Sunday, February 10, 2008


I'll get back to musical posts soon, I swear.

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Kevin over at Lean Left recently had an interesting take on the liberal credentials of Clinton vs. Obama. After addressing the greater progressiveness of Clinton's healthcare plan (said progressiveness seems to rest entirely on the inclusion of mandates -- which is of course only one way of looking at it), he goes on to say that

Obama has the better foreign policy. While he has been reluctant to lead on Iraq, his foreign policy seems sounder than Clinton. He was correct about the war in Iraq and he has directly challenged the framing of the security issues. He has attacked the politics of fear and the militarization of our foreign policy. His advisors are much less hawkish than Clinton’s, and his rhetoric has been much less “bomb first, ask questions later”. I believe that Clinton is sincere in her hawkishness. I think she and her people actually believe that American military might is an excellent tool for advancing liberal democracy and American interests. Obama is wiser than that.

The decision would seem clear: which of those policies is more important? Unfortunately for me, I don’t think there is much difference in their importance. The American economy and the American people desperately need our broken health care system to be fixed. It is the most important domestic policy consideration with the exception of dealing with climate change. But America desperately needs to understand that empire is no longer a viable foreign policy. Until that happens, America will continually spend more than it should to protect itself and will continue to needlessly create rivals and enemies.

There is one difference between the two issues, however. The progressive infrastructure and, to a certain extent, the country at large are to the left of Obama on this issue. The SEIU is going to spend 75 million dollars to advocate for universal health care. The Congress is likely to be Democratic, and perhaps even very democratic. It is possible, even likely, that the bills that come out of Congress will push Obama to the left on health care. Indeed, the primary criticism has lead him to start talking about punishing the free riders when they do come in for care. Not the best option, but it’s a start. In foreign policy, however, Clinton is solidly in the establishment consensus. Unfortunately for us, it is a bi-partisan consensus, so a Democratic Congress is not likely to push Clinton away from America as Empire. A popular President who advocates the opposite, and who fills the Defense Department and State Department with advocates for his position, is perhaps the best way of changing the terms of the foreign policy debate in this country.

So it’s Obama because where he is wrong there is the good possibility that the electorate and party can make him more right and where he is right he offers a unique opportunity to change the terms of the debate in this country in a very good way for a very long time.

That sounds about right to me.

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I don't have the energy (or, really, the desire) to get into the minutia of "pimp-gate" -- which thankfully doesn't seem to have affected the voting this weekend. I have already indicated that I think Clinton is getting some unfair coverage in this election. Let me just throw out the following additional observations and be done with it:

1. I'm sure this is clear already, but just in case: the fact that there is (undeniably) sexism in the media (to whatever extent) is not a sound argument for Clinton's candidacy. Pity is not a good reason to elect someone president. To put it another way: the fact that Clinton is a smart, powerful woman -- and that many people don't like smart, powerful women -- does not mean that those of us who do like smart, powerful women should automatically vote for her. (A Politico commenter refers to a great Susan Sarandon quote: "I have no doubts that a woman can lead this nation. I do, however, have serious doubts about THIS woman.")

2. The Clinton campaign's ultimatum against MSNBC -- punish Shuster or no debate -- betrays exactly the sort of politics-as-usual approach that has so disenchanted me with the Clinton candidacy. And on top of that it makes the issue of Shuster's impropriety seem pettier than it actually is.

3. Robin Morgan could not be more wrong when she says: "I’d rather say a joyful Hello to all the glorious young women who do identify with Hillary, and all the brave, smart men -— of all ethnicities and any age —- who get that it’s [i.e., supporting Clinton is] in their self-interest, too. She’s better qualified. (D’uh.)" Not to put too fine a point on this, but I find it hard to see how Hillary's candidacy is in the best interest of, say, all the Americans who are over in Iraq right now (not to mention all the people who have already died there).

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Andrew Sullivan (of all people!) recently cited this interesting article by Tish Durkin. Tish is no direct relation to me, as far as I know. That may explain why the piece is, ahem, brilliant:

If you want to know all there is to know about politics in the time of Clinton, look in your grocer's dairy section. Back in the early days of her New York congressional campaign the future Senator Clinton and the rest of Team Hillary made a crack-of-dawn raid on a supermarket in Rochester, complete with Secret Service, traveling press, local press, an army of Democratic regulars, and a handful of innocents who, God help them, just wanted a gallon of milk. After the greeting portion of the First Lady's visit but before the local-television-interviews portion came the faux-shopping portion, during which Clinton walked up to a huge counter, gazed into a world of Gouda, Swiss, and Cheddar under glass, and exclaimed with no small enthusiasm, "I'm a cheese person!"

It seems odd that this, of all moments to remember in the First Lady's historically unprecedented yet insistently uninteresting run for office, would be among those still blinking neon in the brain so long after the fact—but it isn't, really. Her pronouncement of self-identity as cheese was perfectly emblematic of the First Lady's approach to politics—and not just because it was one of her frequent, almost poignantly stilted attempts to make some kind of ordinary human connection without actually making any kind of ordinary human connection.


Hillary Clinton has been portrayed by friend and foe alike as all manner of things bold and incendiary—a lightning rod, a firecracker, a trailblazer. As a senatorial candidate, though, she was always a cheese person—or perhaps, to be more precise, a nondairy-processed-cheese-like-product person. She showed up in a lot of places, dressed inoffensively, and spoke in perfect paragraphs. The tone—and, for that matter, the content—of what she had to say would not have seemed out of place coming from Annette Funicello or Florence Henderson in their food-hawking heyday. "Choosy moms choose Hillary!" was not an actual campaign slogan, but only, one presumes, because the Jif people would have gone ballistic.


I know we can't exactly say that Hillary Clinton's presidency would mirror her husband's, but I think there is some value in at least remembering what life was like under Bill. One unconventional technique for doing so would be to learn a lot of bad (okay, it's not all bad) pop music from the 90s (like I am doing now for a money gig that I really don't want to talk about, thank you very much). Suffice it to say that, for me, Bill Clinton and Pearl Jam will always be pretty much inseparable.

Anyway, it seems that since the Clinton administration was followed by the worst presidency ever, Bill's progressive shortcomings have significantly faded for most people. Maybe more importantly, there is the issue of circumlocution. Obviously, the key moment (at least in retrospect) was "that depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." Not because anyone-who-was-not-directly-involved should actually give a shit (one way or the other) about the President's infidelity, but because this unwillingness to "tell it straight" seemed to establish a precedent -- in terms of just how brazenly evasive and deceitful a leader could be -- that would then be exploited (for truly heinous purposes) by Clinton's numbskull successor.

More to the point: how could Hillary continue to share her life with a dude capable of that sort of pathological double-speak and not internalize it as an M.O. somehow?

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And finally, there's this: Obama picks up another grammy. Not a reason to vote for him, of course, but at least it makes me feel like we're living in the same universe (however much I dislike the grammies).


godoggo said...

Bill's got 2 grammies already.

(Which is something I learned on another blog. Really, I have little if nothing original to say).

godoggo said...

I guess "anything" would have made more sense than "nothing"...

Andrew Durkin... said...

Isn't everything we know something we have learned on some other blog? (Insert winking emoticon here.)

I for one always appreciate your comments...