AmericanSage

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Washington Post Publishes The Hillary Catechism: "Clinton Is A Politician Not Easily Defined"

Is it just me, or is everything about this article, including the headline, mediocre notnews? The jihadist government in Tehran must be on the last nerves of the MSM, too, and so we have this, a glorified press release courtesy of your friends at Hillary '08 and their friends at The Washington Post. Before reading the article, you are advised to que up Willie Nelson's version of "Don't Fence Me In" for a total multimedia experience.

So Ms. Clinton is "a politician not easily defined." The same could be said of her husband ("New Democrat, like "Compassionate Conservative" is just marketing), George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan...hell, you could even say it about Al "Don't Call Me Grizzly" Gore. Has there been a politician on the national scene since, say, Eugene V. Debbs that hasn't been more complex than bumper sticker slogans? Are we really supposed to believe that the darling of the Democratic establishment is some kind of outsider who, alone among her peers, defies political definition?

The reality is, of course, that on the true human levels they'd prefer we all not see, politicians are generally as complex and conflicted as the rest of us on any number of issues. Posturing Ms. Clinton as the archetype of some emerging breed of postmodern politico would be laughable if it wasn't so insulting.

The Post contrasts Ms. Clinton's hard-to-pin-down nature (is she, in fact, a Yankees or a Mets fan?) to the boxes the last two presidents have supposedly embraced. While 42 and 43 seemed content with their respective campaign labels, the ever-insightful Post says of the former First Lady, "To the contrary, she made clear in a telephone interview on Friday that her governing philosophy may never be easily reduced to a slogan. 'I don't think like that,' she said. 'I approach each issue and problem from a perspective of combining my beliefs and ideals with a search for practical solutions. It doesn't perhaps fit in a preexisting box, but many of the problems we face as a nation don't either.'" Someone better tell James Carville to figure out how to fit that load on a bumper sticker, stat. Maybe the wordsmiths at The Post can help.

You know, of course, what's really going on here. Democratic pollsters understand that while subdued by the sheer force of the charm offensive that was his presidency, the electorate tolerated Bill Clinton's incessant waffling and continues to widely praise him. In 2000 and 2004, however, Democrats lost largely because Republicans were able to cast themselves as decisive leaders in uncertain times and did a good job highlighting Gore's and especially Kerry's schizophrenic public history. Ms. Clinton's own record differs little in this regard. The answer? Reinvent her lack of vision as evidence of depth and caution, and posit these things as rare qualities for modern public figures. Contrast Clinton's "sensitivity" or concern for "nuances" with the image of Bush, for example, as hardline cowboy unwilling or unable to admit his own mistakes. Remind America that label friendly 42 and 43 were polarizing presidents and suggest that Hillary's conflicting messages to different groups is evidence of political skill and social grace. This, of course, is nonsense.

Hillary is a vote coddler, pure and simple, and mundane is it may seem, her widely ridiculed endorsement of the Cubs, Yankees, and Mets each as her "favorite team" speaks to the larger point. The only thing that surprises me in this discussion is The Post's tacit assumption that its cultured readers can so easily be duped. The piece's style, headline and total lack of story make me wonder if this isn't something intended purely for the wires. If this is the kind of the thing the power elites of the MSM think will play well in Peoria, they don't think much of Peoria at all. Incidentally, that's not news, either.

UPDATE: Looks like some powerful Dems aren't seeing things The Post's way. Read "Hillary Pays A Price," from today's New York Daily News, here. Coincidence?

12 Comments:

Anonymous politicsaddict said...

I think you are right on target, A.S.

It is a normal political strategy, when faced with a voting record any Senator has, particular votes which could enlighten the electorate about the stands a politician finds worth taking, to try and broaden the view away from these votes and portray them as deep and capable of thinking through all important aspects of a problem before acting.

The problem with this strategy, as Kerry found out, is that eventually being "deep and nuanced" can backfire.

This duality, this contradiction in what voters want versus what politicians show, is one of the main reasons no Senator has won the presidency since JFK.

(Although that may be a moot point a year and a half from now if two sitting Senators get the nods from their respective parties.)

Keep up the good work, A.S.

8:56 PM  
Anonymous membase said...

Good work.

Another danger of this strategy is that it looks like "thinking out loud". Perhaps it is appealing to a candidate eager to prove that she's the world's most intelligent woman, but what if the electorate is looking for the world's most secure woman or world's most decisive woman?

I believe this has been a consistent problem for the left for 40 years. Within their own circles, they adore the policy wonks who can pontificate for hours about virtually any issue. This brings absolutely no value in the general election, where the electorate has neither the time nor the inclination for political minutiae; in fact, it creates the appearance that the candiate is stuggling to find a position, values and/or character, before our very eyes. It is why supposed dunces like Reagan or the current Bush were two-termers while the "brilliant" Carter was dispatched after one inglorious term, and neither Gore nor Kerry made it at all. In presidential politics, the dumb jocks beat the nerds.

At least Bill Clinton had the sense to hammer away at a few reliable issues in public, while leaving the stimulating discussions for the all-night pizza parties.

2:39 AM  
Anonymous ClearCommentary.com said...

Well written commentary. Unlike conservatives, liberals instinctively qualify their prospective positions on policy issues because, they argue with a straight face, they're inherently too complex to reduce to a simple party line construction.

Her Majesty Mrs. Clinton is the quintessential practitioner of this craven craft which is calculated to be in all the politically comfortable places on the map at once; a kind of quantum mechanics for liberals, if you will.

That's why the majority of clear thinking Democrats are reaching for the paxil as the 2008 race heats up: The only truly mainstream potential candidate--Senator Joseph Lieberman--could never win the nomination.

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