Over the past several weeks, I’ve begun to re-think my opposition to Hillary Clinton as the nominee in ’08. My principle objection had been that she is not electable and that she’d be annihilated by Sen. John McCain. That’s still a distinct possibility. (But maybe not.) I’ve also been put off by her support for the Iraq War, or more specifically, her reluctance to disavow her vote giving Bush the authority for the invasion.
Disavowing the vote is meaningless unless you call for an immediate pullout, which I object to. I was opposed to the war from the get-go. But to pull out now would leave behind a country in chaos, a chaos we created. We have an obligation to follow in the footsteps of many before us who’ve had to clean up George W. Bush’s mistakes. We have little choice.
But with more than two years before the presidential election, I’ve been impressed with how she has portrayed herself. And I’m not convinced that it’s been a re-packaging, as many critics claim. She began life as a Republican, after all. It’s really not hard to believe that she isn’t the lefty her opponents claim.
Dan Balz’s article today is obviously the impetus for this post. But as I said, I’ve been coming to this reevaluation for several weeks.
First, I’m more inclined to take her at her word. Why shouldn’t we?, as Joe Klein asked recently on Scarborough Country. [“Media Matters” think Klein’s comments were inexcusable.]
She will have another two years, an eternity in politics, to make people believe that she is real and committed to the views she espouses. The chief problem, Balz seems to infer, is that she doesn’t have a “coherent governing philosophy” or that she has “yet to wrap up her ideas in a kind of package like the ‘New Democrat’ philosophy her husband, former president Bill Clinton, used in his 1992 campaign or the “compassionate conservative” label George W. Bush adopted in 2000.”
[Again, “Media Matters” takes Balz to task for some conclusions in his article.]
My guess is she’s too smart and has too good a mentor not to develop a slogan and articulate a governing philosophy by ’08. Balz’s implied criticism is just so much of a regurgitation of the mantra that Dems don’t have a message. Remember that her husband had several mantras — “New Democrat” “It’s the economy, stupid” and “Opportunity, Responsibility and Community.”
What’s most impressive to me is that her philosophies, as they are being outlined, have a good chance of resonating with a lot of voters, women in particular. She believes in using force abroad. Most of us are, whether it be in Iraq, Darfur, the Balkans, Rwanda or elsewhere is the question. Would any of us advocate sitting on our hands if another Holocaust developed? The misuse of force is what we must prevent as we engage in not just public diplomacy but economic rehabilitation and aid to struggling people.
One apparent underlying philosophy that will attract progressives is her belief “in the power of government to solve problems.” At the same time, “[o]n family policy, she has some traditional, even moralistic, instincts that those who know her best say are genuine and deeply felt.”
If there is one justifiable criticism of the boomer generation of liberals is their moral relativism. We have allowed the right to abscond with the whole notion of morals to the point where we think everyone must choose their own. It is one thing to believe, for example, that sex shouldn’t be condemned as only the right of baby-making married couples, but quite another to accept the misogynist rants of rap artists or the banal portrayal of women and sex on MTV. It’s one thing to defend their right to such portrayals, but progressive politicians could gain ground by arguing against much of what passes as “Hollywood values.” Coming close to the end of any impact I might have on my three young adult children, it is clear that providing a moral compass and instilling self-respect in them was my greatest challenge — and television and CDs were my greatest opponents. Maybe Hillary should campaign with Tipper Gore, founder of the Parents’ Music Resource Center. She began PMRC when my oldest was two. But it would have taken more than stickers to keep my kids away from crap. And I wasn’t very successful.
Many parents of young children today feel similarly overwhelmed. Being a little “moralistic” might indeed resonate with them, as would her “belief that our most important obligation is to take care of our children” and that she is “a big believer in self-help and personal responsibility and a work ethic that holds people responsible.” Maybe she should campaign with Bill Cosby.
Perhaps most disconcerting is Clinton’s belief that “the biggest lesson learned is that there can be no progress on health care without the business community. ‘There has to be a consensus in the public and private sector before we can ever get the political system to respond,’ she said. Unfortunately, that’s true. But maybe there’s a way of gaining some concessions from business in exchange for some of the investments big business wants in our infrastructure. Perhaps, but maybe before anything gets accomplished, we’ll need someone who is willing to return American capitalism to its roots and away from the corporate welfare state we’ve created. On that we’ve heard little from Clinton.
But we have two more years, at least.