I have a confession to make. I’m moving away from the Democratic dogma that says we have two fine candidates, and either one will be a great President. I no longer think so. There’s a disconnect between Obama’s words and deeds that got too big for me. So I took another look at Clinton.
At first, I didn’t consider her because of her stance on rating video games. Yes, really. That goes way back, to before the Iraq war even. You see, I’m hyperallergic to anything that smacks of pandering to fundies. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for people being able to control what they see. (In fact, I’m such a wild-eyed radical, I think ad blocking is an inalienable right.) But the way she did it felt like a pander to the fundies, and she fell beyond the pale. (I wasn’t always so intolerant. Once upon a time, I was a live and let live kind of dreamer, but then Reagan happened, and, well, it’s a long story.)
Okay. Let’s fast forward closer to the present. I’ll recap my thoughts, going back to when I first heard of Obama.
2004, Democratic Convention, and Obama gave a brilliant speech. I thought, “Wow! Next President! Somebody I could really get excited about!”
2006. When the presidential campaign started (pretty much as soon as the polls closed in 2006, wasn’t it?), and Edwards, Clinton, and Obama were all unofficially running, I was chortling wildly. Three excellent candidates. Three! And I’d be glad to vote for any one of them. As far as I was concerned, the gods, displaying the distorted sense of humor for which they’re so famous, made the best candidate a white male in the first field with some real diversity. But all three were good.
Then the trouble started.
- Mid-2007. It started small. After environmentalists made a noise about it, I heard that Obama had promised the coal industry subsidies for liquefied coal fuel. If that sounds like something Bush would do, it is. The coal industry was all for it, and was throwing money at people, mostly Republicans, who were all for it. (I don’t know if they threw any at Obama.) I was doing a blink-blink-what-is-he-thinking double take.
As the noise grew louder, he pulled back and tried to please both sides. He was still for liquefied coal fuel, but with pie-in-the-sky technology to make it cleaner. The industry wasn’t happy. The environmentalists weren’t happy. They pointed out his new plan meant spending billions inventing (or failing to invent) and implementing an unproven technology that would end in a tiny improvement over the status quo. Much less money spent on available solutions, like conservation, would be vastly better at reducing CO2. This seemed like a strange sort of reaching out to the other side.
- Iraq. This is a biggie. Clinton had been a major disappointment. Everybody, except Wellstone and Feingold, had been major disappointments. She was very far from alone. But Obama pointed out that he’d always been strong against the war, and that definitely spoke volumes. … Except that it didn’t. Once he was in Congress and in a position to act on his words, he didn’t. He sat on the back benches and played it safe. And then he used one vote out of dozens to pretend there was a huge difference between him and Clinton. This was getting into truth-shading territory. Maybe he didn’t mean it that way, but I was really starting to wonder what he did mean.
- Then I heard he’d done a very similar thing during his years in Illinois, when he’d voted “present” on all too many so-called politically sensitive votes. The justifications about how this was a harmless way to try to get a better bill didn’t cut it for me. I’m not interested in a President like Harry Reid, who rushes to embrace the safe choice before he even has to.
- All of this was less than inspiring, but, well, he is a politician.
- Then came the mortal blow. Obama said, “I think you reserve impeachment for grave, grave breaches, and intentional breaches of the president’s authority,” (Via Shakesville) I was gobsmacked. Torture, detention without trial, warrantless spying on citizens, destruction of evidence, obstruction of justice … if Obama does not think these are serious crimes for a President, I don’t want him anywhere near that office. He could have said impeachment wasn’t practical. That’s odious, but true. However, pretending the crimes of the Administration are not serious enough …. Mindblowing. Just mindblowing.
- Health care. Initially, both Clinton and Obama disappointed. Without Edwards in the race, we’d still be in some insurance-pandering Stone Age on that. However, he pulled them out of it. Clinton had the sense to just co-opt his plan wholesale. Obama tried to talk the talk while walking a more industry-friendly walk. Shades of the liquefied coal mess. Krugman in op-eds and his blog and Ezra Klein have analyzed this thing to the last comma. Bottom line: “Over all, the Obama-type plan would cost $4,400 per newly insured person, the Clinton-type plan only $2,700″ and “One plan achieves more or less universal coverage; the other, although it costs [nearly twice] as much, covers only about half of those currently uninsured.”
Turns out that this echoes what Obama actually did in Illinois. ‘”We radically changed [the health care bill] in response to concerns that were raised by the insurance industry,” Obama said.’ One of those radical changes was that universal healthcare became merely a policy goal instead of state policy.
- Then he tried to Harry-and-Louise the stand taken by Clinton. Huh? What the hell is up with this guy? Am I supposed to believe he doesn’t mean it? Again? I started to dislike him as well as have major philosophical differences.
- “What I tell you three times is true,” said the Bellman in the Hunting of the Snark. That’s how I felt when the McClurkin – homophobia debacle blew up. We’d had the “faith in politics” thing, but Obama didn’t really mean it. We had the unimpeachability of the Bush Gang, but he didn’t really mean it. Then the anti-gay bigot made a gratuitous speech at the campaign event, but Obama didn’t mean it. (He even had a gay preacher give a sedate talk the next day, which made it all better.) So, what does he mean? I thought he was supposed to care about civil rights.
- Then racism and sexism came to the forefront. Neither has any place in anyone’s campaign. Neither campaign can help the stupidity of the media, but they can sure as hell stop their own. When Clinton’s campaign staffer brought up Obama’s drug use, that was seen as a personal, dogwhistle-racist attack. Clinton apologized, and I haven’t heard of it happening again. The other so-called racist issues do nothing but cheapen the real and horrible racism that exists in the US. Racism is bigotry, not truth. Truthful criticism is not racist, although I suppose any politician would love to be able to muzzle all opposition as unfair. The racism BS was supposed to come from Clinton because it “benefits” her. (Really? You could have fooled me.) But it does benefit the media. Obama, disappointingly, helped them run with the story.
Obama has also been disappointingly ready to follow this recipe: “focus … their fire on Senator Clinton. Criticizing her unites the party, stirs up … unsettled feelings … and allows each candidate to say why he is best able to beat her.” Rove’s strategy was intended for Republicans, but, hey, whatever wins the race, right? As usual with Rove’s work, it doesn’t matter if you know what he’s doing. His garbage feeds straight off the lizard brain, bypassing all knowledge.
By now, the strategy is old news, but that doesn’t make it less offensive. More, if anything, since the situation is allowed to continue. The Obama campaign after the Iowa victory played a song grossly insulting his colleague and competitor. He’s said he doesn’t know which Clinton he’s running against, even though his own wife campaigns for him without causing him to wonder who’s going to be President if he wins. I haven’t heard him apologize. He hasn’t quietly stopped the behavior without apologizing. He hasn’t even made vague “mistakes were made” noises. Nor does he feel it’s important to be sure his supporters respect everyone’s civil rights. If black civil rights are the only ones that matter to him, he’s just fighting for black privilege — black male privilege, apparently.
- I haven’t even touched on him
- carrying Republican water on the Social Security issue,
- on not voting to censure Gonzalez,
- on not voting to close Guantanamo,
- on supporting McCain’s anti-immigrant, anti-amnesty lunacy,
and on and on and on.
This is not the portrait of a progressive or a liberal or anyone I care about. This is a good speaker. What else he is, time will tell, but the evidence so far is not hopeful.
So, will I vote for him if he gets the nomination?
At least he can be expected not to veto all the legislation passed by a Democratic Congress, assuming we get one.
But if he gets the nomination, he’ll fit a sad pattern going back to forever. Voters seem to pick words over deeds every chance they get. Edwards is another recent example. He stayed mostly with the issues, and media and voters ignored the hell out of him for being “boring.” It’s this sort of thing that’s convinced me democracy doesn’t work.
Quite frankly, I think if Hillary Clinton were a white male, she’d be considered boring too. I mean, she has a health care plan that’s boringly politically feasible. She talks about exiting Iraq in a boring, methodical way. (As does Obama. Although he’s also said we should bomb Pakistan. Very odd.) She’s actually shown in the Senate that she’s capable of promoting boring legislation like S-CHIP which only helps a few million people.
But she’s female, so she’s not boring. She’s had to fight for every sliver of ground, she’s done it, and she’s won. She’s smart enough to run rings around McCain, and she’s enough of a scrapper to wipe the floor with him.
She’s already twice as good. She can go twice as far. Unless people keep binding her feet just to make sure a guy wins.
Crossposted to Shakesville