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Tilting at Windmills

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January 31, 2008

AN 'UNEXAMINED' DYNASTY?.... The NYT's Nicholas Kristof, who usually doesn't write too much about domestic politics, today tackles the question of family dynasties and the White House.

In a presidential campaign that has involved battles over everything from Iraq to driver's licenses, one sweeping topic has gone curiously unexamined: Does it diminish American democracy if we keep the presidency in the same two families that have held it since 1989?

If Hillary Rodham Clinton serves two terms, then for 28 years the presidency will have been held by a Bush or a Clinton. By that point, about 40 percent of Americans would have lived their entire lives under a president from one of these two families.

Wouldn't that make our democracy seem a little, er, Pakistani?

People can certainly draw their own conclusions about the two-family phenomenon -- I've heard Clinton respond to questions about it many times -- but how on earth is this a "curiously unexamined" question? The NYT itself has written about this many times.

In fact, I checked Google for the words "Clinton dynasty" and found over 400,000 results.

I get the sense Kristof is bursting through an open door on this one.

Steve Benen 12:08 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (104)

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Dynasties generally last through generations like the Kennedy's and Bush's. Spouses limited to a couple of terms, not so much.

Posted by: Mike on January 31, 2008 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

You have to understand MSM-speak.

If something hasn't caught on to the point that it isn't front page news for weeks, then it is "curiously unexamined".

Posted by: Quinn on January 31, 2008 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Simple answers to simple questions:
A little like Pakistan?
No.

Posted by: NHCt on January 31, 2008 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

I wished that the constitution would never have been changed to limit the presidency to two terms. That way Bill could have just run another time or two instead of a surrogate.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on January 31, 2008 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

I agree, Doc, though Clinton would have a tough time beating Zombie Reagan.

Posted by: Boronx on January 31, 2008 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Steve,

I think you are running into a bit of conservo-speak, which has become all too mainstream, here too. When Kristof says 'unexamined' he means that you haven't yet come to the right conclusion. Clearly, lots of people think having Hillary as president would be fine. By most polls close to half the electorate is OK with this. Therefore, these people have not really examined the question, because they have not come to the conclusion that she is unacceptable as president. See how it works. Similarly, you have never addressed, or argued against, any conservative point until to accept that the point is correct. It's a neat system.

Posted by: MSR on January 31, 2008 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

I can't now recall whether we heard such dire warnings about RFK, or even about Teddy when he was running. Of course, JFK didn't even finish out one term.

It just seems to me that the Bush/Clinton "dynasty" thing is more of an accident of history than anything else. If we were to decide there's something inherently unhealthy about family members occupying the White House, we ought to amend the Constitution to prohibit it. We shouldn't be using it as a weapon against an otherwise fully qualified candidate.

Posted by: Swift Loris on January 31, 2008 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

I am really sick of this theme. Remember when Bush was running and it was considered a plus for him that his Daddy was a former president? The idea was that Bush 1 had foriegn policy experience and would keep George out of trouble. We heard this from all the pundits as an excuse for why people shouldn't worry that GWB couldn't tell his ass from a hole in the ground.

Posted by: Teresa on January 31, 2008 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Kristof does that all the time. I can't count all the times he's belabored the obvious in his columns. He always seems to be a step behind what everyone else is saying.

Posted by: tc on January 31, 2008 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Boronx, good point. But, I think that Ronnie and his doctors knew about his Alzheimer's by the end of his 2nd term, no? He might have chose not to run. Oh well, this is just like "What If?" on SNL :-)

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on January 31, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

The only thing curious is the amount of concern being expressed about this now in the media by people who were curiously unconcerned eight years ago about the presidency becoming a dynasty. But it's not that curious to see a bunch of hacks seizing an argument against a candidate they disapprove of when they would never acknowledge the argument against one they favor.

Posted by: me on January 31, 2008 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Chelsea Clinton will never run for president.

Posted by: Brojo on January 31, 2008 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

It's not spoken about in really significant ways, Steve, so I agree with Kristoff. Look at the dynasties that our ruling our presidency Bush and Clinton. Obama is seeking the endorsement and the mantle of another dynasty -- the Kennedys. Even everyone's perennial favorite in the blogosphere, Al Gore was inheriting his father's Senate seat.

In a country of 300 million people and now full enfranchisement (unlike say the era of the Adams or even the Roosevelts) why do we tend to these ruling families on both sides of the political aisle.

Part of the political condition of all humanity. Which is why we need limited government.

Posted by: Me2d on January 31, 2008 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

You omit the best part--where, after having worked himself up into an anxious lather about the terrible spectre of aristocracy that is casting a shadow o'er our Republic, he concludes that it's, eh, not REALLY important enough to change a vote over--just something to think about.

Still, it's a welcome change from the Kristof who puts on his pith helmet to rescue the savages from themselves (and then writes forever about the experience), and who holds contests for the privilege of being the next grad student to bear his standard as he ventures into the benighted places of the world.

Posted by: Matt on January 31, 2008 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Don't cry for me America
I never told you
I wouldn't bomb Iran
Just like we did Saddam
That's the way I voted
So be devoted

-- Evita Clinton, 2009

Posted by: Traven on January 31, 2008 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

I think looking at the problem in terms of dynasties misses a fundamental aspect. It reminds me of Broadway plays. They've become so expensive to produce that the risks of not getting the huge monetary returns necessary to make a profit means that only well tested plays (London hits) or revivals are attempted.

So it goes with presidential politics. Bush I won on the basis of his being Vice President under Saint Reagan and promising to "stay the course," literally, in mantra campaign manner. With politicians so dependent on big money interests to provide a viable campaign, those interests are much more willing to risk those funds are tried and tested storylines. I think that's a big part of Obama's "post-partisan" Republican mantra. He'll "stay the course" guided by the "light" of a "thousand points."
He admires Reagan, wants Republicans in his cabinet and likes Schwarzenegger on the environment. So as much as he tries to suggest he's some sort of new wave he's also making every effort to assure monied interests that the government gravy train won't go populist and pass them by.

It's the best democracy money can buy.

Posted by: Amos Anan on January 31, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "I get the sense Kristof is bursting through an open door on this one."

I get the sense that if Jeb Bush were running for the Republican nomination, Kristof would be writing columns ridiculing anyone who thought there was a problem with political dynasties.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 31, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo,
But Jeb will.

Posted by: CTF on January 31, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

I just have a feeling this issue WON'T come up when Jeb Bush runs for President in 2012

Posted by: smartone on January 31, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Amos, that's the dumbest thing I ever heard.

Posted by: Slipsok on January 31, 2008 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Well, this one has me scratching my head and wondering what it is all about. Usually, I just regale people with the facts and they abuse me. Instead, let me share with you my life experience so that your time is well spent becoming enriched by what I tell you is true. You're welcome.

The fact of the matter is, the Clintons are too poor and shabby to be considered any kind of a "dynasty." They are new money, if they have any money at all, and they come from inferior breeding stock. Really, the boy from hillbilly Arkansas, the patriarch of a dynasty? Don't make me cringe.

These people do not travel in social circles, they travel in political circles. No one visits their home for any other reason than the political gain of the Clinton family. They are desperate for a legitimacy they will never attain.

Furthermore, they do not have enough children to constitute a dynasty. I have three sons and a daughter, and that's pushing it. (One of my sons is serving eight consecutive life sentences in the SuperMax prison so he doesn't count towards the establishment of my dynasty.)

So, no, Mr. Benen. You do not make the case. Investigate further what a dynasty is, and then perhaps we'll converse further.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 31, 2008 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Amos Anan wrote that Obama "admires Reagan, wants Republicans in his cabinet and likes Schwarzenegger on the environment."

I despise Reagan, and would be happy to see the Republican Party outlawed as an organized crime outfit masquerading as a political party, but I have to say that Schwarzenegger has in fact been very good on environmental, energy and climate issues.

In fact the government of California is as much a leader on climate change as any government in the world, and Schwarzenegger has been an outspoken critic of the Cheney/Bush administration's policies. And of course California is now suing the Federal government to establish the state's right to regulate CO2 emissions -- regulations which other states will also adopt.

There is no doubt much to dislike about Schwarzenegger but as far as US politicians go, he is about as good as it gets on the climate change issue.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 31, 2008 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

This is only an issue now because a Clinton might win. If Jeb Bush were running, curiously this whole line of argument would never have occurred to Kristof or any other conservatarian.

Posted by: craigie on January 31, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

It's a political dynasty, Rogers. Not one of wealth or aristocratic titles.

Shouldn't you be back on your medication, anyway.

Posted by: DJ on January 31, 2008 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

There is no doubt much to dislike about Schwarzenegger but as far as US politicians go, he is about as good as it gets on the climate change issue.

So the vaunted Sec Anim praises the Republican Governor of California, eh? Well, sir, I will have you know that your praise is noted--

--for you have just praised a Nazi!

Gotcha!

PROOF: http://www.infowars.com/print/nwo/shwartz_section.htm

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 31, 2008 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Exactly, Mike. Comparing the Bush's numerous generations of power and control over the military-industrial-intelligence-financial complex to the Clintons is comparing apples to oranges. Generations of Prescotts and Bushes have expanded the reach of dynastic entitlement. This is a far cry from the story of two people who rose up from the lower middle class to astonishing heights in the meritocracy. This whole dynasty thing makes me cross.

Posted by: Sharon on January 31, 2008 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Gotta laugh at the Schwarzenegger environment praise, especially considering that he became governor of California by teaming up with the "fuck gramma Millie" crowd. California gramma Millies, that is.

Posted by: Amos Anan on January 31, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Another point on this: how are we ever going to have a woman President if we rule out women who came to prominence through their husbands? The great majority of women who have risen to power since the mid-20th century have at least partially ridden on the coattails of their husbands (Margaret Thatcher, Corazon Aquino, Isabel Peron) or their fathers (Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto). It’s nice when the ladies make it on their own (Golda Meir and Angela Merkel spring to mind), but it’s the exception, not the rule, and probably will remain so for some time to come.

Posted by: Virginia on January 31, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, I'll bet Hillary now regrets her decision not to keep her maiden name. If she were running as Hillary Rodham, she'd probably be a shoe in.

Posted by: Virginia on January 31, 2008 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

But it's not that curious to see a bunch of hacks seizing an argument against a candidate they disapprove of when they would never acknowledge the argument against one they favor.

Exactly, and now they're all for bipartisanship too. Puh-leeze!

Posted by: Sharon on January 31, 2008 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Instead of exposing himself as an Obama supporter, I think he should just let the American people decide. That's all the consideration I give to his comment.

Posted by: fillphil on January 31, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Gotta laugh at the Schwarzenegger environment praise

Riotous laughter here, what with another liberal professing to praise a known Nazi. I mean, really. My comments just write themselves when you people embarrass yourselves like this.

The great majority of women who have risen to power since the mid-20th century have at least partially ridden on the coattails of their husbands

This is essentially true, but it is more pervasive than you think. The fact of the matter is, a woman cannot rise to prominence without the complicity of a husband who may or may not actually be scheming to use her as a way of gaining power for himself that he might otherwise not attain on his own.

Weak men engage in this type of activity. Strong men do not. My own wife tried to run for city council some years back. I spiked her plans by divorcing her, and making the divorce proceedings public. Once the voters were able to see that she was buying shoes and hats from liquidator outlet stores instead of actual department stores, the content of her character was thusly known and her ambitions were flushed down the toilet like so many diet pills. The down side of it was, I ended up with sole custody of the children in some sort of reverse prank played on me by a vengeful God.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 31, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

The Clinton family has no chance of becoming a dynasty, even if Hillary becomes president. The best way to prevent the continuance of the Bush dynasty is to try and imprison the president for crimes against humanity.

Thank no god the Blackandnegger cannot become president. He is a true dynast, having arranged a sham marriage with a Kennedy, another crime family that has created a political dynasty.

Posted by: Brojo on January 31, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

The fact of the matter is, the Clintons are too poor and shabby to be considered any kind of a "dynasty." They are new money, if they have any money at all, and they come from inferior breeding stock. Really, the boy from hillbilly Arkansas, the patriarch of a dynasty? Don't make me cringe.

Norman Rogers, perfect! Beautiful! Wish I'd said it.

Posted by: Sharon on January 31, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

If she were running as Hillary Rodham...

Virginia, I *really* wished that was the case. But Bill has been making a lot of bad noise lately, and he certainly isn't helping to erase the perception that HE's running for president just as much as Hillary. I wished he would take an extended vacation to another continent for a few months and let Hillary and her campaign team work on their own.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on January 31, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

I agree, Doc, though Clinton would have a tough time beating Zombie Reagan.

Forget that, we'd be on the 15th term of Zombie Eisenhower by now.

Posted by: stuck in 200 on January 31, 2008 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Thank no god the Blackandnegger cannot become president. He is a true dynast, having arranged a sham marriage with a Kennedy, another crime family that has created a political dynasty.

Was that a racist reference to his name? My goodness, you liberals are rascally today. One of you praises the Nazi, the other makes the pieces of his name look decidedly racist. Then, a mostly correct assessment of the liquor smuggling Kennedy family.

Today is a day of atonement for some of you, apparently.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 31, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Norman,
Ground Hog day isn't until Saturday. Get back in your hole.

Posted by: optical weenie on January 31, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

If you want to make comparisons to Pakistan, the right question would be more about authoritarianism than about dynastic rule.

Posted by: gregor on January 31, 2008 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Nicholas Kristof discussing political dynasties reminds me of Michael Mukasey testifying on whether waterboarding is torture: "It would be, if it wasn't a Kennedy!"

Posted by: jcb on January 31, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

The "dynasty" situation in question would be rather more like the Beverly Hillbillies vs. Green Acres than York vs. Lancaster.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on January 31, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

The "dynasty" charge is inappropriate when it comes to the Clintons. Both Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton are new-money "rich" people, who came into their menas by getting into the professions (law), just like millions of middle- and working-class Americans, including many modest immigrants, do every single year. They got political success because they were very intelligent, motivated people who got interested in politics. For sure, no rich uncle or grand-dad was there to bail Bill Clinton's butt out with a pile of money if Bill somehow went and screwed his life up (the same goes for Hillary).

They are not part of a generations-old, extended-family political machine that has had a "lock" so-to-speak, on the levers of power in any particular place for years. They have not turned over power to cousins and cronies.

The Clintons happen to be a talented family that has a couple in it that are both talented in and interested in politics. They are no more a dynasty than if a talented woman athlete and a talented male athlete, both the first major athletes in there families, would become a sports dynasty if they married. On the contrary, they're just a couple. If the people like them or if they are successful, you can't chalk it up to corruption. The Clintons are hardly an entrenched power taken the choices out of the peoples' hands. They do well because they delivered an effective product.

If anyone wants to look for someone using money to create an illusion, they should look to the Bush family or Mitt Romney or John McCain. There's your illusion.

Posted by: Swan on January 31, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe I haven't been following PA long enough to know who Norman Rogers really is. I read him as I would read Johnathan Swift. I thought his "new money" riff was right on. Remember how the Sally Quinn Society sniffed about the Clintons not being "one of us"?

Posted by: Sharon on January 31, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

who came into their menas by getting into the professions (law),

Should have been: who came into their means by getting into the professions (law),

Posted by: Swan on January 31, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Macain/Jeb Bush 2008? Romney/Jeb Bush 2008?

Posted by: R.L. on January 31, 2008 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

If anyone wants to look for someone using money to create an illusion, they should look to the Bush family or Mitt Romney or John McCain. There's your illusion.

You said it so well, Swan. Thanks.

Posted by: Sharon on January 31, 2008 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry for all the typos- like 10 comments appeared above me while I was writing my comment- so you can see why I hurry.

Anyway, the illusion that people like Kristof and the media try to create that the Clintons are a dynasty should be a lot more worrisome than any argument that they are a dynasty. Why does the media keep pressing this empty, non-issue? That's what you should be concerned about. Media figures who write about stuff like that should be out of a job for trying to use total BS to persuade people.

Posted by: Swan on January 31, 2008 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Ground Hog day isn't until Saturday.

Interesting that you would mention Groundhog Day. I'm living a version of it right now. Every day, the same liberals with the same insane ideas say the same things over and over again.

At least I'm intersting. What's your excuse, sir? The vending machine at your dorm wouldn't dispense enough dope to make you warm, giggly and sedated? "The Man" took away your snowboard and now all you have to do with yourself is comment about things that are my stock and trade?

The Clintons are too shabby to be a dynasty. There, I said it. Print it. It's a universal truth.

I thought his "new money" riff was right on. Remember how the Sally Quinn Society sniffed about the Clintons not being "one of us"?

Uh, no. You're confusing satire and something else entirely, which is me being allowed to tell you what a real conservative thinks, thanks to moderation and my longtime friendship with Charles Peters, but at least you get that I am telling the truth.

The age of the money from whence you came matters. Believe it or not, because my Irish immigrant Father did not start making serious money until the 1920s, I am considered "new money" by a lot of the people I socialize with in the New York area. Pre-Rockefeller families are the old money, people like me that postdate Rockefeller, Hearst, Carnegie and Andrew Mellon are "new money."

That's how that works. Surprised that I had to explain that. Don't any of you know anything?

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 31, 2008 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Don't apologize, Swan. Your post was intelligent and well-reasoned. We all make typos. It's part of the process. We understood you perfectly.

Posted by: Sharon on January 31, 2008 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

It's even worse than just Bush / Clinton / Clinton / Bush / Bush / Clinton / Clinton.

Remember that Dubya's father George H.W. Bush served 2 terms as Reagan's VP, so the string actually begins in 1980. If Hilary were to serve 2 terms, that would make for a total of 36 consecutive years that we'll have had either a Bush or a Clinton in the White House. Thus, the sequence:

Bush / Bush / Bush / Clinton / Clinton / Bush / Bush / Clinton / Clinton

Some Fricking Democracy !

Posted by: cousin vinnie on January 31, 2008 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

I have never seen any evidence that the Clintons intend to build a dynasty. The don't seem to be grooming Chelsea for politics so we will have one generation. Some dynasty.
The same cannot be said of the Bushes. First, GHW's father Prescott was a very powerful Senator, so we are now on the third generation. The Bushs clearly are trying to establish a dynasty. Two sons as governors, with the family obviously positioning Jeb to be president. Jeb's loss the first time he ran for governor screwed up their plan but they had no problem backing their black sheep as a substitute. They knew he was not qualified, but that did not stop them. They place the welfare of their family over the country. Now they are clearly preparing Jeb's son George Prescott Bush to be the fourth generation. Handily, he has the name from all three previous generations, Prescott and George. That is a serious dynasty. Let's hope the country will be so fed up by W's disastrous reigh that they will finally put an end to the nonsense. Check out "American Dynasty" by Kevin Phillips to learn more about the Bush family's ambitions.

That being said, I think that the dynasty people really need to beware of is Reagan's. Even though W is a Bush, he is more rightly the ideological heir of Reagan, which matters more than blood. He clearly rejected his father's politics and implemented Reagan's with a vengeance. Our destroyed economy is testatment to that. Republicans are still worshipping at the feet of Reagan which is why, I think, people were so angry about Obama's praise for him. A lot of us realize that now is the time to drive a stake through Reagan's crackpot supply-side, free market fundmentalism. It has failed twice, ballooning our deficits and increasing poverty, first in the 80's and again with this administration. It is time to make it clear to the public that these policies are a sham. A good place to start would be with debunking the "Tax Fairy Tale" told by guys like McCain and Guiliani. Tax cuts never pay for themselves. Time to get the word out.

Posted by: BernieO on January 31, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Doc - Reagan definitely wanted to run again. He even complained about how unfair it was that the constitution wouldn't let him run again. The loonier he got, the harder it would have been to get him out of there.

Posted by: fafner1 on January 31, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of dynasties...how about _the_ Democratic dynasty of the past century and its over-hyped influence in the primary campaigns:
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/01/media_swallows_kennedys_arroga.html

Posted by: Dale on January 31, 2008 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Gotta judge them as individuals.

George H.W. Bush is to George W. Bush as
Saddam is to Uday and Qusay. We guessed wrong.

What would a Kennedy dynasty have been like? Bobby with his Bugs Bunny smile would probably have inspired us to eat carrots and say "Cuber." Altogether family rule might have been like Henry VII, but with mysterious suicides of beautiful movie stars and accidental drownings.

Posted by: Luther on January 31, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

What is 'unexamined' is the reason people count the years as if they were all one family. I know Bill and GHWB have worked together for charities as ex-presidents, but the Bushes and Clintons are two families who have only ex-presidencies in common. Why are we tarring Hillary with the 12 years of Bush rule?

Posted by: Dawn on January 31, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Are the Clintons a dynasty? No.

Are the Bushes a dynasty? Yes.

Even our conservative friend, Norman Rogers, sees that. And he's right.

Now, if we get onto the monotony of Bush Bush Bush Clinton Clinton Bush Bush, that's an argument. A stupid one, but an argument.

Posted by: Sharon on January 31, 2008 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

It might seem to be out of the blue that I brought Obama into the discussion on dynastic presidential politics, but Benen asked how it was that Kristof suddenly realized that America didn't have much variation in blood lines in its presidents the last couple of decades. Maybe Kristof is a Republican and likes the idea of McCain or Romney or one of the other caricatures the Republicans are pushing. Looking at the Democrat side though Kristof's piece is a definite negative in terms of Clinton. That leaves Obama.

Wait a minute. That wasn't true just a few days ago. It would have left Obama and Edwards, the only real populist of the three. That's what's changed and Kristof has timed this concern about dynasty just after Edwards drops out, mainly due to lack of corporate press coverage (other than about the $400 haircut) and lack of big money funding.

Kristof's "we've got a dynasty problem" light bulb went on just when Edwards' light for average Americans went out.

Posted by: Amos Anan on January 31, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

That being said, I think that the dynasty people really need to beware of is Reagan's. Even though W is a Bush, he is more rightly the ideological heir of Reagan, which matters more than blood.

No, he is not, and I damn you for suggesting it. None of these Bush people get to have the mantle of Reagan. Real conservatives look at how Bush exploded the size of the Federal government and lament what could have been. Had Bush been a true conservative, there would be no more Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security would be privatized and in the hands of Hedge Fund managers. We'd have gas at .89 cents on the gallon and Detroit making a Humvee for every family in the country at $18K a pop.

We, and I am using the royal "we," hold Reagan up as the equal of Lincoln and Washington, sir. I'm afraid those are lofty heights to contemplate, but there it is. I don't speak to my children of what it was like to come of age in the 1950s and early 1960s as I did, when the name of Herbert Hoover, who was still alive, was a curse on the lips of us all. I know my father wanted to physically assault Hoover at one point, or at least throw a drink in his face. He had to settle for telling Lou Hoover that her greatest work of charity was not strangling Herbert in his sleep.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 31, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm...since this entire thread seems to be Clinton supporters arguing that dynastic concerns are a media-created chimera ---

I'm for Obama. I'm under 30. One of the reasons I'm for him is that I am disquieted at the thought of the presidency remaining in the hands of the same two families who've had it for most of my life.

I know this is something that bugs my mother, also. Of course, despite being a pretty thoroughgoing Democrat, she has a self-acknowledged antipathy to Hilary Clinton. And that I think may be the rub --- people who like Hilary don't see they "dynasty problem" as a concern. To people who are indifferent to her, or inclined to dislike her, it does raise some hackles. Particularly, I think, to those of us who were in grade school when Bush père was elected.

Posted by: Diablevert on January 31, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

I have no problem losing the inaccurate use of the word "dynasty" to refer to a husband and wife.

Doesn't change the fact that there are legitimate reasons to dislike the idea of one spouse following another into the presidency, though.

Posted by: shortstop on January 31, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Virginia: The great majority of women who have risen to power since the mid-20th century have at least partially ridden on the coattails of their husbands (Margaret Thatcher, Corazon Aquino, Isabel Peron) or their fathers (Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto).

I see this phrase cut and pasted all over the toobs, and I agree with it in principle; this happens to be where we are in the process of women becoming independent political actors. In the future, there will be a lot more Meirs and Merkels than Clintons and Bhuttos.

However, I don't understand why Thatcher is always included in this list. Denis Thatcher was a businessman with no political involvement whatsoever, if I'm not mistaken. I don't think he was an MP or anything else. Y'all please correct me if I'm wrong.

Posted by: shortstop on January 31, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

In a looser, "only-kidding," or metaphoric sense of the word, the Clintons might be a dynasty- but only like a teacher could "correctly" call your family a "dynasty" at the schoold you attend just because she had your two older siblings as students, too.

In the proper, dictionary-definition of the word (and in the broader, cultural use of the word- the meanings it connotes from how it's been used in the past), the Clintons are not at all a political dynasty.

That's why it's totally misleading to call them a dynasty, even though you might use the word informally just to dramatize the fact that they've successfully won a few terms in office between two people. Most likely only a person who didn't really know English that well, like someone who's parents grew up in a foreign country where English isn't the main language, would think it's not inaccurate to call the Clintons a dynasty.

Posted by: Hagar on January 31, 2008 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

The dynasty stuff is lazy journalism. It is nearly as tired as the baby boomer story. Historians will certainly note how US politics became a career machine for a select group of professional families at the end of the 20th century as multiple generations became politicians, lobbyists, consultants, and think tank scholars or, more lucratively, revolving-door contractors. There have always been political families and Washington has always been a lucrative place but now we have a professional class associated with the large post-New Deal state where business and government have become quite seamless-just like the last Gilded Age. We can all them the New Class. This fits nicely with the decline of the broad middle class as a politically potent group.

Posted by: bellumregio on January 31, 2008 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Norman Rogers wrote: "Interesting that you would mention Groundhog Day. I'm living a version of it right now."

I hope that means you saw your shadow and are going to crawl back into your hole and stay there for six weeks.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 31, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

We, and I am using the royal "we,"

Norman, this could have been written by one of New Orleans' shabby chic haute société queens. Your writing is wonderful.

Posted by: Sharon on January 31, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Calling the Clintons a dynasty is about as spot-on as calling Barack Obama a crook because he's black or because of the flimsy Rezko connection.

Posted by: Hagar on January 31, 2008 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think he was an MP or anything else. Y'all please correct me if I'm wrong.

Why, don't mind if I do!

Denis Thatcher was a businessman. That means something in this world. Politicians come and go, but a quiet man who engages in business is something rare and important.

Thatcher financed his wife's training as a barrister and a home in Chelsea; he also bought a large house in Lamberhurst, Kent in 1965. His firm employed 200 people by 1957, but he sold it to Castrol on 26 August 1965 after suffering a mild breakdown in 1964. He received a seat on Castrol's parent board, which he maintained when Burmah took it over in 1966. He retired from Burmah Oil in June 1975, four months after his wife won the Conservative Party leadership.

He served on the board of Castrol and was held over by the Burmah Oil people, and I remember them--they were a ruthless outfit. Father did business with them and he said that they would cut the heart out of a man just to see if he had a dime behind it. Pretty heady stuff. Pretty heady stuff, indeed.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 31, 2008 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

I have no problem losing the inaccurate use of the word "dynasty" to refer to a husband and wife.

Doesn't change the fact that there are legitimate reasons to dislike the idea of one spouse following another into the presidency, though.

Very well put.

Posted by: Sharon on January 31, 2008 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't put the issue in terms of dynasticism per se but it's a clear case of nepotism. And as far as I am concerned, the more it comes up the better. Obviously, I feel the same way about Bush, also clearly (even more clearly) a case of nepotism if there ever were one. But I don't like it from any direction. I had almost gotten over this, by the way, in the early primaries, until Bill so blatantly tried to put his thumb on the scale in SC. He wants a do over vicariously through his wife. In some ways it's even worse than intergenerational issues, because the presidential spouse lives in the White House and has a semi-official position.

Posted by: Barbara on January 31, 2008 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Who went and told Kristof that Hillary is running for President?

Posted by: reino on January 31, 2008 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Bill and Hillary Clinton aren't a dynasty; they're a political machine. I find dynasties somewhat disturbing, but at least subsequent generations have to develop their own networks of donors & policy types as the older generations die off, retire, or change allegiance. And there are certainly plenty of non-political examples of multiple generations being in the same line of work, whether firefighters, restauranteurs, or academics. A political operation that simply shifts from one spouse to the other is a bit more troubling, IMO, because it is more about consolidating power than distributing it.

Posted by: latts on January 31, 2008 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

I hope that means you saw your shadow and are going to crawl back into your hole and stay there for six weeks.

damn, secularanimist, and you were so funny yesterday. We all thought you'd taken me out of your ass.

Posted by: big stick on January 31, 2008 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

I hope that means you saw your shadow and are going to crawl back into your hole and stay there for six weeks.

I just might do that, and when I emerge from that hole, I can assure you, sir--I will condemn your praise of the noted Nazi sympathizer Arnold Schwarzeneggar even more stridently than before.

Really, would you kiss a Nazi on the lips if he promised to solve global climate change?

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 31, 2008 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't put the issue in terms of dynasticism per se but it's a clear case of nepotism.

Wow! Why has it taken so long to find the right word? Nepotism is indeed one sweeping topic that has gone curiously unexamined.

Posted by: Sharon on January 31, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Norman this is interesting history, but Shortstop is still right and Virginia is still wrong.

If you go back to Virginia's two categories, which would be

(1) "women who have ... at least partially ridden on the coattails of their husbands ... or their fathers"

(2) women who "make it on their own"

Then it's uncontroversial to put Corazon Aquino, Isabel Peron, Indira Gandhi, and Benazir Bhutto into (1). Virginia puts Golda Meir and Angela Merkel into (2).

There's no question that Margaret Thatcher belongs with that second group.

The phrases "came to prominence" and "coattails" refer to the ability of someone to get you into the public eye, in this case a family connection to a powerful, popular politician. Denis Thatcher does not belong in the company of Benigno Aquino, Juan Peron, Jawaharlal Nehru, or Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Bill Clinton does.

Posted by: Colin on January 31, 2008 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Norman,

Gimme a break. Reagan broke the record for the national debt. He drove us deeper into debt than any previous President (he has now been superceded by GW Bush.)

Reagan made a mess in Nicaragua, and his crony appointments to important positions (James Watt, Anne Gorsuch, Eliot Abrams) were a disgrace to the USA. And on and on....

The conservative push to deify Reagan has always been a source of amusement for me. Reagan got lucky when the Soviet Union went belly-up on his watch after decades of corruption and inefficiency, but he does deserve credit for somehow bringing about the ruination of the Soviets. They did that to themselves.

Reagan was a godawful President. I actually think Nixon was better.

Posted by: cajun on January 31, 2008 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Nepotism is indeed one sweeping topic that has gone curiously unexamined.

That's because it is irrelevant, bonehead. No one "gave" them their jobs. They were elected by voters to their jobs.

It is Nepotism to give your wife's sister's idiot kid a job well above his skill level so he can make money to buy a convertible that he promptly drives off of a bridge in Providence, Rhode Island in a fit of drunken rage because someone throws a soda pop can in his lap.

It is not Nepotism for someone to be elected to office. It's the will of a simplistic, childishly misguided electorate, to put not too fine a point on it.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 31, 2008 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Denis Thatcher does not belong in the company of Benigno Aquino, Juan Peron, Jawaharlal Nehru, or Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Oh, he most certainly does! After all, how many times did the Irish Republican Army try to kidnap or assassinate him?

Got you there, didn't I?

Reagan got lucky when the Soviet Union went belly-up on his watch

Could you be more ignorant? The Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 31, 2008 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

but cajun, reagan was affable!

Posted by: mudwall jackson on January 31, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

"I get the sense Kristof is bursting through an open door on this one."

That's Kristof. He did a lot of reporting on abuse of women in third world countries- a commendable effort; but he presented it as if he were the first to tackle a subject that had never been written about. Aptly put..."bursting through an open door."

Posted by: myrna on January 31, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK
The Clintons happen to be a talented family.... Swan at 1:05 PM
Well, a talented couple that were united by their interest in politics back in the day. To judge by appearances, she is the smarter. As for multi-generational lineages, the Bushes are one of the better arguments for a really high percentage estate tax, that and the generally uselessness of trust fund babies. As for worries about Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton/Bush, stop voting for those damn Bushes people. Not one of them is worth a crap.
....flimsy Rezko connection. Hagar at 1:37 PM
That's a really lame analogy and the connection was far from 'flimsy' Posted by: Mike on January 31, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think I would use the word "dynasty," but the thought that Bush the first was elected when I was 13 and I am now 33 and might be looking at a total of 28 years under presidents of two names does bother me. It kind of suprises me that it doesn't bother more people. Maybe it's not completely fair to Hillary Clinton that I hold her husband's two terms as a negative for her, but it's a valid concern.

I don't know that this is the main reason that I preferred Edwards (and now Obama) to Clinton, but it certainly weighs in. I would have to feel that she would be a significantly better president than Obama to support her, and I don't.

Sometimes, change for the sake of change is good.

Posted by: Topher on January 31, 2008 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Why is there such horror over a "Clinton dynasty"?

2008 will be the first time in 32 YEARS(!) that there will be no one named Bush or Dole on the Republican ticket, yet no one said "boo" about it in 2000.

Posted by: Ralph Kramden on January 31, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Sometimes, change for the sake of change is good.

You might have a point there, were it not for the reality that Obama will likely be no better of a President than Jimmy Carter.

St. Obama and St. Jimmy are pure of heart and good of intention, but you have to have a cruel heart and balls of titanium to deal with this world of ours. Good intentions can only take you so far.

Better to choose the most vicious bastard alive than swallow four years of pleading speeches and inactivity in the face of our enemies.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 31, 2008 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

As for worries about Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton/Bush, stop voting for those damn Bushes people.

I call bullpucky, sir! Bullpucky! Not a single Bush is running for national office at this moment, despite my increasingly frenzied calls to Florida to try to light a fire under the indisputably low-energy Jeb.

No, if voters really want to increase the cost to the American taxpayer of producing personal stationery and linens with different monograms--you didn't think presidents are dumb enough to pay for those themselves, did you?--they are going to have to refuse to vote for Mrs. Bill Clinton. Since I have no problem with dynasties even if the Clintons had enough of what I believe my pool man calls "dinero" to be one, I will be voting for that not wholly intractable lady. Over John McCain. Who is no conservative, in case I forgot to mention it.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 31, 2008 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Norman, you're brilliant. Never, ever leave.

One question though, did those Burmah oil execs find their dime?

Posted by: heedless on January 31, 2008 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

A very poor man and a working-class woman who get into college, work very hard, go to law school, and then get into politics and win a couple of offices isn't a dynasty- even if the woman occupies one of the offices 16 years after the man leaves is.

The Kennedys are a dynasty. That family that ran Chicago for years, the Daleys, are a dynasty. Of course Ghenghis Khan and his ancestors, and similar, ancient, monarchical rulers ruled in dynasties. Bush's family is definitely a big-money/big-business dynasty, and maybe they're sort of a political dynasty, too, although they've held offices in pretty far-flung places to call them a dynasty. Nonetheless, it's fair to call them powerful.

People who point to Bill or Hill being the 11th cousin to the Queen of England or whatever are just blowing hot air. Probably hakf the guys in the south, including the African Americans and Native Americans, are 11th cousins to the Queen of England. I'm probably separated from Kevin Bacon by 7 degrees of acquaintances-- the guy sure doesn't know me, though.

Posted by: Hagar on January 31, 2008 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

JUST SAY NO TO EVITA.

Posted by: Grepman on January 31, 2008 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe we need a new term, however, to say that there is no nepotism because a person was elected is pretty nitpicking. How do you think HRC would have raised all that money if Bill Clinton hadn't been pushing donors to support his wife? It's not the election; that's like looking outside at midnight and calling the whole day dark, when you know the day has 24 hours -- it's being able to maintain a credible candidacy that requires all of the support.

Posted by: Barbara on January 31, 2008 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Take heed, Kevin.

Kristof is what you don't want to become: a comfy flabby yuppie pseudo-journalist resting on his laurels writing about soft non-subjects while raking in book royalties and speaking fees.

Anyway, I hope you don't want to become that.

Posted by: Horatio Parker on January 31, 2008 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

Kristof’s argument is absurd. Consider another American family—the Adamses. Granted, John Adams, while an extraordinary intellectual and rebel leader, was a lousy president; should that have precluded John Quincy Adams from being considered for the office? Beyond specific historical examples, each of which is guaranteed to spark endless argument over contratheticals, isn’t there something Medieval about the idea that blood should (or should not) in some sense determine one’s fitness for office?

It seems to me that Kristof’s line of argument is an attempt to create a programmatic means of bypassing the work of looking at the individual records and proclivities of candidates. After all, putting aside such obvious similarities as political affiliation, there are clear differences between Bill and Hillary Clinton, just as there are between Bush pere & his knuckle-dragging progeny. Family ties didn’t determine that the latter would be the worst president one could possibly imagine; that was a matter of determined individual effort.

Posted by: dolphy on January 31, 2008 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK
I get the sense Kristof is bursting through an open door on this one.

"Bursting through an open door" seems to be a really longwinded way of saying "lying".

Posted by: cmdicely on January 31, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK
Maybe we need a new term, however, to say that there is no nepotism because a person was elected is pretty nitpicking.

Well, no, its not. Its neither nepotism nor dynasticism nor anything else when the people freely choose someone who happens to be related to a former office-holder for a present position. It wasn't with the Adamses, it wasn't with the Roosevelts, it wasn't with the Bushes, and it wouldn't be with the Clintons.

It certainly the case that wealth, celebrity status, contacts, etc., are key and major advantages in our political system, and its clear that at least in some degree that's unfair and damaging. And its clear that one way to get several of those advantages (though far from the only one) is to be connected by family with prominent officeholders, especially popular ones. It may certainly be worthwhile to discuss how to deal with the degree to which those factors acheived (among other ways) through such connections are advantages, because other voices certainly need to be heard for their to be a free and meaningful decision.

But opposing people for family connections rather than substantive ability and inclination to perform the office is just as damaging to the process as supporting them for that reason.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 31, 2008 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Mike at 2:12 PM: small potatoes. I read your linked article-- sorry, I am underwhelmed by the Rezko story. Hopefully from now on we will all only meet and hear of politicians and other people who have never known, dealt with, or received anything from anyone who has even done anything the slightest bit slimy. But if we don't, hey, you know.

Posted by: Swan on January 31, 2008 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Barbara wrote: Maybe we need a new term, however, to say that there is no nepotism because a person was elected is pretty nitpicking. How do you think HRC would have raised all that money if Bill Clinton hadn't been pushing donors to support his wife?

How about "jealousy"? As in, Republicans are jealous the Clintons were smart enough, public-spirited enough, and hard-working enough to become successful in the practice of law and politics, so they spread these stupid smears against them. Yup, I think "jealousy" just about covers it.

Posted by: Swan on January 31, 2008 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

I think Swan's analogy is pretty good. This may be about, at best, using a slang use of a word (say, calling the Nets or whoever a sports "dynasty" because they're three-peat champions) where instead a standard use of a word is entirely appropriate.

Let's say in America, the use of the word "gangsta" has gone from slang for a criminal who works with other crooks to accomplish crimes to being a somewhat kidding term of adress African American males give to their African American male friends, no matter their occupation or socioeconomic background. Then let's say a writer of a conservative newsletter becomes alarmed at Barack Obama's merely becoming popular as a presidential candidate, so the writer puts a caption on the front cover of his small-circulation magazine which reads, "Is America Ready For A Gangster President?" superimposed over a picture of a smiling, suit-wearing Obama. The related article details Obama's background as an a friend or associate of Rezko in Chicago and as a community organizer in working-class black neighborhoods in Chicago. When the media questions the newsletter writer about the headline, his defense is that "gangsta" is a term for African American males, that he meant it in a kidding sort of way, and that he thinks there would be no bother if Rolling Stone or some other magazine ran an identical cover-photo and caption to refer to an article inside about Obama's interest in rap and hip-hop. The writer concedes that he is concerned that if Barack is elected President, young black men will begin to feel that then can do whatever they want.

In that circumstance, is it right for a publication that holds itself out as a serious news medium to claim that Barack is a "gangster"? Probably not, and I think the "dynasty" label is wrong in just the same way. If it were used in a different context than making a serious argument against Hillary's becoming president, it might be different.

Posted by: Analogies on January 31, 2008 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, John Adams started it.

Why are Americans so freaking ignorant of their own history?

Posted by: Tripp on January 31, 2008 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Kristof needs to stick with his Asian hookers.

Posted by: Where's Sally? on January 31, 2008 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Let's say in America, the use of the word "gangsta" has gone from slang for a criminal who works with other crooks to accomplish crimes to being a somewhat kidding term of adress African American males give to their African American male friends, no matter their occupation or socioeconomic background. Then let's say...

Let's say "Analogies" is Swan providing sockpuppet support for himself again.

Posted by: rolling eyes on January 31, 2008 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

Diablevert,

I'm for Obama. I'm under 30. One of the reasons I'm for him is that I am disquieted at the thought of the presidency remaining in the hands of the same two families who've had it for most of my life.

Well you are ignorant. If you think the Bush dynasty has anything in common with Bill and Hillary Clinton besides sharing a last name you are either ignorant or a fool.

Hey, did you vote for "Bush and Dick" because you thought it sounded like a porno movie?

You wouldn't know a Dynasty if they made a TV show about it and asked you to star in it.

Google Rockefeller or read some of the previous comments describing Prescott Bush and his family if you want to learn about a dynasty.

Posted by: Tripp on January 31, 2008 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Swan and Norman, I didn't get the impression when Barbara brought up "nepotism" she was bashing HRC. I think she was trying to draw a more accurate parallel between Bush and Clinton than the dynasty parallel, which is ludicrous. The Clintons by no stretch of imagination could be called a dynasty. But they could fit into a broader definition of nepotism, which is favoritism shown by someone in power...and certainly a former President has power...without regard to merit. Before any of you jump to the wrong conclusion, I believe HRC is qualified on her merits and I'm glad she has the extra leverage having been a First Lady gives her. She's put that leverage to good use and become the first serious female presidential candidate in US history. High damn time.

Posted by: Sharon on January 31, 2008 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

Steve: "I checked Google for the words 'Clinton dynasty' and found over 400,000 results."

But when you Google "Kennedy dynasty", you get only 352,000 results. Go figure.

But seriously, I think some people, for reasons clearly known to them, are making way too much of this. Nobody twists your arm to vote for any member of either family.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 1, 2008 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe "dynasty" isn't the right word, but here's the thing. I'll be 50 before November. I've voted in exactly one Presidential election without a Bush or a Clinton on the ticket. Because my wife is a few months younger and missed '76, she's never done so. That just doesn't seem right or healthy in a democracy. It's not enough to convince a reasonable person to vote for McCain instead, but it's not a good thing.

Posted by: stuck in 200 on February 1, 2008 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

How interesting that the 'let's stop the dynasty' meme is coming up now. How convenient that it accidentally becomes a concern when it will hurt a Democrat.

I don't recall anyone having concerns when Bush the second (Poppy) ran or when Bush the third (W) ran in 2000 or 2004.

But now we are told it is something that needs to be stopped? Yeah, sure, until the next Bush runs. Then it will be a rush for "traditional values."

How can people buy this crap? I'm not picking on "stuck in 200" but really, don't you realize you are falling for Republican "marketing?" Open your eyes. Learn some history.

Posted by: Tripp on February 1, 2008 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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