Friday, August 5, 2011
A friend put the question to me….what if Hillary were sitting in Barack’s chair? No, not on his lap; that was husband Bill’s hobby. Would Hillary Clinton have had more balls than Obama dealing with the recalcitrant Congress? Would she have even generated the brainless barrage of bashing endured over the past 30 months?
Of course we’ll never know but it makes for good conversation over a beer or a mocha-dusted frappuccino. My guess is that she would be receiving just a slightly modified version of the scurrilous attacks we hear today; same lies, same virulence with misogyny instead of racism. Would she have had more savvy, be less conciliatory, more confrontational than Obama? I doubt it. I remember her crying on camera before the New Hampshire primary.
Obama has more cool even if his instincts lead him toward compromise. I submit that he has his own narrative largely undecipherable to the chattering class. Like it or not he is addressing the Independent voter noted for a mind that refuses to make itself up. His rhetoric attempts to align itself with this sector which swings according to last night’s dinner and the price of gas. These are the pragmatists among us, generally low-information voters with no ideology. I once worked with a colleague who voted for Clinton because he liked Garth Brooks over John Prine....or was it the other way around? They are more likely to be swayed according to character, or perception thereof, than issues. Independents seem not to understand the consequences of their acts. Our president is positioning himself as the parent presiding over squabbling children.
The fact that Hillary Clinton seems resolute in her role as Sec. of State does not convince me that she would stand up to the far right anymore than Obama. The office of the president is beyond any analogy. In fact the highest decibels heard during his presidency came from opponents of his health care mandate which was, in fact, Hillary’s campaign idea. I don’t buy the notion that the senseless outcry against it would be any less if it were part of Hillary-care.
For those who prefer John Wayne to Gregory Peck, join Netflix. It is not in our president's character. In 1824 Henry Clay, Mitch McConnell's antecedent, had a dispute with Senator Randolph which began a decade earlier when Randolph brought his dog into the Senate. As any macho man knows the occasion called for a duel with pistols. Though it had been banned in Kentucky they went ahead anyway in Washington.
Fortunately they both missed. Have we come to this place again?
To be sure there have been missteps by the administration under-estimating the virulence of his opposition. I believe this is part of the liberal consciousness; to assume the good faith of opponents. Obama is no FDR or LBJ in their power of persuasion but neither does he have majorities in both Houses and a closet full of skeletons to bargain with. When the Democrats controlled Congress it did so in name only. Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman were crypto-Republicans during the healthcare debate.
Furthermore I don’t believe the personality of the individual in the oval office determines the tenor of the times. It was Bill Clinton, not Obama, who allowed the Glass-Steagall Act to be subverted leading to the Wall St./Housing disaster. It was Clinton who caved to Gingrich on so-called Welfare reform, who pushed for NAFTA and other trade pacts which began the closing of American factories. Whether because of his peccadilloes which weakened the power of his office, or his advice from Dick Morris (now with Fox news) or just his abandoning of core Progressive values in order to be loved, Clinton began the drift of the party toward the center.
Obama has done little to halt this movement. What is left of the left? The Nation magazine, Noam Chomsky and the scattered voices heard on MSNBC. Much of their time is spent attacking Obama to remind him of the abandoned poor, the heritage of the Progressive movement and his own roots. Fine, these are needed voices but the result has been a chorus of discontent which skewers his approval rating in national polls and does little but sow seeds of cynicism. For those whose inclination is to assign blame let them look at themselves; the 75% of eligible voters who didn’t bother to vote in 2010 and, by default, delivered us the largest collection of nit-wits in Congress and Governor’s mansions in history.
Let the Repugnants gloat over the debt-ceiling agreement. The pact is nothing if not spin-able. Boehner says he got 98% of what he wanted. The White House also claims victory. Instead of revenue we got defense cuts. Let the lackeys choke on that and if the committee cannot agree on further cuts, with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security off the table, let them answer to their benefactors in the Pentagon or Grover Nordquist. Most of all we need to send home the screaming anarchists in 2012 and embark on a sensible path for the 21st century....what if?