This morning I sat through a disheartening performance of Hillary Clinton supporter and Bill Clinton enabler, Lanny Davis, angrily and aggressively sliming Barack Obama on CNNs’ Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. I was too depressed to take notes and don’t remember exactly what he said beyond repeating several times the hilarious accusation that Obama is trying to change the rules mid-game for urging superdelegates to vote with their states or Congressional districts (Florida and Michigan, anyone?). Overall, though, it might as well have been that Barack Obama is a shallow, slick talkin’, no good, lyin’, cheatin’, no account political featherweight.(I have not written in months because I have been so disgusted and wilted by our political situation of late. But now I have been inspired, finally, by presidential candidates with a chance to win. First, John Edwards’ populist position and then surprising myself by being deeply moved by Barack Obama’s powerful message of hope, new ways, and unity coupled with his soaring and inspiring descriptions of it. So my combination of revulsion and inspiration has spurred me to write again.)One of the most incomprehensible facets of our endangered democracy is this: our economy is tanking rapidly and severely; we remain stuck in a destructive, highly unpopular war, while our risk of a terrorist attack is rising even according to the Bush Administration; the President is broadly and deeply disliked; we are dangerously in debt to our main rival as a nation and our currency is about to go down the tubes taking us with it at a time when most of the world reviles us; we are foolishly dependent on debt, domestically and individually; and just about everyone thinks our nation is headed in the wrong direction.Yet, the party that brought us to this perilous and embarrassing place has a good chance to win the presidency again.Right now, today, one of the main reasons Republicans might win can be summed up in two words: Hillary Clinton. OK, calm down now and let me explain. I respect Clinton and think she would make a good president. She is smart, focused and very talented. She is certainly far better than any Republican. I also think at heart she is more progressive than she has behaved recently.BUT. SHE. CANNOT. WIN. And,OBAMA WILL BE MUCH BETTER FOR THE COUNTY RIGHT NOW.More on the various reasons Obama will be better for the country than Clinton in part 2.Here is why Clinton cannot win from the known and obvious to the known and more sophisticated reasons:Clinton cannot win because she is a uniter and not an exciter.Clinton will absolutely unite and seriously motivate the currently divided and dispirited hard-core conservative Republican base around one of their most effective and powerful emotions, hatred, and perhaps their favorite species thereof: all things Clinton. The important question here is not whether these voters would vote for Obama – highly doubtful – or even whether they would stay home on election day, diminishing McCain votes – more likely, but likely not determinative. No, the main question is whether these rabid conservatives will stay home during election season or get out and work their butts off to turn out the vote for McCain (read against Clinton). They will literally be crazed by the thought of President Hillary and First Man Bill (effectively “Hillary’s Cheney”) in the White House and on their TVs and radios for four to eight years. They will churn themselves into a hurricane of political action to avoid that.On the other side, Hillary does not excite the hard-core progressive Democratic base as a countering force, and many are so offended by her Iraq and Iran votes and stances that they downright detest and oppose her. With an uninspiring Clinton against the relatively inoffensive (for a Republican) McCain, I believe the progressive base that worked so hard to turn out votes in 2006 will put out a lackluster effort in election season and fail to turn out the votes needed to win. Such a contest would also fail to inspire independents one way or the other, subjecting Clinton to losing them for the reasons below. Clinton cannot win due to Clintonian attack politics.This is where Lanny Davis’s tirade comes into play. This country is literally wretchedly sick of the nasty, negative, attacking, triangulating, hypocritical politics that has characterized the Bush-Clinton-Bush era. Hillary began positively, but the minute she felt the slightest challenge from Obama, she went negative and dirty and then went into denial about doing it and then claimed SHE was the victim of attacks. Worst of all, she used Bill as part of the strategy. Even a hard-core lefty like me is repulsed when hearing Bill Clinton attack people and then act slickly sweet and innocent and paint himself and his wife as the victim. Thing is, Bill and Hillary, we all have your number now; we know this is your game and we do not want to play it anymore. Yes, it’s true that the Clintons have been attacked viciously by the Right, but they have attacked too, usually giving better than they got. The point is that the whole cycle needs to just stop.When questioned whether voters would reject the politics of the Bill Clinton era, Lanny Davis asked what part of Bill Clinton’s terms were not to like and then ticked off a list of accomplishments. But we all know that is not the point, nor so much is the fact that Clinton’s list includes such decidedly conservative “accomplishments” as NAFTA, financial and telecommunication deregulation, and welfare elimination.The point is we can no longer stand the masters of personally destructive politics, who hypocritically decried the politics of personal destruction, engaging in the politics of personal destruction against a fellow Democrat even at the risk of fatally wounding both Obama and Hillary for the general election. If Hillary wins the nomination by trashing Obama, she will not only lose young energetic progressives because she is none of those things, she will also lose them because they are so angry with her for destroying their hero and first ever true political inspiration. She will also lose independents who are, like the rest of us, sick to death of the awful politics of the past 20 years now being practiced in the primary by both Clintons and their coterie of big-shot DLC accomplices also reprising their nauseating Nineties attack-then-play-victim roles.Finally, if Hillary attacks and destroys Obama and triangulates and manipulates her way to a nomination, she can forget about a large turnout among African American voters, a group she cannot win without.Her votes on Iraq and Iran preclude clear, principled arguments against war on them.It’s not only that some people won’t vote for Hillary because she supported the Iraq use-of-force resolution. She also cannot credibly make the argument that the war was a mistake to begin with. She is caught in a double bind. Any way she tries explain away or make excuses for her vote will just sound like more “Slick Willy” semantics and will be crushed as another example of Democratic (make that Democrat) flip-flopping with the political winds. She seems wholly incapable of making the responsible, adult admission that her vote was a mistake, yet another reason to doubt her ability to motivate people tired of politicians shirking accountability for their actions and votes.She also cannot argue that her vote was correct at the time, but later events have shown the war was a mistake, because that puts her right in McCain’s wheelhouse. It redirects the issue from whether we were right to go to war to how we should have fought it. The ability of McCain and the Republicans to manipulate the media and use the Bush administration to present the arrogant and foolish troop escalation as successful makes any argument about how to wage the war, as opposed to whether we should have ever gone, a loser for Hillary.Finally, if confronted with the specter of attacking Iran, any argument she makes against it will be encumbered by the same accusations of flip-flopping and coddling terrorists so dangerous she voted to officially declare them a terrorist organization.
In sum, Hillary cannot win because she unites the opposition; fails to excite the progressive base, and actively repulses many due to her Iraq and Iran votes; is alienating the newly engaged energetic young voters, progressives and many African Americans by attacking their hero and inspirer; will put off independents with her present, and family history of, attack politics; and cannot take a principled stand against the Iraq war because she voted to allow it, when many knew it was a huge mistake.
It’s a shame, because she would be quite good . . . but not as good as Barack Obama.
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