Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 19, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

HILLARY AND POLITICS....Sean Wilentz echoes some of my own feeling about how presidential politics plays out every four years:

There's always a Stevenson candidate. Bradley was one of them. Tsongas was one of them. They're the people who are kind of ambivalent about power. "Should I be in this or not... well, yes, because I'm going to represent something new." It's beautiful loserdom. The fact is, you can't govern without politics. That's what democracy is. Democracy isn't some utopian proposition by which the people suddenly rule. We're too complicated a country for that. We have too many interests here. You need someone who can govern, who can build the coalition and move the country forward.

Wilentz is making an argument against Barack Obama (a Stevenson-like candidate) and in favor of Hillary Clinton (a political candidate). And it's a good one. Every four years the press falls in love — momentarily — with a candidate who strikes them as a fresh voice. Someone who tells people what they don't want to hear. Someone who doesn't waffle or hedge. Someone who's a truth teller. But these candidates never win. Never. Bradley and Tsongas didn't win, and neither did John McCain or Gary Hart or John Anderson. That's because most people want to vote for someone who agrees with them, not someone who stands aloof from their most deeply held beliefs.

It's funny how our perceptions change so rapidly. I'm reading Jonathan Alter's The Defining Moment right now, a very engaging book about FDR in the years 1932-33, and one of the things that comes through clearly is that during the 1932 campaign the press felt pretty much the same way about Roosevelt as they do now about Hillary Clinton. He was a waffler, a triangulator, and a politico. You had to parse everything he said with care, and even then you couldn't be sure you'd pinned him down on anything. He could be personally engaging when he wanted to be, but it was mostly an act. Behind it, he was a ruthless manipulator.

This is all conventional wisdom these days, but Alter does a better than usual job of making it come alive. And of course, reading it today you mostly just laugh along. What a rascal that FDR was! But that's not how it struck people in real time. (At least, not at first.) For obvious reasons, most of us dislike people who not only manipulate the political process but seem to actively enjoy doing so.

At the same time, we're also routinely disappointed when we elect someone who doesn't know how to manipulate the political process and therefore gets nothing done. On that score, my guess is that if Hillary Clinton is elected president — and I think she will be — she'll turn out to be a pretty good one. Like FDR she has a good idea of where she wants to go, even if she doesn't know every step of the way there. She understands politics, she understands what's possible, she's become a shrewd calculator of the odds, and she understands her enemies. She'll never end up with her portait on the dime, but I'll bet that when 2016 rolls around she'll have accomplished more than most of us expect.

Kevin Drum 1:02 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (62)

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Basic "Eye of the Tiger" stuff out of Survivor/Rocky III?

Here's a question. Do you Thompson is the Republican equivalent?

Posted by: BrianInAtlanta on November 19, 2007 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

You seem to be betting that she will be elected and re-elected. In political markets she's even odds for one victory, but the second can't be certain. And accomplish something too ? You are a gambler.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on November 19, 2007 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Couple of points: Jimmy Carter, he of "I will never tell you a lie", got elected.

Also, it's true that Obama is the candidate of the intellectual elites, like Hart or Tsongas or Bradley were. But the big difference between him and them is that Obama is black: there is the potential that he will forge an alliance between those well-educated upper-income whites and the black community. That is new. We have no historical comparables for such a candidate.

Posted by: Wagster on November 19, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Although I do not share your enthusiasm about Hillary's ability to win against the Republican nominee, I do hope that you are right. She definitely has greater chances of success than Obama .

Posted by: gregor on November 19, 2007 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

We have no historical comparables for such a candidate.

Sure we do, and his name is Bill Clinton.

Posted by: David W. on November 19, 2007 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

"Every four years the press falls in love — momentarily — with a candidate who strikes them as a fresh voice. Someone who tells people what they don't want to hear. Someone who doesn't waffle or hedge. Someone who's a truth teller. But these candidate never win. Never."

What about Bill Clinton in '92? He would seem to fit most of the criteria you list here. (Granted, he did waffle a bit, but most of that came after he was elected.)

As for the Hillary/FDR comparison, that's just wishful thinking. Sure, she might turn out to be a real progressive underneath that politically calculated persona, but I wouldn't put money on it.

Posted by: DaveWoo on November 19, 2007 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

I would contend that although Carter is a guy who came out of nowhere, he certainly wasn't a Stevenson candidate. Carter didn't speak truth to power; during the 1976 primaries Carter was very adept at saying nothing.

Critics referred to him as "fuzzy on the issues". He managed to make many members of both wings of the party think he was on their side.

If anyone in the 1976 race was Stevenson it was either Mo Udall or Jerry Brown. I haven't thought about it enough to decide which one.

Posted by: howie on November 19, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Nonsense. Obama has the best chance of beating any of the GOP candidates.

Hillary = Defacto right-wing DLC more of the same candidate

Obama = Best chance at progress we have

And it doesn't matter anyways. A DEMOCRAT will win the White House in 2008; right now it's a matter of which one. Clinton is the de facto right-wing candidate in this race right now. She's getting her money from defense, and has the backing of big corporate media, who want to maintain their consolidations. In a hypothetical, she's the easiest to beat from the point of view of the GOP.

Obama is getting a lot of money from online donations. You might call him the Hart, or her the Dean of this race - but Obama really is offering something new. Straightforward discussion of the ISSUES. Back to basics. You don't see Obama saying: "an old black man once told me he doesn't want to die before he sees a black President." But Hillary trots out this old "a 90 year old woman..." - always dancing and avoiding the issues.

Let's get serious here. This election is too important. Hillary is not the one.

Posted by: truthmissile on November 19, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

To be honest, I don't know what to expect. I think we all vastly underestimate the amount of damage done to the US and the government in the past 7 years.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on November 19, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

The one thing I like about Hillary, and there is only one thing, is that she will not take any shit from the repugs, and she will slam them more than they slam her. She's quick, feisty and articulate and will brook no quarter. Like my wife.

Posted by: Dilbert on November 19, 2007 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

You don't want to push this analogy between HRC and FDR. In 1933 there was 25% unemployment and the Federal budget was running a surplus. Today we have globalization - where the cause of economic anxiety and burdens on the shrinking middle class is hard for a single nation to affect (assuming it wanted to, unlike the current administration). Today we have global warming - even if we stop emitting carbon dioxide today, the climate will continue to change. Today we have nations around the world that are simultaneously third-world and nuclear weapons powers or wannabes.

I say this not to suggest that you're wrong about the necessity of politics to get things done, but I disagree with your point of view (the Conventional Wisdom of the Village) that Senator Clinton is politically nimble or capable of significant achievements should she be elected. Many commenters in the left blogosphere fear (I think quite accurately) that a new Clinton presidency will bring the 90's right-wing hate wars back with a vengence. Also troubling is our perception of the depth of Clinton's commitment to change, given her advisory team and funding sources. Will she really try and reduce media consolidation, or will a few meetings with her pal Rupert change her mind? Will she feel the need to "listen to the concerns" of Big Pharma this time around vis-a-vis health care? Sadly, I fear a Hillary Clinton Administration will be competent though cautious, when we need outstanding and bold.

Posted by: Greg in FL on November 19, 2007 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

"It's funny how our perceptions change so rapidly. I'm reading Jonathan Alter's The Defining Moment right now, a very engaging book about FDR in the years 1932-33, and one of the things that comes through clearly is that during the 1932 campaign the press felt pretty much the same way about Roosevelt as they do now about Hillary Clinton. He was a waffler, a triangulator, and a politico. "

Funny, ha ha.

That's pretty much how the perceptions were about Mondale in '84 and Kerry in '04.

How'd that work out for us?

Posted by: Petey on November 19, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK


If you believe what you are saying here, then why aren't you on record supporting Hillary for president? Or, maybe you are and I missed it.

Posted by: Jim W on November 19, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

What is the basis for Kevin Drum's belief in Hillary Clinton's political savvy? She's a one-and-a-half term senator. She didn't have some sort of successful business or military career before that, where she would have learned how to manipulate, negotiate and manage. And there's no evidence that during her husband's time in the White House she was the political brains of the outfit. (Not that her husband was that successful in advancing an agenda, a la FDR or LBJ: he was mostly successful in maintaining high approval ratings.)

Posted by: y81 on November 19, 2007 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

I fall pretty squarely into the anti-Hillary camp, but this is a very persuasive take on things. The less I think about Hillary's soul, the more content I am with the notion of her winning. And you're certainly right about Obama's utopianism; he's just not a good manipulator of people.

The thing is, this kind of consolation for settling for HRC makes me just want to skip the next ten years and get right to the retrospective part. Like Rip Van Winkle.

Posted by: lampwick on November 19, 2007 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

People seem to keep missing the main reason Obama isn't getting traction with his portrayal of himself as someone "above the fray". And that's people don't believe it. And I say this as an Obama supporter. Obama has not run the campaign that would prove to people he really is a different kind of politician. He has engaged in questionable attacks on Hillary (such as portraying her policy as not wanting to meet with enemies, but only allies), he has not answered some questions in the debates, and has appeared evasive on others. He has continuously undermined his ability to persuade others that he is what he wants people to believe he is.

So when he makes comments that he's an honest truth-teller, it comes across as disingenuous.

Posted by: Jeff on November 19, 2007 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

I think Jimmy Carter fits within the definition of a "Stevenson candidate." He was more an idealist than a pol. Although he did get elected, I think his example pretty much supports Kevin's thesis.

Carter won against a very weak candidate, then lost as a incumbant. As President, he was not effective at wielding power, despite his genuinely good intentions.

Posted by: ex-liberal on November 19, 2007 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

The interesting thing to do would be to compare the machine-backed stiffs who end up getting nominated. Just take Kerry and Hillary. Which one of them would be the superior politician in terms of fighting the fights AND getting things done?

Posted by: lampwick on November 19, 2007 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Another thing about FDR that is a parallel with Senator Clinton: his enemies HATED him, and they generally had a reason.

Especially his friends.

It's fascinating to realize that when FDR got the Democratic nomination in 1932, in a year like '08 that everybody expected the Democrat to beat the Republican, he was governor of New York: but he did NOT go into the Convention with the support of the New York delegation, which was the largest bloc of votes.

WTF? But it's true.

Likewise, his law partner (Basil O'Connor) who actually got the NY delegation to face the inevitable (and how the hell it became inevitable is another amazing story), had a brother, John O'Connor, who was a major power in Congress: a Tammany man, chair of the House Rules Committee.

And the ONLY member of Congress that FDR managed to purge for opposing the New Deal.

I dunno if Senator Clinton will (or can) be that ruthlessly effective -- but it ain't beanbag, and it's manifestly clear that neither Stevenson, nor Tsongas, nor Bradley ... and some others, are up to it.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 19, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's crisis rhetoric about Social Security, presumably to distinguish himself from Hillary Clinton, is the sort of thing no Democrat should be doing, period. Sorry, but Obama's lost my vote for good if he thinks he can somehow appeal for votes by parroting Republican talking points from 2005.

Posted by: David W. on November 19, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Yep -- elect another competent hack like Hillary/Dukakis/Mondale and go down in flames next November.

Posted by: Ed on November 19, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Horsefeathers. Hilary will "get things done" if by "get things done" you mean "ignore the problems of citizenry en masse in order to enrich her special interest friends and meet disasterous Republican principles halfway".

And that stuff about "always do what the Republicans suggest in elections" is insane. They want her nominated because she's the least combative, influential, attractive candidate, not because she's the most. Always nominate who the Republicans claim is the worst candidate, the guy we shouldn't nominate for a million bucks. They want you to lose.

Posted by: glasnost on November 19, 2007 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

"In Marc Reisner's _Cadillac Desert_, the water projects "hit list" by the Carter presidency which marked the first (and mostly unsuccessful) attempt to break the Western influence in politics and stop at least some of the worst offenders among the water projects. Carter, the eternal micromanager, the person habitually incapable of delegating authority in any consistent manner, and the president who never seems to have learned how to work with Congress, came up with a "hit list" of projects that would be defunded. This, predictably, created an uproar that he should have been prepared to deal with. Instead, Carter behaved like a political yo-yo threatening vetoes and then signing legislation anyway, with the end result that many of his allies abandoned him in disgust and nobody believed him the next time he decided to make a stand. [This is the sort of naivete he exhibited in foreign policy too, so it's not surprising that he had no chances for a second term.]"

--Branislav L. Slantchev

Posted by: anonymous on November 19, 2007 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

we all vastly underestimate the amount of damage done to the US and the government in the past 7 years.
-Gore/Edwards 08

Yes, indeed. I would go further and say that we will not even have found all the damage Bush has done by 2016. Some of the injury is even now irreversible.

What a price we will all pay for this failed man-child's and his Svengali's daydreams.

Posted by: clio on November 19, 2007 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Not to quibble, but Hart was a strong candidate until the photos on the boat (was it "Monkey-Business"?), he may well have broken the trend if not for his affair.

Posted by: RollaMO on November 19, 2007 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who thinks that only Hillary will ignite the "Right Wing Hate Machine" has not been paying attention: those folks are going to make life miserable for *ANY* Democrat unfortunate enough to get elected president in '08. And, unfortunately, the mainstreem media will be their compliant accomplice as usual.

Posted by: Gary on November 19, 2007 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Not to quibble, but Hart was a strong candidate until the photos on the boat

I guess I had thought it was that, when asked, he couldn't actually locate the beef.

Posted by: frankly0 on November 19, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin. You want HC because in your heart of hearts you are a technocrat. Hence the graphs and the all the posts that begin "why do people keep on supporting X to people when all the data shows Y ..."

HC appeals to people like you because she exudes "good manager". Her campaign is efficient, she is disciplined and perpetually on-message. You could imagine her as an excellent project manager, the kind you would want working for you.

But seriously, how can she run on experience? How many senators and congressmen have been elected president recently? The role of the legislator and the executive are completely different.

Furthermore, this wishful thinking about FDR is just painful. Your notion that she'll morph into some kind of populist once elected beggars belief.

Posted by: Adam on November 19, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

We can learn from historical analogies, but we should always remember they are the stock and trade of lazy man history. There is a move by the status quo "moderates" to style Clinton as FDR's heir. The rhetoric that tries to ingratiate her to the progressive activists focuses on pragmatics over ideological purity. Forgive her for her sins since she can get things done. The problem here is that Clinton dynasty does not offer an alternative to the neoliberal, in English-speaking countries the neoimperalist, consensus. In a multiparty system we would just vote for another party and consider the particulars in Parliament. The anti-neoliberal, anti-imperialists are not Clinton's political allies.

The only thing to really be excited about is that the neoliberal imperialists are markedly less savage than the Republicans.

Posted by: bellumregio on November 19, 2007 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary triangulates, prevaricates and refuses to commit to anything. How is it again this is supposed to be like FDR?

I'd like to vote FOR something rather than hoping for something from somebody who refuses to divulge to me what they might do.

BTW, who was FDR's opposition among Democrats in his first presidential bid? Was it "nobody" he had to really compete with?

We need real leadership now and we need to hear from the candidates exactly what direction they would go when they 'hit the ground running'. That isn't Hillary or Obama.

Ask yourself this, if you had to create a phrase or describe the general thrust of a candidates policies, what would that be for Hillary? Triangulating to Victory?

Edwards for President -- Real Leadership for America

Posted by: MarkH on November 19, 2007 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Bravo for Adam,
You don't vote for someone based on your belief of their hidden potential. Mrs. Clinton is a junior senator whose primary political achievement is marrying Mr. Clinton. The meme that she is the experienced one of the three front runners is wholly unsupported by the facts. Being the wife of the president does not prepare one to be the president anymore than being husband of an engineer prepares one to build bridges. Now if you want to argue she made a specific legislative accomplishment that should make voters swoon, have at it...unfortunately, she appears to have some serious legislative snafus that are likely to balance nullify any meager accomplishments. This is in addition to her apparent belief that a 97K a year salary is "middle class".

Posted by: Ian on November 19, 2007 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

You might have a decent argument if you could demonstrate when, where and how Hillary ever manipulated the process to get things done. The past 7 years have not exactly been chock full of stellar Hillary achievements. It's been 'go along get along' with Republican war and Constitutional devastation. The WH years were marked by an inability to anticipate the ferocity and direction of the right wing, leading to one successful (if not substantive) attack after another on her and Bill and the failure of universal health care.

To cross your fingers and hope that with this record and an astounding portion of the electorate who simply cannot stand her is an exercise in stupidity. How can someone form coalitions when the people are not listening to you? Republican legislators will have no inducement to work with Hillary since their constituents detest her.

The country will continue divided and unable to achieve any substantive change in this disastrous course without someone who appeals to the entire nation. Edwards.

Posted by: Chrissy on November 19, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK
....Many commenters in the left blogosphere fear .... that a new Clinton presidency will bring the 90's right-wing hate wars back....Greg in FL at 1:32 PM
Do you seriously think that there is any Democrat, aside from non-Democrat Joe Lieberman, whom they won't attack with foaming-at-mouth intensity? The darlings of the media will have their favorite daddy candidate and will exhibit near insanity in their contempt for any Democratic one. Broder, Dowd, Matthews, Russet, Williams, and the other heathers are already honing their claws in anticipation for a Clinton nomination.
....Carter, the eternal micromanager....anonymous at 1:49 PM
Indeed, that is why he had no major scandals like Raygun's Iran-Contra and the ugly regime of Bush, Jr. Posted by: Mike on November 19, 2007 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

I like Obama, but this new meme that he is a pure soul free from the tarnish of ambition is nonsense. If you lack ambition, you don't go to (and excel in) Harvard Law School, you go to Beacon Hill Community College.

Posted by: Kenny on November 19, 2007 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

I guess my hope about Hillary is that she is as insincere in her apparent commitments to the many corporate and establishment friends who have empowered her candidacy as she has seemed to be in recent years to strictly progressive causes.

I think it's fair to say that Hillary has been something of a darling to the establishment in its myriad forms and guises in recent years. No doubt this has been fueled by her intense desire to become President.

But isn't it pretty plausible that when she becomes President, she's going to have very little if any use for any of these people? Courting the has been all about the power, and, with that power achieved, of what real further importance are they to her success? As an incumbent President running in 2012, she'd have little need for their support -- it would be largely beyond their power to affect her popularity materially.

I have a sneaking feeling that when Hillary's elected, she's going to revert to precisely the set of principles that we Democrats most want out of a President. That, of course, is exactly why the Republicans fear and detest her so.

As a simple example, I can imagine that as President, she'd become rather forceful in seeking a balanced position on the ME - despite her years of kissing the hem of the Israel lobby while Senator of NY. I just suspect that her original view of that conflict, hardly friendly to the lobby, is going to rear its head once more, once the political need for it is removed.

So, while I think people are right to react to Hillary that she's politically expedient, and in many ways insincere, I don't see that as necessarily a bad sign. That which she has embraced as politically expedient she can as easily reject when the expediency passes. She can as well be insincere in her seeming adoption of corporate interests as she may be of anything else.

Of course, only Hillary can determine how this all will actually play out.

But I can see a real possibility it will turn out very well.

Call it the Politics of Hope.

Posted by: frankly0 on November 19, 2007 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

frankly0, I would tend to agree with you except Hillary will still need those special interests. She would have to focus on 2010 mid terms and after that 2012 re-election.

Posted by: Chrissy on November 19, 2007 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

In a way, the model of a Hillary Presidency might be something resembling, oddly enough, that of George W Bush himself.

Remember how Bush tried to come across in his campaign as a moderate, as a "compassionate Conservative"? How'd that turn out?

I think that Hillary might manage the same kind of turnabout when she's elected -- except, of course, that she's going to advocate infinitely more sensible policies -- but very much progressive policies.

Posted by: frankly0 on November 19, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Ex-lib: Carter certainly wasn't ambivalent about power. He started campaigning far and wide across Iowa long before anyone else because he wanted to be president badly and knew he had to become known. He willed himself into the race in Iowa. Much of Iowa's importance today comes from the emphasis Carter placed on that state.

It is true that the political role he gave himself-truth teller, born-again Christian populist, etc.-played well for what America wanted after Nixon. But he played the game to win, not for any high-minded ideals.

It's a pity that after you win you have to govern and he was a lot less effective playing that game.

Posted by: howie on November 19, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK


I think you have a point, but I do believe that the things that Hillary would need to do to be re-elected, and to have a good result in the 2010 midterms, changes dramatically in virtue of her being President. She will have a megaphone no one can take away from her. She may have some ongoing need to have some establishment interests on her side, or at least not to antagonize them too much. Yet the entire electoral calculation changes dramatically for any politically effective President.

And I do believe that Hillary will be a politically effective President.

I guess what I'm arguing in general is that I believe that inside of Hillary, in a place now carefully hidden from sight, there still beats strongly a Progressive heart.

And when the day comes that she becomes President, I expect -- or at least suspect -- she will do much that will amaze Democrats and appall Republicans.

Posted by: frankly0 on November 19, 2007 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

The Edwards guy asks: "BTW, who was FDR's opposition among Democrats in his first presidential bid? Was it "nobody" he had to really compete with?"

LOL -- in a word, no.

Al Smith, who had been the Democratic nominee in 1928, had the NY delegation's votes before the Convention. (This would be the equivalent of Kerry or Gore in 2008, only as a favorite son from California.) Newton Baker was another candidate, a former Secretary of War, and he had Ohio: not a small chunk of votes. Harry Byrd, senior, the white supremacist from Virginia had his home state's votes AND could have been very troublesome all across the south on a lot of issues, but in the end FDR outmaneuvered all of 'em: it was Texas' favorite son John Nance Garner, the Speaker of the House, who delivered the nomination to FDR when he gave his votes by endorsing him.

I dunno as I would say starting a nominating convention without the votes of your own state of New York (with the largest delegation), nor those of Texas, Ohio, Virginia, Illinois and Maryland (all of which had favorite sons) is best described as running against "nobody": do you?

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 19, 2007 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Heck, even Lincoln only freed the slaves in the Confederacy.

And he's a hero!

Posted by: david in norcal on November 19, 2007 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Heck, even Lincoln only freed the slaves in the Confederacy.

And he's a hero!

Lincoln was assassinated after John Wilkes Booth heard Lincoln say that he was in favor of giving black men the right to vote, and there isn't a doubt in my mind that Lincoln would have supported and signed the constitutional amendments ending slavery in the U.S.

Posted by: David W. on November 19, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary, the closet progressive/populist? Another great triumph of wishful thinking over evidence. Maybe the Easter Bunny can help you with that.

Hey, if Hillary gets elected at least she'll be Republican-Lite instead of Republican. A toned-down Goldwater girl looking for more bribes (oops, I mean campaign contributions).

Posted by: alex on November 19, 2007 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK


You may be right, of course.

But it didn't take belief in the Easter Bunny to see FDR turn from an apparent wavering, politically calculating candidate into a great President.

I don't see why Hillary wouldn't follow that model.

I suppose if I had to identify why I believe that Hillary might make the same progression as FDR, I'd say it's because I think that she seeks, more than anything else, a legacy. She's had the fame and she's participated in the power, if somewhat indirectly.

Legacy is the next achievement in sequence.

Posted by: frankly0 on November 19, 2007 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

I think Kevin's comments on Hillary are right on target, but I disagree with his suggestion that she'll never end up with her prtrait on the dime. She's certainly a political animal, coached by one of the greatest members of that herd, and she clearly disappoints many of us on the left time and time again with her compromising and centrist positions.

But she is of superior intelligence (maybe the smartest presidential candidate in generations), she has shown herself to be a remarkably capable political operator in the Senate, and she's an intense in-fighter. If, as seems quite possible now, she also ends up with a solid majority in both houses of Congress, she could very well be as effective a chief executive as we've had since Roosevelt. And like him, she will step onto the stage at a time when the nation is in a state of grave crisis, thus providing the opportunity to demonstrate greatness. I think the odds are good that she will meet the challenge.

Posted by: Bob Carmody on November 19, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

It might be good to have a president who has served in the congress. Bill Clinton’s first two years were a bust, largely because he couldn’t figure out how to handle congress. HRC’s 1.5 terms in the Senate sounds a bit thin on the resume, yet it matches the sum of Obama and Edwards. A HRC presidency will certainly have completely different tone from W.’s. Like her or not, she is sharp and engaged, two things rarely associated with W. My own feeling is that Hillary might be more of an upper-midwest progressive than most people realize – hope I’m right.

As for candidates who espouse “new politics”, there are no new politics. Only variations of the old politics executed with varying degrees of skill.

Posted by: fafner1 on November 19, 2007 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK


Regarding HC's progressive heart: Seriously, where the hell are you getting these notions? What are you smoking? What data do you have to support this?

Posted by: Adam on November 19, 2007 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

I strongly disagree that Obama's campaign is, for lack of a better word, this year's Bradley campaign--and I'm not referring to its chances of success. The primary terrain has changed considerably in just eight years, but Obama is not playing the role of the Doomed Yet Noble Proclaimer of Nobler Values that Bradley or the various Bradley-esque candidates of recent cycles have.

Bradley was an elder statesman running, if not a protest campaign, then as the head of an intra-party movement that was more than a little skeptical of the general direction of the Democratic Party. If Gore had stumbled badly out of the gates in 2000, I'm not at all sure Bradley would have gotten the nod. And if he had, he'd have probably lost the general election outright.

Obama is very junior, very likely to get the nomination in the plausible case of a Clinton trainwreck, and running as someone who knows that he's got plenty more elections in him if this one doesn't work out. Bradley knew (better than many of his supporters) that he'd never be President; Obama knows (better than many of his supporters) that he's more likely to be President in 2016 than in 2008 if only because of HRC, and is running a very traditional campaign for just that reason.

Posted by: Matt on November 19, 2007 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK
Do you seriously think that there is any Democrat, aside from non-Democrat Joe Lieberman, whom they won't attack with foaming-at-mouth intensity?

If Holy Joe was a non-Republican nominee for the Presidency with a credible chance of winning, they'd do it to him, too.

Posted by: cmdicely on November 19, 2007 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

I have to disagree with on at least one point. Wouldn't you think that the first woman to become president would deserve a place on American coinage?

Posted by: jhm on November 19, 2007 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

As to Hilary's progressiveness: We have plenty of evidence that she's highly committed to the idea of universal health care. Isn't this a huge difference between her and Republicans? Just to name one. My favorite is Edwards, and the chief reason for that is, "I was wrong about Iraq." But I don't hold the view that HRC would be a disaster or is a Republican in disguise.

What she needs to prove is that she's got the guts for a fight. Unless you are a radical pacifist, you can imagine conditions under which the President will need to send the US military in to wreak havoc. I want to feel that whoever we have as President can do that if necessary, AND that they will also exercise restraint and judgement to forgo it when not necessary, and the skill at negotiation and diplomacy to make it unnecessary.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on November 19, 2007 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you for this ode to good governance! HRC is indeed the best candidate for the job of chief executive.

It's too bad Obama and Edwards are positioning themselves as the anti-establishment candidates. They both have a lot to offer American politics, but their approach lacks the pragmatism necessary to get things done.

Posted by: Mina on November 19, 2007 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

Regardless of what we're saying here, check the latest polls - Obama is up in Iowa. A win there will change the dynamics in NH.

America. Heres' your first Black President.

And Mina, if Hillary gets elected, she will get things done, but the question is for WHOM!? Oil and companies that profit from war, that's who. She's America's Margaret Thatcher. Don't be fooled. ;-)

Posted by: truthmissile on November 19, 2007 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

c'mon, if hill is elected, the dime (or dollar or whatever) is all but inevitable. first woman president, remember?

Posted by: fel on November 19, 2007 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary Clinton = Margaret Thatcher? Sure, and there wasn't a dimes bit of difference between Gore and Bush. Why if Gore had won, Bush would now be geeting ready to pick up his Noble peace prize.

Posted by: fafner1 on November 19, 2007 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

The problem (and this is my problem with Hillary) is that you can never really tell with these people who are great at manipulating the political process just what sorts of ends they are going to use those skills to achieve, because those same skills prevent you from getting much of a read on their intentions or convictions. I knew what Bradley stood for, even though I was pretty sure he wasn't capable of achieving it. Same with Edwards now. I'm sure Clinton has a much better chance of achieving something, but is that something anything that I'd want? I have no idea, and I don't really think any amount of parsing is going to give me a very clear sense of what she might do. It seems to me that on the right the politically skilled are much better at the kind of dog-whistle communication that fills their base in on their real intentions and allegiances while still preserving the illusions necessary to win elections. Of course, it's also clear that on the right many of them at least care somewhat about what their base wants in the first place, which isn't really the case on our side very often.

Was it at least clear to knowledgeable observers with FDR that the waffling and triangulation and manipulation was in service of fairly bedrock liberal goals? I mean, it's obvious that a lot of bullshitting had to go on to talk the country into the New Deal, and I'm grateful that he had and used those abilities to do it. I wouldn't care what the hell Hillary says in public or how she tacks in her campaign if I could be pretty sure she was going to restore a sane foreign policy and be willing to take on corporate interests on a few key issues like health care and energy. But I have no real way to be confident of either of those things.

Posted by: J. Dunn on November 19, 2007 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

If Hillary wins, there is NO QUESTION that she will wind up with her portrait on currency. She'll be the first female president of the US fer chrissakes. They should take Grant off the 50 for her, or put her on a 50-cent piece instead of Eisenhower.

Posted by: brooksfoe on November 19, 2007 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

After the 2000 election while Gore was still President of the Senate and he was welcoming the new members of the Senate, I remember Hillary was a new one and ... their eyes met and she had this glare that just screamed, well...something like "Idiot!". I think it had something to do with Gore's refusal to let Bill help him out during the campaign. Something about Bill's impeachment being a worry... Anyhow, there's something about that glare that said a lot.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on November 19, 2007 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK


Did you just do a 180 on HRC? I have a vague memory of debating you on the subject a couple of weeks ago.

I'm still making up my mind about her, but I'm determined to do it based on evidence, not prejudice, and not on the same bullshit fears and cynical dismissals that were voiced about Gore in 2000. Two things that are irking me about the way that HRC is discussed:
1. Why is it "consensus building" when Obama does it, but "triangulating" when Clinton does it?
2. Why is the term "dynasty" applied to her the same way it's being applied to Bush? She is a Rodham, and her relationship to the previous Clinton administration is more like that of a vice-president to a president than a son to a father. She is her own person, with political alliances and experiences more similar to Gore than to Chelsea. Remember also that Kevin Philips, who is I believe the one to make the dynasty meme mainstream, is a conservative and no friend to the Clintons.

This is the first time we've had to assess a candidate with her particular set of circumstances, but we should be able to rise to the challenge without turning into panicked sheep repeating somebody else's talking points.

Posted by: Jess on November 19, 2007 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

I realize Kevin is a partisan democrate liberal, and I respect his honesty, but he takes to dreaming at times in a manner detached from reality.

Here he says, in projecting FDR into Hillary:

"Like FDR she has a good idea of where she wants to go, even if she doesn't know every step of the way there. She understands politics, she understands what's possible, she's become a shrewd calculator of the odds, and she understands her enemies."

What is the factual basis for any of this? Hillary is a one term senator from New York who, other than being elected senator and helping her cheating husband attain and maintain power, has accomplished very little politically. I don't think she is the next FDR.

Posted by: brian on November 19, 2007 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: phil schinke on November 20, 2007 at 6:10 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, I think we have a pretty good idea where Senator Clinton would like to take the country: universal health insurance; a sensible family unity, legal workers and tough enforcement immigration policy; a foreign policy that's neither weak nor crazy -- not so bad for a year out in a Presidential campaign.

And keep Grant and Ike -- take Jackson off the 20.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 20, 2007 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK



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