Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Someone keep Fleet Street away from Bill Clinton

So by now everyone knows that Bill Clinton thinks the American press corps is in the bag for Barack Obama. Indeed, I suspect that in their heart of hearts, more pundits and reporters like Obama than Clinton (though, as Chris Matthews pointed out a few weeks ago, what they really like is a never-ending horse race).

Still, despite the possible bias on these shores, I can't imagine any major American newspaper having the following lede for their story:

Seventeen months after she sat regally in her New York living room and calmly declared: Im in and Im in to win, Hillary Clinton stands on a stage in a stifling hot shed in South Dakota, coughing and spluttering, as her daughter, Chelsea, grabs the microphone from her hand to take over the show.

A long campaign, the former First Lady chokes out between sips of water. Her husband, red-faced and exhausted and having just apologised for another angry outburst in front of reporters looks on wistfully at the final rally of his wifes presidential bid, an endeavour that has been transformed from an inevitable juggernaut into a costly train wreck.

So,for those of you interested in Bill Clinton's continued good health, I'd recommend not showing him any of the Fleet Street covers tomorrow AM.

posted by Dan at 11:29 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

It rivals Buckley vs. Vidal, I tell you

My latest bloggingheads diavlog is up. This one is with The American Prospect's Ezra Klein. Topic include Todd Purdum's Vanity Fair essay on Bill Clinton, why Ezra hates political science, and the state of public intellectuals in America.

Go check it out (warning: the sound quality is a bit erratic)!!

posted by Dan at 08:49 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, June 2, 2008

So.... are the Clintons morons?

James Fallows writes the following about Hillary Clinton's mindset in running against Barack Obama:

The Clinton team doesn't worry about hurting Obama's prospects of winning in the fall, because they assess those prospects at zero. Always have. Obama might not win if he leads a bitterly divided party, but (in this view) he was never going to win. Not a chance. He would be smashed like an armadillo in the road by the Republican campaign machine, and he would be just about as ready as the armadillo for what was coming.
Others have made similar assessments of the Clinton mindset.

Here's my question: how objectively stupid does someone have to be to come to this conclusion? Forgetting about the candidates for a second, the current political and economic environment suggests a clear Democrat victory this November.

The economy is... let's call it uncertain. Inflation is rising. Things seem to be improving in Iraq, but the U.S. still has a large number of troops in theater five years after the start of the war, and it's still pretty damn unpopular.

Standard prediction models suggest this -- as does the (un)popularity of the incumbent President and the responses to the question about the direction of the country.

Now, if Barack Obama were to scream "F*** America!" during his acceptance speech, those figures wouldn't matter too much. But I suspect even the Clintons don't think he's that stupid. Negative attacks can drag a candidate down, but there are limits on their effectiveness. The preliminary evidence that some right-leaning media figures are relatively sympathetic to Obama. Why, therefore, would the Clintons believe that Obama has no chance of victory?

I suspect this goes back to their experiences in the nineties, when they viewed themselves as the only ones who could vanquish the GOP in political battle. They've seen every other national Democrat in the past twenty years -- Michael Dukakis, Tom Foley, Al Gore, Tom Daschle, Richard Gephardt, John Kerry -- felled by the GOP, and I suspect they think of themselves as endowed with special Republican-smiting powers.

Still, if they are thinking as Fallows and others describe, then they are even more narcissistic than I (or Todd Purdum) had previously believed.

Which is saying something.

UPDATE: Rob Farley provides a kinda sorta defense of the Clintons.

posted by Dan at 04:51 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The New York Times didn't ask me, but then again, that's why I have this blog

The New York Times Book Review asked a bunch of writers which books they would recommend to the presidential candidates. Most of the submissions said more about the writer's politics than anything else, though I liked Gore Vidal's response best:

I can only answer in the negative: I want them not to read The New York Times, while subscribing to The Financial Times.
Well, I'd like the candidates to read this blog during their oodles of spare time, so here are five books worth perusing:
1) David Stockman, The Triumph of Politics. This is the classic parable of a bright young man who went to Washington brimming with ideas -- only to run into the brick wall of politics.

2) James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds. The President of the United States has a bias towards centralization. This book is a very useful guide to understanding the large category of issues and phenomenon when centralization and/or hierarchy is not the best course of action (and the small category when such an approach is vital).

3) Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals. What comes through this book is how Lincoln was able to lead -- starting from a position of initial weakness -- so effectively. Two things stood out for me -- his complete lack of pettiness or vanity, and his keen recognition of when doing the political thing was actually the right thing to do.

4) Martin Wolf, Why Globalization Works/Dani Rodrik, One Economics, Many Recipes. Obama should read Wolf, and McCain should read Rodrik.

5) Harry Frankfurt, On Bullshit. I can't see how a politician could navigate the Beltway without grasping this concept at its deepest level.

And for Hillary Clinton, I also have a book recommendation -- and not Macbeth, which popped up more than once on the NYTBR's list. No, Senator Clinton should read Jeff Shesol's Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and the Feud that Defined a Decade. A story about two ambitious politicians with similar policy objectives and radcally different styles. Plus, t would allow Clinton to refresh her memory about those historical references to the sixties that she keeps making.

posted by Dan at 09:54 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)