Sunday, 8 June 2008

The End

Hillary Clinton was dragged kicking and screaming from the nomination fight and now gets points for her generous exit lines. From my seat that’s what they sounded like—a prepared script delivered with far less conviction than her June 3 refusal to step aside. She did the right thing at last although it would have meant more had she figured it out herself before being pushed off the cliff by her closest backers telling her, Enough.

Now the post-mortems have begun, and a lot of the analyses take the position that this or that mid-course adjustment would have reversed the outcome. Maybe so, and we’ll never know for sure. But a lot of the incidents called ‘errors’ are really just examples of who the Clintons are and what they do. It’s like saying Clint Eastwood made the mistake of acting in cowboy movies.

Take the Bill Clinton line about Obama’s opposition to the Iraq war being a ‘fairy tale’, widely considered a gaffe. That looked stupid but only because people actually knew the candidates’ positions on that topic, meaning that one’s actual stance couldn’t be fobbed off as something else, like on 85 other issues. Her failure even to take a clear position on warmaking illustrated how the Clintons operate—opportunistically, covering all bases and keeping everyone happy. In another epoch that might have been comforting for voters, but in 2008 it didn’t fly.

Hillary Clinton also made a decision to run as Clinton II after the disastrous reiteration of the first Bush presidency. Fine, but then you have to accept the baggage, too. Few commentators mentioned it, but it did somewhat undermine Hillary as feminist icon to have the notorious first husband back on the scene.

She also turned out to be a lousy manager, hardly consistent with her image as ‘ready to go on Day One.’ Her campaign was a viper’s nest of intrigue and backstabbing among rivals, less than reassuring for people eager to see professional management of the nation’s affairs.

I suspect that the scale of the current disastrous administration has sharpened the country’s collective sense that we’re not playing around here and that a repeat of the baby-boomer self-absorption that characterized Clinton’s scamper through the Oval Office isn’t what we need. Barack Obama is an unknown quantity and could still turn out to be a big disappointment. But Hillary Clinton lost because we knew exactly what she offered.

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