Monday, January 7, 2008

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Deconstructing Hillaryvision

Two snippets of video regarding Hillary Clinton have/will dominate the current news cycle. The first one happened at the weekend debate in New Hampshire, and is currently #1 at YouTube:

The second one happened today -- as Newsweek put it, "Hillary Tears Up." Take a look:
Here's the New York Times' coverage of the same incident

If Hillary does worse than expected, pundits will point to the first snippet of video as an example of her "heated response" turning off voters. If Hillary does better than expected, pundits will point to the second snippet of video as the moment when Hillary "humanized" herself to the voters of New Hampshire, and made the political personal.

Me, I saw the exact same Hillary in both pieces of footage. In both instances, Hillary's words and intonation made two things abundantly clear:

1) Hillary Clinton genuinely thinks the country needs change, and that she has the capacity, as president, to make the country a better place;

2) Hillary Clinton genuinely thinks that no one else but her possesses that capacity, and that it is insulting to suggest otherwise.

On foreign policy matters -- and that's the primary issue area I care about in this election -- there are ways in which I trust Clinton's experience more than Obama's. That second point, however, scares the ever-living crap out of me. That kind of belief bears a strong resemblance to the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvaia Avenue.

Screw the politics of fear and, frankly, screw the politics of hope. I want the politics of doubt. I want a president who, in these complex times, has the capacity to admit error before all is lost.

I get absolutely no whiff of that from Hillary Rodham Clinton.

UPDATE: I'm fascinated by the comment thread to this post. To clarify a few matters:

1) I'm fully aware that "the politics of doubt" is not a winning platform, and that all candidates must project confidence and reassurance in their campaigns. I have no illusions that my preference matches those of others (interestingly, I feel the same way about doctors visits. Doctors tend to project authority because patients feel better if they are completely sure of their diagnosis/course of action. Growing up with a doctor, I much prefer having my physician give a more probabilistic assessment of whatever is ailing me).

2) There's something else I didn't quite nail about Clinton's video sequences -- her sense of entitlement. Put it this way -- while Obama has taken some shots at Hillary's "experience," I haven't heard him say imply that she's unfit for the office. On the other hand, everything in those two video snippets suggests that Clinton has internalized the belief that no one else is remotely deserving of the Oval Office.

3) I'm not endorsing Obama -- not even close. I am paying more attention to the Democratic primary than the Republican one because I'm 80% sure that whoever gets the donkey nomination will be the next president.

posted by Dan on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM


GMAFB. No one who makes a serious run for President doesn't believe that he or she is best suited for that position. There's *zero* evidence that Clinton believes that her rivals are totally unsuited to being President; rather, she believes, like they do, that she is the best person for the job.

Ambition and egotism are *requirements* for Presidential candidates. When Clinton starts talking about how "God chose her" at this moment of time, shows evidence of ignoring alternative viewpoints on policy issues, and showed evidence of a lack of intellectual curiosity, then we can make the GWB comparison. But, by all accounts, none of those things are the case.

None of this is a brief *in favor* of her, just a reasons to cut out the horses*it arguments against her.

posted by: Dan Nexon on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM [permalink]

Please explain how you would build a viable electoral platform on "the politics of doubt".

I had great fun reading this NYT Foreign Policy profile on Obama today (published early in November):

Is (His) Biography (Our) Destiny?

Reading (or in your case perhaps re-reading) the piece, especially the last page is worth the effort.

(For my part, I don't buy Joseph Nye's points on Hillary's experience)

The paragraph before the closing line shows a facet of Obama's thinking about this issue that you are missing. He's thinking incisively about what he needs to do to win the elections.

Politicians need to win elections. It's a bland point, but it bears repeating.

posted by: Nanne on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM [permalink]

I, too, trust Clinton's "experience" more than Obama's, only because I presume that she overheard some discussions when His Slickness was in office. Likewise, I trust an unsolicited phone call more than I trust an unsolicited spam email. Wonderful choices.

As for the videos, I thought the first snippet would play well for her. She actually claimed an accomplishment other than getting elected to the Senate or marrying a guy who became President. It takes a lot of gall to claim that 7,000 kids have health insurance because of you, but it was appropriate for the collectivist-leaning audience.

The second video just seemed too fake. And even among those who think the tears were real, most have reached the conclusion that those tears are due to fear that her power-hungry desires will go unfulfilled rather than her concern for the nation or "the children." The Clintons are Clintons first, politicians second, and Americans third. Patriotism will be her last refuge.

posted by: Saint in Exile on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM [permalink]

Is there something about the phrase "Bill Clinton's wife" that Dan doesn't understand?

Sen. Clinton's vast sense of personal entitlement is a product of her education, her marriage to a man who became President of the United States and the associations that came with that. If everyone would just agree to recognize her entitlement, give her the Presidency and not hold her responsible for anything she got wrong, she'd be plenty willing to admit error before it's too late. There wouldn't be any question of her letting herself be under the thumb of her Vice President or being too lazy to learn things she doesn't want to know. It's just that she is Bill Clinton's wife and we, you know, owe her this.

I'm not the first or the only person to observe the similarities, on a personal level, between the Bushes and the Clintons. Fact is, George H. W. Bush didn't have a lot more to do with Ronald Reagan's administration that Mrs. Clinton had to do with her husband's -- he had less, if one includes the health care reform fiasco Mrs. Clinton produced -- but that didn't stop him from claiming the Presidency as Reagan's natural heir. I don't think he knows to this day quite why he lost it. By this time we've had nearly a whole generation of Presidents who'd no sooner neglect their sense of personal entitlement than they would walk around Washington without shoes.

Maybe it's just coincidence, that they have all been named either Bush or Clinton, and maybe not. At any rate we've had about enough of this kind of person in the White House, though to tell the truth I'm not sure we'll get a chance to vote for someone all that different this fall even if Sen. Clinton doesn't get nominated.

posted by: Zathras on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM [permalink]

Zathras is right - the never going sense of boundless 'entitlement' with Hillary is astonishing! These Clintons are really from a different world.

For all the obvious reasons, George Bush's presidency is a failure. But to his credit, I did not find him claiming Presidency as entitlement. He rules his world and he carries his own cross. That does not seem to be the case with Hillary. Simply, there is this never ending narcissism and it is as if Americans are fool and immoral in not granting her Presidency.

For all faults of Obama (and coming assult by Media and scrutiny by Public), he has been able to portray his campaign not about him; but he as Ďan instrument' for the overwhelming need of America to make change.

It is really surprising and sad, why even at this eleventh hour Hillary is not fighting on 'policy proposals'. Character / ability for prescient judgment is one issue, but a candidate can become overwhelming if he or she floor opponents by richness of policy details and comprehensiveness of the proposed policies. She is not doing that. Tears or her screams on the campaign trail, they matter least.

posted by: Umesh Patil on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM [permalink]

She needs to stay in the Senate, where she can do much good for the party and the country. As she demonstrated decades ago when, as Bill's blushing bride, she infiltrated that Little Rock law firm, she's damn good at worming her way into and gaining clout in old boys clubs.

posted by: Ralph Hitchens on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM [permalink]

What scares me is that you still claim to be a libertarian Republican when you support liberal politicians and policies. That makes you either disingenuous or uninformed. Your critique of the current President is idiotic. After 9/11, he decided on a course of action that you and many in the foreign policy establishment supported. As the policy has not turned out as well as he or anyone else hoped, you have jumped off the bandwagon and tried to absolve yourself of blame by claiming it was the President's personality, lack of intelligence, stubborness (take your pick) that was at fault. There is a word for it sports: frontrunning. Professor Drezner, has no credibility on political issues as he just follows the prevailing wind in his liberal orthodox circle and than makes excuses whenever this turns out to be wrong.

posted by: republican on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM [permalink]

a: I agree that the sense of entitlement is disturbing. Bush W should teach us that dynasties are not a good thing. I wish I could get excited about Obama, but its really "Hold your nose and hope he hires good technocrats". Not comforting.

b: "republican": For the classic libertarian-conservative republican, who believes in things like free trade, sensible social policies, a balanced budget, limits on corporate welfare, tax policies which don't favor hedge fund managers (15% capitol gains) over their secretaries (20% + 9% Social security & medicare), etc, there has been ONE good republican president in the past 3 decades. And his name was "William Jefferson Clinton".

posted by: Nicholas Weaver on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM [permalink]

Mr. Weaver, Clinton was a pragmatist not a centrist or libertarian. Obviously, from your comments you are a partisan Democrat. Clinton only moved to the center after getting crushed at the ballot box in 1994. He and his wife no longer profess to support free trade. You seem to forget that it was George H.W. Bush who came up with NAFTA, not Clinton. Clinton just took credit (rightly so, in all fairness) for getting it passed.

The balanced budget idea is neither libertarian nor liberal, it is an economic idea that if one has taken a basic economics class and read Paul Samuelson's textbook knows that it makes little sense. That said, most Republicans profess to believe in it, which why Newt Gingrich is probably most responsible for a balanced budget. If Clinton had a Democratic Congress, there would have been more entitled programs. Supporting a balanced budget allowed Clinton to avoid tax cuts. Both parties when they don't have control of Congress, support a balanced budget because it prevents the other side from doing what they want (new gov. programs or tax cuts).

As for your comments about corporate welfare, the statistics speak for themselves, K Street cleaned up under Clinton. Do you forget the Lincoln bedroom?

As for your argument regarding hedge funds, most libertarians actually profess to not wanting to raise taxes on hedge funds. Clinton did nothing to tax hedge funds when he was President and the man who did most to kill the bill was none other than Senator Schumer (along with Chris Dodd) who gains considerable more donations from the industry than any Republican. Most Republicans support all big businesses, most Democrats dislike big business except when they are donating to their party.

posted by: republican on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM [permalink]

Umm, wasn't Dan an adviser to the campaign of the current egomaniac in the WH? So why should we listen to this now?

posted by: realist on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM [permalink]

Highly misleading. He was unpaid advisor in 2000, eight years ago. Being an unpaid advisor is equivalent to maybe being solicited for his advice once or twice. Note that he was not offered any position of consequence after the 2000 election. He consistently notes that he was an advisor in order to make his criticism of Bush seem more noteworthy than if it came from just another liberal academic, which with the exception of maybe trade is what Dan.

posted by: Tufts Grad Student on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM [permalink]

I'm not certain who I despise more, politicians or media talking heads.

There has to be a better way. Has to.

posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM [permalink]

What's puzzling me, Dan, is that you have yet to have this post linked by Andrew Sullivan, complete with a graphic illustrating his latest book.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM [permalink]

Change, CHANGE, change, egnahc.

What exactly is this 'change' that all these people are promoting. I see exactly one guy for real change, that is Ron Paul. Now, I suspect most people would say he wants too much change, but at least he has a program that, you gotta admit, would bring real change.

posted by: Mitchell Young on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM [permalink]

Change? Wasn't that an Aretha Franklin song, you know, "Change of Fools?"

The only kind of change most of us appreciate is the kind that goes into soda machines.

posted by: Useless Sam Grant on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM [permalink]

Right on, TuftsGradStudent. And wasn't Dan an unpaid advisor to Condi Rice? Not exactly the same thing as being an advisor to Bush directly -- or Cheney, or someone like Addington, etc, if you are making an argument about whether one should be skeptical of Dan's "objectivity." Not to mention that he supported Kerry...

posted by: Jaideep on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM [permalink]

Jaideep, read my post. I am echoing what an earlier post said and arguing that Dan purposely misleads readers of this blog about his role in the Bush campaign because conservative criticism of the President gains more traction than liberal criticism, which is to be expected.

Dan, has expressed very little in the way of right-of-center viewpoints in the past five years that I have read this blog. He is basically a liberal with a few libertarian economic positions. Therefore, his criticism of President Bush should not be unexpected.

As for Dan's comment that he is not endorsing Obama, that is true, but again this is misleading as he clearly favors Obama. As for his comment that "I'm 80% sure that whoever gets the donkey nomination will be the next president" that is just silly. Every election over the course of my lifetime has been close enough (even the landslide Reagan win in 1984) that had a few events turned out differently the candidate who lost would have won. If Perot does not enter in 1992, Bush probably wins. If Reagan did not make the joke about Mondale's youth and inexperience and go on to win that debate that would have been a close race. There were times in the last election where it looked like Kerry could not lose and vise versa. I could go on. Thus, unless Dan has a magical crystal ball, that is a ridiculous assertion.

posted by: Tufts Grad Student on 01.07.08 at 06:26 PM [permalink]

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