Monday, June 02, 2008

Unforgiving, unforgiven

I'm starting to feel bad for Hillary Clinton's supporters. Not because they're losing, but because they're being lied to. By Hillary Clinton. And they don't even realize it. When I see reactions like this from Hillary supporters, my heart goes out to them. I don't understand or feel your anger, but I don't doubt it's real. But anger is a step on the way to acceptance, not a substitute for it.

Let's be clear: Hillary Clinton isn't going to take her challenges to Denver. If she tries, she'll be stopped by the party. The only thing that going to Denver would accomplish would be to make Clinton's humiliation more final, and more public. (And if you don't think it can get more public than this, wait and see what it's like when the entire party has to publicly repudiate her.) Look at the results from the RBC yesterday for what the facts of the matter are: on a committee where Clinton supporter held a plurality of votes, the Obama campaign's preferred position almost won outright. CNN and other outlets are reporting that the Obama campaign actually had to push the committee to accept the outcome it did, rather than simply allocating the delegates 50/50. The party is dissolving away from the Clintons, due in large part to two factors: 1) They never much liked the Clintons anyway, and 2) their conduct in this election has been disruptive to the very process of the party, and no institution takes shit like that sitting down.

So yes, this is almost over. But Hillary is trying to keep the money spigot open, and trying to keep her supporters energized until at least... Wednesday. In fact, I doubt even Harold Ickes knows the truth: that Clinton is dropping out of the race, and before the end of June. (I'd wager before the 20th.) The Clintons have a long, long history of lying to their closest advisors about their plans. Does nobody else remember the stories about high-level White House staffers being shocked -- actually shocked -- when President Clinton admitted his affair with Lewinsky?

Make no mistake -- it's been a bad weekend for Sen. Clinton. She got slapped down by the RBC, which refused to recognize Michigan as a legitimate primary, and turnout in Puerto Rico was way too low to justify any claim to have taken the popular vote. (Don't be fooled -- the dodgy math of the Clinton campaign hasn't changed. You have to discount hundreds of thousands of Obama votes to manufacture Clinton's 'lead'.) What's aggravating me about so much of the denoument of this campaign is how much of the narrative has been captured by the accusations of sexism, racism, arcane party disputes, etc.

Lost in all this is that Clinton has run an objectively weaker campaign. To put it bluntly, if demographics were all, and Clinton had a lock on women the way Obama has a lock on blacks, Clinton would be the nominee. If Clinton had managed to lose blacks by only 65-35, instead of 90-10, she'd be the nominee. If she'd managed to swallow her pride and make an early apology for her support for the Iraq war, she'd be the nominee. And if she'd managed to make the argument that she was better qualified without sounding ridiculous (yes, sniper fire moved votes) she'd be the nominee.

This was a close fight, and any number of things could have won Clinton the nomination. But they haven't. She's lost. It's all over but the shoutin'. Unless, of course, you actually believe the Clinton campaign, in which case you'll feel doubly hurt -- and betrayed? -- when your candidate drops out, after assuring you that she was staying in until the convention. No doubt some will find a way to blame Obama for that, too, just as some blame Newt Gingrich for putting Bill Clinton's dick in Lewinsky's mouth. Which is what brings me to this Vanity Fair article. In part, it's a very poor article -- a great deal of innuendo about Clinton's sex life post-White House -- but two things really stuck out. When the author tried to get Clinton's people to comment on rumours of Clinton's continuing infidelity, they got this back:
“The ills of the Democratic Party can be seen perfectly in the willingness of fellow Democrats to say bad things about President Clinton. If you ask any Republican about Reagan they will say he still makes the sun rise in the morning, but if you ask Democrats about their only two-term president in 80 years, a man who took the party from the wilderness of loserdom to the White House and created the strongest economy in American history, they’d rather be quoted saying what a reporter wants to hear than protect a strong brand for the party. Republicans look at this behavior and laugh at us.”
Oh Jesus that brings back memories. For all the talk about Obama's people being a cult, I think a lot of people, including some otherwise astute observers of politics, learned the wrong lessons about the Clinton years. At the end of the day, the lesson I learned was that, even if the Republicans never managed to catch Clinton on the shit they went digging for, there wasn't a lot that Bill Clinton wasn't willing to lie about. WMDs in Sudan? Lies. His zipper? Lies. His support for gay rights? Mostly lies.

But this is the Clinton math all over again -- all addition, no subtraction. If the country got dragged through the mud because of his infidelity, that was the GOP's fault, not his. If women's rights, workers rights, and gay rights got stomped on again and again, well that's all the fault of the GOP Congress. Oh, and lets not forget that in this retelling Gore's 2000 loss is due entirely to Ralph Nader and not Bill Clinton's record in Florida, either. The Clintons can do no wrong for some Democrats.

But then there was also this piece, which makes me think of Bill Clinton as something akin to Gerald Ford's attempt to get on the ticket in 1980:
“Look, the game has changed,” said Mike McCurry. “He ran his last national campaign in 1996, and remember, we kind of ran unopposed. It’s been a while since he did that, and the way you summon people up and get them to do things has changed. All of this stuff, the blogging and the YouTubing and the way in which everything is instantaneously available: I tell you, until you get out there and are actually dealing with the consequences—having what you just said as you were walking out the door [all over the Internet], that’s brand-new to him.”
Bill Clinton has been out of big-game politics for twelve years -- almost half my life. America's newest voters will almost certainly have little to no memory of the Clinton years -- the impeachment mess would have ended when they were 8. The Florida recount was going on while they were learning long division. He is, in short, a man of the past. Senator Clinton might -- might -- have been a woman of the present, but she didn't make it.

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