Monday, June 9, 2003

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What's wrong with Hillary Clinton and the press

Brad Delong has yet to recover from his policy run-in with Hillary Clinton in the early 1990's:

My two cents' worth--and I think it is the two cents' worth of everybody who worked for the Clinton Administration health care reform effort of 1993-1994--is that Hillary Rodham Clinton needs to be kept very far away from the White House for the rest of her life. Heading up health-care reform was the only major administrative job she has ever tried to do. And she was a complete flop at it. She had neither the grasp of policy substance, the managerial skills, nor the political smarts to do the job she was then given. And she wasn't smart enough to realize that she was in over her head and had to get out of the Health Care Czar role quickly.

Keep reading his post for precise details of Clinton acting like a martinet.

Now, upon first reading this, I strangely found myself to the left of DeLong. The health care debacle happened a decade ago, when Clinton was new to the ways of Washington. A lot has happened since then. I don't have any great love for Hillary Clinton, but I do believe that people can learn from their mistakes.

Then we go to Andrew Sullivan's reaction to Clinton's interview with Barbara Walters:

What struck me most was her absolute belief the she and her husband did nothing - nothing - of any substance to deserve the kind of scrutiny they got in eight years in office. Their only fault was naivete. I guess I'm not surprised by therigidity of her denial and composure. But something in me hoped for a little more - maybe a real reflection on her choices, her decisions, her unelected power, her stonewalling of the press, her enabling of her husband's adulterous relationship with the truth, and so on. But nope.

So I wind up agreeing with DeLong (and Sullivan) after all.

What got DeLong exercised in the first place was this week's Economist "Lexington" essay on Hillary's prospects for the presidency in 2008. The essay really sets DeLong off:

[T]here is nothing in the column to give the reader any information about whether Hillary Rodham Clinton would make a good president, or about whether "Lexington" thinks Hillary Rodham Clinton would make a good president. Is there anything else that readers--most of whom are Americans, most of whom vote--more need to learn than whether Hillary Rodham Clinton would make a good president? No, there isn't. So why does "Lexington" spend so much time on insider political baseball and trying to settel (sic) scores? Why doesn't he do something useful with his space--like tell us whether he thinks Hillary Rodham Clinton would make a better president than George W. Bush (almost surely) or would make a good president (almost surely not)?

We really do need a better press corps. We need one very badly. (emphasis in original).

What's interesting about this rant is DeLong's implicit belief that good opinion writing should care only about normative outcomes and not tactical political analysis. This is utter nonsense -- the best opinion writing contains elements of both.

Which leads me to the smartest thing I've read on this point in a good long while -- from Virginia Postrel on what ails the New York Times:

[T]here is a huge, gaping hole in the Times opinion lineup--and, for that matter, on the news pages. The Times lacks a genuinely sophisticated, Washington-based political writer, someone who understands both the mechanics of practical politics and the nuances of the many components of both the liberal/Democratic and conservative/Republican coalitions. The Times alternates between casting politics as an utterly cynical contest between phony image consultants and as a battle between the monolithic Forces of Light and the Forces of Darkness. Neither view is accurate, and both portraits make the nation's leading newspaper look like its political reporters just rolled off the cabbage truck. The Washington Post is, not surprisingly, far more sophisticated. But so, though not at the Post's level, are the WSJ, the LAT, and the politics-loving Boston Globe. So is USA Today.


posted by Dan on 06.09.03 at 11:33 AM