and target practice in a civil war.

Hillary Clinton, the elected representative of the people of New York--which 13 months earlier had experienced first hand what destruction delivered by air to the Eastern United States looks like--is one of 535 people who have to make a decision that, based on the situation as they understand it, will have grave consequences whichever way they vote. And yes, Clinton knows her vote will have personal political consequences -- something you'd hope an elected representative would consider. And so, along with a 58% majority of Democratic Senators (including former Presidential candidates Dodd and Biden), she votes in favor of the Resolution.

Meanwhile, an Illinois state legislator named Barack Obama makes a speech against the same resolution. Obama represents Chicago's overwhelmingly Democratic 13th Legislative District, so the speech has almost zero political consequences. The speech has exactly zero practical consequences, since last time I checked, the war powers of the United States are not vested in the Illinois General Assembly.

Do I wish Clinton (and 373 other lawmakers) had voted against the resolution? Of course. I bet she does, too. Would it have stopped the Bush Administration from invading Iraq? Probably not. How would Barack Obama have voted, if he'd been U.S. Senator from Illinois in 2002? No idea.

2. But her claims to be winning the primary popular vote are laughable.

I agree. It's disingenuous and I wish she'd stop. To me her best argument is the one I've outlined -- that if she can beat John McCain in electoral votes and Obama can't, the superdelegates ought to make her the nominee.

3. But she ran those horrible "3 AM phone call" commercials.

Is it somehow off limits for a Presidential candidate to promote herself as the more capable leader in times of national crisis? Isn't that part of the job description for President?

Comparisons of this ad to Lyndon Johnson's execrable 1964 "Daisy" ad, and the 2006 Republican "These Are the Stakes" Al Qaeda spots are inapposite. Johnson's ad implied that Barry Goldwater was actually going to start a nuclear war. The 2006 ads implied that Democrats' softness on terrorism would lead to calamity. Clinton's message was just that if the phone rings at 3 AM, she would be the better person to answer it--not that its ringing would be somehowObama's fault.

4. But I disagree with the methodology of electoral-vote.com; take a look at www._________.com, which comes out the other way.

Entirely possible. And also possible that different polls will have different results in August. As I say, if it turns out in August that Clinton demonstrates a significant electoral vote lead over McCain and Obama doesn't, superdelegates who prefer a Clinton presidency to a McCain presidency may vote for Clinton. If there are enough of them, Clinton could wind up as the nominee. That's why she shouldn't drop out.

5. I voted for Hillary, too!

And you're not alone. As predicted, a good number of you came out of the woodwork in response to my post.

6. But we can't have Billary in the White House again -- Bill will try to run everything!

This one drives me to distraction whenever I hear it. Does no one remember the origin of "Billary" in the 1992 election? The implications were that a) Bill Clinton was insufficiently masculine to be President because he was married to an attorney, rather than to Mamie Eisenhower; and b) a power-mad career woman like Hillary Clinton would dominate her husband and wind up as an unelected co-President.

Now we are told that Hillary Clinton couldn't possibly be strong enough to stand up to her husband, who will dominate her and wind up as an unelected co-President. So which is it?

7. But you can't really think that Clinton is losing just because people won't vote for a woman?

I don't think it's that simple. To be sure, there is an anti-woman voting bloc, but it's probably balanced out by the anti-Black bloc and by "it's time" Clinton voters who would have supported Obama against any male candidate (the latter bloc being in turn balanced by "it's time" Obama voters who would have supported Clinton against any White candidate). My point was rather that our public discourse has tolerated a level of sexism in anti-Clinton invective that (thankfully) never would be permitted in terms of overt anti-Obama racism. These gendered personal attacks on Clinton have made it acceptable to hold irrationally negative views of Clinton as a human being, centered around supposed personality traits that would be seen as neutral or even positive in male candidates. So while Obama is treated as the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, Hillary Clinton is Lady MacBeth. And it's these notions of character that may make the difference in a contest where the candidates agree on 95% of the issues.

8. But she's for the gas tax holiday, and "all the economists" say it won't work.

You're right.

9. But Clinton was the Democratic power brokers' Annointed One -- I can't vote for her on principle.

What, you think Obama, out of roughly 3500 Democratic state legislators nationwide, was chosen at random to speak at the 2004 Democratic National Convention? If it's grass-roots you're after, I can get you a deal on Ron Paul buttons.

10. But she's just pandering to blue collar voters.

a. She and Obama both, with their anti-NAFTA populism. "All the economists" also say so.

b. If you're talking about the campaign appearances that have won her resounding victories in Kentucky and West Virginia -- if it were any other politician, he or she would be "seeking out an underrepresented demographic and speaking to its concerns." But because it's Hillary the Cynical, Power Hungry Bitch, she's "pandering."

That's all folks--next post, I promise, it's back to creationist baristas and Internet-controlled sex toys.

1 comment:

  1. Phil from SchenectadyTuesday, June 03, 2008

    Howdy, Prepuce! Please pardon me if I violate some rule of netiquette -- this is the first time I've ever actually read a "blog"! (Though I hear on NPR that they're very interesting.) I just read part 2 of your defense of HRC, and I agree with everything you said. (But I still like Obama better.)

    This is a little off-topic, but I'm getting a sense that this race is starting to be seen as a referendum as to whether sexism or racism is more pronounced in America, and that the treatment of HRC shows that sexism is winning. (Do you get that sense? Am I getting it from you?) While the primary season has made clear that blatant out-in-the-open sexism is more widely accepted, I don't think that means that racism has largely been overcome, while sexism flourishes. It might actually mean the opposite: that racism remains such an evil, destructive, and prevalent force that people are rightfully afraid of any whiff of association with it, while sexism is seen (correctly or not) as in a weakened enough state as to be a little less shameful. Your thoughts?


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