HRC gets it

There was lots of good stuff in Clinton’s speech, and then there was this:

I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me, or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him?

Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids?

Were you in it for that young boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage?

Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?

NPR had closeups of people in the crowd obviously having big wakeup moments at this point. It doesn’t take much of a step to hear “just for me” as “just for yourself”. Anyone still nursing wounds from the primary campaign, hearing that moment of that speech, must…must...understand that voting for McCain, or not voting, or not bothering to give money or to pitch in for Obama, is simply narcissistic self-indulgence, trampling the unfortunate and the deserving for the sake of a reckless, heartless misunderstanding of what it means to act on principle. Someone should suffer for the wrongs done to Hillary, but anyone who thinks that will be Obama if McCain is elected either has no heart or no brain. It’s like voting for Nader, compounding the careless, heedless pique of a child who punches a younger sibling because Dad turned off the TV with the wilful ignorance of tourists who yell at people who don’t speak their language. And just as destructive. If the voter who chooses to act out that way is among the lucky upper middle class intelligentsia for whom the Bush years have been infuriating, but actually not all that personally injurious, all the more disreputable.

Actions have consequences. That goes for actions performed with great earnestness and a cloud of indignant rationalization, and even if the actions make you feel really good and avenged and noble and principled and pure.

Let’s have an end to this meme of teaching “them” a lesson by cutting off the nose of A to spite B’s face; Hillary nailed it.

Clinton’s courage

Her performance in Unity was astounding.

Hillary Clinton’s performance at the Unity rally was astounding. To my ear, it wasn’t a great speech, or especially well delivered. But it wasn’t at all hesitant. There she was, helping her bitter rival gain the prize she has long dreamed of and now can (almost surely) never have. And she did it with a smile: not a tight, controlled grimace, but a smile of apparent warmth and sincerity. Ask yourself: In a comparable situation in your own life, could you do as well? I know I couldn’t.

Classy Clinton

She’s asking for money to pay the vendors, but she’s walking away from the $12 million of her own money the campaign borrowed from her.

In an email to her campaign mailing list, Hillary Clinton asks for contributions to clear away the campaign debt. But she specifies that this is for the vendors only.

As you know, I had to loan money to my campaign at critical moments. I’m not asking for anyone’s help to pay that back. That was my investment and my commitment because I believe so deeply in our cause.

But I do need your help paying the debts we accrued to others over the course of this campaign.

Yes, it’s still going to gall me to write a check knowing that part of the money will go to pay Mark Penn. (Though as an Obama supporter I suppose I should be grateful to him for performing so badly.) But the fact that HRC herself is willing to suck up a $12 million financial hit is something that her critics &#8212 including the undersigned &#8212 ought to take notice of.

No, Sen. Clinton isn’t going to miss any meals as a result; the one I feel sorry for is the kid who sold his bike to contribute to her campaign, and I’m still hoping that Barack Obama will personally buy that boy a new bike. But 12 million after-tax dollars is still a hefty sum to walk away from, and her willingness to do makes Obama’s road that much easier to walk.

Gulp

Am I the only one who has suffered chillls down the spine after reading the latest ARG poll out of South Dakota? You know, the one that says Clinton 60, Obama 34?

This is an outlier with other polls, which have shown slim Obama leads. And ARG has not had a good record this campaign. But this poll is by far the most recent.

So here’s a prediction: if Hillary wins South Dakota with anything like those numbers tomorrow, all the talk about her wrapping up her campaign now will be the electronic equivalent of yesterday’s fishwrap.

Contempt

By proposing the gas tax holiday, an idea only a fool or an ignoramus could take seriously, Hillary Clinton has advertised to the world that she thinks her voters are easy marks. Some of them probably resent it, or could be encouraged to do so. And the same goes for John McCain in the general election: the press has already more or less announced that the idea is bogus.

Like most bloggers, journalists, and academics, I’ve been focusing on the contempt Hillary Clinton has displayed for the whole project of reasoned discourse about public policy by insisting that the gas tax holiday is a good idea even though she can’t find anyone knowledgeable to agree, or even explain herself how it’s supposed to work. I can forgive taking silly positions &#8212 no candidate can escape it entirely &#8212 but not deliberately making a silly position into a major campaign issue. On the gas tax, obliterating Iran, and now the empty threat to break up OPEC with a lawsuit, she has managed to look completely un-Presidential, negating her claim to policy expertise based on long experience.

But there’s another aspect of the story that hasn’t, so far as I know, gotten any attention: the contempt her actions display for her voters. By embracing an idea that only a fool or an ignoramus could actually believe, she has advertised to the world that she regards her voters as easy marks, children easily distracted by shiny objects.

I can imagine an independent-expenditure TV spot on this theme.

Overweight middle-aged man with a “mountain” accent, dressed in jeans, standing in front of a pickup truck with a gunrack and an American flag bumper sticker, looking straight at the camera:

Senator Clinton, you say that cutting the gasoline tax oil companies pay would save money for consumers. Everyone who knows the oil companies knows that’s not so. The companies don’t have to pass their savings along to us, and of course they won’t. You can’t find a single expert to say the idea would work. So why do you expect us to be dumb enough to believe it anyway?

Tell the truth, Senator, it makes me sorta angry. I don’t cotton to being played for a fool.

Senator, I didn’t go to Wellesley College or Yale Law School. I don’t have a fancy house or millions of dollars. I don’t have your experience in Washington. But let’s get one thing clear, Senator Clinton. I’m not stupid.

Now, do we understand each other? [Turns away in disgust.]

Footnote One bonus from this whole flap: the mainstream press has done to Sen. Clinton what it almost never does to a Republican candidate. It has made it clear that her plan is without merit. But of course at base the Clinton plan is the McCain plan; McCain had it first. So when Barack Obama comes at John McCain over this little bit of attempted bamboozlement, the press will already be committed to the narrative “truth-teller vs. bogus idea.” The above spot works just as well with Senator McCain’s name inserted, except that he has eight fancy houses, not just one, and you’d have to take out the elite education and add a rich wife.

Pandering as a character issue

What do “obliterate Iran” and the gas tax holiday tell us about HRC’s character, the quality of her experience, and her fitness to be President?

A correspondent thinks I’ve missed the main point about both “obliterate Iran” and the gas tax holiday. For Clinton, who has run on being the grown-up, experienced policy wonk in the race, the willingness to talk complete nonsense when the situation is desperate not only contradicts her major claim to office, it raises serious questions about her character. Her behavior on those issues has, by contrast with the behavior of the Democratic candidate, profoundly un-Presidential.

“Experience,” it is said, “isn’t what happens to you; it’s what you make of what happens to you.” Which candidate looked “experienced” this week?

HRC in 2005: 50 years in Iraq would be just peachy-keen

HRC on Face the Nation, 2005:
Senator McCain made the point earlier today, which I agree with, and that is, it’s not so much a question of time when it comes to American military presence for the average American; I include myself in this. But it is a question of casualties.
We don’t want to see our young men and women dying and suffering these grievous injuries
that so many of them have. We’ve been in South Korea for 50-plus years. We’ve been in
Europe for 50-plus. We’re still in Okinawa with respect to protection there coming out of
World War II.

Kossack Parisgnome makes an excellent catch, finding a three-year-old Face the Nation interview transcript (pp. 2-3) in which Hillary Rodham Clinton embraces the John McCain idea that it doesn’t matter how long we stay in Iraq, and the analogy to having troops in Korea:

Senator McCain made the point earlier today, which I agree with, and that is, it’s not so much a question of time when it comes to American military presence for the average American; I include myself in this. But it is a question of casualties.

We don’t want to see our young men and women dying and suffering these grievous injuries that so many of them have. We’ve been in South Korea for 50-plus years. We’ve been in Europe for 50-plus. We’re still in Okinawa with respect to protection there coming out of World War II.

You know, we have been in places for very long periods of time. And in recent history, we’ve made a commitment to Bosnia and Kosovo, and I think what is different is the feeling that we’re on a track that is getting better and that we can see how the Iraqi government will begin to assume greater and greater responsibility. The elections were key to that. The training, equipment, equipping and motivating of the Iraqi security forces is key to that. But so is our understanding that if we were to artificially set a deadline of some sort, that would be like a green light to the terrorists, and we can’t afford to do that.

If Hillary were somehow to cheat her way to the nomination, I guess the DNC would have to pull those “100 years” anti-McCain ads, don’t you think?

I know this isn’t a really important issue, like whether you wear Chinese-made costume jewelry on your lapel, but can we hope that some reporter will ask Sen. Clinton when she changed her mind about this?

Not a gaffe

No, she meant to say “obliterate Iran.” Cowboy diplomacy joins voodoo economics to make a sort of synthetic Republican.

Stephanopoulos gave Clinton a chance to back off her “obliterate Iran” statement, but she chose to reiterate it instead.

This is madness, on two different levels.

Morally: Seventy million people live in Iran. They are currently ruled by a religious dictatorship covered by a thin veneer of “controlled democracy”: the voters can vote, but only for candidates the mullahs approve in advance. Threatening to “obliterate” them because of an action by the government they didn’t choose means offering to outbid Hitler, Stalin, and Mao in the mass-murderer auction.

Diplomatically: The current Iranian regime has an unsure grip on power. Younger people and the educated urban elite (think of it as the Iranian version of the Obama constituency) hates the current ruling clique and would like to move toward democracy and civil liberty. Iran’s wealth and military power make it a key player in the Middle East, and the fact that Iranians aren’t Arabs means that Iran isn’t necessarily part of the anti-Israel coalition. (The Shah was strongly pro-Israel, and that wasn’t what caused him to fall.) Bringing about regime change in Iran by fostering the growth of democratic forces must rank very high on any intelligent list of American foreign policy objectives: much higher, for example, than achieving a stable Iraq.

Even within the current ruling group, Ahmadi-Nejad’s fanatic anti-Western stance is controversial. He could easily lose his position in the elections next year.

Anything that strengthens Ahmadi-Nejad against the less bomb-happy fundamentalists, and anything that strengthens the fundamentalists against the democratic forces, is very bad for the world. A threat from a major American politician to obliterate Iran, which is sure to be repeated endlessly in the state-controlled mass media there, is a gift to the bad guys.

Even during the Cold War, no American President ever explicity threatened to “obliterate” the Soviet Union. Clinton’s comment raises serious questions about her fitness for the office she holds, let alone the one she is seeking. It is precisely because the United States has the biggest stick in the history of the world that we can and must talk softly.

Like the gas tax holiday, “obliterate Iran” is a position that none of Clinton’s sophisticated supporters can embrace. It was designed to please the boobs who confuse bluster with strength, and those Jews so full of hatred of all things Muslim that they have lost hold of whatever moral principles they used to have. Having embraced voodoo economics (and even the Republican idea that listening to experts is elitist) in the gas tax holiday, Clinton has now embraced cowboy diplomacy. (My apologies to any actual cowboys who may read this.)

Ooooops!

Hillary Clinton says her gasoline tax holiday will help farmers, who don’t pay tax on fuel used on the farm.

Hillary Clinton:

There are a lot of people in Indiana who would really benefit from a gas tax holiday.

That might not mean much to my opponent, but I think it means a lot to people who are struggling here, people who commute a long way to work, farmers and truckers.

Ummm….Senator? Didn’t anyone tell you that fuel used in farm vehicles doesn’t pay the gasoline excise tax (p. 36)?

Not that she minds lying to the voters, but the problem is the farmers already know it.

Did I hear someone say “Out of touch”?