What is it with our politics and our politicians. More often than not, American election years, especially presidential election years are more like a circus than anything else, a celebration of nothing, really, these daysThe words that are used, like war and attacks (for fun) give me pause, especially this year. Does this go on in other Democracies (pretending for a moment that we still have one)?
By the time this unusually long election year is over, it will me a miracle if anyone comes out of it looking like anything but a big jackass. A pity. God knows we have had enough of jackasses these last years to last me a life-time.
Hillary's Self-impalement and Original SinP.M. Carpenter
A Democratic strategist wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Barack Obama's "candidacy is finally breaking through, and ... the Clinton juggernaut appears ... to be breaking down." He pointedly noted that "Mrs. Clinton's inept response" to Obama's rolling out of Oprah as a p.r. blitz was to roll out Barbra Streisand -- who may remind some of the "way we were" in the peaceful and prosperous '90s, but "for hard-core activists, that could also mean the misty, waffle-colored memories of triangulation, corporate friendliness and job-killing trade pacts."
But it's worse than that. Much worse. Mrs. Clinton was just getting started.
What she has now done is to remind voters -- especially those mild-mannered Iowa caucus-goers -- that if you cross Hillary, she'll rip your impertinent heart out and ship it to her husband's Library as a public display of warning. She has reminded them that with a Clinton you get conflict; but far worse than that, conflict on which the Clintons thrive, just when Democratic voters -- again, especially those bucolic Iowans -- are looking for a harmonic juggernaut aimed in anger only at the heart of Republicans' seven years of grim betrayal and brutal destruction.
One can attribute her recent comments to either a latent ill nature or merely an emotional breakdown resulting from too many insane months of nonstop campaigning. But, to voters, it would make little difference. She said what she said, and politics is an unforgiving business. And what she said regarding her future treatment of Obama was, as you know, this: "I have said for months that I would much rather be attacking Republicans, and attacking the problems of our country, because ultimately that's what I want to do as president. But I have been, for months, on the receiving end of rather consistent attacks. Well, now the fun part starts."
Jesus! Any other five-word combination in the English language would have been a profitable choice compared to the five-word equivalent of, I'll rip his heart out. But whether out of true nature or emotional meltdown, the choice that did, in fact, pop out of her mouth only reminded and then re-signaled that the Clintons have been besieged politically for so long, their only fun left is massive retaliation.
I would have some sympathy for Hillary, but she did this to herself. The heat she's taking all goes back to her Iraq war vote -- a callous, opportunistic, immensely cynical vote that has rightly returned to haunt her. There's simply no way she can run from it, and early on she exacerbated the matter by refusing to even acknowledge or denounce her own stupendous wrongheadedness. Which was another strategic misstep -- running a general election campaign before the primaries; dancing with the Right when it was the Left that had brung her -- and her "inept response" to the blowback is to rip into a thoughtful opponent's integrity -- for advertised "fun."
Yet I think Hillary's even deeper misstep has been to surround herself by malignant party hacks -- the cocky Howard Wolfsons of this world who easily and "smartly" advised overweening cynicism in 2002, and now, putrid and massive retaliation when she's called on it. Why? Because, in their minds above all others', they're tough guys. Toughness is their marketing niche, as they slither from one campaign to the next, and they can't resist proving to the candidate just how pugilistic they really are -- even when the soft power of reason would be more effective.
As such, Hillary's senior advisers have enlightened the Washington Post that her (their) new, tough-guy strategy is an "intentional pivot." Against their acidic nature, they had stuffed the aggression and eager testosterone for too long. Now, finally, it's time for some good old heart-ripping -- you know, the fun.
I'd wager that's the term they had used in back-room strategy sessions for days on end, and it then simply slipped out of Hillary's mouth through rote and repetition.
Obama nailed it in his own, softer retaliatory way: "This presidential campaign isn't about attacking people for fun, it's about solving people's problems.... Washington insiders might think throwing mud is fun, but the American people are looking for leadership that can unite this country around a common purpose."
Bam! And damn, Hillary ... how that must have hurt.
The Democratic strategist I opened with concluded with this advice: "The key to getting the Clinton machine back on track is, ironically enough, to go back to the way things were -- not for Bill in the '90s, but for Hillary earlier this year. She was in charge of the campaign when she was in charge of the campaign -- taking forceful stands on issues and even more importantly against the Bush administration, big-footing the other candidates with big ideas and policy proposals ... that forced them to react to her."
Good advice, but Hillary is too invested in, and surrounded by, the reprisal-loving hacks. They'll have their orgy of vengeful fun, while their candidate slowly impales herself on it. That's hard for me to write, because there's nothing I love more than a bloody political fight. But this just isn't the right season for it.
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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.