(Reminder: There's still Americans being killed in Iraq. You many not know it since the war has utterly vanished from the news.)
Since the Iowa caucuses the press and pundits have seemed unnaturally eager to cast Clinton in the most negative light possible, both personally and as far as her election prospects are concerned.
And the pundits, at least some of them, are just as jaw-droppingly wrong, petty, and unserious as they usually are, if not worse.
It's long been apparent to me and many others that Chris Matthews of MSNBC has a particularly virulent case of Clinton obsession. He clearly has some mental hang-up with both Bill and Hillary and can regularly be caught saying the most insane things about them, usually reflecting a willingness to go to any lengths to twist or psychoanalyse them into an extremely negative light.
This has been going on for years, and has driven me nuts for about that long. It sometimes seems he can't possibly get through a show without him dragging whatever it was Hillary did or said into the discussion, often obsessing in a prurient way what their marriage must be like, or what Bill must have thought about what she did or said or vice-versa. To listen to his insane preoccupation with the two is truly bizarre, and even when he tries to get his guests to agree, they kind of back away and try to gently suggest that they wouldn't go THAT far.
So of course, I fully expected the entire Hardball show to be about Hillary (horrors) actually showing a bit of emotion on the campaign trail.
I first heard about this from Wolf Blitzer as he breathlessly said that Clinton had had some sort of break-down on the trail, and, (I'm not making this up) quickly following the announcement by asking the question, "Will this spell the end of her campaign?"
It's hard to imagine that our elite pundit corp is this stupid. And they're the ones who truly shape the election and can change perceptions entirely in a game where perception is all.
Hillary, who it must be noted, had NOT cried, but merely showed some emotion in her voice when talking about her desire to run for president. (Who was the Republican whose voice cracked earlier in the campaign? Remember how that was considered a real touching moment and proof of his sincerity? Wasn't it Rudy?)
But when asked how she endured a truly inhuman schedule and the unbearable stress and responsibility of a campaign, answered in a personal way.
THIS is what she said in response to a woman asking her how she does it. This is her remarks in context, all of it, and not cut up to feature the emotional bit:
It's not easy, it's not easy. And I couldn't do it if I just didn't, you know, passionately believe it was the right thing to do. You know, I have so many opportunities from this country. I just don't want to see us fall backwards, you know? So.
You know, this is very personal for me. It's not just political, it's not just public. I see what's happening, and we have to reverse it. And some people think elections are a game. They think it's like who's up or who's down. It's about our country, and it's about our kids' futures. And it's really about all of us, together. You know, some of us put ourselves out there and do this against some pretty difficult odds. And we do it, each one of us, because we care about our country.
But some of us are right and some of us are wrong. Some of us are ready, and some of us are not. Some of us know what we will do on day one, and some of us haven't really thought that through enough. And so, when we look at the array of problems we have, and the potential for it getting -- really spinning out of control, this is one of the most important elections America's ever faced.
So, as tired as I am -- and I am -- and as difficult as it is to kind of keep up what I try to do on the road, like occasionally exercise and try to eat right -- it's tough when the easiest food is pizza -- I just believe so strongly in who we are as a nation. So I'm going to do everything I can to make my case, and, you know, then the voters get to decide. Thank you all.
She did not sob, her voice did not catch, there were no tears. She held it together, but in talking about the thousand of people she's seen during the campaign, emotion showed briefly in her voice.
Recall, if you will, that nearly across the board, dozens of pundits all adopted the collective wisdom that Hillary's problem in the campaign a few weeks ago was that she was simply too stiff. Too scripted, too controlled. She didn't have a human dimension. You all remember that. Not enough emotion. Not feminine enough. Matthews said it over and over.
But now Matthews felt no compunction with trying desperately to start some new story line. His? He plucked her comment about not wanting to, "see us fall backwards" as some big dig at Obama and reflexively tried to make it fit the "Obama vs. Clinton" cage match story line they have always loved.
To their credit, non of his guests would agree with his assessment, and all tried to tell Matthews that it was simply a sincere answer and reaction from Clinton, something that apparently is simply beyond comprehension for him.
Edwards capitalized on the moment, using it to suggest that he's made of steel and the job of president demands that quality, and that Hillary was showing that she was too weak and/or emotional for the job. I was very disappointed to hear him go there, to say the least. Obama by contrast, expressed that he could certainly understand how exhausted she must be.
Clinton; too wooden, too controlled, too stiff, too tough for a woman. Now she shows a trace of human emotion. Not crying, just a bit of emotion in her voice. And since her campaign is perceived to be on the ropes, now it's, Clinton; too soft, too emotional, not tough enough for the job. Pundits instantly do a head-snapping 180 without a trace of realizing how ridiculous they sound
It's insane. Watch them do this the rest of the way as they have so far. Desperately trying to shape the race to fit a pleasing story line and desperately grasping at straws to try to invent one.
In addition to being beaten up over this episode, Clinton was also dissected for appearing angry during a recent debate. All I can say is, if I were getting beaten by a guy who did nothing but talk about lofty platitudes and was never held to provide details on just how he "hopes" to accomplish them, while my past accomplishments and experience were being roundly ignored or dismissed, I think I might get a little strident when I tried to make my case too.
And again, one has to wonder if a male candidate spoke forcefully, if he'd get the same condemnation, or if it would be considered a plus.
I hold no special love for Hillary, and I do like Obama, though I can't shake some nagging misgivings and the feeling that his popularity is based almost entirely on just that... emotional feelings, and not concrete substance. I also have a natural inclination to defend the underdog, whomever they may be, and in this case, it's Hillary that seems to be clearly getting rolled, mischaracterized, and spun in the most negative light possible. And I think it's clearly unfair.
I watch a Hillary appearance at a Q&A session and she does brilliantly. She impressed the hell out of me. I watch Obama and it's all raw excitement. He can pull off standing on the mountain-top and making lofty pronouncements of broad positive themes. This is all well and good, as I believe a large and crucial part of the role of president is to set the tone and inspire the country and provide a vision of how great it can be. That can't be emphasized enough, and no one does it better than Obama. But where's the beef?
I'm also inclined to look beyond the hype in these situations, and to avoid getting too swept up in the emotional reaction. And I get the feeling that people, including the press, are rolled by the truly impressive emotion Obama inspires in supporters, and they're largely giving him a pass on everything else.
All discussion of Obama is almost in passing and then only to note with a tone of awe just how impressive his speeches are, how he's attracting huge and immensely enthusiastic crowds, which include large numbers of independents and even Republicans who've been swept up in his appeal.
When's the last time you've heard about how his health care proposal doesn't cover everyone? Do you even know what it is? What's his stance on immigration? On taxes? On the environment? I'm sure he has position papers available on his website, but I don't recall hearing much about any particular issues during his many debate appearances.
I get the feeling he's on the same path as Bush was, where he is simply getting a free pass, never expected to discuss in any detail any of his polices or be asked how he expects to accomplish any of his laudable visions for the country.
He's simply so popular that no one wants to burst the bubble. Even pundits like to run a hero up the flagpole every now and then. The Obama phenomena shows clearly just how desperate the country is for an inspirational leader, a hero, a savior who can somehow fix all the damage that's been done. (Thanks George for f-ing up the country and the planet so thorougly that no Republican will hold the presidency for some time to come. You've messed up so bad people don't even want to take a chance on another white guy.)
I'm sure much more scrutiny will be directed towards his actual plans should Obama emerge the nominee, which seems pretty damn inevitable at this point.
The fact is that I find myself with a happy delimma. I think Edwards, Clinton, and Obama would ALL make fine presidents. I could happily vote for any of them, though I have to admit I'd feel a nagging inkling of risk voting for the relatively inexperienced Edwards or Obama, hoping against hope that they'd be as capable of the job as they say they are. With Clinton, I'm torn between her being the only "known quantity" and knowing that she could most easily assume the duties of a president and do a capable and good job, and the feeling that she'd play the game to a certain extent as it always has been. A Washington player playing the Washington game, and unwilling to step on the toes of her corporate, defense industry, insurance industry, and other donors. Status quo, as Obama and Edwards paint her.
I guess I'm caught between the much hyped "change" and "experienced" message themes, feeling that there's merit to both of them and they're both good reasons to support a candidate.
In that respect, I've also realized something that no one seems to point out. And that's that experience and change are not mutually exclusive. The fact that you have experience with how the levers of power operate in Washington does not mean that you can't advocate and accomplish serious change in the way business is done there.
In that respect, Obama or Edwards aren't the only ones who could represent change. But Clinton is the only one who could represent both experience AND change.
It's a tough choice, obviously.
It's like being a judge at a talent contest where there are three people who just knock your socks off, but one played an instrument, one danced, and one sang. You almost wish they could all win. They all are talented enough, they all "get it" and are professionals, and any one of them could be a star.
It's very tough to choose, but I guess that's a good problem to have.
On the Republican side, I sometimes almost get a twinge of sympathy for the legions of hard-core righties out there. Listen to Willard Romney speak about anything for even a few minutes and you're bound to hear at least three really ridiculous notions. Huckabee is likely a Hucka-not-to-bee, in my estimation, though he may fool people.
McCain is just too damn old in contrast to Obama, though he shouldn't be underestimated. Polling has shown he's the most formidable opponent for nearly any Dem nominee. An Obama - McCain match up would be one hell of a dust-up, and a really wrenching time of choice for the country, providing as it would a clear generational choice of leadership and vision for the direction of our country.
But McCain, bless his heart, is just too old, too wedded to the military, and continues to say things such as that he expects us to be in Iraq for the next 100 years.
The fact is that if you listen to ANY of the Republican candidates with a critical ear for any length of time, and it's usually not long, you'll hear something just downright dumb, and always, always, you'll hear some policy or view that's based on stuff that's simply NOT TRUE, as when McCain stated yesterday that the surge in Iraq has saved a huge amount of our soldiers lives. (When in actuality, more lives were lost last year than any since the war began.)
Romney is more and more cartoonish with each passing day. Rudy is coming off as more transparantly nutty and unqualified with each passing day. And neither Romney nor Rudy seem to have any rational for their candidacies whatsoever aside from the fact that they want to be president. (We won't even go into the bizarre candidacy of Fred Thompson, the supposed second coming of Ronald Reagan.)
Huckabee is the only one appearing
sane, until you read some of the truly whacko notions he's expressed in the past.
On the Democratic side, I find myself in a fairly enviable position, as I think many Dems do, and that's with more than one candidate who would be an excellent leader.
This is why, though I'd soured a bit on Clinton, I truly feel sorry to see her fortunes flagging after Iowa. And every time I see her or Edwards (Or Biden and Dodd or even Richardson for that matter) and the pundits write them off, or they drop out of the race prematurely for purely financial reasons, I find myself hoping against hope that whomever does win the nomination and thus the presidency, will quickly involved them in their government.
Every candidate has so much to offer and could play an important role in reshaping the country after the long national nightmare we've endured for the past 7 years and during every Republican administration in the past few decades.
Which brings me to the subject being bandied about and brought to the forefront by a conference of prominent political moderates held at the University of Oklahoma yesterday, and that's this ongoing call for bipartisanship and cooperation.
I don't like it.
They're calling for the next president to essentially promise to include members of the opposite party in their cabinet, and not simply token members. (like whats-his-name the Dem transportation secretary in Bush's cabinet)
When one party, one ideology, has so thoroughly drug the country down into the ditch in nearly every measurable way, why the obligation to continue to allow them to influence policy?
Perhaps I'm getting a faulty reading on this, but I don't see that the country would even want to let the ya-hoos and crooks who've mislead this country so ineptly and wrongly to be extended the honor of continuing to influence it's course.
I can see an argument being made that the nasty, brutish name calling war started and inflamed by the Republicans under Newt Gingrich and continued for decades afterward by the likes of Tom Delay, in which it was encouraged to describe members of the Democratic party as "traitors" "devients", and "un-American" should be ended.
But I also think that the Republicans better exhibit a tone of proper humility and change their behavior and outlook drastically before they deserve to be offered what, after all, they steadfastly refused to offer their Democratic counterparts for decades.
Cooperation for the good of the country? Hell yes. Continuing to give credence to crazy, costly, destructive and divisive right wing ideology? Hell no.