Thursday, May 8, 2008
Let Hillary express her inner Clinton
There is a lot of buzz today about two related issues: Will Hillary stay in the race, and will she be offered the VP slot--thus creating the so-called "dream ticket." I am tending towards a somewhat contrarian position on both of these questions, but for the same primary reason: We need a clean break with Clintonism, which to me has been a toxic combination of abandoning progressive political principles and dirty, opportunistic politics.
Thus I think it would be good for Hillary to stay in the race as long as she wants to, especially long enough to her to continue her losing fight for the results of the Florida and Michigan primaries to be counted--thus increasingly exposing herself and her real political nature to Democrats and the American people at large. In other words, the more damage she does to herself and her image, the cleaner the break in the end with what she and Bill Clinton really stand for. As for damaging Obama along the way, I am not really worried about this. She has already done her worst, and he is still standing strong. Unlike many in both the Obama and Clinton camps, I really have enough faith in the American people to think that Obama could beat McCain with one hand tied behind his back once the two really have a chance to debate over issues like Iraq, the economy, the mortgage crisis, etc. etc.--ie, once Obama has a chance to debate the George W. Bush surrogate that McCain will easily be shown to be.
Another benefit of her staying in the race is that the longer before she quits, the less likely anyone (especially Obama) will be inclined to offer her the VP nod. Making Hillary the VP nominee is a VERY BAD IDEA. Why? Because this would be one move that could fatally compromise Obama's campaign, which purports to be about change, and stamp it with the terrible centrist politics whose broken promises gave us eight years of George W. Bush (see my previous post for why I blame the Clintons and all "centrist" Democratic politicians for this.) There is no way to take Hillary aboard without taking on Bill as well, and with the two of them come all of the Democratic "strategists" who were hoping for jobs in Washington when it is all over--not to mention all the Clintonian cabinet contenders who will be lining up. Do we really want Madeleine Albright back as secretary of state, who worked closely with Bill to successfully block any effective United Nations intervention in Rwanda when 800,000 people were being slaughtered? In other words, Obama would be seriously tainted and compromised by taking on the Clintons and all their baggage, whether or not, as Hillary put it recently (and quite cleverly, really) it has already been thoroughly rummaged through.
Speaking of foreign policy: Most pundits I have heard and read talk as if there were very few political differences between Obama and Hillary Clinton. I think this is largely true of domestic policy, where neither Obama nor Clinton are likely to make any significant changes in the socially and economically unjust system we already live under. The United States is a capitalist country, after all, and while Obama has derived much more of his campaign funding from the grassroots, no one individual can be president without making enormous concessions to those who really run it--ie, those who have economic power. As I said in yesterday's post, Obama represents a window of opportunity for social activists, not a messiah.
But it has not proven to be true in foreign policy. Clinton voted to authorize the Iraq war, Obama opposed it; Clinton voted for the saber-rattling Kyl-Lieberman amendment, an obvious nod to the Bush administration to attack Iran, whereas Obama--while not present for the vote--voiced his opposition; and Clinton, in an outrageous act seldom mentioned in the media, voted against an amendment that would have protected civilians against unexploded cluster bombs (need I say that Obama voted for it?)
Indeed, if Clinton is so "experienced," why did she not see through the Bush administration's flimsy justifications for war in Iraq--as did 23 U.S. senators, including one Republican (Chafee of Rhode Island, who was thanked by being voted out by a Democratic challenger in 2006)? One would have to conclude that any of those 23 senators showed better judgement than Clinton did. Likewise for the Iran amendment, which 22 senators voted against, and the cluster bombs amendment, which 30 senators voted for during that shameful episode.
My point here is that on foreign policy issues, which are crucially important as the United States seeks to recover from the incredible damage it has done to the Iraqi people as well as its own reputation in the world, Hillary Clinton is not someone we should want anywhere near the White House--whether as prez, vp, or even cabinet member. And when I say that Obama can beat McCain easily, there is one important caveat: He can do it IF, and ONLY IF, he avoids the typical Clintonian tactic of trying to out-hawk the right-wing (such as threats to "obliterate" Iran), because no one makes a more convincing hawk than a real hawk (although Hillary has done her best.)
In saying this, of course, I realize that my own feelings on this are likely to be overruled by the expediencies of the day, and particularly the need to mollify Clinton supporters who are going to feel hard done by when Obama is declared the nominee. And that brings me to my final point:
A lot of women have supported Clinton, despite her terrible politics, simply because she was a woman. To me--and here is where I am likely to get into lots of trouble--this is an example of the bankruptcy of knee-jerk feminism, which looks at the sex and gender of the candidate and tends to forget the content of her character. It makes no more sense to vote for Clinton because she is a woman than to vote against her because she is a woman; just as it makes no more sense to vote for Obama because he is Black than to vote against him because he is Black. (What if Clarence Thomas runs for president one day--will Blacks and Black leaders embrace him? Somehow I doubt it, although one never knows.)
And this is why I am so sure that Obama will beat McCain, who is pretty much promising that he will appoint Supreme Court justices in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade. All my political life I have been listening to feminists and Blacks arguing about who is more oppressed, and which is worse, sexism or racism. How ridiculous! Women of America, like it or not, right now your best friend is a Black man.
Update: Betsy Reed of The Nation posts a long, complex, but ultimately very smart analysis of the race and gender issues raised in the Clinton-Obama campaigns. The title is very appropriate: "Race to the Bottom."